Message Preached at Poole Christian Fellowship on Sunday 5th January 2014.
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Today we start a new series in 1 Peter. The title of the series is “God’s Missional Community”. Here Peter is addressing God’s people, His missional community, and offering them encouragement, challenge and support.
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood:
Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
1. Who is writing?
This letter was written by the apostle Peter, the close friend and early follower of the Lord Jesus. Peter, full of vitality, talented and impulsive, promised Jesus that he would rather die than deny him. When faced with danger Peter’s faith failed, just as it had when he walked on the water. Peter often started off with the best of intentions, but sometimes was unable to carry them through. Peter’s moving restoration by Jesus was accompanied by a charge to “feed my sheep”. This letter, the subsequent one (2 Peter), and possibly Mark’s gospel as well, are Peter’s response and have fed God’s people for 20 centuries.
Peter boldly declares himself to be an apostle of Jesus, saying in effect “this comes to you with the authority of Jesus, and it is he himself who is speaking to you”. We can therefore have complete confidence in it.
Pete writes in what we can describe as a pre-persecution era, an era when the full-blown merciless persecution under Nero had not yet reached its height ( a persecution in which Peter himself was martyred). There were waves of suffering around the empire but it was not yet official Roman policy to destroy the Christian faith. The believers that Paul were writing to were experiencing marginalisation and exclusion and were heading towards a time of terrible persecution. Peter writes to encourage the believers in this situation and to prepare them for what is to follow.
2. Who is he writing to?
A central part of this short passage is the description that Peter gives of God’s people:
- Elect Peter wants his readers to know that thought they may be rejected by friends, neighbours and family they have been chosen by none other than God himself. Peter confirms this in verse 2 when he confirms that they have been chosen according to God’s foreknowledge. God knew all about us as individuals before the start of the world and he had set his love on us. He knew us in eternity and it follows that he knew all about our sin and folly and had it all in hand.
- Exiles. The receivers of Peter’s letter were quite literally exiles, away from their homeland because of the scattering that had taken place in the early chapters of Acts. The churches that they had founded – now a mixture of Jew and Gentile – knew what it was to be foreigners in a strange land. There is a strong spiritual application here. All those who are believers are, like the believers in Hebrews 11, looking forward to a heavenly home. We do not belong here, so it should not surprise us if the world does not understand us, treats us badly, marginalises us and dislikes what we believe and stand for.
- Scattered. It seems to be God’s purpose to scatter his people. The word translated “Scattered” literally means “of the dispersion” a scattering of God’s people that had taken place after the martyrdom of Stephen. God used this event to strategically place His people around the Middle East and to plant new churches. Years later, Petet is now writing to these churches. We have been strategically placed in the positions in which we are so that we can be God’s missional people where we are.
- Made Holy. “Sanctified” refers to the process by which the Spirit of God has taken us and made us into those who have the Spirit living in them, drawn them into the company of those who are know rightly known as “saints”. We have been sanctified (past) – made acceptable to God, we are being sanctified ((present) – as the Spirit of God makes us more like Jesus day by day and we will be fully sanctified (future) when Jesus returns. It is a process which the Spirit of God has started and he will finish.
- Called to Obedience and Forgiveness. These two belong together: the job description of the Christian is to do what God wants: – we are called to obedience. Obedience is not what makes us chosen by God but it is certainly the evidence that we have been called. Hand in hand with this goes the need for “sprinkling by His blood”. Although we are called to obedience, there is no doubt that we often fall short of His requirements. For that there is provision for our forgiveness at the cross. The blood of Jesus, sprinkled on us as believers, means that we are able to daily claim the forgiveness of God.
Before we leave this – it is worth noting here that the triune God is involved in our position as believers we have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of the Father, for sanctification by the Spirit and obedience to Jesus – with provision for our forgiveness by His blood. What a secure position we have!
3. What is his message?
Having established his credentials as a messenger of God and encouraged his perplexed audience by reminding them of who they are, Peter then goes on to give them the heart of his message that he will expand upon in the rest of the letter.
- Firstly they are recipients of God’s grace. The Greek word “charis” means favour, gift and carries with it the sense of God’s undeserved favour that is with them, not simply as a fact that enables them to be saved, but as a daily experience every day.
- Secondly they can have as a daily experience the peace of God – peace that Paul told us passes understanding. Again this refers to the peace with God that we have a result of our position with Him, (Romans 5 v 1)but it also tells of the daily experience of peace that we can have in the midst of trials, difficulties and even persecutions.
Grace and peace is the heritage of each Christian. We must understand who we are and that those who belong to Jesus have not only a wonderful standing in Christ, but also grace and peace for every day of our pilgrimage as aliens in a strange world.