1: To those who Reside as Aliens
Message 1 of 26 in the series Letters from Peter
You are, as a believer, a resident alien on the Earth. Peter, in writing to these churches in Asia Minor, under the inspiration the Spirit, knowing that this letter is going to go to all churches for all time … Peter calls the Church the exiles
Peter writes as an Apostle (with authority from Jesus), a pastor, and an eyewitness to the ministry of Christ. He writes to real people, in local Churches, in a specific time and place.
Why is it important for us to understand the context around this letter as we study it?
Why is it important to know that this letter was written both under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit AND from Peter’s own personality and experience?
Read 1 Peter 5:12
In your own words, summarize why Peter wrote this letter. Does knowing about the culture and times of Rome and its stance toward Christians during this time help bring new meaning to the exhortation to “Stand Firm”? Why or Why not?
Read 1 Peter 1:1
Peter calls the church “Resident Aliens” (Exiles). Why did Peter call the church by this term? It was said in the sermon that “as resident aliens on a pilgrimage to their final home, believers should seek to live as ambassadors for the Kingdom they are journeying toward”. What does it mean to be an ambassador?
Read 1 Peter 1:1-2
Peter tells the church that they are “chosen” (Elect) and that their situation was “foreknown” by God. How does this remind us of God’s personal love and care for us? How do these truths bring us comfort in times of difficulty?
Read 1 Peter 1:1-2
After reading this passage again, identify the individual works mentioned by the Trinity (Father, Son, Spirit). Think through or discuss the role of each member of the Trinity in this passage. It was said in the sermon that sanctification means we are “gradually and assuredly being changed from the inside out”. Why must true sanctification happen in our hearts first? How should this impact our behaviors?
The Contexts Around First Peter
Today we are beginning a brand new teaching series for Sunday mornings, through the New Testament letters written by Peter. And Lord willing, I think we will probably spend the remainder of this year, most of our Sundays together, going through these two letters. And as we get started this morning, if you didn’t pick up any of the worship guides in the back, I would encourage you to do so, and those of you who take notes. But even if you’re not a note-taker, I think maybe today might be a good day to jot down some reminders as we start teaching through these letters.
We’re going to begin this morning looking at some of the contexts around First Peter. I want to encourage you as we do this that it could seem like an academic exercise only, that we would walk through the context or the circumstances in which these letters were written, but I want to encourage you that to just jump into the Bible, into any particular chapter or verse and just start reading, and not understand the greater picture of what’s happening is very similar to just walking into the middle of a movie or TV show and seeing a scene and trying to figure out what’s going on, and you have no relation to the greater or bigger picture, or plot if you will.
We are called to know the word and part of knowing the word is to know the context around it. So when you go to study Scripture, when you go to read the Bible — And I encourage you from time to time to do that. Just walking through a book and reading through a book. But spend some time looking at it. Maybe you have a Study Bible. Some of those first pages that explain what’s happening as the book is being written, and with that being said this morning. if you don’t have a Bible or a good study Bible, we would love to gift you one as a church, so we would encourage you to take one. You can see Nick anytime today and he’ll be glad to give you one of those.
Understanding This Letter
So let’s take a few minutes and let’s look at the context of first Peter. This is not merely an academic exercise, this is to help us understand this letter. And understanding a letter is going to help us get the most out of it.
The Times of First Peter
This letter was written approximately 33 years after the ascension of Jesus. I like to date letters of the New Testament based on their relation to the death and the resurrection of Jesus. For me, that just helps me understand the timeline. If Jesus was, as many think, murdered on the cross, buried, and resurrected around 30 AD, then this letter was written somewhere around 63 AD. So somewhere between 63—64 AD this letter was written. So 33—34 years after the ascension of Jesus.
It is written by the Apostle Peter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Peter opens the letter with that introduction — Peter and merely an introductory line. When Peter says I am writing to you as an apostle of Jesus Christ, he is claiming authority. As a matter of fact, there is no other office in the church that you see in the New Testament that includes the title of Jesus Christ. You see mentioned teachers and shepherds and ministers. But it is the office of Apostle that is given in the New Testament this line of Jesus Christ. They were his ordained New Testament messengers.
If you remember this from a few weeks ago we talked about how the Old Testament, I think this was in our sermon on New Testament prophecy. In the Old Testament, it was prophets who were given the ordination to speak and write God’s very words. In the New Testament, it is apostles. When you see an apostle claiming that title, they are claiming authority. They are sent by Jesus. To speak authoritatively into our lives.
And as we think about, a letter from an Apostle of Jesus, specifically Peter. We’re reminded that there is no other book in all of the world like the Bible. Nor has there ever been a book like the Bible. It is the authoritative word of God. And many of us who have spent years in church and we have some religious background, we know that and we refer to it as that … This is God’s word, It’s the word of God … We can stand on it and we should. There are many in the world who don’t believe that. And it is. This book written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is authoritative for us. What it says we must believe. Whether we want to believe that or not. Whether it correlates with our upbringing or our understanding or not. We must believe what this word says, and we must do what this word says.
But, sometimes we forget that God chose to use normal, everyday human beings to write under the inspiration of the spirit. And as they wrote they did not lose or set aside their humanity. When you read these letters, they take on the personality of the person who wrote them. When we say that they wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we do not mean they were simply robots who got dictated to them like a secretary by a CEO what he wanted said.
But rather somehow God worked through them, inspiring them to the point that he could say this word is what I want it to be and says what I wanted to say. Yet he used their humanity in it. He used their personality. He used their heart.
This means that when we go and we read any letter of the New Testament. But when we read first Peter, yes it is divine is authoritative, but it is a letter from a man Simon Peter, who wrote from his heart, and from his experiences.
Simon Bar Jonah, Son of Jonah, not the Old Testament Jonah, Simon was just a guy. He had just a life. He was married. He had a brother named Andrew, and they ran a business together and that business was fishing. He got up every day or went in late at night/early morning to make a living for his family.
And his brother Andrew gets introduced to a guy in the wilderness named John the Baptist, who introduces him to a guy named Jesus. And Andrew wants his brother to meet this guy and he does. And one day Simon is going about his job and he’s pulled his boat up to the shoreline to go home for the day and this guy that he met named Jesus shows up and says I want to borrow your boat for a moment. Simon Says OK, and so Jesus gets in and Jesus says, take me out just a little way, and so Simon did. And then Jesus teaches from his boat.
And at the end of his teaching, as he’s teaching the crowds on the shore from the boat at the end, Jesus says. Hey, Simon, go and throw your Nets over, doesn’t look like you got much today. And Simon Says Jesus, I’ve been fishing all night and have caught nothing. But at your word, I’ll let down the nets. And he brought in an abundant catch that day. And Jesus looks at him and says follow me and he does.
He gives up much of his life the way that he knew it In order to follow after Jesus. Simon was the first to confess Christ as a Lord.
Jesus is saying. Who do people say that I am?
And they’re giving him all the answers. And then Jesus looks at these men that he’s called these disciples, and he says, who do you say I am? Peter is the first to speak up. I believe you’re the Christ, Son of God. Jesus looks at him and says this wasn’t revealed to you Simon by men. My father showed you this and on this, I will build my church.
He wasn’t talking about Peter. It’s one of the things the Roman Catholic Church has. They’ve made Peter their first Bishop because they misunderstand that Jesus wasn’t talking about Peter, He was talking about Peter’s confession. He’s the first to confess Christ as Lord.
But then just a few days later, a short period of time later, Jesus is teaching these guys and he’s teaching them about how he’s going to have to die on the cross, and Peter in his boldness and brashness, the first to confess Jesus as Messiah and Lord, stands up and rebukes Jesus and says no that will never be.
And Jesus looked at Peter and said, get behind me, Satan. Again, not referring to Peter as Satan. But referring to Peter’s disbelief in what Christ had come to do, and his attempted obstacle to what Christ’s mission was as of the end.
Peter boldly claims to Jesus on the last night of his life, I will never abandon you. Every one of these guys may leave you. I will never leave you. They get to the garden and they go to arrest Jesus and it is Simon Peter who is carrying a concealed sword and he pulls it out and he attacks Malchus, the servant of the High Priest, he cuts his ear off. Jesus heals his ear and tells Simon Peter, That is not the way to the Kingdom and rebukes him.
He tells Simon and all of his boldness, that you’ll never leave me, you’re willing to do anything to see this not happen, but the reality is in just a few hours you’re going to deny that you ever even knew me.
And that’s what happened.
Peter goes outside the house of the High Priest, he’s in the courtyard below trying to be hidden and people start noticing him. Wait a minute, weren’t you with Jesus? And he says no, I wasn’t. And someone else, Wait a minute weren’t you one of his followers? Aren’t you one of the Galileans? And Peter says I don’t even know the guy.
The last time he’s asked, he is so emphatic that he doesn’t know Jesus, that he curses on an oath that he never knew him. And he hears the rooster crow and he remembers what Jesus said, and he breaks down. The same thing that happened to Judas when he realized what he had done to Jesus.
Peter was one of the 1st to see Jesus resurrected. He has the honor of preaching at Pentecost. He is given the responsibility of the Apostle to the Jews, to his people, to preach to them to gospel. Yet, he has to be rebuked by God in a vision because he refuses to associate with those who aren’t Jews. And God has to show him in a vision that you don’t call anything unclean that belongs to me. And even having this vision and understanding this and continuing in his ministry, he has to be confronted by Paul for his hypocrisy, because while he is eating with … gentile Christians and when this group of Jews showed up, they pressured him into withdrawing from these gentile Christians and he refused to eat with them. Even though God had given him this vision that nothing that belonged to God was unclean, and Paul had to rebuke him for his hypocrisy. And not only did Paul rebuke him for his hypocrisy, but he wrote about it later.
I say all of this to us to say this. Peter is just a guy. He is a man who is bold when he should be humble. He is a man who is frail and easily swayed when he should be bold. He is a sinful man. But he is called by Jesus. And this letter is written from his experiences. All the ups and all the downs. All of his successes and all of his failures. All of this goes into his writing to the church, timelessly. That we might learn from him in an authoritative way.
Peter was a pastor of the early church and an eyewitness to the ministry and the Resurrection of Jesus. We’ve labeled this series, as a matter of fact, this whole tag line of I & II Peter – Pastor & Eyewitness. I want us to remember that. The things Peter is writing about, he remembers he’s seen these things up close. He lived this life. He was an eyewitness, and if you want to know more about that, you can read the Gospel of Mark, because Mark was the young companion of Peter. As a matter of fact, Peter at the end of this first letter, 1 Peter 5:13, calls Mark his son, the Gospel of Mark was Mark writing about Peter’s eyewitness testimony. He wrote on behalf of Peter, so you can read that and see all that Peter saw as an eyewitness.
But this letter? This letter! We get to hear his heart as a pastor. We get to hear him take all of these eyewitness experiences. All of his failures, all of his successes, and he puts it down in a pastoral letter to the church. Calling upon all of his ups and downs and applying to us everything that he has learned. All that he has learned doctrinally, and all that he has learned in following Jesus.
Written by the Apostle Peter, he wrote this from Rome. He calls it Babylon at the end of the letter, symbolically referring to Rome. It was written from Rome to local churches throughout what is today modern Turkey. We find Turkey on the map that is the general area where these churches were scattered. He doesn’t write to just one church. This isn’t like Paul writing to the church in Corinth. Peter is writing to multiple churches. Local congregations throughout this area.
Likely he wrote this letter and then gave it to someone, perhaps Silvanus who is mentioned at the very end of the letter, and he gives it to them to take to all the probably large cities of these provinces. As a matter of fact, when we open up in just a moment, you’re going to see he mentions these areas or these regions. This may have been the very route that the letter was going to take. And they would go to these different regions and then people would make copies of them and they would take them to these churches in the urban areas and then out to the local rural villages.
We don’t have any clear indication that Peter ever actually visited these places. He makes no indication that he knew these people personally, so we don’t actually know how they came to know about Jesus. But some of these provinces are mentioned in Acts at Pentecost.
So it is likely or at least probable that some of these local congregations were started by those converted at Pentecost in Acts chapter two. They heard Peter preach, they went back home and 30 some odd years later, these are growing churches throughout this area. Perhaps started by those converts from Pentecost.
It is a mixture, likely of Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians, but the structure of the letter, it looks like it’s primarily gentile. Gentiles are anyone who is not Jewish.
Peter, although he was an apostle to the Jewish people, it’s likely writing knowing that most of the audience of this letter will be gentiles, those that he once struggled to even understand how he was supposed to relate to. At one time, he didn’t know how to relate to Gentiles because of this inherent philosophy that he had, that he had to stay separated from them, even as a Christian.
But he has grown so much that he writes with this genuine love and genuine care and genuine concern for these gentile Christians that he thought at one point he should stay away from.
And why did he write? He wrote to teach doctrinal truths. He wrote, to exhort the churches in the proper application of those truths. And he did it at a time of increasing hostility toward true believers. He wrote to teach. He wrote to exhort. And he did it at a time of increasing hostility toward true believers.
If you have a Bible and you’re not already in First Peter, if you want to go there and to the very end of the letter in chapter 5, verse 12. He gives kind of a summary statement here of his letter.
So he writes to say I am declaring to you, teaching you doctrinal truths that belong to the grace of God. I am encouraging and I’m exhorting you to these things. The application of these truths and church, you need to stand firm in it.
And here it will help us to understand that Peter writes this letter probably within two to three years of his death. His death, which would come at the hands of the Romans. Who would say if you love this Jesus so much, we’re going to kill you the way he was killed. Peter finds himself unworthy to be crucified as Jesus was, so he’s crucified upside down.
Hostility is growing at the time of this letter in these Roman provinces. Christianity had kind of a bad name. There was a lot of rumors about Christianity among people who didn’t subscribe to it. For example, they were called cannibals because they talked something about eating someone’s flesh and drinking someone’s blood, which we know to be the Lord’s supper and symbolic of the death and blood of Jesus. They were also called or told they had been sacrilegious because they refused to bow down to the Roman leaders who were considered gods in that day.
So there was a lot of hostility in these provinces toward neighbors, from neighbors toward Christians. But there was a guy in Rome named Nero. And within maybe a year of this letter being written, this guy had been in power for over a decade and was quite the loose cannon. Probably certifiably crazy. But malicious, he decided to set fire to Rome. And the story goes that he went up into a portion of his headquarters and played music and sang while he watched the city burn. And after the burning, it happened to squelch the uproar and save the state. He decided to find somebody to blame for it. So he decided to blame Christians.
And this started an immense time of persecution. We are told that during this time Christians were covered in wax and put in the gardens of Nero and set on fire at night for illumination at his parties. We’re told that they were sewn into animal skins and fed publicly to wild dogs as a form of entertainment.
And Peter knows what is beginning to happen and he knows what’s coming when he writes this letter.
The Scottish theologian from the 1600s named Robert Leighton said this of First Peter:
This excellent Epistle (full of Evangelical doctrine and Apostolic authority) is a brief, and yet very clear summary both of the consolations and instructions necessary for the encouragement and direction of a Christian on his journey to Heaven; elevating his thoughts and desires to that happiness, and strengthening him against all opposition along the way, both that of corruption within, and temptations and afflictions from without.
Faith, obedience, and patience are stressed in this letter in order to establish the readers in believing to direct them in doing and to comfort them in suffering.
Themes of First Peter
As we go throughout this letter, I want you to watch for some themes. This is why I said earlier that it may be good to take notes today, I don’t know what you do with the notes when you’re done, but this one might be good to set aside and come back to as we walk through the letter, not only to remind yourself of the context, but to remind yourself of some of the big themes that Peter writes about. We’re not gonna spend a lot of time on these, but I just want to remind you to watch for these themes as we go throughout this letter.
First, The Work of God on behalf of His people. Peter stresses this, the work of God on behalf of his people. He talks about not only what God has done in Christ, but the work God has done to apply the work of Christ to our lives.
Secondly, watch for the theme of pursuing holiness in light of the sacrifice of Jesus. Peter talks a lot about this. Holiness is separating ourselves from sin and being devoted to the glory of God. That’s my working definition for holiness. If we just try to separate ourselves from sin, we do so in the flesh and we miss the purpose, which is God’s glory. If we try to glorify God and live the way we want to and not separate ourselves from sin, we’re not actually glorifying God at all.
Holiness is both and Peter stresses this because of what God is done on your behalf through Christ, be holy.
A third big theme you’ll see in this letter is living as the church in a fallen world. Living as the church in a fallen world because God has worked on behalf of his people. We should pursue holiness. And church, it matters how we live. We should be good neighbors if we can. He says we should be good citizens. He says it matters what kind of marriages we have. It matters what kind of churches we have. We should be godly leaders. We should be godly members. And he talks about serving one another.
He talks about throughout this letter what it looks like to live as a church in a fallen world. And we’re going to see the theme of suffering, the sufferings of Christ and his followers.
Some would say this letter is all about suffering. I don’t think that is a great summary because the letter’s much more than just suffering or teaching about suffering. It’s a lot more than that. But, there is no doubt Peter writes much about suffering and there are, I will say, principles in these passages, general principles that we could …
… Let us who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful creator while doing good.
What should we do when we suffer? Not because of what we’ve done, but because of God’s will. We should trust God and seek to do good. And that is a general principle that we can apply in any trial. But. we must say that the sufferings Peter is writing about are very specific. They are the sufferings that we will face for being a Christ-follower. It’s persecution and suffering for following Jesus. That’s what he writes about.
Sometimes that looks like what we think, sometimes it doesn’t. Imagine two people who meet and they fall in love and they are dating for a few years and they love each other. They love each other’s family. They care for one another. They’re planning to get married. Maybe they’ve gotten engaged. And one night the lady of that couple is invited to go to a revival and she goes and at that revival she hears about Jesus and she is saved. And she goes home and she tells her fiance all about Jesus and he doesn’t want anything to do with it.
The reality is, the Bible would tell her not to marry that person. That’s suffering.
There’s people in the world today whose very parents will disown them for coming to confess Jesus. That’s suffering.
Sometimes we are called to lay down what we don’t want to lay down. Believe what we don’t want to believe, do what we don’t want to do, and we do it for Jesus. But there will be suffering involved. And there will be times where we will be persecuted.
I’ll be honest with you. We act really surprised when that happens. We aren’t really taken aback. I can’t believe they’re treating Christians that way. I can’t believe I would be ostracized for my beliefs. The reality is the Bible tells us to expect it. Tells us that we’ll be blessed when it happens. That type of suffering Peter will cover in this letter and how to live in the midst of it.
And then finally this big theme That you cannot get away from in First Peter, God’s sovereignty over Everything. Everything! When I say God’s sovereignty, I mean his control, his provision, his love, his care for his people, and his direction of all human history.
God’s sovereignty does not mean we are robots. It doesn’t mean we don’t have choices. It doesn’t mean we can’t impact our lives or outcomes, but it does mean in the end we are going where God is taking us. Human history is going where God is taking it.
I always think about Jonah. This time the one from the Old Testament. He’s told go to Nineveh, preach. He’s told at the very beginning the letter. Spoiler alert: No matter what Jonah was going to Nineveh.
He was going there on his own 2 feet or he was going in the belly of a great fish. But he was going to Nineveh. Because God had solemnly declared that he would.
Peter writes about these things and he shows us throughout this letter. Maybe in a way that’s going to challenge us. That God is sovereign over everything.
1 Peter 1:1-2
So with that brief introduction, I know that you’re comfortable, I know this is not how we normally do this, but if you are willing and able to stand for the reading of God’s Word, please do so as we look at the 1st 2 verses of First Peter Chapter one.
Father. I ask, as we began this journey together, through this letter that you have inspired through your apostle Peter, that we would learn doctrinally what you want us to learn, that we would receive the exhortations of how to apply those doctrinal truths and that we would stand firm in our faith.
And as Kevin said earlier in our prayer time before the service, God may we know that you have … (inaudible) … every week of this year you will have us studying what we need to study at the right time. It is in your name. We pray, Amen.
Timeless Truths for the Christians
So I want us to look at the 1st 2 verses this morning from First Peter and I want us to look at timeless truths that we see in these two verses. Timeless truths for the Christians.
Timeless Truths: #1
1You are a resident alien on the Earth.
From first Peter chapter 1. Number one, timeless truth #1 from what we just read. You are, as a believer, a resident alien on the Earth. You are a resident alien on the Earth, Peter, in writing to these churches in Asia Minor, under the inspiration of the Spirit, knowing that this letter now is going to go out to all churches for all time, Peter calls the Church the exiles of the dispersion.
That word exile can be translated as sojourner. It Is an Old Testament term, or an alien — a foreigner. The best phrase of exile from a New Testament perspective is the one who resides as an alien. So just think about the terminology. You live here. You live on the earth. You live in Pinson or in surrounding communities, but this isn’t your home.
And you may say this is the only place I’ve ever lived. This is the only I’ve ever known. Yes, you’re a resident, but it’s not your home. It’s not your final home, it’s not where you’re actually from. In a spiritual sense.
That word dispersion probably doesn’t mean much to us, but it would have meant something to those who originally read this letter, especially if they were Jewish, because dispersion or dispersed was a term that was used to describe the Jewish people scattered throughout the earth. Ever since their exile from Israel 600 years before this letter was written.
When God put them out of their land by the Assyrians and Babylonians because of their disobedience. And ever since then, the Jewish people have been called the dispersion or the diaspora.
The Jewish people one people scattered throughout the earth. And so what does Peter do here? The Jewish people that read this and the churches would have known it and probably the Gentiles, because it was a common term. Peter takes this and he applies it to the church.
He says you are the Church of the dispersion. You are the disperse …
We belong to a local church called Agape in Pinson. But we are not the totality of the church. Every true church in this community that teaches about Jesus is part of the true Church. But it’s not just here, it’s not just in Alabama, not just in the United States. Throughout the world is scattered the church that God, through Jesus, will one day called back to himself.
Edmund Clowney, who was a theologian who wrote a good commentary on first Peter. He said this talking about how our dispersion in the New Testament relates to the dispersion of the Jews of Pharaohs exploited Israel as a workforce of undesirable aliens. They were despised and feared, and after God delivered these despised aliens in the Exodus, Israel became a Pilgrim people.
Journeying through the wilderness to the Land of Promise. That wilderness experience becomes the model for understanding how God’s people should live in pilgrimage. God meets with them in the wilderness. He teaches them he tests them. He leads them day and night. He feeds them with bread from heaven and water, from a rock and he places his tent or his dwelling among them. His care watched over their journey until they reached their home. The place where God would dwell with them.
That path through the wilderness is therefore the way of the Lord that leads to life. Peter recognizes the church as the new Israel. And we’re on our own pilgrimage.
Many of these people who had got this letter in read exiles of the dispersion would have said I’ve lived here my whole life. I’ve never been anywhere but this little village. Yet, Peter called them resident aliens of the dispersion, because Peter sees them as sojourners on a pilgrimage to their final home, the Promised Land, where they will be with Jesus forever. But Peter also knows that they have to be ready to live in this land for years and years and years. And so you’re going to see throughout this letter that he’s going to show concern for how they live and how their lifestyle should not be overcome by the world, Because they’re aliens of it, but they’re also not given a command to fight the world or flee from it in isolation. They are called to be ambassadors to this world. While they are resident aliens they are supposed to be ambassadors for the Kingdom that they are journeying to.
Church it is not for us to go into our own holy huddle and put up the walls and live there until Jesus comes back. It is also not for us to act like the rest of the world and be like the rest of the world. We are ambassadors for the Kingdom that we are traveling to, and Peter reminds us of that.
Timeless Truths: #2
2You have a privileged status before God.
The church, the Exiles of the dispersion, but he also calls us the elect. This leads us to timeless truth Number two, you have a privileged status before God. You, as a believer, have a privileged status before God. You are not just exiles of the dispersion, you are elect exiles of the dispersion. Which means you are chosen resident aliens. That word, “elect” is used 22 times in the New Testament, and every single time it refers to God choosing a group of people from another group of people.
And in that choosing of God from a group of people, they become recipients of a great privilege. They become recipients of a great blessing. And the Gentiles and the Jews would have had no problem hearing this term referred to Israel because throughout the Old Testament, Israel is called God’s chosen people. But now Peter applies it to the church.
And he says, while Israel was once the chosen people, it is now the church. You are elect exiles of the dispersion, and God will protect you and preserve you and bless you as he did his people in the wilderness.
Timeless Truths: #3
3Your situation is in accordance with the love and care of your Father.
Timeless truth. Number 3, Your situation is in accordance with the love and care of your Father. The situation that you are in even today accords with the love and care of your father.
Notice after verse one, Peter says I’m writing to you, the elect exiles of the dispersion, scattered throughout all of these regions, and then he in verse two says, according to the foreknowledge of God, the Father.
Foreknow in scripture is not a verb. That simply means to know before. We can try to relate it that way, but if you look at the syntax, the verbs the way it’s used, it’s simply not exactly what it means in its totality, it doesn’t mean God, just new facts. Foreknow in the Bible is used to describe God’s personal knowing. That he personally knew someone in a loving, in a caring, and in a fatherly way, and in scripture, it is often mentioned that this foreknowing happened before the world began.
1 Corinthians 8:3 1 Corinthians 8:3 uses the term that way. “If anyone loves God, he is known by God.” Known personally. God has known you. When the Bible says this is happening according to the foreknowledge of God, it’s not just saying this is happening, God knew that it would. It’s saying this is happening in accordance to the love and the care that God has for you. So the question is, what is this?
When we say this is happening in accordance to God’s personal and loving care for you. The way it is written, I believe it’s clear, All of verse one is the “this”. You are the elect exiles of the dispersion according to the foreknowledge of God. You are in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia according to the foreknowledge of God, you are in Asia and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God. You are living in a time of hostility toward God. People, according to the foreknowledge of God. You are going to face persecution for being a believer according to the foreknowledge of God, According to his personal and loving care for you.
I know that In these two verses, there’s a lot of words. And there’s a lot of topics there that we chew on and debate and discuss as believers. And I know that for some, the very idea that God has foreknown, planned our purpose our lives in specific ways, can sometimes be rattling to us. I think it’s in part because we have this temptation that we want to let God off the hook for things that he doesn’t ask to be let off the hook for.
But I want to say to us this morning that regardless of how these things hit you, elect exiles of the dispersion according to the foreknowledge of God, no matter how it hits you, that I’m saying that your situation was foreknown by God, whatever that looks like. I hope that in that you will consider for a moment the comfort of it.
That there is absolutely nothing that is happening to you, has happened to you, or will happen to you. That was not according to the foreknowledge of God. That there is not a moment of your life where you are outside of the personal loving care of your Father who has all authority and all power to do whatever he pleases.
I hope that you find comfort in knowing that your situation is not up to chance. You are not the product of circumstance. He has purposed you. Where you would live, in the times you would live there. He has foreknown you.
And I believe Peter means that. For great comfort, especially knowing what’s about to happen in the next few years, for many of these Christians. That even when that persecution starts, they would be able to remember, we are the elect exiles the dispersion, and this is according to the foreknowledge of God.
Timeless Truths: #4
4You are gradually and assuredly being changed from the inside out.
In that timeless truth Number 4, you are gradually and assuredly being changed from the inside out. You are gradually and assuredly being changed from the inside out. Peter chooses to modify verse one with two more statements. He says you, this situation you are in, is according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the spirit, for obedience to Jesus, and for sprinkling with his blood.
So he says God foreknew your situation and he is right now today presently working in that situation. It doesn’t mean that he just knew that this was going to happen, or that he purposed for it to happen. But even right now he is working in the current situation you were in and what is he using it for? Your sanctification. Your growth in holiness. You’re becoming more like Jesus.
I said this a couple of weeks ago. I absolutely believe there are some trials we can avoid. I think some trials, some sufferings come along because of our choices and because of how we live. But I also believe there are certain trials that we can’t avoid. Because they have been planned for our sanctification.
Even the ones we cause God is gracious to use them for that purpose. But he has foreknown us that he would presently work in us for a future purpose. And what is that future purpose? Obedience to Jesus.
God is working in your life right now so that you can obey Jesus tonight. God is working in your life right now, so you can be obedient to Christ more than you have been next week. Next month. God knows where he’s going to take you and what he’s going to do with you, and he knows what you are going to need when you get there, and he’s preparing you now for that.
That’s his sanctification for obedience to Jesus, and Peter adds this term “for sprinkling with his blood.” What does that mean?
It means that we are not always going to be perfectly obedient. That even though God is foreknown our situation and that he is presently working in us. And he’s doing so for a future purpose that we will more and more and more and more obey Jesus. He knows we’re not going to perfectly obey Jesus. So what will we need? We will need daily cleansing by the blood of Christ.
I hope you were here last week. If not, you can go back and listen to the message from last week on confession. That is the sprinkling that is the daily cleansing when we confess our sins and he is faithful to forgive us of our sins.
I also want you to notice the work of the Trinity there. It is God the Father who has foreknown us, it is the Holy Spirit who sanctifies us, and it is Jesus Christ who receives our obedience.
Our glory — Our praise to his glory. Because of our obedience.
In this pilgrimage, God’s purpose for your life is that you would be more like Jesus. That you would obey Jesus more and he is working to make that happen.
Timeless Truths: #5
5You can prayerfully ask for and expect God’s increase of Spiritual blessings.
And then finally timeless truth #5. Church, you can prayerfully expect God’s increased spiritual blessings in your life. You can prayerfully ask for and expect God’s increase of Spiritual blessings — Is what Peter prays at the beginning of this letter.
Church elect exiles of the dispersion according to the foreknowledge of God, those of you being sanctified for obedience to Jesus, I pray that the grace and the peace of Christ would be multiplied to you.
Not just that you would have a little of it. I pray over and over and over, daily, every moment of your life that you would have the grace, the kindness of God, that you would have the peace, the blessings of God in increasing measure.
Even in the midst of hard circumstances, in every moment may the grace and peace of Christ increase to you. You, church, can pray for that. You can ask the God of mercy to increase in your life, grace, and peace, spiritual blessings, and he will.
Call to Christ
I want us to end thinking about this picture from this morning that Kevin read and then Lamar read, but specifically John 21. Jumping back in Peter’s life, 33 some odd years earlier. Jesus takes Peter through this restoration. Peter denied him three times. Jesus gives him a chance to confess him three times. And every time at the end of his confession, Peter says to him, you love me? OK, feed my sheep, pastor my people, take care of other believers, love them well. If you love me, you will love them. That’s a specific call for Peter. It’s a specific call for pastors, but it’s a general call for all of us.
Do you love Christ? Love His people. Love the frail people, love the hard people, love the angry people. love them all. Love his people.
But then at the end, Jesus looks at Peter, the one who had said, I’ll go wherever you go, I’ll do whatever you say, and hours later denied him three times out of fear. Jesus said to him, after that third confession. Peter, I tell you that when you were young. You younger you had a lot of freedom. You went where you wanted to go. Dressed yourself, did what you wanted to do. Peter, I’m telling you what’s ahead. You’re gonna have to pick up your cross. As you get older as you walk into what I’m about to send you into. You’re going to have to go places you don’t want to go. You’re going to have to do things you don’t want to do. You’re going to have to love people you don’t want to love and at the end of it all, you gotta die at death. You don’t want to die. And then He says, so follow me.
That’s quite different than the American version of a call to Christ. Come and be rich. Come and be healthy. Come and be happy. I don’t deny that God can do whatever he chooses and he chooses to bless his people. Sometimes financially, he chooses to bless his people with health. He chooses to bless his people in a wide variety of ways, but there is not a single Christian that doesn’t get the call, pick up your cross and follow me.
You’re going to have to go places you don’t want to go. You’re going to have to do things you don’t want to do. You may be persecuted along the way. It may not turn out the way you want it to. None of us get to avoid that call. If we’re gonna follow Jesus, that’s the way.
But, what Peter is teaching us 33 years later, is that the grace and the peace and the provision and the blessings and the care and the love of God will always be with us. Nothing will happen that he doesn’t allow.
Nothing will come into our lives that he does in ordain. And even if we mess up, he will restore us. Even if we deny him, he will restore us. Even when we fall down, he will pick us up and sprinkle us with his blood — If you’re a believer.
So I want to ask if you guys will bring the lights down. The worship team will come up. I want to ask this morning, are you a believer? I’m not asking have you prayed a prayer in church. I am asking, have you chosen? Because of the grace of God, to pick up your cross and follow Jesus. And you say, “I don’t know what that’s going to look like. I don’t know what that’s going to mean.” You don’t have to. Are you willing to follow him? To be sanctified by the spirit? For obedience to him? Wherever he calls you? Whatever he asks you to do? And if your answer to that is, “Yes!”, because he is Lord, than the Bible says, today is the day of salvation! Confess Jesus as Lord of your life.
Confess that you will follow him, knowing that you’re going to fall down, but believing he will pick you up and sprinkle you with his blood and forgive you of your sins and today you will be saved.
And then I encourage you to tell someone. Come find me before the service is over. Come talk to Nick. Let us know. I want to follow Christ or I want to talk about what this means. If you come to me, I’ll get your information and we’ll talk later today. And then be baptized.
The first thing we’re told to do when we come to know Christ, be baptized. The first thing we’re told to do. I’m going to follow Jesus, he says OK, be baptized. As a public declaration of faith. And then grow, grow in the grace of God.
When I ask you this morning, we are about to sing together, When I ask you to whatever it looks like for you to be in a posture of worship. Would you please do so? Stand if you’re willing and able, if that is it, come to the altar to these stairs. Kneel at your chair.
Where you have wandered away, where you’ve not followed, would you ask Jesus to restore you today? He will.
We’re about to sing and in this song that we’re going to sing, part of the lyrics are: Even when I don’t see it, You’re working. Even when I don’t feel it, You’re working.
Will you believe that today? Will you sing that to him today? I want to ask Kevin if he’d come up. Rob, are you able to do to do that? Rob and Kevin and I’ll join them in just a minute. We’re going to be over here. If you need prayer for anything. If you want to talk about your relationship with Jesus. If you need healing, whatever is going on in your life, in this pilgrimage that we’re on. If you need prayer, we’ll pray with you.
After the service, if you don’t want to come down front right now, that’s fine. Come tell us you want prayer. We’ll go into the prayer room when the service is done. If you feel like going to pray for someone in this room, do so. If you feel the Lord has spoke to you today a word, come tell me about it.
Do anything, but just sleepily wait for the end. Respond to God, respond to his Word, do so now, in worship to our Lord.
Father. Thank you for your timeless truths. Help us now to respond to you. I trust your working miracles even right now. We may not see the harvest today, but I pray we do. Father move in this place, even if this morning if in our hearts we don’t feel like you’re doing anything, God would you please do something in us and help us to trust that you are. God work miracles in this place, work your spirit in this place. Help us to love each other. Pray for each other. Give us obedient and joyful hearts. In your name we pray. Amen.
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