Peter opens this letter addressing Christians in the northern and eastern provinces of Turkey (such as Pontus, Cappadocia, and Bithynia) who had scattered because of persecution – and indeed still suffered such. It is notable that Peter now refers to Christians – Jew and Gentile – in terms formerly reserved only for the Jews (chosen, elect exiles of the dispersion, etc.). Because of the blood of Jesus Christ, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, Christians were now the chosen ones, as Jesus made plain in John 15:16-19. Peter is offering them comfort, as he reminds them that God in His mercy has caused us to be born again through the resurrection of His son, Jesus, for an imperishable inheritance of salvation.
His words of comfort urge them to realize that the persecution they are enduring will test the genuineness of their faith, but their love for Him and steadfastness will be rewarded by His grace. He reminds them of the promise of the prophets concerning Christ, who was “foreknown before the foundation of the world” – that they were ransomed by His blood and by His victory over death. Peter calls on them to not fall back on their old ways – the ways of their fathers – but to purify themselves in love for one another and to be holy.
This latter point is most important. People often try to excuse their sinful behavior by saying “God wants me to be happy.” Sure, God wants us to rejoice in the hope that we have because of Jesus, but He is not nearly so focused on our personal happiness. He wants us to be holy! Peter reminds us in verses 15-16 (quoting Leviticus 11:44) “…as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.'” Verses 24-25 are cited from Isaiah 40:6-8, reminding us to trust in God , whose word endures forever.
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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