An Introduction to 1 Peter (Part 1)

You can listen to the podcast for this message here.

We kick off a new series today that I’m really excited about. We dive into 1 Peter. So much is known about this man. Many Christians have heard of him and may even know some things about him. Who did Peter write to in his first letter, and why? What is going on? In this study we will answer those questions and many more.

We begin in 1 Peter 1:1-2a that says, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit.”

First things first. Let’s look at Peter’s background. He was originally named Simon and he was the son of Jonah according to John 1:42. He had a brother named Andrew. He was married, but Scripture does not mention her name. Jesus healed his mother-in-law of a high fever as recorded in Luke 4:39. He was a fisherman that made that life changing decision to follow Christ while entertaining Jesus on his boat in the Sea of Galilee. In Acts 4:13, the elders in Jerusalem called Peter, “uneducated and untrained.” Peter was part of the inner circle of Jesus and is always listed first in Scripture when talking about Peter, James, and John. He is generally considered the leader of the apostles and most certainly is the first to speak. When he had questions, he asked. In Matt. 15:15 Peter admitted his ignorance at Jesus’ teaching; in Luke 5:8 he confessed his sinfulness. Peter was with James and John at the transfiguration and also heard the voice of God on what he called the holy mount in his second letter. Peter didn’t quite understand the resurrection that Jesus taught. We see Peter’s faith waver as he walks on the water. We see his frailty in the garden when he fell asleep after Jesus asked him to watch and pray. Everyone recalls that Peter denied Jesus three times. It was Peter that cut the ear off of Malchus that Jesus subsequently fixed. When told of the empty tomb, Peter ran and looked, but failed to understand its significance. Seeing Jesus on the shore after His resurrection, Peter dives into the water and swims to shore. Too often we focus on the negative aspects of Peter, but Peter was a great man for God; a great man of God. It was Peter that was recognized as the leader of the disciples. He was an apostle of Christ, a messenger of Christ. It was Peter who first recognized Jesus as Messiah in Matt. 16. It was Peter that preached at Pentecost quoting Old Testament scriptures in Joel and Psalms that resulted in over 3000 Jews being saved. At the gate Beautiful, it was Peter who saw the lame man begging for money and said, I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene – walk.”  (Acts 3:6) It was Peter that first preached to the Gentiles and understood that God does not show partiality. (Acts 10:34) When the Pharisees wanted to make the Gentiles keep the Law by being circumcised, it was Peter that stood up and reminded them they were saved by grace and asked them, Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?”  (Acts 15:10) It was Peter that raised Dorcas from the dead.  (Acts 9:40) This gives you some understanding into who Peter really was. Peter was a great man for God.

So who is Peter writing to? Aliens or strangers that are residing in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. These places are in modern day Turkey. We cannot be certain whether these people were Jews or Gentiles, but it seems most likely that they were predominantly Gentile. We do know for certain that they were living in places where they were not from. It will become more apparent why this makes a difference later as we study. Notice what Peter says about these aliens. They were elect or chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. This does not mean some can get saved and some can’t. Foreknowledge comes from the Greek word prognosis which simply means knowing ahead of time. Doctors will often give you a prognosis when you are sick. This is their best prediction about your illness. The difference in a doctor and God is that God literally sees what the outcome will be. God has chosen all men to come into a personal relationship with Him through the blood of Jesus Christ. This election is available to all that will call on the name of Jesus, but not all will call on that Name.

They are elected by the sanctification of the Spirit. Sanctification is something God does through the working of the Holy Spirit. Sanctification, or being set apart for a divine purpose, works from the inside out and comes to every believer because they are saved. As sanctified saints, we are holy.  Not because of anything we did, but because of what Christ did. Our holiness is positional; we are holy because Christ is holy. Sanctification is a process. Don’t expect to live a perfect life after you have been saved. As long as we live in this body, we will battle sin. Jo. 1:8 says, If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” Listen to how Paul described this, “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.”  (Gal. 5:17) The only way to achieve any true progress toward sanctification or holiness is through spiritual growth. This spiritual growth is based upon accepting, believing and applying the truth of Scripture. In Jo. 17:17, Jesus said, “Sanctify them in the truth, Your word is truth.” Here’s how it works: you receive biblical truth from the Bible and Bible teaching; you believe it and trust it; and you apply it to your life. As you continue this process on a regular and consistent basis, you will grow spiritually, and your behavior will change. When you are convicted by the Holy Spirit or Scripture that you are doing something that you should not, or something you should, the more spiritually mature you become, the more authentic, effective, and long lasting the changes will be. This isn’t some sort of behavior modification process; it is God working in you. You begin to look at things from a biblical perspective rather than a worldly perspective. “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.” (2 Tim. 2:21)

So how do we sanctify ourselves? Pray. When we are suffering or facing temptation we are weak.  Satan knows this and tries to take advantage of it. When we pray, we allow the power of God to guide us and direct us and give us His power to overcome the situation. Read, study, and meditate on the Bible.  You have to get into it and know it. When in the wilderness being tempted of the devil, Jesus quoted Scripture. Heb. 4:12 says, For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” The Word will show us where we need work. Allow the Holy Spirit to guide us. “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”  (Gal. 5:16)

Sanctification is the key to spiritual growth.  It is both a matter of position and progression. We are sanctified because Jesus Christ has saved us, but sanctification continues to work within to transform us into the likeness of Christ. Sanctification is the responsibility of every believer in Christ. We must choose to pursue sanctification in our life. The pursuit of it involves the surrender of the body and the will to the leading of the Holy Spirit. It takes time and is a work in progress that cannot be hurried. You cannot skip steps. Paul says it like this, Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thes. 5:23)

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