1 Peter is a book based upon a paradox. Peter explains this paradox to us in the very first verse of the book, he addresses his audience as: “elect exiles” (ESV). That is, somehow, Christians are both chosen (elect), and yet, rejected (exiles).
- Peter leaves us in little doubt that Christians have been chosen by God. He says:
- “[Christians] have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” (1:2)
- “In [God’s] great mercy, he has given us new birth into… an inheritance… which has been kept in heaven for you.” (1:3-4)
- “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession… Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God.” (2:9-10)
- “You were like sheep going astray, but now you have been returned to the Shepherd and Overseer for your souls.” (2:25)
- Jumping to the end of the book -> “The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ” (5:10)
- But, Peter also tells us that Christians have been rejected by the world. He says:
- “Now, for a little while, you have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” (1:6)
- “Live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.” (1:17)
- “Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.” (2:11)
- “They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you. (4:4)
- “You have suffered for a little while” (5:10)
- More broadly, the biggest indication that Christians are exiles of the world is that we suffer:
- “Suffer for doing good” (2:20; 3:17)
- “Suffer for what is right” (3:14)
- “Suffer as a Christian” (4:15-16)
But, why does Peter put so much effort into building this, seemingly, contradictory picture of the Christian Life (chosen, and yet, rejected)?
Because that is how he understands Christ’s life. Christ was chosen, and yet, rejected:
- Jesus was chosen by God:
- “He was chosen before the foundation of the world” (1:20)
- “Chosen and precious to [God]” (2:4)
- “A chosen and precious cornerstone” (2:6)
- And yet, Jesus was rejected by the world:
- “The sufferings of the Christ” (1:11)
- “Rejected by humans” (2:4)
- “The stone the builders rejected” (2:6)
- “For Christ also suffered once for sins… He was put to death in the body.” (3:18)
- “Since Christ suffered in his body.” (4:1)
- “The sufferings of the Christ” (4:13)
- “The sufferings of the Christ” (5:1)
You see, Christians are chosen, and yet, rejected because Jesus was chosen, and yet, rejected. Therefore, Peter can say, Christians “follow in his steps.” (2:21)
And so, Peter wants his readers to, not only follow in Jesus’ steps, in regards to persecution, but to follow in Jesus’ steps, in regards to their reaction to that persecution.
You see: “When they hurled insults at [Jesus], he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made not threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” (2:23) That’s what Peter wants Christians to do. He doesn’t want Christians to “receive a beating for doing wrong” (2:20) or “to suffer for doing evil” (3:17) or “to suffer as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.” (4:15). He wants Christians to, when they suffer, follow in Jesus’ steps by, “committing themselves to their faithful Creator and continuing to do good.” (4:19)
1 Peter is a call to all Christians to “Resist [the world], standing firm in the faith” (5:9a), even if such resistance and such standing results in “the same kind of sufferings” (5:9b)
To summarise: Peter’s message (in one line) to his readers is: “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (2:12)
He says a similar thing to wives: “Wives… submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words.” (3:1)
This gets to the very heart of what Christians normally mean they say, “In the world, but not, of the world”.
Friends, we should be “In the world, but not, of the world”. We should be chosen (by God), and yet, rejected (by the world). We should follow Jesus’ steps. We should take up our cross and follow Him.
Coincidentally, on the 30th of May, 2016, from 9am-3pm, there is a one day seminar, at Brisbane School of Theology, on this very topic. It is being presented by Dr. Thomas Schreiner, from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in the US. It is $50 per person (lunch included), and will be well worth the money.