The Source of Election
according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, (1:2a)
One popular explanation for election by those who cannot accept God’s sovereign choice based on nothing but His own will stems from a faulty understanding of foreknowledge. According to that understanding, the term merely means foresight or supernatural knowledge of the future. Proponents say that God in His omniscience looked down the corridors of time and saw who would believe the gospel and who would not. He then chose for salvation all those He knew would choose to believe and guaranteed that they would reach heaven. But there are at least three reasons such an interpretation of foreknowledge is unscriptural. First of all, it makes man sovereign in salvation instead of God, though Jesus affirmed His and the Father’s sovereignty when He told the disciples, “You did not choose Me but I chose you” (John 15:16; cf. Rom. 9:11–13, 16). Second, it gives man undue credit for his own salvation, allowing him to share the glory that belongs to God alone. The familiar salvation passage, Ephesians 2:8–9, shatters that notion: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (italics added; cf. 1 Cor. 1:29, 31). Third, it assumes fallen man can seek after God. Romans 3:11, quoting from Psalms 14:1–3 and 53:1–3, clearly states, “There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God” (cf. Eph. 2:1). The apostle John accurately defines God’s saving initiative this way: “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10; cf. Rom. 5:8).
Any sort of man-centered definition of foreknowledge is incompatible with God’s absolute sovereignty over all things: “Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’ ” (Isa. 46:9–10; cf. 14:24, 27; Job 42:1–2; Pss. 115:3; 135:6; Jer. 32:17).
The usage of the Greek word rendered foreknowledge in verse 2 also proves it cannot mean simply knowledge of future events and attitudes. Prognōsis (foreknowledge) refers to God’s eternal, predetermined, loving, and saving intention. In 1:20, Peter used the related verb “was foreknown,” a form of proginōskō, in reference to God’s knowledge from eternity past that He would send His Son to redeem sinners. Usage of this verb cannot mean He looked into future history and saw that Jesus would choose to die, so He made Him the Savior. In the same way that God the Father foreknew His plan for Christ’s crucifixion from before the foundation of the world (Acts 2:23; cf. 1 Peter 2:6), He foreknew the elect. In neither case was it a matter of mere prior information about what would happen. Therefore foreknowledge involves God’s predetermining to have a relationship with some individuals, based on His eternal plan. It is the divine purpose that brings salvation for sinners to fulfillment, as accomplished by Jesus Christ’s death on the cross, not merely an advance knowledge that observes how people will respond to God’s offer of redemption.
In the Old Testament, “knowing” someone could indicate a sexual relationship (Num. 31:18, 35; Judg. 21:12; cf. Gen. 19:8). Long before Peter articulated the nature of God’s foreknowledge, “The Lord said to Moses, ‘I will do this thing of which you have spoken; for you have found favor in My sight and I have known you by name’ ” (Ex. 33:17). Regarding Christ the Servant, Isaiah 49:1–2 declares, “Listen to Me, O islands, and pay attention, you peoples from afar. The Lord called Me from the womb; from the body of My mother He named Me. He has made My mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of His hand He has concealed Me; and He has also made Me a select arrow, He has hidden Me in His quiver.” God had a predetermined relationship with the prophet Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jer. 1:5). Amos wrote about God’s foreknowledge of Israel: “You only have I known of all the families of the earth” (Amos 3:2, nkjv). With all of the foregoing references, the point is not simply God’s having information about someone, but His establishing an intimate relationship with someone. And foreknowledge was God establishing that by divine decree before time began.
In accord with the continuity of Scripture, the Old Testament’s understanding of foreknowledge appears again in the Gospels. Jesus, in making clear the true nature of salvation in His Sermon on the Mount, declared this about the pseudo-elect: “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’ ” (Matt. 7:22–23). Certainly, Jesus knew who such people were, but He never “knew” them in the sense that He had predetermined a saving relationship with them. That sort of relationship is reserved for His sheep: “I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me” (John 10:14; cf. vv. 16, 26–28; 17:9–10, 20–21). Salvation foreknowledge, then, involves God predetermining to know someone by having an intimate, saving relationship, so choosing them from eternity past to receive His redeeming love.
The Sphere of Election
by the sanctifying work of the Spirit (1:2b)
The outworking of God’s choice of the elect made in eternity past begins in time by the sanctifying work of the Spirit. The sanctifying work encompasses all that the Spirit produces in salvation: faith (Eph. 2:8), repentance (Acts 11:15–18), regeneration (Titus 3:5), and adoption (Rom. 8:16–17). Thus election, the plan of God, becomes a reality in the life of the believer through salvation, the work of God, which the Holy Spirit carries out.
Sanctifying work (hagiasmō) refers to separation, consecration, and holiness. First Peter 2:9–10 illustrates the principle: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” At salvation the sanctifying work of the Spirit sets believers apart from sin to God, separates them from darkness to light, sets them apart from unbelief to faith, and mercifully separates them from a love of sin and brings them to a love of righteousness (John 3:3–8; Rom. 8:2; 2 Cor. 5:17; cf. 1 Cor. 2:10–16; Eph. 2:1–5; 5:8; Col. 2:13).
Years earlier, at the Jerusalem Council, Peter expressed the same principle:
After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith.” (Acts 15:7–9)
The Holy Spirit by faith cleansed the hearts of the Gentile converts. That underscores again that salvation is the Spirit’s work (John 3:3–8; cf. Rom. 15:16; 1 Cor. 6:11; 1 Thess. 1:4–6; 2 Thess. 2:13; Titus 3:5).
Once the Holy Spirit at salvation separates believers from sin, He continues to make them more and more holy (cf. Phil. 1:6) in the life-long, progressive separation process of sanctification (Rom. 12:1–2; 2 Cor. 7:1; 1 Thess. 5:23–24; Heb. 12:14; cf. Eph. 4:24, 30; 2 Tim. 4:18). Paul says that God chose believers “that [they] would be holy and blameless before Him” (Eph. 1:4). That begins at salvation and is completed at glorification. The sanctifying process is the working out of God’s elective purpose in the earthly lives of Christians (cf. Rom. 6:22; Gal. 4:6; Phil. 2:12–13; 2 Thess. 2:13; Heb. 12:14).
The Effect of Election
to obey Jesus Christ (1:2c)
Obedience to Jesus Christ is the effect or by-product of divine election. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” For one to obey Jesus Christ, then, is the equivalent of being saved. Paul called it “the obedience of faith” (Rom. 1:5). Believers do not obey perfectly or completely (1 John 1:8–10; cf. Rom. 7:14–25), but nonetheless there is a pattern of obedience in their lives as they through Christ become servants of righteousness (Rom. 6:17–18; cf. Rom. 8:1–2; 2 Cor. 10:5b).
Paul was thankful for the believing Thessalonians because he saw in their lives many examples of obedience to Christ.
We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father, knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you; for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything. For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come. (1 Thess. 1:2–10)
All of those examples—their faith, love, and hope in Christ; their imitation of Paul and the Lord; their exemplary behavior before others; their proclamation of the Word; their turning from idols; their waiting for Christ—demonstrated their genuine regeneration. (John’s first epistle makes an even more extensive case for true salvation resulting in obedience to Christ [2:3–5; 3:6–10, 24; 5:2–3].)
In glorification comes the realization of the purpose of election and of the ultimate work of sanctification, when believers become completely conformed to Christ (Rom. 8:29; 1 John 3:2). Until then, obedience is the effect of election.
The Security of Election
and be sprinkled with His blood: (1:2d)
Another profoundly important, practical component of election is security for the believer. That is affirmed in the passage quoted earlier (John 6:37–40), in which Jesus said He would not cast out or lose those who genuinely trust in Him, but raise them all on the final day. God indicates that security in that the elect are sprinkled with His [Christ’s] blood. Peter’s metaphor here looks back to the time in the Old Testament when blood was sprinkled on the people of Israel. That event is significant enough that the letter to the Hebrews mentions it once specifically and once by allusion (9:19–20; 12:24). The following passage in Exodus describes the remarkable event:
Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the Lord and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do!” Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord. Then he arose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain with twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel. He sent young men of the sons of Israel, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as peace offerings to the Lord. Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and the other half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. Then he took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!” So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.” (24:3–8)
Moses had just returned from Mount Sinai and orally reviewed to the people God’s law received there. As the text says, they responded very dutifully by pledging to obey all God required. This began the covenant-making agreement between God and His people (cf. Ex. 19:3–20:17). Under the Spirit’s inspiration, Moses recorded all the words of the law just recited. When he finished the next morning, he built an altar at the foot of the mountain to symbolize the sealing of the covenant between God and the people. To represent the entire nation’s involvement, the altar consisted of twelve stacks of stones (pillars), one for each of the twelve tribes. To further provide the people an opportunity to express their determination to obey the Law, Moses offered burnt offerings and peace offerings of young bulls. Moses placed half the blood from the slain sacrificial animals in large basins, and the other half he splashed on God’s altar. Then Moses read for the people the words of the Law he had recorded the previous night and they again pledged their obedience. After that, Moses splattered the people with the remaining blood from the basins, thereby visually and ceremonially making the people’s obedience promise and pledge to God official. Shed blood was a tangible demonstration that two parties had made a binding commitment (cf. Gen. 15:9–18; Jer. 34:18–19). Israel made a promise of obedience to God, mediated through sacrifice. The blood splattered on the altar represented God’s agreement to reveal His law, and the blood sprinkled on the people signified their consent to obey.
The Holy Spirit compares that unique pledge to the inherent covenant in saving faith in Jesus Christ, which entails a similar promise to obey the Word of the Lord. When believers trust in Christ’s atoning sacrifice for them, they are not just accepting the benefit of His death on their behalf. They are also submitting to His sovereign lordship (cf. Matt. 7:24–27; 1 Thess. 1:9; 2:13; James 1:21–23). And Christ’s blood, shed at the cross, acts like a seal to that covenant. In fact, the night before He died, when He instituted the Lord’s Supper, Jesus echoed Moses’ words in Exodus 24:8, “And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins’ ” (Matt. 26:27–28). Inherent in the New Covenant was the promise that the Lord would come and redeem sinners and they would respond by keeping His Word.
Peter states that when believers were spiritually sprinkled with Christ’s blood, they entered into a covenant of obedience. Years earlier, Peter and the other apostles referred to the truth of obedience when they told the Jewish leaders, “He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him” (Acts 5:31–32).
To recapitulate the Old Testament analogy: the blood sprinkled on God’s altar symbolized His commitment to forgiveness (fully realized in the sacrificial death of Christ), and the blood sprinkled on the people symbolized their intention to obey God’s law (more fully realized when Christians walk in the Spirit and obey the Word). First John 2:3–6 is unambiguous about this submission:
By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.
As a coin has two sides, the new covenant has two sides: salvation and obedience. As a result of divine election, God’s children are saved from sin and given the desire to obey Him, and He promises to forgive them when they do not do so. The same blood of Jesus Christ that sealed the new covenant keeps on spiritually cleansing the sins of Christians when they disobey (cf. Heb. 7:25; 9:11–15; 10:12–18; 1 John 1:7).
The Advantages of Election
May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure. (1:2e)
The salutations of many other New Testament epistles (e.g., Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3; Gal. 1:3; Phil. 1:2; 2 Thess. 1:2; Titus 1:4; Rev. 1:4) repeat Peter’s wish for his readers. That idea of wishing here derives from the optative mood of the verb plēthuntheiē, may … be … in the fullest measure. The apostle wished for his audience God’s grace and its resultant peace (Rom. 5:1) in maximum allotment or quantity. He wished for them all the best that God can offer believers, and that it would repeatedly increase to their advantage.
Peter wanted the recipients of his letter to experience all the rich and varied blessings of being God’s elect. Today, however, the tendency is usually to avoid election’s profound implications. Christians often justify such an attitude by claiming the doctrine is too deep, too confusing, and too divisive. But believers ought to rejoice over the glorious advantages that an understanding of election provides, and this verse points toward a few of those.
First of all, the doctrine of election is the most humbling truth in all of Scripture. For believers it is most sobering to realize they had absolutely nothing to do with God’s choice of them (John 1:12–13; Rom. 9:16). When properly understood, election crushes one’s moral and religious pride, which is a blessing because God gives grace to the humble (5:5; Prov. 3:34).
Second, election is a God-exalting, worship-enhancing doctrine because it gives all the glory to Him. Election makes it clear that the sinner’s faith, repentance, and ability to obey God come from Him (cf. Ps. 110:3, kjv; Eph. 2:8–9). Only God can grant forgiveness to His people when they sin (Prov. 20:9; Mic. 6:7; Eph. 1:7; 1 John 1:7; 3:5). The psalmist declares, “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Your name give glory because of your lovingkindness, because of Your truth” (Ps. 115:1).
A third advantage of election is that it produces ultimate joy. Those whom God chooses rejoice because they know they would have no hope for salvation apart from His electing grace (John 6:44; Acts 4:12; 1 Tim. 2:5–6). The elect would ultimately perish forever like all other sinners if God had not chosen them (cf. Rom. 9:29). Psalm 65:4 says in part, “How blessed is the one whom You choose and bring near to You to dwell in Your courts.” It is a supreme joy for the elect to consider that the Lord has loved them with an everlasting love (cf. Luke 10:20), from before the foundation of the world and on into eternity future.
Fourth, election is advantageous because it promises Christians an eternity of spiritual privileges. The apostle Paul’s prayerful expression of praise and gratitude to God, which opens his letter to the Ephesians, is a fitting summary of many of those privileges.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory. (Eph. 1:3–14; cf. 1 Peter 2:9–10)
Finally, the doctrine of election is a powerful incentive to holy living. Knowing God has set them apart because of His own special love for them is a most effective motivation for believers to live to the glory of God. That principle was undoubtedly on Paul’s mind when he exhorted the Colossians, “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you” (Col. 3:12–13). Their gratitude to God for His election of them should compel believers to a life of obedience and holiness.
If Christians ignore the doctrine of election, they fail to understand the glories of redemption, they fail to honor the sovereignty of God and Christ, and they fail to appreciate the immense spiritual privileges that are theirs. Present-day believers, just as those in Peter’s time, need not be ignorant of election, because God wants them to know what His grace has provided, and because every scriptural teaching is cause to offer Him the praise He deserves (cf. Pss. 19:7–9; 119:7, 14–16).
Election is such a powerful truth that when Christians understand it, the practical ramifications of election will transform the way they live their daily lives. Knowing the condition of their election (they reside on earth as spiritual aliens to reach those around them), the nature of their election (it is completely the result of God’s sovereign choice), the source of their election (God set His love on them from eternity past), the sphere of their election (it becomes a reality by the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work), the effect of their election (loving obedience to Jesus Christ), the security of their election (the covenant of obedience, which ensures divine forgiveness), and the advantages of their election (the many spiritual blessings and privileges available) produces power in believers’ lives that they would otherwise never be able to fully appreciate.
2 The theme of exile and sojourning, i.e., Diaspora, is incomplete, however, unless it is tethered to another familiar theme in the history of the Jewish people—one that reflects transcendence. The saints are not merely exiles; they are also (and more importantly) the elect of God (eklektoi), chosen by God as his own people (also 2:9; cf. Dt 4:37; 7:8; 10:15; 1 Ch 16:13; Pss 33:12; 105:6; Isa 45:4; Am 3:2). The “choosing” of the saints results from the predetermination of the divine purpose; God moves all things toward a goal, a telos (GK 5465, 1:9). Special status as well as special responsibilities inhere in the reality of divine election. In order for the readers of 1 Peter to fulfill their responsibilities—to persevere in the face of adversity and cultural hostility—they must be anchored in an awareness that they are the elect of God, the recipients of noteworthy grace (1:2; 5:12). In the words of Waltner, 26, “More significant than their ethnic background, social status or place of residence is their relationship to God.”
Exploiting the OT language of election, Peter calls his readers to ethical transformation by means of a Trinitarian formula. He reminds them that they are called “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father,” that this is done “through the sanctifying work of the Spirit,” and that such has as its goal “obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood.” The saints’ election is rooted in the mystery of divine foreknowledge (prognōsis, GK 4590) and thus in God’s eternal purpose (Ac 2:23; Ro 8:29–30; 11:2; Eph 1:4–6, 11–14; 2 Th 2:13). In times that try one’s faith, an awareness of this mysterious reality is reassuring.
The church, then, is no mere voluntary association of like-minded individuals; nor does its origin lie in the will of the flesh. It owes its very being to the eternal counsel of God the Father, who creates and sustains his own creation. God’s fatherhood in 1 Peter is highly qualified: the Father is sovereign (1:2), merciful (1:3; 2:10), creative (1:3; 2:23), holy (1:15–16), impartial (1:17), just (2:23), sustaining (2:23), patient (3:20), faithful (4:19), and gracious (4:10; 5:12).
The second part of the Trinitarian formula calls attention to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. Among other things, 1 Peter is an emphatic call to be holy, to be set apart (1:14–16; 2:9) in the world. This calling, it goes without saying, is critical both to Christian self-understanding and Christian morality. The divine command “Be holy, for I am holy” (1:16; cf. Lev 11:44; 19:2) is fulfillable only to the extent that believers appropriate and submit to the Spirit’s dynamic. It is the Spirit who is the operative agent in conforming the believer to the image of Christ, for he awakens within the desire for holiness, brings conviction of impediments to holiness, supplies empowerment to attain holiness, and gives assurance that God is, in fact, making us holy.
The third and christological affirmation within the Trinitarian formula underscores God’s purpose revealed through the Spirit: obedience to Jesus. The metaphor of “sprinkling by blood,” borrowed from Israel’s cultic life, bespeaks cleansing and consecration. It is fitting for the readers to be reminded that Jesus’ blood, whether in the cultic ritual of the OT or the once-for-all sacrifice that ratifies the NT, is “precious” (1:19), i.e., costly in terms of the price of redemption. Through the sacrifice of Christ, these two realities are actualized in the believer’s life: sins have been cleansed and forgiven, and one is pledged to a life of obedience. Hillyer, 26, summarizes the work of the triune God in the believer’s life: “the Father purposes; the Spirit sanctifies; [and] the Son brings believers into a right relationship with himself.”
The wish extended to the recipients of 1 Peter, following the theologically rich address, is the standard Christian formula appearing in all the Pauline epistles (Ro 1:7; 1 Co 1:3; 2 Co 1:2; Gal 1:3; Eph 1:2; Php 1:2; Col 1:2; 1 Th 1:1; 2 Th 1:2; 1 Ti 1:2 [with “mercy” added]; 2 Ti 1:2 [with “mercy” added]; Tit 1:4; and Phm 3), as well as in 2 Peter and 2 John (1 Clem. has the same salutation as 1 Peter: charis hymin kai eirēnē plēthyntheiē). Peter wishes them “grace and peace” and that both be theirs “in abundance” (plēthynō, GK 4437, also in 2 Pe 1:2; Jude 2). The tandem of grace and peace in all likelihood is an echo of early Christian worship and derives from Jewish liturgy, a practice rooted in the priestly blessing recorded in Numbers 6:24–26: “The Lord … be gracious to you; … and give you peace.”
1:2 / niv adds the words who have been chosen to make it clear that the rest of the verse follows on from “God’s elect” (or “chosen”) in verse 1, and involves the function of each of the three Persons of the Trinity: the Father purposes; the Spirit sanctifies; the Son brings believers into a right relationship with himself.
The divine choice of believers is according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. This includes far more than a divine capacity to foretell the future. It implies God’s intention all along, and his ability to bring his desired end to pass (Acts 2:23; Rom. 8:29).
This divine purpose is fulfilled through the sanctifying work of the Spirit. It is he who sets in motion and will ultimately complete (Phil. 1:6) the process of making believers what God has in mind for them to become, a holy people set apart for himself.
The consequence of the Father’s choice and of the Spirit’s sanctifying work is expressed in the believer’s act of obedience to Jesus Christ in accepting him as Lord of their lives. This new relationship to him is brought about through sprinkling by his blood. The expression alludes to the making of the divine covenant in Exodus 24:3–8, in which the blood of the sacrifice was sprinkled on the people after they had promised to obey the Lord.
Thus, on the human side, obedience expresses one’s response to the gospel’s proclamation of Christ’s saving act. On the divine side, the blood of Jesus Christ, that is, his sacrificial death, results in a new covenant being ratified between God and his people.
Although the status of believers is that of pilgrims—or as the opening verse has put it, strangers with regard to this world—Peter brings his readers comfort with the reminder that all is known to God and has been taken care of in his perfect plan of salvation. He chose them in the first place, and his power will finally bring about the consummation of the divine plan, whatever the particular circumstances of a believer’s life in this world.
The form of the greeting, grace and peace (charis kai eirēnē), is frequent in nt letters. It is often said that it brings together for the first time the usual Greek greeting, grace (charis) and the Hebrew greeting peace (šālōm)—even if the two terms are not mentioned in what we might regard as “chronological” order. But the likelihood is that the phrase grace and peace echoes early Christian worship and derives from the daily Jewish liturgy in the temple, with its priestly blessing of Numbers 6:25–26, “The Lord … be gracious to you; … and give you peace.”
Grace and peace define in a nutshell the extent of the mighty benefits of Christ’s saving acts: grace, the free and undeserved divine gift to the believer in bringing to pass a right relationship with God involving love, mercy, forgiveness, and power; and peace, the soul’s inward rich enjoyment of that divine bounty.
Peter’s prayer is that God’s grace and peace may be bestowed upon his readers in abundance, lit. “may be multiplied,” that is, be appreciated and enjoyed increasingly by each individual. The “multiplication” of peace implies a quality of personal inward peace that is independent of worldly circumstances, because it is God-given, God-inspired, God-created (cf. the abundance of seeds), not some outward peace imposed by human authority, which is frequently to be more accurately described as a stifling of social or political unrest.
1:2. Peter’s initial desire was to give the believers a lift, an encouraging word. His emphasis in these first two verses should most likely be translated: “To the chosen ones who are strangers in the world, scattered … according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.”
Peter linked their scattering to the foreknowledge of God. In other words, the difficulties God’s people face do not surprise God. God the Father knows about everything his chosen people face. He works it all out as part of his plan. According to the foreknowledge of God the Father also suggests that all we go through is “according to God’s fatherly care.” God knew our circumstances of pain before the world began and cares for us in accordance with his fatherly care.
This occurs through the sanctifying work of the Spirit. Even in the midst of pain, the Holy Spirit is molding, shaping, and growing believers. The Holy Spirit is turning every circumstance, every sorrow, every hardship into a tool of spiritual maturing.
In the same sentence Peter spoke of being obedient to Jesus Christ. Obedience conveys the idea of listening and submitting to what is heard. It involves a change of attitude in the believer. In the midst of pain, it is difficult to listen to God, let alone obey him. Yet, since we are chosen of God and are objects of his fatherly care, we are never out of his plan. He is designing our sanctification, our spiritual growth. Knowing that, we can continue, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, to obey the commands of Jesus Christ. That obedience begins with accepting Jesus as personal Lord and Savior and continues by living life each day just as Jesus told us and leads us to live it. We obey the call of Jesus to salvation, the word of Jesus in the Bible, and the encouragement of Jesus found in personal relationship with him each day.
Sprinkling by his blood reflects the language of Numbers 19 and the red heifer purification rites (cf. Exod. 24:4–8; Heb. 9:13–21; 10:22, 29). For Christians, the blood of Christ on the cross covers our sins and brings us salvation.
To people sprinkled with Christ’s blood and obedient to Christ, Peter gave the typical Christian greeting. Peace reflects the Hebrew greeting shalom, wishing wholeness and meaningful life. Grace is the explicitly Christian greeting, placing believers under the blood of Christ to receive God’s free, undeserved grace and hope for living each day.
2. Who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood.
In three separate clauses Peter describes three acts of the Triune God. The Father has foreknowledge, the Spirit sanctifies, and Jesus Christ expects obedience from those whom he has cleansed from sin. These three clauses explain the term elect (v. 1).
Note the following points:
“According to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” Most translators favor linking the word elect to the three prepositional clauses:
according to the foreknowledge of God the Father,
through the sanctifying work of the Spirit,
for obedience to Jesus Christ
and sprinkling by his blood.
A few translations follow the Greek word order verbatim: “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the elect who are sojourners of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” But the force of the sentence focuses attention on the expression elect, because the concept foreknowledge is directly related to election.
What is foreknowledge? It is much more than the ability to predict future events. It includes the absolute sovereignty of God in determining and implementing his decision to save sinful man. The word foreknowledge appears in Peter’s Pentecost sermon, where he declares to his Jewish audience that Jesus “was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge” (Acts 2:23). Peter implies that God worked according to his sovereign plan and purpose which he had made in advance.
Paul also refers to foreknowledge. The verb foreknow occurs in Romans 8:29, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.” Paul indicates that the concepts foreknowledge and predestination go together. Foreknowledge and predestination were acts of God before the creation of this world (see Eph. 1:4–5). The prefixes fore- and pre- in the phrase foreknew and predestined (Rom. 8:29) denote as much.
Returning to Peter’s first epistle, we note that Peter, writing about Christ, mentions the teaching of election when he says, “He was chosen [foreknown] before the creation of the world” (1:20).
With perfect ease Peter weaves the doctrine of the Trinity into the cloth of his epistle. Within the Christian community, that doctrine was accepted and understood, so that the writers of the New Testament had no need to introduce, explain, or defend it against possible Jewish attacks.
Peter speaks of God the Father, the Spirit, and Jesus Christ (see also Eph. 1:3–14). The order he chooses is arbitrary, for he is interested not in sequence but in the function each person of the Trinity performs. God the Father foreknows and chooses the sinner. By describing God as Father, Peter implies that the people God has chosen and whom Peter calls “elect” are indeed God’s children. They are highly privileged because they are parties to the covenant God has made with his people:
“I will be a Father to you,
and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.” [2 Cor. 6:18]
Note that God’s elect “have been chosen [elected] according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” How is man’s election realized? It is effected through the power of the Holy Spirit, who cleanses the elect from sin.
Peter writes his epistle to the elect “who have been chosen … through the sanctifying work of the Spirit.” When Peter speaks of the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, he delineates the difference between a holy God and a sinful man. The Spirit is at work when he makes man holy and acceptable in the sight of God; sinful man, however, cannot enter the presence of a holy God unless God through his Spirit sanctifies him.
Peter is not alone in teaching the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. Paul writes virtually the same thing to the church in Thessalonica: “From the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth” (2 Thess. 2:13).
The original Greek indicates that the sanctifying work of the Spirit is a continuing activity or process rather than a completed act that results in a state of perfected holiness. In this process man does not remain passive while the Spirit is active. Man is also deeply involved. Peter exhorts the believers, “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’ ” (1:15–16).
Why does the Spirit sanctify the elect? Peter says that it is “for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood.” He repeats his reference to obedience in subsequent verses of this chapter: “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance” (v. 14); “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth, so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart” (v. 22).
In the Greek Peter actually says, “for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” With the terms obedience and sprinkling Peter refers to the confirmation of the covenant that God made with the people of Israel (see Exod. 24:3–8). Moses read the Book of the Covenant to the people. “They responded, ‘We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey’ ” (v. 7). Then Moses sprinkled blood on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words” (v. 8). The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews comments that Jesus shed his blood to take away the sins of God’s people (9:18–28; 12:24).
Peter declares that through Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross, he redeemed and purchased the elect (compare 1:18–19). Thus, in summary, the Triune God has given them three distinct privileges: God the Father foreknows them, God the Spirit sanctifies them, and Jesus Christ cleanses them from sin through the sprinkling of his blood. Although the shedding of blood has taken place once for all, its significance has lasting effect and is an enduring process. Jesus Christ continues to cleanse us from sin.
The words “grace and peace be yours in abundance” also appear in 2 Peter 1:2 (and see Jude 2). The greeting is rather typical of New Testament authors who write letters. With variations, Paul, James, John, Jude, and the writer of Hebrews extend greetings and benedictions at either the beginning or the end of their epistles.
The term grace is comprehensive; it encompasses the concepts of mercy, love, and remission of sin. Grace is that which God extends to man. Peace, by contrast, is a state of internal happiness which the possessor expresses externally to his fellow man. In a sense, the concepts grace and peace relate to each other as cause and effect. That is, God’s gift of grace results in peace.
A literal translation of this greeting is “grace to you and peace be multiplied” (NKJV).
Doctrinal Considerations in 1:1–2
Peter, who was an unschooled fisherman (Acts 4:13) from Galilee and the former leader of the Jerusalem church, now writes a letter to Christians living in Asia Minor. He begins his letter with an address in which he teaches the readers basic Christian truths: the doctrine of election and the doctrine of the Trinity.
Peter addresses his epistle to “God’s elect … who have been chosen.” He reveals that election is God’s work, that God wants a people for himself, and that the Triune God cares for his elect.
The doctrine of election provides genuine comfort and enormous encouragement for God’s people. By electing his people, God demands a thankful response from them. He expects them to obey his commands and to do his will. Nevertheless, he knows our weaknesses and frailty and realizes that we fall occasionally into sin. Therefore, he has made available the sanctifying power of the Spirit and the lasting effect of the sprinkling of Christ’s blood.
There is a fountain filled with blood,
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
And sinners, plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter (pp. 19–27). Chicago: Moody Publishers.
 Charles, D. J. (2006). 1 Peter. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, pp. 298–299). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 Hillyer, N. (2011). 1 and 2 Peter, Jude (pp. 26–28). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
 Walls, D., & Anders, M. (1999). I & II Peter, I, II & III John, Jude (Vol. 11, pp. 6–7). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
 Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and the Epistle of Jude (Vol. 16, pp. 35–38). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.