I don’t always take so much time looking at the greeting section of these letters in the New Testament. But as much as any letter in the New Testament, and perhaps more, this greeting connects to everything else that is written in this letter.
Peter starts by identifying himself and who he is writing to, saying
Peter, and apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia. (1)
Here we see two things about who we are and who we are called to be in this one verse. Peter calls us, “God’s elect.” Not that we are somehow in ourselves more “elect” or special than others. But that God in his grace chose to save us and make us his own. Not because of who we are, but because of who he is.
He also calls us “strangers in the world.” That can also be translated, “exiles of the Dispersion.” The “Dispersion” usually referred to the Jews who were scattered throughout the world, far away from their homeland. But here Peter uses the word figuratively of all Christians. We are all citizens of a heavenly country, and yet we are scattered all over this world, like strangers in a foreign land. And this is a theme that comes up more than once in this letter.
Peter then says of us that we 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. (2)
Here again, we see how God in love chose us and through Christ’s blood purified us from all sin. But not only has he chosen us and purified us, he is constantly working in us. Day by day he is sanctifying us, and making us more like his Son.
And we were chosen not to live for ourselves, but for obedience to Jesus Christ. He is to be the Lord and King of our hearts, and we his servants.
That’s who we are and who we are called to be. And if you want to understand the rest of this letter, you need to understand these things.
But so often we don’t. Even many Christians fail to grasp this. They think of their Christianity as an upgrade to their lives in this world.
What they don’t understand is that God is not interested in upgrading our lives. He is interested in making us entirely new people. People who reflect his Son. People who no longer live as if this world is their home, but who remember that their true citizenship is in heaven.
And for this purpose, he sent his Son into the world to suffer and die to take the punishment for our sins. And for this purpose, Jesus sent his Spirit into the hearts of all who believe in him to transform us into his likeness.
How about you? Do you understand who you are and who you are called to be?
Or do you still live as a citizen of this world, acting as if you truly belong here?
If you’re a Christian, you don’t belong to this world.
You were created by God and for him. You were chosen by him and sanctified by the Holy Spirit for obedience to Christ. And until you understand that and live that way, you will never truly understand who you are and who you are called to be.
Do you understand this?