1 Peter 1:1

1 Peter 1:1  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 10
“Peter, apostle of Jesus Christ to elect sojourners scattered through Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1 Peter 1:1).
When James wrote his Epistle, as bondman of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, it was to the twelve tribes that were in the “dispersion.” It is a mistake to call this a “catholic” address, but it has an expressly large character for Israel; for it appeals to their utmost extent. So on a notable occasion the Apostle Paul says before the king Herod Agrippa, “Now I stand to be judged for the hope of the promise made by God unto our fathers, unto which our twelve tribes earnestly serving God night and day hope to arrive” (Acts 26:7). That hope hangs on resurrection, as the prophets indicated clearly, and the law too, rightly understood. Wherefore he immediately (ver. 8) speaks of God raising dead persons, as proved in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. God will thus be the doer and giver of all the blessing He promised; and Israel will have only to incline their ear and come to Him, from Whom they had so long departed, and by Whom they were at length for their apostasy dispersed among the nations. But by-and-by they are to hear, and their soul shall live; and He will make an everlasting covenant with them, the sure (the faithful or inviolable) mercies of David, in Him Who is the true Beloved, a witness given to the peoples, a leader and commander to the peoples far beyond the son of Jesse.
“The dispersion” is a phrase evidently familiar to the Jews, which first occurs in John 7:35, and clearly means the Jews dispersed among the Greeks or Gentiles. For the genitive here as often elsewhere expresses a dependence, not immediate but remote and external, as for instance μετ. Bαβ. removal to Babylon (Matt. 1:11).
But the Apostle Peter in this scripture prefixes two words before “dispersion” which necessarily limit the scope of that term. The first, “elect” points out restriction to individuals chosen of God. They were elect from among the Jews, as believing that Jesus was the Christ and Son of God; whereas their brethren after the flesh for the most part rejected Him. Those who believed were Christians.
Israel had enjoyed the privilege of being the nation chosen by Jehovah as no other people was; and they will in sovereign mercy be reinstated at the end of the age under the Messiah and the new covenant, to be blessed with richer favors and forever in that fast approaching day. It will be no longer a mixed condition as in the palmiest season of the past. “Thy people also (says Isa. 60:21-22) shall be all righteous, they shall inherit the land forever; the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified. The little one shall become a thousand, and the small one a strong nation: I Jehovah shall hasten it in its time.” So Daniel was told later, “At that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book” (Dan. 12:1).
But that time is not come. Out of the Jewish people, when the apostle wrote, God is choosing to a heavenly calling by the faith of Him Whom the nation rejected and God has glorified on high. They are His present election while the heavens receive the Lord Jesus. To these only does Peter here write; he does not, like James, address a larger circle, some even unconverted, throughout the twelve tribes. He writes only to Christian confessors of the Lord Jesus who had been Jews.
This last is made plain and certain by the second term, “sojourners,” when combined with the word “dispersion” which it qualifies. They were not the primitive possessors of these countries, nor simply “elect” from among its settled inhabitants. They were not only Jews scattered in those parts, but elect “pilgrims” or “sojourners.” This was a title of grace, as “dispersion” was of judgment. Their election in this case was bound up with the journey to the better country, that is, a heavenly. Originally Jews, they were now Christians. This entirely accords with the writer of the Epistle. Peter was an “apostle of Jesus Christ” as he here introduces himself; and as the gospel of the uncircumcision had been confided to Paul, so was that of the circumcision to Peter (Gal. 2:7). Hence it is to such that these two Epistles were addressed. Compare 2 Peter 3:1 with the verse before us. As this is certain, it is unbelieving to allow that any other statements can countervail. Even a man would not write so incoherently: why should men of faith think so unworthily of scripture? Can such persons hold divine inspiration?
It is the more remarkable, because, as we know, the churches throughout Asia Minor had been founded by the Apostle Paul and consisted largely of those who had been Gentiles. The delicate consideration of Peter is the more striking, because he directs his appeals throughout a part of that land to those Christian Jews who fell under his administration. Needless to say, his instruction in no way clashed with that which Paul had preached, taught, and written to them, whether Jews or Gentiles. None knew better than Peter how much the Jewish confessors of the Lord Jesus needed to be established in grace; none felt more than he how disposed they were on the one hand to boast in law and ordinances, and on the other to conform to the shameful ways of the Pagans who surrounded them. In his very address or the superscription he strikes the key-note. From the start he thus reminds them, that they were “elect” after a new sort, not national now but personal, and flowing out of the grace of God as Father for known association with Christ not on earth but in heaven. They were therefore but “pilgrims” meanwhile, where He was despised and rejected as a sufferer beyond all others in life (as He was alone and infinitely in His atoning death), that they too might by faith rejoice in sharing His sufferings as far as this could be.
For Peter was jealous over their souls with a godly jealousy, lest election might be severed from a deep sense of divine grace, and the spring be forgotten in claiming the issue. He therefore loses no time in saying plainly that not more surely are they “elect” than “sojourners.” Had he heard the Son of God, in pouring out His heart to the Father, declare that His own (and were they not His own?) were not of the world, as He was not? Had he forgotten the Lord's repeating, yet more emphatically, “Of the world they are not, even as I am not” (John 17:15,17)? Here it is a figurative expression, but the same truth. They were elect pilgrims. The world of man's home was not theirs, nor yet was Canaan, but heaven, yea the Father's house above. It was not Jewish feeling for the land of promise, but Christian hope in waiting for Christ and to be with Him where He is, and like Him glorified.
Therefore were they but sojourners here looking for glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, and called to gird up the loins of their mind, being sober, and setting their hope perfectly upon the grace to be brought them at that revelation. Practical duties are based on the new relationships of grace; and truth is the communicated knowledge of both. For it is a characteristic of Peter's method and style to blend all together informally and with fervor, so as to act on the renewed mind, exercising the conscience and the heart. If he has not the immense sweep of Paul in ranging through the counsels of God, if not his the penetrating into the roots of complicated questions and clearing the principles at stake, if a far-reaching and unfailing and subtle dialectic belongs to Paul beyond all others, to no one more admirably than to Peter was it given to strengthen his brethren pithily, earnestly, and affectionately, by the exhibition of Christ and His work, and by the constant application of God's righteous government, whatever be His grace too.
The names given of the lands, where were the Christian Jews addressed, call for little notice. It has been shown by others that it well suits one writing from the eastern Babylon, but not the little place so named in Egypt any more than the symbolic metropolis of the west. The lack of persons saluted serves to prove that Peter was little if at all known personally there, whatever might be the just weight of inspired letters from him. These various provinces had been the familiar scene of Paul's labors.