I started reading and meditating on the Greek text of 1 Peter this past week, and the salutation of the epistle says a lot. Peter identifies his recipients as elect sojourners scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bythinia. The whole idea of being sojourners scattered across the Roman Empire indicates that this world was not their home, they were just passing through. But they are not just wandering nomads without direction or purpose–they are elect sojourners. There is a method and a plan behind the apparent haphazardness of their existence, for the God of the universe is in absolute control of their lives and destinies. What a comfort!
In 1:2 Peter modifies the Greek adjective elect used in v. 1 with three prepositional phrases, each one describing the role of a member of the Triune Godhead in election. First, Peter’s readers were elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. The biblical concept of divine foreknowledge has been greatly misunderstood. At the popular level many understand foreknowledge to mean that God looked down the corridors of time from eternity past to see who would of their free will choose to trust Christ, and He elected them on that basis. But this is not strictly accurate, for the object of divine foreknowledge is always the person known, not facts about the person. For example in Romans 8:29 we read that whom He foreknew He predestined… This sounds a lot like what God told Jeremiah (Jer. 1:5) when He told him that before he was born He knew him; or what the psalmist said (Ps. 1:) when he declared that the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked shall perish; or when it tells us in Genesis that Adam knew his wife; or yet again, when Jesus shall declare to the impostors on judgment day (Matt. 7:23) I never knew you. It is all too obvious from the context that Jesus knows much about the impostors, but the point is that He never knew them. This can only mean that He did not choose them or know them intimately because they were never of His sheep. The were not foreknown or foreordained as was Christ and His true elect (c.f., 1 Peter 1:120, where the same Greek word for foreknowledge is used as in 1:2). The biblical concept of foreknowledge will seem odious to the more slobbering variety of Arminians, but facts are facts.
The text also says that believers are elect by the sanctifying work of the Spirit. The sanctification here is positional and punctiliar rather than practical and progressive–although the Holy Spirit is the active agent in both cases. In other words, God’s Holy Spirit sanctified or set the elect believer apart for special use once and for all in eternity; and in time the same Spirit conforms the regenerate believer to the image of Christ through the ongoing process of sanctification. When Romans Nine talks about some vessels being set apart for honorable use and some for destruction, the reference is to the sovereign sanctifying work of the Spirit in eternity.
Finally the believers are elect for obedience and the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. No one would flinch at the idea of God choosing the elect to be sprinkled with the blood of Jesus. But this verse infers that only the elect are actually sprinkled with the blood of Jesus. To be sprinkled with His blood is to be cleansed, and the reason all are not sprinkled is because they are not chosen to be sprinkled. Notice too that election is unto obedience to the Lordship of Christ. If God chooses you for heaven He also chooses you for obedience as well. You are created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand for you to walk in. So much for the decisional salvation that would have you base your assurance on having parroted some words many years ago. But rest assured that if you are one of God’s elect you will as a general pattern live a life of obedience to Jesus because you love Him and want to serve Him.
And so my fellow sojourners scattered and chosen, take great comfort in the sovereign work of the Triune Godhead in your election and salvation.