Study 1 SIMON PETER’S “PILGRIM’S PROGRESS”
THE FIRST LETTER OF PETER
by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portions: 1 Peter 1:1-2; Acts 2:14, 22-36)
The First Letter of Peter has a divinely-inspired message for Christians of every time and place – so these ten studies in First Peter are God’s message to us today. The apostle Peter was the writer of this letter, which is known as the letter of hope – just as John’s letters are the letters of love and James’ letter is the letter of faith. If you study First Peter you will become well grounded in the great doctrines of the faith, gain a new assurance about spiritual realities, be well taught in the truth of God, be impressed with the grandeur of God and be thrilled with Peter’s majestic language. Notice how the letter begins:
- ‘PETER’. The writer starts by giving his name, as was the custom in those days. He is perhaps the best-loved of the disciples; he lived in Bethsaida and Capernaum, he was married, a fisherman, and his brother Andrew introduced him to the Lord Jesus (John 1:40-41). By temperament he was impulsive and affectionate. He made some great confessions concerning the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 16:16-17; John 6:68-69); he grieved the Lord by his denial (Luke 22:54-62), though he was wonderfully restored and recommissioned (John 21:15-17); and he was empowered on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4).
- ‘AN APOSTLE OF JESUS CHRIST’. An apostle is ‘a sent one’ – one who is sent by the Lord and not self-appointed – look up John 15:16, and an ambassador of Christ – look up 2 Corinthians 5:20.
Peter now gives a description of the people to whom he is writing (verses 1 and 2). Underline the seven key-words in this description. The words (re-arranged) are: elect, foreknowledge, blood, sanctifying, obedience, strangers, scattered. As Christians we may ask: When and where did the work of grace begin? The answer is: in the heart of God (verse 2), away back in eternity, for the salvation of a sinner is the sovereign work of God.
1. Away back in Eternity, before Time or Creation, we were ‘ELECT(ED)’ and chosen by God.
Verse 2 tells us this, and although we cannot understand or explain it, by faith we believe it. To ‘elect’ means to ‘pick out’, ‘select’; and God has picked us out, selected us, to be His very own – look up Ephesians 1:4-6; John 6:37-39.
2. We were elect, chosen, according to the ‘FOREKNOWLEDGE’ of God the Father.
Notice in verse 2 that God the Father is the author of the plan of salvation. Foreknowledge conveys not merely the idea of having previous knowledge, but it includes the idea of choice, of deliberate action against the background of knowledge – look up Acts 2:23. Knowing all about me, my sin, my failure, my weakness, the Lord chose me – look up John 1:42. In eternity past we were chosen by God the Father, who put our name in His book of life – look up Revelation 21:27.
3. God the Son, the Lord Jesus, shed His precious ‘BLOOD’ to redeem us and to make us His own.
Our salvation was planned in eternity, but it was purchased at Calvary 2000 years ago (verse 2). It is important to get the sequence of ‘the Pilgrim’s Progress’ – election, foreknowledge, redemption… In this letter Peter gives great prominence to the doctrine of the atonement – look up 1:18-20; 2:21-24; 3:18. In the fullness of time, the Lord Jesus came, and by His death and atoning sacrifice He provided a righteous basis upon which those elected according to God’s foreknowledge were brought back into fellowship with God.
4. God the Holy Spirit performed the work of ‘SANCTIFYING’, setting us apart from the rest of mankind to be the recipients of His grace.
The Holy Spirit has sought us, identified us and set us apart to be the Lord’s. This is what the Holy Spirit is doing today. He is seeking and setting apart those God the Father has chosen, that they might be washed in the blood of Jesus and brought into the family of the redeemed – look up Acts 15:13-14. How was it you became interested in spiritual things and in the Lord Jesus? It was only because the Holy Spirit was at work in your heart – look up John 6:65.
5. We were given the gift of faith, the power to believe and to render ‘OBEDIENCE’ to the truth.
Notice the words ‘for obedience’ (verse 2). The work of the Holy Spirit was not only to set us apart but to give us the gift of faith – look up John 3:5-8, and compare Romans 10:17. Through faith the life of God is imparted and the soul, once dead, becomes regenerate – notice the last part of 1 Corinthians 12:3. Christians have been saved for obedience. This means that we not only obey the Lord when we hear the gospel, yield to Him and trust Him as our Saviour, but we should go on to live a life of obedience.
6. Having saved us we are now ‘STRANGERS’, Pilgrims.
In verse 1 Peter speaks about ‘strangers’, ‘scattered’… These first Christians to whom he was writing were Jews (and Gentiles) – ‘pilgrims of the dispersion’; and we are pilgrims. We are not to settle here, for this earth is not our home; we are ‘exiles’, citizens of Heaven – Philippians 3:20-21.
7. We have been ‘SCATTERED’ abroad to be God’s witnesses to all nations.
Just as the Jews have been scattered all over the world, so we Christians have been scattered that we might be His witnesses to the nations. The Greek word means ‘scattered alongside the people of…’, which means He has placed you in your home, your office, your town, your country to be a witness just there – look up Acts 1:8.
When we see what God has done for us and our privilege to be His witnesses, surely our hearts are moved to love Him more and to obey Him fully.