1 Peter: Foreknowledge, Sanctification, Obedience, and the Blood of Christ

To those who are elect exiles…according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:

May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

1 Peter 1:1b-2

Peter described the original recipients of his letter as “elect exiles” (1:1b) because they were Christians, chosen of God (cf. Rom. 8:33; 11:7; 2 Tim. 2:10; Tit. 1:1).  Like the Old Testament faithful before us, we are “strangers and exiles on the earth” (Heb. 11:13), living in this world while also being “not of the world” (John 17:15-16, 18-19; cf. 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1; 1 Pet. 2:11-12; 4:3-4).

All of this is “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father” (1:2a).  “Foreknowledge” (prognosis) means “forethought, pre-arrangement,” and is used once more in the New Testament when Peter described how Jesus was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23).  Calvinism interprets this passage and others like it (cf. Rom. 8:29-30; Eph. 1:4-5, 11) incorrectly by having them mean that God had already arbitrarily arranged or decided exactly who would be saved and who would be condemned.  Rather, a careful study of all biblical passages relating to this subject shows that God had already planned and arranged that all who decided to obey the gospel and become Christians would be chosen for salvation while those who do not become Christians will be condemned.  The choice is still up to each of us as individuals (Josh 24:15).

Peter also says that Christians – the “elect exiles” – are such “by the sanctifying work of the Spirit” (1:2b, NASB).  Sanctification means to be set apart from the rest of this sinful world, to be different from them (cf. 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1).  This is also what it means to be holy.  It is God’s will that we be set apart in this manner (1 Thess. 4:3; Heb. 12:14), and He has chosen to accomplish this through His Spirit (cf. Rom. 15:16; 1 Cor. 6:11; 2 Thess. 2:13).  The Spirit revealed God’s Word to the apostles (John 16:12-15; cf. 14:16-17, 25-26; 15:26-27; 1 Cor. 2:9-13; cf. Acts 1:8; 2:1-4), and inspired them and the prophets when they wrote the Scriptures (Eph. 3:3-5; 2 Pet. 1:19-21; cf. 2 Tim. 3:16).  It is through God’s Word that we are sanctified (John 17:17), and God’s Word comes to us by the Holy Spirit-inspired writers of Scripture.  Thus, the Spirit sanctifies Christians through God’s Word.

It is therefore no wonder that Peter immediately informs Christians – “the elect exiles” – that the reason they are such is “for obedience to Jesus Christ” (1:2c).  We find Christ’s commands in the Spirit-inspired writings of Scripture (John 16:12-15; cf. 1 Cor. 14:37).  By obeying them, we become sanctified – holy, set apart, different – from the rest of sin-filled humanity (cf. 1 Pet. 1:14-16).  Our Lord has promised that those who obey His Father will enter the kingdom of heaven at Judgment (Matt. 7:27-27; cf. Heb. 5:9).  Paul was thankful that Christians “have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed” (Rom. 6:17), i.e., the Scriptures.  It is by “obedience to the truth” that we “purify (our) souls” and are “born again…through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Pet. 1:22-23; cf. John 17:17).

All of this is made possible through the blood of Christ (1 Pet. 1:18-19; cf. Rev. 1:5b; Eph. 1:7; 1 John 1:7; Rev. 5:9).  Peter had this in mind when he told Christians – “the elect exiles” – that they were set apart “for sprinkling with his blood” (1:2d).  During Old Testament times, Moses and the priests would sprinkle the blood of animal sacrifices on the writings, the altar, the people, the tabernacle, and all the vessels used in worship (Heb. 9:19-21; cf. Ex. 24:3-8; Lev. 8:15-19; 16:14-16; 2 Chr. 29:22).  This was because forgiveness could not come without the shedding of blood (Heb. 9:22).  Yet the blood of animals could not bring the forgiveness we need (Heb. 10:1-4) so that “grace and peace (can) be multiplied” to us (1:2e).  Only Christ’s blood can do that, which is why Peter spoke of it while alluding to the Old Testament sprinkling of animal blood.

— Jon

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