Introduction: Discuss the following questions…
- How should Christians expect to be perceived/treated this side of the new creation?
- With which stage of the Bible do you think we have the most in common? Why?
You might be familiar with the Christian nationalism movement that has arisen in the United States of America recently. This is a movement, that in name at least, seeks to rediscover ‘America’s lost Christian heritage’ pursuing power through the ballot box and increasingly through other, less democratic, means.
Whilst we in the UK might question the ambition and the means of this movement, is it not right to seek to recognise Christ’s Lordship in all areas of life, including the life of the nation-state?
In the UK, we are perhaps more comfortable with a ‘neutral’ public square in which we have the freedom to hold our own private religious views but are advised (and pressured) not to share these, let alone impose them on others.
We are rarely persecuted (not violently at least) but we are marginalised and misunderstood. To some of us, this is just how it is, and we don’t mind it really as it means we get to live a quiet life. For others this is a travesty, and we are encouraged to fight back against the forces of secularism.
With these questions in mind, we turn to the book of 1 Peter. A book written to Christians in the early church figuring out what it means to live in a society and culture that doesn’t understand you at best, and actively persecutes you at worst. What can the early church show us as we wrestle with very similar circumstances and questions???
Passage: 1 Peter 1:1-2
- Who is the letter from? Why should it be taken seriously? (v1)
- Check out 2 Peter 1:16-21 and 3:1-2 to understand the full significance of Peter’s writings
- What do we learn about the people Peter is writing to? (v1)
- God’s elect
- Scattered throughout what is now Turkey
Grudem in his commentary on 1 Peter argues ‘The word [elect] in the New Testament (twenty-two times) always refers to persons chosen by God from a group of others who are not chosen, and chosen for inclusion among God’s people, as recipients of great privilege and blessing’.
To be chosen by God from a group of others, to be recipients of his blessing goes back a long way Biblically. Check out Genesis 12:1-3 and answer the following questions:
- Why is Abram chosen?
- What does this mean for Abram? Think in terms of the following categories:
Just as ‘elect’ can be traced back to Abram, so too do we see this same theme of exile. Read Hebrews 11:8-12.
- In what ways was Abram also an exile? Have a look at Hebrews 11:13-16.
- What do we learn about God’s people more generally?
Biblically speaking to be scattered often means to be subject to judgement or the destructive effects of sin. But in the New Testament we see God’s people scattered, notably in Acts 8, and as they are scattered, they take the gospel with them and the good news of Jesus Christ spreads.
- How might this change their/our understanding of what it means to be ‘scattered’?
- What is the significance of Peter’s recollection of these wider Old Testament and Biblical themes?
- Paul similarly writes in Philippians 3:20 "our citizenship is in heaven". What implications does this have for us as Christians who follow in the footsteps of our spiritual ancestors mentioned in both Philippians and 1 Peter?
To be an exile and scattered is referring primarily here to our wait, as Christians, for our return to our true home – though given the suffering mentioned later in Peter it will inevitably be a very real and physical exile for some.
- We all have our view of how life should go, how does the identity of elect exiles challenge our expectations?
- How does the way Abram lived by faith help us set guidelines and shape the way we live today?
- What might this mean politically?
Passage: 1 Peter 1:1-2
- God’s people aren’t chosen arbitrarily but to experience His blessing. How do we see this at play? (v2)
- Chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father
- Through the sanctifying work of the Spirit
- To be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood
If it helps read through Hebrews 10:19-22 and 12:22-24 to dive deeper into the significance of these truths, their Old Testament significance, and the role of the Trinity in bringing about these blessings.
- Why might these truths be comforting to people who are exiles and scattered?
- How does this change how we relate to:
- Fellow believers
- The world around us (society generally)
- The world around us (politics and governments specifically)
- Thank God for choosing us, for bestowing upon us every spiritual blessing. Spend some time reflecting on, and thanking Him for, these wonderful truths.
- Pray for a bigger view of our heavenly home that awaits and pray that we would always hold that in perspective as we engage in the here and now.
- Pray for wisdom as we go through 1 Peter for figuring out how being both elect and exiles should guide us in our interactions in politics.
 Wayne A. Grudem, 1 Peter. [eBook] IVP. Loc. 10,.0125.