We recently had a training for an upcoming men’s in women’s retreat weekend retreat and I shared a devotional on first Peter one. Several people asked me if I could write something that could be shareable for them. The problem is that when I write this, I have to get a little scholarly because it’s pretty in-depth.
I’ve always had an ADD problem and topical sermons don’t work too well for me jumping back-and-forth all over the place. I often get dismayed or stuck and have something seems a little forced or proof texted… but then I find when I try to do an exegetical study I can’t get past one verse! There’s so much here, and I’m gonna do my best to get to the second verse the ties in with the first.
To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen 1 Peter 1:1 NASB
One of my life mantras is to try to get people to think more within the way that the scripture was written than trying to interpret it by the modern American lens that would seem “normal” to us. The problem is this way of thinking is so marked up. It’s been invaded over and over by worldly thinking, gnosticism, stoicism, reformational problems, and many other vices of the world.
When I was a kid I loved it that the Bible had the word aliens in it. Of course I was interpreting from a modern sense of aliens and UFOs. That’s the way we like to interpret this. But part of it is correct. I think the majority of people get pretty close to the right interpretation on this verse.
We are partly correct in our thinking that since we do belong to the Lord, (if we have placed our obedient faith in him), and not to this earth; that we shouldn’t be of this earthly kingdom. We know that we are marked to belong to the kingdom of Jesus and that the kingdoms of this earth and the kingdom of Jesus are rival nations. We are simply passing through.
However, it’s unfortunate that that’s where most of our thinking stops. We view ourselves as aliens of the earthly world but have you also considered that we also might be alien to God?! In other words, we are stuck somewhere between the worlds, stuck somewhere in the middle and are aliens to both worlds.
Grab a cup of coffee and let’s dive in!
The word for alien here is parepídēmois. It’s one of these crazy words that we only have one time in the Bible so we have to try to really figure out what it means. In theology is referred to as a hapax legomenon, we’ve got about 400 of these in the Bible.
Now notice the author (Who I would affirm is arguably peter) chooses to finish the verse with the word elect. There’s a reason why he finishes that way. The idea of the “alien” helps us understand that those are “with God” have been scattered or removed (Hebraic idea of the diaspora) but they’re true home is the place of their “elect” they just aren’t there yet… they’re in transition. I would also argue that first Peter is not written to a primarily Jewish audience as traditionally believed, but it’s actually written to a mixed audience of devout believers. (This is in large part what are first video covered) “All of Israel” meaning the New covenant church. As we all know Pieters further act of discipleship was to launch the new covenant Church this is what he’s working on in this letter or sermon. So he’s using words the traditional Hebrews are going to understand (and the rest of the church should also get) by applying them to all of the church. It’s a re-grafting or regathering of the body. (This is the simple good news, that salvation and deeper relationship with God is offered to both the traditional Jews as another chance and also to anyone else who places their obedient faith.)
As I alluded to at the beginning, there is so much here in one verse. This is a verse that tells us something about sanctification, the journey of transition from becoming of the world to becoming like Jesus; this has been my mantra this year – Christoformity. This is where most of American church gets this concept really wrong.
We like to emphasize salvation and momentary decisions at the altar to follow Jesus as if it’s all we’re trying to accomplish as Christians. We sell it is if it’s some magic anecdote of the mind. “If we could just get one more soul to come to the Lord” so the choirs of angels can sing. Please don’t get me wrong here, I’m the first to rejoice when somebody’s taking an allegiant step towards Jesus. I will be the first in the water! But this first step is simply just the first step. Most Americans want to draw a line in the sand as if someone who wasn’t with God cognitively makes a mind decision and now they are with God forever and ever. The scripture never seems to describe things as a line like this but rather a journey of sanctification that involves action of the heart, mind, and body.
This is also a good time to address something else that’s going to seem like a slight rant or ADD “squirrel” Jaunt, but it all ties in so bear with me! I’m also going to present an idea that possibly you’ve never considered before. Many think that the work of sanctification is done when we die and get to heaven. But if you follow much of the x44 video series you probably understand the idea that NT Wright has written so well about, that heaven is not the ultimate state it’s the intermediate state. The ultimate state is going to be a re-created heaven and earth. So there seems to be the idea that sanctification in the believer actually doesn’t end until we receive our newly re-created body in the final state of the recreated heavens and earth. That gives us a much longer picture of this process of sanctification than that of this earth.
Now this theory even gets more complicated if you have crossed the Rubicon. Some of you might want to consider me a heretic for the next line, others are in a place in their faith where they can ask tough questions like this. Some scripture actually implies that perhaps this world isn’t our only chance to proclaim Jesus as Lord. There’s an Orthodox idea that we find regularly and is apparent in the apostle’s creed that Jesus after the cross (3 days) went back to preach to those in waiting that they might have another chance to accept him. Most people write this off as an Old Testament thing, a place of waiting for the cross. But in my studies, nearly everything in the Old Testament is a picture of a shadow of the second coming of Christ as it was to the first. Hermeneuticly, it would make sense that if this worked in the Old Testament, somethings going to be very similar for the New Testament. The first coming of Christ is a shadow to the second coming of Christ. And now your mind is blown that sanctification might be bigger than this lifetime.
So why do I choose to go off on this tangent of sanctification on this verse? Because actually that’s what it’s talking about! Parepídēmois is the idea of God continually drawing near to Him and trying to claim us as his as we continually fall short and pull away from God. It’s kind of like an alien tractor beam!!!
This post is a little scholarly so I better keep it that way. let’s examine this quote Rabbi
“The role of the man of faith, whose religious experience is fraught with inner conflicts and incongruities, who oscillates between ecstasy in God’s companionship and despair when he feels abandoned by God, and who is torn asunder by the heightened contrast between self-appreciation and abnegation, has been a difficult one since the times of Abraham and Moses.”
The Lonely Man of Faith (Three Leaves Press, Doubleday, 1965), p. 2.
As I mentioned earlier, we get that we are aliens because we don’t belong to this world and we all affirm that, yet in doing so, we fall so short from being a true resident in God’s kingdom and are therefore aliens to his kingdom as well. The alien mindset goes both ways.
I really appreciate the book of first Peter because he writes with the Hebrew mindset such as Paul or Jesus did. Even though the New Testament is written in Greek you have to interpret this through a Hebraic lens. Think about Israel for a minute, they failed miserably. Although they were supposed to be a holy people dedicated to a completely different kind of kingdom they failed miserably and ended up belonging more to the rival nation world or kingdom than they did to God’s nation. Some say that eventually they were divorced or that they just were handed over. This is the paradigm of this verse. A traditional Jew would interpret this very differently than the way that you and I probably do today. They were almost fighting words, and in many ways showed the relationship of “wrestling” between God and Israel.
This is also why there’s a notion that Israel isn’t accepted anywhere. They aren’t accepted in the world they are spread out in (diaspora language) and they haven’t been accepted by God’s world unless they come to new covenant terms with God and Jesus.
First Peter tends to be a theological launch zone for replacement theology; but when you really jump into the study, what we find is that it’s not replacement theology it’s new covenant theology… it’s not talking about the church replacing Israel it’s simply just talking about new covenant terms of the kingdom of Jesus, the terms that are going to be the same for all that might come.
First Peter within the opening lines presents the conundrum. The message is that too many people have become complacent because they’ve taken the first step towards allegiant faith with Christ and left it there. “they haven’t followed the road to true discipleship.” Peter has a problem with that. The church was supposed to be full of true devout disciples that are all in to the kingdom of God; not believers stuck in elementary phases of their faith who have become more rooted in the world‘s ways than in Gods. Probably sounds a little bit like our “church” today. It might also look like Israel all over again a mass failing in the eyes of God.
The prayer of allegiant faith is just the first step of the journey. This is also going to tie into the idea of the elect. The more Calvinistic or reformed view would say that there’s not much that this person can do because they’ve been chosen since the beginning of time (I like to refer to this as a robot theology) but most people get this view wrong as well. Again, you have to consider where Peter is coming from, his Hebraic roots. You can see the word “elect” here. These are God’s chosen, I’m not arguing that, but chosen here implies a reciprocal relationship that goes both ways. The first Greek word is elektois – a word that differentiates believers from non-believers. It comes from the Greek word for “to select or choose”. It is used again in 1 Peter 2:9. Compare the usage of the word by looking at 1 Tim 5:21. This is an Old Testament concept (look at Deut. 14:2 and Isaiah 45:4).
These chosen ones reside nearby as strangers (that’s parepidemois). In 1:2 we also have another word connected (are you impressed I actually made it to another verse?!) The word foreknowledge comes from two different Greek words that meant “before and to know”. In Peters time the stoics are going to be trying to bring “light” or “enlightenment” to the world. Unfortunately this is the way that we consider this word today, it brings the idea of intelligent comprehension for the act of knowing. It brings with it the idea of a fortuneteller foretelling the future. when you combine the two Greek words, you get “prior acknowledgement” or “known beforehand”.
One of the things I like at the most about understanding the language that the Bible is written in is being able to understand when things like this are happening. One of the traits of a good Hebrew teacher or a writer is that you don’t only explain what you’re teaching but as you’re teaching it you’re also modeling it. A really great message as Jesus would have done not only explains the message but also lives out the message while teaching it. We don’t get this at all it’s lost in translation. That’s the heart of what it meant to be a living example in your teaching.
What Peter is doing is prolific. He’s basically taking the teaching of the day, (the gnostics view of fortunetelling) and continues to build on Jesus’ message as a backward way of thinking- a rival kingdom to that of the world. This is the use of opposites in scripture that I talk so much about, the Hebraic Contronym way of thinking and teaching.
What is sad though, is that too many people interpret this exactly the wrong way, they’ve taken what Peter is saying to be the exact opposite of what he meant because he was teaching contrary to the way of the world. His point is to think oppositely of the Greek style of fortune telling… he is contrasting the worlds message and asserting that is not what God’s kingdom is about. Both in his time and in our time, society is filled with the belief that knowledge is power and secret knowledge is even more powerful, the gnostic way. Eventually they believe that they actually could be like or equal to God in their understanding. that’s counter to the message of God and was the problem with babel in the fallen spiritual beings. This is the major problem that divides the entire scripture.
So how do I know that peter meant the opposite out of the simple two verse? Let me show you.
In Hebrew these words are all tied together. In this case the Hebrew idea of knowing something is “yada.” You’ve heard this expression before after somebody rants about something they might say “ya da ya da ya da”; you probably never realized that this was a Hebrew expression that meant and on and on and on as if you “know it all!”
In Hebrew this word has a lot of different meanings but it’s always linked to a relationship of intimacy (Sometimes sexual as that is the best earthly metaphor for a complete intimate relational connection.
The Hebrew word is different than the stoic version because it emphasizes a relationship rather than the intellect itself. The idea is that it stresses knowing the subject not knowing the information. This is where we get the scriptures that say the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. It would be silly to consider a verse like that and think that God is going to allow us now to see into the future! That’s not at all what it meant!
When we interpret the word foreknowledge in this light it comes off as a relationship of acknowledgment not prediction. I’m going to challenge you to continue applying this to the way the same word is used throughout scripture in Acts 2:23, Rom. 11:2, Rom. 8:29, 1 Peter 1:20; (just to name a few but I would even are you in every situation.)
We want to think of the words elect chosen and foreknowledge as being some magic mysterious thing that God orchestrated from the very beginning of time such as a Calvinist would make it sound like, but as Peter teaches here that’s actually opposite to the way of thinking in Gods kingdom; that’s the way of thinking in the rival kingdom, the way that the world considers these things -such as the Stoics. The message was that we are aliens in that we are opposite to that kind of thinking.
We want to make this out to be God knowing about a subject matter before it happens like some kind of fortuneteller. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to believe that God teaches against that sort of thing. That’s described as evil in the Bible. We need to keep our theology within the character and nature of God that is clearly given in the scripture.
So am I saying that God doesn’t know all things? Am I proposing that God might know the options to our choices? (Molinism) -I’m just saying that we need to be careful that we’re not putting God in the box of our world. That’s opposite of what he’s telling us. Perhaps God has some kind of knowledge beyond our human understanding of the subject matter beforehand, I’m not completely ruling that out… but that’s not what the scripture says here or what Peter is talking about. To create some kind of doctrinal position based on that would be an atrocity to hermeneutics.
Peter is saying that God acts in accordance with the role of those that have made the decision to follow him and have completely given themselves to this journey of sanctification. It’s not about a momentary decision or that somebody has crossed that line and is now with the Lord in eternity. That picture is never painted quite that simply in the Bible. The picture that Peter is painting is a God walking along with you acting on your behalf meeting you wherever you might be in the middle even though you haven’t been faithful to come completely to his world.
If you’ve ever wondered why we have the Old Testament story of Israel this is why. It’s to show us despite how far we wander from God, God is still there without stretched arms. There is no better picture of that then of Israel.
His arms are reached out towards the world to grab you an intimate relationship and pull you up to his. This is a covenant that we see over and over and over. An amazing God of Grace love and mercy who is relentless despite of our shortcomings to offer deep and intimate relationship through a journey of sanctification. What a beautiful message Peter captures in a way that is so incredibly crafted by Hebraic teaching that unfortunately many of us have lost the real message.