The undersigned intends to write a series of pop­ular expositions on the first epistle of Peter during the next few months. These articles do not intend to be technical exegesis; such is the task of the min­ister in his study. There will be as little of this “work­shop” in these articles as possible. Not that these art­icles are not based on as careful exegesis as this writ­er can perform, but these exegetical labors will not stand in the foreground. Rather they will be exeget­ical sketches keeping in mind the doctrinal and hor­tatory and practical implications of the text as we pro­gress.

In this first contribution to this series we will de­vote our attention to the first two verses of I Peter 1. We read the following from the pen of Peter, the in­spired writer: “Peter an apostle of Jesus Christ to the elect strangers, dispersed in Pontus, Galatia, Capadocia, Asia and Bithynia, according to the foreknow­ledge of God, the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. Grace unto you and peace be multi­plied.

The first matter of importance that strikes our attention in this Scripture passage is what we read here of Peter. It is true we do not read a great deal about Peter’s person here. This is not a letter of Pet­er concerning himself; it is a letter concerning all that pertains to the church and her living hope in Christ Jesus in the midst of this world. Hence, noth­ing about the person of Peter. But for the very rea­son that this pertains to the hope of God’s elect we do read something of Peter’s relationship to Jesus Christ.

It is this: Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ.

It is Peter who here writes: it is not simply Simon, son of Jonas. It is the Peter whose faith and hope and calling is a “rock” because it is all built and anchored in the Stone laid in Zion, elect and precious with God. “Thou art Peter” our Lord had said to him in the regions of northern Galilee. In this one name we see Peter in all the glory of God’s grace; he is a new creat­ure, old things have passed away and all things have become new. He is led by his Lord.

Then too it is Peter who writes, but it should be carefully noticed, that he writes as an apostle of Je­sus Christ.

In the first place, we notice the truthful implication in the expression an apostle, that he is in no sense of the word the apostle. Foolish and trifling men have indeed attempted to fabricate the apostle par excellence of Peter. We think here of all the insis­tence of the Roman Catholics. But Peter himself wrote simple: an apostle. He is simply one of the twelve. He is indeed in that college of men, formerly Galilean fisher men, who have been separated to be to be the eyewitness of Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension, but among these he is simply an apos­tle. No longer is he trying to be the “greatest” in self-exaltation. He is great in humility. Peter, an apostle. Let it be noticed!

But even as such his stature is great. He is an apostle of Jesus Christ. He was called personally by Christ Himself. Already at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry Peter was called initially to the apostleship through the instrumentality of Andrew, (John 1:41) later at the sea of Galilee this fisherman from Galilee is called by Jesus and shown that he is to become a fisher of men; all the years of Jesus’ suffering, Peter accompanied His Lord. Peter belonged to the inner circle of the three disciples, who might accompany Je­sus on special occasions. We think of the event of the raising of the daughter of Jairus, the time when Je­sus is glorified on the mount, the occasion of the struggle of Jesus in Gethsemane. Peter is called by Jesus Christ to the apostleship. He is a sent one. But he is also qualified by Jesus Christ. He is empowered from on high according to the certain promise of Christ. (Acts 1:5)

Certainly these are good credentials of Peter.

He lays them on the table of the churches addres­sed in this letter as well as on the table of all the elect saints in all ages.

Shall we reverence these credentials, giving him honor for Christ’s sake, yet placing him on a par only with all the other apostles?

That is the first item worthy of notice in this pas­sage we have quoted.

There is, however, still another matter that is wor­thy of our attention.

We refer, of course, to what Peter here tells us incidentally of the status quo of the church in the midst of this world. It is well that this status quo be not over­looked; nor may it be neglected. We may not neglect this since we believe an holy Catholic Church. When we take the church of Christ seriously, confessing that we are a member of the same, and trust that we shall forever remain such a member then we will be inten­sely interested in the status quo of the Church. It is true: Peter does not lay down a formulated dogma here. But it is equally true that a great deal of dog­ma is incidentally stated here concerning the Church.

In the warp and woof of this address is wonderful material for ecclesiology.

Let us notice this, heeding the various elements in the text.

In the first place, we would notice, that the church­es here are not addressed as being Pontians, Galatians, Capadocians, Asians, Bithynians. No more, is this true than that today we may address the church in Netherlands as Netherlanders, or the church in Amer­ica as Americans. The church is not national, nor is it composed of nationalities. She is not composed of many nations. She is one new man in Christ. She is gathered out of every tongue and tribe and nation. But she is herself not a composite of nationalities. She is a new creation, a living body of Jesus Christ, gathered by His word and Spirit. She is a holy na­tion, a royal priesthood, a redeemed people, called out of darkness into God’s marvelous light, a people form­ed by God for Himself, that it may declare His great and glorious praises.

This negative aspect in this description of Peter here should not be overlooked.

But there is more in this text.

We should also notice the positive statements of Peter concerning God’s church in the world; these statements tell us the real status quo of the church.

The ‘Church here is called, addressed as being “elect strangers,” scattered in the provinces of the Ro­man empire in greater Asia Minor. They are in the world yet not of the world. They have another capi­tal city than mighty Rome. This earthly city, mighty though it be, belongs to the “thrones” that are de­stroyed. But the capital city of the elect strangers is the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the great King, Je­sus Christ. From the viewpoint of this city the elect are strangers in the world. Thus we are sons of Ab­raham, Isaac and Jacob who looked for the better country, that is, an heavenly. God is not ashamed to be called our God, for He hath prepared for us this City. It is the Civitas Dei.

This city is there because of the Builder and Ma­ker, who works all things according to the counsel of His will. This predestination, foreknowledge, election is the last and first reason of our being strangers in this world. This we read in the text: Elect stran­gers! This means that the church does not simply happen to be strangers in this world plus being elect, but that the children of God are strangers by virtue of election. Election is the cause and source of this being strangers in the midst of man; only God’s fore­knowledge is the heartbeat in our spiritual stranger hood in this world. Says Peter: Elect strangers ac­cording to the foreknowledge of God the Father.

It is true that this foreknowledge has often been interpreted as though it merely meant God foreknew who would believe, and, therefore, gave to them the gift of faith, and elected them. But such is not the “foreknowledge” of God! Clearly the foreknowledge of God is such that it even logically precedes the “foreordination”. At least it is a concomitant of foreor­dination. Thus we read in Romans 8:29, “Because whom He has foreknown he has also foreordained to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” All things in heaven and on earth are as God foreknew them in a divinely causative way! Thus is the “foreknow­ledge of God” in my text.

The actual efficient cause of our being strangers historically in faith and hope is due to the Spirit of sanctification. God sovereignly calls us unto a state and condition of holiness. He is the holy one of Is­rael. And He constitutes us a holy people by the op­eration of the Holy Spirit who justifies and sanctifies us. In the sphere of the operation of this Spirit of Christ we are very really constituted saints in the light. Our status quo is that the Spirit of grace and glory rests upon us. Compare I Pet. 4:14. As the “cloud” rested upon Israel in the desert on the way to the land of Canaan, so now the abiding presence of God is in us, because the Spirit of sanctification has made His abode in our hearts. The church is the temple of the Holy Spirit! That is her status quo.

By the power of this Spirit of sanctification we are brought to a new obedience. It is not obedience to the law; for that is impossible. Says Peter in the meeting at Jerusalem, “Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither we nor our fathers were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved even as they.” Hence, this is no obedience to the command of the law. It is a new obedience by which we walk according to the Spirit of sanctification. For it is an obedience which is the effect, the fruit of being “sprinkled with the blood of Jesus Christ.”

Hence, the obedience here is an obedience which is wrought by the Spirit of sanctification through the preaching of the gospel!

Faith obeys the gospel. It reaches out to Christ, lays hold on Him. And faith obeys the gospel.

Faith is wrought by the Spirit of sanctification!

And the Spirit of sanctification and the faith it works together with its obedience is according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.

Thus it all is according to the rule of plant, fruit and its root. From the fruits (obedience) the plant of the Spirit is known to be rooted in the unchange­able, sovereign and only good foreknowledge of God.

What a picture of the church in the world!

What a “status quo”!

And do not forget the order. It is “according to” and “in” and “unto”! The “unto” is never possible without the “in”, but neither of these two are a real­ity without the “according to”. Let this be clearly seen and joyfully confessed:

Now our soul rests safely and surely in the eter­nal elective love of God.

G. Lubbers