1&2 Peter Part Two Dive
ARE YOU TALKING TO ME?
As you read 1 Peter you get a sense straight away that the original audience is the Jewish Christians. If you are doing our schedule you have probably worked out now that there is great benefit in knowing who the author was talking too, it determines the language they use, the way they describe the events and even the use of the supporting evidence (for example Matthew uses Old Testament references because he his audience are Jewish Christians, Luke uses Greek terms as his audience are Greek Christians). Now, this doesn’t stop the text from speaking to us directly, knowing the intended audience helps us to get more out of the text rather than excluding us from its promises and message.
So as you read Peter you can see in the first couple of verses he starts with
1:1 Peter, an apostle of Christ, To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the province of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been 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: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
Now for those who love learning about the historical context of the book, you would possibly identify the intended audience as Jewish Christians. But there is so much more to this book and when you discover the true intended audience it makes the book come alive.
Firstly we need to recognise when in the history of the early church was this book written. This book was written in about 63-65AD so at the end of the book of Acts. Why does this make a difference?
Well in Acts we have the journey of the Church and the development of what identifies the people of God, in simple terms how are the people of God recognised and how does salvation come into effect. Paul is passionate from the beginning that the Gentile believers are included in the people of God just by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone, they don’t need to add any Jewish tradition to their lives including circumcision to be saved. See in the early church the Gentiles and the Jewish Christians found it hard to work together, as we mentioned in the first Snapshot on 1 Peter Paul rebukes Peter in Galatians 2:11-
“When Cephas (Peter) came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James (the Church in Jerusalem), he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabus (Pauls mate) was led astray.”
Now read Galatians 2:11-2, Paul sets out the argument in the church. See for the Jews they didn’t associate with Gentiles, they didn’t eat with them and so when the Jewish Christians were around Peter and Barnabus went back to their old habits and didn’t eat with the Gentiles because they were unclean! The circumcision group were a group of Christians that said that the Gentiles had to be circumcised (become a Jew) to be saved. And Paul is passionate that the only thing that they need is faith in Jesus Christ and the sign that this is the case is the fact that the Holy Spirit anoints the Gentiles and they are speaking in tongues as a sign of their baptism. In other words, if God is accepting them and giving them the Spirit as a sign of that acceptance, who are we to say they are not accepted unless they are circumcised!
Now this disagreement in the church continues and you can read it in the beginning Acts, but two pinnacle points happen in Acts that changes the whole situation. Open up your Bible to Acts 10. In Acts 10 God shows Peter that the gentiles are clean and he ends up in the house of a gentile and says the funniest worst, speech that a guest could ever say. It is really hysterical when you read it and imagine them all standing there. Look at Acts 10:28
“He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection.”
Imagine the gentiles going – wait a second did he just call us unclean and impure, no I think he is saying that yesterday he thought we were unclean and impure and now we are OK. They knew that this was a miracle for this Jewish leader to be in their house and then we see in 10:44 the Holy Spirit came on all of them.
Now you’re thinking Katie, what has this got to do with 1 Peter. This is where the importance of the date of the letter comes in. If the letter of 1 Peter was written prior to Acts 10 you would think that the letter was addressed to only the Jewish Christians – they are the ‘Gods elect’ ‘chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father’ with ‘ an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade’ ‘Gods children’ ‘holy’ ‘living stones’ ‘holy priesthood’ ‘offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God’ that Peter talks about. BUT IT IS NOT! Peter is writing to the whole church – gentile Christians included and from the revelation of Acts 10 that everyone is included now in the people of God, no-one is separated or unclean, he writes a letter to the whole church and assigns the names of the people of God previously assigned to only the Israelites in the Old Testament to the whole church!! This is a revolutionary letter, Paul would have been very proud of Peter!
So all of the terms I Have listed above he assigns to the whole body of Christ, he calls the Gentiles God’s elect, he calls them God’s children but it gets even better look at 2:9-10
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
This is incredible, all the traits, attributes and promises of the people of God in the Old Testament, the Israelites, Peter is now assigning to the New Testament church – everyone male, female, Jew, Gentile, slave and free we are all the people of God no matter what nationality we are, no matter our background our faith in Jesus Christ assigns us the promises of the people of God.
How amazing is that!! So as you read Peter note the names and titles, they are your promises, your identity as the people of God, you are chosen, holy, blameless, we have an inheritance in Christ, we are his holy nation, his special possession to declare his praises!
Have fun in 1 Peter!