Do you ever feel a longing for home, but a home not of this world? If so, there is a very good reason, and First Peter just might be what you need to see you through this day. Written originally to Christians in five Roman provinces, it is clearly a legacy for the church at large, consisting of individuals Peter describes as God’s chosen ones but strangers in this world. That double (and paradoxical) identity will follow us through the whole epistle. This world is not our home, as anyone who takes seriously God’s calling and assignment quickly learns.
What is this mission to which we are called? It is to serve as God’s showpiece, his model community, his sampler of the new humankind. As our lives come to demonstrate hope and joy and peace, that whets the appetite of others who have a hunger to know their Creator. When they inquire regarding what they have observed, we are here to explain our hope (3:15-16) and to declare God’s wonderful saving deeds that moved us from darkness to light (2:9-10). Confirming our words are our actions–giving no basis for scandal or justifiable complaint.
When God raised Jesus from the dead, hope came alive, God showed himself deserving of our trust, and Jesus ascended to the Father who gave him a rank second only to God himself (1:3, 21; 3:17-22). Jesus’ mission unfolds in two stages–“suffering” and “glory”–and our mission takes place between his two. Whoever follows Jesus will also experience both suffering and glory–and in that same order (4:12-14). Our response to abuse, false accusations, even physical harm (2:12, 15; 3:14-16; 4:4-5, 19; 5:8-9) is simple–to keep on doing good, and to entrust ourselves to God the righteous judge who in the end will vindicate and reward his own (2:20-23; 4:19).
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Those who take up God’s assignment to walk through this strange land home are none other than his newly-begotten children. They are made such objectively by Christ’s resurrection (1 Peter 1:3) and subjectively by the living, spoken (rhema) gospel message (logos) of God (1:22). The written manifestation of God’s word also plays an important part. As milk is vital to the growth of a newborn infant, so the scriptures are to the growth of the spiritually newborn (2:1-3). Peter’s Bible” we know as the Old Testament (probably in Greek). He quotes or paraphrases language from Exodus, Leviticus, Psalms, Isaiah and Hosea in 1 Peter alone.
As objective reality, Christ’s resurrection is an event that occupied a specific place in space and time, a “happening” to be believed and trusted (1:3). We must vigilently resist every effort to reduce it to anything less–whether impersonal archetypes, theoretical principles, or simple narrative. As subjective reality, our personal conversion embodied our deepest feelings and emotions, and it is intended to be experienced and enjoyed.
At the end of our mission is an inheritance, which Peter describes in negative terms–it will never perish, fade, or spoil–it is too good to describe in positive words. And it is reserved in heaven for us (1:4). Meanwhile, God’s power guards us until we reach our inheritance (1:4-5). The Greek verb here has many possible translations: guard, keep, fortress, shield, garrison. The point is that in trusting God we are absolutely secure, and of that we may enjoy full assurance (1:3-5).We need this kind of assurance. The assignment for which God has called us includes grievous trials, sorrows, and suffering (1:6-9). Such is life for foreigners found walking through a land not theirs, strangers on divine assignment as they make their own way home.