Sunday, January 04, 2015

1 Peter 1:1-21

Before we go ahead and say that Peter is so much like Paul -- talking about predestination (1:1), God causing us to be born again (1:3), things reserved in heaven for us (1:4), etc -- let's also point out that Peter is very quick in this letter to mix in application along with it.  There are more than a few people who would be afraid to always be mixing in application so quickly, if they are weaned on Romans!  So this is good for some, including me!

What a surprise, to see in its bluntness and succinctness, the goal for being "chosen ... by the sanctifying work of the Spirit" here in the second verse: the goal is "unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ" (1:2, lit.)  Peter, who once told the Lord "go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man," comes back here to say something about sanctification that we forget: the very choice of us by God is by His sanctifying work.  Here we have also the basic meaning of sanctification showing itself, that it is to set something aside for special-case use.

What is this special-case use of being chosen?  Peter tells us three things about the choice: that it is a choice by the Holy Spirit's sanctifying work; that it is "according to the foreknowledge of God the Father"; and that it is "unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ."  Notice the activity of God the Father, the Holy Spirit, and Christ.  And Christ's work, as the targeted goal for the rest.

That's worth unpacking a little bit.  Normally we think that our Christian life starts with a relationship to Christ, and that He ushers us into the presence of the Father, and that God the Holy Spirit is with us in our day-to-day goals.  But here, our far past is the province of God the Father and the Holy Spirit, and the future explicitly deals with Christ.  We can't put such boxes and categories about who does what when, and Peter serves to remind us of that.

Is it true, then, that theological disputes about faith and works, whether good works are inevitable, for example, can be settled by 1:2?  If Peter has an ordo salutis here, a sequence, then what he says that  we are chosen "unto," these two things, "obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ," don't give themselves over to the demand for immediate good works as inevitable.  In fact, in all the discussions in Scripture, including of Paul's "apart from works" and James's discussion of Abraham's justification "by works," the works do not appear immediately, however inevitable they may indeed eventually be.  See Jn 14:12!  So Peter is dovetailing with their inevitability here, but not with the demand for seeing them immediately or constantly present, by saying that we are chosen "unto obedience."  And being sprinkled with the blood of Jesus Christ is just as much what we are chosen "unto," as obedience.  To be thus sprinkled is not just an initiation thing.  

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