************ Sermon on 1 Peter 1:1-2 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on February 14, 2021
1 Peter 1:1-2
"To God's Elect"
No Christian believer has ever told me they deny the doctrine of election. In fact, everyone who has ever gone through Pastor's Class has told me this doctrine is found throughout the Bible. That's what they say. Yet, most believers in most other churches disagree with the doctrine of election.
I Election's Identity in Heaven
A To understand people's disagreement with election we need to look at its nature or character.
Notice what Peter calls his audience: "God's elect." That's God's word for Christians. That's our heavenly identification. Believers are the chosen. Selected. Picked out. By God. The point is it is God who chooses people. God. It isn't man who does the choosing. In all of life, we are used to doing our own choosing. On the playground at recess, two of the kids are named captains and they take turns choosing who is on their soccer or baseball team. In highschool and college, the coach gets to choose who plays and they, in turn, choose whether they want to play. Employers choose their employees and employees choose their employers. Those who are married choose their spouse. We all choose who are our friends. People don't like it that now it is God who does the choosing.
As already mentioned, election is found throughout the Bible. Listen to how the Old Testament describes the people of Israel:
Deuteronomy 7:6 (NIV84) — 6 For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. (Cf Deut 14:2)Israel was elect.
Psalm 135:4 (NIV84) — 4 For the LORD has chosen Jacob to be his own, Israel to be his treasured possession.
In the New Testament it is the church that is God's elect. The God who chooses His people in the Old Testament is also the God who chooses His people in the New Testament. God hasn't changed his method. God hasn't changed His plan. Remember what Jesus said in John 15?
John 15:16 (NIV84) —16 You did not choose me, but I chose you ...
God doesn't sit in heaven hoping and waiting for people to choose Him. No, God chooses His people.
B "God's elect." Elect for what? Skip forward and listen to 1 Peter 2:9.
1 Peter 2:9 (NIV84) — 9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.Chosen to be God's people. Chosen to be saved. Chosen to have faith. Chosen to be a Christian.
The book of Acts tells us Paul and Barnabas were preaching in Antioch. And then comes this golden nugget:
Acts 13:48 (NIV84) — 48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.Those appointed for eternal life believed. Chosen to believe. Chosen to be saved.
C "God's elect." God chooses those who are saved. It is God's sovereign election decree. People disagree with this because this means that salvation originates in the will of God. They disagree because this means that salvation does not originate in the will of man. They disagree because this means that man has no ability to do good or to turn to God in faith. They disagree because this means no man makes any contribution to his own salvation. People fight against this. They fight against being told they are so fallen they are unable to save themselves. They fight against being told they are so fallen they are unwilling to go to God.
"God's elect." That brings up the further problem of those who aren't elect. That's another reason why lots of Christians don't like the doctrine of sovereign election. What happens to those people who aren't elect? The Bible doesn't say they are chosen for hell. Rather, the Bible says they go to hell because of their unbelief. That is, no one can say God is responsible. Let me put it this way: God is in charge of belief; man is in charge of unbelief. Hard to understand, isn't it?! But that is what the Bible teaches.
"God's elect." The character or nature of election is twofold. First, God is in charge of salvation. God. Not man. Don't ever think you are in charge of your own salvation. God chooses you. Second, God is unbelievably gracious. He chooses to save those who can't save themselves. He chooses to save those who don't want to be saved. He chooses to save those who don't deserve to be saved.
II Election's Identity on Earth
A Next, Peter says two things about God's elect on earth. In reverse order, Peter first says they are "scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bith-y-nia ..." (1 Pet 1:1). By the way, Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bith-y-nia aren't the names of churches that Peter is listing. Rather, these are provinces in the Roman Empire; today, they are all part of modern Turkey. We know from the book of Revelation that there were at least seven churches in Asia; if the other provinces were the same way, this means Peter is writing to God's elect in more than thirty different churches. Peter is writing to those who have been scattered all over the place. The book of Acts tells us the early Christians were scattered because of persecution in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1). They fled from Jerusalem to Judea, Samaria, and other parts of the Roman Empire; and, they preached the Word wherever they went (Acts 8:4). That is why there were all those churches in the different provinces.
B The second thing Peter tells us about God's elect on earth is that they are "strangers in the world" (1 Pet 1:1). "Strangers" describes not just those who fled the persecution in Jerusalem but all Christians. God's elect are in the world, scattered all over the place, yet they are not of the world. In heaven, they are God's elect. On earth, they are strangers. Let me connect the two: because they are God's elect in heaven, they are strangers on earth.
Christians are strangers. Aliens. Pilgrims. Visitors. People who don't belong. Why? Because their citizenship is in heaven as one of God's elect (Phil 3:20). Christians live temporarily on earth but are citizens of heaven. Governed by God. Through His Word. Indwelt by the Spirit. Having convictions, standards, habits, lifestyles, beliefs, pursuits, pleasures that are totally alien to the world. A couple of big examples of how different we are: we adopt babies instead of abort them; we honor marriage instead of divorce; we worship God on Sunday instead of go to the beach; we don't abuse alcohol and drugs. Meaning we don't fit in. Meaning the world doesn't understand us and can't understand us. To the world, we are like the Amish -- completely different, strange, alien.
Because they are God's elect, Christians are strangers in the world. If you aren't different from your unbelieving neighbors and co-workers, something is seriously wrong. Christians don't love the world (1 Jn 1:15). They aren't friends of the world. Instead, they are chosen to witness to the world and to change the world.
III Election's Source
A This brings us to our third point: election's source. In verse 2 Peter says God's elect "have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God" (1 Pet 1:2).
Lots of ignorance about that word "foreknowledge." Lots of misunderstanding. People have said to me, "See?! We are chosen because God knows beforehand what we will do." This argument says "foreknowledge" means "foresight." They say God looks ahead in history and sees who will believe and chooses accordingly. And, He does not choose those He sees are not going to believe.
All sorts of problems with this understanding. I don't want to spend a lot of time on this so let me list five objections:
-First, instead of God's sovereign election of man it is man's sovereign election of God.
-Second, believers get the credit for being smarter, better, wiser, and more discerning than unbelievers.
-Third, it assumes fallen man can seek after God.
-Fourth, salvation becomes a human work.
-Fifth, Almighty God is but a pawn or servant to man's choice.
B God's elect "have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God" (1 Pet 1:2). If it doesn't mean foresight, what does it mean? If we look ahead to verse 20, the Greek of that verse uses the word "foreknowledge" about Christ: "He was chosen [that is, foreknown] before the creation of the world." Peter says Christ was foreknown. Does this mean God in heaven was looking ahead in history to see what Christ would do? Absolutely not! Peter also uses the same word when he was preaching to the Pentecost Day crowd about Christ:
Acts 2:23 (NIV84) — 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.Did you hear that? Christ was delivered up to die by the plan and foreknowledge of God.
Foreknowledge is linked to the plan of God, the set purpose of God. Foreknowledge points to something God has planned and turns into reality. In the case of Christ, God foreknows His suffering and death because He ordained it. In the case of the elect, God foreknows their faith because He has ordained it.
IV Election's Method
A Our fourth point is election's method. Peter writes election becomes real in our lives"through the sanctifying work of the Spirit." So, it is the Spirit who makes us born again, who leads us to repentance and faith, who applies the justifying work of Christ to our hearts, who sanctifies us, and who glorifies us.
Usually, when we think of the sanctifying work of the Spirit, we think narrowly of being made holy. But Peter uses it for the entire work of salvation.
B I want you to realize something very important: being elect and being saved are not the same thing. They are different. It is possible, though only for a while, for you to be elect and not saved. Look at it this way. How long are the elect one of the elect? From eternity. There is never a time when the elect are not elect. Now, how long are the elect saved? Only since the time the Spirit has worked in them and led them to repentance and faith. You and I have been elect from all eternity. But before we come to repentance and faith we are unsaved. Do you see the difference between election and salvation? Election, the plan of God, becomes real in the life of the elect only through the work of the Spirit. Election means nothing, it comes to nothing, without the work of the Spirit.
C Now, remember, election means Christians are aliens and strangers in the world. It is the Spirit that makes them so. The Spirit makes Christians separate, different, holy, set apart. The Spirit consecrates Christians to the service of God.
Now, the work of the Spirit does not mean perfection. I am not as holy as I should be, nor as I want to be, nor as I shall be; and neither are you. But before the work of the Spirit I was not holy at all. Before the work of the Spirit I was not separate, different, set apart. Before the work of the Spirit I was in darkness. But now -- thanks to the Spirit -- I am separate, different, holy, set apart.
Over the years I have met people who claim to be elect but there has never been a change in their life. There is even a denomination that specializes in this. Even though their young people are known for getting drunk and getting pregnant, they say it is no reason for concern because they are one of the elect. That is horrendous! There has to be a difference in your life if you are one of the elect. There has to be a difference in the life of the elect because the Spirit does His sanctifying and saving work.
D In doing His work, the Spirit uses the Word. But the Spirit also uses the ministry of the church and the home. From the time they are born and baptized we tell our children and youth to repent and believe. We call them to make real in their lives God's election decree. We call them to be saved.
Election means we have an identity in heaven as one of God's people. Election means we have an identity on earth as strangers and aliens. Election means God is carrying out His eternal plan for our salvation. Election means the Spirit saves us and changes us. And, as we will see next time, election gives a purpose to our life.
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