Peter begins in the same way as every other letter found in the New Testament, with a greeting to his readers. And, also just like every other letter, there is an incredible amount of information hidden in these simple seeming verses.
You can see this passage in 1 Peter 1:1-2.
The first thing Peter does is identify himself, and then his readers. He is an apostle. He claims that authority in both of his letters, but does not issue a strong defense of that authority, as Paul must do in some of his letters. Peter’s apostolic authority is not in question here.
Next, Peter identifies who he is writing to. They are God’s elect. The term Peter uses here is rich in its heritage. The Jewish people were God’s chosen people. As the Old Testament transitioned into the New, Christians are identified as God’s chosen people. In fact, Peter will make this statement very clearly later in this letter (2:9). As God’s elect, Peter will encourage believers to live up to the holy standard that God requires, and his statement here hints at that.
The next phrase that Peter uses to describe his readers is the term “strangers.” The idea behind this word is descriptive of someone who is an exile, someone who is living away from their homeland. Peter’s use here indicates not that his readers are exiles from their native lands in Asia Minor, but that their homeland is not of this world. Our citizenship is in heaven.
The third descriptive term Peter uses is the term “scattered.” This is more literally translated as “dispersion.” The Jewish people were scattered from their homeland into countries all over the world. Peter’s use here is metaphorical, applying to Christians, who have also been scattered away from their homeland in heaven, to which we will soon return.
Next, Peter deepens this description with five regions where his readers live, which are all found in modern day Turkey. Three of these regions are mentioned as being in the crowd at Pentecost, in Acts 2:9 (Pontus, Cappadocia, and Asia). This could be how these churches began, finding their roots in the earliest of church history. Peter’s listing here is likely the route of the letter’s carrier, who made a circuitous route through the region, sharing Peter’s letter with all the churches.
In verse 2, Peter adds one final description to his readers. They have been chosen and redeemed. God knew who these people were before they ever chose to believe, and his work through the Holy Spirit and the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, both alluded to here, have been planned for these believers and he has been at work already. They are his covenant people.
Just as Moses sprinkled the people with blood to ratify the covenant in Exodus 24:7-8, so believers have been sprinkled by Christ’s atoning sacrifice, redeeming us for God’s purposes. We have been purified from the guilt of sin. Christians truly are a “set apart” people.
Peter wraps up his greeting with a common blessing, bestowing grace and peace upon them. Peter knows that his readers need God’s grace and his peace, and so his greeting carries the tone of a prayer, asking God to pour this onto his readers.
There is a lot to be found in the greetings of many New Testament letters. Our tendency is to glance over these verses, and move on to the “important stuff.” But the depth of Peter’s theology, as well as Paul’s, found in their greetings, can be very beneficial to us. It marks a great beginning to understanding the rest of the letter.
Question: What stands out to you from these two introductory verses of 1 Peter? You can leave a comment by clicking here.