Refugees On Earth

Refugees On Earth.

1 Peter 1 – 2.

The Apostle Peter’s First Epistle was written to believers who were part of the huge refugee Jewish diaspora living in Asia Minor, dispersed by the Roman occupiers of the Holy Land (1 Peter 1:1). Subsequently, both the Sanhedrin and Caesar persecuted them. The tenor of Peter’s letter was to comfort the believers to remain faithful while enduring suffering, and to encourage them to persevere by living exemplary holy lives. He juxtaposed ‘salvation,’ interpreting it in its past, present and future context, expositing on the basis for their unquestionable hope in God: for what He had achieved in Christ for them, as differentiated by a deliverance from their present struggles, and as an eventual imperishable and undefiled inheritance reserved for them in heaven. This window of travail was intended to prove their faith, and their perseverance under it would honour Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:3-9). Peter’s high view of God’s omniscience and confidence in His sanctifying purpose underpinned the fact that the believers’ struggles were not accidental, that God had a purpose in it, and He is still in control (1 Peter 1:2). He drew their attention to the principal function of the gospel message, that its whole focus has always been other-centred and not meant to be ‘self-serving’ (1 Peter 1:12), and this formed the starting point for his explanation of their distinctive way of life while on earth.

The customary meaning of ‘girding up the loins’ is to tuck one’s robes under the belt in order to make haste in one’s journey. So, Peter was warning the believers to attend urgently to what he had to say by ‘girding up the loins of their minds’: i.e., to be holy as God is holy. Certainly an impossible human goal! Nevertheless, this battle over our being – our mind, our spirit, our desires and hopes will not be won if not for the revelation of our position in Christ (1 Peter 1:13-16). Here, Peter began to clarify one of the most profound truths in Scripture: our beginnings had been pre-ordained and centred in the foreknowledge of God, with our future tied into God’s eternal purpose. The eternal realm is where home is, where God will sum up everything in Christ one day (Eph 1:10). This temporal existence can never be home, hence our conduct ought to intensely reflect our heavenly heritage, where our faith and hope are in Christ Himself, as He is in us (1 Peter 1:17-21). A reverential awe of God’s presence (i.e., a fear of God) distinctly separates us as citizens of heaven, who cares about this world, from being purely citizens of this world. Our sanctification by His Holy Spirit point us towards becoming imitators of Christ – to be like Jesus. One of the immediate fruit of that process, when the living and enduring word of God lives through us, mentioned by Peter, is a sincere and fervent love from our heart of the brethren (1 Peter 1:22-25).

The New Testament metaphor of the church as the Body of Christ, with Christ as her Head, seemed a logical spiritual progression despite its multi-dimensional conundrum in describing our distinctive relationship with our Lord (c.f., Rom 12:5; 1 Cor 3:16; Eph 4:15-16; Eph 5:23; Col 3:3). Peter took this imagery to illustrate how believers, as living stones, are inextricably linked to each other and with Christ, in their singular lineage, going back to His chosen people set apart by God for Himself (c.f., Rom 11:17-18). Inextricably, believers are priests to our God, serving Him and bearing a consuming testimony of God to the nations (1 Peter 2:9-10; c.f., Rev 5:10). This ought to be the longing in every heart that beats with our Saviour’s. Consequently, as outsiders in this world (i.e., aliens and strangers), Christ is to be our constant example, and here, Peter listed a few paradigms for us to work on: they focus on the self, in relation to non-believers, human institutions in authority, and the community of faith, between servants and masters, in the event of persecution, and towards God, where the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding (1 Peter 2:11-25; Proverbs 9:10).