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Peters Epistle

Elect of God: NT

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New Testament

Peter's Epistle

[dropcap class="article-dropcap"]I[/dropcap]f Paul did not give a new meaning to G1588, then perhaps there is some hint of a new definition in Peter's writings.  We find Peter used the word in two passages of his first epistle.

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied.  (1 Peter 1:1-2)

The structure of this verse in the English translation disguises the fact that 'elect' is an adjective.  In the Greek, G1588 directly precedes 'pilgrims' and reads, 'to the elect pilgrims of the Dispersion.'  In using the word, Peter was describing the type of pilgrims they were: not just any old pilgrims, but elect pilgrims.  The reason the translators moved elect out of its place was to communicate the connection between the elect-ness of the pilgrims and the foreknowledge, sanctification, and obedience spoken of in verse 2.  To effectively convey what Peter said in the Greek, perhaps the verse could be translated as follows.

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the elect pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect-ones according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied.  (1 Peter 1:1-2)

 In this passage, Peter alluded to three dynamics of ancient Israel's relationship with God and applied the same dynamics to the pilgrims of the Dispersion.  These dynamics were (a) foreknowledge of God, (b) sanctification, and (c) obedience and sprinkling.  Let us pause to consider the significance of these dynamics.

[dropcap class="article-dropcap"]W[/dropcap]hen the children of Israel arrived at Mount Sinai in Exodus 19, God revealed His intent to make them a special treasure to Himself.  This special-ness, or elect-ness, was not an emotional spur of the moment but was in full accordance of God's foreknowledge of the nation.  In Deuteronomy 32, God revealed His knowledge of their future failures and rebellion, and it was with that knowledge in view that He deliberately made them His special people.  By his allusion to God’s foreknowledge, Peter was reminding these elect pilgrims of God's same insight regarding their future when He made them His elect.

The pilgrims’ sanctification of the Spirit paralleled the making of the nation of Israel into a consecrated and holy people.  However, whereas God sanctified the children of Israel unto Himself through the covenant of the Law, He sanctified these pilgrims through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit.

Finally, the children of Israel were made the people of God for obedience.  It was God's intent that they would become a testimony of the rich quality of life under the rule of God through their obedience.

Then, in the same way that God sealed the elect-ness of Israel through the sprinkling of blood (Exodus 24), so the elect pilgrims to whom Peter wrote were sprinkled with Jesus' blood.  The reminder of God’s faithfulness to the children of Israel must have been a great comfort to the believers, knowing that the position they held was based on greater things than what Israel had!

[dropcap class="article-dropcap"]L[/dropcap]ater in his epistle, Peter again alluded to the position given to ancient Israel and reminded the pilgrims of the similar, but greater, position given to them.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;  (1 Peter 2:9, ESV)

Here Peter mentioned four descriptive phrases: (a) chosen race, (b) royal priesthood, (c) holy nation, and (d) a people for His own possession.  These descriptions came from two passages in the LXX.

And you shall be to me a (b) royal priesthood, and (c) a holy nation.  These words you shall say to the sons of Israel.  (Exodus 19:6, LXX, spoken at Mt Sinai)

The wild beasts of the field shall bless me, sirens and daughters of ostriches; for I established water in the wilderness, and rivers in the waterless place, to give to drink to my (a) chosen race, (d) my people whom I procured; the ones to describe my virtues.  (Isaiah 43:20-21, LXX)

With these allusions to passages in the LXX, Peter made a clear parallel between Israel and the Church.  Israel was established as a priesthood and holy nation to make known the virtues of God.  Israel's role before God was a historical prototype of the Church.  Both groups were elect for the same purpose: to provide a witness and testimony to the world of the glorious excellencies of God.  This witness was (and still is) a crucial testimony because the prevailing lie through the ages has been that God is not a good God.  Since God is not willing that any should perish, He has chosen a strategy to combat the lie.  This strategy has been to establish certain people in this world as His people to demonstrate the abundance of His mercy and goodness so that others might be persuaded to come to Him.  Israel performed that role in the past, and the Church performs the function in the present.

As we consider Peter's writing and his allusions to Israel, it is clear to see he used G1588 to write of the special place the elect pilgrims had in the sight of God, and how it was similar to the position held by the nation of Israel.  Knowing that in the LXX, G1588 was applied to Israel to indicate that they were the chosen (and choice) people of God, it is reasonable to assume that Peter used the word in the same sense regarding the believers.  It seems doubtful, in a context filled with allusions to the nation of Israel in the Old Testament, that Peter used G1588 with a different connotation than what we find in the LXX.  If he had, he undoubtedly would have clarified his intended meaning.  However, this he did not do.  Therefore, it appears that Peter, like Paul, used G1588 in its normal sense.