Poets who work in structured verse have to follow specific guidelines. A sonnet must have fourteen lines. Iambic pentameter requires strict adherence to a five-beat meter. A haiku has three lines: five syllables, then seven, then five. Every word has to be carefully selected for a poem to convey meaning and imagery within a limited space.
Today we begin a study of the books of 1 and 2 Peter. Just as with excellent poetry, each verse is filled with rich messages of truth and beauty. One scholar described 1 Peter as “the most condensed New Testament resume of the Christian faith,” and the great reformer Martin Luther believed that this short letter was filled with essential information for Christians.
In verse 1, we are introduced to both the author and the audience. The apostle Peter was writing to Christians in five regions that together would be nearly the size of California. This large area had a diverse population of local people and Roman colonists sent to settle there when the empire expanded. Peter immediately notes a paradox in the identity of his recipients. They are “exiles,” or strangers in the world, and “chosen according to the foreknowledge of God” (v. 2). Throughout the rest of this letter, we’ll see these two contrasting poles used to describe the identity of believers. In relationship to the world, we are strangers and exiles, people who don’t fit in. In relationship to God, we are chosen and sanctified heirs.
Peter’s focus in these opening verses shifts quickly from his readers to God, as he begins to introduce one of his key themes: our salvation. Notice the work of the Trinity in verse 2, and glorious hymn of praise that begins in verse 3. God is the source of our salvation, and worthy of our worship.
Apply the Word
First Peter explores how our salvation through Jesus shapes our identity, especially in themes of what humility means in the Christian life and the work of the Trinity. Jot in a notebook all the action words used in these first five verses to describe God’s work for us; for example, we are chosen, given new birth, and shielded by His power.