What happens when you are verbally attacked for your faith? How do you respond when words spoken to you are abusive and hurtful, all because you are a Christian? As we live in a culture that is increasingly more hostile to Christianity and its truths, we must look to the Word of God for guidance and direction. God has not left us to guess how we are to respond in the midst of these trials and sufferings. A letter like 1 Peter is a prime example of that. Peter, writing Christians dispersed, or scattered, throughout the region, encourages and exhorts the believers to endure suffering and respond in a Christlike manner. These believers were living in a culture that was hostile to the truth of the Christian message. The same reality can be said for us today. The Christian message, namely that we have sinned against a holy God and salvation is only found in the person and work of Jesus Christ, is not only ignored but ridiculed. In those times, we need wisdom to know how to respond. Before even going there, however, Peter addresses a more essential matter: identity. Peter reminds these scattered believers, and us, who we are while in the midst of trying circumstances. Recognize how Peter begins his letter: “to those elect exiles…according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood” (1:1-2). Peter points the suffering Christians to their identity in God and then the identity of God in His work of salvation.
What is the identity of those in God? They are “elect exiles”. Christians are, first and foremost, those called by God and chosen by God for salvation. While we do respond to the gospel, the testimony throughout Scripture is we respond because God has done the work of opening our eyes and softening our hearts. Salvation is the work of God. In this, we praise the Lord because our identity does not rest on us. Our identity is in God’s choosing us. It is no accident Peter remarks later in the introduction with “the foreknowledge of God the Father” (1:2a). Where in our suffering we may doubt and may question who we are, we can find comfort we are the “elect”, that God has chosen and saved us. He has chosen and saved us, not for “our best life now”, but to an eternal inheritance (see 1:4). We are exiles and strangers in this world as we know we are ultimately pilgrimming through this world as we long for our eternal home with Christ. To be sure, the Christian identity of an exile does not mean we do not do good in the time God has entrusted to us on earth (see 2:11-12). Our identity in Christ should reinforce our mission.
Our identity is not the only identity in view here, though. Look back at verse 2, “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ“. Peter’s mentions here are not something to gloss over. What makes Christianity unique is that salvation is found in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone, not in our own works, and redemption is ultimately the work of the triune God. God is One and exists in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. While this can be much to wrap our finite minds, just as with salvation by grace, this should cause us to stand in awe of our God. Because of the Father’s foreknowledge and the blood of the Son, the Spirit works in us to make us more like Christ. The identity of God, namely that He is a Trinity, reveals His work and provides us with the greatest hope: salvation by Him so we can be with Him. In suffering and trials, we can still be firm in our identity and it is all because of our God! So as you go about your week and life, meditate on these truths and “May grace and peace be multiplied to you”!
- Have you suffered in some way for your faith and commitment to Christ? If so, how did it affect your perception on your identity and who you are?
- How does understanding the work of the triune God in salvation encourage you, even in seasons of trials and hardships?