Christ Covenant Church
Rev. Marq Toombs
27 May 2018
First Sunday after Pentecost / Ordinary Time
Text – 1 Peter 1:2
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion … 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: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
Jesus said that eternal life is knowing the one true God. Not just knowing facts and data points about him, the way you might know facts about a rock star or a professional baseball player, but knowing God, personally and relationally, they way you know each other, they way you know your parents and siblings.
So, today I want to draw your attention to the true and living God, who has revealed himself to us in the Scriptures, as one God in three persons.
A well known quote by the Cappadocian church father Gregory of Nazianus (aka, the Theologian) might help us. After thinking about the Trinity and trying to understand him, he said —
“No sooner do I conceive of the One than I am illumined by the Splendor of the Three; no sooner do I distinguish them than I am carried back to the One.
When I think of any One of the Three I think of Him as the Whole, and my eyes are filled, and the greater part of what I am thinking of escapes me. I cannot grasp the greatness of that One so as to attribute a greater greatness to the Rest.
When I contemplate the Three together, I see but one torch, and cannot divide or measure out the Undivided Light.” Orations 40.41
The point? The Trinity is truly knowable yet not totally comprehensible to our finite minds.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church – “The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of the Christian faith and of Christian life. God alone can make it known to us by revealing himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”
The point? All Christian traditions believe that the Holy Trinity is a profound mystery.
The focus of our message today will be on the mystery of trinitarian grace in salvation.
Elect Strangers/Chosen Exiles
The phrase “elect exiles” (ESV) or “elect strangers in the world” (NIV) is loaded with the deep theological meaning. The Greek word for “elect” means chosen or selected. The Greek word for “exiles/strangers” means “resident aliens.”
By calling these scattered Christians “elect exiles” Peter is helping them/us understand who they are in relation to God, each other, and the world.
They are like immigrants in the world; resident aliens; nomads wandering from place to place among the nations. As strangers and exiles on the earth they just did not fit in with the dominant world culture. Like some of you, they felt a little sadness, oddness, and loneliness at times.
Peter was a good pastor. He knew that when people suffer sometimes they doubt God, sometimes they forget the gospel, and sometimes they wander away from true grace of the triune God. (It happened to him more than once. It has happened to me. It could happen to you.)
So we need to remember the true grace of the triune God. Not a sappy sentimental grace, but a sober-minded saving grace.
We are an elect people, chosen by the saving grace of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — not for any merits or values in ourselves, but only for the mercies and virtues of the triune God.
Ever notice that when you meet new people one of the first questions you ask is ‘what do you do?’ We know other people by their name and by their vocations and actions. We know God in much the same way — by his Name, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and by his gracious works.
In 1 Peter 1:2, the word “elect” is modified by three [prepositional] phrases (K. Jobes) that describe the gracious works of God. To. In. For.
The triune God elected us according to the foreknowledge of the Father, in the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, and for the obedience and sprinkling of Jesus Christ. So here we see trinitarian grace at work. To. In. For.
The Reformed theologian Herman Bavinck was right. “In the doctrine of the Trinity we feel the heartbeat of God’s entire revelation for the redemption of humanity.”
Let’s put our hands on this doctrine and feel the heartbeat of this trinitarian grace.
(1) Elect exiles are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father
Peter wants to encourage “elect exiles” by reminding them that they have a Father, and they were chosen on purpose according to (kata) his foreknowledge.
The word foreknowledge is used only a few times by the apostle Peter, but it is an important word to him.
Peter used “foreknowledge” in his sermon on Pentecost. “Jesus was delivered up according to the ordained plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23).
Peter used it again in 1:20 to show that “Jesus was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for your sake” (1 Peter 1:20).
Finally, Peter used it here to explain that (like the crucifixion of Jesus) we are chosen “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father” (1 Pet 1:2).
In each and every case Peter begins with divine foreknowledge of the Father in eternity and then moves into history.
Foreknowledge means more than possessing advanced knowledge of something; it also means having advance love for someone.
The point is that God the Father set his love on sinners and chose them, even before they knew him, even when they were his enemies.
God looked down the proverbial corridors of time and saw what he would do, how he would act, why he would do it, and what choices and decisions he would make on behalf of his chosen people.
The Father knew us before our parents knew each other and before we knew ourselves. He knew us when we were weak and wavering and wandering. He knew us at our worst, and he still elected, pick us out, chose us.
This is what Peter has in mind when he says God chose you according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. His election of you is based on his mercy and love for you. That is based on his grace alone not your works at all.
God is our Father, and we are his children.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. 1 Peter 1:3-5
How comforting is it to know that God the Father loves you and chose you?
How encouraging is it to know that you have always been on his mind and in his heart from before the foundation of the world?
That sooner or later he will come for you and welcome you home?
Exiles and strangers are often homeless in the world, but they have a home with God the Father. They are often hated by the world, but Father God loves them.
This is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.
(2) Elect exiles are chosen by the sanctification of the Holy Spirit
The word “sanctification” means set apart, consecrated, purified, holy. The work of the Holy Spirit is to make things holy to the Lord, including God’s chosen people.
The point here is that elect exiles were chosen by God in eternity past, according to the foreknowledge and love of the Father, and then they were consecrated by the Holy Spirit in history.
God sent the Holy Spirit into the world, to move throughout the nations, to seek God’s elect exiles, and to set them apart for God’s holy purposes. God sent the Holy Spirit into the world to seek and save the lost by applying the redemptive work of Jesus to them.
A practical example of the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit can be seen in the way individuals and whole households come to faith in Christ and know and trust the Lord.
In the Book of Acts we see Peter preaching the gospel to Cornelius and his household. While Peter was preaching the gospel of peace through Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit came upon on everyone within ear-shot of Peter’s message.
So what happened? The Holy Spirit sanctified Cornelius and his household unto the Lord. The Spirit made it clear to everyone that God had chosen to save Cornelius and his household.
The Holy Spirit works through the ordinary means of travel, hospitality, friendships, and preaching in order to achieve the extraordinary ends of saving elect exiles scattered throughout the world.
Another example of of the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit is seen in 1 Peter 1:14-15.
As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
The Spirit sets us apart for God’s purposes and sets us up for godly practices.
How? By setting us apart for the person and work of Jesus Christ.
(3) Elect exiles are chosen for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ
Elect exiles are chosen according to the foreknowledge of the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit for obedience and sprinkling of Jesus Christ.
The triune God elected them for a purpose: obedience and sprinkling.
Know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.
He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart.
This echoes the language of covenant-making. When God made the covenant with Israel at Mt Sinai (in Exodus 24) Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the rules.
And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.” And Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD. He rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD.
And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.” (Exodus 24:3-8 ESV)
Under the Law the people vowed to be obedient to the Law of God, and Moses sprinkled their bodies with the blood of sacrifices. Under the Gospel, the Holy Spirit sanctifies us for obedience to Jesus and he sprinkles our hearts with the blood of Jesus Christ.
Baptism is the sign and seal of this sprinkling with blood. That is why we may now draw near to God boldly and freely, “with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:22)
Baptism is also a sign and seal of our “giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life”. (WCF on Baptism)
Baptism is also a sign and seal of “our faith and obedience unto God.” (WCF on Baptism). It is through obedience to truth of God’s word that we purify our souls with the hep of the Holy Spirit. (1 Pet. 1:18)
Baptism is also the sign and seal of our giving up our names unto God and of taking God’s Name upon ourselves — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
In the words of Herman Bavinck,
“We know ourselves to be children of the Father, redeemed by the Son, and in communion with both through the Holy Spirit.
Every blessing, both spiritual and material, comes to us from the triune God.
In that name we are baptized; that name sums up our confession; that name is the source of all the blessings that come down to us; to that name we will forever bring thanksgiving and honor; in that name we find rest for our souls and peace for our conscience. Christians have a God above them, before them, and within them.
Our salvation, both in this life and in the life to come, is bound up with the doctrine of the Trinity; yet we grant that we cannot determine the measure of knowledge — also of this mystery — needed for a true and sincere faith.”
(Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 2, p. 334)
The focus of our message today was on the mystery of trinitarian grace in salvation.
Knowing and believing that God elected you by grace for salvation should comfort you even in the midst of your various troubles in life. Why?
If you know that you have always been on God’s mind since before the foundation of the world, if you trust that God set his love on you in eternity past, then you can believe he will not forget about you now nor forsake you tomorrow.
God is the only person who could ever truly say to anyone “you were always on my mind.” Do you really think he will stop loving you in space-time history if he has always loved you from all eternity? Never!
You are not an after-thought. You are not an accident. You are an adored and admired child of God and member of God’s family.
I imagine that some who hear this teaching on divine election will not be comforted, rather they will be conflicted and concerned. They will wonder: Is God fair? Am I one of the elect? Did God choose me?
If that is how you feel after hearing about God’s grace in election, let me urge you to ask a different and better question.
Instead of asking, “Am I one of God’s elect?” ask instead “Do I believe Jesus is my Lord and Savior? Do I believe Jesus carried my sins to the cross and died for me? Do I believe Jesus rose from the grave and lives for me? Do I believe Jesus is my only comfort in life and in death?”
If you believe these truths with your heart, you are an elect exile.
If you do not (yet) believe them with all your heart, or if you waver in doubt, but you still want to believe, do not despair. Remember: even the smallest faith is big enough to save the worst of sinners.
I hope you see that the triune God is personal and infinite; that the triune God elected people just like you from every nation under heaven for salvation; that the triune God elected only sinners not saints; the Father loves his children; that Spirit consecrates them; and that Jesus gave his life a ransom for his brothers and sisters.
Finally, I hope you come to believe that the triune God elected you and that you feel the heartbeat of his trinitarian grace pulsating in your life now and always.
May grace and peace be multiplied to you.