Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Chosen for Obedience

Dear God seekers,

In Peter's first epistle he opens with a very beautiful greeting that is packed full of rich meaning, which gives us insight into why we have been chosen by God. He says:

"Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood:

Grace and peace be yours in abundance." (1 Pe 1:1-2, NIV '78)

I love these opening lines of his letter, and in order to draw out all the meaning welled up in them, let's look at each of his points in one particular phrase, through which he addressed his salutation to those "who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood." This will be our main text, which we'll focus on.

First, the  apostle said we "have been chosen." What an honor and a privilege to be chosen by God to serve Him. He later goes on to say, "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." (1 Pe 2:9, NIV).

Remember Jesus said to his disciples, "You did not choose me, but I chose you..." (John 15:16a, NIV). That also applies to all the Lord's disciples today, since He still chooses disciples according to His grace.

The apostle Paul wrote to the Romans, “So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace. What then? What the people of Israel sought so earnestly they did not obtain. The elect among them did, but the others were hardened." (Rom 11:5-7, NIV)

When Paul wrote here about "the elect," he used the Greek word "ekloge," meaning (divine) selection: - chosen, election. When we elect someone, we have a choice. Otherwise, it would not be considered an election if we only had one option. Likewise, God had a choice, and he chose what Paul called "a remnant."

A remnant is a small portion of the whole. When we have a remnant of a piece of carpet, it’s a small piece. Likewise, there is a remnant chosen by God’s grace. Not all Jews and not all who call themselves Christians are chosen. Some people who seek God’s righteousness are seeking it by works, and they don’t obtain it. Then there are those who were not seeking it, and they obtain it. Those who obtained it without seeking it are the chosen ones.

God’s choice is always perfect. It’s always wise. It’s always just.

It’s extremely important to understand that when God chose the elect, it was based entirely on His grace. Grace is unmerited favor, which means you cannot earn it.

Paul wrote to Timothy saying that God "has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity." (2Ti 1:9). He taught that God did not save us because He knew in advance the good works we would do. God did not choose us based on our works. He saved us and chose us from all eternity, before the beginning of time, according to His grace. This way we cannot get the glory. All the glory belongs to the Lord.

In our main text of 1 Peter 1:2, the apostle actually identifies the audience to whom he is writing by putting the word "elect" (Gr. eklektos) together with two other Greek words to form the expression that is best translated as the "elect exiles of the dispersion" or the "elect sojourners living abroad." This reminds us that we have been chosen by God to live as strangers and aliens temporarily in this godless world, before we go to our eternal home in heaven. Peter actually goes on to make that very point later on in the beginning of his epistle, when he states : "Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear." (1 Pe 1:17, NIV). He also says later, "Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul." (1 Pe 2:11, NIV 78). This world is not our home; we who are chosen are just passing through.

According to Foreknowledge
In Peter's opening line of his epistle that we are focusing on today, he said that we are "chosen according to the foreknowledge of God." (1 Pe 1:2, NIV). That means God knew us before we were born, and even then He had already chosen us. As I wrote in my article, Election and Predestination:

The apostle Paul said, "For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified." (Rom 8:29-30)

The Lord knew the elect beforehand. This is an amazing aspect about our relationship with the Lord that He actually knew us beforehand. Even our own parents didn’t know us until we were born. So we often think that God only began to know us once we were born. But as He said to Jeremiah the prophet: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations." (Jer 1:5). According to God’s Word, this is true of all those who are chosen.

So the point here is we who are God's elect existed in God's mind throughout eternity past, before we existed in creation. Before there was even one Christian alive on earth, God had already made His choice. He already had in mind those whom He had chosen, and He knew us.

By the Sanctifying Work of the Spirit
Let's go back to our main text now in Peter's opening salutation of his first epistle, where he said we are chosen "through the sanctifying work of the Spirit." (1 Pe 1:2, NIV). When God called us and set us apart in Christ from the world to serve Him, He sanctified us instantaneously by the power of the Holy Spirit. For the apostle says in Hebrews, "And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." (Heb 10:10, NIV). That speaks of what's already happened when we came to Christ. But the Lord also continues to sanctify us on an ongoing basis after we come to Christ, as He works on making us holy. He says in Hebrews, "For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy." (Heb 10:14, NIV).

Therefore, there are two kinds of sanctification, or two aspects of the same sanctification. There is that which is instant and that which is progressive. Let's remember that the progressive kind involves our ongoing cooperation with the Holy Spirit in making practical changes in our lives for the sake of holiness. The apostle says, "Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord." (He 12:14, NIV). This means we must strive to be holy, since no one will see the Lord without holiness.

Peter explicitly says in the first part of his epistle, "But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: 'Be holy, because I am holy.'" (1 Pe 1:15-16, NIV). The fact that we must be instructed to "be holy" just as the Lord is holy means that this is the practical kind of holiness that requires our Spirit-empowered effort as described in Hebrews 12 above.

For more on this see my articles, Holy Living in a Perverted World and Walking in Truth, Righteousness, and Holiness.

For Obedience to Jesus Christ
Over in our main text again, the apostle Peter says in the opening of his epistle that we are chosen "for obedience to Jesus Christ." (1 Pe 1:2). We are chosen to be obedient to Christ, or as the NASB puts it, we are " obey Jesus Christ." As I stated in my article, Is Obedience Optional?, this is not something we can opt out of, when we follow Christ. According to Scripture, obedience to God is a salvation requirement, no matter what anyone else may tell you. Peter is explicit here that the reason we were chosen was for obedience to the Lord. He re-emphasizes this later in his first chapter saying, "As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance." (1 Pe 1:14, NIV). He compares the elect here to obedient children, and instructs us not to conform to those evil desires we were once controlled by when we didn't know the truth. This is directly related to the imperative to "be holy" in verses 15 and 16 that I have already mentioned in the previous section.

Obedience is an essential part of salvation. In Hebrews the apostle says that "once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him" (Heb 5:9). Notice that He's the source of salvation for all who obey Him. If you are still not convinced, then please read my other articles called The Obedience of FaithDoing What is RightFaith Works!, and If -- A Picture Paints a Thousand Words.

Sprinkled with His Blood
Lastly, the apostle Peter says we were "sprinkled with his blood." (1 Pe 1:2). Although we are chosen to obey the Lord Jesus, we all fall short at some time or another, and that's why I'm so glad we are also chosen to be sprinkled with His blood. It's the blood that washes all our sins away and makes us whole. It's the blood that saves our soul. Peter said, "For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect." (1 Pe 1:18-19, NIV).

It's His blood that purifies us. As John wrote, "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin." (1 John 1:7, NIV). The life is in the blood (Lev 17:11), and the blood of Jesus is pure and holy, because He knew no sin (2 Cor 5:21), nor did He ever commit any sin (1 Pe 1:22). Since He rose from the dead as the Resurrection and the Life, we are saved from death through His atoning blood that was shed on the cross. He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26, NIV).

Putting it All Together
According to the Bible, God's Word, those who know Christ are chosen to live as foreigners in a godless world according to God's foreknowledge for a specific purpose, which is to be obedient to Christ and sprinkled with His blood. It's only because we have been sprinkled with the blood of Jesus that we can say to one another as Peter did, "Grace and peace be yours in abundance." (1 Pe 1:2, NIV).

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible New International Version (NIV), copyright Zondervan, used by permission. The "Wise and Foolish Builders" painting © 2012 Danny Hahlbohm of Inspired Art, all rights reserved by the artist.

Author's note: If you enjoyed this article, I invite you to read my other articles called The Obedience of FaithIs Obedience Optional?Obedient to the Heavenly VisionFollowing in His StepsLiving on Earth as They Do in HeavenDoing What is RightFaith Works!, If -- A Picture Paints a Thousand Words, Aim for Perfection, Walking in the Perfect Will of God, Called to Be BlamelessElection and Predestination, and my daughter's poem, Overflowing Blessings. There are more articles on the Home page of this blog, too. You can also find my complete collection of blogs at Writing for the Master.

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission.

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