|Our Identity In Christ (I Peter 1:1-9)|
Rev. Subhash Dongerdive
Peter is writing his letter to the Christians scattered in different parts of the world and now living in the midst of people of other faiths and cultures and has become a soft target of their hatred. Peter reminds them of their identity in Christ and the behavior that is expected from them in the light of that identity. Christians may live any where on the face of this earth, and may live in adverse circumstances, but what is expected of them is to live according to the identity given to them in Jesus.
Our identity as Christians and our behavior are interrelated, and hence our behavior must match our identity. Very often, contradictions between our behavior and identity cause problems to the outside world. The problem very often is that we dichotomize these two and see no relation between them, but the Bible is very clear on emphasizing the connection between the two. God gave a new identity to the people of Israel and expected their behavior in line of that identity on the basis of the Law that He gave to them.
Jesus has given a new identity to all who believe in him and also a new standard of behavior that is different from the world and higher than the one prescribed by the Law of Moses. Jesus in his teaching lays down the standard of the behavior for the communality of his disciples. Paul's plea to the church in Philippians has been, 'live worthy of the Gospel' (1:27)
Peter expresses the same concern in his epistle that he has addressed to the believers that are scattered in gentile nations. They were challenged in the area of their behavior as the pressures of the gentile world surrounded them. Peter strongly reminds them of their identity in Christ in view of which they should guard their behavior among the gentiles.
We would never be free from the challenges that come on our way to prove our identity in Christ through our behavior, these challenges you would face even in our churches and work places where we should never forget our identity so that our behavior would always be consistent with our identity.
You are chosen for a purpose (1:1-2)
Peter designates the gentile Christians in Diaspora as chosen according to the foreknowledge of the Father. A designation that once belonged only to Israel as God’s chosen people now has been extended to the Church. But that is not to say that Israel was God’s plan 'A' and because it failed God has come up with the plan 'B' in the form of the Church. Because, Peter continues to say that you are chosen ‘according to the foreknowledge of the Father'. Meaning the status of the Church in the sovereign plan of God was always as 'Chosen' and it is this sovereign plan of God and the ever present knowledge of it is the link and continuity between Israel and the Church.
You are chosen ‘by the sanctifying work of the Spirit’ to ‘sanctify’ is to ‘set apart’ or ‘to consecrate’ to belong to the Lord, to be His possession. This act of God through His Spirit defines our relationship with the world in which we live and the Father to whom we belong.
Then Peter speaks about the purpose for which we are chosen, it is ‘that you may obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with his blood’. In the Old Testament there are three occasions when sprinkling with blood is mentioned.
When a leper had been healed, he was sprinkled with blood of a bird (Lev. 14:1-7). Sprinkling with blood was used as a symbol of cleansing. In the New Testament one who believes and appropriates the atonement of Christ is cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ.
Sprinkling with blood was part of the ritual of the setting apart of the priests for the service of God. (Ex. 29:20-21; Lev. 8:30). A Christian is set apart for the service of God in the Church as well as in the world in which we live. We are chosen, set apart and own by God for the purpose our salvation and for the service of the Lord who called us into this relationship.
The third picture of sprinkling comes from the covenant relationship between Israel and God. God graciously enters into the relationship with Israel calling them as His People and He their God. It was a bond of God’s love and faithfulness in relationship to Israel and it was a bond of obedience of Israel in relationship to God. This relationship between God and Israel was sealed by the sprinkling of the blood, (Ex. 24:1-8)
Through the sacrifice of Jesus Chris the Christian is called into a new relationship with God, in which the sins of the past are forgiven and he is pledged to obedience for the rest of his life. It is the work of the Holy Spirit and through the sprinkling of the Blood of Jesus Christ.
You are born Again to live for ever. (1:3, 4)
Dead in sin and trespasses is the true natural condition of every man that is born in this world, and the consequence of such a condition is death. It took God the Father to reach us in His fatherly love to bring us back to life. It is the mercy of God that gives us a second chance to begin our life all over again and this time not to die again but to live for ever.
This eternal life after death is just like the life the Lord Jesus Christ received after his resurrection from the dead. Therefore, his resurrection is the guaranty and the pattern of our resurrection, because it is through the resurrection of Jesus Christ that we have this living hope for which we were caused to be born again.
This transformation of ours from death to life eternal was necessary in order to obtain an inheritance in heaven which is imperishable, undefiled and which will not fed away. We had to be transformed from our perishing, defiled and mortal condition to obtain such an inheritance. Our condition had to be transformed in order to match our destiny.
Peter says this inheritance is ‘reserved’ for you. We are very familiar with the idea of ‘reservation’ in India, when you have a berth reserved for you on the train, it belongs to you, it is meant for you, no one else is supposed to have a claim on it, because it has been purchased for you. But you need to use the given facility in order to reach the desired destination. On the basis of the work of Christ and Spirit in you this inheritance is reserved for you, it is garneted and assured for you, but you still need to make use of it by the grace of God that enables us to do so.
You Are Protected For a Salvation (1:5-9)
On our journey through this world to obtain that inheritance, we are protected by the power of God through faith. The final salvation will be revealed at the last time, but in the meantime Christians may have to suffer. Peter now is referring to the actual situation of his readers, who were suffering for the sake of their Faith. Peter encourages them to face the situation in which they find themselves in with confidence because of three things:
First, because they have some thing to look forward to. For a Christian persecution and the troubles and challenges of this world is not the end. Beyond this temporary phase of life lies the glory and in hope of that glory a Christian can endure the trials of the present. Those who do not have this hope to look forward to take suffering as an end in itself live a life of despair and hopelessness.
Secondly, because they look at their trails from divine perspective, they view them as a trial and test of their faith and character. Gold attains its purity by going through the fire. Christian’s faith and character becomes more refined, pure and strong as he goes through the fire of trials and persecution. Peter tells his readers that they may have to go through various or manifold trials, but later on in chapter four (4:10) he talks about the manifold grace of God to assure them that the grace of God can match every trial that we can face in this world. This perspective of looking at trials enables Christians to face them with joy and confidence.
Thirdly, because at the end of it all, when Christ returns in His glory they will receive from him praise and glory and honor and the final salvation that they have been waiting for. This thing is sure to happen because of the power of God and our faith in Him that has endured the trials and stood the test without a compromise. Be assured that at the end of it all you would hear the words of the Master “Well done my faithful servant!”
Let us live in this world being conscience of the identity that we have in Christ, that we are chosen for a purpose, we have started our life all over again so that we will die to sin and live for the life eternal, that is the salvation we are looking forward to and for which we are protected by the power of God.