Biblical living in this world begins with thinking biblically about life in this world.
You will not consistently respond biblically to what is happening in your life if you are not consistently thinking biblically about what is happening in your life.
I want you to see two of the key components that this text gives us towards developing a biblical perspective on our lives as believers in this world. This text gives us two key components to really looking at what is going on in our lives accurately.
The first key component is found in the word stranger.
We are strangers.
1. To be a Christian, or being a Christian involves being rejected.
The way verses 1 and 2 break down, you have two main phrases in 1 that make up the central idea that Peter is trying to get across and then you have several phrase, three that modify or you might say explain that idea which we find in verse 2.
The first key phrase is found pretty much right after Peter introduces himself.
“To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia…”
The word aliens, which my daughters thought was pretty fun by the way, they thought it was pretty funny Peter was writing to aliens, it could be translated exiles or strangers which didn’t actually help my daughters all that much either but you and I know that these are words that refer to a group of people who have to live in a foreign country but don’t have any intention of staying there permanently.
You have your people who emigrate somewhere with every intention of staying there for the rest of their lives but that’s not the kind of people this phrase refers to.
It’s the person who has to be somewhere for some reason but he’s definitely not wanting to stay there for the rest of his life. That’s the way Peter describes these believers. He’s looking at them from the perspective of the world in which they live.
They are not citizens where they are living. They are strangers there.
Now the question of course is whether he is speaking in a literal or more spiritual sense. In other words, these people obviously literally lived in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia which were five Roman provinces scattered throughout what we now think of as Western Turkey, but were they literally aliens there?
I am thinking probably not.
Because as you read through this letter it becomes fairly clear from the language Peter uses that he is writing to Gentile churches. He talks about their futile way of life inherited from their forefathers as an example which is not really something most people think Peter would say Jewish people.
These are probably mostly Gentile people and while we might expect to find some Gentile exiles in some of the churches to whom Peter is writing, it would be pretty surprising to find five churches throughout these provinces that were entirely made up of Gentile refugees.
That just doesn’t seem all that likely.
I don’t doubt that some of the people to whom Peter was writing were literally aliens but I think here he’s using the term in a more spiritual sense.
Which matches up with the way he talks in the rest of his letter actually.
He says for example in 1 Peter 1:17, “If you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay upon earth” which is a way of saying that our time here on earth is only a temporary part of our entire lives. We’re just here for a little while.
And then in 1 Peter 2:9ff, he actually combines these two ideas of divine election and being strangers once again and the way he puts it there, it is pretty obvious he is speaking in the spiritual sense. “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts.” As, on the basis of, in other words, being a stranger is a reason for abstaining from fleshly lusts and if you think about it, being a physical refugee is not really a reason for abstaining from lust, but being a spiritual stranger would be.
When Peter calls these people aliens or strangers he is just reminding them that this world as it exists is not ultimately their home; and you know at the end of the day, even though we do not live in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia like the original recipients of this letter, every one of us who is a genuine believer is just as much a stranger or exile here on earth as they were.
This phrase defines you.
This sin cursed world is only your temporary residence.
If you look back at the text, Peter uses another interesting word to fill out this picture, however.
But not just in a hey let’s take a backpack trip through Europe kind of way.
Scattered is something that happens to people.
You don’t scatter yourselves, you are scattered.
The term Peter uses is literally,diaspora which doesn’t mean much to us but would have to most of Peter’s readers because it was a term people often used to describe Jewish people who had been forced out of Jerusalem and Israel as far back as the Assyrian captivity to live in foreign countries.
From the time of the first departure to Babylon in 586 b.c. all Jews outside of Palestine were by definition in the diaspora, or in exile from Jerusalem which they considered their true home.
When a Jewish person used this Greek word diaspora, that’s what he would have thought of.
It is a little bit surprising to find Peter using it to describe Gentiles but I think Peter is using it as a kind of image. If you want to understand what life in this world is like for us as believers, you might think about what it was like for Jewish people who were forced to live outside the land of promise.
It’s not just that we are temporarily living somewhere, it is that we are living in a place where we don’t ultimately belong.
And I think what I want you to see is that when Peter looks at what life in this world is like, he doesn’t pull punches.
It is hard.
When you put these two phrases together, they paint a hard picture of life.
Being a stranger in a foreign country is hard enough, but you know I am here in South Africa and I like it, but being a stranger because of a scattering, like what happened to the Jews in the Diaspora, having to live far away from the place you really belong, that is much more difficult and that is what life for us as believers is like in this world.
At the end of the day, we are spiritual refugees.
And you know I think many of our problems in responding to the difficulties we experience in living for Christ actually come from not remembering that.
We have got these expectations.
Look to be an alien, a stranger, is uncomfortable. Aliens, strangers, asylum seekers do not experience all the rights and privileges of citizens. That’s the way it is. They live their lives constantly on the outer fringes of the society in which they stay. Being an alien, being a stranger means that we as believers are living out our lives in a hostile environment.
If you read the rest of 1 Peter, this whole letter says that pretty loud.
Living in this world, we have got trials that distress us.
Living in this world, we have got lusts that war against us.
2:11 and 12
Living in this world, we have got people that reject us.
3:16, They slander us for doing the right thing.
4:4, They mock us for not doing the wrong thing.
4:14, And they revile us for being committed to Christ.
Everybody has difficulties in this world, as Christians we face added difficulties that come with living in a world system that is set up against us.
To quote John Piper, “Alienation and exile and refugee status is virtually synonymous with being rejected.” If we are going to have a biblical perspective on life in this world, we have to come face to face that being a Christian involves a certain amount of rejection.
And it is not just Peter.
I am not sure how we miss it, straight from the lips of Jesus.
We are strangers.
In exile from our true home.
But that’s not all we are.
This is where it really starts to get good.
Because Peter does not stop there.
With this one key phrase.
He gives us a second key phrase which we will look at tomorrow.