1 Peter 1:1–2

Sermon preached on August 18, 1996 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2009. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

When I was in fourth grade I went to a school that only had classes from K-4 in it. My teacher that year was the principal of the school. And one day she announced to the class that she was going to pick someone to have the job of ringing the bell. The bell had to be rung quite a few times during the day—for recess, for lunch, at the end of school. The button for the bell was in her office that was just down the hall from our classroom. I guess she didn't want to leave the class every time the bell had to be rung so she decided that she'd pick on of us students to do it. I don't know why but I got picked to ring the bell. (I guess I must have been cute back then.) I liked being picked, it was sort of a privilege and honor and I liked being able to ring the bell. It was fun and that was my job every day.

Everything went fine until one day I was outside and I think it was during recess and I got into a fist fight with another boy. I remember I popped him one on the nose and his nose started bleeding quite badly. So he had to go into the school to get it tended to and the teachers found out about our fight and pretty soon we both found ourselves in the principal's office getting a big lecture. I still remember one of the things that she said to me. She looked at me and said,

"And you, I picked you to ring the bell. I expected more from you."

The principal went on about how because I had that privilege and job how she expected me to be an example to all the other students. She told me that she had expected me to be a role model for them, showing them by my behavior how they were supposed to act. I thought that she was going to take away my job of ringing the bell, but she didn't. She gave me one more chance and from then on I had to watch my behavior very closely or I knew I'd lose my job.

You see, when I got that job of ringing the bell there was a lot more that was expected of me than I realized at the time. I was not only expected to do my job and ring the bell, but I was expected to be a leader in the school, a role model. I was chosen for a job—and it had great implications.

And you know, we see the same thing in our text. Peter is here talking about God's election and how He chose us. And this has great implications for Christians. So what I want to do this morning is to look at this passage so that we can see what God wants for us.

Now the first thing I want you to consider is the fact that

you have been chosen by God.

And what I want to pay attention to here is the emphasis of the passage on God's work. You were chosen by God. Peter writes that we,

"have been chosen
according to the foreknowledge
of God the Father,
through the sanctifying work
of the Spirit
for obedience to Jesus Christ
and sprinkling by his blood..."

Now what Peter draws attention to here is fact that our salvation is the work of the three persons of the Trinity. Right at the beginning Peter puts things in their proper perspective so that we will see things clearly and know that salvation comes from the Lord and that all the glory, honor and praise for our salvation is due to Him.

Chosen by God the Father.

First of all, Peter tells us that we,

"have been chosen
according to the foreknowledge
of God the Father..."

Before the foundation of the world we were chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.

Now some people totally
misunderstand this section because they see it as saying that God chose us according to His foreknowledge and that He chose us based on seeing something good in us. In other words, they tell you that God chose you because before the foundation of the world He saw that there would be something good in you.

Usually when we think about someone being chosen they are chosen on something based upon them. I don't know who chose the
Dream Team that played in the Atlanta Olympics. But whoever chose it looked at the merits of the players, their abilities etc., and chose the ones that were the best. There was no one on that team who was not an all star. They were the cream of the cream.

And that's what some people will tell you about God choosing us. He chose us because He saw good in us. He saw that we were worthy or would be worthy.

But that's just not so. Our verse doesn't say that. And that's what I want you to note first.

It's an assumption on their part.

The verse doesn't actually say that. It does say that we were chosen according to the foreknowledge of God, but it doesn't say that we were chosen according to the foreknowledge of God because there was something good in us. Peter just doesn't say that.

The second thing I would say about that is that

it flies in the face of the context.

Notice how Peter continues. He says we,

"have been chosen
according to the foreknowledge
of God the Father,
through the sanctifying work
of the Spirit
for obedience to Jesus Christ
and sprinkling by his blood..."

Now what Peter is saying there is that we were no good when God chose us. We had to be sprinkled by the blood of Jesus. We are sinful, polluted by sin so we had to be sprinkled and cleansed by the blood of Jesus. When we were chosen we were also corrupt. We had to have the Holy Spirit in us sanctify us. We were not chosen because we were good, because we were holy. Quite the contrary, we were chosen to become holy, to become good. When we were chosen we were not good, we were polluted, corrupt sinners.

The third thing I would say about that is that

it's not what Scripture teaches elsewhere.

One of the main rules in interpreting Scripture is the analogy of scripture. You let Scripture interpret itself by comparing Scripture with Scripture. Since Scripture is given to us by inspiration of God it doesn't contradict itself. Sometimes it appears to. If someone where to read Paul's words on justification by faith alone and then they were to read what James said about it—at first glance they might think that they contradicted each other. But upon closer examination we see that there is no contradiction at all. Rather than Paul and James contradicting each other, their teaching complements each other.

Other passages make it perfectly clear that God did not choose based upon seeing good in us. Romans 9 deals with this precise issue. Jacob and Esau
. Romans 9:11,13,

"Yet, before the twins were born
or had done anything good or bad....

Jacob I loved,
but Esau I hated."

Before they were born or had done anything good or bad, God loved Jacob and hated Esau.

The great question that this posed, (God not choosing on the basis of good or evil in the person) is what Paul asked in

"Is God unjust?"

If God chose on the basis of good in people, if he chose His elect because He foresaw that there would be good in them—He could never be accused of being unjust. But precisely because He didn't chose on the basis of good or evil in the person—the thought came up, "Is God unjust?"

Paul goes on to talk about God having mercy on whom He wants to have mercy and hardening those whom He wants to harden, about God raising Pharaoh up to display His power in him. In verse 16 he wrote,

"It does not....
depend upon man's desire or effort,
but on God's mercy."

Indeed, in verse 11f of Paul wrote,

"Yet, before the twins were born
or had done anything good or bad--
in order that God's purpose
in election might stand:
not by works but by him who calls..."

Why Paul was chosen.

Indeed, in 1 Timothy 1:15f where the apostle Paul talks of his own election He does not place it in his worth, or in the good works that God foresaw he would do. Quite the contrary, why does Paul say he was chosen? Here's how Paul put it.

"Here is a trustworthy saying
that deserves full acceptance:
Christ Jesus came into the world
to save sinners--
of whom I am the worst."

And then the apostle Paul says something very surprising. He writes,

"But for that very reason
I was shown mercy
so that in me,
the worst of sinners,
Christ Jesus might display
his unlimited patience as an example
for those who would believe on him
and receive eternal life."

For that very reason. Why? He was shown mercy, he was chosen because he was so bad. He was chosen because he was the chief of sinners. He wasn't chosen because he was good, better than others—but for just the opposite reason—because he was so bad. He was converted when he was going up to Damascus breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. He wasn't chosen because he was good.

So what you have in election is God before the foundation of the earth, not choosing on the basis of good or evil in human beings—on our intrinsic worth, but choosing according to the counsel of His own will.
Ephesians 1:4f puts it this way,

"For He chose us in Him
before the creation of the world
to be holy and blameless in his sight.
In love he predestined us
to be adopted as his sons
through Jesus Christ,
in accordance
with his pleasure and will
to the praise of his glorious grace..."

So then, what does it mean when it says that God chose us according to His foreknowledge.

In what sense are we to understand it?

We are to understand it as one of the factors to be considered. It is one of the instruments that was used.

Just like sometimes the Bible says we are saved by faith. In
Luke 7:50 Jesus said to a woman,

"Your faith has saved you..."

Faith is the instrument by which or through which we are saved. But you can trace our salvation beyond faith. We are saved by Jesus. He saves us. Faith is the instrument. Yet faith, part of the process, is sometimes put forward on its own and it represents or stands for the whole process.

And I believe it's the same here with God's foreknowledge.
It did play a part in our election. God knew about us before the creation of the world. He had foreknowledge of us. He knew about you then, He knew about me then. He knew us as individuals. Yet He also knew us as sinners. He saw us as corrupt, defiled, polluted sinners. And He chose us in that state.

That was the Father's part. He chose us. He chose us because of His great love and mercy. As
1 John 4:19 says,

"We love
because he first loved us."

The Holy Spirit's job points us to the reason you were chosen.

Why were you chosen?

You were chosen to be holy.

Peter writes that we were chosen,

"through the sanctifying work
of the Spirit,
for obedience to Jesus Christ
and sprinkling by his blood..."

Holiness is the reason we were chosen. We see this quite clearly from other passages as well. Ephesians 1:4 tells us about God's election of us before the foundation of the world and there he writes,

"He chose us in Him ...
to be holy and blameless
in His sight."

Ephesians 2:10 tells us that,

"we are God's workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus
to do good works."

We see the same thing in Romans 9:23, where Paul writes that we have been,

"prepared in advance
for glory."

God chose us for glory. And glory is inseparably connected with holiness. There can be no glory without holiness. God prepared us in advance for holiness.

So you see, we were chosen to be holy. That was God's purpose. The purpose is obedience to Jesus Christ. Christianity is all about obedience. Christianity is all about holiness. Christianity is about becoming more and more sanctified through the work of the Holy Spirit in us. As the Holy Spirit tells us in 1 Thessalonians 4:3,

"this is God's will for you,

even your sanctification."

Now it is very important that we keep this in mind and understand it properly.

You are here for holiness. You are here to show others what God is like by the way that you live.

That's why you are here. If you understand this, you'll be much better able to cope with life and it's difficulties. And if you don't understand it, you'll have a great deal of difficulty with life.

For example, consider Peter. When he was writing this he knew that he was going to be crucified. Jesus himself had told Peter that. Peter that His life was going to end by crucifixion. But you don't see Peter being dejected or paralyzed by that thought. No, quite the contrary, Peter knew that his goal in life was not happiness, or health, or wealth and prosperity—but holiness. And that is one of the major themes that we see in his letter.

Peter's view of the Christian life was very different from what some Christians will tell you today.

Some would tell you that we were chosen to be healthy.

I've heard about a church in Toronto where much of the emphasis is on healing. People travel there from all over North America in the hopes of getting healed. But many other Christians have investigated their claims and have not found them to be true.

But my question is this: how does it make a sick person feel when they are told they're going to be healed and healing doesn't come? People
told Joni Eareckson that she should be healed, when she wasn't, it was a great let down.

Some would tell you that we're chosen for prosperity and success.

Rev. Green. Money. God wants you to be successful in making money, in being wealthy and prosperous.

But how do Christians feel when wealth and prosperity don't come? What about when trouble and disaster come? Do they feel let down?

What is the Christian life all about? It's not about health, wealth or any of those things. It's about holiness. The Christian life is about bringing our thoughts and actions into conformity to Christ. This life is a quest for holiness.

Lastly, I want you to see that

we can do that.

Because of Christ's work we are fit to serve God!

We have been sprinkled by His blood. Jesus' blood cleanses us and sets us apart. We are separated and able to serve God.

Exodus 24:3-8 at Mount Sinai, after the people had heard the words of God, Moses sprinkled the altar and the people with blood. They were set apart to serve God.

Now we too can serve God. We are not longer disqualified because of our sin. Because we have faith in God we can please Him.

Uncleansed sinners cannot serve God.
Isaiah's vision in Isaiah 6. He saw God and He said, "Woe to me, I am ruined. I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips."

But an angel came to him with a live coal in his hand. The coal had been taken with tongs from the altar. The angel touched Isaiah's mouth with it and said,

"See, this has touched your lips;
your guilt is taken away
and your sin atoned for."

Right after that Isaiah heard a voice that said,

"Whom shall I send?"

Isaiah replied,

"Here am I.
Send me!"

Isaiah was able to go.

You Christians, you have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus. Go forth. Go forth in holiness. Be pleasing to the Lord. Live in holiness before Him. In whatever your state, in whatever your situation, in whatever circumstance—be holy.

1 Corinthians 15:58,

Therefore, my dear brothers,
stand firm.
Let nothing move you.
Always give yourselves fully
to the work of the Lord,

because you know that
your labor in the Lord
is not in vain