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The Greeting of a Letter of Encouragement

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the elect, temporary residents 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, to be obedient and to be sprinkled with the blood of Jesus Christ. Grace and peace be multiplied to you.” (1 Peter 1:1-2 EHV)

With this article, we begin a study of First Peter. May the Lord bless our consideration of it for the strengthening of our Christian faith and life of loving obedience to God.

Ordinarily the writer of a letter inscribes his name at the end of a missive. However, in the case of most of the New Testament epistles, the writers revealed themselves at the beginning. The authors identified themselves at the outset, because they wanted their readers to know the sender of these messages. Like the other apostolic writers, Peter desired his audience to be assured that his letters were not merely from him, but were divinely inspired epistles from Jesus. As an apostle (“one sent out”) of Jesus Christ, Peter had been sent out by Jesus to reveal His message of life and salvation.

While the birth name of this apostle was Simon, he preferred to use his name given by Jesus, namely Peter, which means “rock” (Matthew 16:18). For his own sake, as well as for fellow Christians, this rock-man reminded all that they were firmly grounded on the unshakeable foundation of Jesus: His teachings and His redemptive work.

The original readers of 1 Peter were Gentile Christians and Jewish Christians greatly in need of divine words of encouragement, for they were being faced with severe persecutions which were intended to cause them to forsake the Lord and His Church. These Christians were scattered throughout five Roman provinces in Asia Minor (present-day Turkey) which were under the ruthless rule of the ungodly Emperor Nero.

Numbered among them were Christians who had heard Peter’s wonderful Pentecost message which brought them to Christ (Acts 2:9). Upon their return home they no doubt shared with their neighbors the Gospel message of the crucified and risen Savior Jesus Christ.

In order to bolster their Christian faith and life, Peter referred to them as “the elect, temporary residents in the world.” (v. 1) In eternity before the world began, God had chosen them to be a part of His eternal kingdom and therefore heirs of everlasting life in heaven. He foreknew them and chose them not because of anything in them, but because of the redemptive work of Christ and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. And although some of them might face death for their faith, they were to remember that they were merely temporary residents in the world—with heaven being their eternal home.

That same Spirit Who brought them to faith would continue to be at work in them through the Gospel in Word and Sacraments. By His sanctifying work, the Holy Spirit would sustain their Christian faith so that even though they might falter in the face of opposition, they would continue to be washed clean through the sprinkling of the shed blood of Christ. And, as they were reminded of God’s unconditional love for them in Christ Jesus, the Spirit of God would increase their love so that they would willingly and cheerfully live a life of obedience to God.

The final words of greeting “Grace and peace be multiplied to you” (v. 2) were God’s promise of pouring out upon them the abundant blessings of His unmerited love and a peace of mind and heart that surpasses understanding.

To these words of encouragement we say, “Yea and Amen.”

Mark Gullerud is retired from the pastoral ministry. He lives in Sunnyvale, California.