The work of the Trinity in the salvation of sinners is one of the most significant, if not the single most important, themes of Christian thought. In a study of this focus, the theologian confronts the errors of Calvinism and the truth of Scripture. This is a beneficial study which, at some level, must be contemplated by all who profess to be Christians. 1 Peter 2.1-12 contains broad strokes of guidance to help the believer see just exactly what occurred to bring about his salvation. In his introduction to this epistle, Robertson says, “The whole Epistle is a commentary upon προγνωσιςθεου,ἁγιασμοςπνευματος,αἱμαΧριστοu”. The work of the Trinity is set forward plainly in the opening words, “verses 3-5 have as their central figure the Father, vv. 6-9 the Son, and vv. 10-12 the Spirit who is at last given, who inspired the prophets of old” (Nicoll 41). An appropriate study of this passage will show that the Father has made the plan by which man is to be saved, the Son is the atoning sacrifice which saves mankind, and the Spirit causes new life or regeneration through baptism (John 3.3,5). It is important to remember that the purpose of the epistle is to exhort the Christians “to continue steadfast in their faith and to grow in it under all kinds of suffering and in every good work” (Luther 10). Peter begins this marvelous letter to suffering Christians by reminding them of the work of the Trinity in order to help them persevere in their ongoing and future tribulations.
The Work of the Father
Chooses and Foreknows the Christians (v. 2)
This has become a very controversial passage. Different feelings concerning the actual work of the Father described in verse two can be seen in the different ways in which it is translated. The KJV renders it “elect according to the foreknowledge of God,” the RSV and NRSV have “chosen and destined,” the ESV and ASV have “elect exiles…according to the foreknowledge,” the NIV renders it “chosen according to the foreknowledge of God,” the FHV has “to the chosen exiles…according to the foreknowledge of God,” and Campbell’s Living Oracles renders it as, “to the elect sojourners…according to the predetermination of God”. From the examples of these differing translations, one can see that this has the potential to be a controversial verse. Understanding the underlying Greek may be simpler than explaining the English translations. The Greek says, “Πέτρος ἀπόστολος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐκλεκτοῖς παρεπιδήμοις διασπορᾶς Πόντου, Γαλατίας, Καππαδοκίας, Ἀσίας καὶ Βιθυνίας, κατὰ πρόγνωσιν θεοῦ πατρὸς”. The actions of God calling and foreknowing those who are Christians need to be clarified.
To be called of God is a very controversial concept. Calvinists believe that God calls those whom he chooses to be saved and does not call those whom he does not choose. This doctrine is deeply rooted in misconceptions concerning the sovereignty, providence, and foreknowledge of God. Concerning such a perplexing subject, Calvin has rightly said, “No man, therefore, will duly and usefully ponder on the providence of God save he who recollects that he has to do with his own Maker, and the Maker of the world, and in the exercise of the humility which becomes him, manifests both fear and reverence” (Calvin I, xvii, 1). The foreknowledge and electing which God has done, is a very difficult yet important discussion. The ideas born of Augustine and systemized by Calvin can not be accurate representations of the truth, and can not be as they are rooted in their preconceived notion of original sin. Ferguson describes the idea that originated with Augustine in this way, “Predestination of the elect to faith, to holiness, and to eternal glory is not just God’s foreknowledge, but is based on God’s gracious choice. God’s will to save all refers to the elect, so the number of the saved is limited.” (Church History 278). Augustine himself says,
As, therefore He, in whom all are made alive, besides offering Himself as an example of righteousness to those who imitate Him, gives also to those who believe on Him the hidden grace of His Spirit, which He secretly infuses even into infants; so likewise he, in whom all die, besides being an example for imitation to those who willfully transgress the commandment of the Lord, depraved also in his own person all who come of his stock by the hidden corruption of his own carnal concupiscence (Augustine I.10).
Augustine made it clear that he believed that God chose those whom he would have to be saved and mankind (because of original sin) could not know to choose the right. Hodge describes the same theory this way, “In this view of the relation of mankind to Adam, and of the consequences of his apostasy, the three leading subjects included, are the imputation of Adam’s first sin; the corruption of nature derived from him; and the inability of fallen man to any spiritual good” (vol. 2, p. 192). The position Augustine began in Hippo has dominated the religious world for many centuries, but it still is in conflict with plain Bible teachings. God has said, “faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ” (Romans 10.17, RSV), and that “he called you through our gospel” (2 Thessalonians 2.14, RSV). The Bible is clear that God does not call men through a miraculous working of the Spirit but through the preaching of his Gospel. On the idea of the Spirit working in and calling or drawing Hardeman stated:
Now to John 6:44…of course God draws him. That is not the question. Ladies and gentlemen , how does God draw him? We are not left groping for an answer. Christ answers his own question in verse 45: ‘It is written in the prophets, and they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath
learned of the Father cometh unto me.’ The gospel is God’s power unto salvation
they shall be taught! If from that teaching they learn, they are to that extent drawn. It could not be otherwise. (Hardeman-Bogard Debate 25).
It was through the preaching of the Gospel that the Christians to whom Peter was writing to were called. Peter reminded them of this calling in order to strengthen them in their resolve to stand firm in the face of tribulation.
As to the idea of “foreknowledge”, or “destined” in some translations, it is important to remember that God does know all things before they occur, but that does not mean he caused an action just because he knows what is going to occur before it occurs. The Greek word translated “foreknowledge” in the ESV, ASV, and KJV is the Greek word πρόγνωσιν. The word is defined as, “1. foreknowledge and 2. predetermination” (BDAG 866-7). The word is formed by the words for “before” and “knowledge” so it is best rendered as foreknowledge. In 1 Clement the word is used concerning the apostles who certainly do not determine or destine anything. Clement says, “for this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those ministers already mentioned” (1 Clement 44.2). Thayer agrees giving “1. foreknowledge 2. forethought, pre-arrangement” as the definitions (538). Henry explains the two ways in which the idea of “foreknowledge” is used:
Foreknowledge may be taken in two ways:—First, for mere prescience, foresight, or understanding, that such a thing will be, before it comes to pass. Thus a mathematician certainly foreknows that at such a time there will be an eclipse. This sort of foreknowledge is in God, who at one commanding view sees all things that ever were, or are, or ever will be. But such prescience is not the cause why any thing is so or so, though in the event it certainly will be so, as the mathematician who foresees an eclipse does not thereby cause that eclipse to be. Secondly, Foreknowledge sometimes signifies counsel, appointment, and approbation. Acts 2:23, “Him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.” The death of Christ was not only foreseen, but fore-ordained, as v. 20. Take it thus here; so the sense is, elect according to the counsel, ordination, and free grace of God. [2.] It is added, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father (vol. 6 pg. 808).
While the ideas of knowing before and “pre-arranging” are heavily related, foreknowledge does not demand pre-arranging or causing. One, even God, can know something will happen without actually causing it to occur. Therefore the thesis of Pike’s article, “Divine Omniscience and Voluntary Action” which sates that “if God exists and is (essentially) omniscient…no human action is voluntary” (33), is faulty. God does work in conjunction with us and without his grace and efforts we could not stand, but God has clearly put some responsibility on man’s side in salvation. In Philippians 2.12 Paul, the apostle of grace, commands the Philippians to “work out your own salvation”. The abundance of the passages saying, “whosoever will”, make it clear that God expects man to choose. As Joshua commanded “choose this day whom you will serve” God also makes the same declaration to sinners today. “The victory accomplished in the Christ-event must be communicated. The God who acts in a personal way for human salvation requires a response from the people,” (Fergusson, The Church of Christ 162). The necessity of obedience is shown by the frequent connection of the Word, preaching, and belief found so frequently in the New Testament. Rather the idea of “foreknowledge” should remind one of the concern for the salvation of mankind (since he planned that salvation before the foundation of the world) and “God’s fatherly care for you before the world was ever made” (Grudem 50).
As to the idea of “election”, it is important to remember that one is elected “through the sanctification of the spirit” (v. 2). This sanctification is not an involuntary action which just happens to one as the Calvinist would suppose, but is the result of a choice which one makes or man’s reaction to God’s action. This sanctification revolves around the Christian taking part in purifying his own soul through obedience to the truth through the Spirit (v. 22) and the Spirit’s work of renewing or regenerating the spirit (Titus 3.5). He has chosen to save all those who choose to be in Christ, but he does not choose individuals to choose to be in Christ. Fergusson states, “A common theological position holds to limited atonement…It is true that the benefits of Christ’s death are applied only to the elect, but to say that he died only for the elect goes against too many explicit statements of Scripture” (Ferguson, The Church of Christ 160). Peter is simply reminding the suffering Christians that God has a special relationship with them. Although they are rejected by their society, God still has chosen them (through general or corporate election) to inherit an eternal and unfading crown of glory.
A brief examination of Ephesians 1.4, “καθὼς ἐξελέξατο ἡμᾶς ἐν αὐτῷ” is a helpful way to understand the idea of election. The word ἐξελέξατο is a first aorist middle demonstrating that someone was chosen for another, as Wallace points out, “God chose us for himself, by himself, or for his own interests” (421). The ἐν αὐτῷ points to the way in which God accomplishes his choosing. He chooses, corporately, all who are in Christ to be saved. “The election of persons must always be viewed in relationship to the formation and commissioning of the Church in God’s plan to evangelize the nations. This is especially true in Ephesians where the mission of the Church and the future of the world are so inextricably bound together” (Newman 239). Therefore the question is how does one become “in Christ”? “Election is profoundly Christological. Paul’s “in Christ” language legitimately bears an enormous amount of interpretive weight; here the small prepositional phrase “in him” points to the way God fulfills his purposes” (Newman 238). It is those who choose to be in Christ through submitting to baptism (Romans 6.1-4; Galatians 3.26, 27) who are added to the church or added to the number of those who are “in Christ”.
Sinners are Born Anew by His Mercy (v. 3)
Peter begins this section of holy writ by an appropriate praise of God for the great works he has bestowed upon his chosen people. He then begins to describe some of the facets by which the Trinity have served lowly man in His great plan “By his great mercy we have been born anew” (1 Peter 1.3). Being an aorist participle this word refers to the past action of God in the birthing process of the new Christian. The new birth is an integral part of God’s plan. Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3 “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (v. 3), and again in verse 5 he says, “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Peter echoes Paul’s words in Ephesians, “But God who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him” (Ephesians 2.4-6). All mankind has at one time been born of woman in the flesh, but now, Peter says, all those who choose Christ and submit to baptism have been born again to a living hope by receiving the Spirit.
The nature of this new birth is of the utmost importance to the Christians as it is the beginning of their walk with God. The new birth is accomplished by the Spirit through the instrument of the word (1 Peter 1.23; Titus 3.5). But the religious world is divided as to what the new birth is. Amid a plethora of options as to what this concept entails, one must turn to the New Testament for the answer. Peter is gracious enough to comment again on the new birth in v. 23 of this same chapter saying, “You have been born anew, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God”. The word of God is the seed which grows faith in the Redeemer and leads one (through the written word) to seek a relationship with God via the new birth in Christ through the Holy Spirit. “Thus, regeneration is spoken of here, the act of the Holy Spirit imparting to us a new life, making us partakers of the divine nature and thus children of God, a begetting anew” (Wuest vol. 2, pg. 20). The act of being born anew or regeneration “corresponds to the resurrection of Christ…and implies a previous mystical or figurative death to sin” (Nicoll 41). This is very similar to Paul’s argument in Romans 6.1-4 where baptism which is often identified with the new birth is the beginning of the Christians journey of walking in newness of life.
He Gives Living Hope
Because the Christians have been ἀναγεννήσας they have the assurance of this living hope which God provides to those who are his children. The constant hope which God provides to his children is one of the great works which God supplies. Speaking of this hope, Guy N. Woods says, “It was a sentiment especially precious to those who were suffering severe persecution (1 Pet. 4.12), and it buoyed them up with the expectation of deliverance in the by and by” (25). Peter’s audience was then enduring trials from outside the church which tested the worth of their faith. This reminder of their mutual hope would have been a great encouragement to the enduring Christians. The biblical hope was not just a fanciful dream, but it included the idea of expectation. Hope is a “concept involving trustful anticipation, particularly with reference to the fulfillment of the promises of God” (Bromiley 751). Thayer defines the word elpiV from which hope is derived as “expectation” and is used in the Septuagint as “that in which one confides or to which he flees for refuge” (205). Wuest says of this idea, “It is both an attitude of expectancy as the Christian looks forward to the inheritance awaiting him in heaven, and a hopefulness of present blessing from God in this life” (vol. 2, pg. 21). The suffering community needed hope of a bright tomorrow in which to find refuge in their dreary day.
He Brought About the Resurrection of Jesus Christ (v. 3)
The hope of the suffering Christians is the eternal rest they will have after enduring their myriad trials. “The living hope of believers, according to v. 4, is their inheritance, and v. 4 emphasizes that the inheritance is imperishable, beautiful, and reserved for believers” (Schreiner 63). The hope that those who have been born again possess is made possible through the resurrection of Christ which was brought about by the power of God. “The resurrection of Jesus is the means and guarantee of the spiritual resurrection of the Christian from the death of the sinful and fleshly life” (Nicoll 42). In Acts 2.24 Peter says that God is responsible for the resurrection saying, “God raised him up”, and again in verse 32 Luke records Peter’s words, “this Jesus God raised up, and of that we are all witnesses.” The resurrection of the Lord was key to the preaching and writing of Peter and the early church. Peter used the event of the resurrection to prove the Messiahship of Christ in Acts 2, but in 1 Peter 1 he is using the same miraculous event to embolden the saints to endure the persecution because they too have the promise of resurrection like Christ’s. In 3.17-18, Peter would once again turn to the resurrection as a rallying cry for endurance saying, “For Christ also died for sins once for all…that he might bring us to God being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit”. Peter is telling them to endure the persecution, just as Christ did, so that they may inherit the reward and be glorified by God in the same manner as Christ was and is.
If God had not raised Jesus from the dead, there would be no hope for the world. The resurrection of Christ from the dead is the foundation of the Christian’s hope in the world. The world is infected with the problem of sin. Paul says in Romans 3.23, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. And Isaiah illustrates the terrible outcome of sin saying, “Behold the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you so that he does not hear” (Is. 59.1-2). Thus the terrible price of sin is described as spiritual death (as “the wages of sin is death”). Sin is responsible for the spiritual death or separation from God.
Through an eternal recognition and preparedness for this abrupt problem, God in his rich grace supplied a savior to redeem all mankind from their sin. This plan was God’s solution to the sin in the garden. God warned the serpent, “I will put enmity between you the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heal” (Genesis 3.15). As one commentator says, “One is therefore probably justified in regarding this verse as a glimpse of hope; a dark glimpse, to be sure, but hope nevertheless,” (C. Woods Genesis 11). This hope would be spoken of and typified throughout the Old Testament writings, and at the appointed time God raised up his Messiah through his divine will and power only so that he could be slain in the culmination of his physical life. It was this slaying that guaranteed forgiveness on behalf of all those who are in Christ. Peter goes on to say later, “You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from our fathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Peter 1.18-19). As Paul said, we have “peace by the blood of the cross” (Col. 1.20), and we “have redemption through his blood” (Eph. 1.7). The two words “peace” and “redemption” form the concept which Peter was trying to get across to his audience: assurance. The Christians are enduring hard times, but they can have the assurance that the “sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8.18). It is “through him we have the confidence (πιστους) toward God” (1 Peter 1.21). The resurrection of the Lord was an important motivator for the suffering Christians, and was brought about by the work and foreknowledge of God.
He Guards Christians by their Faith for Salvation
Peter says the Christians, though suffering, are “guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1.5). The Christians may not have felt guarded as they were suffering the great ordeals, but Peter reminds them that the physical is temporary and their reward is spiritual and eternal. God did not guard them from physical suffering; he allowed them to suffer great trials. Schreiner says, “Peter must have meant that God preserves believers so that they will receive their final inheritance and experience the joy of eschatological salvation” (64). But it is important to notice that man has a part in being guarded by God. They are guarded through faith. As long as they believe and are obedient (as Biblical faith demands both mental assent and obedience or action to be true faith) God will guard their eternal inheritance no matter what the physical setting may be. This passage in no way teaches the idea of the impossibility of apostasy. The Christians were expected to continue to believe and work if they were to continue to be guarded. If and when they stopped their faithful obedience, God would cease to guard them from the Tempter. As even the Calvinist, Schreiner says, “there is no final salvation apart from continued faith, and thus faith is a condition for obtaining the eschatological inheritance” (64). The honest Bible student will notice several admonitions to stand firm which quickly defeat the error of “once saved always saved” doctrine.
The Work of the Son
Sprinkling of his Blood (v. 2)
The “sprinkling of his blood” very well may be an allusion to Exodus 24.8 where Moses symbolizes the sealing of the covenant between God and man by the sprinkling of blood. The shedding of blood as a symbol of a covenant between God and man is a prolific theme in Scripture (Matt. 26.28; Mark 14.24; Luke 22.20; 1 Corinthians 11.25). The shedding of blood was necessary for the ordinances of a will to take place (Hebrews 9.16-17). The Hebrews writer says, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (9.22). The shedding of Jesus blood was a display of a new covenant which offered the forgiveness of sins. On “the sprinkling of his blood” Robertson says that this is a, “Reference to the death of Christ on the cross and to the ratification of the New Covenant by the blood of Christ as given in Hebrews 9.19f,; 12.24 with allusion to Exodus 24.3-8.” (Robertson, on 1 Peter 1.2 CD-ROM). The eternal destiny of all mankind hung in the balance while Christ hung on the tree. The vicarious atonement was made ready and the new covenant was established by this act of selfless love.
Without this covenant and opportunity for forgiveness man is lost in his own sin. Through his blood Jesus has redeemed all that would be obedient to him. Schreiner says, “the foreknowing work of God and the sanctifying action of the Spirit result in human compliance and the sprinkling of Christ’s blood” (55). One is added to God’s covenant people when he believes the word inspired by the Spirit, is obedient to God’s initial commands to be saved from sin, and is thereby sprinkled with the blood of Jesus. The blood of Christ ratified the new covenant in which God had premeditated and the prophets and longed to see. It is this covenant which is now in effect and is therefore governing God’s people who find forgiveness in it. Plumptre comments on God’s cooperative work with man in his own salvation saying, “the clause is co-ordinate with that which proceeds it, pointing to the end of the election as that points to the sphere in which it worked and the means by which it was to be accomplished” (93). “Obedience” represents man’s part in salvation (appendix A), and the “sprinkling” represents the culmination of Christ’s occupation on earth. The importance of the blood in redemption can not be overestimated. The shedding of Christ’s blood was determined before the foundation of the world, it was predicted by the prophets, it was illustrated by the Old Covenant sacrifices, and finally it became a reality when Jesus suffered to redeem mankind.
The Sufferings of Christ and Subsequent Glories (v. 11)
The sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories are here briefly mentioned, but are overwhelmingly detailed in the poem devoted to the suffering Servant in Isaiah 52-53. The chapter is one of the most beautiful and powerful in Scripture, one scholar brilliantly describes the poem saying:
This magnificent text, in five beautifully balanced three-verse strophes, sets forth in penetrating eloquence the exalted truth of the servant’s vicarious atonement. The high point of Isaiah’s entire message of hope, this amazing oracle finds its fulfillment in the sacrificial death of Jesus (Woods Isaiah-at-a-Glance: Hope 436).
The suffering Christ is predicted to suffer by having a marred appearance, being despised and rejected, as a man of sorrows, a bearer of griefs and carrier of sorrows, wounded for the iniquities of others, one who received of the chastisement of all, oppressed and afflicted, and bearer of sins. Christ was the pure one who suffered greatly for the sins of all mankind. If not for the sufferings of Christ there could be no “sprinkling” as described in verse 2.
The Work of the Spirit
He Sanctifies Christians (v. 2)
Peter here tells his readers that they have been “sanctified in the spirit”. Wuest, in his Expanded Translation, translates the Scripture this way: “recipients of the setting-apart work of the Spirit”. This sanctification is done “in” (or better “through”) the Spirit. Danker comments on the usage here saying, “it can serve to express means or instrumentality” (328). Paul uses the same construction in 2 Thessalonians 2.13 which says, “ἐν ἁγιασμῷ πνεύματος καὶ πίστει ἀληθείας”. The sanctifying work of the Spirit should lead to further obedience from the Christians who were suffering persecution. Paul was encouraging them to endure by reminding them of the unique or “set-apart” position which they find themselves in.
The word for “sanctified” is ἁγιασμός. It is defined as, “personal dedication to the interests of the deity, holiness, consecration, sanctification” (Danker 10). It has reference to the result of one yielding to God. Paul uses the same word in Romans 6.19 saying, “yield your members to righteousness for sanctification (εις αγιασμον)” or leading to sanctification. He again uses the same word in verse 22 saying, “but now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life”. Therefore this “sanctification” is the result of yielding to God and being cleansed. Wuest says, “The Greek makes it clear that it is the Holy Spirit who does the sanctifying” (vol. 2 pg. 16). A similar idea is expressed in 1 Clement XXX which reads, “let us do all things which pertain to holiness” and then he goes on to list vices which the Christian is to abstain from. Justin speaks of this “sanctification” but refers to it as regeneration (which could be viewed as almost synonymous) and says, “they are led by us to where there is water, and in the manner of the regeneration by which we ourselves were regenerated they are regenerated” (Apology I, 61). The sanctification and/or regeneration occurs when a penitent is baptized so that his sins are forgiven.
The concept of the Spirit’s work in bringing the believer to a sanctified state is not foreign to Peter. From his very first sermon, Peter makes use of the idea saying in Acts 2.38, “repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”. Peter immediately links baptism (the mode of salvation) with the reception of the Holy Spirit. In the following chapter he makes the same command and promises that “the times of refreshing will come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3.19). These two commands and promises are structurally the same and could refer to the same event of the Holy Spirit regenerating the believer after his baptism. In Titus 3.5-7a Paul seems to combine both ideas in connection with the Holy Spirit saying that one is saved by “virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit which has been poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified”. This does not imply some Calvinistic “experience” which one must be subjected to in order to be saved, but simply the work of the Spirit in the new birth.
An examination of the work of the Trinity in the salvation of one’s soul is a very rich study which could fill volumes. The study will help one to appreciate just what the Lord has done for mankind and what he offers to do if they will submit to him and his will for their lives. 1 Peter 3 gives a good summary of what role the members of the Trinity have in the salvation of their people. The Father has made the plan, the Son makes the plan possible through his vicarious atonement, and the Spirit gives new life through his presence and guidance through the word.
The Work of the Christian in His Own Salvation in the Passage
Obedience v. 2
Receive Grace v. 2
Submit to the New Birth
Rejoice in Trials v. 6
Endure Testing of their Faith v. 7
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