Who Were Peter’s Readers?

02 Nov
from Google Images

from Google Images

Peter opened his epistle by identifying himself as one of the Apostles of Jesus (1Peter 1:1). The term apostle has to do with one being sent. He was an envoy or ambassador of someone else and was a representative of the authority sending him. In other words the authority of any apostle or envoy is derived from the authority responsible for sending him. Barnabas was an apostle of the church at Jerusalem (Acts 11:22; cf. 14:14).[1] He represented them and spoke for them. Peter was an apostle or envoy of Jesus; he represented and spoke for Jesus.

Peter addressed his letter to the Church in five Roman provinces: Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia (1Peter 1:1). It is interesting that he called his readers not only strangers or pilgrims, but also the Diaspora. Some translators render it: “sojourners (or exiles, foreigners, strangers) of the Dispersion.”[2] There is some controversy as to what this means, because other scholars believe Peter wrote to gentiles rather than the Jews of the Diaspora or Dispersion. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the Scriptures claim Peter was the official Apostle to the Jews, while Paul was the official Apostle to the gentiles (cf. Galatians 2:7-9).

Elsewhere, the Diaspora (translated ‘scattered’ in the KJV at 1Peter 1:1) represents Jews, the Twelve Tribes (James 1:1; John 7:35). However, we need to keep in mind that any letter to believing Jews of the Diaspora would also be read to gentiles, because no church outside of Palestine was composed of Jews only. There were rising numbers of gentiles coming to Christ, and before the 1st century would pass, the number of gentiles within this Jewish movement would exceed the number of Jews within the body of believers. Therefore, as we can conclude from 1Peter 2:10, gentiles were also among Peter’s readers. Nevertheless, gentiles should be considered secondary addressees, because, as I claimed elsewhere,[3] the present persecution (1Peter 1:6-7) was aimed at the Jewish Diaspora. However, it should also be understood that gentiles would be affected in the fallout. Ultimately, Peter addresses **all** Christians, Jew and gentile, but Jews in particular.

Peter also referred to his readers as strangers (1Peter 1:1). The term alien or stranger (parepidemos – G3927) refers to someone who is not a native of the country in which he resides. If one is an alien or stranger in the land, one would not normally be caught up in the business of that land (cf. 2Timothy 2:4). Therefore, the addressees, like Peter the apostle, ultimately represent another Authority. Peter was reminding them they are not “of the world” (cf. John 17:14, 16), but represent Another and should behave in a manner that reflects that position (cf. 1Peter 2:16-17). Therefore, they should keep in mind that the world ‘loves’ its own (John 15:19), i.e. those who justify and enable its concerns, and ‘hates’ those who point out the flaws of this existence, showing we cannot overcome our problems under our own power. Thus, the behavior of the believer should show that we need God.

Finally, Peter refers to his readers as the elect, according to the foreknowledge of God (1Peter 1:2). The word elect (G1588 – eklektos) implies we were chosen out of a greater number of people (Deuteronomy 14:2; John 6:37; Ephesians 1:4). Moreover, we were chosen according to the foreknowledge (G4268 – prognosis – i.e. pre-arrangement) of God. Paul tells us in Ephesians 1:4 that we were chosen by God before the foundation of the world,[4] indicating that we were considered part of God’s overall plan of salvation long before we were born.

Our election is made effectual by God through the indwelling presence of Jesus and the Father through the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:16; cf. John 17:17, 19-23). Note, also, that we are sanctified by the Word or the Logos of God – i.e. the presence of Jesus in us. We were chosen in Christ to be obedient, not to the world, in which we are aliens (G3927), but to God: WWJD!

Our election becomes effective upon our entering into a covenant with God, and that through the sprinkling of the blood of Christ (1Peter 1:2; cf. Hebrews 9:19-22). In other words, we, who have entered into a covenant with God through the “sprinkling of the blood of Christ”, have ended our rebellion against God, and say to the world: “we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2Corinthians 5:20).


[1] Later Barnabas was also an apostle of the Church of Antioch (Acts 13:1-3; 14:14), as was Paul, but Paul was distinguished in the fact that he was also an Apostle of Jesus Christ (Acts 9:15-16; 26:14-18).

[2] See ASV; Darby; ESV; ISV; LITV; MKJV; RV; TLV and YLT.

[3] See my blog The Persecution in Asia Minor.

[4] I intend to discuss this phrase at length when we come to 1Peter 1:20.

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Posted by on November 2, 2016 in Epistles of Peter


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