Elect-Exiles: The Readers as the People of God
from 1 Peter: A Commentary for Biblical Preaching and Teaching
by Timothy E. Miller & Bryan Murawski
The identity of the people of God in 1 Peter brings together the themes we have addressed above. Indeed, the whole of 1 Peter was intended to emphasize the unique and important position the believers in Asia Minor had both historically and eschatologically. They were sovereignly chosen by God to experience the new birth, which made them exiles in their prior homeland. The Spirit motivated the believers toward holiness, which created the distance between believers and their former relations. This led to suffering and persecution, which God used to refine his people. Nevertheless, the tension between the terms elect and exile was jarring, and Peter wanted to draw that contrast out.
In regard to God, they were chosen and precious. They were carefully selected stones that were being wisely set in their proper place by the Wise Builder. And though they were a holy nation (2:9), the earth was not their kingdom. Accordingly, they had to live honorable lives in exile, awaiting the redemption that calls them home (2:11).
In regard to men, the believers in Asia Minor were exiles. They were odd strangers whose actions were at one and the same time honorable and curious. Honorable, because they were the best citizens in many ways (they showed obedience to the emperor, submission to the law, and submitted to social customs). Nevertheless, they rejected what men generally crave—in- deed, what the readers themselves once craved! Thus, the life of the elect-exile was one of tension. The believers in Asia Minor were at one and the same time beloved (by God) and rejected (by men; cf. 4:6). They endured sorrow (because of persecution), but experienced true joy (be- cause of the hope of the gospel; 4:13–16). They feared God, and thus had no one to fear (3:14).
The result of this paradoxical identity is that the readers were able to reflect God to the world. When they acted in righteousness, they acted as children of God showing the character of the Father. In the words of both Jesus and Peter, the readers could live in such a way that others saw their good deeds and gave glory to the heavenly Father (Matt. 5:16; 1 Peter 2:12). Accordingly, Peter did not directly tell his readers to take the gospel to unbelievers; instead, he assumed that as they were faithful to God, their unique lifestyle would cause unbelievers to question, opening the door for a proclamation of the gospel (3:13–17). Peter finished the letter indicating that his point in writing was to encourage the readers to stand strong in the faith (5:12). He did so primarily by reminding them who they were. They were elect-exiles, and while their exilic identity was causing difficulty and pain, these would be short-lived. The Lord would return, and their short time of suffering would be worth it. For the time being, they had to focus on the positive side of exilic status. The tension they experienced was due to being chosen by God and was not evidence that they were rejected by God. Further, living rightly in the present led to reward and opportunity for witness.
While the roaring enemy prowled (5:8), Peter encouraged his readers that their endurance was a matter with which God involved himself. It is through God’s power that they were guarded through faith for salvation (1:5). Indeed, the God they served is a “God of grace” and since he called them “to his eternal glory in Christ,” he would also “restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish” them (5:10).
This post is adapted from1 Peter: A Commentary for Biblical Preaching and Teaching by Timothy E. Miller & Bryan Murawski. If you are interested in adopting this book for a college or seminary course, please request a faculty examination copy. We will also consider requests for your blog or media outlets.
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In 1 Peter, Timothy Miller and Bryan Murawski demonstrate how the activity of the triune God provides both encouragement and exhortation to the first-century readers of 1 Peter. The God who created and called believers has both redeemed them and empowered them to stand firm in the face of the world’s rejection. Such theological realities apply also to today’s believers, those elect of God yet exiles in the world. Miller and Murawski infuse textual, canonical, historical, and rhetorical insight to support the preaching preparation of expositors eager to share the relevance of 1 Peter with their congregations.