1 Peter 1:1
The Elect Exiles of the Dispersion
Peter’s First Letter to the “Dispersion” is a jewel among the Scriptures. It was obviously written to Christians who were suffering persecution—as so many are around the world today. He encourages them in their suffering, not by telling them to “keep the faith” or “hang in there; this too shall pass.” No. Peter has a real message of hope grounded in the gospel of Jesus Christ whose claim upon their lives has made them exiles and pilgrims in this world. Christians may suffer persecution in this world and lose everything they have. But Peter is certain that they have a better inheritance awaiting them. In the meantime, they are to draw closer to God, growing in godliness, increasing in holiness so that the things of this world “grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”
Peter first identifies himself. He is an apostle chosen of Jesus Christ, one of the original apostolic band who saw the risen Lord and was sent to testify to what he had seen and heard about the Christ and his gospel, upon whom the Church of Jesus Christ was built (Ephesians 2:20). I have said in other places, these men lived with our Lord for more than three years, were especially commissioned by him, and are irreplaceable as their authority is concerned. What Peter writes here under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is the word of God, and the Christian will gainsay nothing written therein.
He writes to those churches throughout Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) which were obviously experiencing persecution. (Indeed, we know from correspondence between Emperor Trajan and a Roman official named Pliny the Christians in this area were subjected to persecution not long after.) Peter calls them “the dispersion,” a term usually reserved for the Jews who were dispersed throughout the Mediterranean world since the sixth century before Christ. That Peter now applies this term to Christians, both Jew and Gentile, means that God has created a new people under a new covenant—the covenant inaugurated through the blood of Christ in the fulfillment of the Scriptures. This new covenant people of whom the prophets spoke are dispersed over the world, not because they were driven from their earthly homeland by this world’s rulers as was the case with the old covenant people; no, these are dispersed by virtue of having been chosen by the Father to inherit a heavenly homeland. And so they are by rebirth of the Spirit aliens and exiles, sojourners and wanderers across what for them is a barren wasteland in comparison to their true home. They have a Lord other than Caesar and will gladly forsake all things while they await his return.