The Source and Purpose of Our Election (To the Text)
“…[elect] according to the foreknowledge of God the Father by means of the Holy Spirit unto obedience and the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ, grace to you and peace be multiplied,” (1 Peter 2; from the Greek)
Last week, we established the identity of Peter’s audience. In short, we referred to them as elect pilgrims. These were the elect of the dispersion sojourning in the kingdom of man. Throughout the remainder of the book, this identity will be further developed, and the natural consequences of assuming this new identity will be brought to bear. This letter was meant to be a circular letter and, thus, was meant to have broad application to all Christians, ourselves included. As we read further, then, we must understand that what Peter is hear teaching about the identity of his audience is true of our identity as well, if indeed we are in Christ.
Peter, referring back to the term elect in the previous clause, now helps us to understand the source and purpose of our election. This verse is one of several Trinitarian verses to be found in the New Testament. Here we find that our election, our new identity in Christ, comes to us by means of the work of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We are elect by the foreknowledge of God the Father, which is to say that the Father had previously set His love upon us. We are elect by means of the Holy Spirit, which is to say that the Spirit applies to us the benefits of our election in God. We are furthermore elect unto, or for the purpose of, obedience and the sprinkling of the blood of Christ.
Two natural controversies naturally spring from these assertions: one having to do with the word foreknowledge and the other having to do with the word obedience. Some have suggested that the term foreknowledge as used in this text has as its primary concern God’s foreknowledge of the faith that we would have in Christ Jesus. The question must be asked, however, what violence this view necessarily does to the biblical doctrine of God. This take on God’s foreknowledge assumes that God learns things. It assumes He takes on new knowledge about His creatures that had not—prior to His discovering it at some point before creation (Ephesians 1:4)—been available to Him. In short, this view assumes that God does not know all things. Some, in order to escape this inevitable conclusion, attempt to smuggle into the Bible the manmade philosophical notion of “middle knowledge,” in which God willingly chooses not to know certain things, but there is no support for such a view anywhere in the Bible.
What Peter must mean by the use of the word in this verse is the same as he means when he uses it later in the same chapter of Christ: “For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you…” (vs. 20; NASB). In what manner was Christ foreknown before the foundation of the world by the Father? In order to answer this question, we must understand the use of the tern knowledge in the Bible. The term knowledge suggests a certain intimacy or love being set upon the object in question. Adam knew Eve and she bore a son for him and called his name Cain (Genesis 4:1). Mary was a virgin, because she had not known a man (Luke 1:34). Thus, when we say that Christ was foreknown before the foundation of the world, it is clear that, “You loved Me before the foundation of the world,” (John 17:24b; NASB). The same applies to God’s foreknowledge of His elect. He set His love upon us from all eternity.
Regarding the controversy over the use of the term obedience in our text today, there will be yet another opportunity to speak of this notion in more detail when we arrive at verse fourteen. When we arrive at that text, we will argue for our position but, for the purposes of our text today, we will simply assert it. The obedience Peter means here is both the obedience of Christ that is now attributed to us by the sprinkling of His blood and the obedience in which we actually grow as we walk by the Spirit who is applying to us our election. If you will allow for a bit of suspense, we will explain these terms when we arrive at verse fourteen.
Peter ends his greeting with a familiar salutation: grace to you and peace be multiplied. This is meant to convey both Peter’s kindly affection and his prayer for the church. Peter prays that the saints would continue to grow in the grace of God and experience an abundant increase in our experience of the peace we now have with Him. How could this not be the case when we know that the whole of the Godhead purposed to affect our election through the eternal love of the Father, the application thereof of the Holy Spirit, and the obedience of Christ on our behalf, even to the shedding of His own blood?