Sojourners in this World | 1 Peter

This week we’ll begin our spring sermon series through the book that we know as 1 Peter. Before we begin, let’s take a quick overview of the book from the 30,000-foot level.

1 Peter was written by the Apostle Peter, an eyewitness to the suffering of Christ (5:1). He was someone who, unlike us and unlike the original audience of this letter (1:8), had in fact seen Jesus. Just like in Acts 4:20, Peter in this letter cannot help but to testify to what he had seen and heard, only here in 1 Peter, he takes the message of Christ—the message of the suffering Messiah (2:21–23; 4:1, 13; 5:1), who gave himself for our sins (1:19; 2:24; 3:18) – and applies that message very practically and very powerfully to the Christian life.

As we study this book together, three repeated themes will become very clear:

We are the people of God.

Peter very consciously takes language from the Old Testament that refers to Israel and uses it in reference to the church today. His point in all of this is not to ignore Old Testament history and God’s dealing with the people of Israel, but instead to show that we, the church, are in fact the people of God today.

Like Israel before us, we are the “elect exiles” (1:1) and those who have been “sprinkled with blood” (1:2). Like Israel before us, we are “a spiritual house” and “a holy priesthood,” those who “offer spiritual sacrifices;” we are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” (2:5, 9).

How can it be that we are called these things? Because, as Peter makes clear, we have been brought into God’s people through Christ. (See 1:2,3,21; 2:5,10,24; 3:18; 5:10,14.)

We are strangers and sojourners in this land.

Not only are we God’s people, but as God’s people we find ourselves as strangers and sojourners in this world. Peter calls us “exiles” (1:1,17; 2:11) and “sojourners” (2:11). In this life, we are but pilgrims, journeying through a land that is not our homeland. Like the saints of old, we “desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (see Hebrews 11:13–16). Peter captures that desire, or better, he seeks to instill that desire in us, in this letter.

The fact that we are sojourners in this land is a reality that we feel today. We recognize, in 2021, that this world is not our home, but this is not a new development. It’s not that society has become so decadent that we no longer fit in. This has always been the case for God’s people, both Israel in the Old Testament and the church today. In fact, it was this reality that necessitated Peter’s letter to the churches, written nearly 2,000 years ago, sometime around A.D. 63.

Precisely because they were sojourners and exiles, Peter told his readers to expect trials (1:6), including persecution (2:12,20–21; 3:13–17). Suffering, a word that appears 16 times in this short letter, is to be expected for sojourners, for we are not at home.

We are therefore to live distinctly as God’s people.

All of that sets the stage for Peter’s main exhortation: since we are God’s people living in a foreign land, we must live as God’s people, not as people of the world.

We have a distinct hope (1:3–5,8–9; 5:10–11) that is rooted in the salvation provided for us through Christ (1:18–21; 2:24; 3:18), and since that is true it must shape our lives. We are commanded, precisely because we have been ransomed by Christ, to “be holy” (1:16); because we have been born again, we’re to put away worldly living: lives marked by malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander (2:1). As those who now are God’s people, the time for living as we did before Christ is over (4:3).

None of this, however, means that we’re to entirely cut ourselves off from the world. Living distinctly as God’s people does not mean that we retreat from non-believers, but instead that we live honorably among them (2:12). Living as God’s people in a foreign land means we live distinctly godly lives in our relation to governing authorities, in our suffering of injustices, and in our families (2:13–3:7). Among believers, our lives are to be marked by love, hospitality, and service (4:8–11). All of this and more comprises the striking, shocking, attention-arresting life of hope in a world that is not our home (3:15).

This is the life that Peter calls us to. It is neither convenient nor comfortable, but it is the “true grace of God.” As we study this letter, may God use his word to enable us to “stand firm in it” (5:12).

Bert Watts has served since December 2016 as the Senior Pastor at Mountain Creek Baptist Church, where he has been on staff since 2012.