We have been looking at the opening words of 1 Peter. At the very beginning of his letter, Peter introduces his readers to the tremendously deep, far-reaching and profound arena of thought that is election:
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who reside as exiles, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to the obedience of Jesus Christ and the sprinkling of His blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you. (1 Peter 1:1-2)
Now, we notice from these two verses several things about election. First of all, we noticed last time the nature of our election: God has chosen us sovereignly, by His unaffected divine will, strictly on the basis of His own free sovereign grace. He predetermined to set His love on certain people out of all the world, and they are the elect.
Today, let’s look briefly at the state of our election.
Because we are elect, we are residing as aliens. That is to say, we are strangers. We are foreigners. We are an alien race. We are temporarily living in this world, but we are citizens of heaven. We are a society within a society. We are a supernatural culture within an earthly culture. We are governed by God through His Word. We are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. We have convictions, beliefs, ideas, creeds, ethics, habits, emotions, life standards, principles, thoughts, pursuits and pleasures that are totally alien to the world.
We don’t fit in. We are completely distinct. We do not love the world, as John tells us:
Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world is passing away, and also its lusts, but the one who does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17)
We are enemies of the world. We are aliens from the world by our very condition, because we are the elect. In fact, we are not chosen just to exist differently, but we are chosen to witness to the world in which we are by being strangers. We witness not only by what we say, but we witness by what we are.
So here we are, this alien society within a society, this supernatural culture within a culture. We are this group of dispossessed people who live by a totally distinct standard. We cannot be friends of the world. But we must speak to the world, and we must live in such a way that they are drawn to listen to what we have to say.
That’s a challenge. It’s not easy to be effective in witnessing to the world. We tend to retreat into our own little society, don’t we? And you can imagine that in a persecuted environment like the original audience of this great epistle, the tendency would be to draw more and more inward for the sake of protection.
Believers must not become ingrown, because that is the tendency. We love each other very much. We have so much in common with each other. And so one of the great threats to Christianity is that the longer you’re a Christian, the less you share your life with unbelieving people, because we get so wrapped up in our own Christian culture.
The pastor and Bible commentator Alexander Maclaren said, “Seed in a seed-basket is not in its right place; but sown broadcast over the field, it will be waving wheat in a month or two” (Expositions of Holy Scripture).
We must resist the temptation to become a society of people talking to ourselves, rather than evangelizing a lost world.
God has helped this process through persecution. Every time believers have been scattered, starting with Acts 8, the church has grown. Every time the seed is emptied out of the basket and thrown over the field, it results in the waving wheat.
You see, that’s why we don’t belong in monasteries. That’s why we don’t belong holed up in caves somewhere. That’s why we don’t belong in educational ivory towers all our lives. We have to be scattered. We are alien ambassadors of Christ. We have to take the redemptive message into the world.
So that’s the state of our election: We are foreigners in the world. We don’t expect to be treated like the worldlings. We’re in the world, but we’re not of the world. And we desire a far better place, a place which is our real home.
In Hebrews 11:10, it says that Abraham “was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” That’s our city. That’s really our homeland. William Barclay called Christians “the exiles of eternity” (Daily Study Bible).
I remember growing up as a little boy, we would sing in youth groups, “This world is not my home. I’m just passin’ through. My treasure is laid up somewhere beyond the blue.”
That is the condition of the elect.
This post is based on a sermon Dr. MacArthur preached in 1988, titled “Chosen by God, Part 2.”