NOBODY TO SOMEBODY
1 Peter 1:1-2
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
June 2, 2013
1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:
May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
-- 1 Peter 1:1-2, ESV
Once upon a time, there lived a man named Simeon Bar-Jonah. He was a nobody, really. That is, until this man was transformed into a devout follower of Jesus Christ. Then he became somebody, somebody especially loved by God and useful in the kingdom of God.
One day he wrote a letter to other followers of Christ, almost all of whom were considered nobodies in the world in which they lived. None of them were famous, most of them were poor, and some of them were being targeted by the government for harassment and imprisonment. He wrote to tell them that they are somebody to God. He reminded them of how wonderful life is, when lived for Christ. He reminded them of how blessed they are by the Lord. And, he reminded them of how God is at work in them and through them every minute of every day.
This is a story about them, and about us, and it begins in 1 Peter 1:1-2.
From Simeon Bar-Jonah to Simon Peter
Simeon Bar-Jonah identifies himself here simply as “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ.” Simeon was his Jewish name from birth, after the second-born patriarch of the twelve tribes of Israel. Transliterated from Hebrew to Greek to English the name becomes simply “Simon.” “Peter” is the nickname given to him by the Lord Jesus Christ. It was originally spoken as “Cephas,” an Aramaic name meaning “Rock,” which in the written Greek becomes “Petros,” and finally into English, the name becomes “Peter.”
As Simeon Bar-Jonah, he was a relative nobody. Before meeting the Lord Jesus Christ, Simeon was a Galilean fisherman raised in Bethsaida and relocated to Capernaum. He was a moderately successful businessman, owning his own boat and nets but unable to afford hired hands. By all accounts he was an average devotee to Judaism, probably attending the synagogue regularly but offering no outstanding service. His first response to Jesus was lukewarm, at least in comparison to his younger brother, Andrew, who led Simeon to his first encounter with the Messiah. Simeon Bar-Jonah was just an average Joe, a small man from a small town, half religious and half profane, living on the outskirts of the kingdom of God. He was just a nobody, until somebody named Jesus came into his life and named him “Peter.”
As “Peter,” “the Rock,” he really was somebody. He was somebody significant to God, somebody vital to every generation of followers of Jesus Christ. He was “an apostle,” both with a little “a” and a capital “A.” Christ saved him and sent him to share the message of thegospel with his world, just as Christ commissions every Christian. In addition, Peter was one of the select few Apostles, hand-picked by Jesus to witness His messianic ministry and resurrection, given miraculous powers to perform miracles, and set as one of the overseers of the very first Christians and Christian churches.
Peter was somebody so significant, in fact, that his place and position in the church and at the gates of Heaven has actually been overblown for two millennium now. But you cannot overemphasize the fact that before Simeon knew the Lord in personal salvation and took his place in the covenant community of the church, he was a nobody. But in Christ, he became somebody, somebody extraordinaire.
And so can you, if you are a person to whom this epistle is addressed. It is addressed to Christians, to fully devoted followers of Christ, scattered into a world without Christ to bear witness for Christ. It is address to people who were nobodies, who by grace through faith in Christ became somebodies. And Peter’s carefully chosen and Spirit-inspired words tell how a nobody becomes a somebody with God.
From a Nobody to a Somebody
I do not mean to be insulting, but people without Jesus Christ are nobodies in the bigger scheme of things. The strictly secular, the atheists and agnostics, the members of false cults and irrelevant religions, and the hypocritical and nominal Christians, all of these will be altogether forgotten. They may have made a lot of money on earth. They may have buildings or stadiums named after them. They may even have their names written in history books for a few decades or even centuries. But they will all go into eternity unforgiven and condemned, without riches or names or fame, forgotten forever. Nobody, not even God, will remember the nobodies.
But God loves, knows, remembers, and saves somebody. Simon Peter was somebody who knew what it was like to be a somebody with God. And he explains, in a general theological outline, how a nobody becomes a somebody with God.
A nobody becomes somebody when they are chosen by God the Father. Peter writes to Christians who are “elect ... according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” Elect or election, in the biblical sense, is a choice made by one that has a profound effect upon another.
In 2008, Americans elected a little known lawyer, community activist, and short-term Senator to be President of the United States. This election profoundly changed Barrack Obama’s life. He will have Secret Service protection for the rest of his days. He will now and heretofore be addressed as “Mr. President,” perhaps the most significant title in the world of democracies. He will be handsomely paid in salary, pension, and speaking fees all throughout his career. And, he will be one of the names written in history books for at least decades and perhaps centuries. And this story serves to illustrate the exact opposite of what the Bible teaches about election and importance to God.
In the biblical, theological, and eternal realms, election is not the choice of a group of citizens to make one person their leader. Election is the sovereign choice of the leader, Almighty God, to make certain persons His citizens, His followers, His children. It has nothing to do with the choice we make for God and everything to do with the choice God makes for us, a choice that transforms nobodies into somebodies. It is a choice you had virtually nothing to do with, since God made it for you a long, long time before you were even born.
Peter further explains that the “elect” are chosen based on “the foreknowledge of God.” The Greek word for “foreknowledge” is where we get our English word prognosticate, meaning to predict beforehand. On the surface, the words seems to teach that God predicted who would believe in Him and then chose them to be His choice children. But such an interpretation is woefully superficial. To “know” or have “knowledge” of someone in biblical terms always implies experiential or intimate relationship. Adam did not simply predict that Eve would have a baby and then claim the boy as his own. He was intimately involved, you might say, before the boy was born. Therefore, God’s foreknowledge is the basis of His election, and it means that God initiated the decision and predetermined the path upon which you, if you are Christian, would be born again into the kingdom of God. You were the King’s choice. You are the selection of God’s election. You are somebody, because you have been chosen by God the Father!
There is more good news, too. Every “elect” child of God is also receives the “sanctification of the Spirit.” You are somebody not only because you have been chosen by God the Father, but because you are inhabited by God the Spirit. God, in the person of the Holy Spirit, lives inside every believer for the purpose of “sanctification,” a term that means you have been chosen and set apart by God to be holy and useful to God.
Please note that just as it is God who choses us and God who saves us, it is God who sanctifies us, not we ourselves. When you try to do things in your own strength, even religious things, you are not being sanctified. But when you have faith in God and rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to live, breath, work, and worship, then you are being sanctified by God. The “sanctification of the Spirit” is almost impossible to accomplish apart from serious study and application of the word of God, the Bible, for the same Spirit that inhabits the Christian is also the same Spirit that inspired the Bible. When the Holy Spirit illumines your mind to understand the Scriptures and apply them to your life, when the Holy Spirit prompts you to put these ideals and Godward ideas into practice, when you bear spiritual fruit in keeping with repentance and faith, then you are experiencing the “sanctification of the Spirit.” This is proof that God lives inside of you. And if God lives inside of you, let me tell you that you are somebody important to God.
And as you live your life as God’s choice and as God’s Spirit lives in you, be assured that you are covered with the “sprinkling with His blood.” Being splattered or sprinkled with blood does not sound like a blessing, and in the literal sense it is not. But in the spiritual, theological, and eternal sense, this is our greatest blessing as the children of God.
In the Old Covenant, the priest would sprinkle blood in the holy place, signifying God’s acceptance of devout Israelites and the forgiveness of their sins. In the New Covenant, Jesus Christ died on the cross and shed His precious blood to literally pay for the sins of God’s people, Old Covenant and New Covenant. For Christians today, for those who believe, love, and obey the gospel of Jesus Christ, this means you have not only been chosen by God the Father, inhabited by God the Spirit, but you are also now and always forgiven by God the Son. Always, for all things, forever, forgiven and loved and accepted by the Lord Jesus Christ. If this is true about you, then you have to be somebody very important to God.
So how does somebody like this, somebody who finds God extremely important because they are extremely important to God, how does somebody like this live? As “exiles ... for obedience to Jesus Christ.”
As “exiles,” literally aliens this world is not your home, so don’t live like it. You are part of the “dispersion,” part of the kingdom of God scattered all over the world made to know God and make Him known. The purpose of your life, every day and in every way, is to love and obey Jesus Christ as Lord. Since you are chosen by God, why not let God choose for you each day how you are to live and love Him? Since you are indwelled by God, why not let God empower you to accomplish your every task today with grace and faith? Since you are forgiven by God, why not go forth without guilt and fear of failure and publicly pledge your allegiance to God, God’s word, and God’s kingdom? Nobody can do this; but, somebody can!
Look around. There’s no paparazzi chasing you to get your picture. You are not expected at the White House for dinner tonight. You will not be featured on the latest entertainment show. That’s not you lifting up the championship trophy on national television. In this present world, you might be a nobody. But, by grace through faith in Christ, you are definitely somebody. You are somebody of great beauty, grace, skill, usefulness, and value to God. And you will be, forever.
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org