Asia Minor: Elect In Christ

by Jeff Asher

"Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied" (1 Pet. 1:1-2).

Origin And Growth

The churches in Asia Minor were among the first established in the first century. This was the case because there were present in Jerusalem on Pentecost for Peter's first sermon sojourners from each of these regions (Acts 2:9-11). The only evidence we have points to these first Christians as the originators of these churches.

In that the Holy Spirit kept Paul from venturing northward and eastward, it is reasonable to assume that these churches were fairing well in spreading the gospel to that part of Asia Minor (Acts 16:7-8). The apostle's influence was kept to the south in the provinces of Cilicia, Pisidia, Galatia and, later, Asia. As a result, the gospel spread to the whole world (Col. 1:23). By the time Peter writes to these saints the entire peninsula has been evangelized (1 Pet. 1:1).

Some of these churches may have been in existence for more than thirty years when Peter addresses his two letters to them. His companions in Babylon are Silas (1 Pet. 5:12) and John Mark (5:13). Silas had helped Paul evangelize Galatia (Acts 15:40-16:6). He spent several months in Macedonia at Thessalonica and Berea (Acts 17:14; 18:5; 1 Thes. 1:1).

Exactly when he came to join Peter in Babylon is not certain; however, it seems that he may have returned to Jerusalem at the end of the second journey (Acts 18:21-22). On the other hand, John Mark was with Paul in Rome during the first imprisonment about 62 or 63 A.D. (Col. 4:10). Paul also asked Timothy to bring Mark with him when he was imprisoned the second time about 68 A.D. (2 Tim. 4:11). During the interval between Paul's imprisonments Mark was in Asia Minor (Col. 4:10).

Peter's Influence Among Them

The churches of northern Asia Minor would be particularly familiar with Peter. The Jews among them may have continued to travel to Jerusalem at feast time, as did Paul seeking to convert family and friends (cf. Acts 20:16). The churches of southern Asia Minor would know Peter from the record of Paul's letter to Galatia (Gal. 2:7-17).

The association of Silas and John Mark would also enhance Peter's entrance to these churches. These men were well known in Galatia and Asia (Acts 15:40; Col. 4:11). The church at Corinth was familiar with Peter and the fact that he was married (1 Cor. 1:12; 9:5). What circumstances better than a visit from the Apostle to make them aware of these facts.

Their Suffering

At the time Peter writes, the Christians in Asia Minor are experiencing severe persecutions. His first epistle to them focuses on this fact and the duties they have as God's saints in the midst of trial (1 Pet. 1:6-7; 2:11-12, 20-25; 3:11-16; 4:1-7,12-19; 5:9).

Nero blamed the Christians in Rome for the destruction of the city by fire; this incited a general hatred against them. The Roman historian Tacitus writes of the horrible things that were done to them as "enemies against society." This persecution seems to have spread to the provinces according to some early Christian writers. Ecclesiastical tradition contends that Nero martyred both Paul and Peter during these dark days of hatred against God's people.

Their Election

When Peter writes to these precious saints he designates them as the elect in Christ. As he considers their suffering he wants to remind them of their peculiar relation to the God of heaven (cf. 1 Pet. 2:9).

The basis of their election was God's choice of them from before the foundation of the world. God determined that there should be a people for his own possession in Christ (Eph. 1:3-7). It is His will that all believers be saved (1 Pet. 1:5).

The method of their election was the "sanctification of the Spirit." He did this by "the truth through the Spirit" (1 Pet. 1:22), that gospel "preached unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven" (1 Pet. 1:12). The same Spirit that had been in the prophets (1 Pet. 1:11) led Paul, Silas, Mark and Peter.

This gospel when obeyed purified their souls begetting them unto a living hope. Yes, they were born again by the Spirit when they obeyed the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The purpose for their election was "obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus." In the midst of their trial God expected holiness. No longer were they to fashion themselves after the world, rather they were to abstain from fleshly lusts. Their lives were to be consistent with the character of the sacrifice that redeemed them. No more living to the flesh, but unto the will of God.

Are you among the elect?