"My fellow refugees, we can take courage and rejoice!"
1 Peter 1:1
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen.
Peter starts off his first letter by saying that he is an apostle of Jesus Christ. We know that this word apostle was used occasionally before the New Testament and had the general meaning of a "messenger" or "one sent with a message." According to the gospels, Jesus gave this term a much deeper meaning when He selected the twelve that He poured into as His apostles.
We see right at the beginning of his letter; Peter is establishing his authority for his readers. When the readers of this letter received it, they could sit down and realize it has a seal of approval, knowing that God spoke through His apostles. This letter of 1 Peter is valuable because an apostle wrote it.
As we study God's Word ourselves, it should be no different for us. We should understand the importance of it and how it applies to our lives today. What we study is the very spoken Word of God. It is perfect and infallible. It is the very word that the Psalmist said we should treasure more than riches. We should be excited about it in the same way the original readers were.
I love the NIV translation of 1 Peter 1:1:
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to God's elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout…
This translation helps us understand that Peter was writing to God's chosen people, those who were elect and scattered according to God's foreknowledge. In the Old Testament, this word scattered usually meant that God's people were moved out of Jerusalem because of sin in their lives. But in 1 Peter, Peter is addressing Christians who had been scattered geographically because God chose them to be a part of the body of Christ. These were both Jews and Gentiles alike.
Peter is emphasizing the fact that the church is to be scattered throughout the earth as pilgrims, or quite literally, as refugees! A refugee is someone who has been removed from their home and is temporarily living somewhere else. People typically become refugees because they are either fleeing war or persecution or some abuse, and they have to leave to save their lives.
As believers, we are currently living in a home away from home. Heaven is our true home. Heaven is the place we should long for, and earth is the place that we are to know God and make Him known.
I think that's worth repeating, as Christians, heaven is our home, and earth is the place that we are to know God and make Him known. This is our purpose as believers: to know God and to make Him known amongst the nations.
The Bible tells us:
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.
You are a Christian refugee in this world, and the supreme authority of your life is the written Word of God. Unlike the changing rules and laws of our earthly nations, the Word of God does not change. We can anchor ourselves to it and believe it is entirely trustworthy because it is the embodiment of the nature of God Himself. It will never, never, never fail.
So, my fellow refugees, we can take courage and rejoice! This world is not our final destination! Our citizenship is in heaven!
We are to be seeking the city which is to come… but are we truly doing that? Are we recognizing that we are to live on this earth as pilgrims, as exiles, as temporary residents, as sojourners, as refugees, as foreigners, living in temporary environments…differently than the rest of the world? Because we have a living HOPE and a future in heaven, as followers of Christ, we are to live differently. We are to model hope for people who have no hope. Church, we have been scattered for a reason.
Today, let's be reminded of our heavenly citizenship. While we are refugees, let's be busy about our Father's business, inviting the lost people around us to come and be refugees in this world who have the sure hope of a future in the kingdom of heaven.