Something to always remember is that the entire Bible is meant for all of us. Even though it speaks about people from a different time and culture, the lessons are still for us today. Even though many promises may be meant for specific people, we can still learn from them. And even though some prophesies are meant for future generations, we have the obligation to believe them and pass them on to those specific generations. Shouldn’t we try to understand what Peter was saying to the residents of Asia, even though we live here? If this wasn’t the case, then it might argued that we shouldn’t bother with any of the Word of God. The fact is – the Bible is the eternal Word of God – and the people of God should listen carefully to everything that Jehovah has to say.
So even though Peter mentions places most Christians couldn’t find on a map, his letters are meant for us. Notice that Peter’s readers were described in exactly the same way we are described. “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” …. Another thing Peter says about his readers is – they are “strangers scattered.” No matter where and when Christians might live in this world, they are “scattered strangers.”
But these words “strangers scattered” had some special meaning to the Jews of Peter’s day. Away back in Psalm 147:2 the Septuagint uses the same Greek words to translate “outcasts of Israel.” It was a title used of the Jews in captivity during the days of Nehemiah, Cyrus and Darius. It is even used in connection with the Lord Jesus in John 7 – “Then said Jesus unto them, Yet a little while am I with you, and then I got unto him that sent me. Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come. Then said the Jews among themselves, Whither will he go, that we shall not find him? Will he go unto the DISPERSED among the Gentiles, and teach Gentiles?”
Although this might have originated as a Jewish word used of Jewish people strewn across the world, Peter did not confine himself to that particular race of people. All we have to do is look at I Peter to see that he speaks both to saved Jews and Gentiles. Chapter 2 verse 9 – “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.” Chapter 4 verse 3 – “For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: Peter also enjoyed taking common terms and applying them to Biblical Christians. He liked to speak of “babes” and “milk,” “stones” and “houses” – that sort of thing. So in this way, he was just like his Master. This term “sojourners of the dispersion” – the “diaspora” – is another illustration of the same thing.
So it was Peter’s opinion that believers in Christ Jesus are “STRANGERS.”
The Greek word Peter used is interesting – at least to me. It is the compound word “parepidemos” (par-ep-id’-ay-mos). “Para” means “with” and often refers to something or someone who is with or along side others. A “paralegal” works with lawyers and does much of the work, but he doesn’t have the same training. A “paraprofessional” works along side the pros but doesn’t get the same pay. Christians live along side non-christians – they are beside each other but not equals or even the same. Christians are scattered across the face of an hostile globe; dispersed throughout a world that is not theirs. They are like the Jews during their captivities. They are as out of place as Daniel in the lion’s den. Saints are people seeking a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. Acts 13:17 says that Israel dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt. It was not their country – neither by origin nor by rule, conquest or economics. They were temporary residents, praying for the day that they could leave. The 2 Christian disciples of Emmaus, asked if Jesus was a “stranger” and thus unaware of current events. What the apostle is suggesting to us is that Christians are and should consider themselves to be aliens in a world which belongs to Satan.
We are strangers and pilgrims on earth by reason of our short stay here. It is appointed unto all men, even to Christians, “once to die.” Even the saint’s life is “as a vapour that appeareth for a little time and then vanisheth away.” If we should live to be 100 years old, it is only about 1% of recorded history. One of the lessons of life is to learn to let go of our most precious things – pets, goals and people. Jacob, Abraham, Noah, and David were strangers – they died and were gathered to their fathers. But just because we are here for only a little time – we are passing through – we are not tourists. We aren’t here to see the sights, like what one might do in visiting Iceland. We are here as ambassadors, assigned for a short term, representing our Saviour before moving on.
We are strangers here also because of the difference between the mortal and the immortal. We have infinite needs; we have needs that are impossible for the world to fill. As saved people our souls crave spiritual, eternal and heavenly things. As Christians those needs have been, or will be, met in the eternal God. We belong to Christ and therefore we are “strangers.” We are pilgrims and aliens, because Christ has ignited new fires in us. We have new desires, new tastes, new aspirations and new affections. These may be in competition with the old, but at least, the Christian life is different and more complex. We have been born from above, making us different from the world in which we were first born. The foundation of our lives is different, and this separates us from all others.
I hope you have all had the opportunity at times to get out into the wilderness, to a lake, by a river, where you were able to escape the perplexities of life for a while. But there is no worldly solitude and peace quite the same as the solitude which comes through faith. You can talk of solitary confinement, being lost in the mountains, or buried in an avalanche. But those are different from the separation from the world which is brought about by the new birth. It is not necessarily serene. The Lord Jesus said, “Think that I am come to bring peace upon the earth? No, I’ve brought a sword.” That sword severs families, nations, communities and even churches. It is inevitable, if you truly trust and serve Christ, that you will be different from your neighbors. We should not want it any other way. “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a PECULIAR people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.”
And because of this, there are some important duties laid upon us.
Since salvation, by its very nature is a separation, we need to maintain a sense of that separation. “Be ye holy, even as God is holy.” Perhaps we should rephrase that just a bit – “Be ye holy, because your Saviour is holy.” It is a traitor who is part of the army of God, yet whose loves and joys are found in the army of the enemy. “Dearly beloved,” says Peter, “I beseech you, as strangers and pilgrims abstain from fleshly lusts.” Paul says, “I beseech you by the mercies of God that you present your bodies a living sacrifice unto God.” And John says, “love not the world, neither the things that are in the world” because you are different.
Again, that doesn’t mean that we must become hermits, hiding from the world. Our new lives in Christ are not to be used as an excuse to shirk our responsibilities as witnesses. Abraham was saved and called to leave Ur, his home town. And he refused to live in the Canaanite communities there in the country to which God led him. According to the Word, he chose to live in a camel’s hair tent until God gave him his own city. In some ways he was still waiting for that city when he died. And when his nephew, Lot, chose the world over living in the Abrahamic fashion, they parted company. And yet when Lot’s sin got him into trouble, Abraham was there to help him.
God expects us to be witnesses of His grace – and that means leaving a door open for communication with the inhabitants of the land. The screen door must be left ajar just far enough for a neighborly cup of coffee now and then. God expects us to be friendly and helpful as illustrated in the parable of the Good Samaritan. But if our joys and loves are found in the things of the world, we will eventually be consumed by that world. “The world passeth away and the lusts thereof” – the fashions of the world pass away. We must come out from among them that we be not partakers of theirs sins and their judgments.
Now, if we are strangers here, that usually means that we are not strangers in some other place.
Remember, our citizenship is in Heaven, and one day soon we shall see our Saviour return for us. In God’s Glory, we are not strangers, and our divine Intercessor is often mentioning our names before the Father. There in Heaven our faces are known, our names are known and our needs are known.
This being true, our lives should conform first to the laws of the country where we are not strangers. Do you remember what was the complaint against the “diaspora” in Esther’s day? “And Haman said unto king Ahasuerus, There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from all people; neither keep they the king’s laws: therefore it is not for the king’s profit to suffer them.” Under despotism it was a terrible charge to live by the laws of God. Terrible by the standards of man. And that is still true. While keeping, as best we can the king’s laws, as strangers and pilgrims we are first obligated to keep our King’s commandments. Ideally the world should look at us and say, “There goes a person with heavenly principles. I wonder what lays behind it.” Colossians 3 says, “Live so that whether present or absent you will be pleasing to God.” “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.” Live the life of an ambassador and representative of Christ – a stranger and pilgrim. As the Lord said, “Ye are the salt of the earth.” Salt is best when crushed and scattered.
But we should make us to rejoice to know that we shall not always be scattered.
As Christians we possess a hope of home, and it is not of this world. Eternal life stands opposite to the second death. Eternal life has God as its end; it is in Christ. “This is life eternal that they might know thee, the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent.” When we talk of earth and our sojourn here, we have to reach some definite conclusions, because life here will reach a conclusion.
The Lord Jesus Christ has his saints scattered in Pontus, Galatia, Capadocia and Bithinia. He has them in North America, and South America, Eastern Europe and Western Australia. But all these sojourners are drawing closer and closer like iron filings to a magnet. The King of Glory is soon coming, and at that time, we shall cease to strangers and aliens. At that time we’ll finally stand in a truly God-controlled environment.
Then the truth will finally and really hit home – fellow saints, fellow citizens, and fellow heirs. As you labor here on this sin and death-cursed earth, lift your thoughts toward heaven. We are strangers here, but not there. “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”