Sunday, December 27, 2009

Pilgrims of the Dispersion 1 Peter 1:1


Pilgrims Of The Dispersion (1:1)

Throughout the New Testament, various phrases are used to describe those people of God who make up the Lord's church. Individually, they are referred to as disciples, saints, believers, priests, Christians, etc. Collectively, they are called the church, the church of God, churches of Christ, the body of Christ, the temple of God, the family of God, etc. -- Each of these terms describe various relationships maintained by those who are Christians. An interesting phrase not commonly used in reference to the people of God is found in 1 Pe 1:1, where Peter addresses "the pilgrims of the Dispersion" 1 Pe 1:1 “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the elect who are sojourners (pilgrims) of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,”

A proper understanding of this phrase can be very beneficial, and give us insight into:

1) What the Christian life is.

2) An important responsibility expected of Christians.

3) Our true home, and goal in this life.

Let's start by defining "Pilgrims of the Dispersion". The word translated "Pilgrim" is interesting. Transliterated from Greek., it is parepidemos {par-ep-id'-ay-mos}which is a combination of three words:

para - "alongside of" epi - "upon"

demos - "used in Biblical Greek of the people of a heathen city" (Wuest)

Here, then, is how Thayer defines the word:

"one who comes from a foreign country into a city or land to reside there by the side of the natives"

"a stranger"

"sojourning in a strange place, a foreigner"

"in the New Testament metaph. in reference to heaven as the native country, one who sojourns on earth

This is so of Christians (1 Pe 1:1)...of the patriarchs (He 11:13 “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”)."

Another definition: "One who stays in a place as a stranger or visitor; to describe Christians whose final citizenship is in heaven and who are regarded as temporary dwellers on earth." (Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia Of The Bible)

The meaning of the word "Dispersion". The Greek word is diaspora {dee-as-por-ah'}. It is noun form of the verb diaspeiro, which means "to sow, to scatter seed". The term is found in Jn 7:35 (“The Jews therefore said among themselves, Whither will this man go that we shall not find him? will he go unto the Dispersion among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks?”), and there it refers to the Jews who were scattered among the Greeks as a result of the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities. This has caused some to conclude that Peter was writing to Jewish Christians who were living in the regions of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) - 1 Pe 1:1b "in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,”. But there is good reason to believe that Peter was writing to ALL the Christians, both Jewish and Gentile, who were scattered throughout Asia Minor. There are several comments made in this epistle that cannot be understood in reference to the original recipients being Jews - for example, 1 Pe 1:14 “as children of obedience, not fashioning yourselves according to your former lusts in the time of your ignorance:”, 18 “knowing that ye were redeemed, not with corruptible things, with silver or gold, from your vain manner of life handed down from your fathers;”, 20-21 “who was foreknown indeed before the foundation of the world, but was manifested at the end of times for your sake, who through him are believers in God, that raised him from the dead, and gave him glory; so that your faith and hope might be in God.” More likely, Peter employs terms once limited to the Jews, but now applicable to all who are in Christ:

1) For example, terms like "elect" (1:2), "holy nation" (2:9), "people of God" (2:10)

2) Even as Paul did: "circumcision" (Ph 3:3), "Israel of God" (Ga 6:16)

If this be so, then Peter implies by using the term "pilgrims of the dispersion" that all Christians are:

1) Pilgrims living in a world not their own.

2) Like scattered seed, spread out among those in the world.

With this understanding of the phrase, "pilgrims of the dispersion," we can now draw insights that are implied by it. This phrase reveals what the Christian life rally is. It is but a JOURNEY, begun when we first became Christians, ending only when we reach our true destination. This ought to affect our entire perspective on life for it is not an end in itself. It is only a temporary trip toward our final destination. Our homes, our jobs, etc., take on a different meaning when viewed in this light. This ought to affect our perspective on death. Not the end of life, but the end of our journey! Not the end of life, but the beginning of eternity in our true home! Having defined what Peter means by "pilgrims of the dispersion," will now turn or attention to the journey and look at some responsibilities as pilgrims when we continue this lesson.