Strangers And Aliens (18b): As It Was In The Days Of Noah

By Dr. R. Scott Clark - Posted at The Heidelblog:

1Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. 3For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. 4With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; 5but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.
(1 Peter 4:1–6; ESV)

vv.4–6: It Is Strange To Them
When I first began working through 1 Peter (in the summer of 1985) the world in which (and to which) Peter was writing seemed foreign. Today, however, it seems much more familiar. In part that is due to thirty years of reflection. In part, however, it is because the world in which we now live is more like that in which Peter wrote and preached. In AD 65 the Greco-Roman world was almost entirely pagan. Virtually no one knew anything about Christianity and Christians, to the extent they were known, were largely misunderstood. Remarkably, the last century has seen a remarkable decline in the social status of Christians in the west. Two world wars, the dominance of Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment philosophies and theologies have radically changed the culture in which Christians exist. The Christian confession has not changed. We still confess the Apostles’ Creed but the setting in which we confess that holy ecumenical faith has changed dramatically. Even fifty years ago, even though they no longer believed it, theological liberals could still tell you what historic orthodox Christianity once believed. Most people in the West could tell you something about Christianity. Today, in a world where only about 10% of Americans actually attend church regularly and where only 5% attend church twice on Sunday it seems that a profound ignorance of Christianity has settled over the West. We have not moved but the culture has moved beneath our feet. Without packing up a single box, we have become strangers and aliens.

In this we share something with those Christians in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, i.e., those regions in what today know as Turkey to which Peter addressed this epistle. There is not much evidence that they were literal pilgrims. Peter calls them “refugees” and “aliens” because, by virtue of God’s grace, they had become metaphorical refugees or strangers even though, most likely, they had not actually moved at all. In Christ, God granted the refugee status. This is why Paul says, in Philippians 3:20 (to Christians living in a Roman colony), “our citizenship is in heaven.” To be sure, we have a dual citizenship. We retain our earthly civil, political status but, like Abraham, “by faith” we are sojourning faithfully here and by faith we are “looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Heb 11:9–10; ESV).

All this is to explain the conceptual background behind Peter’s explanation to the Christians of Asia Minor of why they find themselves “on the outs,” i.e., at odds with those around them and the object of unjust suspicion. Peter says, “they [the pagans] are mocking (βλασφημοῦντες) you because it is foreign (ξενίζονται) to them that you do not rush with them (συντρεχόντων) into the excess of immorality [in which they spend their lives].” The verb Peter uses typically refers to hospitality to strangers but here, as in Acts 17:20, it has the sense of being unusual, strange or foreign.


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