“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied.” (1 Peter 1:1-2)
Peter describes the members of the church as “elect according to the foreknowledge of God.” Election, to Peter (and Paul and Jesus) is never left exclusively in the realm of decree. It is the choice of God based upon His foreknowledge (His gracious covenant lovingkindness) manifested in His calling out a people to be His own. Scottish preacher and expositor, John Brown, says this commenting on the term election as it is used here in the first chapter of Peter’s epistle: “I apprehend the word ‘elect’ here, and in a number of other places in the New Testament, does not refer directly to what has been termed the electing decree, but to the manifestation of it in the actually selecting certain individuals from amidst a world lying in wickedness, that they may be set apart to God, and become his peculiar people.”
He then quotes the puritan commentator, Robert Leighton, “Election here means the selecting them out of the world and joining them to the fellowship of the people of God.” This is the election of which our Lord speaks when he says, “Because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen [elected] you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” (John 15:19)
When we connect election with God’s calling a people out to be His own special possession, it helps us to see how the biblical writers most often use this term. Election, to Peter, is not something secret and unknowable but something manifested openly and public to all the world in the Church of Christ Jesus. God’s purpose in election is always carried out in terms of His public calling men into communion with Himself.
Thus, Peter utilizes the term to describe the choosing of Christ to be the Messiah, the chosen servant of God, and then uses it to describe all those who come to Him and are united to Him. For Peter, election is rooted and revealed in Christ (and in the Church, His body). He certainly wouldn’t deny the fact that God has chosen specific individuals before the foundation of the world for eternal salvation, but he thinks of election in terms of being publicly marked out and identified with Christ, the elect One.
Nor does this mean that we should view election as merely general. Rather, election is imminently personal. It is, in the first place, the choosing of the Son of God to be the Messiah (the faithful servant who would accomplished redemption of the world) and secondly it applies concretely to all those who are joined to the Messiah by faith. Election is not, in this way of thinking, hidden and unknowable but publicly revealed in the person of Christ and in His body, the Church, which is the chosen, elect people. Thus, according to Peter, if you are a member of the Church, you are counted among the number of the elect. Further, if you depart from the church in apostasy and unbelief, you can no longer view yourself or be viewed by others as one of the elect because you have rejected and forsaken the Elect One, and the elect household. The elect are found only in the Church, the household of faith.