He Went and Proclaimed to the Spirits in Prison?

This blog post was written by Lexington teaching team resident Garrison Weiner

On October 16th, as part of our series ‘Exiles’ we discussed 1 Peter 3:19-22 and what it teaches about Christian faith and Baptism. This passage is one of those passages in Scripture that isn’t expressly clear on first read. Although Peter’s confusing language doesn’t conflict with the heart of the gospel or who God is... it still brings up the question, “What exactly are you talking about Peter?” 

The specific questions start at the end of v. 18 when Peter describes Jesus as “being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 19 in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, 20 because they formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah,”

Peter, who are these spirits in prison Jesus went to? When did he go to them? What did he preach?

In the sermon we talked about four historical options that have been often interpreted and debated from these verses in terms of answering the When, Who and What questions of this passage.


  1. When: During the days of Noah. 
    Who: Noah’s contemporaries. Who were live humans at the time, but have died since and are now spirits in prison because they didn’t listen to the message of grace that was preached to them. 
    What: Either Jesus’ spirit preached through Noah or Jesus’ Spirit preached on His own the message that God is a God of grace and justice. That though they deserved spiritual punishment for their sinful rejection of God, He was making a way of grace for them. All they had to do was humbly repent, trust in God and get in the boat Noah was making.
  2. When: During the time of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
    Who: Noah’s contemporaries who are literally dead spirits in prison at the time that Jesus is preaching to them.
    What: In this case, the message was some manner of triumph and victory; “See I told you. I’ve conquered suffering and made a way for people to be set free from death, but you can have no part of it because you rejected Me.” It can’t be that Jesus offered Noah’s contemporaries a second chance at grace after death because of Hebrews 9:27, “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.”
  3. When: During the time of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
    Who: Demonic spiritual beings who were at work in the days of Noah.
    What: In this case, the message is similar to the above case; triumph and victory accomplished through the cross despite these beings work to subvert God’s plan.
  4. When: During the time of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
    Who: Those who died in faith and are in the Jewish place of the dead - sheol.
    What: In this case, Peter is referring to Jesus leading a jailbreak of sorts for God’s people in the Old Testament who died in faith but haven’t been brought into paradise yet. 

As we mentioned in the sermon, option 1 seems to be the best explanation for Peter’s line of thought. While Noah was building the boat, God was making His appeal through Jesus’ Spirit working in the midst of Noah’s faithful and costly obedience. Noah lived the exile life that Peter argues for throughout this entire letter. God patiently offered His mercy through Noah’s humble obedience. And in the same way when we get baptized (v. 21-22), it corresponds to our walking in Noah’s footsteps; receiving God’s gracious favor, trusting our lives in humble obedience to the vessel of God’s grace, and praying for God to patiently proclaim His mercy through our exile lives.

My main problem with options 2 and 3 are motive. What would be Jesus’ motivation for proclaiming triumph to a certain subset of people or demons in hell? Why preach that message at all at this timeframe? And why not preach that message to all of them? And how exactly does this explain any of the context that Peter brings up? 

Comparatively option 4 is a very Biblical and reasonable idea, but I don’t think it’s what Peter is talking about here. If you’re interested in studying some more of the Scriptural position behind this option and what the significance of Jesus descending to Hell might be, you can check out this helpful blog.

The Bible does have confusing passages and when we come upon them it’s worthwhile to consider historical interpretations; cross references with the rest of Biblical truth; and categorically understand that the importance of nailing down a particular interpretation of a particular passage often relates to the importance of the questions being answered. In this case, little if anything that is central to the Christian faith is at risk. The only question is to figure out, “Peter what exactly are you talking about?

Missional Marriage

This blog post was written by teaching team and women's ministry resident Morgan Duke.

My name is Morgan. I am a part-time resident here at Midtown, a part-time nurse, and a full-time fiancee, engaged to one incredibly handsome, hunk-of-a man. In light of the passage on exile husbands and wives we studied a few weeks ago, 1 Peter 3:1-6, I was asked to write about what it means to be a part of God’s mission through marriage from the perspective of someone who is engaged. So I started thinking about it and quickly realized:

There are so many things vying for my attention in engagement...

The actual wedding planning is always there. Did I mention that’s my third part-time job at this point? We’re talking decor, vendors, food, venue, music, guest lists, invitations etc. etc. etc. So many decisions about things I’ve never in my life had strong preferences about. 

Then there’s the family drama that comes with wedding planning.

And there’s premarital counseling. You know, that fun little endeavor where you go in thinking these nice counselors are going to help you fix your very sinful fiance... only to casually realize that you’re the worst of all sinners. 

And we’re supposed to have date nights where we don’t talk about wedding stuff and just enjoy each other. Which takes coordination and time when you’re working with weird schedules and two different lifegroups.

And we’re supposed to be having conversations about big things and small things, like parenting and chores and expectations and budgeting. Andrew and I hadn’t explicitly had any of those conversations prior to engagement, so for my type A planning self, I want to have all of them at once. He (wisely) slows me down, but I’m left with all of the thoughts y’all. My mental list of “things we need to talk about stat!” is overwhelming. Nevermind all the time and energy it takes to actually have the conversations.

And--for our own personal health--we’re individually trying to fight for time with Jesus. No snarky comments on this one. Time with Jesus is massively important. Necessary, even. Dare I say “the good portion; the one necessary thing”? (Luke 10:38-42). And still, it requires time, mental energy and emotional investment.

And the list could go on and on. It’s like as soon as that knee is dropped, a hundred different thoughts and demands start piling up. And then a well-meaning friend asks, 

“….Oh yeah, and how are you guys going to be missional in marriage?”

To be quite blunt, if being on mission is one more thing to add to the schedule and learn how to do, I have absolutely no idea. We probably won’t. There just isn’t any time and there isn’t any energy and there isn’t space. 


We’re already being missional right now. Where we are. If God’s mission can be can be planted and blossom right in the everyday rhythms of life; right where I am, then there’s a chance.

Building with people and speaking the gospel into their lives is not my primary posture toward life. I value efficiency, so investing in relationships requires hard work and energy. It just doesn’t happen apart from that Holy Spirit prompting me to care about the things Jesus cares about. 

And He is slowly but surely reminding me of how greatly he cares for people.
He is slowly but surely opening my eyes to see opportunities to join Him. 
Even in the midst of this crazy engagement season.

He isn’t letting me fall for the lie that my engagement is all about me.

And by His guidance He is continually reminding me that:

Being on mission is an active part of my walk with Jesus; woven into the everyday rhythms of my life; not some added extra thing to throw on top

Or here’s another way to put it:

Marriage isn’t the catalyst for mission, Jesus is. 

When seen through this lens, mission isn’t some additional thing married couples have to learn or only married people can do. We all get to join God’s mission here. 

But I’m only half of the equation in a marriage. My counterpart probably isn’t going to be prompted into loving Jesus and people because of a ring on his finger. Part of the reason I’m so incredibly attracted to Andrew is that he loves people. He loves them well. He naturally opens his life to invite others in, he seeks relationships and being around people. 

One of the reasons I want to marry him is that he is already on mission. He is already loving and seeking to share the good news of Jesus with those around him. I trust that. It’s something I get to join in on, that we’ve been doing separately and now get to do together. 

When it comes to the person you’re intending to marry: do they love Jesus apart from your prompting or do they act like they love Jesus just to appease you? One of those is going to make loving Jesus and loving people so much easier and more beautiful as you join your lives. The other will create all kinds of tension and strain. Do their eyes glaze over when you talk about Jesus like He’s alive and you love Him? Do they know Christian words but show no evidence of intending to live out those words in humble obedience? If the answer is yes to either of those questions, why are you marrying this person? Why are you ignoring what your soul level discernment knows clearly? If you’re engaged, I’m begging you to reevaluate the lifelong decision you’re about to make. 

Talk to Jesus, talk to community you trust. And do what you know you need to do.


Marriage as a Gospel picture

Marriage does, however, create a unique opportunity for putting the gospel on display. Lets look at Ephesians:

"Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body."
                                                                                               Ephesians 5:22-30

Ladies: I know we hate the word “submission”. And some of us for good reason--it has frequently been distorted, abused and used in terribly inappropriate contexts. So wives, to get to see how this is actually a beautiful picture of Jesus, check out Luke 22 specifically verse 42. Jesus lived his life in humble submission to the Father. “Father if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.” Jesus invites us to look more like him by relinquishing our control. By voicing our thoughts, but in the rare times unanimous accord can’t be reached; letting our husbands lead out and make the call. Jesus invites us to trust Him to love us, care for us, and ultimately to secure our souls, so that we can let our husbands lead--and give them grace to not always lead perfectly. 

Gents: Y’all have the task of loving your wives like Christ loved the church. Jesus loves his bride perfectly, yes, but I don’t think that’s what Paul is saying here...no one is that good. The call is to point your wife towards Jesus; towards her source of redemption, sanctification, life. To respect and love her, treating her with the care and compassion Christ shows the church. To lead in a way that sacrifices your preferences for her needs; not to save her but to point her consistently to her Savior. I can’t imagine the weight of that role, guys. For those of you who are faithfully stepping into that, thank you, genuinely. For those of you who aren’t, I’m begging you. I’ve spent enough time with women’s ministry now to see the damage you cause to your lady when you don’t sacrificially love her and point her towards Jesus. For all of you men, if you will step into this, you will find good news for this weighty role: Jesus is gladly waiting to face you and walk with you in this fight. He’s already covered all of our failures and He ultimately is our (and our family’s) security, identity, worth, love. Lead your family deeper into that love and understanding and you’ve nailed it. 

Have y’all ever seen a couple that loves like that? The wife trusts her husband; not because he’s perfect, but because she’s so confident in the Lord. And a husband who loves his wife; not because he needs to be fulfilled or satisfied, but out of the overflow of love of Jesus. No couples are perfect, but when I see glimpses of that gospel motivated love, I learn more about the character of God. I want it; I want Him. I am more motivated to love and seek him. 

Andrew and I have had conversations about opening up our home and our lives. I’m assuming marriage is going to take a lot of learning and will probably look super messy the first few years. But our prayer is that as we open our--most likely literally and figuratively-- messy home to others, they see more of Jesus as he grows in us. As he chooses to show Himself through us. Not because we’re perfect, but because we’re seeking him.

10 Types of Biblical Suffering

This blog post was written by pastor Jon Ludovina and teaching team resident Garrison Weiner.

“For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.”   -Psalm 62:1-2

At some point we will all experience different types of suffering. It’s a difficult reality of living in a fractured world. Everything down here is touched by brokenness. But in the midst of the darkness, Christ has given us a new and living hope (1 Peter 1:3-4). He’s rescued us from sin, promised to walk with us through life and to guide us into the next. As God’s redeemed people we can come to him in our suffering and rest in Him. 

With that in mind here are 10 types of suffering we mentioned in week 7 of our series Exiles, a study of 1 Peter, which you can find here. We hope this is a helpful tool to understand your own suffering, relate to other people’s sufferings and learn how to pray and walk together as God’s exile people:

  1. Creation Suffering. This is a very broad category. Every inch of God’s creation has been tainted by sin and it’s effects. Natural disasters, terminal diseases and the sting of death wreak havoc. Much of suffering can be explained with nothing more than, “this is what it’s like to live in a broken world.” We hurt along with creation itself which groans while it waits to be renewed. (Romans 8:19-22)
  2. Grief Suffering. The painful reality is we’re all going to see sin take a lot of things away from us. Sin and death and suffering has a traumatic impact on the human soul and the right response is grief. A heart-wrenching cocktail of sadness and anger. People we love die and we grieve. Relationships fall apart and we grieve. We fight and struggle with sin and we grieve. (Ps 31:9-10, 1 Peter 1:6)
  3. Consequential Suffering. All sin has collateral damage; both in our own souls and in the people around us. When we actively sin we will experience consequences; and these are often very painful. The Bible states clearly that we are one of the main sources of pain in our lives. (Romans 6:23, Romans 7:21-25)
  4. Victim Suffering. Even when we’re not sinning and suffering our own consequences, we will often suffer as other people sin against us; sometimes in really harmful ways. Abuse, trauma, oppression and other forms of evil are painful realities throughout the world. (Psalm 9:9)
  5. Empathetic Suffering. Watching someone you love suffer is one of the most painful experiences on earth. God calls His people to identify with the hurting; to mourn with those who mourn. As well those who work in helping professions (counselor, social work, medical, etc.) will walk in this consistently. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, Romans 12:15)
  6. Collective Suffering. This is when you suffer because you belong to a larger group of people who are suffering. We are part of families, nations and ethnic groups. When our group hurts, we hurt. Collective suffering often has a disproportionate effect on minorities. (Judges 21:1-3)
  7. Preventative/Discipline Suffering. Some pain is a small pain now that warns us of greater pain coming if we don’t heed the warning (e.g. abdominal pain that indicates appendicitis). Another example is when a loving parent gives their child a small yet painful consequence now to prevent much greater pain later in their life. (Hebrews 12:7-11)
  8. Holiness Suffering. When we follow Jesus for the sake of walking in Gods footsteps we will experience the suffering of laying down our fleshly desires and fighting our sin. This battle with the flesh will hurt, and our suffering for righteousness’ sake reveals what an incredible treasure Jesus is. (Romans 5:1-8, 1 Peter 4:1-6)
  9. Opposition Suffering. Jesus warned His followers that just following Him will lead to suffering at times. Historically, God’s people have frequently suffered at the hands of those who oppose God. Opposition suffering can range from taunting, getting made fun of all the way to the extreme of physically persecution and martyrdom. (John 15:20)
  10. Missional Suffering. Jesus endured suffering to show off how much God loves those who are far from them. We will sometimes be called to do the same to sacrificially love people far from God. (Romans 5:6-8, Colossians 1:24)

It’s important to remember that this list isn’t close to exhaustive, and suffering rarely cuts so clean as to fit neatly into one category. Suffering is often a mysterious combination of of multiple categories and sometimes it has little to no answer at all. However, studying and meditating on these types of suffering can help you respond well to someone who is in pain. It can also encourage you as you delve into and process your own pain. Prayerfully consider what types of suffering you’re dealing with and look to the Scriptures to see how God responds to those dealing with suffering similar to yours.

Bad Reasons to Vote for Someone; and Good Questions to Ask

This blog post was written by teaching team resident Garrison Weiner and pastor Jon Ludovina.

Election season is upon us. 

Like a sleazy guy hitting on you at a bar.

I can’t tell you who to vote for. Or who not to vote for. Biblically, I can’t even tell you as a Christian that you absolutely should or should not vote. But I can tell you the good news of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection gives us new perspective and a new identity. 

Christian Perspective in the Voting Booth

God has done all the work to save us from the dominion of darkness. God has sovereignly held the world together from its foundation and He will continue to do so until He decides it’s time to bring the new heaven and the new earth. No result in this election speaks ultimate hope or devastation for us as individuals or as a nation. God is our hope. Not Trump. Not Clinton. Not Johnson. 

Christian Identity in the Voting Booth

If you choose to vote, do so remembering that you’ve been made part of God’s redeemed family. Vote knowing that we walk in the balanced tension of being holy exiles; citizens of heaven first and foremost. And modern patriotic Americans secondly. With these two identities we are invited to democratically participate or abstain knowing no action or outcome will dictate who we are. 

If your candidate loses, you are still God’s kid. Secure, loved, and full of hope. 
If your candidate wins, we still have work to do as God’s missionary exiles that the government cannot and will not do for us.

So, Who Should I Vote For? 

Remembering that as a Christian you are free to vote or not vote as you prayerfully choose, but I want to give you some help if you do decide to vote for someone. If you choose to vote, please prayerfully consider these bad reasons to vote for someone and good questions to ask as you pick your candidate:

Bad Reasons to Vote for Someone:

  • Guilt. I think I’ve thought this before, “If I don’t vote then I’m not a real American.” Or, “I’m wasting my hard earned right to vote. Soldiers died for this. I better care.” The good news for me and you as believers is that we belong to a greater kingdom. Our foremost allegiance is to Jesus, not America. We are free to embrace our rights as citizens by participating or abstaining. We live in the land of the free, but we know ultimate freedom is found in Christ. Freedom from guilt, condemnation and putting our identity in American ideals.
  • Biased media told me to. If you only listen to one media outlet, it’s kind of like only eating one food group. You’re not going to get a balanced diet. To be informed we have to listen to the talking points of the candidate instead of solely listening to others opinions. And we have to make sure the candidates actions back up their talking points. 
  • “I’ve always voted _____ .” My family is ______ .   As Christians it doesn’t make a lot of sense to be straight ticket voters. There will be certain issues and approaches we agree with from both sides of the ticket. If you dismiss someone or vote for someone simply because they have a [R] or [D] beside their name, you’re exercising your right to laziness; not your right to thoughtfully vote. 
  • Because I think they’ll fix everything. Biblically, in order for a candidate to fix everything they would need to live a perfect life, sinless and holy. Then they would need to die one of the most gruesome deaths imaginable and be resurrected. Instead of worrying about whether a candidate will fix all our problems or not, we can trust and rejoice because God who has redeemed us. And God will sustain us through all our worries and struggles in this broken world.

If you do choose to vote and you’re trying to faithfully avoid the above pitfalls, here are some helpful questions to ask as you seek to use your vote well:

Good Questions to Ask:

  • Are they trustworthy? Politicians can be really good at putting on a face. Every American politician faces the temptation to deceive to save face and get elected. Is the candidate committed to living with integrity? Have they been caught in lies? Are they willing to admit and own their mistakes and failures? (Proverbs 16:10-13, Proverbs 25:19).
  • Do they show conviction? Part of leading with integrity is remaining faithful to what you believe. Do they only say what they think is popular or what they think will get them elected? Have they displayed a willingness to fight for unpopular positions? Have they displayed a consistent worldview and philosophy that is foundational to their policies? People are allowed to change their opinions, but wishy-washy beliefs and pandering for blocks of voters are unhealthy character traits for a leader. (Proverbs 3:3-4, Proverbs 28:20).
  • Do they show compassion? Does the candidate care about people? Do they tend to villainize anyone who disagrees with them or is affiliated with a different party? Is there evidence that they intend to use their office as a way to serve people? Or do they desire their office to serve them? (Psalm 34:18, 1 Peter 3:8, Proverbs 22:16, 22-23)
  • How are they going to spend money? I’m beginning to see how being financially responsible can shape the course of your entire life. As I’ve taken this into account personally, I realized I’ll be paying taxes for the rest of my life and if you’re an American citizen you’re probably in the same boat as me. The candidates that are running for office are going to be the ones handling that money. How are they going to utilize our money? If a candidate is responsible with money and has plans to utilize monetary resources efficiently, they’re worth considering (Psalm 112:5, Proverbs 16:8, 1 Tim. 6:17-19).

I know that these questions won’t necessarily give you an obvious candidate to vote for; but they’re all worthy of your prayer and consideration. As believers in Jesus we’ve been reconciled to God and given new identities. Being exiles in this world  we get to engage the culture we live in; whether we vote or not. We’re free to choose but either way, we are called to be united as church family. The candidates running for office this fall can’t save the world. But God can and is actively working to save our communities and our world. 

So Vote. Or don’t vote. 

But don’t forget who you are. 

The Freedom of Fear

This blog post was written by one of our teaching team residents, Cole Simpson.

We all Fear Something


Everyone, at least at some level, is afraid. 

And rather than ignore, deny, or tell us to just stop fearing, Peter redirects it. Two times specifically, he tells us to fear God. First, in chapter 1 Peter is talking to fellow believers about what they should and should not do and gives them an interesting command, “Conduct yourselves with fear in your time of exile(1 Peter 1:17). And in chapter 2 where he says simply, “Fear God” (1 Peter 2:17).
These examples in 1 Peter aren’t unique instances throughout Scripture. The Bible actually calls us to fear God over 300 times. But in light of God’s love, mercy, grace and overall character, this command can seem confusing or even contradictory to the good news of what God has done for us. 

So what does it mean to fear God?

Unhealthy Fear

I had a friend growing up who I’ll call Mike. Mike was a tough kid -- the toughest kid I’ve ever met. He wasn’t afraid of anything. Multiple times I saw him get into arguments with people twice his size and every time the larger kid cowered. No matter how much bigger or stronger, nobody fought or messed with Mike.
This always baffled me until one day I was with him and his dad walked up to talk to us.  His dad was small; nothing particularly impressive or intimidating about his stature. But suddenly everything about Mike changed.  The toughest kid I knew got very quiet. He wouldn’t look his father in the eyes. His only words were a quick “yes sir” or “no sir”. And Mike didn’t go back to normal until his father walked away. 
As time went on I noticed this more and more. Until finally, a light bulb went off. Mike was comfortable fighting absolutely anyone because he had been fighting his entire life. My concerns were confirmed when the truth came out that his dad had been beating him most of his life. He wasn’t afraid of anything because he experienced hell everyday at home. What else was there to fear?
This is the kind of picture that came to mind when I read the words “Fear the Lord” in the Scriptures. Like many of us, this command was distressing for me because I didn’t want to follow God if I had to view Him like Mike’s dad.

Healthy Fear

I had another friend growing up who I’ll call Clara. Clara was the type of girl that everybody gravitated towards. She just had the ability to make anyone and everyone feel welcomed. It didn’t matter who you were or where you came from; Clara wanted to listen to your story. 
When Clara got into high school there was a guy that was interested in her. When he asked her out however, she told him he needed to ask her dad. While this would scare off many, he was seriously into her so he asked her dad. Clara’s dad said yes they could on one condition. 

Their first date would be dinner with their family. 

When most of my friends were fooling around, hooking up, and dating whomever they wanted with next to no parental involvement, this sounded sort of ludicrous to me. But what came next was downright craziness. For the entire first year of their relationship, they only went on dates at Clara’s house!

I remember asking Clara why she put up with it? Why she wasn’t angry? Why she didn’t think her parents were being ridiculous? She smiled and said:

Nobody loves me more than my parents, so if they think this is what I need to do, then I trust them”.

It was one of the most beautiful statements I’ve ever heard. 

Clara’s view of her parents encapsulates a huge part of how the Bible describes our fear of God. In realizing how much God loves us, how could we trust anything above him?  Clara had a humility about herself and a rigorous trust in her parents. A healthy trust. A healthy respect. And a fear. 

A healthy fear.
Fearing the Lord means we rigorously trust Him. We humbly submit ourselves to Him with a healthy respect and fear. It means, God gets the biggest voice in our life. 

The Freedom of Fearing the Lord

The reality is that fearing the Lord gives us a freedom that we can never attain apart from it.  

Fear of the Lord kills insecurity. The God of the universe, who created the stars in the heavens also formed me individually (Psalms 139:13-18). We can rest in the fact that God, our Father, loves us more than anyone else ever could (Romans 8:37-39)

We no longer have to fear man because we know that God is the only voice that matters and in Christ His thoughts towards us are, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17) No one else’s judgment compares to the judgment of our loving, and fearful Father.

We are freed to love those around us fully. No longer are we enslaved to using the people around us to fill our needs of approval, power, control, or comfort.  Instead of continuing to run to unsatisfying idols (Jeremiah 2:13) we can run to God,  the true fountain of life (John 4:13-14), and be satisfied. 

Fear of God means politics and politicians aren’t ultimate. So if my candidate loses or the worst candidate ever wins, I can remain confident that God will hold the universe together (Romans 13:1)

The almighty, holy, God of the universe came to the earth and died on a cross while we were still dead, so that me and you, unrighteous sinners who deserve hell, could know him (Romans 5:8, Luke 12:5).  How could we not fear him?

Our Exile Heritage

This blog post was written by Pastor Jon Ludovina and Cole Simpson.

1 Peter 1:1-2

"Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
     To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:
     May grace and peace be multiplied to you."

The Dispersion:

Dispersion comes from the Greek word ‘Diaspora’ which means “to distribute in foreign lands” or “to scatter abroad.” Historically, it refers to those Israelites who had been exiled into the surrounding lands of Egypt, Babylon and Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) throughout the Old Testament and hadn’t returned to Jerusalem under Zerubbabel, Ezra or Nehemiah. 
There is some debate as to why exactly Peter uses the term as he greets these Christians in churches scattered throughout Asia Minor. Some scholars argue that these believers were literal exiles from Rome who Peter had ministered to before they were scattered under Caesar Claudius’ non-violent Expulsion in 49 AD. As the Roman Emperor, Claudius found the Jews and the young Christian movement annoying and disruptive. So he had 50,000 Jews and Christians sent into new Roman colonies. 
Others argue that Peter’s use of the term is simply describing Asia Minor as one of the areas that the Israelites in Old Testament exile had been scattered to. 
Regardless of these differing views, what’s agreed upon fundamentally is that Peter understands and wants these Christians to understand that upon receiving new birth in Jesus, God gives us an identity as exiles. We are God’s scattered family of vagabonds. Resident aliens living in a foreign land as an envoy of emissaries (Philippians 3:20, 1 Peter 2:11-12). And this concept -- a major theme of Peter’s letter -- has a rich and powerful history amongst God’s peoples.

The First Exiles:

Since the Garden of Eden God’s people have been exiled. Adam and Eve were removed from their garden home after choosing sin over God (Genesis 3:23-24). Following in their footsteps, all of humanity has tasted the curse of sin; the reality of living in a world that is only a temporary home. 

"We all long for Eden, and we are constantly glimpsing it: our whole nature at its best and least corrupted, its gentlest and most human, is still soaked with the sense of exile."
-Author: J.R.R. Tolkien

The Father of an Exile Nation:

In Genesis 12, God calls Abram and promises to make him the father of a great nation. But this incredible promise comes with the condition that Abram must leave his homeland and travel to a foreign land. Unlike Adam and Eve who were forced into exile by their sinful lack of faith, Abram chooses to embrace God’s call to live as an exile because he is filled with faith. 

Exiles in Egypt:

Abraham’s great grandson, Joseph becomes an exile in Egypt not because of his sin but because of the sins of his jealous brothers (Genesis 37). And God uses Joseph’s exile to eventually save millions of people from a coming famine. Joseph rises to power and social prominence in the Egyptian empire. His family moves to Egypt and multiplies greatly. 
Then Joseph dies and is forgotten about. 
And the Israelites lose their place of social prominence in Egyptian culture. This movement from the center of society to the fringes quickly turns into violent persecution. Moses is hidden by his parents because the Egyptians were brutally murdering Israelites boys under 2 years of age (Exodus 1-2). He grows up in wealth and power as Pharaoh’s adopted son. Until God leads him to leave this place of centrality and lead God’s people out of slavery. 

Exiles in Babylon:

After God uses Moses to deliver His people out of slavery, they take a long windy road to the Promised Land. Then in 607 BC the reign of  King Nebuchadnezzar II spread throughout the Middle East. Stage by stage the Babylonians conquer and exile the elite Israelites out of Jerusalem and into Babylon. Eventually the Babylonians decimate Jerusalem, destroy the temple, burn the houses, and over 10,000 Israelites are forcibly exiled to Babylon (Daniel 1, Jeremiah 25). 

In Summary: 

God’s people have always been exiles. 

Well, pretty much always. Throughout history, God’s people spend significantly more time in exile than out of it. And they get there in a manner of different ways: because of their own sins (Genesis 3), because of the sins of others (Genesis 37), because of their national idolatry (Jeremiah 25), because of tyrannical empires overtaking them (Daniel 1, 9), and even because of faithful decisions to trust and follow God to a new homeland (Genesis 12). But no matter the reason, God is always in the midst of it, working to save His people and the people around them. He leads His people to embrace their identity as missionary exiles; heaven’s outpost embassy. 

Christians as Exiles:

Peter, raised as a pious Israelite, brings all of this history to account when he calls the Christians in his letter exiles. He’s reminding them that God has continually worked for salvation no matter how painful the circumstances of His people are. He’s reminding them that God is with them, whether they are treated well by their culture or not. No matter the situation that got them into exile in the first place, God has never and will never abandon His people. 

Exiles in the Roman Empire:

After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the gospel of grace spread throughout Rome very quickly. Despite the rapid spread, Christians were not well liked in general by Rome. This was largely due to the fact that they held their allegiance to Jesus higher than their allegiance to the Roman Empire. The common cultural perception was that they were at best weird and at worst dangerous. 

Tension also rose between Jews who did not believe that Jesus was the Son of God and the new Messianic sect of Jews who did believe he was the son of God (a.k.a. many of the early Christians). This tension resulted in Jews aggressively persecuting Christians all the way to the extreme of death because the Jews believed the Christians were twisting and perverting Judaism. This persecution is seen in the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7), Paul’s persecution (Acts 8) and also leads to the martyrdom of James, Jesus’ brother. This conflict also caused riots in the synagogues which ultimately led to Claudius expelling the more than 50,000 Jews and Christians, like we mentioned before.  

However this persecution was not limited to the Jewish Christians. As the church invited in new Jewish and Gentile believers, Gentile Christians were also marginalized and mistreated by their non believing friends because they had turned away from their old ways to the ways of Christ (1 Peter 4:1-6). 

In other words, no matter who you were as a Christian at the time, you were likely to experience some type of exile treatment; from smaller forms of marginalization to more violent forms of persecution. 

Modern Exiles:

Like the Christians Peter wrote to in Asia Minor, we are now called to pick up the mantle of living as exiles for the benefit of the world around us by seeing and knowing and glorifying Jesus. The purpose of God’s people has always been to be a lamppost in the darkness; a city on a hill that proclaims and shows off God’s beauty to the world (Matthew 5:14).  

In America and much of the West, we are culturally approaching the end of a period known as Christendom. As a strong contrast to most of the history of God’s people, Christendom saw Christian values and the church take a central role at the core of society. Many of the effects of this are still seen in the South; people claiming to be Christians with little to no active love or desire to follow Him; networking by putting Christian symbols on business materials, etc. So for many people, moving from Christendom to a more post-Christian will be a rocky transition. 

But as God’s people, our purpose has never been to demand a central role in our society here and now. As God’s people, our purpose is to glorify him in whatever cultural circumstance we find ourselves. We look forward to a coming land where Jesus will be central to all of culture. And we allow that future hope to empower us to live as exile missionaries no matter where we are. Because we know this isn't our home. So we don’t need it to maximize our comfort. Exiles are freed up to love on their neighbors with little demands on what kind of treatment we receive in return. 

Exactly like Jesus came to a foreign land as an exile. 

Exactly like He was mistreated by His neighbors.

And kept on loving them anyway.

So that now we can go from being His enemies to being His friends. From being strangers to being His family. And from being citizens of earth to being citizens of heaven, sent on an exile mission with Jesus, the Exile of all exiles.