Strangers

The Apostle Peter’s letter to believers began with this greeting, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied” (1 Peter 1:1-2). The Greek word translated strangers, parepidemos (par-ep-id’-ay-mos) means “an alien alongside that is a resident foreigner” (G3927). It is clear from the rest of Peter’s salutation that he was addressing born again Christians. The reason he referred to them as strangers may have had something to do with his unique understanding of the kingdom of heaven.

Peter went on to talk about Christ as our corner stone and said, “Come to Christ as to a living stone. Men have put Him aside, but He was chosen by God and is of great worth in the sight of God. You are to be as living stones in the building God is making also. You are His religious leaders giving yourselves to God through Jesus Christ. This kind of gift pleases God. The Holy Writings say, ‘See, I lay down in Jerusalem a Stone of great worth, worth far more than any amount of money. Anyone who puts his trust in Him will not be ashamed'” (1 Peter 2:4-6, NLV). Peter used the metaphor of living stones to convey the idea of being spiritually alive in a material body. He also wanted to explain how Christians come together to form the body of Christ. Just as bricks or stones are individual pieces of a building, each believer contributes to the overall structure that is referred to as the house of God or body of Christ i.e. the church.

The key to understanding Peter’s view of the kingdom of heaven may be found in 1 Peter 2:11-12 where it says, “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.” A building and in particular a house is a physical representation of the people that occupy it. Certain types of structures give the impression of wealth or prestige. The church in the sense of it being a collection of all the believers on Earth is a physical representation of the kingdom of heaven which is being displayed to the world through the lives of believers. That’s why Peter said our good works, which can be seen by unbelievers, will glorify God by testifying to the reality of his kingdom and causing others to accept Christ.

The important thing to note about Peter’s use of the term stranger to refer to born again Christians is that strangers usually stand out in a neighborhood or community. A stranger isn’t someone that doesn’t belong there, but someone that hasn’t been assimilated into the culture. The Greek word parepidemos refers to someone that is bound to another set of rules or has an allegiance to a foreign government. Jesus told many parables about the kingdom of heaven and made it known to his followers that things don’t work the same way there. When a rich young ruler asked Jesus “what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16), Jesus told him that he needed to keep the commandments and then added, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Matthew 19:21, NKJV).