Steve Sewell, “Corporate Election in 1 Peter”

, posted by Steve Sewell


All Scripture quotations are from the 1901 American Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

1 Peter 2:3-10

3 if ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious: 4 unto whom coming, a living stone, rejected indeed of men, but with God elect, precious, 5 ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 Because it is contained in scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: And he that believeth on him shall not be put to shame. 7 For you therefore that believe is the preciousness: but for such as disbelieve, The stone which the builders rejected, The same was made the head of the corner; 8 and, A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence; for they stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. 9 But ye are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that ye may show forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: 10 who in time past were no people, but now are the people of God: who had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.

Peter presents a very clear picture of corporate election. Both Peter and Paul present election as corporate, and not as individualistic. It was a people group that God chose, not individuals. Peter says that we are “an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people.” In verse 5 he says that we are a “spiritual house.” All of those terms are corporate; they all have a people group in view, not individuals.

Furthermore, in verses 4 and 6, Peter reveals that the one individual He did choose was Christ. God chose His Son to be the Corporate Head of His people. He is God’s chosen to be the Savior of the world.

God chose to save mankind from the penalty of their sins. He chose one plan to save them, and that is through faith in His Son. Those who come to Him via His Son, He chooses to save. At the point of conversion, they enter into Christ’s election. In other words, our election is in Him. We are not among God’s people because we are “the elect,” but we become a part of the elect when we place our faith in Christ. It’s a people group that God has called out of this world for His glory. Together we are “the elect.”

Those who try to come to God via any other religion, or any other means, He rejects. They are the non-elect, or the non-chosen. God didn’t choose any other religion other than the one true religion that has as its Head the Lord Jesus Christ.

I want to add that, as a Jew, I believe this is the way Peter would have understood election. Israel was an elect nation, and only those born into this elect nation became a part it. Their election was in Abraham, the father of that nation. Thus he would naturally view our election as Christians as an elected people. This election of a people group continued on from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. As the the Jews’ election was in Abraham, so is our election in Christ. We are only elect as we are born into God’s family through faith in His Son.

What about what Peter says in 1 Peter 1:1-2?

1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 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.  (KJV)

Few Christians would dispute that God knows all things, and knows all things future. And there are many who believe that God chooses according to that foreknowledge. I don’t have a problem with that as long as it doesn’t include the idea that God chooses who will believe and who won’t. Such an idea is out of harmony with the holy and just character of God..

If someone believes that God elects those whom He knows will come to faith in Christ, that’s fine, as long as it’s within the framework of man’s freed will. However, I don’t believe God’s Word presents our election that way. I think both Paul and Peter make it clear that it’s the people of God as a group that God has chosen, beginning with the choosing of Christ His Son, the one individual He did choose.

So what is Peter saying in 1 Pet 1:1-2?

As we’ve already discussed, I think it’s clear that his view of election is corporate. Therefore, he is simply acknowledging them as being a part of the elect people of God, which is the Church. We are His called out people whom He foreknew before the foundation of the world. Together we are a spiritual nation.

Individually, we are a part of that spiritual nation, not because we come into this world with the word “elect” pinned to our chest, but because we placed our faith in Christ. It’s at that point that we enter into election, and become a part of the elect body of believers. [Editor’s note: For more on election in 1 Peter 1:1-2 from a corporate election perspective, see the election section of this article and towards the end of this article.]