The Expository Files

"To Whom it May Concern"

1 Peter 2:11

To whom is 1 Peter 2:11 addressed? "Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul."

In the context, the answer is obvious. It is addressed to the elect, the saved, to those who have been redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, to those who purified their souls in obeying the truth, to those who have been born again, to those who constitute a spiritual house, having been called out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Pet. 1:2, 18, 19, 22, 23; 2:5-9).

However, those who believe the Calvinistic doctrines of total depravity and "once saved, always saved," cannot answer the question, "To whom is the passage addressed?" Let us see why  they cannot hold to their doctrines and be consistent with the word of God and those addressed in 1 Peter 2:11.

First, is the text written to the unsaved, to children of the devil? No, as we have shown, that cannot be the case. Further, the sinner cannot be spoken to, for he, according to the creeds of men, is born totally depraved, completely defiled in all faculties of the soul and body. Thus, fleshly lusts cannot war against his soul. His soul is already as evil and corrupt as it can be. There would be no need to say that fleshly lusts war against his soul. Those lusts are in harmony with his corrupted nature, not at war with it. Hence, Calvinists (Baptists, Presbyterians, etc.) cannot say that 1 Peter 2:11 is directed to the lost.

Second, is the text aimed at the saved, the children of God? Yes, as we previously noted in the context, it is pointed toward those who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ. But this answer contradicts Calvinistic conclusions. Those who subscribe to the doctrine of unconditional eternal security cannot say the passage is speaking to the saved, because they do not believe that "fleshly lusts war against the soul" of the saved.

They believe that a saved person's soul is untouched and untainted by the assaults and ravages of "fleshly lusts." The body, they say, remains a child of the devil, but the soul, once cleansed by the blood of Christ, cannot be affected by sin. The soul of the redeemed is as pure and safe as God himself, they say. Therefore, "fleshly lusts" cannot corrupt or condemn it. So, according to their view Peter could not have focused his remark upon those who have been born again.

As we have seen, Calvinists cannot consistently contend that 1 Peter 2:11 is addressed to either the saved or to the unsaved. Then, to whom does it refer? Will they tell us?

Often, when writing a letter and not knowing to whom it may apply, one may begin his salutation with, "To whom it may concern." Perhaps this is what our Calvinist friends will have to do with 1 Peter 2:11.

By Larry Ray Hafley
From Expository Files 7.2; February 2000