Studies in First Peter
Conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile (sojourning) (1 Peter 1:17 ESV)
Peter’s second section of his epistle, in 1:13-2:10, shows the work of the Holy Spirit inside of each Christian making them ready for heaven through the three-part process of sanctification. Peter uses the word paroikos, a different word than used in 1:1, to show the kingdom of heaven on earth and the power of the Holy Spirit to set the Christian apart for holy service. A paroikos is a person from another kingdom who lives in a place for only a short time in order to accomplish a specific goal or purpose. They are citizens of God’s kingdom and are simply passing through the world to their true home.
Paroikos is the second Greek word Peter uses and is also translated exile but actually means a person who is stopping over or staying for a short period of time as they travel from once place to the next. They may be a businessman or even a tourist. “And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile (sojourn) (1Peter 1:17 ESV). Other writers of the New Testament use the same word in the same sense, referring to those who are simply traveling through a country for a short time, unlike the immigrant who will stay indefinitely.
During Paul’s first missionary journey, he traveled to various cities speaking to the local Jews and others who would listen. In Antioch of Pisidia, on the Sabbath, Paul gave those who were listening a history lesson about the nation of Israel. “The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay (dwelt as strangers, paroikia) in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it” (Acts 13:17 ESV). Stephen, before he was murdered, gave the history of Israel as part of his witness and defense of the gospel. “And God spoke to this effect—that his offspring would be sojourners (paroikos) in a land belonging to others, who would enslave them and afflict them four hundred years” (Acts 7:6 ESV). Paul wrote to the Ephesians stating that where they had been estranged from God they were now able to live in His presence. “So then you are no longer strangers (xenos) and aliens (sojourners, paroikos), but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19 ESV).
Unlike the parapedemos, the alien immigrant, the paroikos, stranger, has decided to be in the host country for a short, designated time. There is no thought of adopting the culture, language or identity of the visited country because they are not going to stay. They are a traveler, a tourist, a businessperson, who is only in the country to gain something the country has and then return to their own country. They may just be travelling through on their way to another place or on their way home. The may be visiting out of curiosity, for an experience. They may be on a business trip, to gain a product or a treaty. They are using the host country to meet their needs, wants or desires.
The Christian, not a citizen of this world, still lives in the world, and is extended rights and privileges commensurate with that standing. Those who are reborn are no longer native-born citizens and therefore will not conform to the standards demanded by native-born citizens. The Christian is a foreigner, residing for a short time in a place not his home. God uses the world in which we live as a training ground for eternity, teaching us that which we need to know about Himself and His kingdom before He finally brings the Christian home. Christians are citizens of the kingdom of heaven in the world for only a short time. Life may seem long, but when compared with eternity, which is not constrained by time, is only a blip on the timeline of history.