The author identifies himself with great simplicity as simply ‘an apostle of Jesus Christ’. Apostle means ‘one who is sent’, and Peter here humbly proclaims himself as one send by Christ and vested with his authority. Of course, the Churches would have known well who he was, but as we shall see, it seems to have been characteristic of him to be humble and direct.
I have used the UK version of the NIV, not because I prefer it, but because I happen to have it with a good commentary. It uses the words ‘God’s elect, strangers in the world’ other versions use ‘chosen sojourners of the dispersion’. The ‘chosen’ or the ‘elect’ would have alerted the original readers and hearers to status of the children of Israel (Psalm 105:6: Isaiah 45:4). To be among the elect or chosen is to be blessed by God and to enjoy His favour. Peter will use the term to designate Christ 92:4, 6) and the people called forth by Him (2:9).
The ‘dispersion’ or the ‘sojourners’ raises the question as to whether the letter was addressed to Jews, as ‘diaspora’ was a term used to designate such Jews. It is, however, more likely that Peter is signalling a theme to which he will return in 2:11 – namely that Christians are strangers and exiles in this world, and that their relation to it is like that of the Jews who lived outside of the Holy Land.
The five Churches are in five Roman provinces in Asia Minor (modern Turkey, which was once the heartland of the Faith). In Acts 2:9 we are told that people from Pontus, Cappadocia and Asia, witnessed the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and heard Peter himself preach on the day of Pentecost; it would not be surprising if the Churches here were not founded by those very people, and it is rather wonderful to imagine the elders telling their congregations their memories of that great and ever-memorable day. Galatia was, of course, the site of one of St. Paul’s earliest missions and of one of his Epistles (Acts 14:1-20; Gal. 1:2). Interestingly, Acts 16:7 tells us that Paul was prevented from going to Bithynia, so it is interesting to see that by this date it had been evangelised (it is the part of north west Turkey on the Black Sea).
We can’t know, now, why these five Churches were chosen, but the explanation is likely to lie in the fact that they were all on a route well-trodden by Christian evangelists. 1 Peter 5:2 suggests that the letter is a general epistle to these churches and that its purpose was to testify to them about the ‘Grace of God’.