God’s Grace & Salvation, part 1

Peter begins this epistle with a practical doxology, that is, a word of praise which encompasses the present state of his readers (and himself) in the midst of affliction in the world. Though he and his readers are experience fiery trials, God is blessed for His power, salvation, & mercy. Further, this is the culmination of the eternal plan of God, the prediction of prophets & the curiosity of angels.

Living Hope – Born Out of Grace (1 Peter 1.3-12)

By God’s grace these Christians have been born again to a living hope, viz. the salvation of their souls through faith.

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

Blessed…Jesus Christ: This is verbatim the same as Paul in Ephesians (1.3) & 2 Corinthians (1.3). In the NT, the word “blessed” is used only of God; He alone is worthy to be blessed. People are blessed when they receive His blessings. The 1st person of the Godhead is God of the man Jesus Christ (see John 20.17, “my God”) and Father of God the Son. As the spring from which flows the fountain of “great mercy” & “salvation” (5, 9, 10) He is worthy of praise.

According to His great mercy: In His kindness He does not give us what our sin deserves.

He has caused us to be born again: A single word in the Greek. We were dead because of sin. Through the new birth we were given new life. This is the genesis of salvation. At some point in the past (aorist tense), we were born again. By the new birth God becomes the Father of all Christians.

To [a] living hope…from the dead: Our hope is rooted in the objective fact of history which is the resurrection of Jesus. Thus hope is the confident expectation of life after this life. Just as Christ was raised from the dead, so Christians are raised from spiritual death to eternal life.  In a single phrase Peter unites the beginning of our salvation (born again) with the consummation of our salvation (living hope). In fact, Christians are born again into (Gk eis) living hope.

How do we react when we face persecution & pressure from the world? When we face earthly stress & distress do we open our mouths in praise? Do we praise Him from our hearts? Do we contemplate His majesty & wisdom as a merciful God? Peter (and all of Scripture) shows us a better way. Contemplate the salvific acts and mercy of the blessed God, sing His glory and majesty, magnify Him lest we shrink under the weight of pressure.

4to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,

To an inheritance…kept in heaven for you: Here is the Christian’s hope—inheritance in heaven. The inheritance is eternal blessedness with God & Christ in heaven. It is 1) not subject to death or decay, 2) unsoiled & free from impurity, and 3) is pristine in brilliance, like a flower that never wilts. When Peter says it is kept (perf. pass.) or “reserved” (NASB) he is saying that God stored up this inheritance for saints and it continues to be there in heaven ready for us.

Many commentators draw a distinction between the Old Covenant inheritance (the Promised Land) and the New Covenant. Consider that the old inheritance was taken from the people of Israel for their many & various corruptions. But even while it was theirs it produced rewards that faded and decayed, defiled by sin. But now the new inheritance is “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven.” So vastly superior is the New Covenant inheritance.

They do it more at nicer restaurants (the kind of restaurants I tend to avoid) where you call ahead and reserve a table. Let’s say you did that before you came to service tonight: you’ve got a table reserved at the Branding Iron for some time after service. They reserved that table as soon as you called, maybe even put a little placard on the table that says “Reserved.” And they are keeping it reserved until you show up at the appointed time. It’s yours. So God has done for the Christian. You have a reservation in heaven made when you were born again. And your Father through the Son and in the Spirit are keeping it just “for you.” It’s yours!

5who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Who by…through faith: God’s power is more than sufficient for anything, including creation, miracles, resurrection, etc. Nothing is too hard for God (Jer 32.17). Christians are those being guarded (perf. pass.) by God’s power. This was a military term denoting the protection of a city from hostile invasion. So God protects us from a hostile onslaught from the world, the devil, & sin. We cooperate with this protection through faith, viz. continuing to trust in God.

For a salvation…the last time: When the last page of this world’s history is written and the veil of this physical world is pulled back & gives way to the spiritual reality is the last time. Then will our salvation be finally & fully revealed or uncovered to be enjoyed by the saints of God forever. When Peter wrote, this salvation was ready, right at the point of being revealed.

Some might object that a salvation “kept” or “reserved” for some future time is of no use in the here & now. Peter in the very same breath as he describes the reserved inheritance points us right back to the here & now – God is guarding us. We are not calmly secure in heaven, but we are mightily guarded by God’s power. The perfect tense indicates that we are continually guarded: when we were born into the kingdom of God, the protection began and it continues to this day so long as we cooperate with God “through faith.” “Faith is the instrument by means of which we grasp the Divine strength, so that it is made perfect in our weakness” (Caffin 5).

6In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,

In this you rejoice: In anticipation of the revelation of final salvation & reception of the hope. Verses 3-5 are the basis of these Christians’ joy. The term used for rejoice (Gk agalliao) denotes a deep, spiritual joy stemming from the mighty acts of God (cf. Luke 1.47; Acts 16.34).

Though now…various trials: Joy in the midst of suffering is of course a thoroughly Christian theme (see James 1.2ff). Peter has pointed these Christians ahead to “the last time” but now these Christians have been grieved and pressed by various trials. Though unspecified in this epistle, no doubt the state-sanctioned empire-wide persecution of Nero is in view. That these trials are “fiery” (4.12) might hint at the brutal practices of Nero. If necessary seems to be Peter’s way of saying “Since this is God’s will.”

7so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

So that…your faith: Here is what should be the product of trials for Christians—genuine faith. Tested genuineness is from a single word which had ties to metal working. So the faith of these Christians is verified in the crucible of trials, the furnace of fiery trials.

More precious…by fire: Gold under fire is separated from all impurities, they are burned away and only gold remains. So faith is refined in the furnace of trial & the process to arrive there is more valuable than testing gold in the crucible.

May be found…Jesus Christ: Genuine faith should result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus comes back. Praise from God (“Well done…”), glory which is Christ’s from before the world, & honor bestowed upon us in the crown of righteousness.

While many see the contrast as being between faith & gold and while that contrast is valid, Peter is ultimately contrasting the process of testing genuine faith with the refining of gold by fire. To remove all the dross and impurities from gold so that all you have is gold is impressive. However, the more momentous feat is the testing of faith by trials and coming through with deeper character, looking more like Christ. Just as impurities are removed from gold by fire, so fiery trials remove from the Christian such impurities as pride, self-reliance, gratification of the flesh. Add to this that gold “is perishable” (NASB) because one day everything will be burned up at the end, but faith abides along with hope & love.

In the span of three verses Peter has mentioned the final judgment twice: “the last time” (v.5) and “the revelation of Jesus Christ.” It is a firm reminder to Christians that we live eschatologically, ever looking forward to and living in light of that day of days when He who rolled everything out will roll it all back up. Therefore, we live life which praises God for His great mercy and wonderful salvation; we honor Him with our lives and walk worthily; we are changed from degree of glory to another degree day-by-day as we live for Him. If we would see & receive praise, honor, & glory we must live praise, honor, & glory.

8Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,

Though…you love Him: Unlike Peter who was a witness of Christ’s sufferings (5.1) & one of the “eyewitnesses of His majesty” (2 Pt 1.16), these Christians in Asia Minor have not seen (aorist) at any point in the past Jesus. Yet they have a continual & progressive love (present) for Christ.

Though…you believe in Him: Presently Jesus is at the right hand in the unseen heavenly realms & is beyond physical vision. Yet these Christians have faith (present) in Christ. Cf. Jn 20.29.

I wonder if Peter had his mind on his face-to-face reinstatement with Jesus as recorded in John’s gospel. Peter had seen Him, but all he could muster was “Phileo you.” I have a strong affection for you. But Jesus had asked “Agapas me.” These Christians in Asia have never had that face-to-face meeting & yet they answer the unspoken question “Agapas Jesus?” with an emphatic “YES!” We have never seen Jesus. But by faith the question comes ringing from our Lord’s lips down the pathway of years: “Do you love me?” “Agapas me?” Only you can answer this question in your heart of hearts.

In a similar way, we do not presently see Jesus physically. Yet our total trust is in Him. We must have a continual faith which deepens as the years go by.

Rejoice…with glory: Because of their faith in & love for Christ they have a joy which is beyond words (inexpressible) and containing the glory of heaven (filled with glory).

“Filled with glory” is from a single word in the original which is a perfect passive participle. That is we do not add glory or bring any glory to it; it is bestowed upon us (passive). But more interesting this glory, being outside ourselves, is from God and therefore has been in existence long before we come on the scene (perfect). Perhaps an illustration: when Moses came down from the mountain, having been in the presence of God, “his face shone because he had been talking with God” (Ex 34.29). Paul tells us Moses was reflecting the glory of God (2 Cor 3.7ff). That glory came from being in God’s glorious presence. So joy which is “filled with glory” is joy that is infused with that heavenly glory and continues to possess that glory (perfect). “It is the joy of heaven before heaven, experienced now in fellowship with the unseen Christ” (Grudem 66).

9obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Obtaining…your souls: As Christians continue to grow in love, faith, & joy, they are obtaining (present) the goal of faith, their salvation. In Peter, soul stands for the whole person (cf. 3.20).

Daily continuing in love, faith, & joy will produce the marvelous blessing of growth & maturity as Christians. This is the progressive nature of “obtaining the outcome of your faith.” While “the salvation of your souls” anticipates what is “ready to be revealed in the last time” (v.5), there is the present reality & everyday experience of Christian growth in the here & now as well.

10Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully,

Concerning this salvation: Both what we enjoy in the present & what will be “revealed”…

The prophets…inquired carefully:  Cf. Mt 13.17. The prophets spoke about the grace for (eis) us. They had some real knowledge of it but it was incomplete & they longed to know more. So they exerted considerable effort to search & seek information concerning grace & salvation.

“That salvation was so magnificent a prospect that it concentrated upon itself the rapt attention and deepest interest of those to whom the promise was revealed.” They were like miners mining for treasure: they would uncover a gem, but only when refined by the Incarnation did it true beauty shine.

Peter is working to help his audience realize just how great their salvation is in Christ and to get them to better appreciate the grace of God. He does this by focusing on two groups which never tasted the sweet grace of God as we have under the New Covenant: prophets & angels. Peter tells his readers (and us by extension) that the grace by which we are saved was the study of seers for centuries & is the abstraction of angels for eons. How dare us be apathetic concerning the salvation of our souls! Do we not realize the exceeding glory & grandeur of the joy of our salvation? Have our hearts grown cold & dull? Should we not instead fix our attention on the sufferings of Christ just as the prophets before us did? Should we not instead give our undivided concentration to the glories of His resurrection & ascension just as the angels do? The prophets searched & inquired with prayer & fasting; how much more should we imitate their example, searching the Scriptures, meditating upon them, watching unto prayer.

11inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.

Inquiring…was indicating: Though Peter does not specify what they inquired, the word used here is also used by Jesus in reference to Scripture (Jn 5.39). So the prophets searched their & whatever other writings they had in an attempt to know who and when the Holy Spirit was indicating or pointing. Indicating (imperfect) describes how the Holy Spirit kept making these indications.

When He predicted…subsequent glories: The Holy Spirit predicted these things by the prophets. The sufferings of Christ speaks to His torture & crucifixion which are well testified to in the Old Testament (e.g. Psa 22; Isa 53). The subsequent glories (pl.) points to His resurrection & ascension. It is Peter who proclaims that these prophesies have been fulfilled by God (Acts 3.18).

An example of a prophet searching & inquiring of the Scriptures is Daniel. Whether he was reading the book of Jeremiah to glean some idea of Christ is not mentioned, but he was reading Jeremiah’s work (Daniel 9.2). Could he have been reading Jeremiah to better understand the person & time of Christ but discovered something else during his Bible study? Does not this happen during our Bible studies? We’ll be reading right along, maybe even have some subject which we are diligently trying to better understand, only to uncover some other hidden gem from Scripture.

12It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

It was revealed…but you: It is God who revealed (passive) to the prophets that their prophecies were not for their time & circumstance. Their search & inquiry of the Scriptures confirmed this. They came to know that their service was not for themselves, but for those saved by this grace. Their prophecies certainly brought them hope as they lived by faith. However, they were serving (imperfect) a yet future generation. So their ministry was far grander than they knew.

In the things…the good news to you: The things are the most significant facts of history—the sufferings & glories of Christ. These have now been announced to you…by the Holy Spirit. The announcement originates with God in heaven. Thus the Spirit is sent (Gk apostalenti [aorist]) from heaven, commissioned on Pentecost to oversee the advance of the gospel. Then through those who preached the good news to you (lit. those who evangelized you) He announced it (aorist). Certainly Peter would be head of that list but not the only one on it. Other evangelists no doubt worked in cooperation with the Holy Spirit to evangelize Asia Minor.

Things…to look: Throughout the Law angelic beings had ringside seats to what was doing: cherubim in the Holy of Holies (Ex 25.20-21), seraphim in the heavenly temple (Isa 6.1-2). Peter says that they still long (present) to look into how God’s grace is demonstrated in Christ’s sufferings & glories in relation to the salvation of souls.

Consider that Paul says “the mystery of godliness…was seen by angels” (1 Tim 3.16). When Christ stepped onto the grand stage of human history, every angelic eye was fixated on his every move. His birth, His childhood, His adolescence, His youth, His temptations, His ministry, His miracles, His sermons, His trails, His torture, His crucifixion, His death, His burial, His resurrection, His ascension. All the while, the angels watch with rapt attention the great facts of the history of redemption. Even now the angels still delight to contemplate the advance of the kingdom. They “long to look” into these things.

Nothing causes the angels more confusion than when men & women for whom Christ died allow their faith to grow cold & their walk with Christ becomes listless. Maybe they can understand when men & women for whom Christ died refuse to honor Christ with their life since the evil one has so blinded the world. But when Christians, those who angels serve, whom Christ has saved and God has graced, backslide or rebel or fail to grow, choosing immaturity, surely is the cause of much angelic perplexity & vexation.