1 PETER-SERIES : #1
1 PETER 1: 1 – 12
Scripture: Elect exiles
Peter was an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was therefore one of the unique group of men whom the Lord personally called to the apostolate (Matt 10) and sent out (John 20). After Jesus’s resurrection and ascension, the apostles were to lay the foundation of the NT-church (Eph 2:20). After them, there were never again any apostles, because a foundation can be laid only once. We are however, in possession of the apostolic TEACHING, because it is contained in our NT.
The entire true NT church is therefore established upon the teaching of the Apostles. The Apostle Peter among them.
The people to whom Peter writes are God’s elect who are strangers in the world and are scattered all over. Actually he is saying that he is writing only to the true Christian-believers who are living in all kinds of places in the world at that time. Yes, Christ’s church is scattered (catholic). And they are IN the world, but not OF the world. Aliens in the world. As a boat is IN the water, but the water is not in the boat! A person who is born of the Holy Spirit and in whom the Spirit dwells, can not and must not be at home in a world system that is without Christ. Not in any way. You are simply saved out of the world as the Israelites were saved out of Egypt long ago.
Of God’s saved people two things are true: 1 They are spread all over the world, and 2 they are strangers in the world. And they should LIVE accordingly.
But there is also a third attribute for all true believers: They are chosen by God. Before creation already, says Eph 1:4 and 2 Tim 1:9. It is precisely because they were chosen by the Father before the creation already, that they could come to salvation in Christ at all! We come to faith and repentance BECAUSE we were chosen before the establishment of the world – and not the other way around! Election means that only God’s grace in Christ is the REASON for our salvation. The reason is not within ourselves. There can hardly be a greater comfort and assurance for the children of God, than to know: My salvation/ redemption/ righteousness with God is anchored in God Himself, in His choice for me. THAT encourages me to love and serve and obey Him with greater and greater devotion.
It is clear that the Apostle Peter is not speaking to all people. He is addressing specifically the Christian-believers. And about them he has something particular to impart. He says that they are what they are only because God the Father has so ordained it and chosen them to be His children.
“By the foreknowledge of God” says verse 2. That does not mean that God is all knowing and knew before the creation who would come to faith in the far distant future. No, foreknowledge means that He planned and decided and designed it purposefully and actively – before there was time.
In verse 20 he uses the same notion “foreknowledge“, and there he talks about how God before the creation already decided upon the redeeming work of Jesus. God did not only know ahead of time about Jesus’s work of salvation, no, God foreknew it and planned it and decided it.
That is just too much for our brain and understanding, isn’t it! Just to think that the REAL reason behind my salvation, the real reason why I somewhere in my life, became anxious and restless and was made spiritually alive, the real reason why I reached the point where I placed my faith-trust upon Christ’s cross-salvation and became absolutely passionate about obeying Him instead of myself-and-the-world, the real reson why I could be cleansed from blame and sin by His blood and why I can experience grace and peace today – the REAL reason behind it is the planning that God did and decision He made – even before there was a universe – before there was time. Wow! Yes! THEN already He knew my name. That is the firm foundation upon which my entire salvation is standing. Unwavering! The fact that I now so desperately desire to obey HIM as King and Lord and that I’m placing my focus upon His precious blood and that peace reigns in me, all that is only the fruit/result of His electing love without which I would have without a doubt been lost for ever!
Yes, the Christian faith is one great jubilation. Praise to the Father for what He has worked in Christ Jesus. Verses 3-4 clearly spell it out. The subject of the praise is specifically God the Father. Because He is the Source of all redemption and Christ is the One in whom the Father executes it. It is the Father’s great compassion for people who deserve eternal condemnation – HE is worthy of praise. Look, to freely give to your ENEMIES the new birth and new life – as a free gift – THAT is enormous great mercy! Not for your friends, but for your enemies. Yes, the new birth/new life is a gift. It is not something that man has any share in. Man can not and need not give God a hand with it. He does it single-handedly. That is how verses 3-4 tells it.
The Spirit teaches through Peter’s pen that the Father worked the new life by way of Jesus’s resurrection from the grave. That new everlasting life to which Jesus rose from the dead is exactly the same new life that God gives us as a gift! It is too wonderful for words!
In a mysterious way all people who would ever come to faith, all His chosen people, were included in Jesus’s resurrection. Look, that is something which only the Lord God is able to do. It is an absolute supernatural new life that has come into you and resulted that your repentance and faith.
Therefore, says the Apostle, we now have a living and assured future hope. Because there is an inheritance for all in-Christ-saved-people kept in heaven. It is 100% certain. It is a future that cannot and shall never perish. It cannot fade like a flower. It cannot be spoiled by sin or the devil. And it is not us who are to be trying to keep it safe. HE keeps it safe. With super omnipotence. He is completely able! That is why the hope for the future is so secure. And that is the reason for rejoicing!
Is it not facinating to think that a plain former fisherman wrote this?! Peter! The transformation that he underwent through his unity with the risen Lord and the huge difference which the indwelling Holy Spirit brought about in his life is indescribable. Look at the profound insight with which he is writing. All we can conclude is that this letter is truly the Word of God. The apostle Peter was inspired by the Spirit while writing this letter.
He assures us in verse 5 that there is a salvation that will be revealed to us by God at the end of this age. It applies only to those who are truly Christ-believers. Great salvation is coming. It actually is there already, but has not yet been revealed. It is like a statue covered with a cloth which will be removed when the statue is unveiled.
The day of this revelation is of course Christ’s second coming to the world. The end of time.
But, what is this salvation?
Well, it is the final and full redemption of all God’s true children in Christ. Then they shall see Him face to face and not only by faith in His Word.
But now look at this: It is God’s own enormous power that shields the believer for that salvation. It is on THAT which we put our trust! And trust is faith/believing. Believe means to trust upon someone’s word/promise. These two walk hand-in-hand. God’s power shields and we trust Him for it. And the trust also comes forth out of His power. And in this way God’s true children continue on and on with perseverance until the end!
It is very difficult to read these first few verses without sensing the exaltation. The joy. The Apostle is actually giving a command in verse 6: REJOICE! It is an instruction. Christians MUST be glad for the new life that God has given them so freely by grace in/through Christ’s resurrection from the grave and that He is keeping the final great salvation in heaven for them. Look, this is HUGE!
But now verse 6 opens the curtain for us to see WHY Peter actually wrote this letter. What moved him to write? He says that many of his readers have experienced all kinds of trials – only because they were Christians – followers of Christ. They have suffered grief and trials for the sake of their devotion to Christ!
Throughout the centuries Christians – who wanted to serve the Lord in all obedience – did not have it easy. In the earliest Christian church it was tough to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
What the Holy Spirit is now saying, is as follows: The certain expectation of the heavenly inheritance that God is shielding, must encourage and strengthen the Christians in their grief and trials. Romans 8:18.
It is the Lord’s will and instruction: Christians who are suffering grief MUST be strengthened by their future hope which is anchored in Christ. And take note of what he is saying: Even though the struggle is all life long, it is only a short while compared to the duration of the eternal salvation. It is not worth comparing with the glory to be revealed. The trial is of short duration, but the salvation will never end.
In verse 7 the Spirit of the Lord continues by giving the reason why God’s children sometimes find it tough-going. Why do they suffer as a result of their witness for the Lord Jesus Christ? Why does the Lord allow it?
Peter says: The Lord is testing the purity and genuineness of their faith. God himself does not benefit from such a test – but the benefit is for the tested believer – the one being tested. Because when the child of the Lord has passed THROUGH the test and has grown spiritually and fixed their hope still more firmly in Christ, then that person knows with greater assurance that his/her filiation with God is truly pure.
Think of the classic example of Abraham who had to go and sacrifice his son Isaac – by God’s instruction. Or think of Job. When gold has passed through the refining fire, we know that it is pure gold. That is how it works spiritually also, says the Apostle. Faith-trust in Christ – faith which has been truly created by the Holy Spirit, cannot and shall not perish or be destroyed by suffering. It is impossible. A plant planted by God himself, cannot be uprooted (Matt 15:13).
The result of this is that there will be praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed at His second coming. We should not forget: The second coming is not only the final judgment of the unsaved, but the reward for the children of God. Yes, He SHALL reward you for something that HE has worked in you. It is a reward that HE is supposed to receive, but then YOU receive it. Breath-taking grace.
Then, what is the cause of this bubbling joy that the Apostle is talking about? An inexpressible and glorious joy he says in verses 8-9. Inexpressible means that it is impossible to describe and there are no words to express it. What causes it? WHAT is it that unsaved people cannot understand or grasp in any way? It is THREE great realities, says the Holy Spirit in verses 8-9:
1 > The fact that the believer is supernaturally able to love Jesus, even though he/she did not see Him when He was on earth. To the unsaved person everything is about what is visible and tangible. But the miracle of the new life by the Spirit is that spiritual eyes are opened inside one’s heart – eyes of faith-confidence based on the Word.
2 > The fact that the believer is supernaturally able to hope in Jesus, even though he/she does not see Him now. You did not see Him when He was hanging on the cross and you do not see Him today. And yet you love Him and hinge your eternal salvation on His work of atonement done 2000 years ago. THAT is the result of the work of the Holy Spirit.
3 > Children of the Lord now already share in the salvation. Yes, it is a matter for the future when the salvation will be complete, but it is also a matter for today, now, because in Christ you are already enjoying the full forgiveness and victory over the power of sin. Sin does not rule and control as in the time past when you were still lost.
Those are the three great realities that bring the joy! Unsaved people do not understand anything of this, but the saved experience great joy!
And to think that these truths (everything that is said in verses 1-9 – the entire salvation) are not something new which the NT apostles suddenly dreamed up. No, it is firmly based in the OT-Scriptures. There is an absolute seamless unity between the OT and NT. Between the OT prophets and the NT apostles. It is ONE Holy Spirit who inspired them all. THAT is the firm foundation the believer must trust instead of feelings and emotions and circumstances. Trust the rock steady SCRIPTURES and the joy will follow!
Verses 10-11 make it clear that “Old Testament” only refers to the age BEFORE the fulfilment of God’s promises in the coming of Christ to the earth. But it was the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, who governed the entire OT-dispensation and inspired the prophets. That is why the OT prophets proclaimed JESUS CHRIST, preached His grace and also the salvation – exactly the same salvation that NT believers enjoy in Jesus – THAT is what the OT prophets foresaw under the powerful inspiration of Christ’s Spirit. The Spirit was IN them and the Spirit spoke THROUGH them, and proclaimed the suffering and death and glorification of Jesus hundreds of years into the future.
Yes, it is true that the OT prophets and OT believers did not understand everything so well, because the OT-age was the dispensation of the PROMISE. But the Holy Spirit powerfully testified through them and they tried to determine exactly what those things portend that the Holy Spirit spoke through them. They wondered about the who, how and what – in the same way we wonder today about what the details of the Second Coming would entail.
But the things that the OT prophets examined, were not revealed to them, but to us who have the complete Bible. The preaching of the OT-prophets must be understood together with the preaching of the NT-apostles. That which the OT-prophets had preached in the form of promises, the NT-apostles preached in the form of fulfilment. And the “that” is of course the glorious redemption work of Christ. The message of the OT-prophets was therefore actually aimed at US – meaning all NT believers. Or to put is different: The NT-apostles used the message of the OT-prophets as a basis of how they understood and proclaimed the suffering and glorification of Christ (which they witnessed with their own eyes). And for us it is important to read and understand the apostles and prophets TOGETHER.
The same Holy Spirit who had inspired the prophets, also revealed everything to the apostles. And in the end it is all meant for OUR edification and salvation. It is the basis for our joy. Not for the salvation of the ANGELS, but for OURS.
Think about it: If you are someone in whom the Holy Spirit dwells and works, you have more insight into the Truth that God’s angels have! The angels do not have insight in the Gospel-message – because they do not need it. But we do.
Translated by Marthie Wilson