Sunday, November 01, 2009

1 Peter 1:1 - 12

Lesson one text: 1 Peter 1:1 - 12

Our study in 1 Peter this last week covered the first twelve verses of the first chapter. As I stated before, this is the Readers' Digest version of the study; for this post's purposes, we will only be covering 1:3 - 9. If you really want to learn more about the sections not covered here, click "about me" in the sidebar for my e-mail address.

Peter begins speaking of what God in His mercy has provided for those who believe. Chapter one, verses three through five say:

Blessed 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 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
1 Peter 1:3 - 5

First, God offers a rebirth - a spiritual rebirth into a restored relationship with Him. Jesus once explained this to a Pharisee named Nicodemus, though it took old Nic a bit to understand it. Read John 3:1 - 20 for the full story of that encounter. The important bit to remember from that passage, and what Peter was alluding to in verse three above is this:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16

Second, God offers those who have the new birth a living hope. The hope Peter is talking about here is not hope as the world sees it: hope that Suzy doesn't have cancer, hope that the Packers win today. The outcome of those things is uncertain, unknown to us at the present time. The Greek word elpis, translated as "hope", means "joyful and confident expectation" of something, in this case, eternal life. As Peter says, we have that hope - that certainty - of eternal life because of our identification with Christ, and His resurrection from the dead.

Third, we have an inheritance, one that cannot be destroyed, cannot be tainted by sin and will never diminish in its glory. Peter says it is "kept in heaven for you" because it is spiritual in nature, but other passages make clear that the blessings of this inheritance are ours even now. In Ephesians 1:3-14, Paul in one glorious sentence lists almost a dozen truths about the blessings that are ours in this inheritance.

Fourth, we are being guarded through our faith by God Himself. We don't stand alone; God is with us, enlarging our faith, strengthening our resolve, defending us against the enemy. Paul put it this way:

But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.
2 Thessalonians 3:3

Finally, we have a salvation which will be fully revealed and realized at the last time.

Peter has a purpose for listing all of these blessings. He comes to the point in verses six and seven:

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so 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.
1 Peter 1:6 - 7

Are you being "grieved by various trials"? More to the point, do you know of anyone who isn't? Peter is telling us that "in this" - the blessings he has listed in the previous verses - we should rejoice and take comfort when we are going through trials. After all, he argues, the trials are only for a little while (though in context, that "little while" can represent the entirety of our life on earth!) and will ultimately result in the proving of our faith, along with praise, glory and honor when we stand before the Lord.

There's a practical problem, though. All of the blessings he lists are intangibles, things we cannot touch or see. Our problems, on the other hand, are very much in our faces, persistent, noisy, demanding our time and attention. What good does it do to think about the blessings we have in heaven when the landlord is demanding the rent and we don't have it?

It's almost as if Peter could read our minds. He goes on:

Though 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, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
1 Peter 1:8-9

Most of us have not seen Jesus in the flesh, but we love Him. We've not seen Him in the flesh, but we believe in His death on the cross as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. We've not seen Him in the flesh, but we are trusting in Him for the salvation of our souls.

If then, we have that kind of faith in Him, though we've not seen Him, how can we not have faith in and take comfort in the blessings that are ours in heaven, though we do not see them now?

So, what are we to do? Peter is calling for a reversal of our thinking, a new way of looking at our life here on earth. We need to remind ourselves often that no matter how severe the trials we go through, they are but a hairsbreadth in light of eternity. We can rejoice in the inheritance that is ours - a joy that is not dependent on our circumstances in the here and now. If we want a model of someone who focused on the eternal as He was going through horrendous trials on earth, we need look no further than Jesus:

...looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
Hebrews 12:2-3

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