Message Preached at Poole Christian Fellowship on Sunday 12th January 2014
Reference: 1 Peter 1 v 3-12
We continue our series in 1 Peter, looking at Peter’s letter under the heading “God’s Missional Community”. Last time we reflected on who we were, today we look at a passage in which Peter continues to build up the church by answering the question – “what has God done for us?”. Peter’s intention throughout the letter is to encourage the believers to live as God’s missional community, but before he gets onto the matter of practical instructions in relation to their lives, he is building a foundation of truth and doctrine.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.
So – what has God done for us?
He has given us:
1. A New Birth
When we became Christians we experienced an event so radical, so dynamic, that “new birth” is the only language sufficient to describe it. God sent his Holy Spirit to live in our hearts so that everything became new, we became children of God, born of Him, adopted by him, part of his family with an assured inheritance. Peter is at pains to point out that it is only by God’s mercy that this is ours. We have no right to claim that we have earned it, deserve it or have been awarded it because of something we have done.
2. A New Hope
In human terms, hope is usually about something we want to happen – but it may or may not. Biblical hope is about certainties. It refers to something that is bound to happen. A number of points about this hope:
- It is living – the hope stems from the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and is therefore based on the fact that we have a saviour who is alive and who has made us alive.
- It gives us an assured inheritance – Peter was writing to Christians who had been robbed of their inheritance. But he assures them that the inheritance that they have come into is absolutely secure and is reserved for them.
- It is protected – because of the faith that God has put into our hearts we are shielded against the dangers of losing it.
3. A New Perspective
Even with all that God has done for us, we experience difficulties. Here Peter gives us one of the clearest insights in the Bible into suffering. God is proving the genuineness of our faith, and is building up for us a future glory, beside which our sufferings are hardly worth mentioning. The passage talks of how faith, like gold, is refined by fire. But there are two differences. Gold becomes smaller in the heat – faith grows. And gold will ultimately perish – but your faith will not.
4. A New Relationship
Our entrance into faith gives us a relationship that we did not have before. With an echo of the words of Jesus to Thomas in the Upper Room, Peter reminds the disciples of the fact that their love and faith is Jesus is not as a result of having seen him but is based on the faith that is given by the new birth.
Love and faith – the heart of the new relationship
5. A New Salvation
“you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls” – here Peter encourages his readers with the thought that whatever we go through, it is all worth it because the consequence of rebellion, eternal separation from God, has been dealt with, and we are now in process of receiving eternal life, that relationship with God which will come into its fullness when he returns.
6. A New Understanding
There are two groups of people that Peter compares us favourably to:
- The Old Testament Prophets – inspired by the Holy Spirit these writers foretold the future salvation that would be won by Jesus. But even then they didn’t fully understand what they were saying, even though they searched diligently to find out. The best they got was an assurance from God that it was future generations that would inherit everything they were working for. So we stand in the incredibly privileged position of having a greater knowledge and experience of salvation than either David or Isaiah!
- Angels – even the mighty angels want to understand this more fully: what a privileged people we are!
7. A New Joy
As we consider that God has done for us, it is impossible to grasp it with any degree of reality without being won over by a desire to thank and praise God for all his goodness to us. So Peter starts this passage with an outburst of praise and repeatedly returns to that theme as he expounds what God has done for us. We can not understand what God has done for us without being overwhelmed by the goodness of God and without it coming forth is expressions of praise.
As we think about what God as done for us, let’s let our lives be full of the praise that such a great salvation inspires.
John MacDiarmid, January 2014