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Bible Teacher's Guide: First Peter

The letter of First Peter was written to persecuted Christians scattered throughout the Roman Empire. It was meant to both encourage and instruct them on how to live as pilgrims in a hostile society. This message is still relevant today.

Christ declared that in the end times believers would be hated by "all nations" because of him (Matthew 24:9). With the continuing culture shift, animosity and persecution towards Christians is increasing at an alarming rate. Over 400 Christians are martyred every day, and more saints have died for the faith in the last century than all the previous combined. The words of First Peter are a message of hope, desperately needed to encourage and prepare the Church for what lies ahead. Let's journey through Peter's letter together with the aid of the Bible Teacher's Guide.

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Related Topics: Christian Home, Christian Life, Establish, Suffering, Trials, Persecution

Introduction

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Authorship

The Apostle Peter is the author of this letter, with an estimated writing date of around AD 64 – 65. Several pieces of evidence support this belief, starting with the introduction of the letter. It says, “Peter, an Apostle of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 1:1). He introduces himself in the very beginning of the letter, which was common practice in ancient times even as it is today. There is also other internal evidence in the epistle of Petrine authorship. We see Peter call himself a “witness of Christ’s sufferings” (1 Pet 5:1), which clearly is true of the Apostle Peter, as seen in the Gospels. The author also uses phrases that would seem to reflect Peter’s correspondence with Christ. For instance, Peter calls for the elders of the congregations to “be shepherds of God’s flock” (1 Pet 5:2). This certainly is reminiscent of Peter’s restoration after denying his Lord. Christ repeatedly said to Peter “tend my sheep” and “feed my lambs” (John 21). Peter now says the same to the elders of the churches.

Also, Peter calls each believer “living stones” being built into a spiritual house for God (1 Pet 2:5). We see this clearly in the fact that Peter’s original name was Simon but Christ called him Peter, which means “stone” or “rock.” Christ also told Peter that on this “rock” he would build his church (Matt 16:18). In addition, we see Peter’s warning to these churches to be self-controlled and alert for the devil is roaming around like a lion seeking whom he could devour (1 Pet 5:8). This cannot but conjure up the picture of Christ warning Peter about how Satan had asked to sift him like wheat (Luke 22:31). Again, Peter speaks to the churches in a similar manner to how Christ spoke to him. Throughout the letter, the experiences of the Apostle Peter radiate, therefore, confirming his authorship.

Who was Peter? Obviously, Peter was one of the original disciples who was called to follow Christ during his early ministry (Mark 1:16, 17), and later on, he was called to be one of the twelve Apostles (Matt 10:12). There is ample evidence that suggests that Peter was actually the head of the twelve. In each of the list of Apostles, he is always placed first, which showed his importance (Matt 10, Mark 3, Luke 6, Acts 1). The Gospel writers focused on Peter throughout the narratives, as there is more material written about him than anybody else besides Christ. Also in the book of Acts, we see his importance in the establishment of the church. He leads the Apostles in the selection of the replacement for Judas (Acts 1) and he preaches several sermons that led to the salvation of thousands (Acts 2, 3 and 4).

God also gave him the vision that led to the salvation of Cornelius and the welcoming of Gentiles into the church (Acts 10 and 11). He is the prominent figure in Acts until the commissioning of the Apostle Paul in Acts 13. Tradition says that soon after the writing of this letter, Peter was crucified in Rome around AD 67 or 68. His wife was crucified before him, and he encouraged her with the words, “Remember the Lord.” After the crucifixion of his wife, he begged to be crucified upside down because he was not worthy to die in the same manner of his Lord, and his request was granted.

There are those from liberal traditions who have tried to cast doubt upon Petrine authorship. One of the primary reasons is because of the high level of classical Greek in which the letter is written. Is it possible for a fishermen who was called “unlearned” (Acts 4:13) by the Pharisees to be able to speak and write in such high-level Greek?

There are several ways one could respond to this. The first is the fact that Peter being called “unlearned” does not mean that he was illiterate or unable to write in high-level Greek. Being called “unlearned” simply meant that he had never been trained in an official rabbinical school. It is very probable because of Hellenization (the influence of Greek culture) that Peter did speak Greek as a second language behind Aramaic. Also, since Peter had been preaching and serving in missions for over thirty years by this time, he had probably grown in his understanding of Greek because of his teaching ministry. Finally, in chapter 5, it is possible that Peter is saying that Silas (or Silvanus, depending on the version) was his scribe. We see this in 1 Peter 5:12, “With the help of Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother, I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.”

“With the help of Silas” can also be translated “by Silas.” This could mean that Peter sent the letter by Silas to these congregations or that Silas was his scribe in the writing of this letter. This was a very common practice in the ancient world. In fact, we see this practiced by Paul as seen in Romans 16:22, “Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord.” It is very possible that Silas helped in both facets. He served Peter as a scribe for the letter and also manually carried the letter to the churches. This would help explain the high level of Greek. Either way, certainly we must not downplay the work of the Holy Spirit in the writing of every letter of Scripture (2 Tim 3:16).

Background

What is the background to this letter? It is clear that these congregations spread throughout the Roman Empire were going through intense persecution. We see this in many aspects of the letter (1 Pet 4:12, 13). Because of the dating of this letter it seems clear that these Christians are experiencing the after-effects of the Great Fire of Rome. In July AD 64, there was great fire in Rome that spread throughout ten of the fourteen districts.

There was a rumor spread saying that Emperor Nero was the arsonist who started the fire. In fact, there were some reports that he was playing a harp and singing while the fire was happening.1 It was said that Nero had a great lust to build and did not like the current construction of Rome; therefore, he started the fire in order to rebuild. The fact that he built his new home soon after the fire, called the Golden House, in the center of the city only added to this rumor. In order to combat this growing suspicion and resentment toward himself, Nero used the Christians as a scapegoat. They were an easy target because they were already a hated group in Rome. They were hated because of their association with the Jews and the fact that they did not worship the Roman deities. According to the Roman historian Tacitus, there were reports that some Christians were forced to confess by torture that they started the fire. This led to vicious persecution that spread throughout the Roman Empire.

The persecution of Christians took place in many ways. It was said that Nero would place tar on Christians and burn them at night to light up his garden. It was also common for the flesh of animals to be placed on Christians, and they were allowed to be torn apart by dogs. In addition, many Christians were killed by crucifixion. This resulted in Christians spreading throughout the Empire in order to escape persecution.

In fact, many believe that the letter of First Peter was written from Rome and that Babylon was a name used in 1 Peter 5:13 as a pseudonym to protect Peter and the churches that were in hiding. The title Babylon could certainly be referring to ancient Babylon in Mesopotamia. However, there is really no historical witness that Peter went to this city. Therefore, the most probable destination is that of Rome and that it was used to protect the people from further persecution.

Babylon was an apt name for Rome during this period, for throughout Scripture Babylon is seen as a nation that constantly defied God and his people. This began in Babel, as Nimrod built a city where the people revolted against God (Gen 11).  It rose up again during the time of the divided monarchy, as it conquered and exiled the Southern Kingdom of Israel. While the Israelites were living in Babylon, they were persecuted for not worshiping the same gods (Daniel 3). Finally, we see another city named Babylon rise up in the end times which also persecutes the people of God in the book of Revelation (chapters 17 and 18). Therefore, the code name Babylon for Rome would be an apt name to describe its worship of false gods and persecution of believers. Using this pseudonym would help protect Peter and the other saints serving in Rome. Similarly, contemporary missionaries from nations where Christians are persecuted often are very careful about using their names or publishing their sermons online lest it create persecution for their family or church. This was the background for the letter of First Peter.

Purpose

Peter writes this letter to Christians in order to comfort them in the midst of their suffering. He comforts them with the reality of their salvation. In fact, in the introduction of the letter Peter starts off by calling them “elect” and speaks of the benefits of their election (1 Pet 1:1, 2). He then continues by praising God for their new birth and the unfading benefits of it (1 Pet 1:3–5). This is not the normal way you would comfort someone who is going through a hard time. However, if these believers, and us as well, could begin to comprehend how special and great our salvation really is, it would continually comfort us in the worst of situations.

Peter not only comforts them with the greatness of their salvation but he begins to teach them how to live and respond to persecution (1 Pet 1:6; 2:19–21; 4:1, 12 and 13). Listen to what Peter says:

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
1 Peter 4:12–13

Finally, Peter teaches these believers that their obedient and respectful responses in persecution to pagan governments, masters, and even unsaved husbands could potentially lead to evangelization even in a hostile environment (1 Pet 2:12–15; 3:1–6; 3:15). Certainly, we have seen this throughout history. Church father Tertullian said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Where persecution has happened and Christians have practiced the truths of First Peter, great waves of evangelism have taken place.

The message of First Peter has been tremendously comforting to Christians in Muslim and Communist societies, where they are undergoing constant persecution for their faith. For them, this letter has been a manual on how to live as a Christian amidst persecution. Even in Western societies this letter is becoming more relevant. There was a time where being a practicing Christian in society was not just tolerated but honored. However, now with the change of thinking on what marriage is, the woman’s right to abort her children and many other aspects of society, persecution is constantly growing. Jesus said, “Do not be surprised if they hate you, for they hated me first.” This letter to the scattered and persecuted saints of the Roman Empire is tremendously relevant. It is a manual for pilgrims living in a hostile society. Let its words and message comfort you and prepare you for what lies ahead.

Copyright 2014 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked KJV are from the King James Version of the Bible.


1 Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Nero,38; Cassius Dio, Roman History LXII.16

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines

1. The Privileges Of Election (1 Peter 1:1-2)

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Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
1 Peter 1:1–2

How does it feel to know you are special and loved? How does it feel to be promoted or to be set apart for special favor?

In this passage and in this book, Peter is seeking to encourage Christians who are being mistreated and persecuted for their faith. They are scattered among five Roman provinces in modern-day Turkey, probably seeking to hide for safety from Nero who is burning Christians at the stake and having their lands confiscated.

Peter seeks to encourage them by sharing with them how special they are to God. He starts off the passage saying they are “elect.” Election is often a controversial doctrine among Christians, but here it is given as an encouragement. He then talks about what happens to those who are elect. He talks about how each person of the triune God is involved in their salvation. God the Father elects them, the Son dies for them and sprinkles his blood on them, and the Holy Spirit sanctifies them to make them holy. Believers are special among the people in the world.

In the letter of First Peter, we learn about how to deal with persecution. Peter, the apostle who initially denied Christ at the prospect of death, writes a book to encourage people who are suffering and to teach them how to suffer. After his initial lapse of faith, in the book of Acts we see a man empowered by the Holy Spirit and encouraged by the resurrection of the dead. No more does he cower in fear, but he speaks boldly and suffers valiantly for Christ in the face of persecution.

Now he writes to strengthen the brethren who are receiving the same attacks that he previously encountered. In the first two sentences, Peter seeks to encourage these suffering saints by their election and the benefits of this election. Even though the world mocks them and persecutes them, they are loved by God. This would encourage them in their suffering and it should encourage us as well. Peter tells them that they are different from the world because they are so special to God.

Big Question: What are the privileges of God’s election that should encourage the believer in suffering as seen in 1 Peter 1:1–2? How should these privileges practically affect our lives?

The Elect Are Chosen by God

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect…who have been chosen.
1 Peter 1:1

Interpretation Question: What does it mean to be chosen and elect by God?

One of the things that should comfort believers in this world, especially amidst suffering, is recognizing that they are elect by God. The word elect really means to be chosen by God as mentioned in verse 2. The world rejects believers because of their belief system, their lifestyle, and because they choose to not condone or participate in sin. However, even though they are rejected by the world, they are chosen by God. Christ said this to his disciples, “You did not choose me, but I chose you (emphasis mine) and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name” (John 15:16).

Election is often a doctrine that gets many people upset, but as we see here, this doctrine was the treasure of the saints. It was such a treasure that it had become a common title among the saints. They were elect ones (1 Pet 1:1).

Why did God choose these saints? It had nothing to do with their good works, but it was a work of sovereign grace. Look at what Paul says in Romans about the election of Jacob:

Not only that, but Rebekah’s children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that Gods purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” (emphasis mine).
Romans 9:10–13

In Jewish society the oldest was always chosen to receive the blessing and the inheritance, but in God’s economy it is always a work of grace—unmerited favor. God chose Jacob not based on anything he had done, for the twins, Jacob and Esau, weren’t even born yet.

It says, “In order that God’s purpose in election might stand, not by works but by him who calls” (v. 11). God selected the younger brother to receive the blessing. In the same way, election is a mystery to us. It is based on God’s sovereign right as king and not on the basis of anything we have done.

Often people in Western countries, whom have never been under an absolute monarch, chafe at the thought of this. “This is not right! This is not democracy!” they proclaim. But under a monarchy the King has absolute power; he does what he wants because it is his right. Here we see God chooses based on his right. Scripture everywhere declares that God is king, and he does what he chooses. Some are elect based on God’s choice, not on ours. Look at what Christ says in John 15:19, “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” (emphasis mine).

Christ chose us out of the world, and because of this, the world hates us. Election is a sovereign right of God. We are no longer part of this world because God chose us out of it.

Application Question: Often, the doctrine of election is met with anger, but how should the doctrine of election encourage the believer?

1. Election should make the believer worship God.

Salvation is a work of God that should make us worship him. We may not fully understand election, but we do understand that it demonstrates the glory and power of God. It also demonstrates that his ways are higher than our ways. Look at Paul’s response to election (cf. Rom 11:28).

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.
Romans 11:33–36

2. Election should be an encouragement to evangelize.

Some see election as a hindrance to evangelism. Why share the gospel if some weren’t chosen? On the contrary, it should give boldness to share the gospel because we know some will respond. That is what happened in Acts. “When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed (emphasis mine) for eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48). Since God is sovereign, we should share the gospel.

3. Election should make the believer humble.

God is God and he does what he wants to. Look at how Paul responded to those who seemed to struggle with the concept of election.

One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?” But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?
Romans 9:19–21

Paul challenged these believers about their response to God’s election. “Who are you, O man to talk back to God?” Essentially, he is calling them to humble themselves before God. God is God, we are not. He is the Potter, and we are the clay. He is the Creator, we are the creatures. This doctrine should create humility in us before God and before others.

The Elect Are Strangers in this World

Strangers in this world.
1 Peter 1:1

Peter will talk about this throughout this letter. Because we are elect we are no longer part of this world (cf. John 17:14, Galatians 6:14). We are strangers in this world or sojourners. This word has the meaning of being a temporary resident. We are only here for a short time as we are just passing through. Our home is now in heaven.

We see this said about Abraham and the patriarchs in the faith chapter of Hebrews. Look at what it says:

By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God…Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them (emphasis mine).
Hebrews 11:9–10, 16

Because we are elect, strangers in this world, and citizens of heaven, we must have a different culture, a different language, and different expectations for life. God has a prepared a better place for us and this is not our home.

Application Question: What does being a stranger on earth mean practically for a believer?

1. We should expect some amount of suffering or being considered strange on this earth.

We are not part of this world, and therefore, we will at times be misunderstood and hated.

2. We must continually be looking toward our heavenly country.

The writer of Hebrews says Abraham was “looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God (Hebrews 11:9).” Paul calls Christians to set their mind on things above and not below (Col 3:2). Therefore, we should develop a mind-set of looking toward our heavenly country.

3. We should be different than those around us for this not our home.

We are only here temporarily. This includes such things as not storing up on this earth. Look at what Christ said:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Matthew 6:19–21

When I visit a hotel, I don’t spend much effort trying to fix it up and make it nice, because I will only be there for a short period of time. In a similar way, a Christian should not spend so much effort focusing on the temporary things of this life. But instead, should be consumed with storing up eternal riches in his heavenly home.

The elect are strangers to this world because their home is in heaven; therefore, they don’t bare the marks of the world’s culture. Let this encourage the believer especially when they are persecuted for being different.

The Elect Are Scattered like Seed to Produce a Harvest

Scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia.
1 Peter 1:1

What is another privilege of the elect?

The elect are scattered. The word scattered comes from the word diaspora and carries the idea of that which is sown. It was a word used of the farmer sowing seed in the field.1 These believers were scattered because of persecution. We see this happening in the book of Acts. As persecution intensified, the believers moved from Jerusalem and Judea, to Samaria, and eventually to the ends of the earth. The gospel was spread throughout because of this persecution. Look at some of the narrative:

But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison. Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there (emphasis mine).
Acts 8: 3–5

This seems to be an implication of Peter’s use of the word scattered, which again means “that which is sown.” When a farmer sows seed, he does it with the hope of having a harvest. This farming term would have encouraged the saints. Behind the persecution, God was ultimately sowing these believers throughout the world in order to bring a harvest from the gospel. God may have allowed these Christians to suffer, lose their homes, etc., but it was not without purpose. It was ultimately used to spread the kingdom of God and help more people know him.

Throughout this letter, Peter continually encourages them about this hope of evangelism even amid persecution. Look at what he says in 1 Peter 2:12: “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (emphasis mine).

One second-century church father said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Historically, we have seen this to be true. Wherever the church has suffered and been scattered because of persecution, the seed of the Word of God has spread and the church has grown. In fact, it is in nations where persecution is not rampant that the church is declining the fastest.

We serve a God that often makes the worst things the best things. He took the death of his Son, the worst thing that ever happened on the earth, and made it the best thing.

The believer must take comfort in the fact that even though this scattering resulted from the intention to harm the church, it was something that God used for good. It was like seed being sown everywhere to build his church. Certainly, we get some picture of this in how Christ talks about the church being salt. We are spread on the earth in order to bring positive change. “You are the salt of the earth” (Matt 5:13).

Application Question: Scripture teaches us to rejoice in trials and tribulations (Rom 5:3, James 1:2). Does this mean that a lack of persecution for the faith is more dangerous spiritually to the church, than times of acceptance from the culture? Why or why not?

The Elect Are Intimate with God

Who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 1:2

What is another privilege of election?

The elect are intimate with God, and this intimacy began before time. In fact, this verse tells us why believers are elect and chosen by God. It says “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” This has created great controversy over the doctrine of election. Some would say that foreknowledge means that God chose us based on the fact that he knew we would accept him. However, this makes God’s choice not a choice at all. It makes man the initiator of salvation instead of God.

Though God is omniscient and knows all things, this foreknowledge is not referring to knowing facts, but God knowing people in an intimate saving relationship. To “know” throughout the Old Testament is used of the most intimate relationships including sex. We see that Adam “knew” his wife and had a son (Gen 4:1 KJV). In the same way, God “knew” certain believers even before they were born and chose them for salvation. Look at Jeremiah 1:5: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (emphasis mine).

God knew Jeremiah in a saving intimate relationship and called him to be a prophet to the nations before birth. God is not saying he knew Jeremiah would accept, follow him, and be a prophet. That is passive. God actively set him apart. God knew Jeremiah in an intimate relationship and called him to be a prophet before birth.

We also see this intimate knowledge used in reference to those who do not know God. Look at what Jesus said:

Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?” Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers” (emphasis mine)!
Matthew 7:22–23

Jesus says to these professors, “I never knew you.” It’s not talking about having knowledge of them because God knows everybody. It’s talking about not knowing them in a saving relationship. These people never had a saving relationship with God.

One of the things that should comfort the believer about his election is the fact that God knew us before the creation of the earth. He knew us in a saving relationship and called us to be ones that serve him, not based on anything we have done, but based on his grace. This should comfort us in suffering. Look at what Paul says:

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will
Ephesians 1:4–5

The elect are intimate with God. He foreknew them even before time and this intimacy continues in time. This is a tremendous comfort, especially, because God knows all our failures, sins, and insecurities, yet he chooses to be intimate with us anyway. This is an amazing fact of election. God chose to be intimate with us, and this intimacy of election should comfort us in suffering.

Application Question: What ways does the fact that God knew you intimately before you were born comfort you? How should it comfort you in the midst of suffering?

The Elect Are Sanctified by the Spirit

Through the sanctifying work of the Spirit.
1 Peter 1:2

Interpretation Question: What does the “sanctifying work of the Spirit” include in the life of the believer?

The next benefit of election is this “sanctifying work” of the Spirit. This is a work that starts at salvation but continues until we see Christ. In fact, much like election, sanctification is a common term used to describe believers. Look at what Paul calls the Church of Corinth: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God in Corinth, together with all the saints (emphasis mine) throughout Achaia” (2 Cor 1:1).

Paul addresses the people at Corinth as saints. This means they were set apart for the purpose of being holy. He also calls them sanctified in 1 Corinthians 1:2. He speaks about it as a past action. Look at what Paul says:

Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours (emphasis mine).
1 Corinthians 1:1–2

Sanctification happens to every believer at the moment of salvation. They are set apart from the world to be holy. Some call this positional sanctification, as we are separated from the world and placed in Christ. At salvation, there are immediate changes in the life of the believer. That is why Paul can say “he who be in Christ is a new creation” (2 Cor 5:17). At salvation, Christ translated the believer from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. Let’s look at Colossians:

Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves (emphasis mine).
Colossians 1:12–13

However, as mentioned previously, Peter speaks about this action as continuing. He calls it the “sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.” Therefore, sanctification refers not only to what happens at new birth, but also to the continuing process of becoming more like Christ that takes place throughout the believer’s life, and is completed when we meet Christ. This is called progressive sanctification. Below are some verses that talk about this process.

It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality (emphasis mine).
1 Thessalonians 4:3

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose (emphasis mine).
Philippians 2:12–13

Paul commands the Thessalonian church to become sanctified by abstaining from sexual immorality. It was a continuous process. Similarly, Paul talks about this continuous process in Philippians.

This process of sanctification, or progressive sanctification, is a process that involves the believer. At salvation, the work is totally of God; we are translated from the kingdom of darkness to light, but in our daily walk, we must work with God in order to become holy. This includes daily spiritual disciplines like prayer, reading the Bible, and the fellowship of the saints (1 Tim 4:7).

This process will ultimately end when we see Christ. The Apostle John talks about this in First John. When we see Christ, we will be just like him. At this point, we will not battle with sin anymore for we will have new bodies. “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him (emphasis mine), for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).

This final stage of sanctification is called glorification. This is when we will be just like Christ. This makes the believer unique among the world. They are saints, ones who have been set apart for the purpose of becoming holy like Christ.

Let us take encouragement as ones who are elect. God, who began this work in us will complete it until the day of Christ. Listen to what Paul said about the Philippians: “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:6).

Application Question: What does it mean if a believer is not continually growing in Christ? What should he do?

The Elect Are Obedient to Christ

For obedience to Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 1:2

Interpretation Question: What does Peter mean by obedience to Christ?

Another privilege of election is that believers have been set apart for obedience to Christ. This happens as a part of the work of sanctification. The believer that initially did not obey God, receives a nature that desires God and desires to obey God’s Word. We see the initial antagonism of the unbeliever in Romans 8:7–8: “The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.”

The unbeliever is hostile to the things of God; they are hostile to his commands and teaching. However, when a person is saved, he receives a nature that delights in God’s laws. Look at how Paul described his experience: “For in my inner being, I delight in God’s law” (Rom 7:22). David said something similar: “I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word” (Ps 119:14–16).

The born again believer delights in God’s law. He still stumbles and is disobedient at times, but the direction of his life is obedience, instead of disobedience which characterizes people who don’t know God (Eph 2:2).

In fact, in the book of 1 John the apostle gives obedience as a test of salvation (1 John 5:13). Those who are children of God are obedient to the Scripture. Look at what he says:

This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.
1 John 3:10

This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.
1 John 5:3

Christ taught the same thing in John 8:31: “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.”

Listen to what one commentator said:

Obedience is the essential characteristic of the elect pilgrim. His transformation from an enemy of God to a pilgrim in this world reveals itself in a life of obedience to God. God’s people obey those in authority over them for God’s sake. They are subject to their employers as serving Christ. They love their spouses because they love God. When the demands of earth’s relationships get in the way of obedience to God, they obey God rather than man. The law of God is their rule throughout life. Without living in obedience, the people of God could not be pilgrims.2

Application Question: In what ways have you seen this change in your life since you became a follower of Christ?

The Elect Are Sprinkled with Christ’s Blood

And sprinkling by his blood.
1 Peter 1:2

Interpretation Question: What is Peter referring to when he talks about the elect being sprinkled by his blood? Why is it a “continuous” action?

Peter talks about the sprinkling of Christ’s blood as a continuous action and not just something that happened in the past to a believer. What is he referring to? This must at least refer to the forgiveness of sins that occurred as a result of Christ’s death. We see this in Romans 5:9, “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!”

It says we were “justified,” which means to be made “just as though we never sinned.” However, the “sprinkling” Peter mentions is a continuous action and not just something that happened in the past to a believer—meaning, it still affects us today. John talks about this in his epistle. Look at what he says, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us (emphasis mine) from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

John says if we walk in the light as Christ is in the light, the blood of Jesus purifies us from all sins. When he says “walk in the light,” it seems to mean not only holiness, but specifically confession of our sins to God. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). When we confess known sins, God takes Christ’s blood and cleanses us so we can have a restored relationship with God.

In fact, John says “from all unrighteousness,” which means that when the believer confesses a known sin, God cleanses us even from sins we are not aware of. The blood of Christ is still effective in the believer’s life. The blood of Christ purchases for us forgiveness of our sins, and therefore, justification before God. It also purifies us so we can walk in continual relationship with God as we confess known sins.

Some might ask, why is there a need for confession and continual cleansing by Christ if we were initially cleansed at salvation? Some have called the initial cleansing judicial forgiveness so we can stand before God as righteous since Christ paid for all our sins on the cross. Because of this cleansing, we no longer have to be separated from God and will never ultimately be separated from him.

The other type of cleansing is often called parental or familial forgiveness. If I sin against my wife, this creates a distance in our relationship. It doesn’t change the fact that she is my wife. However, in order to be in right relationship with my wife again, I need to confess and make it right. Christ’s blood not only changes my relationship to God at salvation, making me a son, but it continues to cleanse me so I can be in right relationship with God when I fail.

In addition to this, there are several times in the Old Testament that this sprinkling with blood is mentioned, which may help us further understand what Peter is talking about. In the book of 1 Peter the apostle continually uses Old Covenant references and, therefore, many see this as an Old Covenant allusion fulfilled in Christ.

Interpretation Question: What did sprinkling with blood represent in the Old Covenant, and therefore, what could this mean for Peter’s reference to the believer being “sprinkled” with Christ’s blood?

1. Sprinkling with blood represents the believer’s obedience and participation in the New Covenant.

When Moses initiated the Old Covenant with the Jews he sprinkled blood over the people. This meant they would participate in the covenant and obey God’s laws. Look at what Exodus says:

Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, “We will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey.” Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.
Exodus 24:7–8

Similarly, Christ as our High Priest has sprinkled us with his blood as we participate in the benefits of the New Covenant. We see this in Hebrews 12:24, “To Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (emphasis mine).

2. Sprinkling with blood represents the believer being set apart to serve God as a priest.

When the Old Testament priest was set apart to do ministry, he was sprinkled with blood. We see this in Exodus:

And take some of the blood on the altar and some of the anointing oil and sprinkle it on Aaron and his garments and on his sons and their garments. Then he and his sons and their garments will be consecrated.
Exodus 29:21

Similarly, believers have been set apart for ministry. Peter talks about how believers are now a royal priesthood that offer spiritual sacrifices unto God (1 Pet 2:5). As priests, believers pray for people; they serve, they sing praises unto God, and they seek to bring those apart from God into relationship with him. No doubt, Peter speaks of this reality.

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 2:4–5

3. Sprinkling with blood represents the believer’s cleansing from sin.

In the Old Covenant, a leper would have to be sprinkled with blood after his cleansing from leprosy.

He is then to take the live bird and dip it, together with the cedar wood, the scarlet yarn and the hyssop, into the blood of the bird that was killed over the fresh water. Seven times he shall sprinkle the one to be cleansed of the infectious disease and pronounce him clean. Then he is to release the live bird in the open fields.
Leviticus 14:6–7

Similarly, our High Priest cleanses us from sin by his blood.

The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!
Hebrews 9:13–14

One of the benefits of our election, is that we have been sprinkled with the precious blood of Christ. He cleanses us from sin and forgives us, he initiates us into the New Covenant, he anoints us to be priests of God.

Application Question: How should the believer apply or actualize the reality of Christ’s blood, in order to walk in victory over sin and to have a clear conscience?

The Elect Are Called to Abundant Grace and Peace

Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
1 Peter 1:2

Finally, one of the privileges of election is that the believer is a continual recipient of God’s grace and peace. This was a common greeting in the early church. However, it is more than a greeting; it is the inheritance a believer should continually receive from God.

Paul talks about these blessings as something that comes from Christ. Listen to what he says in Ephesians 1:3: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (emphasis mine). In the same way, there is more grace and peace in Christ that each believer can receive. James says this: “But he gives us more grace” (Jas 4:6).

In fact, Paul talks about the peace that God desires to give each believer in Philippians 4. Listen to what he says:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (emphasis mine).
Philippians 4:6–7

Grace means “unmerited favor.” It is favor over one’s spiritual life, one’s work, one’s family and everything the believer does. It is grace to find freedom from sin and addictions.

Peace is not the absence of problems or conflict; it is the state of the heart of a believer who is walking with Christ. The believer has peace of mind even in the midst of the storm. This peace of heart and mind leads to peace in relationships with God and man.

Interpretation Question: How does the believer receive abundant grace and peace?

1. Abundant grace and peace come through prayer.

In this text, Peter prays for these believers to have abundant grace and peace, because this is one of the ways we receive more of God’s blessings. This includes other believer’s praying for us but also our continual practice of prayer. Again, look at what Paul says:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (emphasis mine).
Philippians 4:6–7

In this text, peace is promised to those who pray and give thanks in everything. When believers live in an atmosphere of prayer God “guards” their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus with peace.

2. Abundant grace and peace come through obedience to Christ.

God blesses those who are obedient to him. It was Abraham’s faith that led to not only his blessing and favor but also to that of his family. Listen to how the Psalmist describes the blessing of the believer that stays away from sin and delights in God’s Word.

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers (emphasis mine).
Psalm 1:1–3

This delight in God’s Word is a form of obedience that results in grace. Everything this person does prospers. He bears fruit in season, which includes peace, joy, perseverance, etc. Grace and peace come through faithful prayer and obedience.

3. Abundant grace and peace come through a constant meditation on God.

Listen to Isaiah: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee” (Isa 26:3 KJV).

Application Question: What ways is God calling you to pursue grace and peace in your life? Who is God calling you to pray for, so that they may receive these blessings?

Conclusion

What are the privileges of God’s election? What makes the believer so special?

  1. The elect are chosen by God.
  2. The elect are strangers in the world. Their home is in heaven, and therefore, they are different.
  3. The elect are scattered by God throughout the world to be a blessing to it.
  4. The elect are intimate with God, foreknown before creation in a saving relationship.
  5. The elect are sanctified by the Holy Spirit to be holy and righteous in the world.
  6. The elect are set apart for obedience. Whereas before, they were disobedient to God, now they love and obey his Word.
  7. The elect are sprinkled with Christ’s blood. This is a rich allusion that means forgiveness of sins. It means to be set apart as a priest to serve God, to be purified from sin, and to participate in the New Covenant.
  8. The elect are recipients of God’s abundant grace and peace.

The church is special, and we must know that. This will help us understand why our relationship to the world has changed and how our relationship with God has changed. This should encourage us even in the midst of suffering.

Application Question: What ways did this lesson challenge, encourage or increase your understanding of election?

Chapter Notes

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Copyright 2014 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked KJV are from the King James Version of the Bible.


1Expository Pulpit Series – Expository Pulpit Series – First Peter: A Holy Walk in a Hostile World.

2Hanko, Herman. A Pilgrims Manual: Commentary on I Peter. Reformed Free Publishing Association. Kindle Edition.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Election

2. Praise God For Our Great Salvation (1 Peter 1:3-5)

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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—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.
1 Peter 1:3–5

Why have so many of us lost the joy of our salvation? Why have so many of us lost our praise and, instead, walk around sad, depressed, angry, and complaining about the events in our life? How can we again have our joy?

It is wonderful to see a newborn Christian who wants to share his faith with everybody because he is so excited about what God has done in his life. Sadly, as many Christians “mature,” this joy tends to fade away. David said this, “Restore to me the joy of my salvation” (Ps 51:12). Many of us have lost this joy as well.

Peter is writing to Christians that are being persecuted for their faith and have been scattered from their original homes in different parts of the Roman Empire. It would seem like this is not the response you would give to someone who has lost a family member to persecution or lost their friend or home. However, Peter starts off this letter glorifying God. He says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 1:3)!

Peter can do this because he realizes that whatever they had lost on this earth was miniscule to what God had done in their salvation. This is why he calls them to praise God. Similarly, look at what Paul says about our afflictions on the earth:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (emphasis mine).
2 Corinthians 4:16–18

In this text, Peter is calling these Christians, and us through them, to not lose heart but, in fact, to glory as we look at our great salvation. The hope for this lesson is that we will again look at our salvation and have our “joy” restored even in the midst of various trials.

Big Question: What is so great about our salvation according to 1 Peter 1:3–5 that it should cause us to worship God and have joy?”

Believers Praise God Because of God’s Mercy in Our Great Salvation

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 1:3

Here Peter begins to worship God specifically because of God’s great mercy. Mercy focuses on how deplorable the believer’s state was before Christ. This is one of the reasons we often don’t worship God. We have forgotten how bad our situation really was before Christ.

Interpretation Question: What are some Scripture texts that remind us of how far away from God we were and how much mercy God had to give us in salvation?

Listen to what Paul said about us:

Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)—remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world (emphasis mine).
Ephesians 2:11–12

Paul says remember we were separated from Christ, excluded from the promises made to Abraham and Israel, without hope or God in this world. We were in bad shape. Listen to Ephesians 2:1-3:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.

Paul says we were dead in our transgressions. We were not physically dead but spiritually dead. This means we couldn’t commune with God. We would try to read our Bible or worship, and it would mean nothing to us. We were far from God. He says not only were we dead in our transgressions, but we were following this world and even the devil, who is the ruler of this world. We lived to gratify the cravings of our sinful nature and were objects of God’s wrath.

The Christian who has forgotten the bad shape he was in before salvation will often lose his worship. It is the gravity of how bad our situation was that makes our salvation so great. If a person saves you from making a mistake on your taxes, that’s great, but if they save your life, then there will be a greater thankfulness. Many have lost the joy of their salvation because they have forgotten how much God has saved them from.

Consequently, not only are they often lacking joy but are also prone to bitterness and complaining over things that happen in their lives. Sometimes they may even be prone to pride and becoming judgmental over other’s failures. This happens because they forgot how bad their situation previously was and how gracious our Father has been to us (2 Pet 1:9).

It’s good to remember that Paul still saw himself as chief of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). This means he never lost sight of God’s mercy in his salvation. He saw how far away from God’s standard he really was even as an apostle.

Application Question: Why are Christians so prone to forget or lose sight of their sinful past or their current sinful state?

1. Christians often lose a view of their sinfulness because they start to focus on other people.

When we are looking at others, we start to think we are pretty good, which will affect our worship of God. If we think we are pretty good, then we will tend to honor ourselves instead of worshiping God for saving us from our sin and ugliness. In fact, we saw this in the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18. The Pharisee came before God and exalted himself because he was looking at the tax collector. He said, “Thank you Lord I am not like this tax collector” and began to boast about all his good works (v. 11).

We even saw this with the good son in the parable of the prodigal son. In Luke 15, the good son had lost the joy of being in the father’s house because he was focused on his sinful brother, which made him lose sight of the grace and the mercy he had received. He boasted to the father about how he had never disobeyed his orders (v. 29) even though at the moment he was dishonoring his father and refusing to fellowship with him. He couldn’t see his own sin and failures, and therefore, couldn’t enjoy the grace of the father.

We must be careful of focusing on others because it will skew a proper view of ourselves and our view of God as well. Listen to Paul:

We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.
2 Corinthians 10:12

2. Christians often lose a view of their sinfulness because they don’t spend enough time with God.

When Isaiah was in the presence of God, he lamented about how much of a sinner he was. Look at what he said: “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty” (Isa 6:5).

Looking at God gave him a proper view not only of his own sins but also of his nation’s sins. We must continue to look at Christ by living in his Word and worship. This will help us have a proper view of ourselves, and therefore, have the appropriate joy and worship in our lives over our great salvation.

Believers Should Praise God for the New Birth in Our Great Salvation

In his great mercy he has given us new birth.
1 Peter 1:3

Interpretation Question: Peter worships God for giving believers the new birth. A literal reading of verse 3 says he has “caused us to be born again.” What can we learn from the rendering “caused us to be born again” about our salvation?

The next wonderful truth about the believer’s salvation that should cause worship is God’s gift of the new birth. A more literal rendering of verse 3 is translated “he has caused us to be born again” (ESV).

What is Peter referring to by the phrase “caused us to be born again?”

First of all, this reminds us of John 3, where Christ tells Nicodemus no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born again. One must first be born of water and the Holy Spirit (v. 5). Water seems to refer to the necessity of the Word of God in the new birth. Water is a common metaphor for Scripture. Paul uses it in Ephesians 5:25 for Christ washing the church with the water of the Word of God.

When a believer hears the Word of God and the Holy Spirit moves upon him, there is a birth. A person is made a new creation. Now certainly, this happens when a believer responds by putting his faith in Christ as their Lord and Savior, but in another way this is a work totally of God.

The reason that Peter says God caused us to be born again seems to be because he is referring the readers back to what he talked about in verse 1 and 2. He talked about the believer’s election, which speaks of how God chose them before time. Yes, there is a sense in which the believer must choose to respond to the gospel but just as human birth has nothing to do with the child, neither does the second birth.

When a child is born, does he have anything to do with the process of birth? It is something that begins in the minds of the parents and consummated through their bodies. The child has nothing to do with it. In the same way, spiritual birth is an act of God. It has nothing to do with the one who is born again. Yes, Scripture everywhere calls us to believe and repent, but the means to repent and believe does not come from man. Look at what Paul says in Ephesians 2:8–9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (emphasis mine).

When Paul says we are saved through faith and not from ourselves, he is saying that even the faith we demonstrate in order to be saved is a gift of God. Man himself cannot choose God. Sin has so fractured the will of man in such a way that man cannot in himself respond to God apart from grace. Look at what Paul said about this: “The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God” (Rom 8:7–8).

Paul says the natural mind is hostile to God. It cannot submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. People often talk about free will, but before a person is born again, they are not free at all. Their will is in bondage to sin. They may know God law’s, they may know his gospel, but it is impossible for them to respond because they are slaves of sin.

It is grace that comes in and shatters this bondage and allows a person to respond to Christ so that they may be born again. One of the wonderful things about our salvation is that it is totally a gift of God’s grace. It is an act that began in the counsel of God even before creation. God has caused us to be born again.

I think many times people have lost the joy of their salvation because they have lost or never come to an understanding of true grace. Saving grace means I could do nothing for my salvation. It is all a gift of God. He gave me birth. This is something that we can’t fully understand or comprehend, but it is something that we must affirm because Scripture teaches it and worship because of it. Look again at how Paul responds to the doctrine of election (cf. Rom 11:28) that leads to salvation.

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.
Romans 11:33–36

Look at Christ’s worship over this truth:

At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.”
Luke 10:21

Christ worships God because he has hidden it from some and revealed it to others. This is essentially election. “I don’t understand it, Lord, but I thank you for the grace you have given me, and I declare your paths are past tracing out. You are good, oh Lord! Your salvation is great!” This should be the proper response to the God who has “caused us” to be born again. Thank you Lord for this new birth!

Application Question: Why is election and the reality that the new birth is a work totally of God so controversial and difficult for many to accept?

Believers Should Praise God Because of Our Living Hope in Our Great Salvation

In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
1 Peter 1:3

Interpretation Question: What does Paul mean by the “living hope” the believer has in salvation?

Another reason the believer should praise God is because God has brought us into a living hope. Scripture would declare everywhere that the lost are without hope in the world. Listen to what Solomon said about the wicked: “The prospect of the righteous is joy, but the hopes of the wicked come to nothing” (Prov 10:28). If your hope is built on the economy, your career, your family, or your investments, all these hopes will come to nothing. The economy is shaky at best; one could lose his career or retirement at any time. Life as we know it will eventually come to an end. These are dead hopes because one day they will come to nothing. Yet these are the only hopes that the world can really have.

But, those who believe in Christ have a hope that will last forever. Listen to what John said about this world and specifically the man who obeys God: “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17). Because of the resurrection of Christ, the man who does the will of God abides forever. Death is just a passage way into eternity, and therefore, his hope is living and will never pass away. Look at what Paul said about his death: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil 1:21).

To live is Christ, but to die is gain. For the believer, his hopes should be eternal. In the next passages, Peter talks about why our hope is living. It’s living because of Christ’s resurrection. He says a living hope “through the resurrection of Christ” (1 Pet 1:3). It is living because we have an inheritance in heaven that will never be taken away; it’s living because God is saving us for it, as we will one day be resurrected.

It’s because of this reality that the believer must set their eyes on things above and not on the earth. If the believer’s hope is on the earth, he will be up and down like the waves of the sea, as the economy changes, health changes, etc. But our hope in heaven is eternal, and therefore, is stable and living. Look at what Paul said:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Colossians 3:1–4

Application Question: Why is it important to have a living hope? How should having a living hope encourage you in your daily life and specifically in persecution and trials?

Believers Should Praise God for the Inheritance We Have in Our Great Salvation

And into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you.
1 Peter 1:4

Interpretation Questions: What is Peter referring to as our inheritance? What are the adjectives referring to this inheritance and what do they mean?

The next thing Peter says is that a believer should praise God because of his inheritance in heaven. He uses three adjectives to describe this inheritance. What are they and what do they mean? He says our inheritance is

  • imperishable, which means “not able to be destroyed”
  • undefiled, which means “not polluted”; and
  • unfading, which means “not subject to decay.”1

But what is this inheritance that he is talking about? Because Peter’s audience was primarily Jewish, as he was the apostle to the Jews, they would have immediately thought about the inheritance the Jews were promised in Canaan. Look at what the book of Joshua said: “So Joshua took the entire land, just as the LORD had directed Moses, and he gave it as an inheritance to Israel (emphasis mine) according to their tribal divisions. Then the land had rest from war” (Josh 11:23).

We see here in this passage that Israel went into the promise land and conquered the nations in Canaan. There they took the inheritance that God had given them—the land of Israel. However, the Jews whom Peter was speaking to knew that the promised inheritance was at times taken by other nations. It was taken as they were exiled from it by the Assyrians and the Babylonians. In fact, at the time of Peter’s writing the land was under Roman rule.

The inheritance in the Old Covenant was perishable. The temple was destroyed along with the buildings and the walls. It was polluted with sin and the idolatry of the nation. It was prone to decay because it was temporal and not eternal. However, the inheritance of the believer in the New Covenant is much greater than that of the Old Covenant. It is imperishable, undefiled, unfading and it is being reserved in heaven by God. God is keeping the inheritance of the believer in heaven. This is something to praise God for because in this life our inheritance is temporal at best. The money we save fluctuates in value with the economy; it’s prone to be lost, but not our inheritance in heaven. Look at what Christ says:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
Matthew 6:19–20

He says don’t store up on the earth because it is temporary but store up in heaven because it is eternal. But what exactly is the inheritance of the believer?

It is essentially everything that comes with Christ. Scripture calls Christians co-heirs with Christ. Everything that is Christ’s is ours. Look at what Romans says: “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co–heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Rom 8:17).

Everything that is Christ’s is ours. This includes ruling the earth in the millennial kingdom and the eternal state (Rev 20). It includes the beauties and riches of the new Jerusalem (Rev 21). It includes the crowns and riches we will receive for faithfulness on the earth (Rev 4:4) and much, much more.

However, the greatest part of our inheritance is God. He is our portion, he is our joy, and in heaven we will have unhindered fellowship with him. “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps 73:26). Listen to Psalms 16:5: “The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot” (KJV).

The saint should rejoice because of this inheritance that is waiting for him in heaven and the chief part of that inheritance is God. He is our inheritance and our portion. We enjoy him here on earth, but in heaven, it will be in an unhindered manner. Thank you Lord!

Application Question: What excites you most about the believer’s future heavenly inheritance? What questions do you have about heaven and its rewards?

Believers Should Praise God for the Future Aspects of Our Great Salvation

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 (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 1:5

The final aspect mentioned in this passage that should make the believer rejoice even in suffering, is one’s coming salvation. This may sound strange to some because we are already saved. However, Scripture talks about salvation in at least three ways. We were saved when we accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior. This is called justification, as God canceled our sin debt and gave us Christ’s righteousness. He now sees us as his Son in perfect righteousness. Scripture speaks of this salvation in the past tense as in Ephesians 2:8: “For it is by grace you have been saved (emphasis mine), through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”

The second way is that we are being saved; this is called sanctification. Every day, we are being saved from sin as we become more holy and look more like Christ. This is a progressive process that will happen until we reach heaven. We see this in Philippians 2:12-13:

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose (emphasis mine).

Finally, there is a future aspect of our salvation called “the coming of salvation.” It is often called glorification, which happens when we see Christ. We will have resurrected bodies and will no longer sin or have a sin nature in our bodies. We will be completely saved from sin and temptation. This will happen when we see Christ.

Look at what 1 John 3:2 says: “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him (emphasis mine), for we shall see him as he is.” Scripture constantly talks about this as a future salvation. “And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now (emphasis mine) than when we first believed” (Rom 13:11).

These are three aspects of our salvation: (1) justification in the past, (2) sanctification in the present, and (3) glorification when we see Christ and have our resurrected bodies. This is something we should get excited about. There is a coming day where we will no longer wrestle with pride, fight against lust or temptation. One day, we will be completely like Christ and until that time, we fight and “work out my salvation” so we can look more and more like our Lord.

Believers Should Praise God for His Protection over Our Great Salvation

Who through faith are shielded by Gods power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 1:5

However, not only do we praise God about this future aspect of salvation, but we praise him that we are being protected for it. Look again at what Peter says: “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” (1 Pet 1:5).

The word shielded is a military word. It can also be translated “guarded.” Another exciting aspect about this salvation and future inheritance is that God is guarding us for it. As you could imagine, there were many of these persecuted Christians that were kept from their earthly inheritance because of the scattering (1 Pet 1:1) or because it was taken by the Romans. Some had even died for the faith, and therefore, could not receive the inheritance of their fathers or grandfathers. However, the believer’s inheritance is different. God is guarding us for it.

This teaches the doctrine of the eternal security of the believer. If they are truly born again, they will not lose their salvation. They will not lose it because God shields and protects the faith of every true believer. They will never ultimately fall away from God because God keeps them. We see many promises about this in the Scripture. Look at what Jesus said to his disciples:

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.
John 10:27–29

Christ puts the believers in his hand and also in the Father’s hand, and says no one will snatch them out. They will have eternal life. In fact, Christ taught that this was one of the reasons that God sent him. He was sent to not only save people but to keep them from stumbling away from him. Look at what he says in John 6:37–39:

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day (emphasis mine).

Interpretation Question: How does Christ keep the saints from losing their salvation?

How does Christ keep the salvation of those God has given him?

Christ’s job is to lose none of the saints—he keeps their faith. He does this in several ways:

1. Christ shields the faith of believers through prayer. We saw this with Peter when he was sifted by Satan in his denial. Look at what Christ said to him: “But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail (emphasis mine). And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32).

Christ kept the faith of Peter when he stumbled in sin by praying for him. Christ kept Peter from falling totally away from Christ and apostatizing. The writer of Hebrews says this is a ministry Christ does for every believer in order to keep their faith. Look at what he says: “Therefore he is able to save completely (emphasis mine) those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Heb 7:25).

Christ can save completely those who come to him because he prays for them. Christ is always praying for his saints, and he keeps their faith as he did with Peter.

2. Christ shields the faith of believers by limiting the trials they go through. Look at what happened to the disciples right before Christ went to the cross:

Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” “I told you that I am he,” Jesus answered. “If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: I have not lost one of those you gave me (emphasis mine).”
John 18:7–9

When the soldiers came to take Jesus, he protected his disciples from being taken and crucified. Why? John says so that he would lose none of whom God gave him. Christ knew this trial was too big for them. If they would have faced crucifixion for their faith, at that point, they would have totally turned away from Christ. Their faith was not strong enough. He was keeping the faith of his elect; he was shielding them.

Christ does that for every believer. He holds the temperature gauge on the trial. He only lets you go through what you can handle. We see this clearly in 1 Corinthians 10:13:

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it (emphasis mine).

When we see those in the church who go through a trial, fall away, and never come back, that means they were never truly saved. Christ will not lose any of those God has given him. This is how Christ handles those who claim to be his followers but do not have true saving faith. Look at what he says in Matthew 7:21–23:

Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?” Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers” (emphasis mine)!

Christ doesn’t say they lost their salvation. He essentially says they never had it. He “never knew” them. Of those who are truly saved, Christ will lose none. He protects their faith and keeps them out of trials that would ultimately cause them to turn away as he did with Peter and the disciples. Our God guards the faith of the saints. This is something we should worship God for in our salvation.

I think some do not have a proper worship towards God for their salvation because to them, their salvation is not sure. It is not sure because of wrong doctrine about the security of their salvation. For some it may not be sure because they lack assurance of salvation. Each believer is called to make their election sure by growing in their faith so they no longer will be tossed to and fro at every temptation or failure (cf. 2 Pet 1:10, 5–9)

One of the reasons we praise God for our salvation is because it is eternal. It cannot be lost because Christ is active, and God is active in guarding it like a soldier. Listen, there is nobody better to guard your salvation than God. You can have ultimate confidence that Christ will lose none.

This is something we can worship God about!

Application Question: Why do so many people lack assurance of salvation? How can they develop assurance and trust in God as the guardian of their faith and therefore salvation?

Conclusion

Restore to me the joy of my salvation. Many of us have lost it. We don’t worship God anymore about it, and maybe part of it is because we have lost our gaze on the benefits of this great salvation. Peter writes to believers who are suffering to help them again have the joy they are meant to have even in the midst of their tribulations.

  1. Believers should praise God for his mercy in our great salvation. Many have forgotten how rotten they were and how numerous their sins were. God had mercy on us and did not give us what we deserve. He had mercy on us and delivered us from his eternal wrath.
  2. Believers should praise God for the new birth in our great salvation. God has caused us to be born again and given us a new life.
  3. Believers should praise God for the living hope in our great salvation. The world does not have a living hope but only hopes that pass away. They pass away at the grave, their degrees, their finances and their dreams. But this is not true about the believer’s hope. The believer’s hopes are eternal because of their resurrection in Christ. This should bring us joy.
  4. Believers should praise God for the inheritance in our great salvation. Our inheritance is being reserved in heaven by God. In this world all inheritances will ultimately be lost but not the believers’.
  5. Believers should praise God for the future aspects of our great salvation. Thank you, Lord, that we have not received all the benefits of our salvation yet. One day, there will be no more sin, no more sickness, and no more mourning. We will reign as co-heirs with Christ in the new heaven and new earth. Thank you, Lord, that you are protecting this for us.
  6. Believers should praise God for his protection over our great salvation. The believer’s salvation is secure. This should make us sing praises to God as Peter did.

Application Question: How can we keep the joy we are supposed to have in our great salvation especially when going through trials?

Chapter Notes

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Copyright 2014 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked KJV are from the King James Version of the Bible.


1 Helm, D. R. (2008). 1 & 2 Peter and Jude: Sharing Christs sufferings. Preaching the Word (32). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Soteriology (Salvation), Worship (Personal)

3. Secrets To Joy In The Midst Of Trials (1 Peter 1:6-9)

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In 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 your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and 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 goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
1 Peter 1:6–9

Application Question: What are common responses to suffering?

In this epistle, Peter is writing to Christians that are spread throughout Asia Minor, which is modern-day Turkey. They had been scattered because of the persecution coming from Rome. These believers were being persecuted for following Christ; they were being persecuted for being different. He writes to encourage them. Listen to what he says in 1 Peter 1:6: “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials” (emphasis mine).

Peter says it is possible for these believers to have both great joy and grief in the midst of their trials. This verse can also be translated as a command rejoice in this. The believers were suffering in all kinds of trials. The word kinds can be translated “various or multicolored.” Some had, no doubt, lost their land, their loved ones and their careers, and yet Peter says they can still have great joy in the midst of these multicolored trials.

What is the secret to joy in trials? What’s the secret for a Christian to have joy while suffering through bankruptcy, cancer or even a lost child? Is it realistic that both joy and grief can exist together?

As we look at Scripture, we see that Peter is not the only writer who teaches this apparent paradox. Paul in fact lived it. Look at what Paul said about his trials in 2 Corinthians 6:10: “Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything” (emphasis mine).

Paul said he was at the same time “sorrowful” and still “rejoicing.” To have joy in trials is not to deny pain. It is to recognize the fact that they can exist together. They can co-exist in the same way an expectant mother can go through the travail of birth and still have joy in thinking about what is to come. She has joy because she has the “right focus” as she considers this new baby that will be birthed into the world. In the same way, believers must have the right focus in order to have joy in their multicolored trials.

In this study, we will see six secrets to having joy in the midst of trials.

Big Question: What does Peter teach as secrets to joy in the midst of trials? How can we live this type of Christian life in the various multicolored trials we go through?

Focus on the Benefits of Salvation

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 1:6

Observation Question: What is Peter referring to when he says in “this” you greatly rejoice?

In the flow of thought, this is pointing back to our new birth and inheritance in heaven in verses 3–5. Listen to what he says in the previous verses.

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—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by Gods power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 1:3–5

Why should believers have joy in their trials according to 1 Peter 1:3-5?

1. We rejoice in our new birth.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth (emphasis mine) into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet 1:3).

Peter says we have been given a new birth (v. 3) into a living hope through the resurrected Jesus Christ. We rejoice in the fact that we are new and we are not the same anymore. There was a time when we were dead to God, but now we are alive to him. We are alive to his Word, alive to worship, alive to one another, where before we were dead in trespasses and sin (Eph 2:1–5). This is something we can rejoice in even in the midst of trials. But that’s not it. Peter says there is more.

2. We rejoice in our undefiled inheritance.

“And into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you” (1 Pet 1:4).

With this new birth, we receive an inheritance in heaven (v. 4). Jesus said in his high priestly prayer in John 17:22 that the glory he had in heaven has been shared with us. Romans 8:17 declares that we are co-heirs with Christ, and therefore, what is the Son’s is ours.

In fact, in some way, we benefit from this inheritance now. Ephesians 1:3 says we have every spiritual blessing in heavenly places. Ephesians 2:6 says we are seated in heavenly places with Christ. This means Christ is ruling in heaven but we are there in spirit with him. Everything that is his, is ours; we are co-heirs. This is a phenomenal concept. In fact, God is preserving this inheritance, keeping it from decay or being stolen, even right now. Let us hear that this inheritance is not only heavenly, but it will be earthly. Jesus declared that the “meek” would “inherit the earth” (Matt 5:5).

There are many people in this life who never receive their natural inheritance. Maybe they don’t receive it because the inheritance is lost or its value changes. But the inheritance to which Peter refers can never perish, spoil, or fade and God is protecting it for us. That’s something we can rejoice in, even when our natural inheritance is taken away.

3. We rejoice in our eternal security.

“Who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation” (1 Pet 1:5).

Some people are kept from their inheritance because of their own death. Peter says this is not true for the believer; though the believer may die, we are being sheilded by Gods power until the coming of the salvation (v. 5). Now this is something that only those who understand the reality that God is keeping the salvation of every believer can truly rejoice in. I have found many young Christians that have lost joy or even fallen into spiritual depression, thinking they had sinned in such a way that they had lost their salvation.

Listen, if you are truly born again, you are kept by God’s power “until the coming of salvation” which will be “revealed” at the coming of Christ (1 Pet 1:5) and not the power of your faith. God is the one who gives you faith (Ephesians 2:8–9), and he is the one who keeps it. The promise of Romans 8:28 is only true if our salvation and inheritance are secure; only then can all things work together for the good of those who love the Lord. This is a wonderful truth for us, and it is one in which we must focus on in the multicolored trials we may go through. We can focus on our inheritance and security in heaven.

Too many Christians fail to focus on the benefits of their salvation, and therefore, have lost joy when their inheritance on earth is affected. Scripture says we should “rejoice in this” (1 Pet 1:6). We should rejoice in all the benefits of our coming salvation. This is how Paul could suffer and yet still be joyful (2 Cor 6:10); his salvation was always on his mind and he did not lose focus on it.

Application Question: Why do so many Christians lose this joy in their salvation which is meant to sustain them during trials?

It is very possible for Christians to lose the joy of their salvation. We see evidence of this with David. Look at what he prayed in Psalms 51:12: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (emphasis mine). Why had David lost joy in his salvation? The Psalm tells us it was because of sin. “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge” (Ps 51:4).

Listen, many of us have lost our joy. The heavens are our inheritance, and the earth will one day be as well, yet so many of us walk around in sadness, anger, and depression. Why is that? It’s because sin has taken away our joy. It may be personal sin, as with David. It may be the sin of a wrong focus—focusing on the things of the world, the economy, and the problems in life. Scripture commands us to “think on godly things.” Listen to what Paul says:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Philippians 4:8–9

Many of us have lost our joy because we have sinned by losing the right focus. What must we do if we have lost it? (1) We must confess our sins and turn away from them. (2) We must regain our focus on Christ and the inheritance that he is bringing at his revelation.

One of the things I love about 1 Peter is his focus on the gospel and having joy in our salvation. He has brought us back to the basics. In fact, one of the things that I respect about the reformed tradition (Presbyterians, Reformed Baptist, Reformed Church of America, etc.) is their focus on the gospel as well. I don’t come from a completely reformed background. As you may know, reformed people see the major theme of Scripture as “redemption,” and therefore, in many of their sermons they come back to the gospel because they see everything connected to the gospel. I feel like Peter is doing that here—he brings us back to the gospel; he brings us back to our salvation. It’s extremely important because it so easy to lose the joy that should be ours.

How can we have joy in the midst of our trials? We do that by rejoicing in the benefits of our salvation. We have experienced the new birth. We have an inheritance waiting for us in heaven, and our salvation is secure because God is shielding it for us.

Application Question: What ways have you experienced the loss of joy in your salvation?

Why did you lose it? How can we better strive to keep it?

Focus on Eternity

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 1:6

Next, he says the trials are only for “a little while.” Now for some of us who have been going through a difficult situation for six months, a year, or ten years, the timing may not feel short at all. Maybe we have been in a bad marriage or dealing with a difficult boss or some type of persecution. In what way is this temporary?

It is temporary, not just because of the fact that it will end in time, but it is a “little while” in comparison to the salvation and inheritance you will experience for eternity. That is the context in the previous verses (1 Pet 3-5). Paul said something similar in 2 Corinthians 4:17–18:

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (emphasis mine).

See when Paul was looking at his troubles being “momentary” (v. 17), it was in comparison to the coming glory, which would be eternal (v. 17, 18). It seems to be the same argument used by Peter, since he has just talked about our heavenly inheritance. Trials only last for a little while in comparison to our eternal salvation.

This is the type of view Christians must develop on the earth. Many people are only thinking about tomorrow or focusing on the next immediate milestone: graduation, marriage or retirement, but that view is too shortsighted. We must develop an eternal perspective.

This life is not just about our future career, marriage, or retirement. Do you know we are being prepared for eternity and an eternal destiny? It is not just about getting to heaven. It’s also about the role we will play once we are there. What we do today will affect our eternity. In the Parable of the Minas, listen again to what the master told the servant who used his minas well:

The first one came and said, “Sir, your mina has earned ten more.” “Well done, my good servant!” his master replied. “Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities” (emphasis mine).
Luke 19:16–17

How he served on earth affected his future service—the service he would do for the rest of his life. Oh yes, this is the perspective we must have. Our short fifty to seventy years are all about preparing for eternity, not just getting into heaven.

Paul saw his trials as short and momentary. Peter saw them as little in comparison to the glories of eternity, and so must we. We must develop an eternal view in order to have joy in the midst of our trials. If we only are thinking about tomorrow, next year, or thirty years from now, we will not have a sustainable joy. We must have an eternal view. When we view our trials in comparison to eternity, then they become light and momentary. Therefore, we can have joy.

Application Question: What things keep you from developing this eternal view point in the midst of your trials? How can we develop and sustain an eternal view point?

Focus on God’s Sovereignty and Purpose in the Trial

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 1:6

What is the next reason we can rejoice in trials?

We can rejoice in trials because they have purpose. They are not haphazard; they are not by accident—and God has not forgotten about us. Look at what Peter says: “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to (emphasis mine) suffer grief in all kinds of trials” (1 Pet 1:6).

He says “you may have had to.” This can be translated “if necessary” as in the ESV or “if need be” as seen in the KJV. What does Peter mean? He means that God is in control of our trials and they do not happen by accident.  As a father, he only allows us to go through things that are necessary for us.  He doesn’t waste anything.  Understanding this reality is one of the major reasons we can rejoice in the midst of trials.

It is this way with any good father.  A good father only allows his child to go through trials if they are necessary. The child wants to quit Little League Baseball because he’s not very good, but the father knows that the discipline and perseverance he is developing is needed for whatever career God leads him into. The father makes the child finish the season only because it’s necessary for his growth. The child may cry and complain, and it is not that the father is immune to the child’s tears, but it is because he knows what’s best. Our Father knows what’s best as well. Listen to what the writer of Hebrews said about trials: “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father” (Heb 12:7)?

In this passage, the writer says to endure “hardship” as discipline—God is treating you as sons. The writer uses the word hardship to refer to any kind of trial we go through. The point the author is trying to make, is that God is in control of every hardship a believer goes through (cf. Eph 1:11; Rom 8:28)

Now there are those who struggle with this and say, “What about trials that come from Satan or my own failure?” Yes, God is in control of those trials as well. That’s why the author uses a general term for hardship. Paul says the same thing in other texts, look at 1 Corinthians 10:13:

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it (emphasis mine).

Paul says not only is he in total control, but he is specifically controlling the temperature gauge on every trial. He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. He knows exactly what you need and how much you can handle. Believers can rejoice in trials because of this--they have purpose.

Now why would these trials be necessary for us? The fact that they are necessary means there is “intention” behind them. Let’s look at a couple of reasons why trials would be necessary.

Interpretation Question: Why would some trials be necessary and in what ways?

1. Some trials are necessary to turn us away from sin.

This is what we see happening to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 11. They were abusing the Lord’s Supper, and God brought weakness, sickness, and even death on them. Look at what Paul says:

That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.
1 Corinthians 11:30–32

Sometimes God brings trials to discipline us, to turn us away from sin. Listen to what David said about his experience with discipline: “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word” (Ps 119:67). Before discipline came, David was living in sin, but after the affliction, he obeyed God’s words. Often, trials are necessary to turn us away from sin and toward obedience. Like every good parent, sometimes God will bring discipline in the life of a believer to give them motivation to obey. In the situation of the Corinthians, this included weakness, sickness, and even death.

Death is the ultimate way to turn someone from sin. He did this with Ananias and Saphira in Acts 5. They were lying to the church about their giving and because of this God took them home.

2. Trials sometimes are necessary to protect us from sin.

What does that mean? Let me explain through the illustration of Paul and his thorn in the flesh.

Second Corinthians 12:7 says: “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me” (emphasis mine). We are not sure what this “thorn” in the flesh was. God has chosen not reveal it. I have no doubt that God did this so that we could apply it to any trial we experience, whether sickness, depression or demonic persecutions. Whatever Paul’s trial, it was given to him because of the “surpassing great revelations” he had received from God.

In the previous verses (1-6), Paul had talked about how he was taken to heaven and saw visions and things he could not speak about. These would make any person proud. If Satan, who was originally an angel without a sin nature, fell into pride—how much more likely a human who was exalted to write near half of the New Testament? In order that he would not become proud, God humbled him through a demonic affliction. It does not say Paul was prideful, but God was saving him from the sin of pride through this humbling experience. Maybe that is why God touched Jacob’s thigh and caused him to limp after wrestling with God and prevailing. Maybe that was why God allowed Peter to go through such a humbling trial at the cross since he would be the Lord’s chief Apostle.

In the same way, many trials we go through could possibly be a form of God’s grace to keep us from sin. We have probably seen this in some of the people God has chosen to use in the greatest ways. Charles Spurgeon, who was called the Prince of Preachers, used to struggle with depression that was so bad at times he couldn’t leave his bed for weeks.

The trial given to Paul was a work of grace to keep him from the sin of pride.

3. Trials are ultimately needed in order for us to grow in character.

Listen to what Hebrews says: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Heb 12:11).

For those who are trained by going through hardship, it produces a harvest of righteousness. Hear this: peace, patience, endurance, love, and joy are fruits of trials. There is a harvest for those who have been trained by pain. Look at the life of any truly godly man or woman, and you will see that godliness has always been marked by trials.

We are trained by persevering through the trial and seeking the Lord and his Word in the midst of it. However, those who are not trained by it often develop strongholds. Hebrews 12:12, 13 says this: “Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed” (emphasis mine). Many develop strongholds and addictions by going through trials. It is harder for them to love, harder for them to forgive, or harder for them to have peace. They become “lame” and “disabled.” Only those who are “trained” by the trial, develop the character God wants.

4. Trials maybe necessary in order to further equip us for ministry.

Listen again to what Paul said:

Who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer (emphasis mine).
2 Corinthians 1:4–6

Paul said he had learned that God comforted him in the midst of trouble so he could comfort those in any trouble. There are some Christians, especially young Christians, who struggle with how to comfort somebody in the midst of a failure, a loss, or some depression. This is not their fault, and it is not necessarily a lack of spirituality. Many of them just don’t have the experience of going through trials with God yet. This is where he prepares his counselors.

One of the wonderful promises about this text is that God uses trouble in order to comfort us so we can comfort those who go through “any trouble” (v. 4). This means that my trial with depression is used to help believers who have experienced trials that are different from mine. I don’t necessarily have to experience exactly what they have gone through to comfort them.

In the midst of pain, God creates a reservoir in you. This reservoir allows you to go deeper than you have before. Those of you who are hard-hearted and never cry, God teaches you to cry through pain. He teaches you how to be able to feel others’ heartaches. He teaches you how to better hear God’s voice in times of suffering. All this will enable you, in a special way, to be able to minister to others.

My calling to ministry was also marked by trials. After feeling impressed to go into ministry, I struggled with depression for over a year. But, during this depression God comforted me through his Word. I probably read through the Bible fifteen times in close to a year and a half. When people hear me preach, they will hear a strong emphasis on the importance of Scripture, the importance of daily meditation on the Word of God because that is the way God “comforted me” and I, therefore, comfort others the same way.

It is a mystery, but God brings comfort through the broken. It’s only the broken whom he can pour his precious grace through to minister to others.

What other reasons are trials necessary? The next reason is because it “tests our faith.” We will focus on that in the next section, as it is also a secret to having joy in the midst of trials.

Application Question: What are your thoughts about the concept of God being in control of every trial and him only allowing them if they are necessary?

Focus on Your Faith

These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 1:7

Peter says that trials are used to prove the genuiness of one’s faith. The word proved is used of testing metals through fire. In this passage, faith is both compared and contrasted with gold. Gold is one of the most precious metals because it is one of the most imperishable. It lasts for a very long time. Gold can be passed from generation to generation. The imperishableness of gold is one of the things that make it valuable. If it only lasted for a couple of years, it would be less expensive.

The contrast is that true faith is more precious than gold in that it never perishes. In fact, true faith is indestructible. If faith is genuine, it will last until the revelation of Christ when he comes, and it will result in praise, glory, and honor from God (v. 7).

Trials to our faith, are like fire to a precious metal—the fire tests the genuineness of it. Each metal has a different melting point, and that is one of the ways you can tell if something is really genuine. The metallurgist will put it in the fire and see at what temperature it melts. If it melts early, it is not real. Trials have the same effect on a believer’s faith.

No doubt there have been many miners who found something that looked like gold. It was beautiful, but when they put it into fire, they found out it wasn’t. It melted at a lower temperature. It was not as strong or valuable. Genuine gold will last at high temperatures.

That is similar to genuine faith. However, genuine faith lasts forever, and faith that ultimately falls away from God in the midst of trials is spurious. It is false faith. A lot of times we don’t talk about false faith in church, but it is a reality. In fact, James talks about a faith without works, as “demonic faith.” He says even the demons believe and shudder (Jas 2:19).

How do we know if we have genuine faith? One of the ways we can tell is by our response to trials. Listen to the story of the seed sown upon rocks.

The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away (emphasis mine).
Matthew 13:20–21

See, this person was in the church, heard the Word of God, and he responded with joy. In fact, it seems like a very emotional “conversion.” However, this person’s faith was very shallow and didn’t last. Why is that? Maybe the conversion was based on bad teaching? In many of our churches, we call people to faith saying that if you come to Christ, you will be able to hit homeruns, you will be able to make straight A’s, you will never be sick, and you will be wealthy. At times there is an unhealthy form of the gospel taught in the church.

When this person eventually encounters trouble or persecution, they fall away from God and never return. Maybe they were believing God for healing, and it didn’t happen. Maybe they realized following Christ would mean being different, or as with the people in Asia Minor, it meant being persecuted for their faith. This person inevitably falls away from Christ and never returns. His faith was not real, and the trial was meant to demonstrate that. That is one of the blessings of trials; it proves our faith, whether it is real or not.

For many, when they go through a church split or they were harmed by a church leader, they fall away from the faith and never return. This is not true faith. Listen to what John said about those who were in the church but left the church of Ephesus to follow the Gnostic cults.

They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us (emphasis mine).
1 John 2:19

He doesn’t say they lost their salvation or lost faith. He simply says “they did not really belong to us.” They weren’t really saved. He says if they were saved, they would have “remained.”

See, true faith, unlike gold, is imperishable. Gold is valuable in part because of how long it lasts, but gold will eventually fade and corrupt, unlike true faith. True faith will last in the face of trials. It’s one of the ways we can tell if it’s genuine.

Let us remember, how Jesus responded to those who professed salvation in Matt 7:23; he says, “I never knew you.” They were not saved and lost it. No, they were never saved. He never knew them, though they were in the church and served in the church. It was never true faith.

A good example of this is Peter and Judas. They both denied Christ when they were tested through the trial. Peter fell away and came back because he had genuine faith. Judas denied Christ and never returned. Jesus had always said that one of the disciples was unclean and a devil (John 6:70). Judas didn’t have genuine faith.

In the same way, trials are necessary in order to prove the reality of one’s faith.

How do you respond to trials? Does it draw you closer to God, closer to his Word and closer to the people of God? Or, does it pull you away from him, his people, and his will for your life? Trials help us evaluate our faith.

True faith is ultimately indestructible because God keeps it by his power. One of the reasons we can rejoice in trials is because it proves the genuiness of our faith. It proves to us and others that we are part of the kingdom of God (Philip 1:28, 29).

Application Question: What are some ways we can focus on our faith in trials in order to keep our joy?

Focus on the Future Glory

In 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 your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 1:6–7

What other reasons can we rejoice in trials? We rejoice because trials bring a greater future glory. When it says the trials have come so that our faith “may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed,” this seems to be referring to the reality that God will praise you, glorify you, and honor you for your faithfulness in going through trials. Christ taught the same thing. Listen to what he said:

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you (emphasis mine).
Matthew 5:11–12

He said, “Rejoice and be glad for great is your reward in heaven.” There is a reward given for suffering. James said the same thing: “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life (emphasis mine) that God has promised to those who love him” (Jas 1:12).

Here is a question: does simply going through a trial warrant reward in heaven? No, its how we go through the trial. James says blessed, or happy, is the man who perseveres under trial.

We see Israel going through trials in the wilderness, and God disciplined them. They fell away from God, they complained about God, and they were divided. But there is another way to go through trials. It is the way of faith—it is the genuine faith that is tested through the trial. God rewards those who faithfully “persevere.” Listen to a few other texts:

Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life (emphasis mine).
Revelation 2:10

Listen to what Christ said: “Be faithful” and you will be rewarded. God will honor those who have been faithful in the way they have persevered through trials. They did not become like the Israelites who murmured, gossiped, became divisive, and ultimately turned away from God. Those who are faithful—meaning that they didn’t quit, meaning that they continued to trust in God and honor him in the midst of trials—will be richly rewarded.

The writer of Hebrews says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him (emphasis mine)” (Heb 11:6).

Are you faithfully seeking him in the midst of your trial? God says, “That’s what I’m looking for. I will reward those who have faith in the midst of their trials. I will rejoice over them and honor them. I will give them a crown.” Peter saw this and focused on this in the midst of his trials. He also called these suffering saints to focus on it as well.

This is a wonder. Typically, we honor those who are successful and do great things. This is common in the world. But look at Christianity—we honor and worship a man who died on a cross. This was something shameful in that culture. Who would honor a person who died in an electric chair?

But we see this reality throughout the Scripture. We see the man Job, memorialized in Scripture for his faithfulness in going through trials. God honors him in Scripture and, no doubt, in heaven.

We can rejoice in our trials because those who are faithful will be honored and praised by God. They will be memorialized even as Job was.

Application Question: In what ways should the prospect of future reward and glory encourage us as we face trials? How can we encourage others with this when they are suffering?

Focus on Your Relationship with Christ

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 goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 1:8–9

Peter, in speaking to these Christians, says they are “filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” because of their love and belief in Christ. How can this bring joy? It brings joy because it is in the midst of the trial that we see Christ and know him more. It is this loving relationship with Christ that allows us to endure and have joy in trial or tribulation.

I cannot help but think about Jacob and Rachel. As you know in that story, Jacob served Laban for seven extra years to receive Rachel. Genesis 29:20 says: “So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her” (emphasis mine).

It was hard work to serve for her, but it felt like only a few days because of love. Many people have experienced this in the midst of trials. It is the relationships around us that often enable us to endure hard times. There is often a bonding that happens with others while going through hardship together.

Trials can create a tremendous intimacy. Many have experienced this in athletics or the military, as they have gone through both joys and difficulties with those around them. There is a deep intimacy created, which is often hard to replicate apart from the experience of trials.

For the believer, the great thing about trials is that Christ goes through them with us and in the trial we can experience deep intimacy. Christ said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Matt 28:20). He is there, and his presence enables us to get through it, and even experience the sweetest joy. You will find that it is in the fire that your intimacy with Christ becomes the greatest. Ask the three Hebrews who were thrown into the fire in Babylon. While in the fire, they found the Son of God there with them.

Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonished, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God (emphasis mine).
Daniel 3:24–25 (KJV)

Our loving relationship with Christ can create some of the greatest joy even in the midst of the fire. How many of us are missing joy in our trials? Maybe we are lacking joy because we are not cultivating this loving relationship with Christ. Listen to what Christ said to the church of Ephesus in Revelations 2:2-4:

I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love (emphasis mine).

It is possible to work hard for Christ, persevere through trials, to hate what God hates, and yet still lose our love for Christ. This happened to the church of Ephesus, and it is common for us. When you lose your love for Christ, trials don’t feel like they last only a few days as it was for Jacob working for Rachel. Christianity can become like arduous labor; it can become legalism, and it can steal our joy, if we have the wrong focus.

Many Christians go through trials without joy, because they are not focusing on their loving relationship with Christ. In fact, they have lost their first love like the Ephesians. They have lost it, and instead, are loving other things more than Christ. They love work, friends, TV, hobbies, etc. If you have lost your first love, you cannot have joy in the midst of trials or in the midst of your service for Christ. It will become drudgery. When this happens, the secret is to refocus on your relationship with him.

Are you lacking joy in the midst of your trial? Go back to your first love. This relationship will carry you and give you joy.

Application Question: How do we cultivate our first love again so we can have joy in trials?

1. Spend intimate time with him one on one.

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (Rev 3:20).

2. Spend intimate time with him among his people.

Jesus said, “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Matt 18:20). Though this was originally given in the context of church discipline, we can be sure that this is true whenever God’s people gather together for religious purposes.1 Christ is present wherever his people gather for the purpose of worshiping, honoring, and serving the Lord.

3. Obey him. In obedience to Christ, we experience God’s love.

If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love (emphasis mine), just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love” (John 15:10).

4. Spend intimate time with him through the Lord’s Supper. He knew we were prone to forget. The Lord’s Supper is given to help us remember him.

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me” (emphasis mine).
Luke 22:19

Conclusion

How can we have joy in the midst of trials?

  1. Focus on the benefits of our great salvation—our new birth, our inheritance, and our security.
  2. Focus on eternity; trials are brief in comparison to eternity.
  3. Focus on God’s sovereignty and purpose in trials. The trial was not an accident it was necessary for your growth and maturation in Christ.
  4. Focus on your faith; trials prove the genuineness of our faith.
  5. Focus on the eternal glory; faithfulness in trials will be rewarded.
  6. Focus on our relationship with Christ; trials can bring deep intimacy with Christ.

Chapter Notes

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Copyright 2014 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked KJV are from the King James Version of the Bible.


1 Ryle, J. C. (1993). Matthew (164). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Suffering, Trials, Persecution

4. Remembering Our Great Salvation (1 Peter 1:10-12)

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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 Christ 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.
1 Peter 1:10–12

Application Question: What things bring you the greatest joy in life?

Peter writes to believers who are being persecuted in Asia Minor, which is current-day Turkey. They were being persecuted for their faith. Some wives were married to husbands who would not respond to the gospel, and they needed to be encouraged.

Peter starts off his letter encouraging these suffering saints with praise to God for their salvation (1 Pet 1:3). He then goes on and talks about what makes it so great. We have a living hope and the new birth. We are being protected for this salvation by God. We have an inheritance that will not fade (1 Pet 1:3–6). Peter writes to them about the greatness of their salvation in order to encourage them and bring them joy in the midst of suffering.

Most people find their joy from family, friends, career, or hobbies, but when family is sick or when there are problems at work, they lose their joy. No doubt, many among these congregations had lost their joy as well since the world around them was falling apart. The greatest joy in our life should be Christ, and the salvation we have received from him. It is from this relationship and the benefits of salvation that we can have enduring joy.

In this passage, Peter wants the Christians to refocus on how great their salvation is so they can have joy and persevere. He starts off with “concerning this salvation,” calling them to remember things they already knew so they can again stand in awe.

Similarly, there are some truths that we already know about our salvation that can help us restore our joy even in midst of trials. In this lesson we will see eight truths about the greatness of our salvation.

Big Question: What does Peter teach us about the greatness of our salvation that should help us have joy in our salvation and encourage us in the midst of our trials?

Remember the Greatness of Salvation in that It Is a Work of God’s Grace

Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you.
1 Peter 1:10

The first thing that makes salvation great is the fact that it is a work of God’s sovereign grace.

Interpretation Question: What is saving grace?

1. Grace is “unmerited favor.”

Salvation is not something we deserve because of our good works but is something given as a work of unmerited favor from God. We see this in Ephesians 2:8–9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (emphasis mine).

2. Grace is given regardless of our sins, or in spite of our sins.

Romans 5:8 reads: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (emphasis mine). This truth makes our salvation even more wonderful. It’s in spite of us and based on God’s grace that we have received salvation.

Interpretation Question: Peter said this “grace” was spoken of by prophets about how it would eventually come to us. Does this mean that people in the Old Testament did not experience grace (v. 10)?

The Old Testament saints did experience God’s grace, but they did not fully understand it as we do today. Scripture says the benefits of Christ’s cross were applied to their sins as well. But they did not fully understand the unmerited favor they were receiving from God. God dealt with them in forbearance on the basis of the sacrifice that would come for their sins. They were looking forward to Christ as pictured through the sacrifices. Listen to Romans 3:25–26,

God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

This shows the application of Christ’s blood. It applies to those who by faith have followed God since the beginning of the world. We see God accrediting righteousness to Abraham because of his faith as mentioned in James 2:23: “And the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called God’s friend.”

Abraham was saved by grace. God accredited the righteousness of Christ to his account on the basis of the future grace that we have received. Yet, Abraham did not fully understand why this grace was applied to his life. He did not have a full understanding of the coming Messiah and his future death for the sins of the world.

Application Question: How should the fact that our salvation is based on grace affect us?

1. This truth should make us worship God.

He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: Let him who boasts boast in the Lord(emphasis mine).
1 Corinthians 1:28–31

God’s amazing grace should draw us to worship him and boast only in him.

2. This truth also should encourage us when we fail and humble us when we succeed.

Many people, though saved by grace, still relate to God on the basis of their works. For some people, if they read their Bible or went to church, then they feel like they can approach God or relate to him. When they fail, they feel unworthy to go to church or read their Bibles. They relate to God based on their works, and therefore, Satan continually discourages them when they fail or tempts them to pride when they succeed. When we understand that we are saved by grace and Christ is the sole basis of our relationship to the Father, it should encourage us when we fail and help us remain humble when we succeed.

Look at how Paul rebukes the Galatians who were trying to relate to God based on law and legalism. “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort” (Gal 3:3)?

Understanding the grace given in salvation should make us joyful. We didn’t deserve it; it came from God on the basis of his mercy and grace. This should give us joy. Amazing grace should make us rejoice even in suffering!

Application Question: What ways are you tempted to still relate to God based on works instead of grace?

Remember the Greatness of Salvation in the Sufferings and Glory of Christ

To which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 1:11

What other ways was Peter calling these Christians to remember the greatness of their salvation? We see the greatness of it in that Christ suffered to bring us this salvation.

One of the qualities of something that many times makes it special is its cost. We are very protective over a house, a car or electronics because of how expensive they are. There is a great cost. In the same way, one of the things that make our salvation so great is its tremendous cost. It cost God his Son and it cost Christ tremendous pain and suffering. He bore the wrath of God on the cross. We see the afflictions and suffering of Christ clearly in Isaiah 53:3–5,

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

It is no surprise that when Peter is trying to encourage suffering saints, he points out that Christ was prophesied to suffer and receive glory after. We can be sure Peters mention of the Saviors sufferings was strategic to encourage the saints.

In essence, these words show us that the prophets were given a particular insight into salvation’s mystery—that the Christ would be a suffering Christ—and that only after suffering would he be given “subsequent” glories. For the typical first–century religious Jew, this thought was simply unacceptable. They wanted a Christ of glory. They had no time for a Messiah given over to suffering. Yet Peter’s early readers had been saved by just such a gospel. For the discouraged believer in Peter’s audience, this reminder would have been greatly encouraging. The life they were living, filled as it was with trials and difficulties, mirrored the life of the Messiah, in whom they had put their trust.1

This is very important to remember. Our Lord suffered on this earth and now has glory in heaven. This should help us persevere in our trials. Look at what the writer of Hebrews said:

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood (emphasis mine).
Hebrews 12:2–4

We should consider Christ’s sufferings as we suffer. The writer of Hebrews says we should consider him so that we will not grow weary and lose heart. We must focus on the sufferings of Christ and also the glory that followed Christ as he sat down at the right hand of God (v. 2). Our salvation is great because of its tremendous cost, the sufferings of Christ.

Application Question: In what ways do you find encouragement in suffering by looking or “fixing your eyes” on Christ?

Remember the Greatness of Salvation in that It’s a Fulfillment of Prophecy

To which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 1:11-12

Another thing that makes our salvation great is the fact that it is the fulfillment of many biblical prophecies. The first prophecy in the Bible predicted Christ’s sufferings and his glory. Look at Genesis 3:15: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

The woman would have an offspring that would be bitten by the serpent and this offspring would crush the serpent’s head. There has only been one seed of the woman throughout history and that is Christ. When a child is born, he or she comes from the man’s seed. But, Christ was the woman’s seed because he came through a virgin birth. His flesh wound was his death on the cross. His sufferings were predicted from the beginning of time. However, Christ crushed the head of the serpent, Satan, at his resurrection and he will complete the work at his second coming (Rev 20:10).

The prophecies fulfilled in Christ’s suffering and subsequent glories are seen throughout the Old Testament. In fact, there were twenty-nine prophecies fulfilled in one day, the day of Christ’s death. Let’s look at a few:

  1. He would be betrayed by a friend (Ps 41:9).
  2. The price of the betrayal would be thirty pieces of silver (Zech 11:12).
  3. The money would be used to buy a potter’s field (Zech 11:13).
  4. He would be forsaken and deserted by his disciples (Zech 13:7).
  5. He would be accused by false witnesses (Psalm 35:11).
  6. He would be silent before his witnesses (Isaiah 53:7).
  7. He would be wounded and bruised (Isaiah 53:5).
  8. He would be hated without cause (Psalm 69:4).
  9. He would be struck and spit on (Isaiah 50:6).
  10. He would be mocked, ridiculed, and rejected (Isaiah 53:3).
  11. He would collapse in weakness (Psalm 109:24-25).
  12. He would be taunted with specific words (Psalm 22:6-8).
  13. People would shake their heads at him (Psalm 109:25).
  14. He would be executed among sinners (Isaiah 53:12).
  15. His hands and feet would be pierced (Psalm 22:16).
  16. He would pray for his persecutors (Isaiah 53:12).
  17. His friends and family would stand afar off (Psalm 38:11).
  18. His garments would be divided and won by casting lots (Psalm 22:18).
  19. He would be given gall and vinegar (Psalm 69:21).
  20. His bones would be left unbroken (Psalm 34:20).
  21. He would die for our sins (Isaiah 53: 4–6).
  22. His side would be pierced (Zech 12:10).
  23. He would be buried in a rich man’s tomb (Isaiah 53:9).

Now as we look at this list, we must say, “Wow! That is pretty convincing.” If Jesus fulfilled all those prophecies, he must be the Son of God—he must be the seed that everybody was waiting for.

What is the probability that a person would fulfill only eight of these prophecies? Professor Peter W. Stoner states that the probability of just 8 prophecies being fulfilled in one person is 1 x 10 17th. That is 100,000,000,000,000,000.

It has been illustrated like this: if you take 1 x 1017 silver dollars and placed them over Texas (the second largest US state), you would not only cover all of Texas but would have a coin pile two feet deep. If you blindfolded yourself, took one of the coins and threw it back into the pile, and walked from the beginning of Texas, stopping only once to find that coin, that is the chance that one person would fulfill only eight of these prophecies, let alone the sixty major prophecies fulfilled in Jesus. This again shows the greatness of our salvation. It is the fulfillment of many prophecies given in the Old Testament.

Application Question: What applications can we take from these prophecies about Christ’s sufferings?

It reminds us of the accuracy of Scripture and that we can trust it. God fulfilled his prophecies “to the letter” concerning Christ. We can trust them for our lives, and we can trust them specifically as we look forward to the glories that will come with Christ at his second coming. Listen to what Paul said about Scripture:

All Scripture is God–breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (emphasis mine).
2 Timothy 3:16–17

Because Scripture is God’s breath, we can be sure it is accurate and trustworthy for God cannot tell a lie (Titus 1:2).

One of the reasons our salvation is great, is because it was prophesied from the beginning of time. It is the fulfillment of many Old Testament prophecies. We now are walking in the fulfillment of them.

Application Question: Do you think fulfilled prophecy is a great witnessing tool? Why or why not? How can you use it more affectively in your ministry?

Remember the Greatness of Salvation in the Prophets Labor to Understand It

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 Christ and the glories that would follow (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 1:10-11

Observation Question: What ways does Peter describe the labor of these prophets in seeking to understand the prophecies about Christ in 1 Peter 1:10-11?

1. They tried to understand the time (v. 11) when the Messiah would come.

2. They tried to understand the circumstances, or person, in which he would come (what person or time, as in the NASB).

We only labor to understand important things. The prophets labored because the knowledge of this saving grace was so special, and it should be special to us as well. We get a hint of how draining the prophetic work was through the words of Daniel. Of the sufferings he had to go through, he writes:

My spirit within me was anxious, and the visions of my head alarmed me (Daniel 7:15). And I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for some days. Then I rose and went about the king’s business, but I was appalled by the vision and did not understand it (8:27). When he had spoken to me according to these words, I turned my face toward the ground and was mute. And behold, one in the likeness of the children of man touched my lips. Then I opened my mouth and spoke. I said to him who stood before me, “O my lord, by reason of the vision pains have come upon me, and I retain no strength. How can my lord’s servant talk with my lord? For now no strength remains in me, and no breadth is left in me” (10:15–17).2

The prophets labored to understand God’s Word, even becoming sick and worn out in the midst of these visions. Listen to what Christ said in Matthew 13:17: “For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it” (emphasis mine).

Application Question: What applications can we take from the prophet’s labor in seeking to understand prophecy?

1. It reminds us of our need to labor hard and search the Scripture intently to understand it as well.

Peter said they “searched intently and with the greatest care.” They studied Scripture looking forward to much of what we have experienced. Yet, we find ourselves often less enthusiastic than them, in our pursuit of truth. Look at what Paul told Timothy: “Do your best to present (emphasis mine) yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15).

We must do our best as well. We must labor to understand Scripture. That is an application we can take from the zeal of the prophets.

2. It should encourage us to study prophecy specifically.

No doubt, many in those times had wrong ideas of this coming Messiah, which eventually affected their reception of him. Some saw only his coming as a conqueror and missed his sufferings. Some did not study prophecy at all and were simply not ready to receive Christ at his coming.

Let us take an application from this that the study of prophecy is important. Often people neglect the study of prophecy, specifically end-time prophecy, saying it’s too difficult or too controversial. However, the all-wise Father has still chosen to give us these teachings. He deems them important for our sanctification and preparation for the second coming of Christ.

Let us never think they are not important to study. No, they are important, and that’s why Satan works so hard to bring division or frustration over them. He realizes that in the same way a faulty understanding, or lack of understanding, of prophecy negatively affected Israel’s readiness for the coming Messiah, a lack of understanding also will negatively affect us in being prepared to receive his second coming.

Our salvation is great, and that is shown in how the prophets devoted their lives to studying and understanding its coming through the Messiah. We should devote our lives to studying and understanding it as well.

Application Question: What ways is God calling you to search the Scripture intently in order to know him more? What are some practical ways you can implement this discipline?

Remember the Greatness of Salvation in the Worldwide Proclamation of It

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 (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 1:12

Today people are really big into social media. Everybody has a Facebook or Twitter. There are people who constantly post on YouTube. If something posted does really well, it could have thousands of hits. A person who is really well-known on Facebook or Twitter might have thousands of friends. What these “hits” and “friends” indicate is popularity. Some videos with humble beginnings actually get world-wide acclaim.

Similarly, this is something that makes this gospel so special. It was revealed to a small group of people by the Holy Spirit but now is being preached everywhere around the world. God sent the Holy Spirit to the apostles to reveal it and to the preachers to proclaim it to all who would listen. Listen to what Paul said about this gospel:

In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to Gods holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power (emphasis mine).
Ephesians 3:4–7

The apostles and prophets were the original recipients of the gospel and its messengers. The word apostle actually means “sent one.” They were sent all over the world to preach the gospel to people, and it reached those in the Roman Empire. No doubt, there is a sense in which 1 Peter 1:12 also refers to other missionaries and teachers teaching the gospel through the Holy Spirit.

One of the things that makes this gospel great, is its worldwide acclaim. It has been preached all around the world and still is being preached. Romans 10:15 says: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

Application Question: How is God calling you to share in the spreading of this great gospel? Whose salvation are you praying for at this time?

Remember the Greatness of Salvation in the Blessing of Hearing It

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 (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 1:12

In this passage, Peter says the gospel was preached to “you.” One of the greatest things about salvation is the miracle of us hearing the gospel. Many of us have grown up in Christian homes or with great exposure to Christianity. However, many have not. It is a tremendous work of grace that we have been exposed to this wonderful message that saved our souls. Because of our exposure, many of us have lost the awe of this reality, and maybe that had happened to these Christians in Asia Minor who were scattered. Thus he reminds them that this great message had been preached to them.

I remember hearing the story about a Chinese lady who had just heard the gospel and accepted Christ. She asked the missionary, “How long have you known about this gospel?” The missionary shrugged and said, “I was taught it as a kid.” The Chinese lady responded, “How come we are just now hearing about this?”

Let us not forget how great this salvation really is and how great it is that we have been exposed to this message by God’s sovereign grace.

Application Question: How should we respond to this sobering reality of how fortunate we are to have heard the gospel?

1. It reminds us of how thankful we should be for hearing the gospel. Not everybody has heard it. I think we also should be grateful to those who specifically shared it with us.

2. It reminds us of our need to share the gospel. When something is really great news, you want to share it with others. The apostles and preachers went all over the world sharing this good news through the power of the Holy Spirit. We must seek to do the same.

When we remember how we heard the gospel and how it is being spread around the world, it should give us joy.

Application Question: How did you first hear and receive the gospel?

Remember the Greatness of Salvation in that the Gospel Came through the Holy Spirit

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 (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 1:12

Peter says this gospel is great not only because it is being preached everywhere by apostles and ministers, but it is great because it came through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the author of this gospel. Listen to what Paul said about the gospel:

I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ (emphasis mine).
Galatians 1:11–12

The gospel was given to the apostles through the Holy Spirit, who was sent by Christ. This makes the message of the gospel great, and therefore, salvation great. It does not come from man but from God.

Application Question: What applications can we take from the fact that the gospel came through the Holy Spirit?

This reminds us of the certainty of our salvation since it is not a gospel of men but one that came through the Holy Spirit.

Religion comes from men. That is why when we look at the religions of the world, we see things that largely reflect man’s nature. In ancient Greek religions, the gods made war, came down and had sex with women, were jealous and power hungry. Religion reflects man, but the gospel reflects God and his work of grace. No other religion has a savior. All religions show man working for their salvation. This is the gospel.

Peter says the “Spirit of Christ” prophesied through the prophets and the Holy Spirit through the apostles (1 Pet 1:10-12). It reminds us that these truths about our salvation were not given by man. It was Christ, through the Holy Spirit, working through prophets to teach us the Word of God (2 Tim 3:16). Look what Peter says in his second epistle:

Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (emphasis mine).
2 Peter 1:20–21

This also is a tremendous comfort in the midst of persecution and trials. We can stand in the midst of persecution or trials because our salvation is real. The message comes from the Holy Spirit. We can trust and put our faith in it; even if we die, we will go to heaven. This reality should comfort the believer.

Remember the Greatness of Salvation in that Even Angels Desire to Understand It

Even angels long to look into these things.
1 Peter 1:12

This salvation is great because even angels desire to look into it. It was not only the labor of prophets, the endeavor of preachers, but also the focus of angels. In what way?

The word long in the Greek means “an intense desire to know something”—it is not a whimsical thought but an intense desire. The word look means to “stretch one’s head forward” or “to bend down.” It was used of Mary stooping down to look into Christ’s tomb (John 20:11). These words show the strong interest that angels have in understanding the experience of our salvation.

In the same way that believers stand in awe of such realities as the angels communion with God and the doctrine of the Trinity, angels stand in awe of the grace in our salvation. Look at what Paul says in Ephesians:

His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord (emphasis mine).
Ephesians 3:10–11

It has been said that when the original angels fell, God gave no grace but only justice. He judged them by kicking them out of heaven. Therefore, the angels never knew God’s grace but only his justice. However, with man, God chose to not only give them justice but also grace. Therefore, the angels stand in awe at an experience they have never had. No doubt, this is not just a fascination, but a desire to know God more so they can more fully worship him, which is their primary reason for existence. In fact, Scripture declares this is one of the reasons God chose to save man, in order to show his grace in the coming ages (Eph 2:7).

Made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus (emphasis mine).
Ephesians 2:5–7

Maybe this makes Satan a little angrier at man. David himself said, “What is man that you are mindful of him?” Why does God choose to give grace to one and not to another? For this reason, the angels stand in awe.

Application Question: What applications or encouragements can we take from the reality of the angels looking at the mystery of the gospel?

It again reminds us of the grace we have received and our need to worship God. God did not give the angels grace but justice. We cannot but respond as the psalmist:

What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet.
Psalms 8:4–6

Conclusion

Why is our salvation so great and why should we be encouraged from it during suffering?

Listen to what one commentator said:

  • Prophets labored their entire lives to present the true gospel to us.
  • Preachers have traveled around the globe to ensure that it has gained a hearing before us.
  • Angels would like nothing better than to gaze into what God has done for us.

“Surprise!” says Peter. “This is how much God cares for you.” I can almost hear the shouts of joy rolling across the rugged topography of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. This is amazing love. Ancient prophets, itinerant preachers, and exalted angels have for ages stood in service to this salvation that has come to us! The fullness of your salvation has been the joyful business of God’s servants over the centuries.

Knowing this, I hope you have a surge of spiritual fortitude to remain faithful wherever God has placed you. Hearts were made to rise in worship. And looking ahead, our minds are to be made ready for action.3

Our salvation is great and should encourage us even in suffering because

  1. it is a work of God’s grace, not merited by us
  2. it was acquired for us through Christ’s sufferings and glory
  3. it was the fulfillment of many Old Testament prophecies
  4. it was the labor of the prophets to understand it
  5. it was proclaimed by apostles and preachers around the world
  6. it was proclaimed to us
  7. it is the work of the Holy Spirit
  8. it is the fascination of angels.

Remember how special this salvation is and let us have joy in the midst of our suffering.

Chapter Notes

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Copyright 2014 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked KJV are from the King James Version of the Bible.


1 Helm, D. R. (2008). 1 & 2 Peter and Jude: Sharing Christs sufferings. Preaching the Word (50). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

2 Helm, D. R. (2008). 1 & 2 Peter and Jude: Sharing Christs sufferings. Preaching the Word (50–51). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

3 Helm, D. R. (2008). 1 & 2 Peter and Jude: Sharing Christs sufferings. Preaching the Word (53). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Soteriology (Salvation)

5. The Christian’s Duty In Response To Salvation (1 Peter 1:13-16)

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Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
1 Peter 1:13–16

Big Question: What are the Christian’s duties in response to our great salvation as seen in 1 Peter 1:13–16?

Many think salvation is just about heaven and it doesn’t affect life now. However, this is not true. Our salvation should affect us tremendously.

In these verses, Peter moves to the imperative mode. He leaves describing and explaining our salvation to sharing the Christian’s duty in response to it by giving commands. What is the Christian’s duty?

The Christian’s Duty Is to Be Mentally Ready to Serve God

Therefore, prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Prepare literally means “gird up” and can refer to tightening a belt, cinching up a cord or rope, or tying something down in preparation for a certain action. In ancient times, this concept referred to the gathering up of one’s robe (Ex. 12:11; 1 Kings 18:46; 2 Kings 4:29; 9:1; Jer. 1:17). If a person wanted to move quickly and easily, often he would pull the corners of his robe up through his belt or sash to tie those corners in place. Peter metaphorically applies this process to the mind.1

The fact that Peter applies this concept to the mind, means that it is in the mind, or the way a person thinks, that is especially important in serving God. It also means that it is through the mind that a person is often tripped up and kept from fulfilling their calling in Christ.

Peter shows us the importance of the believer’s thought life in serving God. Certainly, we see this emphasized throughout Scripture. Christ taught that adultery first happened in one’s mind in Matthew 5:28. He also talked about anger being the seed that brings forth murder (Matt 5:22). In fact, we commonly see Paul focusing on the way a person thinks.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Colossians 3:1–2

Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Romans 12:2

Application Question: What are some common ways we can get tripped up in our spiritual life by how we think?

1. Anxieties or worries are common stumbling blocks to a girded mind.

One of the most common ways I find myself being tripped up in my spiritual life, which hinders my effectiveness, is being too future-oriented. I have learned this both biblically and experientially. I can get on my computer and start thinking about further education, future ministries, or writing books, and it steals my mind, steals my sleep, and steals my meditation from God. Now there is a place for all these things, but when it creates “anxiety,” it leads me into sin.

Consider some of these texts.

Anxiety in the heart of man brings depression.
Proverbs 12:25

The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.
Matthew 13:22 (emphasis mine)

The anxious person will find himself depressed. But even worse than that, Christ taught that an ungirded mind would choke the Word of God and keep it from ever producing fruit or truly saving someone. The duty of a Christian is to gird his mind because worry and anxiety brings depression and also keeps God’s Word from producing fruit in our lives.

2. Condemning thoughts are a common stumbling block to a girded mind.

This seems to be a special ministry of the enemy. Devil actually means “accuser or slanderer.” He will commonly bring accusing thoughts about God, others and even yourself. He will slander your works and motivation in order to deter you from serving God. This often leads to depression or apathy. It will make a person want to give up and sometimes leave the faith. Listen to what Paul said: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation (emphasis mine) for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1).

The believer must understand that because of our new relationship to God, Satan has no rights to accuse us in regards to our salvation. Our flesh has no rights and neither do other people. We must understand this in order to gird our minds and protect ourselves. Listen to what Paul said:

Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us (emphasis mine).
Romans 8:33–34

Paul says no one can condemn us because God has justified us. He has made us as though, we had never sinned. He can do this because Christ died, was raised from the dead, and now intercedes for us at the right hand of God. When we truly understand this truth, it will help us gird our minds from accusations.

3. Comparing ourselves with others is a common stumbling block to a girded mind.

If you are a person whose mind is always looking at others instead of Christ, you have a mind that is being tripped up. This will create pride, or it will create insecurity or despair. Listen to Paul:

We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.
2 Corinthians 10:12

We also may get a picture of this in 1 Corinthians 12 when Paul describes the church as a body. Listen to what some Christians may say:

If the foot should say, Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body, it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body, it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be (emphasis mine)?
1 Corinthians 12:15–17

It is clear that some people in the church look around at others’ gifts, their ability to sing, their ability to preach or pray, and they say I am not important. They discourage themselves by looking at others and their gifts. But they forget that they have a role in the body as well and each part depends on one another.

Understanding the importance of every part of the body will help keep you from discouragement or insecurity. This will help you have a girded mind so you won’t be tripped up as you see what God is doing through others.

4. The fear of man is a common stumbling block to a girded mind.

Another common way Christians are kept from serving God is the fear of man and worrying about what others think. Look at what Solomon said: “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe” (Prov 29:25).

This is important to hear because many Christians are not serving God because they have a fear of others’ opinions or of ruining their reputation. Their fearful thoughts keep them from fully serving God.

Interpretation Question: How do we gird our minds up? What should we do in order to practice this?

1. The believer must first recognize unbiblical mindsets that commonly trip them up in order to gird their mind.

What trips you up?

Jesus said in Matthew 5:29 and 30 that if your right eye offends you, pluck it out; if your right hand offends you, cut it off. The hand obviously is referring to what one does, but the eye not only refers to what one sees but what one thinks about because the eye is the door to the mind. In order to cut something off, we must first recognize what is tripping us up.

If there is something that offends you when you think or meditate on it, or something that causes you to sin, we must first recognize it. That is the first step. One of the only good things about a stumble or some failure is that we can look back at it and learn how to never let it happen again. Like Christ taught, we must find out what is causing us to sin and cut it off (Matt 5:29).

For some, it is insecurity. They are insecure about their body image, and looking at certain magazines that depict what the world would call a “perfect body” brings them down. For others, it is the future.  When they watch the news, they get really discouraged about the economy and their future. For some, it is the fear of man. We think about parents or friends and their expectations, and it keeps us from following God.

We must look intently at and recognize what is causing us to stumble. Sometimes, we may need the help of others in order to do this. We need pastors, mentors, small-group leaders in helping us properly evaluate our thoughts through a biblical grid. There is safety in the multitude of counselors (Prov 24:6 KJV).

2. The believer must take the ungodly thought captive and get rid of it in order to gird their mind.

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (emphasis mine).
2 Corinthians 10:4–5

Interpretation Question: What does it mean to take a thought captive and how do we practice this?

It means to stop a thought that is causing us harm or could result in causing others harm. We need to stop it right in its tracks and submit it to Christ. Some mindsets need to be demolished because they are demonic in nature.

a) Believers take thoughts captive by confronting thoughts with Scripture as Christ did when the enemy attacked him in the wilderness (Matt 4:3–4). We confront lust with Scripture, anxiety with Scripture, and we choose not to think on it anymore.

b) Believers take thoughts captive by prayer.

  • Confess the thoughts before God for forgiveness and deliverance (1 John 1:9).
  • Seek corporate prayer. Sometimes we may need others to pray over us as we are wrestling through an ungodly mindset. James says confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that we can be healed (Jas 5:17).
  • Ask for God’s help in turning away from these thoughts. David prayed in Psalm 119:36, “Turn my eyes from worthless things.” We need to ask the Lord’s help in turning away from whatever is causing us to stumble.

What other ways do we practice girding our mind?

3. Believers must not only confront sin with Scripture but continually saturate their mind with Scripture in order for it to be girded.

This is the picture Paul uses in the spiritual warfare text. Look at what he says: “Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth” (Eph 6:14 KJV).

It’s the same analogy. You are prepared to fight, prepared to serve, when your mind is filled with Scripture and it is Scripture that sets you free from the lies so you can serve. Look at these texts:

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:2

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Philippians 4:8–9

It’s the Word of God that sets us free from the mindsets we have been conformed into by the world culture. There are many Christians who are kept from serving and doing what God has called them to do because of the way that culture has trained them. They are trying to fit into the world and be accepted by the world, instead of being what God has called them to be.

Peter speaks to each one of us and says, “Gird your mind.” Get rid of all that excess baggage you have picked up in the world. Get rid of all those lies that are guiding your life. They tell us, we must go here, we must do this, and we must be that in order to be a success. But Christ says the first will be last and the last will be first. The way down is the way up. He who wants to be great, must be the servant of all.

For many Christians, in order for them to be free to serve God, they must first wage a battle to be set free from all the previous teaching that they have been “conformed to.” The believer’s duty after salvation is to gird their mind.

What have you been conformed to? What has the world taught you that has been tripping you up? Is it the teaching of what beauty is, you must look like this and look like that? God says it’s the gentle and quiet spirit that is beautiful before the Lord (1 Pet 3:1–7). It is the character of a person that makes them beautiful. Are you caught in comparing yourself to others? Are you always looking around? Gird up your mind.

Application Question: What ways does the enemy trip you up in your mind, and how will you practice preparing mentally for action?

The Christian’s Duty Is to Be Sober and Disciplined

Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled.
1 Peter 13–16

What’s the next thing we should do in response to salvation? Peter says we must be self-controlled or it can be translated sober.

Interpretation Question: What does Peter mean by being “self-controlled” or “sober?” Why is this important and how do we apply this to our lives?

The word that Peter uses here has several meanings:

1. To be sober means to be free of intoxicants both spiritual and physical.

a. Spiritual Intoxication

Because we are saved, we must be free of spiritual intoxicants. Listen to how Paul describes a believer who is living for the world.

Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will (emphasis mine).
2 Timothy 2:25–26

What analogy is Paul using of the person trapped by the devil? He is using the picture of Satan being a hunter, and one of the ways he traps Christians into doing his will is by “intoxicating” them. He drugs them so that they do his will. That’s why it says “come to their senses.”

There are many Christians trapped because of spiritual intoxicants. We see this picture with the prodigal son to some extent (Luke 15). He was in the pig pen. He had left his father’s house because he loved the things of this world, and in the midst of the pig pen, it says he came to his senses (v. 17). He was thinking crazy thoughts; he was drugged with the allure of the world and the things of this life.

There are a lot of Christians who are not spiritually sober. They are drugged with all the things of this world, and it keeps them from living for Christ. This is what John says about the things of this world: “If anyone loves the world and the things of this world the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).

Satan uses the things of this world and sin to draw believers away from the love of God. Many of them find themselves like the prodigal son and one day they wake up and say, “What am I doing here? “Why am I so far away from the father’s house?”

We must stay free from spiritual intoxicants and everything that would create apathy to the things of God. This includes false doctrine and any type of sin. Sexual immorality and materialism are particularly potent. They can intoxicate us and keep us from living as God has called us to.

A person who is intoxicated can’t drive properly, and it is the same for Christians with spiritual intoxicants. Many Christians are swerving on the roads and getting into accidents. But what makes this common scenario even worse, is that people who are intoxicated often hurt other people in the process. It’s the same with Christians who are “under the influence.”

b. Physical Intoxication

Because we are saved we must be free of physical intoxicants. What does this mean?

“Be sober” no doubt refers to not only spiritual intoxicants like sin, but also physical intoxicants. This is a call to be free of addictions to cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs. Scripture commonly calls Christians to live a sober life. Look at what Paul says in Ephesians 5:18: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.”

I watch many Christian kids who, instead of being controlled by the Spirit, are controlled by some drug. They can’t go too long without having it. “I’ve got to have a smoke,” “I’ve got to have alcohol,” or “I’ve got to have caffeine.”

Listen, if you’re a Christian like that, you are a Christian who makes Satan happy. The enemy is content to control people indirectly through another influence. That is his plan through the entire world system. He wants to control people and keep them from submission to God and his will for their lives.

Peter says because you are saved, don’t give yourself over to the slavery of some intoxicant. Scripture says be sober and instead be controlled by the Holy Spirit. For the believer, you are allowed to only have one master, and that is Christ. You cannot have two or three (Matt 6:24).

It also important to be sober because the enemy is seeking to devour you, and he will use whatever doors you give him. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet 5:8 KJV).

It should also be noted that the word sorcery or magic in the Bible comes from the word pharmakea, where we get the word pharmacy (Rev 18:23). Commonly, witches, or those who were worshiping other gods, would use drugs in order to open themselves up to be controlled by demons. No doubt, this was in Peter’s mind when he called the Christian to be sober. The ancient society would have understood this command because this type of idolatry was happening all around them.

Does this still happen today? Is it any surprise that in most heinous crimes there are drugs involved? I have no doubt that the enemy commonly uses people who cannot control themselves because of submission to a drug in order to rule over them and cause many heinous acts.

This call to be free of physical intoxicants would also be important because the context of this letter is trials. Often, the way people respond to duress is seeking to escape their problems through drugs, like alcohol. Don’t seek to find your relief in a drug, but find your relief in God.

The duty of a believer is to be sober. Do not submit yourself to the control of a drug; you must be controlled instead by God.

Application Question: Do you think that drugs can be an avenue that opens doors to the demonic realm? In what ways do you see this still happening in society?

2. To be sober also means to be disciplined. This is why it can be translated “self-controlled.”

One of the ways a Christian lives a sober life is by being self-controlled. This keeps them from the tricks of the devil, the lure of the world, but also the lure of the flesh. We don’t only have enemies from without—we have enemies from within. Our own flesh works and fights against the things of God. Therefore, a Christians who is not “self-controlled” is a Christian who cannot fulfill the things God has for them.

Listen to how Paul describes the Christians in 1 Corinthians 9:24-25:

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training (emphasis mine).
1 Corinthians 9:24, 25

Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable (emphasis mine).
1 Corinthians 9:25 (ESV)

Other versions say the athlete is “disciplined in all things.” The Christian must be disciplined in their eating, their drinking, their sleeping, and their media. The Olympic athlete does this for an Olympic crown, but we do it for an imperishable one in heaven. How much more should a Christian be disciplined in all things when we will be rewarded by God, not an Olympic committee?

Listen, many Christians, especially Christian young people, fail this aspect of Paul’s command just by the time they go to bed at night. They don’t get good sleep, which affects their ability to get up and spend time with God. They are not living self-controlled lives. They live school-controlled lives, socially-controlled lives, media-controlled lives, girlfriend or boyfriend-controlled lives, etc.

Being self-controlled is important in order for us to make the most of our time in serving God. Many believers are wasting their life, instead of being disciplined with their time and being self-controlled. Many are wasting their time overly indulging in video games, movies, TV or the internet. Listen to what Paul says: “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Eph 5:15).

The reason we must make the most of our time is because if we do not, there is a tendency to fall into sin. Paul says “the days are evil.” The Christian who is not disciplined with his time will have a tendency to fall into sin.

Are you making the most of your time by being disciplined? Or is Satan using your time to draw you into evil? If we are going to complete the work God has given us to do, we must be self-controlled in all things.

Are you living a sober life? The Christian has a duty to be free of intoxicants both spiritual and physical. The believer should not be controlled by the world, drugs or the devil. The Christian must be controlled by the Holy Spirit. The Christian has a duty to be sober and self-controlled in all things in order honor God through their lives.

Application Question: Why is self-control so important in one’s spiritual life? How is God calling you to be more self-controlled?

The Christian’s Duty Is to Be Hopeful and Expectant in Future Grace

Set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.
1 Peter 1:13

Application Question: What are your current hopes and how do they affect your life?

Typically, what you are really hoping for affects how you live now. If a person wants to work in the medical field or law, this “hope” guides their life. They make plans to go to undergraduate and then to graduate school because of this future career hope. Hope is very important because it gives us direction. It is a future expectation that propels us.

Similarly, if you have truly “set,” or “fixed,” your hope on the grace that will be given at the coming of Christ, it will affect and guide your life as well. This “grace” includes the person of Christ at his coming, it includes our future complete salvation, our inheritance, heaven, and all the good things God has for us.

This is one of the problems with most Christians; they don’t have their minds fixed on this future hope, and therefore, it affects their lives negatively. It has been said that hope is the same thing as faith—faith is a trust in God for present blessings, and hope is trust in God for future blessings. Listen to what happens when a person has lost their hope, their future faith in Christ and his coming grace.

But suppose the servant says to himself, “My master is taking a long time in coming,” and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.
Luke 12:45–46

Christ describes himself as a master and his disciples as servants, or stewards, of his household. In this parable, he describes how the master leaves and some servants, because they said the “master delays his coming,” begins to beat the menservants and eat and drink and get drunk.

Because this particular servant had lost his “expectation” of the coming of the master, he threw off restraint. His life was marked by “discord with people.” It was marked by waste. Every servant ate and drank; however, this seems to be a picture of excess and waste. He also was marked by “drunkenness,” instead of soberness to more effectively serve the master. When the master returns, he punishes the servant and sends him to a place with the unbelievers, which seems to imply that this person was not truly born again.

When you look at the Christian church, we see this in many professing believers. Their relationships are marked by discord—discord with family, friends and employers. Their life is marked by waste, prodigal living, and even sometimes drunkenness or other habitual sins. Why does this happen? It happens because they are no longer “expectant.” If they knew Christ was coming tomorrow, they would radically change their priorities. The duty of the believer is to stay hopeful in the grace to be revealed.

Well, how do we grow in this future hope and expectation in order to live a life in line with this hope?

Application Question: How can we better develop hopeful lives in Christ that will affect how we live?

1. We must be people of the Scripture.

Remember hope is just faith in future promises. What does Scripture teach about faith? Romans 10:17 says, “Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God.”

Typically, people who are living prodigal lives, without a God-centered expectation, are Christians who neglect the Word of God. The Word of God increases our faith, our hope. It not only is the foundation of saving faith but the conduit of daily faith. You will lack trust and expectation in God if you are not a Christian living in the Word of God.

2. We must be people living in a community of hope.

“He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm” (Prov 13:20).

He whose companions are serious about God and living in hopeful expectation will grow in this expectation daily. But those who hang around fools will eat and drink and get drunk with fools. Those who walk with people whose lives are primarily earthly, consumed with the things of this life, will probably live for the temporary instead of the eternal. But hopeful people find fire for their hope by being around others who are godly.

Your companions affect your ability to live expectantly. Who are your friends?

3. We must be people practicing the Lord’s Supper.

One of the ways that God has given us to stay expectant of the Lord’s coming and the grace that will come with him is the practice of the Lord’s Supper. It is given to help us remember and to look forward in hope.

In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lords death until he comes (emphasis mine).
1 Corinthians 11:25–26

Christ gave us an ordinance, or sacrament, because he knew it was easy for us to forget and lose our expectation. In the midst of suffering it is easy to focus on one’s pain. In the midst of prosperity, it is easy to focus on one’s wealth. However, the Lord’s Supper is given as a means of refocusing us on our greatest gift, which is salvation through Christ’s death and our future hope in his second coming. Christ knew the tendencies of our flesh, so he gave us a discipline to stir up hope.

I think it’s something great to practice with the church, but it can be practiced with mature believers in small groups and homes. The early church broke bread from house to house in Acts 2:46.

The Christian’s Duty Is to Be Obedient Children

As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
1 Peter 1:14-16

What’s the final challenge that Peter gives in response to our salvation in this passage? He calls believers to be “obedient children.”

Interpretation Question: In this text, what does being an “obedient” child entail?

It entails at least four things:

1. To be obedient children, we must break with our former way of life—a life of desire.

“As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance” (1 Pet 1:14).

It is interesting to consider that the phrase “evil desires” does not just refer to lust. It refers to all types of ungodly desires. This is a characteristic of the world—they live for evil desires. Life is based on what makes one happy, or gives one pleasure, instead of what makes God happy and gives him pleasure. It may be desire for success, materialism, or even love. But the people of this earth are characterized by running around to fulfill their desires rather than to serve God.

What makes a life pursuing our desires wrong is that we were not made as gods. We were made to bring pleasure to God and to live for him. But unredeemed men pursue their desires for their own glory and not to honor God. The greatest commandment is to love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, mind, and soul. He is to be our chief purpose in life, to please him and enjoy him forever.

This is what we must break with. We must break away from a life of living for selfish desires. This is what led Adam and Eve to sin. They looked at the tree and saw it was good for food and good to make one wise, and they ate of it. They pursued their own desires over God’s.

When we look at our society that’s all it is, it is a society just like Adam and Eve in the fall. They desire this new phone, this new car, this degree, this job, this food and they are running around the world for it. They live a life of pursuing pleasure apart from God. In fact, listen to how James describes temptation:

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.
James 1:13–14

Dragged and enticed are hunting terms. It’s a picture of Satan being a hunter and flashing desires in front of man in order to draw them into sin and away from God. The TV is full of these “desires.” Like the scenario of a hunter putting bait on a hook, man bites and becomes hooked and caught in sin. This is a picture of the world running after desires: eating, drinking, sex, wealth, success, acceptance, etc.

Again, it should be noticed that desires such as eating, drinking, sex, and entertainment are not wrong per se. They are wrong apart from God. That’s what makes them evil, and that is how Satan traps people by perverting their natural desires and drawing them to seek these things apart from God and his will.

What else does it mean to be an obedient child?

2. To be obedient children, we must know and live for the Father’s desire.

As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
1 Peter 1:14–16

The alternative to running after our desires is to be obedient children. What does an obedient child do? He is seeking to fulfill the desires of the Father. This happens by knowing the Father and thus seeking to please him.

Peter tells them the Father’s desire. He says, “Be ye holy because I am holy.” This is what God told Israel. They were to be different because of their relationship to him. Therefore, this must guide our holiness as well, knowing and understanding God.

If God loves a giver, if he enjoys those who love his Word, if he enjoys those who love serving others, then let those things be our passion.

3. To be obedient children, we must do everything for God.

1 Peter 1:15 says: “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.”

One of the problems with the church is we only do some things for God. We come to church—maybe we also attend small group—but there are some areas of our lives that are off limits. It may be our entertainment that we keep away from God, it may be our friends, or it may be our career. But God says, “I want holiness in all you do.”

Holiness means being distinct and separate from the world, and it also means doing righteous acts. We must remove the secular and spiritual label and commit everything to God. Believers must be holy and distinct in every aspect of their lives. This is how we become obedient children.

4. To be obedient children, we must know Scripture.

“But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’” (1 Pet 1:15–16).

He says, “For it is written.” He expects us as Christians to obey the Word of God. He is quoting a verse from Leviticus 11:44. If we are going to be obedient children, we must be Christians who love the Word of God, read the Word of God, and obey the Word of God. Shortly after, Peter says this, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation” (1 Pet 2:2). He calls us to desire and eat the Word of God just like a baby craves his mother’s milk. This is the normal Christian life. If we do not do this, we cannot be faithful children of God.

Application Question: What do you think of Peter’s description of unbelievers as a people of “desire?” Are Christians any different? Why or why not?

Conclusion

What should be the believer’s duty in response to salvation?

  1. The Christian must be mentally prepared to serve.
  2. The Christian must be self-controlled and sober in daily life.
  3. The Christian must be hopeful and expectant of future grace.
  4. The Christian must be an obedient child.

Application Question: What ways do you feel God is calling you to apply this text to your life?

Chapter Notes

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Copyright 2014 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked KJV are from the King James Version of the Bible.


1 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter. MacArthur New Testament Commentary (64). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Discipleship

6. Motivations For Holiness (1 Peter 1:17-21)

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Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.
1 Peter 1:17–21

Why must we be holy? In 1 Peter 1:15 and 16, Peter calls the believers that are scattered throughout Asia Minor to be holy as God is holy. He then in the following verses gives them motivations to be holy. These motivations would especially be important in the context of suffering for the faith.

Sometimes persecution or hardship can make people throw away their morals; they can often go into survival mode. In survival mode, people have a tendency to not care about holiness. A person who is starving sometimes will resort to stealing in order to live. A person who is about to lose their scholarship because of poor grades sometimes will cheat in order to make it.

I think we often see this in our societies, even without persecution. There is often so much pressure to succeed and be a success that people will do anything, at any cost to attain it, including lowering their integrity or commitment to God. No doubt, with this in mind, Peter exhorts these Christians who have lost homes and jobs for their faith, to be holy as God as holy.

How do you respond when there is pressure?

I love seeing how Christ responded on the cross—as he was mocked and pierced, Scripture began to flow out of him. “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me” is from Psalm 22, and “Into your hands I commit my spirit” is from Psalm 31. Christ under pressure demonstrated holiness as he maintained communication and focus on his father, even speaking Scripture.

Now in 1 Peter 1:17–21, Peter tells them, “Why they must be holy?” Listen to what he says: “Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially.” “Since” refers back to verse 16’s call to be holy like God. In this lesson, we will answer the question, “Why should I be holy? Why should I be different?”

Many Christians succumb to the pressures of the world in the areas of drunkenness, sexual immorality, foul language, and the pursuit of the things of the world. The church is in desperate need of some motivation. In this text, Peter gives us five reasons to be holy.

Big Question: What motivations for holiness (cf. 16) does Peter give us in 1 Peter 1:17–21?

Be Holy Because of a Reverent Fear of God’s Impartial Judgment

Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.
1 Peter 1:17

Peter is telling the Christians in Asia Minor that they must be holy because God is their father and judge. Now often when we hear the word “father,” we immediately think about a father’s love and how a father will do anything to bless and protect his child. However, Peter’s focus in this passage is not so much about the Father’s love, but the Fathers discipline, which is also an outworking of his love.

When these Christians were tempted to sin or compromise with the world in order to escape persecution, Peter wanted them to know that their Father was always watching and that he is going to judge each man’s work impartially.

In our society, judgment is often partial. If a rich man goes to a court, he is more likely to be set free than a poor man. The rich are more likely to escape the death penalty than someone who is poor or from a minority group. The judgment in our culture is often partial, but with our God, it is not. It doesn’t matter if you are rich, poor, black, white, yellow or purple. Our God does not operate like our justice system; there will be no favor on the basis of your family background or bank account and for that reason we should live our lives in reverent fear of a just God, who will judge all mankind.

Interpretation Question: What are different aspects of the judgment of God that should motivate the believer to fear God, and therefore, become holy?

Now this judgment has two aspects to it.

1. There is the present judgment of the Father on his children that the believer must also be aware of in order to fear God.

Listen to what Paul says about God’s judgment in 1 Corinthians 11:30-32.

That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.

Here in this context, Paul is telling the believers who were abusing the Lord’s Supper that some of them were sick, depressed, and had died as a judgment of God.  He says: “When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.”

In this life, God brings discipline upon his children in order that they will stop sinning and not be condemned with the world. He says something similar in Hebrews 12:8: “If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.” The writer of Hebrews says if God does not bring discipline on your life, specifically for sin, this is proof that you are not a child of God. What good father does not discipline his child?

Peter is saying Christians should live a holy life because they fear God’s discipline over sin. Listen to what happened to Ananias and Saphira:

At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.
Acts 5:10–11

In this text, God killed Ananias and Saphira because they were lying to the church, and thus to God, about their offering. God killed them on the spot, but look what it says in verse 11: “Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.”

After this discipline happened, the early church and even unbelievers feared God. This helped them live a life of holiness. They understood there was a God who was zealous for holiness. The early church lived with this reverent fear and we are called to fear God as well. Look at what 2 Corinthians 7:1 says: “Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”

This can also be translated “perfecting holiness in the fear of God” as in the KJV. One of the things that kept me holy as a child was a healthy fear of my father. I knew my father loved me, but because he loved me, sometimes he would spank me. This same type of motivation is given to us in Scripture about God.

Unfortunately, this is something that has often been lost in our day and age. Most people have no true fear of God, and for that reason they live a life of sin and compromise. Solomon said this: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov 9:10).

Fearing God is necessary to live a wise life and to not live a life of sin. It is very possible that Peter is reminding the people in Asia Minor of this because they were neglecting, or losing the fear of the Lord. Listen to what commentator Alexander Maclaren said:

I suppose in Peter’s days, as in our days, there were people that so fell in love with one aspect of the Divine nature that they had no eyes for any other; and who so magnified the thought of the Father that they forgot the thought of the Judge. That error has been committed over and over again in all ages, so that the Church as a whole, one may say, has gone swaying from one extreme to the other, and has rent these two conceptions widely apart, and sometimes has been foolish enough to pit them against each other instead of doing as Peter does here, braiding them together as both conspiring to one result, the production in the Christian heart of a wholesome awe (Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture [Baker], “Father and Judge,” [1 Pet. 1:17], p. 69).

Alexander Maclaren surmised that among these believers, there were those who were focusing on one of God’s character traits in exclusion of another. Maybe they were saying, “God is a God of love, and therefore he will not judge us. God is our friend, and he will forgive me anyways.”

I have met Christians who have told me they feel that way about God. He will forgive them, and so they sin and just ask for forgiveness. Throughout history, we have seen pendulum swings—swings where the church focuses on God being a God of wrath and judgment, and swings where it focuses on God being a loving God. There are Bible curriculums that don’t give a balanced view and often focus on one over the other.

We must worship God in spirit and in truth. He is a God of love and forgiveness, but he is also a God of wrath. And because of this reality, a child of God cannot walk in sin without the discipline of a loving father.

2. There is a future judgment of the father on his children that the believer must also be aware of in order to fear God—the future judgment at the judgment seat of Christ.

Paul said this:

So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
2 Corinthians 5:9–10

Paul said this prospect of a future judgment pushed him to holiness—to make it his goal to “please” God. Listen also to what Christ said:

But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned (emphasis mine).
Matthew 12:36–37

Jesus said God will judge us over every careless or idle word. Now this won’t be a judicial condemnation, for Christ has paid the penalty for our sins on the cross, but it will be a judgment for reward or loss of reward in heaven. There will be those who will be rewarded at this judgment and those who will suffer loss of reward. Listen again to Christ’s words:

Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven (emphasis mine).
Matthew 5:19

Christ said there will be those who are called least in the kingdom of heaven. By their lives, they have broken the commands of Scripture and caused others to do the same. And, therefore, they will be called the least. In contrast, those who practiced the Scripture and taught others to do the same will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

In heaven, Scripture teaches, we will all be identified by our works. We see in Revelations 6:9 the “souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.” These people were identified by their works; they were known for how they had lived on the earth. In the same way, we will be known for our works on earth.

Now this is something that has been lost in our churches; we don’t have much preaching on heaven or hell, and judgment certainly has been lost. And for this reason, much of the church has lost a reverent fear of the Lord and a fear of judgment. We say, “Oh well I’m going to heaven, and that’s all that matters. God has forgiven my sin.” Yes, but there still remains a future judgment, and Scripture says this judgment should motivate us (2 Cor 5:9, 10).

There will be those who get into heaven as escaping the fire, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:15, and those who will be abundantly rewarded. Fear of God is a biblical reason to pursue holiness, and unless you understand the Father who judges our works impartially both now and at the judgment seat, you will be lacking one of the greatest motivations to be holy.

Do you fear God? It is the beginning of wisdom!

Application Question: Do you feel that our generation has lost the concept of the fear of God in lieu of focusing on God’s love and forgiveness? How do we regain a fear of the Lord if we have lost it?

Be Holy Because of God’s Reward

Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.
1 Peter 1:17

Another implication of God’s impartial judgment is desire for reward. Not only will there be discipline on the earth for sin and loss of reward at the judgment seat but there will be present and future reward in heaven. Look at 1 Peter 3:9–12:

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil” (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 3:9–12

This passage talks about a present blessing that comes from the God who judges us. Peter essentially says don’t repay evil with evil so you can “love life and see good days.” Be holy because there is a present blessing that comes with this type of life.

A lot of times, we think riches or even revenge will make us happy, but it won’t.  “Loving life” is something that God gives to those who are holy. He talks about seeing “good days.” No doubt, this refers to favor. In fact, the final present blessing for holiness described in this passage is God hearing our prayers. It says he is “attentive” to the prayers of the righteous (v. 12).

God doesn’t hear everybody’s prayers in the sense of answering them. James says, “The prayer of the righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16). David said, “If I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear me” (Psalms 66:18). One of the reasons to be holy is because of present reward. It brings a blessing on the life of the believer.

In addition, a motivation for holiness is not only present reward but future reward. Listen to what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:12–14,

If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward (emphasis mine).

When Paul is talking about the “Day,” he is again talking about the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor 5:10). Not only does he focus on the loss of reward but on receiving reward. Both of these are given as motivations for holy and righteous living. Paul says the same thing in 1 Corinthians 9:24 about running to win the crown.

Charles Stanley, in his book Eternal Security, told the story of his preaching on spiritual reward. In the audience was a student who was really apathetic in his spiritual life and, in fact, got in trouble a lot. After hearing Charles Stanley preach on heavenly reward, he was motivated to change. He approached Charles Stanley and told him about how he was now more motivated to serve God at the prospect of eternal reward.

Christ taught the same thing in Mathew 6:19: “Store up riches in heaven and not on earth.” In Matthew chapter 6, he tells his disciples that when one fasts, prays, and gives, they shouldn’t do it like the Pharisees so that they will not lose their reward.

Application Question: Are you motivated to live a holy life at the prospect of eternal reward? Why or why not?

Be Holy Because You Are a Sojourner and Pilgrim on the Earth

Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.
1 Peter 1:17

One of the things Peter does in verse 17 is remind these Christians that they are strangers and aliens. Essentially, he is reminding them that earth is not their home. They are citizens of another place--heaven. This is also an important concept for us to understand in order to be holy.

A citizen of a country has a unique language, unique culture norms, unique views and these should also be true of Christians who are heavenly citizens (Phil 3:20). This is a very important concept because typically when a person moves into a culture as a stranger, they assimilate to the culture. The nation of America is called a melting pot for this very reason, because everybody blends together. Typically, a foreigner moves to America and starts to lose their language and their culture, as they begin to assimilate.

I really loved visiting Toronto, Canada, because it felt like the most diverse place in the world. I felt like there was no majority. I went to the mall and the Africans were in traditional dress and so were the Indians. It was amazing. They call it a salad bowl, instead of a melting pot. This is more of the image Peter is getting at. He says, “You are strangers, and you are different. You have a different speech, a different worldview, and you should not assimilate to the world because this is not your home. You are citizens of heaven.” In fact, later on, Peter again challenges them directly to be different because they are pilgrims. Listen to what he says:

Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
1 Peter 2:11–12

One of the things that marked Abraham when he moved into the promised land was that he considered himself a stranger. It was not yet his land; it was inhabited by pagans and people living in sin. Even though he lived in Canaan many years, he resided in a tent because it was not his permanent home. Look at what Hebrews says about him: “By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise” (Heb 11:9).

Abraham lived in tents. In fact, the only thing he owned of the promised land was his wife’s burial spot. He lived like a stranger and a pilgrim in that land.

I love living in Korea because it helps me understand how to live better as a pilgrim in this world. We go shopping and I’m like, “Nah, we don’t need that. This is isn’t our home. One day, we will move and we have to leave it all” (especially since it costs so much to ship things from here). It doesn’t make sense to make that type of purchase. We have to remind ourselves of this truth when we see things that might be nice to have at the house.

This is in some sense how we should live on this earth. Remember, Christ said, “Don’t store up riches on this earth” (Matt 6:19). See there was a difference between Abraham and Lot.  Abraham lived in Canaan with his family, it wasn’t his home; but Lot’s family lived in Sodom and made it their home. It became part of their heart. When it was time to leave, his wife disobeyed God’s command and looked back because of her attachment to it and became a pillar of salt. After they had left, Lot’s daughters slept with Lot to have children. Sodom had become part of their hearts, it was their home.

Are you living as a stranger in the world, or are you making it your home? I love what is said about Abraham and other heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11:16: “Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”

Most Christians don’t long for a better country because this is their home. They have adopted the culture, they have stored up riches, and they’re not longing for anything heavenly. Look at the result of these early saints faithful lifestyle; it says, “God was not ashamed to be called their God.”

I think there are Christians God is ashamed of. He’s ashamed because they are living like this is their home. They have assimilated into the culture; their language has changed—they look just like everybody else. Even unbelievers can’t tell the difference. One motivation for holiness is that we are strangers and heaven is our real home.

Are you motivated by the fact that heaven is your real home? This is a motivation to be different.

Application Question: What are your thoughts about the concept of a Christian being a pilgrim or alien in this world? What are practical applications of this to apply to our lives?

Be Holy Because You Are No Longer Slaves

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers.
1 Peter 1:18

Another motivation in this text for holiness is Christians remembering the bondage and emptiness of sin that each believer once lived in and was redeemed from. The word redeemed means “to purchase someone’s freedom by paying a ransom.”1 These Christians who were part of the Roman Empire would have immediately understood this word. There were literally millions of slaves in the Roman Empire. Though some slaves were respected and treated well by their masters, a slave legally had no rights and was regarded as equivalent to a donkey. The master could severely mistreat his slave if he wanted to because the slave was considered property.

This was the same motivation Moses gave to Israel after they had left the promised land. Look at what he commonly says to them:

Remember that you were slaves in Egypt, and follow carefully these decrees.
Deuteronomy 16:12

Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.
Deuteronomy 5:15

Israel forgot they were formerly slaves in Egypt and, at times in the wilderness, wanted to go back. They said, “We had better fruits and bananas back in Egypt.” In their mind, they thought it was much easier being a slave of Egypt than being a follower of God. Therefore, they wanted to go back to slavery. This often happens with Christians as well. When following Christ gets hard, when persecution comes, many want to go back to their former lives forgetting that it was indeed slavery. In fact, we see this very clearly in the Parable of the Sower with the seed that fell on shallow ground.

The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away (emphasis mine).
Matthew 13:20–21

Peter is calling them to holiness on the basis that they were redeemed from slavery and no matter how hard it gets, no matter how much they are harassed or persecuted, they should not go back.

The question then is, who were we a slave to? Scripture says we were slaves to sin (John 8:34). When Adam sinned in the garden, he transferred his submission and that of all men to sin. Mankind became in bondage to sin which indwells the flesh of man. Listen to what Jesus said:

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed (emphasis mine).
John 8:34–36

Listen to how 1 Peter 1:14 calls believers to not go back: “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance” (emphasis mine).

Those in the world do not understand they are in slavery; Peter says they are in ignorance to it. The world runs around as slaves to their desires. Many are slaves to the desire of becoming wealthy. Christ said in Matthew 6:24 that we cannot have two masters; we will hate one and love the other. We cannot serve God and money.

For many, the desire for money and wealth tells them what school to go to, what career field to pursue, how much time to devote to God. Many people are being ruled by their desires—they are enslaved to them and do not realize it.

Many are enslaved by desires for pleasure. I remember being in college and students lived for thrill of getting wasted, getting buzzed in the evening. Many of our men were driven by the desires of lust; they fulfilled these desires through pornography and sex. They were living in ignorance. Listen to what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:12, “‘Everything is permissible for me’—but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible for me’—but I will not be mastered by anything” (emphasis mine).

Paul said, “I am free from sin, because Christ has set me free. But I will not do anything that is sinful, and I will not be mastered by anything. I will not be mastered by money, by lust, by a cigarette, by alcohol. The only master I have is Christ.”

What is controlling your life? Remember that Christ came and set you free.

One of the reasons that we should be motivated to be holy is remembering that we were once slaves to sin and slaves to the desires of the world. Not only were we slaves that needed to be redeemed, but we were living an empty life. Look at how 1 Peter 1:18 again describes it: “You were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers” (emphasis mine).

Solomon described life “under the sun,” which means life apart from God, as vanity or meaningless. Look what he says in Ecclesiastes 1:14: “I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind” (emphasis mine).

Solomon describes his pursuit of seeking meaning and joy in life throughout the letter. He says, “I tried knowledge, gave myself to endless study. I tried wealth and gathered great riches. I tried pleasure and gave myself endless enjoyment of them, only to find out it was all meaningless. I was a fool, chasing after the wind.”

Solomon summarizes his search at the end of the book, “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Eccl 12:13). In fact, Solomon speaks to youth in Ecclesiastes 12:1. He says, “Remember the Creator in your youth.” He essentially says, “Don’t go off living an empty life like I did: seeking pleasure, education, or money as the chief goal of your existence. It’s like grabbing the air—it will leave you empty.”

Many Christians, like Solomon, go back to the slavery of sin and live an empty life. Fear God and keep his commandments. This is the purpose of life: devotion to God.

Remember, you were empty and a slave to sin before coming to Christ. Christ came that you may have life and life to full (John 10:10). He came to set you free from slavery. Satan wants you to think that sin is the good life but don’t believe the lie. Declare today that you will not go back but that you will go forward in the pursuit of God and the holiness he desires.

Application Question: In what ways is the image of slavery and an empty life an accurate description of life without Christ? What ways have you experienced this?

Be Holy Because of the Lavishness of God’s Love

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.
1 Peter 1:18-21

Application Question: What are qualities of a great gift?

What’s another motivation to holiness?

The next motivation for holiness is the lavishness of God’s love. In talking about our slavery, Peter says God didn’t redeem us with silver or gold but with something much more precious. He redeemed us with Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

Observation Question: What makes the gift of our redemption through Christ so special in verse 19–21?

1. The gift is special because Christ was a lamb without blemish. The gift was perfect.

He gives the picture of a worshiper giving a sacrificial lamb in the Old Covenant. When the worshiper would give a sacrificial lamb to cover sins, he or she always was called to give one’s best—a lamb without blemish.

Peter says you should be holy because God gave his best. A lamb without blemish, the lamb God had lived with throughout eternity and enjoyed. He gave his best for you. Essentially, he says you should not show contempt for God’s kindness and goodness by going back to your slave master.

2. The gift is special because it was planned for you before the foundation of the earth.

I don’t know about you, but there are certain gifts that are more precious than others. I am person who doesn’t like to think a lot or put a lot of thought into gift giving. I give gift cards to a book store, and that is a standard gift from me. Everybody needs books, right?

But the best gifts are those that take planning, time, and our personal touch. Good gift givers discern what might be most useful to that person. They go through a lot of work in searching and figuring out what this person would like. My wife has a thing where instead of buying a card for somebody, she likes to make the card with various types of decorations.

Let’s be honest. When somebody gives you a card, you smile and say, “Thank you.” You feel compelled to keep it for a few days just to be nice. You do your duty, but then you finally throw it away. But the cards my wife makes actually take creativity; they take time, and when you receive one, it feels more special, especially, when it comes with baked homemade cookies.

Well God’s gift for you was planned thousands of years ago, which makes it even more special. It was no haphazard accident. It was part of God’s sovereign plan to redeem you. Listen to what Peter said about Christ in Acts 2:23: “This man was handed over to you by Gods set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross” (emphasis mine).

Christ’s death was no accident. It was planned before time for you.

3. The gift is special because it is personal. Peter says he was revealed for “your sake.” This gift is personal for you.

It has been said that Christ did not die just for the sins of the world. Christ died specifically for you because you are one of his elect (cf. 1 Peter 1:1). He was thinking about you. If there was no one else, he still would have given his life because he died for you specifically. This makes this gift even more special. Jesus said this to those who were following him:

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. (emphasis mine)
John 6:37-39

You were chosen before time and given by the Father to the Son. The Son came for you and everybody else that was given to him before time. Each of us were on his mind as he offered his life on the cross and he will keep us for the day of his coming (cf. John 10:27-30, Phil 1:6). Christ died for your sake.

4. The gift was precious because of what it did for believers—it secured access to God.

First Peter 1:21 says, “Through him, you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God” (emphasis mine). It was “through him” that we believed and now have a relationship with God. Christ said this:

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.
John 10:9

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
John 14:6

Many gifts have a short usefulness, but the greatest of gifts just keep on giving. Each day we are receiving from God’s gift to us. His son’s death secured access to the Father for us. We come to God each day through the veil of Christ’s body. This is a motivation for holiness.

Conclusion

What are motivations for holiness?

  1. Be holy because of a reverent fear of God’s impartial judgment.
  2. Be holy because of God’s reward.
  3. Be holy because you are a sojourner and pilgrim on the earth.
  4. Be holy because you are no longer a slave of sin.
  5. Be holy because of the lavishness of God’s love.

Chapter Notes

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Copyright 2014 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked KJV are from the King James Version of the Bible.


1 Grudem, W. A. (1988). Vol. 17: 1 Peter: An introduction and commentary. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (88). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Discipleship

7. I’m Saved…Now What? (1 Peter 1:22-2:3)

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Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you. Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
1 Peter 1:22–25; 2:1–3

What should happen in the life of a believer who has truly believed and responded to the gospel?

In this passage, Peter talks about the proper results of salvation. Look what he says: “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth” (1 Pet 1:22).

When he says we have been “purified” by “obeying the truth,” he is talking about our salvation through faith in Christ. Peter seems to be calling our “faith” obedience. God has called us to believe in the Son as our Lord and Savior (Rom 10:9, 10), and therefore, our “faith” is obedience. It is God’s will that none should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Pet 3:9). God calls all men to “repent” so they may be saved and those who respond are obedient.

This obedience to the gospel leads to purification. When we are saved, God washes us from our sins and cleanses us with the blood of Christ. Christ told the disciples each one of them were clean because of the Word spoken to them (John 15:3). It was not only because they heard the Word but because they had obeyed it. They obeyed and were purified by Christ’s blood (Heb 9:14).

Well, in this passage, Peter says, “Now what?” What should be the result of our salvation? Some people get saved and tend to continue to live their lives the same way they used to before accepting Christ. For them, salvation is just fire insurance to keep them out of hell. However, Scripture would say true salvation is not just mental assent without the corresponding works. True faith always leads to works which essentially prove the validity of our faith (Jas 2:17). In this passage, Peter shows us three works that should happen as a result of our salvation.

Big Question: What should be the results of a believer’s salvation according to 1 Peter 1:22–25 and 1 Peter 2:1–3? How should we apply these truths?

As a Result of Salvation, Believers Must Love the Brethren

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 1:22–23

Peter says a result of our salvation is love for the brethren. He demonstrates this by the preposition so in verse 22. It gives the purpose or result of something. We should realize that loving believers is a fruit of true salvation. If a person who claims to be a Christian does not love believers he is not truly saved. Look at what John says about this:

We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.
1 John 3:14–15

John says anyone who does not love the brethren has not passed from death to life. They are not truly born again, and there is no life in them. Christ said the same thing, but not in reference to us knowing we are saved, but the world knowing we are. Look at what he says in John 13:35: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

What should be the believer’s response to salvation? The answer is to love the church. God has called you to love the church and honor him by that. In fact, he more clearly says this is a result of our salvation in the following verse. First Peter 1:23 says: “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God” (emphasis mine).

The addition of the preposition for or it can be translated since, in 1 Peter 1:23, is meant to show us the reason we love. We love because we have been born again. He saved us for this purpose, and it should identify us to the world and give assurance to our spirit that we are saved.

Here is the next question that he answers, “In what ways should we love one another?”

Observation Question: In what ways should we love the brethren as demonstrated in verse 22?

How should believers love? Look again at verse 22: “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart (emphasis mine).

1. Believers should love like a family.

When he says “love for your brothers,” the word he uses here is phileo, or “brotherly love.” It is the type of love you give to a family member. We see this taught about believers throughout the Scripture. Remember what Christ said of his disciples when his family was trying to stop him from preaching.

“Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
Mark 3:33–35

When Christ said this, he began to exalt the “family of God” even over natural family to some extent. When his family was trying to pull him away, he says, “I have a responsibility to my spiritual family--those who follow the ways of God.” In fact, Paul taught Timothy this is how the church should function--like a family. Listen to what he said:

Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.
1 Timothy 5:1–2

He told Timothy to treat older men as fathers in the church, to treat older women as mothers and younger women as sisters. If your mom was in the hospital, would you call and check in on her? If your younger brother was making wrong decisions, would you not rebuke him in love? If you were trying to make a decision about the future, would you not call your parents and seek wisdom? If you got in a fight with your family, wouldn’t you endeavor with all your heart to work it out? This is how we treat people who are part of our natural family.

This is what Paul teaches every believer should do to one another as a result of salvation.

Application Question: What ways is God calling you to show familial love to members in the church? How can you grow in this?

2. Believers should love one another sincerely (without hypocrisy).

The English word sincere comes from the Latin word sin cera, meaning “without wax.” In ancient times, when people would sell clay pots that had small cracks in them, they often would put wax on the cracks in order for them to appear new. The only way a person could tell if it did not have wax was by putting the pot to the sky and allowing the sunlight to shine through it. By doing this, you could tell if it was sin cera, without wax. Sincere in this text means to be honest--without ulterior motives.

In the church, our love must be honest and without hypocrisy. He probably is reiterating this at the end of verse 22, when he says “from the heart.” Much love in the church is not from the heart—it is hypocritical; it is two-faced. We shouldn’t bless the pastors and members at church but talk bad about them at home.

Also, sincere love is never given with ulterior motives in order to receive something from others. This would define most of the world’s love. It is hypocritical. The world gives love for the purpose of receiving, instead of loving simply to give. When people have served their purpose or no longer can benefit them, they move on. It is not sincere. However, the believer’s love should be sincere, without wax.

3. Believers should love like God.

The second love in verse 22 is the Greek word agape. It means to love like God: unconditionally and sacrificially.  This is a very difficult challenge because agape is a love of the will. It is not necessarily a love of the emotions. God loved us while we were still enemies of his (Rom 5:10). He loved us when we were in rebellion, when we did things to hurt his glory. He loved us because that’s who he is in his being. God is love (1 John 4:8).

This love forgives our sins and separates them as far as the east is from the west. In fact, the command to agape is really Christ’s command to his disciples. He says, “I give you a new command to love one another like I have loved you” (John 15:12). To agape someone means to even be willing to die for them. It’s a sacrificial love.

Remember what the early church did when they first were born again? The wealthy sold all they had in order to give to the poor in the church (Acts 2:45). This is a sacrificial love of the will. It is even shown to our enemies and to those who harm us (Matt 5:44). That is what it means to agape. Our salvation should result in not only family love and sincere love, but agape love.

4. Believers must love fervently or deeply.

The final way Peter describes the love of a believer is with an athletic term. The word deeply, or fervently, is a term that means “to stretch to the furthest limit of a muscle’s capacity. Metaphorically, the word means to go all out, to reach the furthest extent of something.”1 The believer’s love for one another should be fervent. It should always be stretching itself; it should always be pushing itself to its capacity.

As a former personal trainer, I believe the word picture of a muscle stretching itself is a perfect analogy for love. In training someone with weights, it was my philosophy to always go to “failure.” This means that in each set, you lift a weight until you fail, which essentially means until the muscle says “I can’t do one more rep.” See, when you take your muscle to failure, the muscle says to itself, “I must grow, I must get stronger,” or “I must develop more perseverance in order to push this weight for an extended time period.” Because of this, the muscle adapts to the stress by growing so it can more effectively push the load in the future.

It’s the same with love. Love needs to always be stretched to its capacity in order to grow. Paul said in Galatians 6:2: “Carry one another’s burden and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

God often will be stretching your love in caring for a family member, a sister, or a brother who is struggling in the church. And yes, it is hard. Yes, sometimes we want to give up under the pressure, but as we stretch that love to capacity, God will equip you to love further and deeper. He is equipping you to love more like him.

I would even say that many times, heartbreak is just a door to love more. The flesh will respond to heartbreak by loving less and withdrawing. God often uses heartbreak and heart pain to deepen the reservoir in our hearts so that God’s love can more easily flow through us.

Maybe you have been praying to be able to love God more or love your neighbor more. It is possible God is already developing this by stretching you to love someone who is difficult such as a friend or co-worker. God may be using this “hard time” as a means to enrich your love and make it deeper.  “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Gal 6:9).

Peter says our love should be sincere. It must be familial, it must be god-like, and it must be deep or fervent.

Interpretation Question: Why does Peter talk about the Word of God as an imperishable seed right after commanding believers to love in verses 23–25?

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 1:23–25

Someone might look at the command to love and say that it is too difficult to do. “How is it possible to love that way?” Because of this, Peter reminds the believers again of their new birth and how they have been saved by the Word of God. He describes the Word of God as a seed.

In a seed is great power. A seed may not appear that powerful if you just look at it, but if you put it in the ground, water it and give it sunlight, there is tremendous life in it. It can grow into a large tree with fruits that feed and bless many. It’s the same with the Word of God in our new birth. Peter mentions this to encourage believers with the power that is within them to love.

Jesus said in John 3 that no one can be born again except by water and the Spirit of God (John 3:5). Scripture often is pictured as water. Paul said that husbands should wash their wives with the water of the Word of God (Eph 5:26). The Word and Spirit come together in someone’s life as they hear the gospel and they are changed. They are made new by the power of the Spirit.

To be able to love as Christians are commanded is not something that comes through man’s flesh. Man’s flesh and glory is fading. The glory of man is like the cherry blossoms—here for today and gone for tomorrow. But the glory and the power of the Word of God is eternal. This is how we have been saved and this is how we will love. It is through the power of this seed that has changed us. Let us remember what Paul says:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
2 Corinthians 5:17

And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
Romans 5:5

We are a new creation in Christ. We have the Holy Spirit who has given us the power to love as God does. Look what Scripture says about the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5:22: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

In the believer is a tremendous capacity to love. This love is especially cultivated as we live in the Spirit (Gal 5:16) through time in the Word, prayer and fellowship. This is one of the ways we stretch and grow our love.

Application Question: In what ways has God stretched your love or is stretching your love in order that it may be more familial, sincere, god-like and fervent?

As a Result of Our Salvation, Believers Must Take Off the Clothes of Sin

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
1 Peter 2:1–3

The word therefore in 1 Peter 2:1 points us back to the previous verses. Peter is saying get rid of all sin as a result of your salvation and because of the power of the Word of God, the imperishable seed that brought you the new birth. Because of this great work, get rid of sin and “crave” the Word of God that changed you.

The Greek word used for “rid yourselves” gives us the picture of taking off clothes (cf. Acts 7:38). This image would have reminded them of the common practice in ancient baptisms. The new believers were instructed to wear old clothes to their baptism, and they would exchange them for white baptism robes. After their baptism, they would throw away the old clothes, representing their old life of sin. The word picture of throwing away clothes of sin is used commonly by Paul. He uses the same word in Ephesians 4:22 translated “to put off.”

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (emphasis mine).
Ephesians 4:22–24

One of the things we must do as believers is take off our old clothes and put on new ones. This is a continual process in the life of the believer. We are getting rid of old mindsets as we renew our minds (Rom 12:2). We are changing our habitual practice of certain sins in response to our salvation.

In fact, the Apostle John says that a change in our relationship to sin is a proof our salvation, just as loving other believers is. Look at 1 John 3:6-8:

No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.

John says that knowing God, being saved, will always change your relationship to sin. You cannot go on living the way you previously did. Therefore, a necessary step after salvation will be working to continually get rid of wrong attitudes and actions. We will never be completely free of sin while living on this earth, but it will be our labor until we get to heaven.

Observation Question: What characteristics does Peter tell us to get rid of in 1 Peter 2:1 and what does this mean for our lives?

“Therefore, rid yourself of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind” (1 Peter 2:1).

This call to get rid of sinful attitudes and actions fits with the previous call to love (1 Pet 1:22). If we are going to love our brothers, we must get rid of everything that is uncharacteristic of love. Again, this makes perfect sense in the context of the believers in Asia Minor who were being persecuted. When people are under duress, even the simplest thing could potentially start a conflict and begin a chain of unloving actions.

Imagine these believers getting mistreated by their bosses and having more work put on them because of their faith. Often, when one would come home, his patience would be already spent and it would affect his relationships with family and friends. This pressure would even affect the relationships in the church.

When Israel was in the wilderness undergoing stress, what happened? They started pointing fingers at Moses, Aaron, and God. They complained, and they divided into factions.

If we are going to love, we must get rid of any divisive attitude or action. Malice is a general word for evil generally directed at someone else. Deceit is the desire to trick or deceive someone for gain. Hypocrisy is to be two-faced and not genuine. Envy means to desire or be jealous of what someone else has. Slander means to defame somebody’s character or person through words. If you are going to love someone with God’s love, these things are incompatible. In order to put on love and righteousness, you must take off some other things.

Application Question: What are necessary steps in the life of a believer in order to “rid” oneself of the sins mentioned in 1 Peter 2:1?

Here are some necessary steps we must practice to get rid of these sins.

  1. Recognize these attitudes and actions are sin.
  2. Confess them before God (1 John 1:9).
  3. Confess them before others (Matt 5:23, 24; Jas 5:16). If we have slandered, deceived, or done evil toward someone else, then we would need to confess that to them.
  4. Repent by forsaking these types of actions.

It is good to remember that sometimes, confession of sin before God is not enough. We must also confess to others. Listen to what Christ said:

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift (emphasis mine).
Matthew 5:23–24

To put off the clothes of sin means to make things right, and for some, they need to reconcile with people not just God.  When we sin we have offended God and we may have offended others. If we have offended or harmed others, we must make reconciliation with them.

In this text, it should be noted Jesus is not even talking about whether it was our fault or why the person is mad at us. It simply says if “your brother has something against you,” go and be reconciled. Love is not about pointing fingers—it is about itself. It is about demonstrating love to someone else.

As a result of our salvation we must take off the old clothes of sin.

As a Result of Our Salvation, We Must Desire the Word of God

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
1 Peter 2:2

Here Peter commands the believers to “crave,” or desire, the milk of the Word of God like an infant. It is very interesting that Peter doesn’t say study the Word of God, read the Word of God, or even memorize it. These things are commanded in other parts of Scripture, but here he focuses on the desire for it. If you really “crave” the Word like a newborn baby you will read, memorize, and meditate on it.

It is the most natural thing for a believer to desire the Word of God. It is one of the results of our salvation. Jesus said, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4). Job said, “I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread” (Job 23:12). David, in Psalm 119, spends the largest chapter in the Bible primarily talking about his love for the Word of God. “Your law is my delight” (v. 77), “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law” (v. 18), and “How can a man keep his way pure? By living according to your word” (v. 9).

This is one of the things that happens as a result of our spiritual birth. In the same way, a true believer loves other brothers (1 John 3:14) and seeks to get rid of sins (1 John 3:6), a truly born-again person desires the Word of God like a newborn. That’s why Peter puts this phrase after talking about our new birth through the Word of God (1 Pet 1:23).

We have been saved by the Word of God, and now we have to grow up into what Christ has called us to be through the Word of God. He says, “Grow up in your salvation.”

Let us hear this: there are many Christians who never grow up. The church is full of spiritual babies that never reach maturity. Why is that? Because the primary way we grow is through the Word of God. It is interesting to note that the Greek verb grow in this passage is passive, literally meaning “it may grow you.”2 This means as you study the Word of God, it bears fruits in your life; it gets rid of sin. It helps a person walk in the righteousness God made them for.

However, the majority of the church never reaches spiritual adulthood and never bears the fruits they have been called to produce. Why? Part of the reason is because they don’t have a healthy “desire.” They don’t enjoy studying the Bible; they don’t enjoy hearing sermons. Why do so many Christians lack this desire?

Application Question: Why are so many Christians lacking a desire for the Word of God?

1. For some, it is because they never have been born again.

Some Christians who have been raised in the church their whole lives have never truly desired the Word of God at all. They have attended Bible studies and read the Bible out of necessity or because they were made to, but never really craved it. Some in the church do not love the Word of God because they are not saved.

Listen to what Paul said about the nonbeliever:

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned (emphasis mine).
1 Corinthians 2:14

The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.
Romans 8:7

The natural mind—the person without the Spirit of God whom has not been born again—does not desire the Word of God. He cannot truly understand it; it is foolishness to him and he doesn’t have the capacity to obey God’s Word.

But the believer does, because he has been born again.

What about those who are saved? How come they sometimes lose a desire for the Word of God?

2. A believer can lose a desire for the Word of God because of sin.

This is why in 1 Peter 2:1 they are commanded to get rid of sin so they can “desire the word of God.”

Did your mom ever tell you to not eat sweets before dinner because it would ruin your appetite? It’s the same thing with sin. It has been said, “Sin will keep you out of the Word of God, or the Word of God will keep you out of sin.” It’s one or the other. James says the same thing. “Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you” (Jas 1:21).

We must get rid of sin so we can accept the Word of God. If you are not in the Word and you don’t desire it, you can be sure wrong attitudes have crept into your mind and heart. Malice has showed up. There will be wrong attitudes toward God or wrong attitudes toward others, but when the Word of God is there, you will find that you have peace and a right relationship with God and others.

Some have lost desire for the Word of God because of sin. Sin will ruin your appetite. Are you still desiring the Word of God? This is the proper response to one who has been saved by the imperishable seed of the Word of God (1 Pet 1:23).

Application Question: How do we develop a healthy desire for the Word of God?

1. Get rid of sin. Sin will quench your desire for the Word, so you must get rid of it.

2. Begin to force feed yourself the Word of God. This is what the doctors would do to any sick baby that hadn’t eaten all day. Because they need to eat to live, the doctor will force feed a baby through an IV.

Listen to Job: “I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread” (Job 23:12). Job desired the Word more than food. I read a story about a famous pastor named Derek Prince. During a tumultuous season of his life, he began to eat the Word of God day and night just like he would his meals.

This would only make sense for a person who desired it more than their daily meals. A normal diet is about three meals a day. Daniel use to pray and meet with God three times a day (Daniel 6). David said: “Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws” (Ps 119:164).

When I used to bodybuild, I would eat six to eight meals a day, which was about every two to three hours. Since the Word of God is more important than food, reading the Word of God multiple times a day is a valid spiritual discipline. I personally am not into the “Read the Bible one-time-a-day thing,” we often tell young Christians. I don’t see support for it anywhere in the Scriptures. A better challenge might be, “How can I practice meditating on the Word of God all throughout the day?”

David talked about the blessing of the one who meditated on the Word of God day and night in Psalm 1. Joshua was called to meditate on the Word of God day and night as well in Joshua 1. Many theologians believe that “day and night” is not referring to the actual morning and night times. It probably was a literary device meaning “all day.” This would be like Christ saying “Forgive seventy times seven,” which really meant all the time.

These are disciplines that will reap tremendous fruit in the believer’s life. I always challenge people to do the least quotient, meaning practicing “day and night” as a literal “twice a day.” Sometimes, it is good to practice what Daniel did three times a day, especially when life is really hard. Or even try seven times a day, like David, through listening to worship music, sermons, etc., strategically at work or during breaks.

The Bible declares there are tremendous blessings for people who develop a lifestyle of this. God said that those who do, in the books of Psalms and Joshua, prosper in everything.

Application Question: What are some good disciplinary routines in order to eat the Word of God more faithfully so we can grow? What is your personal practice?

Conclusion

An anecdote from the early 1900s beautifully illustrates how Christians ought to be grateful for what Christ has done for them. While on a three-story scaffold at a construction site one day, a building engineer tripped and fell toward the ground in what appeared to be a fatal plummet. Right below the scaffold, a laborer looked up just as the man fell, realized he was standing exactly where the engineer would land, braced himself, and absorbed the full impact of the other man’s fall. The impact slightly injured the engineer but severely hurt the laborer. The brutal collision fractured almost every bone in his body, and after he recovered from those injuries, he was severely disabled.

Years later, a reporter asked the former construction laborer how the engineer had treated him since the accident. The handicapped man told the reporter: “He gave me half of all he owns, including a share of his business. He is constantly concerned about my needs and never lets me want for anything. Almost every day he gives me some token of thanks or remembrance.”3

This man responded by tremendous service to the person who had saved his life. How much more should we respond to Christ who has saved not only our bodies but our souls?

Here Peter says the response of a believer to salvation should be:

  1. loving other believers
  2. getting rid of evil desires and actions like old clothes
  3. desiring the Word of God.

Are you still grateful for your salvation? How are you responding because of its effect on your life?

Chapter Notes

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Copyright 2014 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked KJV are from the King James Version of the Bible.


1 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter. MacArthur New Testament Commentary (90). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

2 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter. MacArthur New Testament Commentary (100). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

3 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter. MacArthur New Testament Commentary (87–88). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Discipleship

8. Privileges Of Believers (1 Peter 2:4-8)

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As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,” and, “A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.
1 Peter 2:4–8

What are some of the privileges or honors that believers have as worshipers of God?

Throughout Scripture, God seeks to inform believers about how truly special and privileged they are. In Ephesians 1:3, we have every spiritual blessing in heavenly places. In Romans 8:17, we are co-heirs with Christ. In the beatitudes the Kingdom of Heaven is ours and ours alone (Matt 5:3-11). After the beatitudes we are called the salt and light of the earth (v. 13, 14). God wants his children to know how special they are, so they can live out this high calling and these high privileges. We must continually renew our minds to know what God has done in us (Rom 12:2). This is especially important in a world that cannot properly evaluate our worth and in fact persecutes us.

First Peter 2:4-8 is no different. This passage trumpets the honor and privileges of Christians. In fact, when it says in verse 7: “Now to you who believe this stone is precious”, almost all commentators disagree with this translation. It is better translated: So the honor is for you who believe as in the ESV.

There are many honors and privileges that come to those who believe in Christ. No doubt Peter wrote this to encourage the saints who are being persecuted for their faith. Peter not only describes the believers privileges in Christ but also talks about those who reject Christ and stumbled over him. The beauty of these believers is shown as more glorious against the backdrop of those who stumble and dishonor Christ. Believers should stand in awe at the overflowing grace in their lives from God.

In fact, the privileges that are talked about in this passage would be even more wonderful to Jewish believers who would see the Old Testament analogies of Israel being shown in the church.

Big Question: What are some of the honors and privileges we have as Christians according to 1 Peter 2:4–8?

Believers Have the Privilege of Continually Coming to Christ

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him.
1 Peter 2:4

The phrase “as you come to him” is a present participle that has the meaning of “as you continually come to him.” This is not just salvation, but coming to Christ in worship, prayer, and through the Word of God on a daily basis.

We have the right to come to “the living stone” that was rejected by men, but was chosen by God and precious to him. The word precious really means “there is nothing like him.” That is our privilege. We have the right to continually come to Christ and God through him. Listen to what Hebrews 4:15-16 says:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (emphasis mine).

Because our Savior can understand and sympathize, this should encourage us to continually approach his throne to receive mercy and grace.

This is a tremendous privilege. Let us not neglect times of prayer, for they are not a burden but a great privilege. It is at his throne that we find mercy, forgiveness for our sins, and grace to help us. What is keeping you from enjoying this precious privilege?

Application Question: What things commonly keep you or other believers from using this privilege of continually coming to Christ?

Believers Have the Privilege of Being Built into the House of God

You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 2:5

In this text, we are compared to living stones that are being built into a house. We are living stones because Christ is the first living stone—the foundation of the house (v. 6). The paradox of a “living” stone is seen simply in comparison to the Old Testament house of God, the temple that was made of dead stones.

In the New Covenant, God’s temple is the living people of God. This is what 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 said:

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body (emphasis mine).

Do you not know that you are the temple of God and God lives in you?

Application Question: What applications can we take from believers being living stones “being built into a spiritual house” or the temple of God?

There are several applications we can take from this privilege of being the temple of God.

1. Because we are the temple of God, we need one another.

The Scriptures does not support the concept of lone-ranger Christians. We were never called to walk this life alone. We need one another. Paul says the same thing in 1 Corinthians 12. He says: “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’” (1 Cor 12:21)

A brick is of little use by itself. It can only be used for minimal things, however its usefulness is maximized when used alongside other bricks. Similarly, apart from one another, we cannot complete the mission God has called for us either individually or corporately. Are you walking apart from other living stones in the house of God?

2. Because we are the temple of God, we must recognize that the building of the temple is not complete yet; it is a continual process.

We are being built up into the house of God (v. 5). The word being in this passage means we are not where we need to be yet. This reminds us that this work is a process like the building of any house. We should not be discouraged when we see sin or failure in the church. We should be careful about the desire to quit or to give up on ourselves. We should be careful about the desire to quit or give up on others. It’s a process. God is not done with us yet. We are being built into a spiritual house.

How does this process of being built into a spiritual house work, especially as we constantly see the disunity in our families and church bodies?

We are growing into this spiritual house as we continually “come to him” (v. 4). This process of growing more unified can be seen in the illustration of the triangle. Individual members of the church are on both sides of the triangle, with Christ at the peak, and as we continually come to Christ, we get closer to one another.

If we focus on getting closer to Christ, we will continually find more intimacy and joy with the members of God’s house. But the person who focuses less on his time with God, will find more to complain about, more to be upset about. Often, in counseling believers in discord, all one has to ask is, “How is your time in the Word and prayer?” If you are not aiming at the pinnacle of the triangle who is Christ, then you will find yourself farther away from other believers. Instead of building the house of God, you will find yourself breaking down the house. We must continually come to Christ in order to properly build the house of God.

3. Because we are the temple of God, everything we do can be worship.

One of the things that being the temple of God remind us of is our capacity to worship. In the Old Testament, Israel had to travel to the temple in Jerusalem to offer sacrifices to the Lord; they were restricted by time and space. However, in the New Covenant, we are not. We are not restricted by time and space—everything we do can be worship because we are the temple of God. In fact Paul says this: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31). Whatever you do, do it for the glory of God. Even our eating and drinking can be worship to God.

4. Because we are the temple of God, we must be holy.

In the Old Testament, everything in the temple was set apart as holy, even the drinking cups. Now that we are the house of God, we also must be holy in every regard. We learn a little more about this concept from Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:16, 17: “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (emphasis mine).

I think this text reflects our need of to be holy. Paul prays for them to be strengthened in the inner man so Christ “may dwell” in their hearts. The interesting thing is that Christ was already dwelling in their hearts because they were Christians. What then is he referring to?

There are two words for dwell in the original language. One means “to dwell as a visitor,” and the other means “to dwell as a resident.” In this passage the word dwell is referring to the latter—Christ being at home in them.

I think in many churches and in the lives of many believers, Christ is not at home. He feels like a visitor. That’s why Paul prays for them so Christ could be at home. In the lives of many Christians, Christ feels like a visitor because their lives aren’t fully under his control. He isn’t consulted about their entertainment or their friendships. He isn’t treated as an owner but as a visitor. That’s why Paul commands them later in the book to not “grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:30).”

We can grieve the Spirit by our language, our thoughts and actions. Therefore, we must seek to make Christ at home in our lives and our churches by the practice of holiness. This is a proper application to the church being the household of God. Let Christ be at home in our lives and our fellowship.

Application Question: What things is Christ calling you to do in order for him to be more at home in your life and in your local church?

Believers Have the Privilege of Being Priests and Offering Sacrifices to God

You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 2:5

Peter says one of our privileges is to be priests of God. The primary audience of Peter was probably Jewish Christians since he was an apostle to the Jews, and therefore, them being called priests would have been especially significant to them. Priests came from the line of Levi, specifically the lineage of Aaron. They were chosen by God to pray for the people and to offer sacrifices for their sins. Anyone who tried to do the job of a priest without being one, was judged by God. We see this with King Uzziah, whom God smote with leprosy (2 Chr 26:16–21), and King Saul, whom God judged by removing the monarchy from his family (1 Sam 13:8–14). The priesthood was a special office.

Interpretation Question: What similarities are there between Christians as priests and Old Testament priests?

  1. Christians are chosen by God just as the priests were in the Old Testament. Aaron and his sons were chosen to be priests for Israel.
  2. Christians, as priests, have been purified by the sprinkling of blood of Christ (Eph 1:7) just as the Old Testament priest was sprinkled by the blood of animals (Lev 8:23). This symbolizes being set apart and cleansed to serve God.
  3. Christians are called to offer prayers for the church and the world in the same way Old Testament priests offered prayers on behalf of the people (1 Tim 2:1–4). Samuel declared it was a sin to not pray for the nation of Israel (1 Sam 12:23).
  4. Christians are anointed with power by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). Similarly, the Old Testament priests were anointed with oil and the Holy Spirit (Lev 8:30).
  5. Christians have access to God in a similar way to Old Testament priests. However, Christians have continual access, where in the Old Covenant only the high priest could enter God’s presence and only once a year.
  6. Christians are called to offer sacrifices to God (1 Pet 2:5), even as Old Testaments priests offered sacrifices. However, Chritians offer “spiritual” sacrifices such as worship and prayer instead of physical ones like animals and grain.

As priests of God, one of the tremendous privileges we have is to offer spiritual sacrifices to God. What are these spiritual sacrifices?

Interpretation Question: What are the spiritual sacrifices we offer to God?

1. The surrendering of our bodies in service to God is a spiritual sacrifice.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship” (Rom 12:1).

2. Praise is a spiritual sacrifice to God.

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name” (Heb 13:15).

3. Righteous acts are spiritual sacrifices to God.

“And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Heb 13:16).

4. Giving is a spiritual sacrifice to God.

“And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Heb 13:16).

5. Evangelism of the lost is a spiritual sacrifice.

But I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God, to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit (emphasis mine).
Romans 15:15–16

6. Sacrificial love for the saints is spiritual sacrifice.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma (emphasis mine).
Eph. 5: 1–2

7. Prayer is a spiritual sacrifice.

Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked. The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.”
Acts 10:4

Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand.
Revelation 8:3–4

Are there any other applications to the priesthood of believers?

Many times in Christian churches, ministry is reserved for those who are “ordained” such as pastors and deacons. However, the priesthood of believers means that we should all be doing the work of ministry. In fact, pastors are given for the very purpose of preparing the church for the work of ministry (Eph 4:12).

There is nothing in Scripture that forbids each believer from doing such things as baptism, the Lord’s Supper, public prayer or teaching one another the Word. In the New Covenant, these are not reserved for any special class of believers. They are given to disciples. The church is often hindered from being as effective as it can, because ministry is left to the few—the “ordained.” The priesthood of believers denies this common practice.

Now this doesn’t mean anybody can serve in the role of pastor or deacon. There are specific qualifications given for those types of roles as seen in 1 Timothy 3. But as a general principle, the priesthood of believers means that each believer should be offering the spiritual sacrifices that Scripture commands.

Application Question: What practices, if any, should be left only for those who are “ordained” to ministry? How would you support your conclusion with Scripture?

Believers Have the Privilege of Sharing in the Honor of Christ

For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame. So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 2:6-8 (ESV)

Another privilege we have as believers is sharing in Christ’s honor and that we “will never be put to shame” (v. 6). What does this mean?

Certainly, as believers and pilgrims in this world, there will be times when we are mocked for our beliefs and persecuted. This verse is not a promise that we will not have trials or times when people mock us. However, it does promise that we will never be ultimately put to shame. God will always use everything we go through for our ultimate good (Rom 8:28). In fact, the believer will have honor instead of shame. The ESV says “So the honor is for you who believe (v.7).

However, there is considerable debate over verse 7. It can also be translated “Now to you who believe this stone is precious” in the NIV.  Listen to what Wayne Grudem says about this passage:

The rsv translation To you therefore who believe, he is precious (based on the av and followed, surprisingly, by the niv, and apparently nasb), is an extremely unlikely understanding of the Greek text and is criticized by almost every major commentator. The Greek sentence contains no verb and rather literally says, “Therefore the honour to you, the believers.” It is quite natural to understand the verb “to be” (as commonly in Gk. sentences), so that the sentence reads, “Therefore the honour is to you, the believers”1

Not only will believers never ultimately be put to shame, but when Christ comes, we will be honored before all. We will share in his glory. Listen to this story about two missionaries returning from Africa, which helps illustrate this truth.

An old missionary couple had been working in Africa for years and were returning to New York to retire. They had no pension; their health was broken; they felt defeated, discouraged, and afraid.

As the trip began, they discovered they were on the same ship as President Teddy Roosevelt, who was returning from one of his big-game hunting expeditions.

No one paid any attention to them. They watched the fanfare that accompanied the President’s entourage, with passengers trying to catch a glimpse of the great man. As the ship moved across the ocean, the old missionary said to his wife, “Something is wrong.”

“Why should we have given our lives in faithful service for God in Africa all these many years and have no one care a thing about us? Here this man comes back from a hunting trip and everybody makes much over him, but nobody gives two hoots about us.”

“Dear, you shouldn’t feel that way,” his wife said.

He replied “I can’t help it; it just doesn’t seem right.”

When the ship docked in New York, a band was waiting to greet the President. The mayor and other dignitaries were there. The papers were full of the President’s arrival. No one noticed the missionary couple. They slipped off the ship, disappeared in the crowd, and found a cheap flat on the East Side, hoping the next day to see what they could do to make a living in the city.

That night the man’s spirit broke. He said to his wife, “I can’t take this; God is not treating us fairly.” His wife replied, “Why don’t you go in the bedroom and tell that to the Lord?”

A short time later he came out from the bedroom, but now his face was completely different. His wife asked, “Dear, what happened?”

The Lord settled it with me. I told Him how bitter I was that the President should receive this tremendous homecoming, when no one met us as we returned home. And when I finished, it seemed as though the Lord put His hand on my shoulder and simply said; “You’re not home yet.”

(Author Unknown)

Here on this earth, we may suffer for our faith, we may be mocked, but we will never ultimately suffer shame. We will be honored before all when we get home to heaven. We will be honored before the world and before all creation. Listen to what Paul says in Romans 8:19: “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.” When it says creation waits in “eager expectation,” it gives the picture of creation “standing on their tippy-toes.” Creation, who has been subjected to the curse, is waiting for the sons of God to be revealed so it can be set free.

As a dog lover, when I read the word picture of creation standing on their tippy-toes, I think back to my dogs at my parent’s house. My mom was a breeder, so we always had about five small dogs in the house. Every time we would come home, the dogs would literally be on their tippy-toes at the door, barking and smiling. They were standing on the tippy-toes waiting for us.

In the same way, creation groans and waits for us. One day, there will be honor and privilege when we stand before God and creation. This was important for these suffering Christians to hear. Yes, they were being despised by society, hated without cause, and it would seem that their lot in life was shame. However, those who put their faith in Christ will never ultimately be put to shame. One day, they will be honored before all and share in the glory of Christ.

Application Question: How does it make you feel to consider the honor that awaits believers? How can we apply this reality on a daily basis?

Dishonor for the Unbelievers

Next, Peter spends some time talking about those who do not believe. In the same way a diamond’s beauty is most clear against a dark surface, the glory of Christ and believers is most evident against the destiny of unbelievers. Peter says for those who believe, there is honor, but for those who have not believed in Christ, the capstone, there will be dishonor. Listen to what he says:

Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone, and, A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 2:7–8

The picture is of an ancient building construction site. Often the rocks were chosen before they were even brought to the site. The builders would look at each rock and if the dimensions were not perfect, it was discarded. This is what the world did with Christ. However, this rock that was rejected, later became the cornerstone, the most important stone.

The cornerstone is the stone ground between two walls. It is used to get perfect angles for the rest of the house. You build off of the cornerstone; it sets the direction for the entire building. Christ was the rock that was discarded which became the rock that was needed most. The world has rejected this rock which everyone must build their house upon in order to withstand God’s judgment.

Interpretation Question: Why does the world discard Christ the cornerstone?

The world rejected him because he did not come in the manner they desired him to. The Jews rejected him because he came as a suffering servant, instead of a conquering king. The Greeks rejected him because a God that became man and died for the world was utter foolishness to them (1 Cor 1:23).

Many in the world today often reject Christ simply because he declared there is no other way to heaven and because he demands total lordship of their lives. Following Jesus Christ is too narrow a path and they refuse to follow it. They want a god who submits to their will, and therefore, reject the Savior on which they are called to build their lives upon. For them, Peter declares only dishonor waits, because they have not properly valued the capstone. Without this capstone no building can stand (Matt 7:24-29).

Finally, Peter gives a further reason why unbelievers cannot properly appraise Christ and instead stumble over him. He says they stumble because they were “destined” for this (v. 8). They were destined to reject Christ.

Interpretation Question: What does the phrase “they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for” mean? Did God elect some to be eternally damned?

The Doctrine of Reprobation

It is very clear that God chose some to be saved before time who will receive honor. The doctrine of election and predestination are seen clearly throughout Scripture. Look at what Paul says:

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves (emphasis mine).
Ephesians 1:4–6

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified (emphasis mine).
Romans 8:29–30

The doctrine of election is communicated throughout Scripture but not without controversy. The primary controversy has been the question, “Why did God elect some? Did he elect simply based on his sovereign right or because he knew the elect would believe?” I believe Scripture clearly communicates that God elects because of his sovereign right (Romans 9:19, 20). However, as if election wasn’t controversial enough, another aspect of election is reprobation. Did God, in the same way, choose for some to be eternally damned?

By necessity, the doctrine of God electing some to salvation means that some had to be passed over. This is called reprobation—God passing over some for salvation. But the question is, “Did God elect these people to be damned?”

There are those who believe that in the same way God elected some to eternal life, he elected others to be eternally damned. This is called double predestination, or some may call it hyper-calvinism. Is there any support for this?

First of all, Scripture never uses the word elect for those who were passed over in salvation. Therefore, double predestination is not a helpful term because it necessitates that God handles election and reprobation in the same way. The term elect is used for those who were chosen for salvation before the beginning of time and not for those who were passed over. Therefore, Scripture doesn’t teach that God elected some to damnation.

There is no need to elect the lost, for all mankind is under the judgment of God’s wrath for sin. But, there is a need to elect some people to salvation from those who deserve judgment. With that said, there is obviously a sense in which those who were passed over were predetermined before time. Look at what Romans 9:22 says: “What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction (emphasis mine)?” This text clearly says that there is a way in which these people were “prepared for destruction.” Listen to what Jude said:

For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord (emphasis mine).
Jude 1:4

Jude talks about these false teachers whose condemnation was written about long ago. This seems to be referring to a time before creation. Look again at 1 Peter 2:8: “And, ‘A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.’ They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for (emphasis mine).”

Peter also talks about those who stumble over the message of the gospel, which they were destined for. Therefore, we must recognize that there is some sense in which even those who choose not to obey God are part of his plan before time.

Paul teaches God works all things in conformity with to the counsel of his plan in Ephesians 1:11: “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” (emphasis mine).

Does “everything” include the destruction of the lost? Proverbs declares that even the destruction of the wicked is part of God’s plan. “The LORD works out everything for his own ends—even the wicked for a day of disaster” (Prov 16:4).

Interpretation Question: Why would God plan to allow sinful men to disobey him as part of his plan in the first place? What is the benefit or purpose?

It seems the purpose is for his glory. There is a sense in which God brings glory to himself by showing his mercy to those who have sinned and yet are elected, while in another way he receives glory by bringing his wrath on those who have sinned. Look at what Scripture says about Pharaoh in Romans 9:17: “For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth (emphasis mine).”

In the case of Pharaoh, God hardened his heart for the purpose of God’s name being proclaimed throughout the earth. Listen to what else Paul says about God’s “objects of wrath” in Romans 9:22: “What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction (emphasis mine)?

Paul says God chose to show his wrath and make his power known by his destruction of the wicked. Ultimately, everything he does is for his glory. In fact, it should be noted that with the fallen angels, he did not choose to show grace to any of them. They all received justice—his wrath. If we consider what is fair, it must be realized justice would require that he show mercy to none. But because God is a God of justice and mercy, he elects some and sovereignly passes over others in order to show his glory.

This is a very difficult doctrine, but there is scriptural support for it. By necessity, when God elected some before time, he passed over others. However, the process is different. The lost are not elect; they are sovereignly passed over in the counsel of God’s will. It may seem unfair to us, but what is ultimately fair resides in the counsel of God because he defines justice and goodness (Psalms 100:5). The best thing is for God to receive glory.

The nations of the earth feared God because of his destruction and judgment upon Pharaoh (Josh 2:9–11). God raised him up for that purpose so that many could see God’s glory and fear him. In the same way, even though there is sin and evil in the world, our God will ultimately use this for his glory as well.

Application Question: Is it fair for God to choose some for salvation and to pass over others? What are your thoughts about the doctrine of reprobation?

Conclusion

Peter writes this section on the honor and privileges of the believer in order to encourage the saints. Oftentimes as Christians we accept what the world says about us, to our discouragement and demise. However, God continually shows us in Scripture how special we are. Zephaniah 3:17 says, he will take great delight in us and quiet us with his love, he will rejoice over us with singing. Believers are special and God has given us many great and wonderful privileges.

What are our privileges as saints of God?

  1. Believers have the privilege of continually coming into the presence of Christ. Let us avail ourselves of this daily through prayer, study of the Word, and the Christian community, for it is our greatest honor.
  2. Believers have the privilege of being built into a house of God. We need one another, a brick has very little usefulness by itself. Also, because we are the house of God, we should be a holy place, set apart for God’s worship. Everything we do can be worship because we are his temple.
  3. Believers have the privilege of being priests that offer spiritual sacrifices. We should labor in prayer for others; we should serve others as priests in order to please and honor our God.
  4. Believers have the privilege of sharing in the honor of Christ. The glory given to Christ by God has been given to us (John 17:22). Though rejected by the world, along with Christ, we must rejoice in the coming honor and glory. We are co-heirs with Christ, and therefore, recipients of the coming kingdom. This honor shines even brighter against the destiny of the lost.

Let us give glory to God for our great and awesome privileges. Thank you Lord.

Chapter Notes

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Copyright 2014 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked KJV are from the King James Version of the Bible.


1 Grudem, W. A. (1988). Vol. 17: 1 Peter: An introduction and commentary. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (110). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Discipleship

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