1. The Cross And New Birth (1 Peter 1:3-12)Related Media
Peter’s first epistle focuses on suffering as a Christian. He addresses this topic in the context of the foundation of Christian salvation, the future of Christian hope, and how that all plays out in the Christian life. The purpose of the epistle is to encourage his readers, who were experiencing dire suffering for being Christians, and to stimulate the growth of their trust in God and their obedience to him despite their circumstances. Peter points to what God has done for them in Christ and applies that to their lives in their present situation. Thus, the three main themes of the epistle are: (1) Suffering as a Christian; (2) Trusting God; and (3) Doing good.
The basis for being able to sustain unjust suffering as a Christian is our salvation. Thus, the cross is central to this epistle. Even in suffering, Christians can and should praise God because of our salvation in Christ – (1) a salvation that grants us the reality of a living hope, (2) a salvation that guarantees us the reward of an eternal inheritance, (3) a salvation that generates in us the results of genuine faith.
Our subject in this passage (1 Peter 1:3-12) is “Praise to God for our Salvation” and the overriding lesson in our passage is that because of our salvation, we can rejoice and praise God even in the midst of deep trials.
So what can we and should we praise God for?
I. We Praise God For Our Salvation That Grants Us The Reality Of A Living Hope (1:3)
This passage is in fact one long sentence from v. 3 to v. 9 in the form of a doxology for our salvation: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
All our blessings are rooted in our present salvation…
1. The source of our salvation is “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:3a). We do not and cannot save ourselves. Our salvation is all of God, a salvation which Peter calls new birth. God alone has “caused us to be born again.” Our salvation is a spiritual rebirth, a rebirth which is rooted in the redemptive plan of God, which he planned in a past eternity and which he brought into effect in time, so that our salvation is a present possession.
God alone designed and initiated the plan of salvation. That’s the basis of our new birth, which God fulfilled in his Son, Jesus Christ, at the cross. That’s how we are “born again” and because we are born again we can call God our Father. “The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” is our Father because the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son, is our Saviour. Thus, only Christians can call God our Father and only Christians can confess “Jesus Christ” as “Lord,” by which address we are also confessing that Jesus is God, and because Jesus is God he alone is our Saviour. No one else other than God himself could have effected our salvation for only Jesus Christ could offer to God an acceptable sacrifice for our sins.
So, our salvation has as its source the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. And…
2. The basis of our salvation is God’s “great mercy” (1:3b). At the heart of God’s saving act in Christ is “his great mercy.” As the apostle Paul puts it: “4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2:4-5). What Paul makes clear is that God’s rich mercy is rooted in his great love. For the God who is love is the One who loved the world to such a degree and in such a manner that “he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16).
So, our salvation has as its source the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our salvation has as its basis God’s great mercy. And…
3. The object of our salvation is “a living hope” (1:3c). When we receive new life in Christ we also receive a new reason for living – what Peter calls “a living hope.” The Christian hope is not abstract, wishful thinking but an absolute certainty, a firmly-rooted anticipation of what will certainly come to pass at the return of Christ – namely, the completion of our salvation (see v. 9).
For the Christian, hope is the present anticipation of future glory and blessing. It is therefore both a future certainty and a present reality. That’s why it is called a “living” hope. It’s a living hope because it is alive in us. It is a living hope precisely because God has rebirthed us, given us new spiritual life in Christ by which we have this living, active, abiding hope. That’s our assurance, our confidence, our hope both now and to the end. That’s why we are encouraged to be “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Tit. 2:13). It’s a living hope because it is grounded on “the living and abiding Word of God” (1 Pet. 1:23). It’s a living hope because it is rooted in our salvation - we trust a living Savior who rose from the dead.
Ours is a living hope - not a dead hope that can never be realized. It’s a living hope - therefore it is active not passive, not just something to be believed but something to be lived out. It’s a living hope - therefore it endures beyond this life: “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:19). It’s a living hope – therefore, it is permanent and eternal. It is the “hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began” (Tit. 1:2). As Hebrews 6:19 says, “…this hope we have as an anchor of the soul both sure and steadfast.” Because it is sure and steadfast we need to cling to it, to persevere in it - “if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven” (Col. 1:23).
4. The security of our salvation is “the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1:3d). His resurrection is the guarantee of our living hope. If Christ had not risen from the dead we would have no hope because we could not be born again. And if we are not born again our hope would be useless, empty. As surely as He rose from the dead, so shall we. That’s the reality of our living hope. As Simon Kistemaker puts it: “Without the resurrection of Christ, our rebirth would be impossible and our hope would be meaningless” (1 Peter, 41). Because our Saviour rose from the dead and ascended back to heaven, we have a living hope. Because our Saviour is alive, we have a living hope.
It’s the reality of this living hope that distinguishes Christianity from all other religions and distinguishes Christians from non-Christians, who have “no hope” for they are “without God and in the world” (Eph. 2:12). Instead of turning to God they turn to the occult, drugs, mysticism, and cults, all of which are merely vain attempts to escape their inner emptiness. Is there any hope at all for such a generation? Yes, indeed – there is hope in the Lord Jesus Christ. When we know him, life has meaning and purpose, a firm foundation for eternal hope.
So the means of our rock-solid hope is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. That’s why we praise God for our salvation that grants us the reality of a living hope. And…
II. We Praise God For Our Salvation That Guarantees Us The Reward Of Our Future Inheritance (4-5)
God has caused us not only to be born again to a living hope but also “born again…to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (1:4).
1. Our future inheritance is guaranteed (1:4). Our rebirth into God’s family brings us into an eternal “inheritance.” This is the completion of our salvation, the redemption of our bodies, when we are translated to heaven at Jesus’ return.
An inheritance is a future benefit which you acquire when someone dies and names you in their will. We have this eternal inheritance not only because Christ died but more importantly because he rose again. This is an inheritance like no other because it’s an inheritance based on Christ’s death and his resurrection. It is eternally secure and we have the present possession of it in the one who died and rose again.
Notice these four unique characteristics of our future heavenly inheritance, which is unlike any earthly inheritance…
First, our heavenly inheritance is “imperishable.” Unlike earthly possessions that rust, fade, and decay, our heavenly inheritance will never decay and is not subject to death or destruction. Therefore it is permanent, eternal, imperishable, nothing can destroy it.
Second, our heavenly inheritance is “undefiled.” It cannot be stained or cheapened. It is totally unspoiled, unpolluted by sin, with no blemish or impurity but absolutely pure.
Third, our heavenly inheritance is “unfading.” It never loses its luster or beauty or freshness. It never fades away or grows old. It doesn’t wear out and it will never disappoint us.
Fourth, our heavenly inheritance is “kept (reserved) in heaven for you.” Though we cannot see it, our inheritance is eternally secure – it is “reserved in heaven.” A reservation is a guarantee - it has your name on it! No one else can take your inheritance from you because it is “reserved in heaven for you.” As Ephesians 1:14 says, “The promised Holy Spirit… is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” In other words, there is a period of time between being named an heir and the time when we come into the possession of that inheritance. During that in-between time, the Holy Spirit guarantees that this inheritance is ours. Nothing can take it away because it is “kept / reserved in heaven for you.”
Our future inheritance is guaranteed. And…
2. We, the beneficiaries, are eternally secure (1:5). Our eternal inheritance is “kept / reserved in heaven for you” and, at the same time, we “by God’s power are being guarded / kept through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” Our inheritance is kept for us in heaven and while we wait for it we are being guarded by God’s power so that we will never lose it! This is our assurance of eternal life. We are constantly guarded by God’s power, assuring us that we will arrive safely in heaven to enter into our inheritance. Thank God we are not kept by our own efforts or power, but “by God’s power.” We are thoroughly united with Christ such that his power now guards and guides us until that day when we enter into our eternal inheritance.
Everything about the Christian’s future is based on faith in Christ and his death and resurrection by which our future inheritance is eternally secure in heaven for us. And we “by God’s power are being guarded through faith for salvation.” This is double security – our salvation is secure and so are we.
To be “guarded / shielded by God’s power” has the sense that our present salvation and our future inheritance are protected so that no opposing force of evil can ever touch, mar, or take them from us. God, for his part, sovereignly guards us “by his power” and we, for our part, are responsible to exercise “faith” in his word, faith “for (in view of the coming) salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1:5). This looks forward to the completion of our salvation when we enter into the reward of our eternal inheritance when Jesus comes again and translates us to heaven, “a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
We are living in “the last time.” The return of our Lord Jesus Christ can happen at any moment. It’s imminent! At that moment, we will be translated to heaven “in a twinkling of an eye” (1 Cor. 15:52). Our bodies will be transformed into bodies of glory like his body of glory. Our salvation will be complete and we will enter into our eternal inheritance through faith in the atoning death of our Lord Jesus Christ and his resurrection. There is nothing more that needs to happen in order for him to come back again. This emboldens our faith and enlivens our hope, especially in the face of suffering.
So, we praise God for our salvation that (1) grants us the reality of a living hope, (2) that guarantees us the reward of a future inheritance, and…
III. We Praise God For Our Salvation That Generates In Us The Results Of Genuine Faith (1:6-12)
We enjoy two results of genuine faith…
1. We are enabled to rejoice even in the midst of trials (1:6-7). “In this you rejoice” (1:6a). What does “this” refer to? “This” refers to all that Peter has been talking about in vv. 3-5, namely, our present salvation (new birth) and our future inheritance, everything we have and are in Christ.
Our salvation should be the cause and object of great rejoicing. If you do not greatly rejoice about your salvation, then, I ask, are you truly saved? Now in the case of Peter’s readers, he exhorts them to rejoice in their salvation, “though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials” (1:6b). To rejoice in the midst of afflictions, trials, and persecutions isn’t easy, is it? This is the practical ramification of our salvation and hope, that we can “rejoice” even in the midst of “trials.”
Only Christians can respond this way. To rejoice in the midst of trials is only possible for those who have a “living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” those “who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for salvation.” Our salvation grants us a living hope, guarantees our future inheritance, and generates in us the ability to rejoice even in the midst of trials and sufferings.
Peter’s readers were enduring enormous affliction for their faith. They had been driven out of their homeland because of their faith and dispersed throughout Asia Minor. They had lost their homes, were separated from their families and friends, and were now living in a foreign country amongst people of different religious backgrounds, languages, and customs. They were suffering from various and grievous trials.
To rejoice in the midst of trials is a distinctly Christian response. But how could they rejoice under such circumstances? The security of their present salvation and the guarantee of their future inheritance made it possible for them to rejoice in the midst of all this mistreatment and displacement and upheaval and sorrow. The basis of their joyful attitude even in the midst of trials was their salvation, and the motivation to joyfully persevere in the midst of their trials was the imminent realization of their inheritance. That’s why Peter assures them that their suffering was only “for a little while.” It’s a little while because life on earth is short in relation to eternity. Any trials or suffering for your faith that you may endure here on earth is only for “a little while” because Jesus is coming, the end of suffering in this world is at hand, our inheritance is about to be realized.
The apostle Paul describes these trials as “this light momentary affliction” which “is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unsee. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:17-18). And again in Romans 8:18 he writes, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
This is our motivation to persevere joyfully even in the midst of trials of the deepest kind. Despite being deeply “grieved by various trials” we can rejoice! How? By keeping our eye of faith firmly fixed on our salvation and on our inheritance. We are born again to a hope that is alive and active in us. Our salvation is the beginning and our inheritance is the end. We need to have the end view, “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). The apostle Paul had the end in view when said, “Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). That’s the end we must have in view.
These trials which we experience often grieve us. Peter is not denying reality. These trials certainly do cause us sadness and sorrow and suffering. Adverse circumstances do cause deep distress, depression, and confusion. But remember, they are only for “a little while.” Trials that test our faith are temporary and even then Peter qualifies them with “if necessary.” Strange as it may seem, suffering as a Christian is a divine necessity (cf. James 1:2; Col. 1:24). Based on the Greek grammar used here, this should probably read “since it is necessary” (not “if”) because this is a first class conditional clause - i.e. there is no doubt about it. There is a “needs be” to suffering as a Christian and that necessity was already being played out in Peter’s audience’s lives.
But, you ask, why are such trials necessary? They are necessary because they are part of God’s sovereign purposes for our lives. He is actively involved in them. He is the One who tests our faith when “necessary.” God always has a purpose for our trials. Trials are not arbitrary, random, uncontrolled. There are circumstances and reasons why God passes us through trials, as Peter’s readers were experiencing at that time. To know that there is a purpose in trials helps us endure them. Trials should motivate us to look for the return of our Lord, to live in the daily consciousness that this could be the day when he returns again. Well, it’s one thing to know that God is in control, what is their purpose?
The purpose of trials is to prove the genuineness of our faith (1:7). To “rejoice” is the Christian response to trials and the purpose of trials is to “test” the genuineness of our faith. The testing of our faith is like the testing of gold. Gold is arguably the most precious commodity on earth. It is generally considered the standard of wealth and security. But genuine faith is “more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire” (1:7a). Note that it is genuine faith which is more precious than gold not the testing. In other words, “which is more precious” qualifies “faith” not “testing.” When gold is tested (refined) by fire, its impurities are removed and its value increases. Yet eventually, gold “perishes” – it may be lost, or stolen, or worn away with handling, or in other ways comes to an end. But genuine faith when it is tested is “more precious” than the most refined, 24 karat, purest gold.
How is refined faith more precious than refined gold? It is more precious than refined gold because God’s ultimate purpose in testing your faith is that “the tested genuineness of your faith…may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:7b). That’s the ultimate purpose of the testing of our faith, (1) that when Christ appears you will be there, having stood the test of your faith and come through victorious; (2) that such victory over trials will result in “praise” for who he is and what he has done in your life through your genuine faith; (3) that when Christ appears, we will enter into His heavenly “glory” having been refined by the testing of our faith; (4) that he will receive all the “honor” due to his name from those whose faith has been proven to be genuine.
So, we praise God for our salvation that generates in us the results of genuine faith. First, we are enabled to rejoice even in the midst of trials. And…
2. We are enabled to love and trust him even though he is invisible (1:8-12). “Though you have not seen him, you love him” (1:8a). Their faith had been tested and proven genuine through the manifestation of their love for Christ, even though they had not seen him. The clause “though you have not seen him” is in the past tense, the implication being that “you have not seen him as I (Peter) have when he lived here on earth.” It’s much easier to love someone you have come to know through personal contact and conversation - you learn so much about them from experience. But your love for Christ whom you have not yet seen is precisely the purpose and evidence of genuine faith. Peter had seen the Lord; his readers had not. This makes their love for Christ all the more powerful and genuine.
Though we have not seen him, nevertheless by faith we love him. To love someone whom you have never seen or met or spoken to demands faith in who they are - their integrity and character. But we have not met the Lord Jesus Christ yet. We know him only through the gospel, which God, by the apostles, inscribed in holy Scripture. That’s how we know him – through a written document which God enabled us by faith to believe and embrace. Undoubtedly that’s why Jesus promised a special blessing for “those who have not seen and yet have believed” (Jn. 20:29). What a wonderful commendation, then, from Jesus and here from Peter, who evidently recognized the superiority of the faith of those who have not seen Jesus and yet love him. This is the evidence of genuine faith – love for Christ.
We have not seen Christ in the past here on earth nor do we see him now in the present. “Though you do not now see him, you believe in him” (1:8b). Not only do we love the One whom we have never seen, but we also “believe in him.” The physical revelation of Jesus Christ is still future, for that reason we cannot see him. But by faith we are enabled to believe in Christ even though we do not now see him. This is the purpose and evidence of genuine faith – belief in Christ even though we have not seen him.
The present result of such genuine faith is that we “rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (1:8c). So the theme of joy in trials continues, now with the emphasis on joy in loving and believing in Him who is invisible. It’s “inexpressible” because such joy can’t put it into words – it is too great to be described. And it is “filled with glory” because such joy is heavenly. Here and now, though we have not seen him and still do not see him, nevertheless we experience a love for him and belief in him which infuses us with this inexpressible and glorious joy. We can’t see him or talk to him but in its place we have this inexpressible joy in the imminent completion of the salvation of our souls. In other words, our salvation is made real in our present experience and results “inexpressible and glorious joy.”
If inexpressible joy is the present result and evidence of genuine faith, then the future and final result of genuine faith is “obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1:9). The present experience of those who suffer from various trials of faith, who in the midst of suffering rejoice in Christ, love him and believe in him, is not only that they have the present possession of eternal life and rejoice in their relationship with Christ here and now, but they also rejoice in and anticipate “obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” Here Peter is evidently referring to the completion of our redemption at the return of Christ, when we will receive the transformation of our bodies and our translation from earth to heaven.
“Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully” (1:10). The basis of our newfound joy, love, and faith is the salvation of our souls, which Peter describes as “The grace that was to be yours,” for our salvation is God’s grace to us in Christ. The entire scope of redemption is summed up in “the grace of God” which “has appeared in Jesus Christ” (Tit. 2:11), concerning which the O.T. prophets “searched and inquired carefully.” Indeed, the O.T. prophets “prophesied” about our salvation and Jesus affirmed their prophecies, for example to the two on the Emmaus road: “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Lk. 24:27). Their O.T. predictions have now been fulfilled in Jesus.
The O.T. prophets searched and inquired carefully as to “what person or time, the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories” (1:11). Though the O.T. prophets knew by “the Spirit of Christ” about “the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories,” and though they made diligent and careful inquiry about such matters, they didn’t know the details – they didn’t know by “what person or time” this would come about. What faith those O.T. prophets had to search so diligently for something that they did not see or prove or discover, but they did so because it concerned salvation!
Thus, despite their investigations and despite what the Holy Spirit revealed to them concerning the sufferings of Christ and his subsequent glories, such knowledge was still beyond their comprehension. They knew about it in general terms but they didn’t know the details of who or when this salvation would be fulfilled. What they did know, by revelation of the Holy Spirit, was the purpose of their search and inquiry. “It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you” (1:12a). Their divinely revealed prophecies did not serve themselves but us, future generations of N.T. believers, and they knew by revelation that such was their role. As we think about this, we realize afresh how greatly we have been blessed to be able to look back at the fulfillment of prophecy rather than look forward to its fulfillment.
The “things that have now been announced to you” is the gospel of our salvation (“the grace that was to be yours”), accomplished through the sufferings and glorification of Christ as the O.T. prophets predicted. What they didn’t know back them, we know now for their prophecies have now been fulfilled in Jesus. Their prophecy was directed to and for the benefit of Peter’s readers and the subsequent church at large, which includes us in the 21st century. Thus, we are the recipients and beneficiaries of their proclamation and search. Just as the Holy Spirit informed the O.T. prophets about the things concerning the future coming and work of Christ, so he enabled the N.T. apostles and their colleagues to announce to Peter’s readers the fulfillment of those prophecies - “those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven (1:12b).
It's remarkable in many respects that the angels, despite their God-given abilities and responsibilities, do not have the full knowledge of these things, “things into which angels long to look” (1:12c). That’s apparently all the angels can do - look into the things pertaining to salvation, for they themselves do not participate in it. They take great pleasure in God’s salvation, for example rejoicing over one sinner brought to repentance (Luke 15:7, 10), but they themselves are not redeemed. They are merely distant observers of such things (cf. Eph. 3:10). We, on the other hand, experience it.
Who, then, were these faithful, godly O.T. prophets? Peter doesn’t say but we know that Isaiah prophesied of Jesus’ birth (7:14; 9:6; 11:1), his life (11:2-5; 35:4-6; 61:1-2) and his death (52:13-53:12). We also know that Micah prophesied of the exact place where Jesus would be born (5:2). All of this they were able to do through “the Spirit of Christ in them.” Thus, long before it came to pass, Christ revealed to these men by his Spirit what would be the nature of his coming – his life, death, resurrection ascension, and glorification.
This, then, is the first glimpse into the centrality of the cross, the solid foundation of our salvation, in 1 Peter. The work of Christ on the cross is the basis on which we are able to sustain suffering as a Christian and still be able to praise God.
So, let me ask you, is your love for Christ sufficiently deep and your belief in him sufficiently stable that you are able to sustain opposition for your faith while still rejoicing in Christ and anticipating the end result of your faith? Do you implicitly trust him for your salvation? If so, you should know and abide in a joy that no non-Christian can ever know. Yet, I think, so many Christians are not abiding in the love of Christ and as a result they are pretty miserable people.
What we have learned from this text is that, because of our salvation, we can rejoice and praise God even in the midst of deep trials. No matter what you may suffer as a Christian - perhaps it’s bullying at school because you are a Christian; perhaps it’s ridicule for your faith or shunning because you don’t do what others do; or perhaps you are facing awful circumstances that have nothing to do with being a Christian but everything to do with living as a Christian in a fallen world, be it illness or grief or a divided family or a rebellious child - remember that no matter what your circumstances may be Christians should be the most joyful people on earth because we have an absolutely secure salvation (1) that grants us the reality of a living hope; (2) that guarantees us the reward of a future inheritance; and (3) that generates in us the results of genuine faith.
And for that we join Peter in saying, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” For in and through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ we have the present possession of eternal life; we have the daily reality of hope beyond the grave; we have the guarantee of an eternally secure future, because it is kept for us in heaven (no one can steal it) and because God preserves us here on earth (you cannot lose it). Its that faith that enables us to rejoice even though we may be tested by fiery trials. It’s that faith that enables us to love and believe in Christ whom we have not and cannot now see.
Peter is painting an enormously positive picture of the Christian life, a life of absolute security for time and eternity, a life of absolute confidence in God and his Word. Now that’s something worth living for! That’s something to rejoice about! The world is full of bad news, turmoil, and fear, but we, as Christians, have everything to rejoice in despite the chaos, despite the terror, despite the suffering. Remember our thesis: Because of our salvation, we can rejoice and praise God even in the midst of deep trials.