A SAVED LIFE
1 Peter 1:13-22
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
June 30, 2013
13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, You shall be holy, for I am holy. 17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you 21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. 22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart.
-- 1 Peter 1:13-22, ESV
What does it mean to be saved? Within the realm of Christendom, it means that there was a time in the past when you were born again by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. It means that in the future, you will live in the heavenly fulfillment of the kingdom of God for eternity.
But what does being saved mean now, in the present, in this life? What does a saved life look like? It looks like a godly life, a life which essentially is bought and owned by God. It is a Christian life, a life of following Jesus Christ as Lord. And, it is a spiritual life, indwelt and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Simon Peter writes about this life in some detail in 1 Peter 1:13-22. In this text he says a few things with extremely choice words about a saved life. It is not a snap shot, but rather a moving picture, somewhat like filming a race. The race described here should serve to chart our own course for a saved life.
A saved life is a seriously fast race, run by grace.
“Therefore” summons to mind all the meaning of the opening verses of 1 Peter concerning salvation. Salvation, of course, is a gift of God’s sovereign grace received by faith through the regenerative power of the Holy Spirit which imputes the sacrifice and righteousness of Jesus Christ to your life. Since you are saved, the Apostle writes, live a saved life.
A saved life is a race, for this is the image of “preparing your minds for action,” which literally means gird up your loins, and ancient action performed by men and women in robes who were getting ready to run. It is a serious race, calling for training of “your minds” and tempering your morals by “being sober-minded.” It is certainly a rewarding race, for at the finish line awaits the fulness of “grace” to be poured out upon you at the final “revelation of Jesus Christ.” As John Newton famously wrote, “‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.”
Though the entry fee for the race was paid for us, and the same grace that saved us guarantees our salvation at the end, it is a race we enter into with every fiber of our mind, heart, and soul. We give it our all, running in a narrow lane that perfectly balances the sovereignty of God and responsibility of man. We are to run like the great, Calvinistic, Baptist, founder of the modern missionary movement William Carey, whose motto was, “Attempt great things for God, expect great things from God.” And with whatever speed or skill we run, the race will be over quickly, for even a saved life, like all human life, is but a flash in the pan (ref. James 4:14).
I have been a believer now for just over 30 years. Looking back on my race so far, it seems a blur. Should I live another 30 years to serve Christ, I believe the time will go by even faster. This is the first picture of a saved life. It is a race, a grace race, a fast race, to be run seriously and responsibly. And, it is a race to be run slightly out of step.
A saved life is a remarkably holy race, run slightly out of step.
I have attended the Olympics and I have attended the Special Olympics. The latter is far more beautiful than the former. It is because, and I mean no mockery or disrespect, in the Special Olympics all the runners run slightly out of step. To those of us with hearts, and surely to the heart of God, it truly is a beautiful thing to watch.
A saved life is lived by “obedient children” who “do not conform” to the lives of typical human beings, ignorantly doing as they please rather than trying to please God. Christians do not run like non-Christians and the non-Christians should think we Christians are a little touched because of the difference. The difference is the touch God has put upon us. The “holy” Father, Son, and Spirit has marked and made us “holy.” Recreated in His image, Christians run a race with steps that are special, different, pure, and eternally valuable.
What is remarkable about the stamp of holiness is what it produces in a saved life. To pull from the special selection of words used by Simon Peter, saved people are known by their “obedience ... fear ... faith ... [and] hope.” Interestingly enough, the Apostle uses all of these words in their noun form, speaking more about who saved people are, rather than what we do, even thought certainly who we are determines how we live. I point this out because this is precisely what makes Christianity out of step with religion and secularism. Religious and secular people think by doing something they will become someone. A saved life is a life where you become someone first, namely a child of God, which results in a way of doing things differently for eternity. It is quite different actually, decidedly out of step, totally holy, and absolutely wonderful.
As we run the saved life, we are indeed “obedient children,” not because we have to be, but because we are made to be and want to be. We tend to obey the word and will of God our Father because we have such “fear,” a healthy and reverential respect for His awesome person and power, and “faith” in who He is and what He can do. This is in conjunction with the great “love” (agape) God has put in our hearts for Him and the “brotherly love” (phileo) and sacrificial “love” (agape) we brothers and sisters have for one another. We run this way with these attributes because our confident expectation, or “hope,” is that God is with us now in this saved, abundant life and He will be with us forever in our saved, eternal life with Him in Heaven.
People who run this way with these characteristics are decidedly out of step with the rest of the world, but certainly in step with the Holy Spirit. These are the special people, the saved people, the followers of Christ. And these are the people, the people of God, who will win the race.
A saved life is a race that reaches the end by constantly remembering the beginning.
I saved the middle part of the text for the end because it is our guiding light from the beginning. In the beginning we gird up for the race and cast our eyes on the finish line of Heaven. But how did we get in the race in the first place? Do we cross the finish line and win the prize because of our running, or do we run and win because someone else has already secured the victory?
Remember we are in the race in the first place because of grace, because our entry fee has already been paid. And it was not paid for “with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” Though it sounds absurd or even grotesque to the unbelieving world, the track upon which a saved life is run is paved with blood, the blood of Christ by which “you were ransomed,” redeemed, claimed, cleansed, saved. At no point in the Christian race of a saved life should we ever forget what it took to save us. That’s why we worship with songs about the blood, sermons about the cross, and serve the sacred supper of bread and wine in remembrance of Him.
In some ways the beginning of a saved life is the point at which a person is born again. In other more profound ways, the beginning was before the beginning when God chose you before the foundations of the world were laid. But the real basis of being in the race, the place where a saved life truly begins, is the cross of Jesus Christ. And those who begin with the cross are bound for “glory” at the end of the race.
At the end of our race, in the fulness of grace, we will sing a new song to the Lord. Perhaps it will resemble in part an old song written by Isaac Watts:
“No more my God, I boast no more, of all the duties I have done,
I quit the hopes I held before, to trust the merits of Thy Son!
No more my God, I boast no more.
The best obedience of my hands dares not appear before Thy throne,
But faith can measure Thy demands, by pleading what my Lord has done!
No more my God, I boast no more.”
You see, the thing about a saved life is that you needed to be saved, and someone has saved you. When you see this, when you believe this, it is no burden at all to live a saved life.
CURIOSITY AND CONSISTENCY
1 Peter 1:10-12
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
June 23, 2013
10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.
-- 1 Peter 1:10-12, ESV
The paragraph we approach now is perhaps the most curious and consistent in the first epistle of Peter. It is curious, because it deals with mysterious things like prophets and prophecies, Christ in the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament, and angels peaking through curtains. It is consistent, because the major themes of salvation by grace are prominent. Perhaps by tracing the consistencies of the Christian life we can iron out some of the curiosities that span the past, present, and future of the kingdom of God.
Salvation is Always By Grace
“Concerning this salvation,” it was, is, and always will be by grace. Old Testament prophets could not and New Testament pastors should not preach any salvation that is not by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Salvation by grace means that God does not elect people for salvation because they are good, but because He is great and gracious. Israel was by no means the biggest and best nation on the planet during the days of the Old Covenant, but by grace alone God chose faithful Israelites alone to be his people. The people of the New Testament church are about as mixed up and messed up as any people in the general population, but God by grace alone has chosen the true believers within the church alone to be and bear the body of Christ to the world. Prophets and pastors and all people must acknowledge that salvation is “about the grace” of God.
And, it is received through faith. The job of an Old Testament prophet, like the job of a New Testament preacher, it to call people to faith. There would be no purpose for“prophets who prophesied” and “those who preached the good news” if the prophesying and preaching does not point people to faith. Preaching should make you think, preaching should make you feel, but prophetic and biblical preaching is mainly a gift of God to make you believe. Faith is essential to make grace yours. It makes salvation personal and effectual, as long as such faith is in the Lord Jesus Christ.
“The sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories” is the subject of prophesying, preaching, and pointing people to faith. This is the “preached ... good news.” Moses preached Jesus and the gospel in Genesis 3:15 and Deuteronomy 18:15. David preached Jesus and the gospel in Psalms 2, 22, 110 and many more. Isaiah preached Jesus and the gospel in Isaiah 53, Jeremiah preached Jesus and the gospel in Jeremiah 33, Ezekiel preached Jesus and the gospel in Ezekiel 34, Daniel preached Jesus and the gospel in Daniel 7, Zechariah preached Jesus and the gospel in Zechariah 12, Malachi preached Jesus and the gospel in Malachi 3, and that just scratches the surface of the prophets and the places in the Old Testament that point people to Jesus Christ. They knew like we must know that salvation is always by grace alone, always points people to faith alone, and saving faith is in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ alone!
The Spirit Always Reveals Truth
But how did they know, and how can we know the gospel truth? Consistently and curiously, it is by the person and work of the Holy Spirit.
As far as curiosity and mystery goes, this particular text in 1 Peter bears witness to the curious and mysterious true doctrine of the Trinity. “The Spirit of Christ in them,” the Old Testament prophets, is the same Spirit that enabled the New Testament Apostles and preachers, “those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit.” Therefore, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are one in the same Deity who lives within every person of faith to enable them to live and speak the truth of God. There is also no doubt that God the Father and God the Son are one and the same God (ref. Isaiah 9:6; John 10:30, etc.). So, the one true and living God had indeed revealed Himself to us in the triune persons of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
As far as consistency goes, the Holy Spirit is that part and person of God who always speaks the truth (ref. John 16:13). And nothing is more true than the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel tells us the truth about ourselves, that we are sinners in need of grace and forgiveness. The gospel tells us the truth that death is defeated in the suffering and sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. The gospel tells us the truth that life is found in the resurrection and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. Preachers can know they are true preachers and believers can know they are true believers when the truth comes out of their lives and lips, because the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of Truth, is living and working within them.
Intellectual truth can only take you so far. You can only know so much with certainty. Emotional truth can only take you so far, for emotions and feelings are hard to read and can prove counterfeit. But spiritual truth can take you all the way to God; or rather, bring God all the way to your mind, heart, and soul. This truth will set you free, this truth will save your soul, and this truth comes from the Truth, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Suffering Always Precedes Glory
Let me reiterate that the key components to the truth of the gospel are “the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.” Like the Apostle Peter, the Apostle Paul made this the centerpiece of his preaching and writing as well (ref. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Jesus Christ suffered and sacrifice for our sins; then, He was raised again for our salvation and share in His glory. Suffering preceded glory for Jesus Christ, as it does for His true followers.
First century Christians truly suffered for their profession and practice of faith. Never was this any truer than in the days during which Simon Peter wrote his two New Testament epistles. That is why Peter makes suffering a companion theme to salvation in his writings. There is no need to say much about it here, for he will elaborate eloquently as the epistle moves along. It just seems important to note at this juncture that whether you are a prophet, preacher, pastor, or any personal follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, you are never more Christ-like than when you suffer for your faith. And when you are suffering, keep on believing that the suffering is a prelude to glory. Then, keep on living and preaching the gospel.
The Gospel Always Goes Forward
The prophets preached salvation by grace through faith in Jesus, even thought they did not know exactly when Jesus would come, nor when He would come again. The Apostles, following in the prophets’ footsteps, preached salvation by grace through faith in Jesus, having been eyewitnesses to His first coming, but completely ignorant as to the time of His second coming. Today we preachers and parishioners continue this Great Commission. Moses and Isaiah understood. Peter, Paul, and John understood. We Christians today understand. All while the angels, hovering around humanity this whole time, apparently have no idea what the preaching of the gospel is all about.
This is curious, isn’t it? Angels obviously have propensities and powers we do not possess. They are mostly invisible to our eyes but often appear as strangers. When they have appeared in their actual amenities, the humans involved always had to be told not to fear. They are awesome beings created to overtly glorify God and provide covert service in various ways to the children of God. Everything about unfallen angels seems awesome, except they don’t seem to understand God’s plan of salvation. They are caught here“long[-ing] to look,” literally stooping and peaking at the great transformation that the gospel makes in the lives of human beings.
They cannot understand what it is really like to be saved because they have never been, saved that is. Fallen, unfaithful angels are doomed forever and the unfallen, faithful angels have no need of being redeemed. They do not know what it is like to be lost and found, dead and quickened, condemned then consecrated as a choice child of God.
But if you are a Christian, you know what this is like. You remember when the gospel was preached to you with power and conviction. You remember conviction and repentance. You experienced and continue to exercise faith. The gospel of Jesus Christ, through prophets and apostles and missionaries and preachers and parents and friends, has come to you and you have been saved by grace. You know what the “angels long to look” into. You know what it is like to be saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ!
So what are you to do with the rest of your life? Be sure of your salvation, that it is by grace. Be sure of the truth, rely on the Holy Spirit living within you. Be willing to suffer for your salvation and the salvation of others. Take the gospel and pay it forward, preach it forward.
The Old Testament law-givers preached Jesus as the one who would crush the head of the serpent, the high priest, and the holy sacrifice, and preached it forward to the writers. The writings present Jesus as the commanding General and conquering King who leads us to the promised land, and preached it forward to the poets. The Psalmists preached Jesus who would endure betrayal and murder and rise so that the gates of glory would be opened to let the King come in, and preached it forward to the major prophets. The major prophets preached Jesus as the Suffering Servant, the New Covenant, the Son of Man and Son of God, and the fourth man in the fire, then preached it forward to the minor prophets. The minor prophets preached Jesus as true and faithful one who will come and restore all the years the locusts have eaten away, then preached it forward to the New Testament preachers. Matthew preaches Jesus as King, Mark preaches Jesus as Savior, Luke preaches Jesus as Lord, and John preaches Jesus as God with us. The Epistles explain Jesus as the giver of grace through faith that saves, and the Revelation preaches Jesus as the King of kings and Lord of lords who is coming again to rule the heavens and the earth and share His inheritance with the children of God.
“Concerning this salvation,” it is now ours. We Christians and we as a Christian church must preach Jesus and pour forward the gospel of the kingdom of God. We must spin these words of Simon Peter where he said of the prophets, “they were serving not themselves but you” and commit our lives to serving not ourselves but others, those who need the everlasting and soul-saving gospel of Jesus Christ. Believe it. Live it out. Tell it when and to whom you can. For the gospel will go forward, consistently, until that curious and mysterious day when Jesus Christ comes again.
A SECOND LOOK AT OUR SALVATION
1 Peter 1:3-5
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
June 9, 2013
3 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, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
-- 1 Peter 1:3-5, ESV
In the opening lines of his first epistle, the Apostle Peter identifies his intended audience as Christians, followers of Christ, saved people. People are saved because they are chosen by God the Father, regenerated and indwelled by God the Spirit, and cleansed and forgiven by God the Son (ref. 1 Peter 1:1-2). That’s how salvation happens.
In the next three verses, Peter shows us a second look at our salvation. He gives God all of the glory and all of the credit. Then, he tells us of some of the benefits we have as saved people, as the people of God, as born again Christians.
God Blesses Us With Salvation
“Salvation belongs to the Lord” (ref. Jonah 2:9). “Our God is a God of salvation, and to God, the Lord, belong deliverances from death” (Psalm 68:20). “[God] has caused us to be born again ...” (1 Peter 1:3).
The first message of 1 Peter communicates to Christians, that if you are a Christian, it is because of God, and God alone deserves the credit and the glory. God the Father chose you, God the Spirit came into you, and God the Son cleanses you from all sin (ref. vs. 1-2). And when this salvation is brought to bear on you through the new birth, it is God Who caused us to be saved, not us who caused God to save us. People cannot cause God to save them through religion or ritual. God causes Christians to be saved through the spiritual miracle of the new birth.
Let’s think about birth for a moment. Did you decide to be born? Did you cause yourself to be born? Do you deserve any credit, or blame, for the fact that you were born? Of course not. Salvation is a new birth, it is being born again (ref. John 3). And frankly, a Christian has about as much to do with their new birth as any baby does his or her original birth. Someone else caused it to happen.
That someone, of course, is God. This brings up a big question. Why did God cause some, actually a remnant of the human race, to be born again and pass over others. The ultimate answer to that question is known only to God. And while we cannot know the exact reason behind God’s choice to cause some to be saved, the motive is revealed here in this text. It was “according to His great mercy” (ref. Titus 3:5).
God, who knows the end from the beginning, knows our every attitude and action from beginning to end. And the Apostle Peter, like the Apostle Paul, knows that God knows all of us are sinners (ref. Romans 3:10, 3:23), all of us are unable to seek out God, much less choose to follow God (ref. Romans 3:11-12), and all of us deserve eternal death for our sin and rebellion against God (ref. Romans 6:23a). But God,“according to His great mercy,” has chosen not to give certain ones what they deserve, namely eternal punishment; but, has given them instead eternal life.
This is mercy, this is the motive behind God’s choice to give some salvation, and if you are one of God’s choice children because He caused you to be born again, then join me and Simon Peter in saying, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” This is good doxology based on good theology. We bless God, we praise God, we speak highly of God, because God has blessed us with salvation. And look at what blessings salvation brings.
Salvation Has Many Blessings
The blessings of salvation are at least three, according to these three verses. They tell us in a general way what we have now, what we will have in the future, and what we have in between as chosen children of God. We have hope now, Heaven later, and the Holy Spirit to guard us and guide us from this life to the next.
Believers are blessed with “... a living hope.” Born again people are spiritually alive, while others remain spiritually dead (ref. Ephesians 2:1ff). Christians have this hope based on the gospel, the capstone of which is “the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.” In other words, just as Jesus lived, enjoyed life, endured suffering, spread the gospel, died, and rose again to live forever, we can confidently expect (a good biblical definition of hope) that the same things that happened to the eternal Son of God will happen to the eternal children of God. I do not think we have a right to any other hope, not health and wealth, not riches and luxury, no more than Jesus expected these things when He sojourned upon the earth. But as long as we are alive, we have hope that our joys and sufferings will serve the greater purpose of getting out the gospel so that God can save people by showing them mercy, just as He has done for us.
Believers are blessed with “an inheritance.” Peter did not tell us exactly what our inheritance is, but he emphatically told us what it is not, and where it is. It is not perishable, not defiled, and does not fade, though all things on earth do. Our inheritance does not because it is “kept in Heaven for you.” You may get an earthly inheritance when your parents or other relative die, but you don’t get your heavenly inheritance until you die. Any earthly inheritance you gain or possession you earn in this life are subject to being used up, being broken or stolen, or being worn out. Plus, no earthly inheritance can be taken with you to Heaven. All heavenly inheritance you gain, which includes your soul, the souls of others you influenced for Christ, and the fruit of labors offered in faith, hope, and love, will be yours to keep forever and ever.
We have hope now, Heaven later, and all in between we are blessed with “God’s power” that gives us salvation, guards our salvation so that we will never be lost, and guides us to our ultimate and eternal home in Heaven. This power is none other than God the Holy Spirit, who causes our justification through regeneration with the gifts of faith and repentance, secures our salvation and sanctification all along the pilgrimage of life so that we never completely lose faith, and sends us into glorification, the presence of God, when we have reached our last time on earth.
Bless God With Your Salvation
Let’s end this second look at salvation by taking a second look at the first few words of this text. “Blessed be ... God.” Blessed is an adjective, it describes God, the God who is to be blessed. It is a New Testament word from which our English word “eulogy” comes from. Have you ever heard someone give a eulogy at a funeral? It is a time to speak well about the deceased, to bless them and their legacy, to praise him or her for what they have done with their life. Of course, if you really love and appreciate someone, you will want to tell them before they are dead, won’t you?
Well, as we have long believed, God is not dead. So let us begin, and begin again, to tell Him how wonderful He is, how holy and righteous He is, how gracious and merciful He is, how loving He is and always will be.
Take a second look at your salvation, and bless the Lord. He has given it to you and caused it to happen to you if you are one of His saved children. It is He who saved us, not we ourselves. It was because of His mercy, in spite of our sin. It was because of His grace, in spite of our rebellion. Speak great things about God, the God of our salvation, to Him and to others.
Take a second look at your life, and bless the Lord. Because it is, after all, a Christian life, for Christ lives in you through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. Praise Him for the joy, blessings, and successes in your life. Praise Him for the trials, pain, and loss in your life, for if you lose everything in this life and gain your soul, you have what matters most for eternity.
Take a second look at your future life in Heaven, and bless the Lord. Heaven is where you are going at the end of your Christian life. It is a place too wonderful for words. It is a place where sin and strife and sadness will be no more. It is a place where you will finally see the God who saved you by His grace and for His glory.
You have salvation from sin and death, now. You are going to Heaven, forever. And right now, you have a most meaningful life and a lifetime of opportunities to worship and serve the Lord. Now, let this practical theology lead you to sing praises and doxology to the God Who gave salvation to you: “Praise God from Whom all blessings flow, Praise Him all creatures here below, Praise Him above ye Heavenly Host, Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost! Amen!”
THE ETERNAL VALUE OF EARTHLY TRIALS
1 Peter 1:6-9
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
June 16, 2013
6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
-- 1 Peter 1:6-9, ESV
When you think about it, Christianity has a tremendous upside. We’ve are chosen by the Father, empowered by the Spirit, and cleansed from our sin by the Son. We’ve been covered by God’s mercy, born again into abundant and eternal life, and guaranteed an inheritance in Heaven. And right here on earth we enjoy the hope and faith that comes from a saving, eternal relationship with God. All these things are spelled out in the first five verses of 1 Peter, then to begin the sixth verse he writes, “In this you rejoice.”
It is quite easy to rejoice in the upside of Christianity. But what about the downside? Apparently, there is one. The people to whom Peter originally wrote certainly understood the downside of the faith. They were being downtrodden by the lowdown Roman emperor Nero, whose hatred and persecution of Christianity is infamous. Yet, as Peter writes in verses six through nine, there is a way to endure these down times and still “rejoice with joy.”
There is a reason why eternal life is not an easy life on earth. There is an eternal value to our earthly trials.
Joy and Grief Go Together
Almost all television Christianity and most church Christianity is an paltry exercise in positive thinking. Televangelists and too many pastors wear painted smiles that make them look like they are living in the face of a constant wind. But Simon Peter, a true pastor writing to true Christians, says “you rejoice” and “you have been grieved” in the same sentence. This echoes the ethos of an earlier Jewish preacher who wrote of “a time to weep, and a time to laugh;a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (ref. Ecclesiastes 3:4). Or as my otherwise happy baby girl says, sometimes you just need to cry.
Though modern English translations speak of grief coming “if necessary,” it is necessary. This is a more accurate rendering of the text, and more consistent with New Testament faith. Jesus did not say we might have tribulation in this world, He said we would (ref. John 16:33). Paul did not promise some troubles might come, He said many troubles would come (ref. Acts 14:22). James did not say to rejoice if trials come, but when (ref. James 1:2). So, the grief that comes through trials, troubles, and tribulations are a necessary part of the Christian life.
This may not be news to most of us, but what may be news to some of us is that both joy and grief are ordained by God. The God who “caused us to be born again” (ref. vs. 3) so that we can have great joy also causes us to experience a number of very trying situations so that He can test our faith (ref. vs. 6-7). Who do you think caused Joseph to be sold into slavery by his brothers? Who do you think brought Job to the attention and attacks of Satan? Who do you think was pleased to crush the life out of the Messiah on the cross? Who do you think leaked persecution into the early church so that Christianity would spread across the globe? Who do you think is behind the problems you are experiencing right now?
The God who loves you and chose you and saves you is a God who has given you a Christian life filled with constant joy and occasional grief. There is a purpose for both. The joy speaks for itself, I think, “for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (ref. Nehemiah8:10). But I also think Lucy was saying more than she realized when she said it was “Good grief, Charlie Brown!” Joy in the Christian life is great, but grief can be good, too.
Grief Comes to Give Greater Joy
The grief comes from experiencing “various trials.” The word translated trials is a versatile word with different meanings in different contexts. It can speak of the trouble caused by succumbing to temptations from within to sin; or, it can refer to the pain and pressure caused by external forces that test the soundness of one’s faith. Clearly, Peter is writing about the later in this text as a test of true Christian faith.
Only an authorized superior can give a subordinate a test, like a teacher to her student or a father to his child. This further demonstrates that the trials in questions are tests given by God to His children. They may come in the form of sinful actions by people like Nero, or other antichrists who inflict pain upon Christians. They may come in the form of sinful actions like an employer who unfairly terminates your employment, a spouse who unfaithfully walks out on your marriage, a friend who in an unfriendly way betrays your confidence, a perfect stranger who robs you of your possessions, or an imperfect illness that robs you of your health. Be assured that the people who hurt you will be accountable and responsible to Almighty God for their action. But be assured also that it is Almighty God who allowed and even ordained such actions to take place.
Trials are God’s tests, given to you, to give you a chance to prove something to God, and to give God a chance to prove something to you, to prove that you have something He has given you that is more valuable than the most valuable element on earth. “Your faith [is] more precious than gold” (ref. vs. 7). Gold, even refined gold, does not last forever. No material possession can be deposited in this life and withdrawn in the next. Even relationships with lost people, like lost people themselves, will perish. The faith that you have, from God and in God, the faith that you share with other covenant members of God’s kingdom, the genuine Christian faith that can be tested and trusted, is what you have in this life that is the ticket to Heaven in the next. Cherish it. Hold onto it even if you might lose everything else. It is by far the most valuable thing you possess. Rejoice and praise God for it, especially in the grievous trials of life.
The Way to Turn Grief Into Joy
When Peter’s friend Paul was nearing the end of his life, he said simply, “I have kept the faith” (ref. 2 Timothy 4:7). When you stand before the Lord one day, you will not want to say “I have kept the money,” or “I have kept my youthful appearance,” or “I have have kept my house finely furnished and neatly decorated.” That will not get you any reward from the Lord.
But if, when other people would not have faith, when other professing Christians were living contrary to the faith or abandoning the faith, when people occasionally persecuted you for having faith, and you kept the faith, then for you there is “praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (ref. vs. 7). There will come a time when God will say to you personally, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (ref. Matthew 25:21-23). And the joy you will experience at this time, “joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (ref. vs. 7), will be worth every ounce of grief you had to bear during your Christian life.
How can sustain a tough-minded faith in tough times? How can we pass the various trials that come our way? How can we finish well with the faith God has given to us?
First of all, love and keep on loving the Lord Jesus Christ, and never lose your first love. “Though you have not seen Him, you love him” (ref. vs. 8). It is hard to see Jesus in the hard times of life, but it is not hard to remember Him who endured the hardest time of all on the cross. Remember His sacrifice and be willing to sacrifice for Him, for true love is total sacrifice. Remember the price He paid for your faith and prize your faith as your most precious possession. Remember His love for you and keep on loving Jesus, and you will get through the trial.
Secondly, believe and keep on believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. Keep the faith. “Though you do not see Him, you believe in Him” (ref. vs. 8). God is with you. He was with Joseph and Job, He was with the three Hebrew friends in the fiery furnace, He was with Peter and James and John and Paul, He is here with us, and He will walk with you through all the joys and trials of life. Believe it. Have faith in God, and you will get through the trial.
Finally, remember that this life is an extremely short boot camp in preparation for the life to come. Nothing is more important that “obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (ref. vs. 9). Struggling with problems, not in spite of your faith but because of your faith, is part of God’s plan in this life to get you ready for the next. He knows you have faith, He gave it to you. But He also knows that sometimes you need to prove it to yourself, and to others. Trials come. Grief happens. Joy rises. Faith wins. That’s why, after being tested, your faith is more valuable than gold. And, that’s the eternal value to our earthly trials.
NOBODY TO SOMEBODY
1 Peter 1:1-2
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
June 2, 2013
1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:
May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
-- 1 Peter 1:1-2, ESV
Once upon a time, there lived a man named Simeon Bar-Jonah. He was a nobody, really. That is, until this man was transformed into a devout follower of Jesus Christ. Then he became somebody, somebody especially loved by God and useful in the kingdom of God.
One day he wrote a letter to other followers of Christ, almost all of whom were considered nobodies in the world in which they lived. None of them were famous, most of them were poor, and some of them were being targeted by the government for harassment and imprisonment. He wrote to tell them that they are somebody to God. He reminded them of how wonderful life is, when lived for Christ. He reminded them of how blessed they are by the Lord. And, he reminded them of how God is at work in them and through them every minute of every day.
This is a story about them, and about us, and it begins in 1 Peter 1:1-2.
From Simeon Bar-Jonah to Simon Peter
Simeon Bar-Jonah identifies himself here simply as “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ.” Simeon was his Jewish name from birth, after the second-born patriarch of the twelve tribes of Israel. Transliterated from Hebrew to Greek to English the name becomes simply “Simon.” “Peter” is the nickname given to him by the Lord Jesus Christ. It was originally spoken as “Cephas,” an Aramaic name meaning “Rock,” which in the written Greek becomes “Petros,” and finally into English, the name becomes “Peter.”
As Simeon Bar-Jonah, he was a relative nobody. Before meeting the Lord Jesus Christ, Simeon was a Galilean fisherman raised in Bethsaida and relocated to Capernaum. He was a moderately successful businessman, owning his own boat and nets but unable to afford hired hands. By all accounts he was an average devotee to Judaism, probably attending the synagogue regularly but offering no outstanding service. His first response to Jesus was lukewarm, at least in comparison to his younger brother, Andrew, who led Simeon to his first encounter with the Messiah. Simeon Bar-Jonah was just an average Joe, a small man from a small town, half religious and half profane, living on the outskirts of the kingdom of God. He was just a nobody, until somebody named Jesus came into his life and named him “Peter.”
As “Peter,” “the Rock,” he really was somebody. He was somebody significant to God, somebody vital to every generation of followers of Jesus Christ. He was “an apostle,” both with a little “a” and a capital “A.” Christ saved him and sent him to share the message of thegospel with his world, just as Christ commissions every Christian. In addition, Peter was one of the select few Apostles, hand-picked by Jesus to witness His messianic ministry and resurrection, given miraculous powers to perform miracles, and set as one of the overseers of the very first Christians and Christian churches.
Peter was somebody so significant, in fact, that his place and position in the church and at the gates of Heaven has actually been overblown for two millennium now. But you cannot overemphasize the fact that before Simeon knew the Lord in personal salvation and took his place in the covenant community of the church, he was a nobody. But in Christ, he became somebody, somebody extraordinaire.
And so can you, if you are a person to whom this epistle is addressed. It is addressed to Christians, to fully devoted followers of Christ, scattered into a world without Christ to bear witness for Christ. It is address to people who were nobodies, who by grace through faith in Christ became somebodies. And Peter’s carefully chosen and Spirit-inspired words tell how a nobody becomes a somebody with God.
From a Nobody to a Somebody
I do not mean to be insulting, but people without Jesus Christ are nobodies in the bigger scheme of things. The strictly secular, the atheists and agnostics, the members of false cults and irrelevant religions, and the hypocritical and nominal Christians, all of these will be altogether forgotten. They may have made a lot of money on earth. They may have buildings or stadiums named after them. They may even have their names written in history books for a few decades or even centuries. But they will all go into eternity unforgiven and condemned, without riches or names or fame, forgotten forever. Nobody, not even God, will remember the nobodies.
But God loves, knows, remembers, and saves somebody. Simon Peter was somebody who knew what it was like to be a somebody with God. And he explains, in a general theological outline, how a nobody becomes a somebody with God.
A nobody becomes somebody when they are chosen by God the Father. Peter writes to Christians who are “elect ... according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” Elect or election, in the biblical sense, is a choice made by one that has a profound effect upon another.
In 2008, Americans elected a little known lawyer, community activist, and short-term Senator to be President of the United States. This election profoundly changed Barrack Obama’s life. He will have Secret Service protection for the rest of his days. He will now and heretofore be addressed as “Mr. President,” perhaps the most significant title in the world of democracies. He will be handsomely paid in salary, pension, and speaking fees all throughout his career. And, he will be one of the names written in history books for at least decades and perhaps centuries. And this story serves to illustrate the exact opposite of what the Bible teaches about election and importance to God.
In the biblical, theological, and eternal realms, election is not the choice of a group of citizens to make one person their leader. Election is the sovereign choice of the leader, Almighty God, to make certain persons His citizens, His followers, His children. It has nothing to do with the choice we make for God and everything to do with the choice God makes for us, a choice that transforms nobodies into somebodies. It is a choice you had virtually nothing to do with, since God made it for you a long, long time before you were even born.
Peter further explains that the “elect” are chosen based on “the foreknowledge of God.” The Greek word for “foreknowledge” is where we get our English word prognosticate, meaning to predict beforehand. On the surface, the words seems to teach that God predicted who would believe in Him and then chose them to be His choice children. But such an interpretation is woefully superficial. To “know” or have “knowledge” of someone in biblical terms always implies experiential or intimate relationship. Adam did not simply predict that Eve would have a baby and then claim the boy as his own. He was intimately involved, you might say, before the boy was born. Therefore, God’s foreknowledge is the basis of His election, and it means that God initiated the decision and predetermined the path upon which you, if you are Christian, would be born again into the kingdom of God. You were the King’s choice. You are the selection of God’s election. You are somebody, because you have been chosen by God the Father!
There is more good news, too. Every “elect” child of God is also receives the “sanctification of the Spirit.” You are somebody not only because you have been chosen by God the Father, but because you are inhabited by God the Spirit. God, in the person of the Holy Spirit, lives inside every believer for the purpose of “sanctification,” a term that means you have been chosen and set apart by God to be holy and useful to God.
Please note that just as it is God who choses us and God who saves us, it is God who sanctifies us, not we ourselves. When you try to do things in your own strength, even religious things, you are not being sanctified. But when you have faith in God and rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to live, breath, work, and worship, then you are being sanctified by God. The “sanctification of the Spirit” is almost impossible to accomplish apart from serious study and application of the word of God, the Bible, for the same Spirit that inhabits the Christian is also the same Spirit that inspired the Bible. When the Holy Spirit illumines your mind to understand the Scriptures and apply them to your life, when the Holy Spirit prompts you to put these ideals and Godward ideas into practice, when you bear spiritual fruit in keeping with repentance and faith, then you are experiencing the “sanctification of the Spirit.” This is proof that God lives inside of you. And if God lives inside of you, let me tell you that you are somebody important to God.
And as you live your life as God’s choice and as God’s Spirit lives in you, be assured that you are covered with the “sprinkling with His blood.” Being splattered or sprinkled with blood does not sound like a blessing, and in the literal sense it is not. But in the spiritual, theological, and eternal sense, this is our greatest blessing as the children of God.
In the Old Covenant, the priest would sprinkle blood in the holy place, signifying God’s acceptance of devout Israelites and the forgiveness of their sins. In the New Covenant, Jesus Christ died on the cross and shed His precious blood to literally pay for the sins of God’s people, Old Covenant and New Covenant. For Christians today, for those who believe, love, and obey the gospel of Jesus Christ, this means you have not only been chosen by God the Father, inhabited by God the Spirit, but you are also now and always forgiven by God the Son. Always, for all things, forever, forgiven and loved and accepted by the Lord Jesus Christ. If this is true about you, then you have to be somebody very important to God.
So how does somebody like this, somebody who finds God extremely important because they are extremely important to God, how does somebody like this live? As “exiles ... for obedience to Jesus Christ.”
As “exiles,” literally aliens this world is not your home, so don’t live like it. You are part of the “dispersion,” part of the kingdom of God scattered all over the world made to know God and make Him known. The purpose of your life, every day and in every way, is to love and obey Jesus Christ as Lord. Since you are chosen by God, why not let God choose for you each day how you are to live and love Him? Since you are indwelled by God, why not let God empower you to accomplish your every task today with grace and faith? Since you are forgiven by God, why not go forth without guilt and fear of failure and publicly pledge your allegiance to God, God’s word, and God’s kingdom? Nobody can do this; but, somebody can!
Look around. There’s no paparazzi chasing you to get your picture. You are not expected at the White House for dinner tonight. You will not be featured on the latest entertainment show. That’s not you lifting up the championship trophy on national television. In this present world, you might be a nobody. But, by grace through faith in Christ, you are definitely somebody. You are somebody of great beauty, grace, skill, usefulness, and value to God. And you will be, forever.
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org