Sermon – 1 Peter 1:3-9
1 Peter 1:3-9 – Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Last week we looked at 1 Peter 1:1-2 & 2:11-12, under the title “Living in the face of alienation and its cure”. The Apostle Peter was writing to a group of people, followers of Jesus, spread throughout what we know as modern Turkey. These believing sojourners were undergoing trials, suffering & persecution. Peter instructs them toward Christian stability, and the proper expression of this stability and growth.
Throughout the letter, Peter stresses a hope so alive, so glorious and so very certain, that any persecution, trial and suffering can be endured. These people are sojourners or pilgrims on a spiritual journey! Last week we discovered that Peter reminds them of the God they worship and live for – a missional & relational God of salvation. A loving God who is Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God the Father has chosen and is calling all people to Himself, out of amazing love for them. God the Holy Spirit sanctifies and cleanses to allow people to enter God’s holy presence through the obedient sacrifice of God the Son.
Then we learnt together about how within the believer, that there is a battle. A spiritual battle – the old earthly human nature battling against the new nature of the believer given to them by God. Salvation is yours, Peter says, so go let the world know that this salvation can be theirs also, by living so devoted to God, that He permeates every facet of your life. That people will know you are God’s possession and God lives through you! WOW! The believing sojourner is to live such a good life that they are good witnesses for the God in whom they believe! We also know that this group of people are undergoing various forms of suffering and grief. Not the least, sporadic events of persecution but also the possibility of systematic persecution to come.
So now we come to tonight’s reading – 1 Peter 1:3-9. Again we will start out by looking at God, before going onto looking at a reaction to this great God of whom Peter continues to reveal. Here in this first section from 1:1 to 2:9, Peter touches on subjects which he will elucidate upon later in the letter.
1. God the Joy Giver!
Peter continues in this the first section of his letter. The natural second section of the letter starts in 1 Peter 2:11 as we saw last week under the title “Living in the face of alienation and its cure”.
Tonight we move on under the title “Living in the joy of salvation…” This naturally implies that there is a joy giver and a salvation! Who is the giver of this “joy” and what is joy?
Let’s look briefly at who Peter says this joy giver is!
The Joy Giver!
In v3, Peter continues praising His God and the God of His readers. This God is the joy giver! Let’s look very briefly at some aspects of this God whom Peter reveals!
a. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ v3
Peter would have remembered the words of Jesus, the Son, who told him and the others disciples to call God, Father! Father God is the one who calls and beckons all people to Himself. He is the Father of the Son, Jesus Christ, but not in a way such as He created the Son, for the Son has always existed and was never created. God the Father is a Father in that the He plans and directs, while the Son responds obediently. God the Father sent the Son, and Jesus Himself said he had come from the Father and was returning to the Father. Again we looked briefly at that relationship last week. The joy giver is to be praised!
b. his great mercy he has given v3
This God is a merciful God! He does not give people what they deserve – which is death for humanity’s wilful rebellion, but He offers salvation – a new birth! The mercy of God is the goodness of God to those in distress – tenderness & compassion! WOW! How is the new birth possible?
c. resurrection of Jesus Christ v3
This new birth is only possible through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which we celebrate at Easter. Resurrection means more than just coming back to life! Jesus raised at least three people from the dead, but that was more resuscitation than resurrection! Those resuscitated people came back to life with their normal bodies and they would go on to die a physical death again! Jesus’ resurrection was different in that He also had a new body! WOW!
Jesus’ resurrection proved and vindicated all of His teaching. Jesus’ resurrection, witnessed by Peter and many others, certified and attested to His claims to be who He said he was – God. If Jesus had not been resurrected, then be assured Peter would not now be in Rome as a witness for this Jesus! No way! He would probably have gone back to being a fisherman – not as he is now – a leading figure in the embryonic church. Or at best Peter would be cowering away in fear for retribution from the religious leaders of his day.
The resurrection was also God the Father’s approval of His Son Jesus’ obedient service. The fulfilment of all the Old Testament promises are declared through the resurrection. The result of which, is inheritance and salvation for all those who respond to God the Father’s calling! But more about that later as we continue to explore our bible passage for tonight!
d. Jesus Christ is revealed v7
Jesus will return and be revealed for who He is and in fully glory for the world to see! Jesus said so during His earthly life and it is mentioned 318 times within the New Testament. Jesus is returning. Not as a human baby this time but as a conquering majestic Prince of Peace. When will He come? No-one knows! But it will happen unexpectedly! Expect the unexpected! God Himself is the joy giver!
2. Living Out Joy!
So if that is the joy giver, what is joy and how is the Christian, the receiver of salvation, to live in the light of this joy? Let us look briefly at each of this series of mini-pictures given to us by Peter!
a. New birth v3
Back in verse 3, when Peter says “born anew”, he is echoing the very words of Jesus who said that only those who are born again or born anew will see and experience the kingdom of God and have the salvation of their souls (John 3:3).
What does Peter mean here? Just as each person has a physical body, each person also has a spirit. Now our spirit is our spiritual system, which is seen in our consciousness of God and in our faith and conscience. A spiritual birth is required in order to give a spiritual life, just as a physical birth gives physical life. Each person is made up of a physical body and an internal spirit. That is why Peter says that all those who are followers of Jesus have been born anew or have been born again! This phrase can also be translated “born from above”. It is also something that a human cannot do by their own efforts! It can only be a work of God! It is from His twin wellsprings of grace and mercy, that people can have this new life! Grace – getting what we don’t deserve and mercy – not getting what we do deserve.
b. Living hope v3
Because believers have this new life, been born anew, they have a new hope. Not a dead hope as some might imagine but a living and dynamic hope! As it is living, Peter is stating that the hope within the believer is to grow and flourish! As the believer continues living life here on earth, the hope is to continue to grow and develop! It is a hope which is dynamic as it is growing in confidence and expectation! What is this living hope to be in and for?
c. Inheritance v4
Peter goes on! This living hope is for the inheritance of the believer! Part of this inheritance is the new body of the believer! The believer will also be resurrected just as Jesus was! This inheritance is described by Peter as imperishable, unspoilt and unfading! No doubt the readers of this letter would have thought back to the time when the nation of Israel was promised the land of Israel as an inheritance. But the inheritance Peter is referring to is not a physical kingdom, property or possessions! No! Those things will rot, rust, perish, decay and fade away as time goes on. Don’t put your hope in those things cries Peter!
Putting hope in them is not a living hope but a dead hope! O sojourner of Jesus Christ, writes Peter, put your hope, your living hope, in your glorious inheritance to come! You will have an inheritance and life which is pure, undefiled and unpolluted by sin! No suffering there in this inheritance! And where is this inheritance now, Peter? Not on earth says Peter! This inheritance is being kept in heaven for you and each person who follows Jesus Christ and perseveres! This is a personal inheritance. Each person must be born anew into this living hope.
Where are you tonight? Have you taken up this living and dynamic hope and been born anew by God’s grace and mercy? Don’t leave tonight without speaking to somebody about it!
d. shielded by God’s power v5
As we know, again from last week, Peter is writing to groups of people, who maybe coming under increasing persecution – or soon will be, particularly from the Romans. We know that in the year 64AD, systemic persecution of Christians came about under the Emperor Nero. How will God’s people, those He has chosen as his, be protected?
Peter is writing to encourage these believers! This inheritance is theirs! They have been born anew! They are God the Father’s chosen and well loved children! What about when persecution comes? Who will protect them and keep their inheritance safe? Peter tells them that they will be shielded or guarded by God Himself! God will keep them safe! Just as God kept the spies into the land of Canaan way back in the Old Testament. It is a guarding, which is not only protection but also a shielding away. It is the security of their salvation which God also protects. Will any fall away from God when persecution hits them? Will they be able to stand? If they rely on God’s power and strength and continue to put their personal faith and trust in Him, then they will indeed be energized, sustained and safeguarded. We know from other passages of Scripture, that God the Son, Jesus Christ intercedes for us to God the Father! WOW!
This guarding work is not just for the inheritance but something else too! Peter goes on in v5!
e. Salvation – future v5
This safeguarding is also for the salvation of the believing sojourner! Salvation has three tenses to it! A believer has been saved (justified); is being saved (sanctified) and will be saved! One glorious day the believer will come into his or her full inheritance! They will have full possession of all that God the Father has kept for them. It will be revealed one day – keep having hope, says the Apostle Peter! We looked briefly at that last week.
The believer has been born anew into a living and dynamic hope for the future! Chosen by God the Father and called by Him to be His child! His child who is regenerated, renewed and cleansed by God the Holy Spirit through the obedient life and sacrifice of God the Son, Jesus Christ who rose up from the dead! WOW!
f. Rejoice v6
Peter continues! Peter seems to be saying here in v6 “Rejoice, believers and keep on rejoicing just as you are indeed doing! When you think about your future inheritance, rejoice! Rejoice, sojourners, in your future hope and inheritance!”
To rejoice is to have a deep and glorious spiritual joy! It is rejoicing in God with deep joy!
Now remember these believers are suffering and some will indeed suffer more. As Peter says they may have to suffer and endure trials which are to come. What are these suffering and trials? We cannot be certain but every human that has ever lived in some way has suffered somehow. Indeed the very process of physical birth is a kind of suffering – for baby, mother and father!
These believers are enduring all sorts of trials. Trials put upon them by satan, put upon them by other people as well as natural trials such as sickness and death. But Peter here says may have to suffer. Suffer for simply being believers perhaps as the shadow of persecution hovers above them?
These trials, suffering and griefs are temporary and incomparable to glory which awaits the believer who holds on and perseveres. Peter says that suffering, trials and griefs go hand in hand with joy – deep joy! More about joy soon!
a. Faith’s genuineness v7
Why are they suffering? Peter goes on to say that the trials have come to prove their faith in God. Faith is trusting in God. How will they trust in God as they undergo such ordeals! How will their faith be exhibited! These trials and griefs will show the genuine nature of these believing sojourners faith. They are to refine and purify the believer, just as gold is refined by fire. Even though on earth gold is one of the most durable substances, one day it will perish. Just as all this old earth will. Genuine faith and real trust in God is far more enduring and valuable than placing faith in gold, because God is to be the object of the believer’s faith. God’s evaluation of these believers, these sojourners, is of higher value than the opinion of mere humans. God’s evaluation is basis for faith in Him by these believing sojourners who Peter is writing to.
This faith of theirs is to be shown in praise to and of Jesus Christ. This genuine faith of theirs, which is to always to seek to give praise, honour and glory to Jesus. This genuine faith is expressed with joy. Particularly as we saw earlier when Jesus Christ is revealed in His divine post-resurrection glory. When all of humanity will be judged and the secret desires of the hearts of humans is revealed.
b. Faith’s love v8
The object of the Christian’s faith, Peter goes on, is Jesus Christ and Him alone. Peter of course had known Jesus personally. Peter had seen Jesus, been called by Jesus, was rebuked by Jesus and regularly frustrated Jesus. This Peter had also betrayed Jesus and was forgiven by him. Peter had loved Jesus and was still loving Jesus. Jesus loved Peter. This Peter had seen the resurrected Jesus before witnessing Jesus, God the Son, ascend back to the right hand of God the Father. But these believers had not had those experiences. They had heard the stories for sure and the testimony of witnesses to the person of Jesus. Not only were these believers to have faith in Jesus, but to express their love of Him. Peter is saying faith is personal, individual and to express your faith in Jesus by loving Him and being obedient to Him. These believers Peter was writing to loved Jesus and were expressing it by living lives worthy of Him. Could that describe you here tonight?
c. Faith’s belief v8
Moreover this genuine faith of love is in evidence through their belief. That is their trust in Jesus, resting their confidence in Him because He is dependable and reliable. It is a personal relationship between Jesus and the believer. It is resting entirely upon Him for all things. Again – could that describe you here tonight in 2013?
d. Faith’s joy v8
How is this faith expressed? This faith, Peter goes on, is expressed in and through joy or exultation! Old Testament language and experiences such as in our reading from the book of joy, Leviticus, told of the glory of God being revealed!
Moses and Aaron, as we read in Leviticus, come out from tent, give a blessing to the people and God’s glory appeared to the nation! It must have been some blessing Aaron gave! Whatever the words that were expressed, they were words that invocated Almighty God’s power, presence and peace to be with and upon His people. No wonder the people fell on the ground with their noses in the dirt as an act of joyful worship and praise to God! So amazing was this sight that a tremendous wave of exuberant joy overcame the people and they all fell with their face in the ground! There was probably a mixture of amazement, surprise and reverent fear! This was not just joy as a mere emotion, but true exultant joy as evidenced through sacrifice, praise and testimony!
The intended readers of Peter’s letters would have been well acquainted with such passages in what is our Old Testament – where the bright shining radiance of God’s glory was revealed. An exultant joy which is inexpressible and glorious!
e. Faith’s outcome v9
And what does Peter say is the outcome or result of each of these sojourners faith? It is the salvation of their soul. Salvation as we have looked at earlier tonight as well as in last week’s study. A salvation which is the work of God the Trinity: God the Father has chosen and calls all people to himself, out of love for them. God the Holy Spirit sanctifies, sets apart and cleanses people to allow them to enter God’s holy presence. This entrance is only through the obedient sacrifice of God the Son.
So with all that said, let’s briefly recapitulate before we conclude.
Firstly we looked at a God who is to be praised; a God who is merciful in giving new life to those who respond personally to His call. As evidence of this new and living hope, He sent His Son who came to earth as a human, lived, died and was resurrected to new life. This Son ascended to be at His right hand once more. This Son, Jesus Christ will be coming back again one day. Meanwhile, all those who place their faith and hope in Jesus Christ, will be shielded, safeguarded and protected by God Himself. Indeed, their salvation is assured and safeguarded. But if they were to die, they would be still shielded and safeguarded by God, because their salvation was assured and they would be in His presence. God shields and safeguards His people.
Secondly we then looked at this new life or new hope in more detail. This new hope is living, dynamic and the believer has a glorious inheritance and salvation. This is given by God and God alone from his twin wellsprings of grace and mercy.
Then lastly we looked at Faith’s genuineness, Faith’s love, Faith’s belief, Faith’s joy and finally Faith’s outcome which is the salvation of the soul.
With that said, how are we to conclude tonight? How are we, in the 21st century, to respond and react to Peter in this section of his letter?
For those of us who would call ourselves a Christian – a sojourner of Jesus Christ – you believe in Him and have placed your faith in Him for new hope, new life and salvation of your soul.
I wonder what trials including alienation and persecution you have undergone in the past, are undergoing at the moment or will persevere through in the future. I don’t even know how I will suffer and grieve in the future. But I do know who has the answers to our trials and testing. It is my God and your God. Our God of love – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He knows the answers and I have to trust in Him. Are you currently undergoing any sort of trial – run to God! He will listen! He is your protector, your guard and your empowerer! Remember He lives within you! He loves you! He cares for you! He is a personal God who has your best interests at heart!
As Christians we worship and serve a God who knows intimately about personal suffering. Our God isn’t an inanimate and passive carving, to be placed on a shelf or a wall which is immune to the suffering of the world. No! Our God is a personal, dynamic and active God who knows the suffering we ourselves endure – because He Himself has suffered. He is an intimate, dynamic, responsive and living personal being who has shared in our sufferings through Jesus when He died on a cross 2000 years ago. This same Jesus who was resurrected and raised to new life and witnessed by our author – the Apostle Peter! WOW! The ineffable God made known to humanity in the man Jesus Christ.
As part of our new hope and new life as Christians, as sojourners of Jesus Christ, we await that glorious day in the future when He has come again. That day when Jesus Christ will take your face in his scarred hands, and wipe away your tears. Wipe away your tears – tears of pain released and tears of ineffable and inexplicable joy! WOW! You and I will know then, that it was all worth it – the sufferings and trials that we have endured in this life, in order to enter the new life to come. Amazing! WOW!
On that final day, when your faith is tested, will it be proven to be genuine? Let this faith of yours always seek to give praise, honour and glory to Jesus and Him alone. May it be a faith being worked out by you living a life which is worthy of Him alone – which is seen by those currently not in the faith. Your genuine faith being expressed with inexplicable joy to those outside.
As Christians here, just as it was last week, it is an imperative that we go and show our new life, new hope, empowered and safeguarded by God’s power alone. Persecution may come and we will in some quarters even now be rejected. But we persevere. As Christians, we have good news for the world – it is up to us to go out living in the joy of salvation. We will be alienated by some, but also embraced by others. God is for us – who then shall we fear? God is a mission God – Peter clearly knows that – and because He is a mission God, we too are also on a mission. We have to take risks in order to continue this mission. History is filled with churches that failed to adapt and take the mission opportunities available to them. Will we be like that? I for one certainly do not hope so. We need to be reaching out, including those forgotten people – the people who cannot get out of their own homes for what ever reason. Helping those people who are already Christians and helping those who are not yet Christian, to find this living hope in God.
God is a tri-unity of Love… The Father loves the Son and the Spirit. The Son loves the Father and the Spirit. The Spirit loves the Father and the Son. We as a church are also to be a community of love. A love which mirrors that of the God of love… A love which looks not to its own interests but to the interests of others… Let’s go love… Encourage others – not just your friends or those you like… Let’s go encourage others enduring all sorts of tests and trials, just as Peter has done to this group of spiritual sojourners… God loves you… Let’s reflect the God we claim to love, follow and obey…
Tonight, you maybe in need of prayer because of some trial or suffering you are currently undergoing. We would love to pray with you and for you.
Again, I am compelled to say this. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Maybe you are here tonight, and you would not call yourself a Christian. Then please do not leave here tonight without asking somebody here about how you can become one and start this new life and the new hope which only those who are Christian can claim. God the Father’s love is calling you. God the Father has chosen you. God the Holy Spirit is waiting to set you apart and cleanse you. God the Son is waiting for you to accept his obedient sacrifice. Come!