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1 Peter 1:1-12: Reasons to Rejoice Print E-mail
1 Peter
Sunday, 11 March 2007

Peter was no stranger to suffering.  He knew what it meant to face difficulties in life.  One particular story comes to mind.  In the early chapters of Acts, we read numerous accounts of Peter and the other Apostles being put in jail and facing persecution for their belief in Christ.  On one occasion (see Acts 5:17ff), they were put in prison by the high priest who had become jealous of them.  Yet, during the night, an angel came and set them free, telling them to keep preaching in the temple.  The next day they did exactly that.  In obedience to the angelís instructions (and to the Lord) they went and preached in the temple.  Of course, when the high priest and the others found out about this they went and got them and questioned them about doing what they told them not to do. 

We are familiar with Peterís response: We must obey God rather than men (v. 29).  He spoke of Christ and made them so angry that they wanted to kill them.  Yet, a man convinced them to let them go and they agreed.  But not before they beat them and told them again to stop preaching Christ.  Donít you think they had to be discouraged at this point?  I mean they had done exactly what God had told them to do and all they got was a beating.  It seems that Peter would have led them in a different direction or at least took a break from preaching Christ.  But how does Acts tell us they responded?  Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.  And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease preaching Jesus as the Christ (v. 41-42).

How could they respond like this?  Where does that kind of faith come from?  How can we have joy even in the midst of suffering and persecution?  The letter of 1 Peter can help.  It is the same Peter who wrote this letter.  He is writing to a number of Churches in Asia Minor, as we see in the first verse.  Apparently these Churches were also facing various trials (see 1:6) and so Peter is writing to encourage them in their faith.  He begins by calling them elect exiles of the dispersion, a phrase that is loaded with meaning.  It points to Israel in the Old Testament, who were Godís chosen people and were now spread throughout the Roman cities.  Yet, by using this phrase to describe his readers, who were primarily Gentiles, Peter is reminding them that they are now a part of the chosen people of God (see 2:9-10) who are exiles on the earth.  They are there by Godís design and plan, being sanctified by the Spirit for obedience and forgiveness in Christ (notice the Trinitarian reference).  After this greeting, Peter immediately begins to remind them of the reasons they have to rejoice.  We see this at the beginning of verse 6: In this you rejoiceÖ  But what exactly are we to rejoice in?  As we said before: how can we have joy even in the midst of suffering?  Peter gives us at least four reasons to rejoice in this passage.

First, we rejoice because God has caused us to be born again through Christ (v. 3).

Peter begins with praise to God the Father.  Look at verse 3.  Peter has already said that the readers were elect exilesÖaccording to the foreknowledge of God.  In this verse he says that according to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again.  Thus, Peter is telling us that our salvation is a result of Godís love and mercy.  He loved us and chose us even before the foundations of the world (see Ephesians 1:3ff).  He did this not because He saw that we would be worthy or deserving.  No, He did this according to His great mercy.  Not just mercy, but the great mercy of God is the only reason we have been made alive.  Listen to Wayne Grudem describe this: ďNo foreknowledge of the fact that we would believe, no foreseeing of any desirableness or merit on our part, is mentioned here or anywhere else in Scripture when indicating Godís ultimate reason for our salvation.  It is simply Ďaccording to his great mercyí that he gave us new life.Ē1   He has taken a people who were dead in their sins and made them alive through Christ.  Notice the means that Peter identifies.  Our living hope rests in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  Because the grave could not hold Him, our sins cannot hold us.  We were dead, but by Godís great mercy, we have been born again.

I realize that Godís sovereignty over salvation can be a controversial subject.  And I understand why this is the case (I have been on both sides of the argument).  Yet, the point of this passage is not meant to be argumentative as much as it is meant to give us great joy.  One of the reasons that Peter gives us to have great joy is the simple truth that God has caused us to born again through Christ according to His great mercy.  May we be a people who rejoice in the great mercy of our God, even rejoicing in His sovereignty over our salvation.

Second, we rejoice because God is guarding our inheritance, our coming salvation (v. 4-5).

Peter continues describing our living hope in verses 4-5.  Look at those with me.  Not only has God made us alive in Christ, but He is also guarding our future inheritance.  Notice the words that Peter uses to describe it: imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.  Our inheritance will not be destroyed for it is pure and permanent.  Our new birth through faith in Christ secures the life to come.  And who is guarding this inheritance and giving us power to believe?  It is none other than God Himself.  Thus, we have great assurance that we will be with Him on the last Day.

It only takes Peter five verses to start focusing our attention on eternity.  If we get so distracted by the cares of this world that we fail to consider the future glory, then we will never know joy in our suffering.  Life will only be a horrible burden with not much point.  That is why the biblical writers are constantly calling Christians to live presently in light of eternity.  We can only rejoice when we know that this is not our home.  We can only follow hard after Christ, joyfully risking all that we have and are to be obedient to Him, when we live in constant awareness of the New Heavens and the New Earth (see Revelation 21).  We can rejoice in our future inheritance, which is being kept in heaven for us even now.

Third, we rejoice because God will be glorified by our endurance through trials (v.6-7).

In looking to eternity, Peter is not ignoring the difficulties of life.  He knows that trials will come because he has endured them himself.  Yet, as we saw in the Acts passage, even our trials can be a reason to rejoice.  How can this be exactly?  Look at verses 6-7.  Here we see a purpose for our suffering, namely suffering causes our faith to be purified, like gold in a fire.  And this purified faith will result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  Who will be praised, glorified, and honored on that Day?  In this passage, Peter is probably still referring to the reward that believers will receive.  Yet, we know that since even our faith is exercised only by Godís power that in the end, He will be the One ultimately glorified.  Amazingly, we will get to be a part of that.  Our purified faith will result in our good and Godís praise.  Thus, the trials we face have a glorious purpose.  This does not mean that they will be easy or no big deal.  No, they will be difficult, however they come.  Yet, in their midst, we will do well to remind ourselves that our faith is being purified and that we will receive praise, glory, and honor on Godís behalf. 

Fourth, we rejoice because Godís promised salvation is being fulfilled in us (v. 10-12).

Before we consider verses 8-9, I want to look at verses 10-12.  Look at those with me.  Picking up on the salvation that he mentions in verse 9, Peter tells his readers that the prophets longed for the Christ and His revelation.  They looked at what the Lord had revealed to them carefully, wondering when the Christ would come and who He would be.  Make no mistake, they did not do this casually, they longed for the Christ.  Yet, it was revealed to them that their prophecies would not be fulfilled in their generation.  Rather, they would ultimately be fulfilled in the generation of Peterís readers.  In fact, the very preaching of the gospel has brought to them the fulfillment of the prophets, for the gospel reveals that Jesus of Nazareth is indeed the long awaited Christ.  Not only did the prophets long to see this, but so do the angels.

Thus, Peter is reminding his readers and us that we live in a privileged time in redemptive history.  We do not have to wonder who the Christ will be or when He will come (at least the first time).  We are privileged to know the very name of Jesus (the Name that the Apostles rejoiced in suffering for).  Peter gives us one more reason to rejoice by reminding us of our privileged place in redemptive history.  

Peter gives us at least four reasons to rejoice, even when we are called to suffer.  We rejoice in being born again by Godís mercy, in our future inheritance which God is guarding, in our trials which will result in purified faith that glorifies God, and in the privileged place that we enjoy in redemptive history.  Yet, what is it that holds all these reasons to rejoice together? 

In order to answer, look at verses 8-9 with me.  Peter describes the joy that believers have in these verses as inexpressible, an even greater term than he has used thus far.  But what sets it apart?  What is the source of this joy?  The only source for inexpressible joy is a relationship with Jesus Christ.  It is this relationship that links all the reasons together.  Think about it.  What is the means by which we have been born again?  The resurrection of Christ.  Who has purchased our great inheritance by His death?  Jesus Christ.  When will our tested faith result in praise, glory, and honor for us on Godís behalf?  At the revelation of Jesus Christ.  Why is our place in redemptive history privileged?  Because we know the Christ to be none other than Jesus of Nazareth.  Our greatest source of joy in life comes through the relationship that we have with the risen Lord.  We cannot even put it into words.  The greatest good of the gospel is Christ Himself.  He is our Reason to rejoice according to Peter.  All of the other reasons are caught up into this one.  Just give us Jesus, and whatever it takes to know Him, and we will rejoice.  He is what we are saved to, what we are being saved to, and what we will be saved to when He returns. 

How should we respond to this text?  Simple: we should respond with much rejoicing.  As we come to the table this morning, may we consider the great Reason we have to rejoice and may we long for His return as diligently as the prophets longed for His coming.  Amen.

Wayne Grudem, The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: 1 Peter (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1988), p. 55.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Monday, 19 March 2007 )

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