Here goes the first post on what I've been reading in 1 Peter. In our small group last term we read a book called The Jesus Creed, and it talked about not studying/reading the Bible just to master what it says, but to let what it says master you. I've been going slow so I make sure I am praying through anything in my life that needs to be mastered by the text. I read/meditated on these verses for a day, studied commentary and definitions the next day, and re-read and tried to work out what God wanted me to know the next. Writing posts has been great for my memory retention. It really helps me apply what the Scripture says if I try to sum it up and highlight portions.
What I think the first 9 verses of 1 Peter have me asking is "How central is salvation in your life?" "How often am I thankful, do I realize the depth and the reach of salvation?" "Does it inspire me, does it fill me up, give me hope?" I've read and re-read and studied these verses and it all keeps coming down to salvation. Here are a couple of things that stuck with me from these verses 1. We have a living hope because of salvation, 2. an inheritance (that outshines anything we have on earth) as a gift of salvation, and 3. We face trials to test our faith. Without faith, we don't have salvation.
1. Living Hope
The thing that struck me most was that our hope is living. It's possible for anyone to have hope. Believers as well as non-believers. But as believers our hope is qualified as living. "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..." (v3). If something is dead, it can hold nothing up, has no future, can bring no comfort. When it's gone, it's gone. Our hope as believers is through the resurrection of Christ. What a comfort. Our hope is as Christ is...certainly not dead, but alive, resurrected. There's always the option for a living hope to endure. It all boils down to having a Savior who is also alive. Our salvation provides us with this hope. With a Hope that holds everything together, gives us a promising future, and brings us all measure of comfort.
I suppose if my parents or grandparents were rich, I'd think about inheritances more often. That sort of thing really isn't on my radar much. I don't really stand to inherit anything on this earth but what I earn. And probably not much of that either! But from God, I stand to receive an inheritance. I have to admit, I don't know that I think about this inheritance much either. Studying these verses made me realize that what I look forward to as a gift of my salvation will really rock my world. It will totally out do anything I've seen and experienced. Basically turn it on it's head.
Peter is speaking to exiled Jewish believers. They had been moved out of the land God had given their forefathers. It was an inheritance to them. They were poor and had nothing, including homes. Some probably lost families. Peter encourages them by describing their inheritance as believers. I was reading through Matthew Henry's commentary on 1 Peter and he details the words used to describe our inheritance (v.4). What he calls "incomprable excellencies":
- Incorruptible: "in which respect it is like its Maker, who is called the incorruptible God. All corruption is a change from better to worse, but heaven is without change and without end". I was encouraged by this because I can't count the number of times things in my life have gone from better to worse. Things that have been totally corrupted. What hope it is knowing there is something coming that will never change!
- Undefiled: "like the great high priest that is now in possession of it, who is holy and harmless and undefiled (Heb 7:26). Sin and misery, the two grand defilements that spoil this world, and mar its beauty, have no place there." AMEN.
- Unfading: "always retains its vigour and beauty, and remains immarcescible, ever entertaining and pleasing the saints who possess it without the least weariness or distaste."
- Reserved: "The heir to an earthly estate has no assurance that he shall live to enjoy it, but the heirs of heaven shall certainly be conducted safely to the possession of it."
3. Trials to test Faith
Verses 6-7 say "though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 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." I wasn't sure what to think about this because I've definitely faced trials here and there, but I'm not sure I've ever experience a big faith-shaking trial. Not testing by fire. Part of me hopes the "if necessary" applies and I'm firm in faith and don't require a big trial (that's a hope, and I'm not sure I can say I've really been so firm in my faith). But another part of me desires to be found faithful and "if necessary" be given the chance to prove that.
In the same commentary I mention before, Henry talks about how when gold is tested by fire, it can only diminish. Impurities and other elements are burned out. The gold is left more pure, but also smaller. Our faith "more precious" than gold becomes has the opposite end when tested. Faith is enlarged. When refined in not only becomes pure, but grows. He says God's design in trials is to test our character, not to destroy. It is for "their advantage, not their ruin...to prove the value and strength of his faith. This trial is made upon faith principally, rather than any other grace, because the trial of this is, in effect, the trial of all that is good in us. Our Christianity depends on our faith; if this be wanting, there is nothing that is spiritually good in us...if that be supported all the rest will stand firm."
If we have faith, we have salvation. And in salvation we have a bedrock that is firm. Anything else can be heaped upon it and it will remain. It wouldn't make much sense to have a foundation that was never tested, would it? God uses these tests of our faith and they result in more than our own benefit. Henry notes, "the faith of good people is tried, that they themselves may have the comfort of it, God the glory of it, and others the benefit of it."
Despite the fact that it may come in the form of a trial, I hope I can exibit the kind of faith that will bring me comfort, benefit others, and most of all, give God some glory and praise for the gift of salvation.