1 Peter 1:6-9 ~ 20080921 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
9/21 1 Peter 1:6-9 trials; necessity, purpose and outcome
1: 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.
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.
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: 6 en w agalliasye oligon arti ei deon luphyentev en poikiloiv peirasmoiv 7 ina to dokimion umwn thv pistewv polutimoteron crusiou tou apollumenou dia purov de dokimazomenou eureyh eiv epainon kai doxan kai timhn en apokaluqei ihsou cristou 8 on ouk idontev agapate eiv on arti mh orwntev pisteuontev de agalliate cara aneklalhtw kai dedoxasmenh 9 komizomenoi to telov thv pistewv swthrian qucwn
Peter is addressing the suffering saints in Asia Minor. He recognizes their situation as aliens – exiles in their own hometowns because of their decision to follow Jesus. But he points them to their position before God – they are elect, chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, and for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling with his blood.
And then he leads them in worship. He points them to the work of God in their new birth. Their new life in Jesus is rooted in the great mercy of God the Father. He caused them to be born again, and they were born into a living hope. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead secures their hope in the inheritance that they have been born into. That inheritance is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, it is kept safe in heaven for us and God's power is at work to keep us believing so that we indeed will receive the promised inheritance. God's power is guarding us right now through our faith for the final salvation that we look forward to. This is foundation for worship, and it is a cause to rejoice. Peter points his struggling readers to their source of joy so that they can stand firm even in the middle of trials.
In this you rejoice; this, that God fathered you into a new life of hope in an incredible inheritance, and that God is keeping the inheritance safe for you and is keeping you for the inheritance. Peter goes out on a limb here and assumes that his readers are indeed rejoicing in their salvation. These are people who are suffering for their faith. They are aliens in their own communities. They certainly have a lot on their minds, but he confidently says 'in this you rejoice'. He is certain that any true believer will resonate with joy over what he has said. I am filled with joy when I think of how rich in mercy God is toward a hell deserving sinner like me. My joy overflows when I reflect on the new life that God has created in me. I am engulfed in delight when I think of the inheritance that awaits me, secured by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. I am flooded with a sense of awe and thanksgiving when I think that God by his awesome power is at work to keep me believing so that I will receive the inheritance. Joy is a 'given' in the Christian life. Rejoicing over God at work in our salvation is something we Christians do. As Peter begins to address the issue of suffering as a Christian, he first points them to this overarching joy that spans the chasm of suffering and keeps us looking toward the goal of our salvation in spite of the trials. Peter says a few things here about the trials we face, that are essential to preserve the proper outlook.
The Necessity of Trials
The Character, Variety and Duration of Trials
The Purpose of Trials
The Certain Outcome of Trials
First, the necessity of trials. Trials are necessary. But he's not talking about circumstantial necessity or inevitability – fate. Bad things are bound to happen and there's nothing anybody (even God) can do about it. No, he is saying they are necessary, in that they are designed to serve an essential purpose in your salvation. This is not the necessity of chance, this is the necessity of the plan of God being worked out. What God plans he will do (Is. 46:11). This is the kind of necessity Jesus spoke of when he said:
Peter makes it explicit that this is what he means in:
So we can take comfort that whatever trials we face today, they are not meaningless or senseless or random. They are designed by our merciful Father to play an essential part in our salvation. We can trust him that they are for our good.
The second thing we learn about trials is their character, variety and duration. He says 'you have been grieved by various trials'. Peter does not make light of their trials. He acknowledges that they are weighty – heavy. Grief is real and it is painful. He uses the same word that is used of Jesus' sorrow in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Peter is not asking us to just put on a happy face. Christians do grieve, but we do not grieve as others who have no hope (1Thes.4:13)
And Peter is not quick to say 'oh, I've been through that. I know exactly how you feel', because he knows that the experience of trials is different for everyone. He says 'you have been grieved by various trials'. The word literally means 'many colored or variegated '.
Their trials are unique and they are grievous, but they are also short. He says 'though now for a little while'. Peter is not saying that he knows their trials will soon come to an end. Some of his readers may suffer their whole life. Some may die suffering. He is not saying that their suffering is short in comparison to other people's suffering. He is saying that their grief will be short in comparison with eternal joy. We see that this eternal perspective is his frame of reference from verse 7, where he points to 'the revelation of Jesus Christ'. Paul puts it this way:
So trials are temporal, they are necessary, they are grievous, and they come in many colors, but what is their purpose? In verse 7 he says 'so that'; that indicates purpose.
God has a purpose in your trials. Satan has a purpose in your trials too. Satan would like to destroy your faith and cause you to walk away from Jesus. He seeks to devour you and steal your joy. God's purpose for trials is different. Jesus said:
While Satan's purpose is to destroy, God's purpose is to test your faith in order to prove it genuine. Muscles, if they are not used, will atrophy. Muscles need to be exercised to stay healthy and grow. God has given you the muscle of faith. Now God is bringing into your life circumstances and experiences that will cause you to get up out of the easy chair of complacency and apathy and fight the good fight to believe (1Tim.6:12).
Remember, we learned in verse 5 that God, by his power, is guarding or keeping you for salvation through faith. I think this verse explains the phrase 'through faith' in that verse. How is God in his power using my faith as a means to preserve me for salvation? One answer is that God is bringing the exercise of adversity against the muscle of my faith so that my faith will be vital and thrive rather than atrophy and die. Trials prove faith. Anyone can say they believe in Jesus. Anyone can say a prayer. But when adversity comes, it reveals the true nature of that faith. If it was mere lip service to please a person, testing will reveal it for what it is. Genuine faith, when it meets adversity will cling all the more closely to Jesus. But the trials serve a good purpose even if your faith is proved fake. When trials come and you let go of Jesus and cling to other things, that should awaken you to what you are truly trusting in and cause you to turn from that to Jesus.
Peter compares the tested genuine faith that trials produce to the most precious and enduring thing that we know – gold. Gold for thousands of years has not lost its value. Gold when it is refined does not perish but becomes more pure and more valuable. But Peter tells us that compared to gold, genuine faith is more valuable and less perishable. Tested faith is worth more and will last longer than gold! That's amazing, because I think of my faith as fickle and unreliable.
Think of Peter. Peter saw Jesus walking on the water in the storm, and Peter believed that if Jesus commanded, he could come. But when he saw the wind he was afraid and began to sink (Mat.14:28-31). If my faith were solely up to me, I would be sunk and give up hope. But when I realize that my faith is a gift of God, and God is using his power to sustain my faith, then I begin to see how my faith could be more precious and less perishable than gold.
And the next phrase boggles the imagination!
At the revelation of Jesus Christ, when my faith has proved genuine because God gave it to me and sustained me in it, God is going to praise and honor and glory in me! God will sustain your faith through the trial, and then when you arrive safely in heaven, God will crown you because your faith stood through the trial!
But we might ask 'how can I know if my faith is the genuine kind that will last or if it is fake and will be destroyed by the fire? What will be the outcome of the trial?' I think the next verse answers this question. Peter observes the new affections and the new delights of the believing community, and points to this as evidence of tested genuine faith.
Jesus is not yet revealed. We can't see him. We can't sit down with him and talk over a glass of wine and a loaf of bread. We don't see him walking our streets, healing the sick and raising the dead. We can't hear him speaking with infinite wisdom and authority, confounding his enemies and comforting the downcast. How do you love someone that you have never met? Peter points his readers to their love for Jesus as evidence of the genuineness of their faith. In spite of not having seen him, you love him. Even though you don't now see him, you believe in him.
Notice how belief and love are parallel ideas? The kind of belief or genuine faith we are talking about is not an intellectual agreement with certain facts. Genuine faith does include an appreciation for certain foundational truths, but it also necessitates an emotional response. Jesus is not the distasteful firefighter with awful body odor and annoying mannerisms that you tolerate as he carries you down the ladder simply because the fire is worse than his smell and once you are safe, other than a polite thank you card, you will never have to see him again. No, Jesus is the one, fire or no fire, I just want to be near him, to know him and be known by him, to admire him, to enjoy his presence.
Notice, too, that joy is characteristic of the Christian life. Peter is not telling the believers what they should be doing, he is simply stating what they are already naturally doing. They love Jesus, they believe into Jesus, they rejoice with a joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory. This is a joy that simply cannot be put into words. This is a doxological joy – a joy that is full of glory; full of praise. It cannot be communicated except by the common experience of it. This is a joy that is known by anyone that has a healthy understanding of their own hopeless undeserving condition, who has experienced the limitless mercy of our good God, who so loved us that he gave his only Son, who has given us new birth and adopted us into his own family, made us participants in an unfathomable inheritance. I am loved by God the Father, I am being set apart by the Holy Spirit, I am washed clean by the blood of Jesus, one day I will receive praise and honor and glory in his presence when he says 'well done, good and faithful servant...enter into the joy of your master (Mat.25:21)' not because I have been able to pull it off, but because he has been at work in me sovereignly empowering me to persevere to the end.
Joy is not an optional extra in the Christian life like the way you order your salad – I'd like lots of peace sprinkled all over it. Can I have the joy on the side? Hold the longsuffering. No. Joy is the fruit of the Spirit. If the Holy Spirit is in you, he is producing joy. Jesus said:
It is interesting that the context of Jesus command to rejoice and leap for joy is the similar circumstance of being hated and excluded and reviled and spurned. Jesus is saying that you are blessed or joy-filled, in fact you can leap for joy when you face trials because, look, your reward is great in heaven! You are the elected rejected and your inheritance is certain. Your loving and believing and joying in Jesus is evidence that you are obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
So we can rejoice and praise God even in the midst of trials because we can see that trials are necessary; they are not senseless and random, but they are ordained by God for a good purpose. And the purpose of trials is to prove our faith genuine, to force us to flex the muscle of faith so that it does not atrophy. And we can have confidence that the outcome of the trials is certain. When we see love for Jesus and believing into Jesus and joy in Jesus welling up in our hearts even in the midst of adversity, we are seeing evidence of the Spirit of God at work in us creating new affections and new desires. We are obtaining the outcome of our faith, the salvation of our souls.