Praise to God, Praise to the Faithful, and Reminder of Salvation.
Section 2.1 of 1 Peter (1 Peter 1:3-9)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, (being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire) may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.
The second section of the first letter of Peter starts with a praise to God and a declaration of what the Lord has done for humanity. There are many ways that the various texts in the biblical collection can be organized and for the purpose of this exegetical study of the letter, I have chosen to begin this section with verse 1:3 and end the first sub-section here at verse 1:9. I have chosen this particular passage as its own sub-section as it appears to have a full thought, start to end. It seems to introduce something of the theme and direction the remainder of not only this section, but the rest of the letter will be taking. It surrounds the issue being focused on in the letter with a reminder to the recipients of what their faith has in store for them. It seems to have a focus on the “outcome of [their] faith,” being the “salvation of [their] souls.”
In my time on active duty, I found myself counseling young Marines through various difficulties in their lives. When addressing the matter with them, I always found it helpful to focus on the long term, what they had to look forward to “down range.” While the immediate situation would be addressed, I would try to bring them away from the tree they were wrapped around and out of the forest, so to speak. This is often a tactic I take for myself when experiencing some hardship or difficulty in my life. I consider what I am going through from the perspective of the end outcome I am trying to achieve that requires me to go through the difficulty. Many young recruits have to be reminded by their Drill Instructors from time to time of what the outcome of their efforts will be, which was to earn the title of Marine. As a Combat Instructor, I would have to do the same with the young privates going through Infantry training, (ten long weeks of many hikes with lots of weight, hard field training, and little sleep) always reminding them of the fruits of their labor to be earned at graduation.
I can see this being done by Peter here and throughout the letter. There is some important Theology present here as well. The recognition of God as the Father of Jesus, the Lordship of Jesus, the description of being “born again,” and an inheritance reserved in heaven to be revealed in the last time. The type of relationship with God we have is that which we share with Jesus through our faith in Him. This “Father and Son (or daughter)” relationship is used as a model for understanding how we are to relate to God and is used in later sections. The affirmation of Jesus being raised from the dead by God, and how it is through this event that we are born again. There is no other way for us to be born again except through the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is because of this that we have the salvation, that is, we are saved from our fate of an eternal death. This salvation is described as an inheritance that is “imperishable,” and we are assured that we are protected by God in receiving this inheritance in the last time. All of these subjects are covered in one very long sentence that makes up the first half of this sub-section.
The following sentence now comes to address the subject that must have been brought up in some previous letter sent to Peter or the Apostles in general. That is the experience of trials, some form of suffering the congregations are experiencing because of their faith in God. It is made clear in the remainder of the letter that these trials are being experienced due to the actions of those communities within which each congregation is residing. Peter starts by giving an acknowledgment and affirmation of their faith, stating that “In this you greatly rejoice.” It must have been made clear that the people are in high hopes, though they struggle in their experiences. So, we see Peter here giving them some praise for encouragement.
He brings in the mention of these trials in a manner that appears to be making lite of their situation. This too is a counseling strategy for young people who are experiencing some hardship that we have all likely experienced. While at the time, the trial or difficulty seemed unsurmountable, once we get through it, we look back and realize how simple the situation really was. Perhaps this is the approach of Peter here. He is trying to get them to see that these trials are not as terrible as they may seem. He then moves into what is a repeated point throughout the letter.
“…so that the proof of your faith, (being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire)…”
Here he brings in a means to understand the nature of these trials that they are going through. First, he introduces a way to look at these events, a perspective to view them from. That is that these trials are clear proof of their faith. He then compares that faith to gold, calling it more precious than gold. Gold, however, is something that is perishable. It is tested by fire, cleansed by it, refined through such a process. Just as gold comes out of the heat of the furnace more pure, so too does one’s faith when put through trials.
But a believer’s faith is not perishable as gold is. Even when put to the test, one’s faith is made to grow at the outcome. Peter makes it a point here to state “the proof of your faith.” Going through these trials and remaining dedicated to God is an event that demonstrates that the believer does indeed have faith in God. He adds to this a means to help them understand what awaits them after enduring these trials. “…may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Praise, glory, and honor are three terms that hold a unique place in the minds of Romans during this time, things that had more value than gold within that culture. To mention these three things as being achieved through the endurance of their faith at the end times would have a great impact on these believers. It would add a degree of strength to their endurance knowing that they would receive praise, glory, and honor in heaven for having endured the trials they are experiencing.
The final portion of this sentence is an outline in what it is to be Christian. “…and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory…” Even when experiencing hardship and difficulty, it is a true fruit of the spirit within you when you can still lift your head up and give praises to heaven. Peter is giving high praises to these congregations in this statement. Such words coming from a respected apostle, let alone the one seen as the leader of the apostles, would certainly raise the confidence of those hearing this letter read to them! So it should be for us today. Even though we have not seen or witnessed the wonder of Jesus, we still love and believe in him, and we rejoice and celebrate His glory even in the hard times.
Peter closes this sentence, bringing this sub-section to a closing point, by again stating what the outcome is of their faith. The receipt of the “salvation of [their] souls.” This is why I often find myself having to remind believers of a very important truth about the nature of the Christian system of beliefs. The objective is not heaven. Heaven, our salvation, being freed from sin and able to live in eternity with God, is the natural outcome of our faith in Him. It is simply what WILL come, it is not perishable, it does not go away, it is always there, available to all who would place their faith in God and accept that salvation of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The objective of the Biblical Judeo-Christian Worldview is to live in a right relationship with God, seeking to obey Him, and spreading salvation to the rest of humanity so all may come to experience the greatness and glory of God.
As we continue through this study of the first letter of Peter, it is important to keep these themes in mind. There are many sections that follow which expand upon these concepts. Our relationship to God the Father, the salvation that comes through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, and the inevitable outcome of that salvation through faith no matter what happens to us here on earth. This section demonstrates how relevant to our modern times the bible can be. The truths that it teaches are applicable to our daily lives today, just as much as they were back then. We see much in this world that acts against Christianity and our way of life. The scale of this action against us varies from the small to the great. From public belittling and slander to legislation prohibiting our freedom, and in other parts of the world we see acts of violence and murder, all because we seek to bring all to know the truth and experience the glory of God. Peter’s words should always be kept in our hearts. No matter what we face on earth, the outcome of our faith is inevitable. All to the glory of God.