The Holy Spirit from Prophets to Gospel, Stay firm in the Hope
Section 2.2 of 1 Peter (1 Peter 1:10-13)
As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow.
It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look.
Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
The second sub-section of the second section of the First Letter of Peter addresses further the significance of the Gospel message. The sub-section starts out with “As to this salvation…” referring to its mention in the previous sub-section and shows its focus throughout this letter. In the context of the full understanding of the previous sub-section, you can see that Peter is adding to the importance of the message of salvation, and its significance given the recipients situation. He informs them that the prophets “…made careful searches and inquiries…” trying to understand the nature of the message that the Spirit of Christ was telling them. He then connects that same message to the message brought by the Gospel, “…have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you…”
Peter includes in this sub-section something that again, as mentioned in the previous sub-section, any compassionate counselor would do when consoling someone who is concerned. The actions of prophets could, in many ways, appear to be something self-serving. Across the Roman empire, the act of oracles (those to whom questions would be asked to relay to the gods and answers would be given) was often done for a price (Britannica). It is likely that this was something well known culturally, so when Peter included this part, it was likely to address what may have been doubts in their minds about the value of the Hebrew prophets. When Peter makes the point that all that was prophesied was uniquely for them, this likely gave great value to the Gospel message in their mind. Just as I would tell my junior Marines when they were experiencing hardship, all the work of their instructors in boot camp and infantry training was done for them, to make them ready for the fight. So, too, can you see Peter trying to get the recipients to understand just how important and impactful the Gospel is.
To add to the value and importance, and to add a degree of poetry, Peter includes that ever famous phrase, “…things into which angels long to look.” This opening theme is driven home in this simple statement (in my humble perspective). The Gospel was to be spread so that all may be saved and come to know the glory of God. Though, in this life, we will continue to experience what this world has to offer by means of suffering and trials, there is the knowledge of understanding that all is not for nothing. Through these trials, their faith will grow, if they allow it. If they stay true to the message, if they maintain their faith, then nothing changes for them. So, long as you place your faith in God through Christ, then this salvation is yours no matter what may come. Even in death, a Christian, full of faith, can find peace in the face of it, knowing that it is only death to this life, with the assurance of eternity with God to follow.
I chose to close this sub-section at verse thirteen due to its nature as a conclusion statement. The “therefore” in this verse implies a closing statement for all that had been presented before it. Here, it seems Peter is closing sub-sections one and two by telling the recipients to be prepared for action, “…keep sober in spirit..” and to be ready for the grace “…to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” He is telling these believers that they need to be ready for what is to come, to be prepared to act in some manner. Included is the phrase “sober in spirit,” which is to say keeping one’s self spiritually clean and uninhibited. This implies that there is action that is required to be taken in order to prepare for what is to come for them because of their faith. Keeping themselves sober in their spirit, they can be better aware of what God is working around them, and better aware of His presence with them in their time of need. The way these two statements read almost feels like these were common phrases among believers.
Before ending discussion on this sub-section, it is important to discuss what is meant by “The Spirit of Christ,” that was working within the prophets. There is a great deal that is packed into this statement. We can see that with Peter identifying the spirit in the prophets as Christ’s, and linking it with the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the Gospel, He is relating the two together. This demonstrates that the Apostles likely had an understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity that pre-dates any of the early church fathers and their defining of that doctrine. We see something of a reinforcement of John’s introduction in John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Peter is making the point that Christ was with the prophets back then, came into the world, and then ascended back into heaven sending the Holy Spirit to continue His work. I find John Gill’s explanation insightful:
“or ‘make manifest’: from whence it appears, that Christ then existed, as he did before there were any prophets, and even from everlasting, being the eternal God; and that the Spirit is from him, as well as from the Father; and as here, so he is often by the Jews called, ‘the Spirit of the Messiah’, or ‘Christ’; and that the Spirit is truly God, since he could declare beforehand the exact time of Christ’s coming, and the finality of the age in which he came, as well as bear a previous testimony to his sufferings and glory; as also, that he was in the prophets, and they were inspired by him, and spake as he moved and directed them:” (Gill, John).
In our lives, we will experience much hardship. It is a shame that in the modern age we can expect such hardship simply because we are Christian. We are not alone in this, of course, but we can certainly relate to the recipients of this letter. Peter’s words of comfort and remembrance ring true in our hearts now as they did back then. We have our salvation if we do indeed keep our faith in God through Christ. Nothing can take that from us. Even though we must endure in this world a variety of problems and trials, none of that changes what is to come at the return of Christ, or our natural death, whichever comes first. We must keep our hope in that, and live our lives to the fullest in spite of these hardships.
What person, knowing the glory of God that is to come to them, could allow any earthly hardship to remove the joy that the Lord places in their heart? Though it may beat us down emotionally, that joy He gives us is not an emotion. It is a state of our internal existence. I experienced pain while hiking 20 miles with a hundred pounds of gear on my back, but I still enjoyed the experience none the less. How much more so do I keep the true joy in my heart, even when being beat down by the worries and trials of this world. I pray that you also have that joy in your heart, and that it will continue to carry you through this life on to the next.
Encyclopedia Britannica (2017). Sibyl. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/topic/Sibyl-Greek-legendary-figure July 27, 2017. (This is but one example of many prophets of Rome and Greece who required payment for their divinations. There are mentions of like behavior among the false prophets in Micah).
Gill, John. John Gill’s Exposition of The Bible. Biblestudytools.com. Retrieved from http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/gills-exposition-of-the-bible/1-peter-1-11.html July 27, 2017