September 29, 2019
Most of us are somewhat familiar with the book of Job. Possibly the first book written in the Bible, it tells the story of a righteous man who was attacked by Satan, simply because he was righteous. One day, Satan accused God of buying Job’s devotion – the only reason Job lives for You is because You’re so good to him – You’re paying him off, buying his worship. Take away all the good stuff, and he’ll curse You.
Don’t miss, the accusation was actually against God. So God said, do whatever you want, only preserve His life. So, first Job lost all he had – his family – children and grandchildren, his wealth, all that he owned. Then, he lost his health and his reputation. You see, his friends began to accuse him – it’s obvious the reason you’re suffering is because of some sin in your life. Repent, and everything will be okay. His friends held the widely-accepted view called the Retributive Principle – do good, and God will bless you. Do evil, and you’ll pay for it. Is that true? Maybe.
While a sinner, Job knew he had done nothing so egregious as to earn this kind of suffering. And so began the very long book of his friends’ accusations against him, and Job’s responses. This so-called Retributive Principle is widely held even today – if I’m good, good things will come my way. If I’m not, if I’m bad, bad things will come. You reap what you sow. And so, we love God, seek to love others, serve Him faithfully…and along comes suffering. So maybe, just maybe, we’ll find in our study of I Peter, suffering comes not because we’ve done something wrong – but maybe because we’ve done something right.
But, back to Job for a moment. Did he curse God? No. Even though encouraged by his wife – curse God and die, you miserable man – Job remained faithful. Oh, to be sure, not perfect, but faithful. In fact, we read these kinds of things from him:
1:20-21 – Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and fell to the ground and worshiped. He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
2:10 – (in response to his wife) “Shall we indeed accept good things from God and not accept adversity?”
13:15 – “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.”
Job’s attitude – again, though not perfect – is one we should pursue in the midst of suffering and trial and pain and sorrow. Though I suffer, blessed be the name of the Lord, I will accept all things as from His good hand, and I will hope in Him. This is Peter’s attitude as he writes this letter to suffering believers.
We learned last week this letter was written by the Apostle Peter to believers in five Roman provinces in Asia Minor – modern-day Turkey. These were struggling believers – suffering for their faith. Peter started by reminding them who they were – chosen by God the Father, sanctified by the Spirit, and sprinkled by the blood of Jesus Christ. In other words, the entire Trinity was involved in their salvation. So despite the suffering, which we’ll find has a purpose, God has been intimately active in their lives. There is actually much for which to be thankful.
And so, Peter launches into this first major section of the book, much like Job, blessing God despite challenges. And perhaps, we need to reorient our thinking. Let’s be honest, we praise God much more quickly when things are going our way. My job’s going great, my boss likes me, the kids are agreeable, I’m getting along with my spouse. But what about when things aren’t? What about when we struggle – especially because we name the name of Christ? My spouse doesn’t like me much, because of my faith – I Peter 3. My boss mistreats me because of Jesus – I Peter 2. What then? Perhaps if we started with praise – remembering all God has done for us – while the circumstances may not change – our attitudes, our hearts will.
I’m reminded of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. It’s one of Paul’s so-called Prison Epistles – his letters written while he was in prison in Rome for his faith. Interestingly, the theme of the letter is joy – finding joy in the midst of difficult circumstances when we remember all God has done for us. He’s facing possible execution/martyrdom (which he eventually experiences), and he writes these incredible words:
1:21, 23 – For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain….I am hard-pressed from both directions (living or dying), having a desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better.
That would be something, wouldn’t it? In the midst of all this pain, all this sorrow, all this loss, all this suffering – at the end of it all, I get Christ.
1:29 – (a few verses later) For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.
4:4 – Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!
4:11 – (at the end of the letter) I have learned to content in whatever circumstances I am.
Really? I can find joyful contentment no matter my circumstances? You bet. And how did he begin his letter – how can he have this kind of attitude?
1:2-6 – Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
That is good news – and what a great way to start a letter, from prison. So also, Peter, writing to suffering believers, breaks out into praise. In this first section of the letter, he reminds them of this great salvation they have. Actually, having identified himself as the writer, the readers in Asia Minor, and reminding them of who they are – chosen by God, he breaks into a single sentence of praise that extends from verse 3 all the way through verse 12. They weren’t so much concerned about run-on sentences as we are. But the point is, Peter is so overcome with praising God, he can’t help himself. Let’s read that one sentence, remembering to whom he’s writing – suffering, struggling believers. I Peter 1:3-12.
It is no wonder Martin Luther described this book as “one of the noblest books in the New Testament” and a “paragon of excellence” on par with Romans and John. Luther believed it contained all that is necessary for a believer to know. This begins the first major section of the book. I’ll put an outline of the book on the screen for you:
- Salutation (1:1-2)
- Salvation to Be Revealed (1:3-2:10)
- Salvation in Society (2:11-4:11) – that is, how our salvation effects our relationships.
- Salvation and Suffering (4:12-5:11)
- Closing (5:12-14)
So, this sentence begins the first section, and it is a reminder of the greatness of our salvation. Centered, by the way, on the work of Jesus Christ. The sentence itself can be broken into three parts:
- Praise for Salvation (3-5) – which is what we’ll look at today.
- Suffering in Salvation (6-9)
- Prophecy of Salvation (10-12)
Peter starts with, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This would have been quite familiar to many of his readers – especially Jewish readers. The Jewish day began with a prayer called the Eighteen Benedictions – each starting with Blessed be God or Blessed be You, O Lord. Peter adds the Christian context to that phrase – blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Again, Jesus is central – His name is mentioned four times in the first three verses – seven times in the first twelve verses.
Now, when we think of the word blessed, we normally think of giving or receiving something – you blessed us with your gift; we were so blessed to receive that; let’s bless them by giving them something. Further, the OT and the book of Hebrews make clear, biblically speaking, blessing comes from the greater to the lesser. The lesser is blessed by the greater. And so we see all over that God blesses His people.
But here, Peter says, blessed be God. How can that be? How can we bless God? That used to bug me – when I’d hear pastors, for example, say let’s bless God with an applause. I was always like, we can’t bless God. And then came that popular Matt Redman song, Bless the Lord, O My Soul. What do we do with that? The truth is, blessing carries two different ideas. That of blessing another by giving – and the greater blesses the lesser. But the word also means, to give praise. In fact, that’s why the NIV has it, Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The word is literally eulogatos, from which we get our word eulogy, which literally means good words. So to praise God is to give Him, good words of which He is infinitely worthy. Notice Peter says, blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Usually, in the OT, one just said, Blessed be God. But Peter adds to that – to the God and Father of Jesus. Yes, there is a sense in which God is the Father of all in that He is the Creator of all. Yes, it is true the He is also our Father – Father to those who become His children through the work of Christ. So in that sense, it is not true that we are all children of God – only those born into His family, as we’ll talk about in a moment.
But there is the most special sense in which God is the Father of the Son. This is an eternal relationship – the Father eternally begetting the Son from eternity past to eternity future. We remember the times – like at His baptism and at His Transfiguration, that God said from heaven, This – the implication is, this and this only is My beloved Son. We also remember that the Jews wanted to kill Jesus for calling God His Father – not our Father, which was more normal – His (singular) Father, making Him one with the Father. That’s true.
It is through that relationship that God is Triune – begetting the Son, and the Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son. It is through that relationship God is totally self-existent, self-sufficient and self-dependent – He has all He needs met through that relationship. In other words, God did not create us out of a sense of need – He did so out of a sense of love – to share His eternal glory and relationship with us. So that we could glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
Notice also, He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is ours, and we are His. And Peter uses three names or titles to refer to the second person of the Trinity. Lord speaks of His sovereignty and right to rule. Jesus speaks of Him as Savior, since that’s what Jesus means. Christ speaks of Him being the anointed one of God, the Messiah, the Christ. He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
So for what does Peter, and we, praise God? God brought the new birth that results in three things:
- A Living Hope
- An Eternal Inheritance
- A (Promised, guaranteed) Future Salvation
Look at each of those. First in verse 3, Blessed be God who, according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again. We’ll stop right there for now. It was because of God’s mercy that He did something about our miserable condition. Ephesians 2 makes this abundantly clear:
1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,
2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.
3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
It was God’s mercy toward us that caused us to be born again – what Paul calls being made alive. We were dead in sin – nothing we could do about our condition. And God by His Spirit made us alive in Christ. And it’s a good thing – you see, mercy is not getting what we rightly deserve. Grace is getting what we don’t deserve, but mercy is not getting what we do deserve because of our sin. And what was that? God’s wrath. But God caused us to be born again, made alive. Paul calls it the washing of regeneration in Titus – that’s what it means to be born again – we are regenerated by the Spirit – brought from death to life. In fact, look at Titus 3:5
5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,
I love it when well-intentioned people say, be born again. Bring yourself to life from death. You can’t do that. It takes the regenerating work of the Spirit of God to make dead people alive – and He did that for us. That’s a good reason to bless or praise God.
Notice, we were born again, first, to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Again, you should notice Peter mentions Jesus several times in these first few verses – because the Christian faith is saturated with Jesus.
We are born again, made alive to a living hope. You have to understand, the Bible uses the word hope in a different way than we do. When we hope, we are hoping that something uncertain may come to pass. I hope I pass the test, I hope I get the job, I hope she likes me back. May, may not. But the Bible uses the word hope of the certainty of something coming to pass. Ours is a certain hope. And it is a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Don’t miss the intentional connection. Our is a living hope because Jesus, who was dead, was Himself resurrected to give us certain, future hope. And because He was raised from the dead, we can be sure that we will too, one day, be raised. Faith is being sure of things hope for, the conviction of things not seen. It’s our living hope.
It is so certain, Jesus could say to Mary at the resurrection of Lazarus, “I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” That is, experience eternal death. Because we have a living hope.
Second, God caused us to be born again to give us an eternal inheritance. By the way, an inheritance is not something earned – it is given. It is not based on performance, it is based on relationship. And you only receive when you die. Our inheritance is eternal life in a country of our own – a city whose architect and builder is God, in which we will live forever. Now, I call it eternal because of what Peter says about it in the phrases that follow. Notice, this is:
- Imperishable – which speaks of its indestructibility and incorruption – it will not rot or decay.
- Undefiled – which means it will never lose its luster or beauty, its purity. In other words, heaven and eternal life will never grow old.
- Third, it will never fade away – it is eternal and will never wither – it will last forever.
While similar, these words are not synonyms. Peter is pressing home the point that our inheritance is of eternal, beautiful, incorruptible, glorious value. He goes on to say it is reserved in heaven. Lay up treasures in heaven, Jesus said. Why? Because nothing corrupts or destroys there. It’s better than Fort Knox, or any safe deposit box, bomb shelter or nuclear silo you might have. Do you think that was important to these suffering believers? They can take your land, they can take your stuff, they can take your reputation, they can even take your life – but they cannot touch your sure inheritance.
Third and finally, verse 5, God has promised a future salvation yet to be revealed. It’s guaranteed, because it’s protected by the power of God through faith. That’s kind of interesting – God’s work is to preserve and protect us by His unlimited, omnipotent power – ours is simply to continue to exercise faith. The faith that is bringing the suffering is the faith that will see us through the suffering.
So while we have yet to receive the fullness of our salvation, it is sure. Now, we should note, the Bible speaks of salvation in past, present and future ways. That is, we have been saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved. Sometimes, this is called justification, sanctification, and glorification.
We have been saved, justified – our sins have been removed and we have received the righteousness of Christ.
We are being saved, sanctified. Throughout our lives, through the ongoing work of the Spirit, we are becoming more holy, more and more like Jesus.
And we will be saved, glorified, when we will receive salvation in its fullness. We don’t have it fully now – we have it in part. It’s the already-not yet part of the faith. But this future aspect is what Peter talks about. He holds it out as our living hope. We can remain faithful, we can bless or praise God in the midst of suffering because He who promised is faithful. Our future salvation is a sure thing. So, shall we not accept blessing, as well as adversity? Naked we came, and naked we will return. Our salvation is ready – waiting to be revealed in the last time, we will receive it when Christ returns.
Which brings me back to Job and that thing called the Retributive Principle – do good, get good. Do evil, get evil. You sow what you reap. Is that true – is that a biblical principle? Yes it is. It started in the Garden – the day you eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is the day you die – spiritually, and ultimately physically and eternally. And so, here’s the problem – we are all born evil. Dead in trespasses and sins. And so we deserve evil – bad things. The principle in action.
But, the good news is, in mercy, God loved us and sent His Son to take our place. To bear our sins in His perfect, sinless body and life on the cross. Jesus had no sin, no pollution, no guilt. He took ours. And so the Retributive Principle is in play. But, because of God’s great love for us, He had pity on us – according to His great mercy, He poured out His wrath, what we deserved, on His Son. Justice was met. It’s called the substitutionary atonement – He died in our place.
And by simple faith in Jesus Christ, you can be saved – justified – have sins removed. You can, with us, make Jesus your Lord Jesus Christ. And by being born again by the Spirit, you will receive a living hope in the midst of a broken, miserable world. You will receive an eternal inheritance, and a future, certain salvation.
If God is calling you to Himself – to believe in His Son by faith – to confess your sins and acknowledge Him as Lord of your life, I want to encourage you to respond.