Introduction and General Encouragement
1 Peter 1:1-12
1 Peter 1:1-12
1 Peter 1:1-12. In the first chapter of the epistle, Peter seeks to encourage the Jewish believers in their heavenly calling. It isn’t the heavenly calling of the church, but of individual believers. The portion and inheritance of the saints is brought out for their encouragement. Trials and their purpose is touched on. The believer’s salvation and its connection with the sufferings and glories of Christ is expounded.
1 Peter, apostle of Jesus Christ, to the sojourners of the dispersion of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, v.1 Writer and Recipients. Peter introduces himself as an “apostle of Jesus Christ”, bringing in from the start the authority given to him by the risen Christ, with the special focus of feeding the Jewish sheep, hence his ministry is called the “apostleship of the circumcision” (Gal. 2:7). The epistle is addressed to believers of the Jews (1 Pet. 1:18; 2:9-10; 3:6) who had been scattered throughout the Romans provinces of Asia Minor; “the sojourners of the dispersion of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia”. These Jews had originally been dispersed among the Gentiles as a result of Israel’s failure in the Old Testament (John 7:35). This is different than the “scattered” Jews of James, who were professing believers in Christ – including both true and false – scattered by persecution (Acts 8:1). But Peter was not writing to unbelievers.1 These were believing Jews, “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father,” etc. (v.2). They were dispersed by judgment, but “sojourners” by faith.2 Naturally, they were foreigners in Gentile lands having been displaced from the land of Palestine, but in a higher sense they were pilgrims and strangers in the world by faith in Christ.
The regions mentioned are in what is called Asia Minor, which is part of Turkey today. This was a region that Paul had labored in and evangelized. The assemblies in those parts were largely Gentile, but Peter addresses the Jewish element among them. Peter’s ministry does not clash with Paul’s, but rather complements it. Note that the second epistle was written to the same believers (2 Pet. 3:1).
2 elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by sanctification of the Spirit, unto the obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied. v.2 Election, Sanctification, and Sprinkling. Peter addresses the saints according to the full work of a triune God for their salvation. First, they were “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father”. Election is the truth that believers in Christ were elected, or chosen, by God for blessing. “According as he has chosen us in him before the world’s foundation” (Eph. 1:4). Election is the choice of one out of many. God’s sovereign choice was made “before the world’s foundation”, and therefore it has nothing to do with works. Read more… Israel was elected as a nation, but in Christianity we find that we are individually elect. Peter says it was “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father”. Foreknowledge is the advanced knowledge by God of those whom He specially chosen for blessing, and it implies a unique and blessed relationship intended (Rom. 8:29). God chose us according to the Divine foreknowledge by which He anticipated a relationship with us. Read more… Notice that foreknowledge is connected with “God the Father”, because that is our relationship with Him, that wonderful name made known by Jesus in resurrection.
Election took place before we existed, but sanctification took place in time, when we were born again. This “sanctification of the Spirit” is the holy position, as set apart to God from all other men, that a person is given by virtue of the new life they receive when they are quickened by the Spirit (1 Cor. 6:11; 2 Thess. 2:13). This is distinct from practical sanctification, as we have in vv.15-16. Whenever sanctification comes before the soul is under the virtue of Christ’s blood, it refers to the positional sanctification of a holy life. Read more…
If the “sanctification of the Spirit” is the effect of new birth, then “the obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” is the effect of the soul resting on the finished work, at which time the believer is justified and and sealed with the Spirit. The blood of Christ does not come in until the soul obeys the gospel. It is an allusion to sprinkling of blood in Exodus 24, where Moses sprinkled the book and people with blood. It was the binding of the law upon the people with the sentence of death as a consequence of disobedience, but it could never take away sin. The sprinkling of the blood of Jesus is not the threat of death upon us for breaking the law, but instead the cleansing virtue of Christ’s atoning death for us! These three “steps” are given in order: we were selected in a past eternity, sanctified by new birth, and sprinkled when we believed the gospel. How wonderful for these Jewish believers, who had lost so much naturally, had the full action of the Trinity on their behalf.
Peter prayed for “grace” or enabling power, and “peace” or a settled state of soul, to be “multiplied” upon the saints. Grace is the cause or source, and the effect of grace is peace. The first part of the verse has to do with our standing, the second with our state.
The Christian’s Inheritance (1:3-5)
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to his great mercy, has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from among the dead, v.3 New Birth and Living Hope. This is a burst of praise for the Father. He is addressed as “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”. This is a most unusual expression, and remarkably similar to Paul’s in Eph. 1:3. It brings in our relationship to God as the Father, not merely in the sense of creation (Acts 17:29), or even as a Heavenly Guardian (Matt. 6:14), but as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. We share the Son’s place, although it is left for Paul to develop this truth more fully. As Paul, from the same expression, goes on to speak of the blessings that we have in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, Peter goes on to speak about the mighty work of God in new birth. New birth or quickening refers to the sovereign action of God to impart spiritual life to a person where there was none before. Read more… The teaching of new birth actually begins in the Old Testament. Israel nationally is a valley of dry bones (Ezek. 37). Their earthly hopes are dead, for now. One day they will be nationally born again. But now God is doing another thing. Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from among the dead, the elect (v.2) have been given new life – “begotten us again” – according to His great mercy.
This new birth is given in view of a living hope, which rises beyond the horizons of this world. The death of Christ was the end of Israel’s earthly hope, but His resurrection is the beginning of the Christian’s heavenly hope. The living hope for the believer is to be with and like Christ in the resurrected and glorified state. In Ephesians we are seen as risen with Christ and seated in heavenly places in Christ as pictured by Canaan. But in Peter, we stand in the good of Christ’s death and resurrection for us, pictured by the Red Sea, and the scene the Red Sea opens into; i.e. the wilderness.
4 to an incorruptible and undefiled and unfading inheritance, reserved in the heavens for you, 5 who are kept guarded by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. vv.3-5 Our Inheritance in Heaven and Preservation on Earth. These Jewish believers had felt the loss of their earthly inheritance. Peter directs them to another inheritance that is far greater, and cannot be corrupted, faded, or defiled. It is a heavenly inheritance! We do not have this inheritance now, but it is promised to us. The fact that the inheritance is “in the heavens” would raise the hopes of these Jewish believers above the horizons of this world. With a natural inheritance a person might die before they can receive their inheritance. But while our spiritual inheritance is reserved for us, God is meanwhile preserving us for it! It is a moral preservation. This is salvation in the fullest sense, which we will have at the end of the pathway, ready to be revealed when the Lord comes. The salvation that Peter speaks of generally is in that sense; the future salvation that includes not only spirit and soul, but body as well! When Peter means the deliverance from the penalty of sins he distinguishes it as the “salvation of souls” (v.9). We presently have the salvation of our souls, but we are waiting for our final salvation when the Lord comes. Meanwhile, God keeps us by His own divine power, but through the vehicle of faith. He sets before us in His word that which our faith can be occupied with, which leads to us being kept.
Our Inheritance. In wilderness epistles, the inheritance is a spiritual inheritance (“over our heads”), reserved in heaven for us (see Col. 3:24, Phil. 3:12, 1 Pet. 1:4). But in Ephesians we are in Canaan, and already seated in heavenly places, therefore the inheritance is a material inheritance, and is “under our feet”. It refers to the universe; every created thing. This is the wider inheritance that we possess in association with Christ. God has appointed Christ “heir of all things” (Heb. 1:2), and we are “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ,” (Rom. 8:17).
The Trial of Our Faith (1:6-9)
6 Wherein ye exult, for a little while at present, if needed, put to grief by various trials, 7 that the proving of your faith, much more precious than of gold which perishes, though it be proved by fire, be found to praise and glory and honour in the revelation of Jesus Christ: vv.6-7 The Trial of Our Faith. The certainty of what lies before us (our inheritance) gives us reason to rejoice even now while we wait. But there is something that God may, “if needed”, send into our lives that results in grief. It is an amazing fact that a Christian can experience grief and joy at the same time! This brings in the subject of trials. Notice, however, that it says “for a little while at present”. The expression “a little while” is full of tender meaning for us, and always has to do with the patience of the saints (John 16:17; Heb. 10:37; 1 Peter 1:6; 5:10). Trials have to do with the wilderness, “at present”. When the kingdom is established, we will have joy with no grief. The trials are only for the present pathway.
Two things in ch.1 are “more precious than gold”; the blood of Christ (v.18), and our faith (v.7). The challenging circumstances that God sends into our lives prove the reality and quality of our faith, and that proving of faith is important to God. Just as a horse trainer places a hurdle in the horse’s track to demonstrate the animal’s abilities, so God gives us trials to demonstrate our faith. Peter uses the metaphor of a refiner’s fire; “more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire”. The heat of the refinery burns away all the impurities, such that the metal left over is highly pure and therefore precious. The fire, while not pleasant, brings forth the qualities of the gold. God uses trials in our lives to do the same thing; to prove our faith, to purge out that which is of man in the flesh, to manifest in purity that which is more precious to Him than any perishable gold. God is seeking to form Christ in us, and trials are used to make us more Christ-like. Whenever we pass through a trial, we can be assured of two things: (1) there is a “needs be” on our part, and (2) there is a purpose of love on God’s part. Not every trial is because of sin in our lives, but generally what we have here is chastening under the Father’s government (Heb. 12:10-11).
When is the final result seen? At “the revelation of Jesus Christ”; i.e. when the Lord comes with His saints and is manifested before the world. Then, when we stand with Christ’s likeness impressed on us, each believer will reflect in a unique way the glories of God. This is what Paul speaks of in reference to the appearing; “When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe in that day.” (2 Thess. 1:10). Our faith which now is despised by the world around us will then “be found to praise and glory and honour”. Of course, the praise and glory and honor all belong to Him. After all, faith is the gift of God (Eph. 2:8). But it is our extreme privilege to be used as vessels that will bring Him glory!
Reasons for Chastening or Discipline. There are a number of reasons for chastening in the believer's life. Chastening does not always come into our lives because of some sin we have committed. It is important to see that. Job and his three friends had a very limited understanding of God's ways, and all fell into error in their thoughts about God relative to Job's suffering. Bruce Anstey has nicely organized these reasons under four English words that begin with 'P'.
- Punitive. To punish the believer when positive sin is committed. The goal is to correct the believer, and if refused, it could lead to one being taken in death (Heb. 12:6; 9-10; 1 Cor. 11:32).
- Purgative. To remove unnecessary hindrances from a believer's life. The goal is to make the believer more fruitful, and more radiant (John 15:1-2; Psa. 139:2-3).3
- Preventative. To keep a believer from doing something he would have otherwise done; to preserve us from spiritual harm (Rom. 8:28; 2 Cor. 4:11; 12:7-9; Job 33:17-19).
- Preparative. To prepare a believer for a new phase of life or field of ministry, such as being a help to others who are suffering (2 Cor. 1:3-6; Heb. 2:17-18).
8 whom, having not seen, ye love; on whom though not now looking, but believing, ye exult with joy unspeakable and filled with the glory, v.8 Christ, the Object of Our Affection and Faith. We are not glorified yet. We are waiting for the revelation of Jesus Christ, but because we have Christ as the object of our affection and our faith, there is a sense in which we are filled with that glory, with that joy, even now while we pass through a scene of trial and suffering. The Greek word for “full of glory” is the same word elsewhere translated glorified. Obviously, the believer in this lifetime is not glorified; not until Christ who is our life appears do we appear with Him in the glorified state. But Peter applies that word to the present enjoyment of that glory. We have never seen our precious Lord Jesus, and yet we love Him. We cannot look at Him, and yet we believe on Him. This is a joy that cannot be understood apart from faith. We have received Christ into our hearts, and He is the source of unspeakable joy for the Christian! What more could we want than Christ? … and we have Him. As we anticipate being in His presence, our joy increases.4
Unspeakable. If something is unspeakable, that means it transcends our power to communicate the fulness of what it is. There are three things that are unspeakable. When we look to the past, we see the the cross, where God gave His only-begotten Son. That is the unspeakable gift (1 Cor. 9:15). When we look to the future, we anticipate being in the Lord’s presence, in the third heaven. Paul was there, and he heard unspeakable things (2 Cor. 12:2). But now, in the present, our hearts are filled with love for our absent Savior. Believing in Him, we rejoice with unspeakable joy (1 Pet. 1:8).
9 receiving the end of your faith, the salvation of your souls. v.9 The Salvation of Our Souls. When we receive Christ into the heart (v.8), we receive salvation. This is the aspect of salvation that we have through Christ as a present possession. It involves forgiveness of sins in the eternal sense, and justification by faith. It even involves the indwelling Spirit of God, and conscious peace with God. A saved soul can rejoice (v.8). Read more…
Our Salvation: The Prophecies of Christ’s Sufferings and Glories (1:10-12)
10 Concerning which salvation prophets, who have prophesied of the grace towards you, sought out and searched out; 11 searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ which was in them pointed out, testifying before of the sufferings which belonged to Christ, and the glories after these. vv.10-11 The Prophecies of Christ’s Sufferings and Glories. The salvation of our souls hinges on the sufferings of Christ (particularly the atoning sufferings, but here they are referred to generally). The sufferings of Christ are the basis for our salvation, and the glories of Christ are our hope as a result. The Old Testament prophets prophesied of this salvation, connecting it with the coming of the Messiah (Gen. 49:18; Isa. 25:9; Isa. 49:6) and with God’s sovereign grace. They wrote by inspiration what they prophesied by “the Spirit of Christ which was in them”. Then, they “sought out and searched out” the timing of those things that concerned Christ; “the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow”. Notice that it is not merely the sufferings which befell Christ, but “sufferings which belonged to Christ”; i.e. those which were assigned to Him, as also the glories to follow. Where did they search? In their own writings! Prophecy as a whole centers around Christ, having to do either with His sufferings or coming glories. Both were future when the prophets testified. The church comes in a parenthesis between the sufferings and the glory. Christ is glorified in heaven now, because the glorified Father would have the Son who glorified Him “straightway” glorified (John 13:33), as Peter himself says (1 Pet. 1:21; 3:22). But in our verse, it is the future glories of Christ that pertain to His Messianic office (Isa. 22:24), those glories which were denied Him by being cut off in death (Dan. 9:26).
One of the hardest things for the Jewish believers to reconcile was the sufferings of Christ with the glories of Christ. They were accustomed to relish those passages that speak of the glories of Messiah, and could not reconcile other passages that speak of His sufferings (e.g. Isa. 50:6; Mic. 5:1). For example, Isaiah 53 speaks of a suffering servant who dies, and then of a glorified servant who reigns. Psalm 22 and Psalm 102 are similar. Clearly, the Spirit of God indicates that it is the same Person, but they couldn’t accept it, and their minds sought for another solution to the difficulty. Most of them simply ignored the passages about the sufferings of Christ. Others invented a false doctrine that separated the two. W. Kelly points out that, “The unbelieving Jews sought to solve the difficulty by the fiction of two Messiahs: one the son of Joseph, of the tribe of Ephraim; the other the son of David, of the tribe of Judah; the first, to contend and suffer death; the second, to conquer and reign gloriously and for ever.”5 Even the Lord’s own disciples, Peter being a prime example, could not accept that Israel’s Messiah would suffer and die (Luke 17:24-25; John 12:32). Upon resurrection, the Lord spoke to the dejected disciples and upbraided their unbelief; “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:25-26). Why was this truth so hard to accept? For one, the glory of Messiah was easily linked with the national glory of Israel, and man’s pride found a suffering Messiah incompatible with national glory. Another reason might be that the concept of the Messiah’s death as a substitute is not desirable to the flesh.
12 To whom it was revealed, that not to themselves but to you they ministered those things, which have now been announced to you by those who have declared to you the glad tidings by the Holy Spirit, sent from heaven, which angels desire to look into. v.12 The Revelation of These Things. Peter explains that prophets, who ministered on the sufferings and glories of Christ, were Divinely shown that they were really speaking to a people that should come after them. They could look into those things with deep interest, but could only go so far because they because they did not have “the Holy Spirit sent from heaven”. The “Spirit of Christ” was in the Old Testament prophets as the means of inspiration, but not as a permanent Dweller. It is the Holy Spirit that gives the believer an understanding of all the things that pertain to Christ. Old Testament saints had life from God, but their intelligence was limited because the Spirit as the Unction or Anointing was not yet given (1 John 2:20). When the Spirit was sent, the apostles and evangelists were given the power and the intelligence to preach the gospel, making known the unsearchable riches of Christ. Those things even now in New Testament time the “angels desire to look into”. No doubt the angels beheld their Master with profound interest as He descended a little lower then they, for the suffering of death. No doubt they are even now full of amazement at the grace (v.10) that has been show to us! Those things are now made known to us for our edification, and they become the theme of our worship and praise. How different the position of Old and New Testament saints! As Hebrews says, God foresaw “some better thing” for us (Heb. 11:40). This would be a tremendous encouragement to the Jewish believers.
- Out of the Jewish people, when the apostle wrote, God is choosing to a heavenly calling by the faith of Him Whom the nation rejected and God has glorified on high. They are His present election while the heavens receive the Lord Jesus. To these only does Peter here write; he does not, like James, address a larger circle, some even unconverted, throughout the twelve tribes. He writes only to Christian confessors of the Lord Jesus who had been Jews. – Kelly, W. The First Epistle of Peter.
- They were not only Jews scattered in those parts, but elect “pilgrims” or “sojourners.” This was a title of grace, as “dispersion” was of judgment. Their election in this case was bound up with the journey to the better country, that is, a heavenly. Originally Jews, they were now Christians. – Kelly, W. The First Epistle of Peter.
- Sometimes the Father prunes the productive branches more than the unproductive because He wants them to produce even more.
- It is this which decides and forms the heart, which fixes it and fills it with joy, however it may be with us in this life. To our hearts it is He who fills all the glory. By grace I shall be glorified, I shall have the glory; but I love Jesus, my heart pants for His presence – desires to see Him. – J.N. Darby. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible.
- The Talmud taught it; the later Targum applied it to Cant. 4:5, Cant. 7:3; and the Rabbins Solomon Jarchi, Aben Ezra, and D. Kimchi popularised it. Now we know that the O. Testament leaves no conceivable opening for two such personages, but lays the utmost stress on their being different states of the same Anointed of Jehovah. – Kelly, W. The First Epistle of Peter.