The Salvation of the Church (Sermon)
1 Peter 1:1-12
Any time you read a book of the Bible it is important to know a little about the context in which that book was written. This letter was circulated through the churches in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) around AD 62–63 (30 years after the cross and resurrection of Christ, and 1,950 years ago).
Peter encourages his readers to endure suffering and persecution by giving themselves entirely to God. This was a church that encountered trouble from the society and culture she found herself in. Those who persevere in faith while suffering persecution should be full of hope. They will one day fully experience the salvation promised to them.
For us today: There is a real sense in which we are just passing through this world as foreigners. We are called to stand out among our society; we are not called to withdraw from society. We understand that our faith will bring us into conflict with the values and priorities of the society in which we live. Eternal perspective is important – it determines how we respond and live in present situations. Our eternal salvation determines how we respond in present situations. Today, as in Peter’s time, there are troubles rising against the church. Never was it more important to understand how the church relates to the world.
1. God Has Saved You (1:1-2)
(1:1-2) Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 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.
At first glance, this seems to be a customary greeting for a New Testament letter. However, there is beautiful theological depth in every sentence of these first two verses. Peter categorizes the recipients of this letter as God’s chosen people, spiritual exiles who are scattered throughout the world.But notice that Peter starts this letter be immediately celebrating the work of God in their salvation. They are elect exiles according to God’s foreknowledge. These words have wrapped in them the affectionate action of God to bring people to himself. As God’s people God’s has shown his favor and affection towards us in salvation. To a church facing struggles and persecution, this greeting is a powerful reminder of reassurance. What a greeting!
Let’s talk about greetings – and in particular, let’s talk about greeting cards. The American greeting card industry is an interesting phenomenon. How many of us have stood in the greeting card aisle and spent 20 minutes trying to find the card that has the right words to say? I’ve struggled with this…I’ve found that greeting cards either: Don’t say the right things. Even if they say the right things, they are just too sappy. So, we hand write – amend, correct – what we think the card should actually say.
On a recent anniversary along with flowers I gave Laura a card, and spent some time writing an affectionate personal note in the card. As soon as Laura opened it, she started laughing. At that point I didn’t know how to respond. What is so funny? She reached in her night stand and pulled out the exact same card and said, you gave me this same card last year! Well, there is not too many good choices when it comes to greeting cards. We want the right words – the appropriate words – to say when greeting someone. More importantly, they have to be true – and fit the situation.
Peter starts this letter to a struggling and persecuted church with the exact words – exact truth – they need to be reminded of. Even though you are struggling, and will be persecuted, you are God’s people according to His foreknowledge. This struggle does not take Him by surprise. Moreover, He has sanctified us according to His Spirit.
In other words, God not only calls us out, but sanctifies us – that is separates us out for His purposes. We are set apart by the Spirit – namely, for obedience to Jesus Christ. Obedience to Jesus Christ no matter what circumstance we find ourselves in. This is done though the sprinkling of Jesus Christ’s blood – this is a sign of the covenant He has made with us by His blood.
Believers are called to respond to the gospel, and be obedient in light of the God’s call. This is why God has called us out as elect exiles. Christians who are troubled by their circumstances might be tempted to doubt God’s love and care. In the midst of an uncertain and hostile world – we can rest in the certainty of the love of a sovereign God. Don’t ever lose the wonder of your salvation.
The work of salvation is a miraculous work of our Trinitarian God. The Father foreknows. The Spirit sanctifies. The Son cleanses. This is the ultimate foundation for the hope and encouragement we have. God took the initiative, God has saved you!
These are the exact words we need to hear. They are mere sentiment. They are not too sappy. They are rock solid truth that will hold you steady when everything else seems to be falling apart.
It is no wonder that Peter then says (v.2), “Grace and peace be multiplied” to us. Grace is God’s favor. Peace is God’s blessing. What a greeting! Do not worry about the uncertainty of your circumstances, but rest in the certainty that God has saved you. And if that is not enough, realize that beyond here and now:
2. God Will Save You (1:3-5)
(1:3-5) 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, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Be thankful to God – according to His great mercy you have been born again! No child in their right mind takes credit for being born. All the mom’s say – amen! (They have no idea what you went through to bring them into this world). No one takes credit for being born. Birth is something that just happens to us. Notice what Peter says, we are given birth to two things – hope and inheritance. Born to a living hope, namely a future resurrection. Our hope is tied to resurrection, again, a work of God.
Jesus is our hope: Our hope past: Jesus rose. Our hope present: Jesus lives. Our hope future: Jesus is coming again. All of our hope is tied to the work of God through Jesus Christ. Believers have an unshakable hope for the future, for Christ’s resurrection is a pledge of their own future resurrection. So, whatever happens to them in this life is trivial compared to the blessing awaiting them.
When you leave this service you will likely head to eat – either home or a local restaurant. You will get in your car and drive. Your car has a windshield. On that windshield is probably smudges, cracks, dust, and even bird droppings. When you are headed 45 MPH down Ten Ten Road, my hope is that you are not looking at your windshield. “That crack is only going to get worse. Look at how its already expanding.” “Why is the smudge there? Who did that?” “I am so tired of the dust and pollen.” “Of all the cars in the parking lot – why was there a big target on mine for those birds.” Hopefully, you are not barreling down the road looking at your windshield. Hopefully, you are looking through the windshield. Sure those cracks and droppings are there, but your eyes on the road – your mind is on the destination.
The same is true of the Christian life. Sure, the sufferings and struggles of this life will need attention, but don’t become so focused on them that everything around you here and now loses focus.
In some ways, look through them to see the what lies ahead. The only way you have this mentality is if you have a proper understanding that you are an alien in this world – a temporary resident. This is great incentive for those suffering. The temporary river of tears will not last long, they are feeding into an eternal ocean of reward.
There are times in this life when you and I will experience pain and suffering, maybe even persecution. Some of you are experiencing it right now. But we have to remember, that to be heavenly minded will allow us to be of earthly good. The world watches – they watch to see where our hope is. If our hope is in the things of this world – when we lose them we will either fall into despair or into become bitter. But do you now what will blow people away? When we grieve loss, we do so as those with hope. In this passage, this hope is described as an inheritance in the life to come. Just as Israel was sustained in the wilderness by the hope of the Promised Land. We are sustained in this life of what is to come. And let me tell you - our hope is not simply a land, or a city, or even a new earth. It is Him – God.
Last week I said that whatever else heaven may hold, God is our true eternal reward. So, our final inheritance is not merely kept by God; it is actually God himself. An imperishable, undefiled, unfading inheritance that will not fade, extinguish, or tarnish. And the good news is, God will protect us through his power by sustaining our faith to the end. The same power that keeps your inheritance – keeps you for your inheritance. Our inheritance is not only kept for us, we are kept for our inheritance. God’s power does not shield believers from trials or sufferings, but it does protect us from falling away and unbelief.
We cannot in earnest haste to reach eternity, ignore the world we are passing through. Peter does not call Christians to flee from the world. Or does he write to isolated Pilgrims wandering in a lonely dessert. While we are transients, pilgrims, aliens – we are also ambassadors. As ambassadors we live as citizens of another world in this world. So our hope points beyond ourselves to the one in whom we hope. Have you ever thought about the fact that God could be using you – through your circumstances – to point others to Him?
3. God Will Sustain You (1:6-9)
(1:6-9) In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 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. 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, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
All of us recognize that our future does not make our current circumstances and less real – or less painful. But, recognizing that suffering is relatively brief makes it more bearable. We can rejoice despite suffering because we know that it will not persist forever.Peter is assuring his readers that God is working – has a plan – even in the midst of their anguish.
This is where we get back to God’s plan even in our pain. Sometimes suffering tests the genuineness of faith and helps reveal whether or not that faith is authentic. Just as gold is refined and proved through fire – the fire of our suffering can burn up all that is not genuine and purify our faith. We are all sifted by the fire of various kinds of trials in this life.
When I was in college my grandfather Jim died. Jim and my grandmother (on my Mom’s side) married when I was two years old. I called my other grandfather Paw Paw. So, naturally, I called Jim – Jim Paw. When Jim Paw died my grandmother moved back to NC to live with my parents. And in that time of grief, I was able to watch my grandmother’s faith refined by fire. All that she had on this earth was gone – even still, she still had Jesus. See, sometimes we do not realize Jesus is all that we need until Jesus is all that we have.
This is refined faith. Faith in the final appearance of Jesus Christ (when your salvation is fully experienced) is the hope that should animate us in this life. Faith is not based on seeing. Seeing will happen later – when Christ returns. For now, the Christian life is marked by faith in what is to come. Our hope is in the future prospect of resurrection and being with Jesus Christ. Not only should this faith endure to the end, this faith should warm our hearts with love and joy. 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, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
The good news of salvation for the church is that: God has saved you (1:1-2). God will save you (1:3-5). God will sustain you (1:6-9). Salvation does not mean that God will remove the struggles or suffering in our life, but He will sustain us through it. Those who persevere in faith while suffering persecution should be full of hope. Because these things are often what God uses to refine our faith we must realize that: Our eternal salvation determines how we respond in present situations.