Learning to thrive in the new life Jesus offers us – 2 Corinthians 5:16-17

Glory, Joy and Suffering – 1 Peter 1:4-9

1 Peter Bible Study Notes, Week 3

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.  This inheritance is kept in the heavens for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.  1 Peter 1:3-9.

Additional Reading: Romans 8:18-39.


Things to think about

Can you imagine what your future inheritance will be like?

How valuable is your faith?  Do you nurture, protect or treasure your faith?

Why does God allow us to go through trials?  What (ideally) should be the outcome of our trials?

What does it mean to have our souls saved?


Our Inheritance – 1 Peter 1:4

Like many ancient letters, Peter follows his greeting with a blessing (verses 3-5).  His blessing touches on profound theology about Jesus’ resurrection (discussed in the last session) and it touches on our eternal inheritance.

Peter reminded his readers several times in his letter that they were merely strangers and foreigners – temporary residents in society (1 Peter 1:1, 17; 2:11).  Peter’s audience may have been from among the Jews who had recently fled from Jerusalem to escape the Roman reprisals following the Jewish revolt against the Romans in 66AD.  So in a sense, they may truly have been foreigners living in the Asian provinces.  However they were also strangers and foreigners in a spiritual sense – citizens of heaven living on earth (Php 3:20-21).

Like Peter’s audience, we too are “spiritual foreigners”.  Sometimes we forget that our limited life on earth is temporary and that we have an eternal inheritance awaiting us.  Most of us spend way too much time and energy worrying about our present existence, despite Jesus’ clear teaching against worry in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:25ff.  Conversely, most of us do not spend enough time focussing on our eternal, heavenly inheritance and the eternal rewards that await those who have been obedient to God.

Our eternal inheritance is beyond our understanding.  Some people imagine that our eternity will be spent as though we are on a permanent holiday, living in luxury resort, engaging in all our favourite pastimes.  I believe, however, that in the future age, we will be assigned responsibilities and tasks.  These responsibilities will be based on our faithfulness and obedience to our God-given tasks and duties, done here on earth, in this present age.   (See Matthew 25:14-30 and Luke 19:11-27)

The New Testament is clear that the inheritance that is waiting for us will be glorious.  Unlike earthly wealth and treasure, our inheritance won’t perish, spoil or fade because it is being securely kept in heaven.  (Matthew 6:19-20 cf 2 Peter 3:7.)  The three words used to describe the incorruptibility of our inheritance in 1 Peter 1:4 all begin with alpha in the Greek: aphtharton kai amianton kai amaranton – a lovely example of alliteration. (My underlines.)

The Old Testament (Hebrew) concept of “inheritance” is of a permanent allotment of land in the Promised Land – Israel.  How does our inheritance compare with the concept of the Promised Land”? (See footnote 1.)

The New Testament concept of “inheritance” is even more exciting.  As believers, and chosen children of God, we are actually joint-heirs with Jesus Christ!  We have a share in Christ’s inheritance.

. . . that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”  So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.  Galatians 4:5b-7 

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.  The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”  The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.  Romans 8:14-17

Our inheritance will be revealed when Jesus returns to earth.  When Jesus returns, our salvation will be completed and we will be transformed into his likeness.[2]  When he returns to earth, all of creation, including our physical bodies will be finally and fully redeemed (Rom 8:22-23; Php 3:20-21; cf 2 Peter 3:13).

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.  And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.  Romans 8:28-30.

Suffering – 1 Peter 1:5-7 [3]

In his letter to the Romans, Paul mentions suffering immediately after mentioning our inheritance (Rom 8:17).  Peter also mentions suffering straight after mentioning our inheritance (1 Pet 1:5).  Suffering is a recurrent theme in the New Testament; a theme that is largely ignored by the modern Evangelical church, and even denied by some Pentecostal churches.  Christians have often lived in cultures and situations that were hostile to their faith and have had to endure suffering and persecution. In some parts of the world, and in some sections of society, many Christians are still suffering brutal persecution for their faith.

Jesus, and the New Testament authors, did not shy away from the topic of suffering.  They spoke openly about the reality of suffering and the potential for persecution.  Paradoxically they associate suffering with joy and glory.  The New Testament authors regarded suffering as a privilege because they saw it as a way of identifying and sharing in Christ’s suffering.  (See Php 3:10)

Suffering has a way of testing and proving our faith, refining it, and making it strong, mature and resilient (1 Pet 1:6-7).  Suffering can be one of the most effective ways to bring about spiritual maturity in Christians.  If we truly want to be followers of Jesus, and if we are serious about becoming more and more like him, we should not shy away from suffering – we should count it a joy (Jas 1:2-4).

It is somewhat reassuring to know that when we suffer, our sufferings are not unique.  Other believers have had similar experiences.  Moreover, I have personally found it amazingly comforting to know that Jesus has experienced the same sufferings that on occasion I (to a much lesser degree) have experienced.  God does not leave us comfortless (2 Cor 1:3-5).

For many Western Christians, who live relatively comfortable lives, the concept of suffering is mostly foreign.  This may well explain why our churches and spiritual life are lackluster.  It is suffering and persecution that brings an utter dependence on God and his Spirit.  Suffering increases and refines our faith, making it like gold (1 Pet 1:6-7).

Molten gold pours from a crucible into a heated mold after refining

Image is of molten gold being poured into a mold after refining.

More precious than Gold – 1 Peter 1:7

Gold is one of man’s most prized substances. Though gold is very durable it still belongs to the present world which is perishing.  Our tested and proven faith is more precious than gold because it is eternal and has eternal value.  Peter wanted the faith of his readers to result in “praise, glory and honour” when Jesus is revealed.  The revelation of Jesus was soon expected and is mentioned several times by Peter.

The Salvation of our Souls – 1 Peter 1:9

By persevering in our faith, despite hardships and persecution, we receive our salvation, the salvation of our souls.  Peter uses the word “salvation” three times in his letter – near the beginning of his letter (1 Pet 1:5; 9-10; 2:2).

Peter is one of the few New Testament authors who states clearly that salvation is the salvation of our souls.  Most contemporary Christians understand Christian salvation to be the salvation of our souls. What is less clear to contemporary Christians is that salvation is a continuing process which culminates on the Day of Christ when Jesus Christ returns to earth and is “revealed”.  This is when Jesus transforms us, making us perfect.  This is when our bodies will be “saved”.[4]   The Christian adage: “We have been saved,  We are being saved,  We will be saved,” is true.  [Please check out this page that lists numerous Scripture verses that indicate that salvation is only complete if we remain faithful to God and continue to abide in him.]

We are saved because of our faith in Jesus.  We believe in him and love him even though we cannot physically see him.  With the end result of our faith in mind, Peter writes that we are filled with inexpressable and glorious joy.  How blessed are we?  We have this complete salvation and a rich inheritance to look forward to!

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.  Ephesians 1:18-19a


Endnotes

[1] God delivered the Israelites from slavery to the Egyptians, led them across the Red Sea, guided them for 40 years in the wilderness before bringing them to the Jordan River which the Israelites crossed in order to enter the Promised Land.  Similarly, God has delivered us from the slavery of sin (cf Egypt), through Jesus’ Blood (cf the Red Sea).  He guides us during our earthly life where we have limited access to his Presence (cf wilderness). When our bodies are transformed, either after we die or when Jesus returns (cf crossing the Jordan River), we receive our heavenly inheritance (cf the Promised Land).

[2] Peter speaks about the continuing aspect of our salvation in 1 Peter 1:9 and 2:2.

[3] This section on suffering is largely taken from Suffering and Standing – Philippians 1:27-30

[4] I am unsure of the chronology (order or timing) of end times events.


< < < Week 1: An Introduction to Peter’s First Letter

< < < Week 2: Peter’s Greeting – 1 Peter 1:1-3

> > > Week 4: Hope and Holiness – 1 Peter 1:10-16


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Posted May 14th, 2011 . Categories/Tags: 1 Peter, Bible Study Notes, , , , , , , ,

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5 comments on “Glory, Joy and Suffering – 1 Peter 1:4-9

  1. Joy says:

    […] Peter speaks of rejoicing even though presently we may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials (1 Pe 1:6-9). [More on Glory, Joy and Suffering in 1 Peter here.] […]

  2. There are some commands for believers in the New Testament that are straight forward and unavoidable. To pray is one of them.

  3. […] Glory, Joy and Suffering – 1 Peter 1:4-9 […]

  4. […] Glory, Joy and Suffering – 1 Peter 1:4-9 […]

  5. Rewards says:

    […] I recommend reading Matthew’s gospel and highlighting every instance where rewards and wages are mentioned.  More about our inheritance here. […]

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