On Wednesday nights at Southern Calvert Baptist Church, my wife leads a small group Bible study on the Peter’s first epistle. Last night, we covered lesson two which was a chapter study on I Peter 1. In order to get caught up to speed on I Peter 1, I need to give you some context. Peter is writing to believers, people who have chosen to bow to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and follow Him for the rest of their lives. This decision to follow Christ has cost them everything. They are heavily persecuted for their faith, to the point where they are on the run, fleeing to new areas to escape. Peter tells us his reason for writing in I Peter 5:12:
. . . I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it!
These followers of Christ need to be encouraged to stand firm in the true grace of God that they accepted when they chose to become followers of Jesus Christ. How are they to do this in a practical manner? In I Peter 1, the theme of the chapter explains how to do this. Peter gives a command to the believers, that they are to fix their hope completely on the grace of God. This will help them stand firm in the true grace. The question that arises is, “what is the grace of God?” In the context of I Peter, the grace of God is our salvation. Grace is a unmerited gift. Our salvation is definitely unmerited. The true grace of God is our salvation and we are to fix our hope completely on the salvation that God has given to us. Let’s examine Peter’s explanation of what salvation is.
I. God’s part in salvation
Volumes have been written on the subject of salvation. I don’t want to look at those volumes. I want to look at what God teaches on the subject in His Holy Word.
1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure. (I Peter 1)
The first thing that we learn about God’s part in salvation is that He chose. In other words, the believers are chosen. Does this mean that God picks who is saved and who is not saved? Let’s examine the text to see. The Greek word “Eklektos” is the word that is translated to English as “chosen”. The root of this word in Greek is “Eklegomai”. It is composed of two Greek words, “ek” and “lego”. When put together, the idea of chosen means, “to be set apart by a message”. The believers were “chosen” when they “chose” to believe the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God’s part was to send a messenger to the people so that they could hear and choose to believe. God did not hand pick who would believe and who would not. God chose the method of belief, hearing the message of the Gospel found in the Word of God. This lines up with what the Apostle Paul teaches in Romans 10:
17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.
If you would like to read more on the subject of who chooses and what is chosen, read this article. According to verse 1 and 2 of I Peter, once we answer the call of the message of the Gospel, God begins a sanctifying work in us through the Holy Spirit. Sanctify means to be set a part, to be made different. God is the One who sanctifies us, once we have received the message of the Gospel. The next things that God causes to happen, after we believe and before the sanctification process begins, is:
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 23 for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. (I Peter 1)
God causes us to be born again. God made it possible for us to be born again through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The method that God uses to cause us to be born again is His Holy Word. We hear the message of the Gospel of Christ from the Word. We believe the Word of God. We subject ourselves to the authority of the Word of God and God causes us to be born again. We are transformed from the inside out. We become new creations in Christ. That is God’s job. Here is a recap of what God has done to bring about salvation:
- Wrote and Preserved His Holy Word
- Sent Jesus Christ to resurrect to make salvation possible
- Sent His Word out to people so that they could chose to believe
- Upon belief, He causes people to be born again
- After being born again, He begins the work of sanctification through the Holy Spirit
Did God do all of this just to take us to glory one day, so that we could sit around and sing songs of what it will be like in glory? Let’s find out WHY God saved us.
II. God’s Purpose in offering salvation
Peter does not waste any time explaining why God saves us.
2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure. (I Peter 1)
We are saved to live in obedience to Jesus Christ. This is why we are born again. This is why God sent His Son. This is why God preserved His Word. This is why God sent out messengers to take His Word to people. Before being born again, we are not able to obey Christ because our sin nature has us trapped in slavery. Christ resurrected to break sin’s grip and when we are born again, we are able to obey Christ. This is God’s will for every single person’s life. If you have been asking yourself, “what is God’s will for my life” for the past 20 years, congratulations, you just found out His will. He wants you to obey Jesus Christ. It does not stop here. The other side of the train track is actually found in I Peter 2.
9 But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
The other side of the train tracks is to proclaim Christ. People tend to focus on one or the other. Many say, “preach the Gospel, and when necessary, use words.” That sounds super spiritual and profound but, actually, when compared with the Scriptures, it is heresy. Others claim that you can live as you wish, as long as you are preaching the Gospel because the power is in the Gospel and your lifestyle has nothing to do with it. This is also heresy. God’s purpose for saving us is so that we can obey Christ (lifestyle) and proclaim Christ. In the context of I Peter, living the Gospel and preaching the Gospel has brought heavy persecution to the lives of these believers. They are to keep living the Gospel and to keep on preaching the Gospel in the face of persecution and affliction. Why would God move Peter to write to the believers and encourage them to endure persecution? The Greek word that is translated into English as “persecution” is “Dioko” and it means to cause to run away or to flee. It also means to drive away. It is also to harass as with actions or words. The root of this word is actually two other Greek words. The first is “Deilos” and it means to produce fear or to make timid. Persecution is used to produce fear in the believer so that he would be timid and not continue teaching the Gospel to others. The other Greek word is “Diakonos” which is translated into English as “servant”, “server”, or the transliterated word “deacon”. So, persecution means to harass in actions and words to produce fear in order to make servants timid so that they would not serve. Persecution is supposed to stop the spreading of the Gospel. The other word that is used as a synonym for persecution is affliction. It is the Greek word “Thlibo” and has the idea of pressing hard against, like a wine press. Persecution is supposed to be debilitating. It is to cause harm to the messenger since the message cannot be contradicted. God uses persecution to refine us as well as to give more opportunities to preach the Gospel. As Romans 8 teaches us:
29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;
God uses everything to conform us to the image (character) of Jesus Christ. Persecution, something that is supposed to stop the work of the Gospel, is used by God to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ. It is a refining tool in the hand of God. He uses persecution to move us along in our faith so that we can be molded into Chirstlikeness. That is why in Philippians chapter 1, Paul calls persecution, or suffering for the Gospel, a gift from God to us. It is just as much of a gift as salvation is. Have you ever been taught that persecution is a gift from the Lord, just as precious as salvation? Are you willing to believe this?
III. My Responsibility
Our responsibility in the great work of salvation is explained through the commands given by Peter in chapter 1.
6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials,
8 and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,
9 obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.
Salvation is not a one and done deal. According to Peter, salvation is a process. In fact, when studying soteriology (the doctrine of salvation) using systematic theology, you quickly discover that salvation has 3 parts. I have been saved (past tense), I am being saved (present tense), and I will be saved (future tense). As I am being saved (sanctification) I am to rejoice in the face of persecution and suffering. One, because I know that I have already been saved and two, I know that persecution will give me more opportunities to preach the God. Three, I know that I am not suffering in vain because God is using my current suffering to conform my character to the character of Jesus Christ. The next thing that is my responsibility is:
13 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. (I Peter 1)
I need to prepare my mind for action in the midst of my suffering. How do I do that? I do it by studying the Word, living out the Word, and proclaiming the Word to those around me. I have to be sober, knowing the context of my environment so that I can share the Word with those around me. This will help me fix my hope on the grace of God so that I can stand firm in the true grace of God. What does obedience to Christ look like in a practical manner? Peter lays it out for us in this chapter.
- Do not be conformed to your former lusts
- Be holy in all of your behavior
- Demonstrate respect for God by the choices that you make
- Extend the love of God to those around you
Have you experienced the kind of salvation that Peter writes about in his first epistle? Or, have you experienced something else? From this epistle, we discover that there is the true grace of God, which implies that there is another kind of grace that is false (pseudo). Peter equates the grace of God with salvation. Could it be possible that you have experienced a false salvation? Do you obey Christ? Do you proclaim the Gospel? How do you handle persecution and suffering? Is your character being conformed to the character of Jesus Christ? Are you preparing your mind for action by being a diligent student of the Word of God?
May the Lord help us stand firm in the true grace of God!!!