Last time that we were together in 1 Peter, we looked at the introduction in verses 1-2. Peter wrote to Christians who were enduring severe persecution under the heavy hand of Nero and had been scattered across the ancient world. We considered the significance of Peter’s opening words to them. He calls them strangers (or “exiles”) and elect. To put those words together, Peter characterizes God’s people as elect exiles.
We emphasized that our election is according to foreknowledge; God does not indiscriminately choose random people to be saved and others to be damned. God’s elect people are those who are in Christ by faith; on the basis of his foreknowledge of who will believe and who will reject his son, he sets apart a people for himself. This is the comfort of exiles: we are God’s elect people, “sanctified” or set apart for his own pleasure, by the Spirit, to obey and be cleansed by Jesus’s blood.
We turned to Romans 8 and read verse 29: “whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son.” In both passages, foreknowledge precedes predestination or election. This evening, we’ll consider 1 Peter 1:3-9 and return to Romans 8 as a parallel passage.
Mighty to Keep
Let’s start with 1 Peter 1:3-9:
3 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, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 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. 8 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, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Peter, who began his letter by calling to remembrance the foreknowledge and election of God the Father, launches into a 53-word sentence blessing God the Father for saving us (v.3, causing us to be born again), keeping us (v.5, keeping us by his power), sanctifying us (v.7, perfecting our faith through trials), and bringing about our final salvation (v.9, the end of our faith). B. E. Warren wrote, “Mighty to save, and mighty to keep, Grace like the ocean, boundless and deep.” That’s our God.
Peter, writing to elect exiles, has this great word of encouragement: If you are God’s elect people, everything that happens to you—the heaviness you experience through manifold temptations (v.6) and the fiery trial you endure (v.7)—is part of God’s big plan to bring about your final salvation. God has taken personal responsibility for bringing his people all the way through to heaven, and whatever they face is part of his plan for producing their Christlikeness and securing their glorification.
If you are God’s elect people, everything that happens to you is part of God’s big plan to bring about your final salvation.
Now with that in mind, let’s read Romans 8, starting at verse 28, a very familiar verse:
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Paul’s point and Peter’s point is the same point. And it’s a glorious one.
- Paul speaks of foreknowledge; Peter speaks of foreknowledge.
- Paul moves to predestination; Peter moves to election.
- Paul writes of justification; Peter writes of new birth. (Two sides of redemption)
- Paul writes about our Christlikeness; Peter writes about the perfecting of our faith. (Two dimensions of our sanctification)
- Paul ends with glorification; Peter ends with final salvation.
Both Paul and Peter have the same basic goal in mind: to remind Christians of the big thing they need to remember when they are enduring fiery trials and manifold temptations (to use Peter’s words) or tribulation and distress and persecution and peril (to use a few of Paul’s words). The big thing is that God is the author of our salvation, and if we simply abide in him, he’s going to finish our salvation. Every believer is moving towards final salvation because God is taking them there.
God is the author of our salvation; if we simply abide in him, he will finish our salvation.
It’s as though Paul is saying, “God knew you before you were born, and called you out, and saved you. Don’t you think he’s going to see this thing through? Do you really think that people and persecution and problems in this world can stop him? Don’t you realize how much he loves you? He gave you his son.”
If God gave his son to bring about our salvation, he will give us the grace to make it all the way through. If someone was willing to give you ten million dollars, do you think he would be willing to give you a pair of Hanes socks from Walmart? Of course he would. If the blood of Jesus has been applied to your heart, God is going to freely give you all things necessary for your perseverance in the faith.
Circumstances — No Match for Our God
The elect people of God will conquer. There is no stopping them. The gates of hell cannot prevail against the church. The forces of Satan cannot sever them from God’s glorious, self-sacrificing love in Christ Jesus our Lord. In fact, God is wise enough, and big enough, and powerful enough to use the people, persecution, and problems of life as tools to accomplish his purpose. That’s what God means when he says, “all things work together for good.” Nero persecutes the church and he thinks he’s thwarting the plan of God, but he’s actually advancing it. Whatever Nero does is of no consequence in the big picture; God can use anything to accomplish his plan for his people.
The book of Acts is a great example of this. The central message of the book is the spread of the gospel to the ends of the earth. It is all about the Great Commission going forward. And things are going great until chapter 8. Then we are introduced to big bad Saul. We read, “Saul…made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.” Uh oh! Is God’s plan going to be thwarted? Next verse: “Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.” Great job Saul! You just sent out more missionaries in one week than most churches send out in one generation. Philip takes the gospel to Samaria, and by the next chapter, Saul is on his knees calling Jesus “Lord.”
From our perspective, the fiery trials and the manifold temptations come and we think, “Things are really bad. I can’t do this.” And that’s when we need to stop and remember, God’s purpose for us will be accomplished, as long as we abide in his Son by faith; as long as we are part of his elect people, our future is secure. Our inheritance is reserved in heaven (v.4). God has a better layaway plan that Sears or Target. I’ve been to the local antique store and tried to buy some treasures, but they wouldn’t sell them to me because the tag said: “SOLD.” The buyer hadn’t picked up the goods yet, but it was as good as theirs. And that’s how it is with God’s people. As long as we keep walking by faith, heaven is as good as ours.
1 Peter 1 is packed with anticipation about this final salvation. Amidst trials and tests, there is great rejoicing and excitement over what is to come. Verse 4: “reserved in heaven for you.” Verse 5: “ready to be revealed in the last time.” Verse 6: we’re just here “for a season.” Verse 7: “the appearing of Jesus Christ”—it’s coming! If we understand what God is saying, we will do what Peter said, “rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” And if we aren’t doing that, it’s because we are so much like the disciples of Jesus: “slow of heart to believe.” Faith is our greatest need.
Faith, Faith, Faith
We’re going to close with three observations about the faith of exiles by considering three key phrases that advance Peter’s letter in verses 5, 7, and 9: “kept…through faith”; “the trial of your faith”; “the end of your faith.” Of course, we are saved by faith in the first place, although Peter doesn’t say that in these verses. He does go in in verses 21-23 to say that we “believe in God” and are “born again…by the word of God.” But his main focus is how Christians come to experience final salvation: “kept…through faith”; “the trial of your faith”; “the end of your faith.”
First, final salvation is for those who persevere in faith. But that’s not all that Peter says in verse 5: we are “kept by the power of God through faith.” So, what keeps us? The power of God or faith? Do we do the keeping or does God do the keeping? God does. But he does it through faith. We have to cooperate with the grace that he provides. This is the same paradox that we observe in Jude; he writes, “But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.” So, I have to keep myself, right? It seems like Peter would agree with that. We’re kept through faith—our belief, trust, confidence in God. But then Jude turns around and prays, “to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy….” (v.24). God keeps us. He’s able. That’s what Peter says, too—we’re kept by the power of God.
God supplies everything that we need, but we must cooperate and pray for grace. We are in a war, and until our salvation appears, we must fight the good fight of faith: “Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” The Israelites in the wilderness were part of God’s elect people and in the end many of them were not saved. Our security lies in being part of God’s elect people; but it is possible to make a shipwreck of our faith and become alienated from that people. That’s why Paul said, “I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” God supplies the desire and the power to do his will, through his Spirit; but we must also walk in the Spirit by faith, and cooperate with him at each step of the journey.
God supplies all that we need to persevere, but we must cooperate with his grace.
Second, final salvation is for those whose faith is tested and proven. Peter says verse 5 that the trial of our faith is not a bad thing. He says, “ more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire.” It’s precious because through trials our faith is shown to be genuine, giving us confidence before God at his appearing, and refining our character so that we are ready to meet him. We would prefer salvation without trials, but God has ordained salvation through trials.
Finally, final salvation is for those who look to Jesus by faith. Peter says that those who are finally saved are those who do not see Jesus, but love him; believe in him; and rejoice in him. We persevere by looking to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.
To reiterate the big point: God is the author of our salvation, and if we simply abide in him, he’s going to finish our salvation. Every believer is moving towards final salvation because God is taking them there. But we must abide. And we abide by faith: keeping faith; true faith; Christ-centered faith.
Hope yet in God. Our inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, secured by our risen Lord, is reserved for us in heaven.