PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

1 Peter 1:3-5

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20080914_1peter_1_3-5.mp3

9/14 1 Peter 1:3-5 praise God for new birth and the guarding of my faith

1: 1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 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.

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.

1:3 euloghtov o yeov kai pathr tou kuriou hmwn ihsou cristou o kata to polu autou eleov anagennhsav hmav eiv elpida zwsan di anastasewv ihsou cristou ek nekrwn 4 eiv klhronomian afyarton kai amianton kai amaranton tethrhmenhn en ouranoiv eiv umav 5 touv en dunamei yeou frouroumenouv dia pistewv eiv swthrian etoimhn apokalufyhnai en kairw escatw

Peter is writing to encourage the suffering saints scattered across Asia Minor to stand firm in the true grace of God.

5:12 …I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.

He points them first to their position as Christians in tension; they are the elected rejected; the chosen outcasts. And he points them to the work of the trinity in securing this position for them. The Father had foreknown them; the Spirit sets them apart; they are destined for obedience to the gospel and washing with Jesus’ blood. He points them to the origin, the experience and the destiny of their elect standing with God.

Next, and flowing out of the trinitarian work of election, he leads the suffering church in worship. This teaches us some things about worship: worship is appropriate even in hard times. Peter’s readers may have read this and responded ‘but we don’t feel like blessing God. Peter, we want you to lobby the government about our situation. Get some good lawyers to change the political landscape. Raise some funds to give us some relief from our difficult circumstances.’ But Peter starts by turning their attention away from their situation and toward God. They need to look up and have God in his awesome majesty consume their entire field of vision before they can look rightly at their own circumstances.

Another thing we learn about worship: worship is substantive. Worship is not merely a feeling or experience. It is that, but it is more. It is a feeling or experience based on and coming out of solid biblical truth. We will see what Peter points to as a foundation for their worship.

This text is a worship text. So I pray that as we study it together and learn what it says, our response is that of worship. I hope that a deep heartfelt sense of gratitude wells up inside each one of us. So after his profoundly deep theological greeting, He starts with the words ‘Blessed be’ or ‘praise be’. The word is ‘ euloghtov eulogetos‘ and it’s where we get our English word ‘eulogy’. When I think of an eulogy, I think of all the nice things someone says that may or may not be true of the person in the casket. Their strong points are exaggerated; their weaknesses are forgotten. They are painted larger than life. But when our eulogy, our praise is directed toward God, we are seeking to express what is true about him, to give him the honor and praise that is his due. That is what worship is – declaring the worth of God, speaking to him and to ourselves and to those within earshot of how truly awesome he really is.

Our worship is directed to God. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are not just addressing any god. Peter specifies – this is the God that Jesus worshiped and prayed to. Jesus connected us with the God who revealed himself in the Old Testament scriptures as YHWH, the self existent creator of all things, who would send his only Son to suffer and die for our sins. This is the God and the Father of Jesus. Jesus described his relationship with God the Father in terms of the relation of a loving father to his son, and he said this was true even before the foundation of the world:

John 17:24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

Jesus is described as ‘our Lord’; our master, our sovereign, our ruler, our king, the one we submit to as our absolute authority. And he is the Christ – the fulfillment of all messianic hope and expectation. Our worship is directed to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

And then the grounds for worship are given. Why are we worshiping? Because of who God is and what he has done. Before he explains the main subject of his praise, Peter gives a descriptive phrase about the character of God: ‘according to his great mercy’. This is the origin of what follows. Just as God’s foreknowledge was the source or origin of our election in verses 1-2, now God’s great mercy is the source of his action toward us. God is a merciful God. So let’s define mercy:

mer·cy \ˈmər-sē\ noun 1 a: compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one’s power; also : lenient or compassionate treatment <begged for mercy> b: imprisonment rather than death imposed as penalty for first-degree murder (taken from m-w.com)

Mercy is forbearance shown to an offender; not giving the guilty party the full punishment that their crime deserves; clemency.

When Moses asked to see God’s glory, God said:

Exodus 33:18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.

Part of God’s glory is his authority and freedom to show mercy to whom he wills. And when God declared his nature and character to Moses, he started with mercy:

Exodus 34:5 The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

The distinction between mercy and grace is that mercy is negative and grace is positive. Mercy is the ‘slow to anger’; grace is the ‘abounding in steadfast love’. God’s mercy is his not giving us the punishment we deserve; grace is giving us blessings we didn’t earn. From our point of view, mercy is not getting what we do deserve; grace is getting what we don’t deserve. And Peter praises God because God has ‘much mercy’. One way to encourage persecuted Christians is to remind them of what they deserve but have been spared of. These Christians might fear the emperor; if they don’t bow and worship him as a god, they might even be put to death. Jesus said:

Matthew 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

We have committed hight treason against the King of kings. We refuse to bend our knee. We think and feel and act as if we were more important than the king. We walk into his presence and expect Him to bow to us and do what we demand! If we contemplate who we are and what our sins deserve, this is grounds for worship! Praise God that he is more than just and righteous! Praise God that he has ‘much mercy’!

Peter tells us here that God’s mercy is the source of our new birth. It is according to the muchness of his mercy that he has caused us to be born again. This is the same metaphor that Jesus used with Nicodemus to describe the work of the Spirit. I want you to think for a moment about being born. I trust all of you in this room have been born, so we share that common experience. Reflect back on your conception and birth. What was your part in it? Could you in any way say that you caused your conception and birth or was it something that happened to you? You can thank God for it or you can complain to God about it, but you can’t take credit for it. That’s what Nicodemus struggles with when Jesus tells him that he must be born again. How can I do that? What do I have to do? I can’t very well get back inside my mother’s womb. Being born isn’t something you do, it’s something that happens to you. Jesus pointed to the fact that rebirth is the work of the Holy Spirit. Peter here points us to the truth that our new birth is a merciful act caused by God. And when you’re born, you’re born into something. We were all born into this cold cruel world. I was born into my family. Peter tells us that we were born again into a living hope. Jesus said:

John 10:10 …I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

And when we were conceived spiritually by the Father, that new life was created in us. We were dead, but God in his mercy made us alive.

Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ––by grace you have been saved––

Peter is writing to scattered aliens in a hostile community. People will treat us badly. They might make fun of us. They might take our stuff. They might even harm us or kill us. And Peter tells them that they have an unquenchable life force inside of them that gives an unshakable hope in the future. When the gun is at the head of the Christian we can say with joy:

Philippians 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

And that’s the new life inside of us speaking. This new life comes ‘through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.’ We might think, since we’re talking about the Father and new birth that it would say ‘through the incarnation in the manger at Bethlehem’. But never is our new birth tied to the incarnation. The new life we have is resurrection life.

Romans 8:11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

Ephesians 1:18 …that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

And that is the power that is at work in us as a result of our new birth. And this resurrection power is securing for us our inheritance. By the Father’s great mercy he has given us new birth and since we are born into his family, we are born into his inheritance:

4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,

Here’s where language fails us and disappoints. Peter doesn’t tell us what the inheritance is. All he can tell us is what it’s not. Your inheritance is so !!!! There’s no words to express it. So think of the best earthly inheritance you can think of and I’ll tell you how it’s different. Peter tells us the inheritance we have is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It is free from death and decay; it is free from uncleanness or moral impurity; it is free from the natural ravages of time. And it is not kept in the stock market which can plummet on any given day. It is kept in heaven for you. Just as Jesus said:

Matthew 6:20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

So your inheritance is incredible beyond words. It is free from all the negative implications that an inheritance might have here. The inheritance is safe. Nobody can get to it. But that may raise the question: will you be able to get to it? Is it so safe that you will not be able to access it? It is kept safe for you, but in the end will it be kept safe from you? It is safe in heaven, but what if I can’t make it safe to heaven to claim it? What if I fail along the way? Will I make it? What if I throw in the towel; give up; what if I stop believing? So Peter turns his attention from the inheritance to you, the elected rejected:

5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

So God’s resurrection power produced the new life in you, and God is keeping the inheritance safe for you, and now God’s sovereign power is keeping you for the inheritance. The word ‘guarded’ is a military term that can mean both ‘kept from escaping’ and ‘protected from attack’ [Grudem, p.58]. The issue clearly is salvation; our future final salvation. We are being guarded for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. We are not being guarded until the salvation is made ready – Jesus work is finished and perfect. The salvation is ready and waiting for the right time to be revealed. The implication is that if we were not being guarded by the power of God we might not be saved. So from what are we being guarded and how are we being guarded? Peter is going to warn us in chapter 5 to:

1 Peter 5:8 Be sober–minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

So we could say that we are being guarded from the devil. But in what way is Satan seeking to devour us? We could say he is seeking to kill us. But if that is what we are being protected from, then God’s power to guard has failed Peter and countless other Christian martyrs. If Satan succeeds in killing a believer, he has only sped them on their way to heaven – remember, to die is gain! So the guarding can’t mean that they are protected physically. The only way the devil could devour a believer is to cause him to walk away from Jesus and stop clinging to Jesus. Paul warns about the potential of believing in vain:

1 Corinthians 15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you––unless you believed in vain.

Jesus used the image of a branch being connected to the vine and drawing its life from the vine, and he warned:

John 15:6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.

So if we don’t hold fast to the gospel we will have believed in vain, and we will not be saved, and if we walk away from Jesus we will be destroyed and Satan will have won. So being guarded by the power of God must mean that God is guarding our faith. God is using his power to keep us believing. I think the context makes it clear that we are on the right track. Peter says in verse:

7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith––…––may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

And in this verse he says:

5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

So God is not guarding us in spite of whether we keep on believing or not. He is guarding us through our faith. He has caused us to be born again, and he will nurture that life of faith so that we are indeed saved in the end. I think this was especially personal and precious to Peter. Before his betrayal and arrest, Jesus said to Peter:

Luke 22:31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

Jesus was going to allow an intense trial in Peter’s life to sift him, so that the chaff would blow away and only the wheat would remain. The danger of this is that if Satan is allowed to sift you, there might prove to be nothing left. And Jesus says ‘but I have prayed for you’ and what was his prayer? ‘that your faith may not fail’. Jesus was sustaining Peter’s faith. And Jesus wasn’t wondering what the outcome would be. I wonder if Peter will make it. When Jesus sustains your faith, your faith will not fail. And Jesus is praying for us too:

1 John 2:1 … we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

Hebrews 7:25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

Jesus looked right through the trial to the other side and said ‘and when (not if but when) you have turned again, strengthen your brothers’. Peter was sifted like wheat. He denied Jesus three times. And he went out and wept bitterly. Those tears were produced by God in answer to Jesus’ prayer. And Peter is now strengthening his brothers scattered across Asia Minor and strengthening us by reminding us that God’s power is guarding us by keeping us believing so that we will obtain the inheritance in the end. All the resources of sovereign omnipotence are fighting for your faith. God is at work in you to keep you believing. And this is a reason to worship God. God’s great mercy has caused us to be born again and God’s great power is guarding us so that our faith does not fail and we do obtain the promised inheritance.

Jude 1:24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

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September 14, 2008 - Posted by | 1 Peter | , , , , , , , ,

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