Peter has been writing to these believers who were suffering grief in all kinds of trials. They were being persecuted for their faith; and it must have seemed to them that the whole world was against them. However, despite their trials and troubles, they were able to praise God and to rejoice. And they were able to praise God and to rejoice because of the great hope they had received of the resurrection of their bodies from the dead and of inheriting eternal life in the presence of God — an inheritance that can never perish or spoil or fade, but which is kept in heaven for all who believe. And so, they were able to praise God and to rejoice.
So, Peter refers to their great hope. However, he also refers to their suffering and to how they’ve been suffering grief in all kinds of trials. And all through the letter, Peter refers to their suffering and especially to the persecution they faced because of their commitment to Christ. However, these trials which they faced had a purpose: these trials proved the genuineness of their faith. The person whose faith is not real will give up when troubles come; but genuine faith will last; and it will last because it’s a faith which clings to the Lord Jesus Christ; and the Lord Jesus Christ is mighty and powerful and he’s able to uphold all those who trust in him. And when the Lord finally comes again, then that person — the person whose faith is genuine — will receive praise and glory and honour from God, because the Lord will greet them and say to them: Well done. Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master. He’ll say that to them, because their faith was genuine and they kept trusting in the Lord Jesus, day after day, week after week, month after month, year and after, through all the trials of this troubled life.
So, Peter has been writing about the future hope which God gives to all his people — including us. And he’s been writing about the present trials his people face — and that includes us as well. And so, we can say that our present trials cause us to suffer grief, but our future hope causes us to praise God and to rejoice.
Today we come to verses 8 to 12 of 1 Peter 1. And from this passage we can learn at least two things about the Christian message.
First of all, the Christian message is about unseen things. Look with me at verses 8 and 9 where Peter writes:
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 goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Peter is referring here to the Lord Jesus. And he makes the point that his readers have never seen him: they haven’t seen him in the past; and they do not see him now. And, of course, that’s our experience as well: we’ve never seen the Lord Jesus, because none of us were alive when he was on the earth; and now that we’re on the earth, he’s in heaven. None of us has seen him. And none of Peter’s first readers had seen him. Nevertheless, although they had never seen him they loved him and they believed in him. And those of us who are believers can say the same thing: we love him and we believe in him. In fact, we love him because we believe in him. We believe he’s the Son of God who gave up his life for us as a ransom to pay for all our sins. And because we believe he did that for us, then we love him.
So, we love him; and we believe in him. But we’ve never seen him. And there’s something else which we have never seen. Peter mentions it in verse 9: it’s the salvation of our souls. Now, in a sense, believers have already received salvation, because our Bibles teach us that there is now no condemnation for all those who are in Christ; who believes is not condemned, but has passed, right now, from death to life. However, the word ‘soul’ which is used here refers to the whole person, body and soul. And so, Peter is referring here, not only to our present salvation — which includes the forgiveness of our sins and peace with God — but he’s also referring the fullness of salvation, when we’ll come — in body and soul — into the presence of the Lord to be with him for ever and for ever; and when all the sin and shame and suffering of this life will be over, for good. And we haven’t seen that yet either; we have yet seen the fullness of our salvation. It’s still in the future; and we must wait for it. But while we wait for it, what do we do? We rejoice, says Peter. In fact, we rejoice with an inexpressible and glorious joy, because we’re receiving that salvation; it’s coming to us.
So, we love and trust the Lord Jesus Christ, but we have never seen. And we rejoice because of the fullness of our salvation, which still lies in the future and which we’re waiting for. The Christian message is about unseen things.
Well now, think of the believers who first read this letter. What was happening around them? What was happening to them? Well, they were suffering grief in all kinds of trials. They were being persecuted for their faith so that they were hated by their neighbours who were falsely accusing them of all kinds of things. They were suffering in all kinds of ways; and it may have seemed to them that the whole world was against them.
Well, we can imagine an onlooker, looking at them and all that they were suffering, and saying to themselves: ‘As far as I can see, the Christian life is terrible. Look at all the hardships they’re going through. Look at all the trouble they face. Who would want to be a Christian if it means suffering like that?’ That’s what it might have seemed to an onlooker, because the onlooker is only looking on what can be seen. But the believers were focussing on what is unseen. They were looking upwards to heaven, to where Jesus Christ their Saviour is. And they were looking forwards to their future salvation. They were looking upwards to heaven, to their Saviour whom they loved and whom they trusted; and they knew he would guard them and keep them and shield them by his mighty power. And they were looking forwards to their future salvation and to the peace and rest and joy of heaven. They were focussing on what is unseen; and so they were able to rejoice; and to rejoice with an inexpressible, unspeakable joy; and a joy with is glorious.
Well, all around us there are things which cause us to suffer grief. Family troubles. Troubles with our neighbours. Troubles with our friends. Troubles at school and college or at work. Troubles with our health. Things which cause us grief and sorrow and which leave us feeling broken inside and which make us weep. There are all kinds of things which cause us to suffer grief. And so, we need to learn the lesson which Peter is teaching his readers here: we need to focus, not on the troubles we see all around us, but we need to focus on the unseen things. We need to learn to look up to heaven, and to Jesus Christ our Saviour who is able to guard us every day. And we need to learn to look forward to our future salvation when all the sorrow and sadness of this life will be over and there will be perfect peace and rest for all of God’s people. When all the sorrow and sadness of this troubled life threatens to overwhelm us, and we feel we’re about to be crushed, we’re to turn our gaze away from what we can see and we’re to focus on what can’t be seen yet, but to what we will one day see with our own eyes, when we’re brought into the presence of God to be with our Saviour for ever and for ever. And as we think about that, as we focus on that, these unseen things, we’ll be able to rejoice despite all our sorrows; and we’ll be able to persevere in our faith, so that we’re not overwhelmed or crushed.
That’s the first point: the Christian message is about unseen things. The second point is this: the Christian message was revealed to the Old Testament prophets; and announced by the Apostles; and marvelled at by the angels. I’m looking at verses 10 to 12 now:
Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.
First of all, Peter mentions the Old Testament prophets. And he tells us that the Old Testament prophets spoke of the grace — or the salvation — that was to come to us. In other words, they spoke about our salvation. And then Peter goes on to tell us that the Old Testament prophets spoke about Jesus Christ. Peter says that the Spirit of Christ in them predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. That is, the Holy Spirit enabled the Old Testament prophets to predict that the Christ would suffer before rising from the dead and entering his glory.
How can he say such a thing? Well, think of Psalm 22, for instance, where David the Psalmist spoke so clearly of the suffering of the Lord Jesus on the cross. In fact, the Lord Jesus was using words from Psalm 22 whenever he cried from the cross: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ But then, there’s also Psalm 110 which speaks of the enthronement of the Lord Jesus in heaven, and how God the Father said to him: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’ The Old Testament prophets, men like David who prophesied of these things, and Isaiah and Jeremiah and Daniel spoke of the sufferings of Christ and the glory that would follow.
So, the Old Testament is about Jesus Christ. And the Old Testament is about our salvation, the grace that was to come to us. And we can put those two together and say: The Old Testament is about Jesus Christ and how he will accomplish our salvation.
Now — and this is really only an aside, but it’s an important aside — this provides us with a key to help us to understand the Old Testament. Whenever we read the Old Testament, we sometimes scratch our heads and wonder: What is this about? I can’t make this out at all. We might be reading the Bible at home by ourselves; we might be reading the Bible with our family; we might be reading the Bible in church; and we struggle to know what the Old Testament is about. Well, we should take up this key, which Peter has provided, to help us to unlock the meaning of the Old Testament, because when we take up this key and use it, it will help us to see that the Old Testament is about Jesus Christ and how he will accomplish our salvation. So, when you’re reading the Old Testament, ask yourself: What does this passage say about him and our salvation?
Of course, this shouldn’t surprise us, because it’s what the Lord Jesus said himself. Do you remember how, after his resurrection, he walked along the road to Emmaus with two disciples? And on the way, what did he do? Luke tells us: ‘[B]eginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.’ The Lord showed them that the Old Testament was all about him. So, when you’re reading the Old Testament, remember to pick up this key and use it: This passage, like the rest of the Old Testament, is about Jesus Christ and how he will accomplish my salvation.
That’s the end of the aside; let’s move on; and the next thing Peter tells us here is that the Christian message was announced by the Apostles. Now, Peter doesn’t mention the Apostles. However, some of the commentators believe that when he refers to ‘those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven’, he’s referring to the Apostles. Just think, for a moment, about what happened on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Apostles and they were enabled to speak in foreign languages so that all the foreigners in Jerusalem that day could understand them. And the people wondered what was going on. And so, Peter stood up with the other Apostles and began to do what? Well, Peter preached the gospel to them by the Holy Spirit who had been sent from heaven. And the gospel message he preached by the Holy Spirit was an announcement that the things the Old Testament prophets had predicted have now, finally, happened. So, Peter spoke about the sufferings of Christ and how the Lord Jesus was put to death when they nailed him to the cross. And Peter spoke about the glories that followed and how God raised the Lord Jesus from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death; and God then exalted him to the right hand of God in heaven, where he now rules over all. That’s the message Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost; it’s the same message all the Apostles preached. And their message was an announcement that everything the Old Testament prophets predicted had happened.
So, the Christian message was revealed to the Old Testament prophets; and it was announced by the Apostles; but it is also marvelled at by the angels. So, right at the end of verse 12, Peter says:
Even angels long to look into these things.
The word Peter uses here for ‘look into’ is used elsewhere of one person looking down out of a window at another person. And isn’t that a great picture to have in mind here? The angels are up in heaven; and it’s as if they’re peering down at us from a window, looking at the events of the gospel — the suffering of Christ and the glories that followed — and the angels are looking at these things; and they’re peering at these things; and they’re just enthralled and gripped by the message of what Jesus Christ has done for our salvation.
And so, the Christian message was revealed to the Old Testament prophets; and it was announced by the Apostles; and it is marvelled at by the angels. But why does Peter mention these things here? Why is he telling us about the Old Testament prophets and the Apostles and the angels? Well, Peter’s trying to get us to understand that the gospel is a treasure, a precious treasure.
Go back to verse 11 again. There he tells us that the prophets searched intently and with the greatest care into the things that had been revealed to them. You see, the Holy Spirit had revealed the gospel to them; and while they understood some of what was going to happen, they didn’t understand it all, because look: they were trying to find out the time and circumstances of what was going to happen. So, they understand some of what was going to happen, but not all of it. But, because they realised what a treasure this was, they went back over these things that had been revealed to them, trying to make sense of it all. They pored over these things, going over them again and again and again, trying to work it out: What did the Spirit mean when he said this? What did the Spirit mean when he said that? I wonder when this is going to happen? Oh, I’d love to see these things myself.
But then — and this is at the beginning of verse 12 — it was revealed to them that they weren’t serving themselves, but future generations of believers.
So, it’s as if they have this wonderful treasure. And they’ve glimpsed inside it, and they realise it’s wonderful and precious and glorious. But they’ve been told: It’s not for you. It’s not for you. Well, we have to say that to the children sometimes, don’t we? They come home and see a present on the table. And their eyes light up. But you have to say to them: It’s not for you.
And then, go down again to the very end of verse 12 and to the angels. They too have seen this treasure. And they long to look into it and to see it close up. And we can imagine them bending down, trying to get a closer look at it, because it’s so marvellous. But it’s not for them.
It’s not for the prophets; and it’s not for the angels. So, who is it for? Who is this treasure for? Well, says Peter to his readers, which must include us: It’s for you. This wonderful treasure, which is the news of how the Son of God suffered and died on the cross to pay for our sins; and how he was raised again afterwards and exalted to heaven where he rules over all things; and how, whoever believes in him, receives the assurance of sins forgiven, and they receive peace with God for ever, and they receive the hope of everlasting life in his presence. This wonderful treasure is for you.
How do we know it’s for us? Because God sent his Spirit to the Apostles to enable them to understand this treasure in its fullness and to announce the good news that whoever believes, whoever believes, will be saved. The Apostles were able to announce: It’s for you.
And since it’s for us, we ought to hold on to it firmly and not give it up. No matter what grief we may have to suffer, no matter what trials and troubles we may face, the one thing we need to do, the one thing we need to do is to hold on to this wonderful treasure, because whoever has this treasure and holds on to it, has the assurance of sins forgiven and the sure and certain hope of the resurrection and everlasting life in the presence of God.