Peter shares the purpose of his letter in 5:12 to encourage believers to “stand firm in the true grace of God.” The letter aims to ground us in a rock-solid faith that can withstand the trials that come our way, and to let God’s grace shape the way we interact with others as we live out our days as strangers in this world.
In the opening verses Peter bursts out into spontaneous praise and adoration to God for what he has done for us through Jesus Christ:
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, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 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.6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuinenessof your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 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, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
This is not a passage to be merely studied, examined, parsed, or “exegeted.” We ought to take a cue from Peter who drops to his knees in worship as he marvels at the pile of blessings dumped onto us in Jesus. This is a passage to be relished, feasted on, set to music and danced to!
But we ought to take some time to slow down and ponder the explosive power and life-changing realities standing behind each thought or word. Spend this week reflecting on the significance of each of the following:
- Monday – “His great mercy”
- Tuesday – our “new birth”
- Wednesday – “a living hope”
- Thursday – “an inheritance that can never perish…kept in heaven”
- Friday – being “shielded by God’s power”
Yet, despite all these blessings we enjoy, we are not spared the sufferings of this world. The heart of this passage, and book, is to anchor our faith in such glorious salvation-realities so that we can endure hardships without losing touch with the source of our faith, hope, inheritance, and power.
Peter is raising important questions: How do you know if your faith is real and genuine? How do you know if you’ve really experienced this “new birth”? How ought we respond when we realize these blessings? Many of us have been taught to think our faith is proven genuine by having the right beliefs, reciting the right creed, assenting to the right Christian doctrines, praying the right prayer, or getting the right answers on a theology or Bible test.
While correct beliefs are important, they don’t prove our faith is genuine. There are many people who can recite the creed and quote the Bible who lack genuine faith. Peter suggests that “the genuineness of your faith” will be proven by how you handle times of suffering and trials of all kinds (1:7). Peter might ask us some of the following questions (that come directly from this text):
- When you ponder what Christ has done for you, do you burst out into praise like Peter, find yourself “greatly rejoicing” in all of this (v.6)? Genuine believers “are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” when they think about “the salvation of [their] soul” (v.9). (No, you don’t have to be outwardly expressive, but we all should feel an inward warmth and excitement at such truths.)
- When you face hardships, do you lean deeper into God and his promises? Or do you get swept away by your emotions and fears?
- Are you placing your hope in the temporary things of this earth (e.g., money, career, marriage, physical health) that will spoil, perish and fade? Or are you securely placing your future hope in your eternal inheritance that is secure in heaven?
- When you’re sick, tired, diseased, depressed, anxious, or afraid, where do you actually turn first for protection and comfort? Do you truly believe that through faith you are “shielded by God’s power” (v. 5) in such circumstances?
- What is your main aim or purpose in life? (e.g., Raising a healthy family? Finding your soulmate? Success in business? Having run? Traveling the world?) When you’ve been genuinely “born again” into a living hope, your new purpose for life becomes living in a way that brings “praise, glory and honor to Jesus Christ” (v.7).
For those who may read this and begin to doubt the genuineness of your faith, let me offer a word of encouragement and reassurance. Faith is a living, breathing thing much like a plant, and your faith needs the proper soil and care to grow. If you don’t feel an inexpressible joy when you ponder God’s mercy, or if you don’t hunger and thirst for God’s Word, or you fall asleep during sermons, etc., it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not saved, born again, or a genuine believer. (Of course, it might. But…)
Rather, it may simply mean that you have done very little over the years (or at the moment) to help that seed grow. You have not cultivated the soil. You have not watered the seed regularly. You have let your soul’s garden be overrun with weeds and other pests. If you’re honest, maybe you spend all your free time in the front yard of your life and in keeping your house in order, that you’ve never really even gone out the back door of your life to realize you have a soul-garden back there to work! “What good is it if you spend all your time trying to get all the things this world says are important, but lose touch with your very soul in the process” (Mark 8:36 my paraphrase)?
May you hear an invitation from Peter in this letter to begin cultivating and growing a faith, a “garden of the soul”, that will endure all the challenges of life! These metaphors of faith — seeds, glorious flowers, withering grass, and enduring faith — are where Peter’s mind is already taking us later in the chapter ( 1:23-25):
For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For,
“All people are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.”
But we’ll leave that for another day. In the meantime, go meditate on the bucketful of blessings that God wants to pour over your faith today!
Grace and peace!