The Blessings of SalvationNovember 02, 2016
by Brandon Crowe
One striking theme in Peter’s first letter is how he sets the blessings of salvation in the context of praise. The blessings of our salvation are incalculably great, and the proper response is to bless God for the riches he has bestowed upon us in Christ. Let us look at a few of these aspects here. Note, first of all, that Peter praises God for causing us to be born again to a living hope. Born again is a term that many in our culture associate with a certain type of conservative Christian belief; we may even hear it in association with voting demographics. But according to Jesus, being born again is a necessity for all who desire to be a part of the kingdom of God (John 3:3). In other words, the Bible is clear that a new birth is required, because we are all born into sin and are therefore guilty by nature and by infraction. And the impetus for this new birth is God’s own will and action: God caused us to be born again to a living hope. Being born again is a gift that underscores the grace of our salvation. Who can take credit for being born? We can also connect the new birth with the forgiving blood of Christ and the sanctification of the Spirit. Indeed, as we saw in Ezekiel 36, the promise of the coming Spirit included the promise of a new heart: an inward change by the definitive action of God that surpassed the blessings of previous generations (see Heb. 10:19–22). Again we see that we are living in the already of the kingdom.
Being born again is a gift that underscores the grace of our salvation. Who can take credit for being born?
Peter adds that we are born again to a living hope. This living hope is closely connected to—indeed, it is based on—our living Savior, who has been raised from the dead. Our hope is living and abiding—it will never be annulled—because our Savior is the resurrected, exalted Lord of all, and he has secured the benefits of salvation for us. Our hope is also living in the sense that it is not futile; it is not based on deception. Our living hope is as sure as the reality that Christ has been raised from the dead. We therefore have a living hope that does not disappoint, but is guaranteed for all time. What is more, this living hope even leads to fullness of life in the present time, as the benefits of the resurrection are already experienced in an anticipatory way by believers now (cf. Eph. 2:6).
But something else is significant about these blessings that we must not miss. God not only bestows on us a glorious salvation, but does so even though we were his enemies (Rom. 5:8). This former enmity is in view when Peter mentions the great mercy of God (1 Peter 1:3). We do not start out in a state of being naturally in God’s favor, nor do we even begin in a neutral position. Instead, the Bible is clear that we are by nature enemies of God because of our sin. Yet in spite of the punishment we deserve, God has mercy on us. Not only does he freely forgive the sins of all who trust in Christ, but he bestows blessings beyond compare. It would be impossible to overstate the greatness of God’s love for us in this passage.
The Hope of an Inheritance
In 1 Peter 1:4 we see the goal of our hope: “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven” for all those who have been born again. This eternal inheritance is part of what our living hope has in view. In the Old Testament, the land and its fullness, with the accompanying blessing of life, was given as an inheritance to Israel as God’s firstborn son (Ex. 4:22; Deut. 4:21; we also find that Israel was God’s inheritance, Deut. 4:20). We also know, however, that the inheritance of the Promised Land was not the ultimate blessing; it was anticipatory. In the New Testament, this theme is further developed. Jesus proclaims that the meek will inherit the earth (Matt. 5:5), and Paul writes that the promise to Abraham was that he would inherit the whole world (Rom. 4:13). This incredible covenantal blessing can also be described in terms of eternal life (Matt. 19:29). As those who are now born into the family of God, we also become those who inherit the blessings promised to God’s children.
Peter’s teaching that our heavenly inheritance is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading thus accords with Jesus’ advice that we should store up for ourselves treasure in heaven, where it is secure (Matt. 6:20). In contrast to worldly goods, our eternal inheritance will never pass away, will never be tarnished, and will never wane in beauty. To speak in modern-day terms, our heavenly inheritance yields an incredible return on investment. What an encouragement this permanence would have been for those exiles who may have left homes, livelihoods, and possibly earthly inheritances behind. What an encouragement this should be for all of us who live as exiles in the present world. The world may not appreciate our heavenly inheritance, but Scripture tells us that followers of Christ are rich beyond all measure.
The permanence of this inheritance should motivate us in the midst of present pressures. Yet not only is it the inheritance that is kept for Christians, but Peter also tells us that Christians themselves are kept through faith as we await the salvation that will be revealed (1 Peter 1:5). Those whom God has foreknown and predestined he guards, and continues to work in, until the day of final salvation. In 1 Peter 1:23 we read that we “have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.” Our salvation is eternally secure because God’s Word is eternally secure. Our inheritance is imperishable because God’s Word is imperishable.
The future blessings (which we begin to experience now) provide hope for the present.
To drive this point home, Peter quotes from a prominent Old Testament passage (Isaiah 40) in 1 Peter 1:24–25. He contrasts the eternal, effectual nature of God’s Word with the transience and hollow authority of human rulers who oppose God’s people. Isaiah 40 is a fitting passage for Peter to invoke, because it was addressed to exiles living in a foreign land under Babylonian rule. Isaiah foretold the day when the Lord would break through in history to deliver his people from exile. The situation of Isaiah’s audience and the situation of Peter’s audience were similar. Peter is assuring his readers that God knows their troubles and would deliver them. Whereas opposition to believers in Christ is fleeting, their eternal inheritance is firmly established.
Peter thus promises that Christians and their inheritance are being preserved for “a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5). What is the salvation that is to be revealed? A comparison with 1 Peter 1:7 helps us see that the return of Christ is in view. We will find that the return of Christ is of the utmost importance, both doctrinally and practically, for the early Christians. Perhaps all sorts of things come to mind when we think about the return of Christ—fear, uncertainty, even the particular views of some popular books and movies—but Peter describes the return of Christ in terms of salvation and grace that will be brought to us (1:13; 5:4). Indeed, for the Christian, the return of Christ is something to eagerly anticipate. When Jesus returns, he will deliver us from opposition and usher in the age of perfection. When we understand the backdrop of the exiles in 1 Peter, it is easier to understand the early Christian prayer Maranatha—“come (quickly), Lord Jesus” (see 1 Cor. 16:22; Rev. 22:20). We should share in this prayer for the return of Jesus because the future blessings (which we begin to experience now) provide hope for the present.
This post was adapted from Brandon Crowe, The Message of the General Epistles in the History of Redemption (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2015), 14–17. Used with permission of the publisher.
Medicine & Faith: Facing the Trials of Cancer and ObesityOctober 23, 2016
by Peter Lillback