Such a Salvation! (1 Peter 1.10-12)
Peter picks up the theme of “the salvation of your souls” in 1.9, “the goal/climax of your faith”. ‘Salvation’ is a wonderfully wide and all-embracing word which is founded on the great reality of restored relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ by the working of the Holy Spirit. Wonderfully our ‘souls’ (1.8) receive God’s gift of salvation. John would call this ‘eternal life’ and Paul would rejoice in the redeeming, justifying, atoning work of Christ on the cross to save us from our sin. God’s work of salvation is so rich that no one author can possibly describe it in all its splendour. Let us rejoice in the fullness of our salvation as we turn to Peter’s elaboration in 1.10-12 of what ‘salvation’ means! And let us also bear in mind the yet wider glories of ‘salvation’ in the eyes of other New Testament writers! Each author is somewhat limited in their description of ‘salvation’, but through them together the Holy Spirit reveals the awesome wonder of what the Lord has done and is doing for us. Rejoice!
The Holy Spirit was working in the Old Testament prophets to give them a sense of “the grace that was to come” (1.10/11). As a result they sought and searched desperately to discover what the Spirit was pointing to. They came to understand that it didn’t only relate to their own times, but particularly to the salvation which would come centuries later and which now Peter’s readers had received. And the heart of that ‘salvation’, Peter affirms, is ‘grace’.
Some years ago I was in a home group of men who were not yet Christian and lacked any biblical or Christian background. One evening they came across the word ‘grace’ and struggled to understand what it meant. They knew that some people say a prayer before meals and call it ‘grace’, but this didn’t seem to fit the biblical passage they were looking at. Then one of the men wondered whether ‘grace’ somehow related to the adjective ‘gracious’, pointing out that the Queen’s words are called ‘gracious’. But again the New Testament passage didn’t seem to mean upper-class speech. Such basic biblical vocabulary can be foreign to people who have not yet come into the orbit of the church. Finally our home group came to see the amazing wonder of the heavenly Father’s grace, his totally undeserved love for us. We can never understand why God loves and wants to relate to people like us. We can only marvel, rejoice and dedicate our lives to him in gratitude.
May I suggest that before you read further in this blog, it may be helpful to pause and revel in this incomprehensibly brilliant reality that in his grace the all-glorious God has chosen you and loves you. Rejoice!
As we rejoice in the glories of our salvation, we remember that Peter is writing to people who are suffering for their faith. Even in the midst of their sufferings Peter reminds them of the glories which will follow. So it was for their Saviour, Jesus Christ. His agonies on the cross led to the life-giving brilliance of the resurrection. Death was the gateway to the fullness of life. It is only when a corn of wheat goes down into the ground and dies that it brings forth fruit. Now Peter’s readers and we too can be reassured that the glories of new life on earth and eternal life in the Father’s presence will surely follow from our sufferings. In the cosy comfort of a relatively tolerant society it is easy to compromise our faith and witness, thus avoiding the suffering of opposition and rejection. And if we do face such suffering, how easy it is just to wallow in self-pity or to entertain a cancerous spirit of revenge or criticism. But the Holy Spirit longs to point us to the glories of the Lord which are our sure hope for the future.
In most Bible translations this verse (1.11) refers to “the sufferings of Christ”, which is a possible translation. However, it may be better to understand the original Greek differently. Literally 1.11 speaks of “the sufferings eis/into or unto Christ”. When the ascended Jesus met with Saul/Paul on the Damascus Road, he asked him, “Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9.4). In persecuting Christians, Paul unknowingly was attacking Jesus himself. By his Spirit Jesus lives in us, so our sufferings for his sake are also his sufferings. We are not alone when we are suffering opposition as Christians; Jesus shares with us in all that we suffer.
What privileged people we are! Such awesome salvation! Such grace! And such glories awaiting us! The Old Testament prophets tried desperately to discover what the Holy Spirit was pointing to and when it would come to pass. The angels too earnestly desire to look into these glories. But neither the prophets nor the angels received full revelation concerning God’s wonderful salvation through Jesus Christ. We, however, have been told (in the Greek this word reminds us of Gospel ‘good news’) by those who have “preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit” (1.12). We have the enormous blessing of having heard the glory of the Gospel – and now we have the challenge and privilege of sharing and preaching this same Gospel to others.
As we began, so we conclude on these verses – “such a salvation!” Rejoice!