Three times Jesus gave Peter an opportunity to affirm his love for his Lord, and three time Peter humbly proclaimed love that came from the heart. These three affirmations of love and commitment to Jesus, spoken in humble and vulnerable sincerity in the presence of his closest friends and fellow disciples, publicly reinstated Peter after his dismal denials of Jesus the night before Christ’s crucifixion.
This experience deeply affected Peter, and I believe set the course for who he would become as apostle and an elder in the church.
In picking up where I left off, here is the introductory post for Peter’s letters. Throughout the next few days we will look at the mature Peter’s faith through his letters.
Chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit to be obedient to Jesus Christ and to be sprinkled with his blood:
May grace and peace be yours in abundance.1 Peter 1:2 (NRSV)
Perhaps in imitation of the Apostle Paul’s letters, Peter packed dense theology into his own letters, beginning with every believer’s calling and anointing in God-Three-In-One. He addressed his letter to Jewish believers who lived throughout the Asian province of Rome’s empire, the area where Paul had so longed to go, but was prevented by the Holy Spirit.
Peter called attention to God the Father who foreknows, God the Holy Spirit who sanctifies, and God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ who shed his blood to make atonement for our sins. By the Spirit’s enabling work, those who have put their faith in Jesus become obedient to him.
From here, Peter made a number of deeply theological and powerful points.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth.1 Peter 1:3 (NRSV)
The greatest fact in the life of any Christian is being spiritually born into Jesus’ family, sharing the same Father with him and the same inheritance.
A new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.1 Peter 1:3-4
There are three significant aspects that come with new birth:
- The first is a living hope—not wishful thinking, but a firm conviction that Jesus is coming back. In Peter’s day, every person of Jewish descent knew their inheritance was something real, concrete acreage in the Promised Land that would always belong to them. Though they had been living for centuries in exile, though the Promised Land once known as Israel was now called Palestine, though their ancient homeland was under the foreign rule of Rome, still, this was their sacred heritage, a very real promise settled upon very real land.
In the same way, Jesus secures our real very inheritance, you and I will always have it, no one can ruin it for us, or take it from us. We will always enjoy it, nothing about it will fade in intensity or goodness. Jesus’ resurrection is our rock-solid proof of spiritual acreage held in trust for each person who has entrusted themselves to God through Christ.
Who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed at the end of time.1 Peter 1:5 (NRSV)
- Second, you and I not only have a living hope, but a present power. A power that sustains us, that holds onto us when we are anxious or afraid or needy, that comes to us and strengthens us in spite of all the obstacles life throws at us.
God not only protects our person, God protects our faith and our salvation until the time comes when Jesus returns to take us physically to be with him.
The key to persevering in the present is learning to intently focus on the future.
In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.1 Peter 1:6-7 (NRSV)
The word for trial here, is dokimazo, the trying or testing of metals for their purity and value.
Remember what Nero was doing to the Christians?
But Peter was saying this is just to prove to you and me how wonderfully God is supplying us with the powerful faith we need. God intends for us to be experiencing exactly what we are experiencing.
One author described worry as “a trickle of fear that meanders through the mind, cutting a channel into which all other thoughts flow.” That author urged believers to convert worry into prayer, and fear into faith, trusting God to intervene and make a way through this crisis, or suffering. Because what God is doing is testing our mettle, to prove our purity and our value.
This is not for God’s sake. God already knows what you and I are made of. But often, you and I do not know what strength and courage, what noble faith and tender sacrifice we are capable of in the power of the Spirit. When you and I are under fire, or under water, God is present with us and enabling us through the very faith God has given us.
What is currently refining your faith? What is being proven about your faith? As the saying goes, a faith that cannot be tested, cannot be trusted.
Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy.1 Peter 1:8 (NRSV)
- The third significant aspect of new birth is a rejoicing love. These Christians had a vital and dynamic love relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Not merely because of what Jesus had done for them, but because of who Jesus is, because Jesus lives! He loves us, and you and I love him. We are promised increasing intimacy with Jesus when suffering increases.
For you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.1 Peter 1:9 (NRSV)
This is about more than just getting into heaven. Peter had been talking about future glory and rewards which will be the result of a life that counts for eternity. Suffering is one of the primary means God uses to mold you and me into the image of God’s Son. The result of this Christ‑like character, this fruit of the Spirit’s supernatural, divine work in each believer in concert with our responsive cooperation with that work, is a life that truly counts for all eternity.
Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours made careful search and inquiry, inquiring about the person or time that the Spirit of Christ within them indicated when it testified in advance to the sufferings destined for Christ and the subsequent glory.
It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in regard to the things that have now been announced to you through those who brought you good news by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look!1 Peter 1:10-12 (NRSV)
The Hebrew prophets in antiquity had written extensively about this, though they did not fully understand the visions and word God had given them. But they did understand that this salvation was for future generations. Jesus himself listed the prophets as his witnesses—this is no myth, this is no fable, this is the truth, the prophecies concerning Christ all happened exactly as predicted.
You and I have the inner witness of the Spirit of Christ, and the outer testimony of Scripture borne out in the facts of history. Even God’s angels have intense interest in human salvation, for as Jesus explained,
Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.Jesus, Luke 15:10 (NRSV)
There is no greater joy than loving and trusting Jesus Christ
As I write this, my little cat is sitting on my desk, tucked between my chin and my keyboard. It has been a rough weekend for us. Her kidneys are failing, and she has been suffering greatly. I think of her as I think about you and me. The last few weeks have been very stressful for me, “good stress” with beautiful rites of passage for members of my family, and “bad stress” with family drama, looming deadlines, and the pressing exigencies of day-to-day responsibilities.
There are times when life’s trials encroach so closely and painfully it is difficult to think about anything else. Underneath the worry and care is a knowledge that though God will work this all together for eternal good for those who love the Lord and have put their faith in God . . . there is no guarantee it will all work out in the ways we hope or long for, here on earth.
But for a believer, according to Peter, wisdom is seeing things from God’s point of view. Worship and praise are the natural overflow of God’s perspective, for you and I can experience joyful confidence and triumphant thanksgiving in what God has done, in what God is doing, and especially in what God is about to do in us, for us. and through us, God’s beloved ones.
[Angels | Dennis Jarvis, flickr, (CC BY-SA 2.0)]