Peter was one of the first disciples to follow Jesus along with his brother Andrew. At time of 1 Peter he was one of the leaders of the church in Rome and was writing to Christians who are beginning to suffer and experience persecution. Peter desires to offer hope to the Christians who are being scattered throughout Asia-Minor (modern day Turkey). He does so by introducing three main themes in the book; Salvation, Submission and Suffering. Many Christians have been taught about our salvation in Jesus. In my experience fewer have been taught about submission and suffering. There are many important verses to consider in 1 Peter and over the next few weeks we will look at them. One of my key verses is found in 1 Peter 2:9 - But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. This morning I want to look at this verse especially as it relates to salvation.
Chosen for Hope
There are difficult times being experienced in the churches of Asia Minor. Christians are not popular and are seen as enemies of Rome and adversaries to Judaism. They are suffering and facing serious persecution, from verbal harassment to hostile feelings, attitudes and actions. Peter begins his letter in the midst of trials and suffering with hope. He tells them in 1 Peter 1:2 – who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance. One of the greatest aspects of Christianity is that of knowing that we are chosen by God.
Do you remember in school being chosen by the teacher because you knew the answer? Do you remember in school being chosen by your peers to play on a sports team? These situations bring back memories, some good, some bad, about being selected in front of your classmates.
Peter tells the scattered struggling believers that God has chosen them to be on his team. Hope begins to fill their hearts. Peter now describes various expressions of what salvation involves:
· 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—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.
Hope, inheritance and protection would offer great comfort to the Christians of Peter’s day, even though they must put up with all kinds of trials in the meantime. The struggles are worth it because their faith is being refined and will result in a glorious salvation.
Chosen for Holiness
The salvation that Peter describes is more that “fire insurance” amid their fiery ordeal. The many benefits of salvation were meant to help them live holy lives. “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:13–16). In other words, hope in their hearts was to be followed by holy actions.
Trials and temptations, pressures and persecution, can bring the best or the worst out in people. There are Christians who minimize sin because of troubling circumstances or hardened hearts. There are believers who do not believe, but doubt, that the blood of Jesus is powerful enough to free us from the penalty and the bondage of sin. In other words, these two groups, are given more over to sin than to holiness.
Peter’s exhortation is this - Jesus will never stop offering hope and the forgiveness of sin. He sees the torment of their sufferings; he knows every time they fall into sin. He knows it is not easy and that they truly want to be free. Peter tells them – “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. 23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Peter 1:22-23). Here we see Peter connecting holiness, purity, obedience and love for one another because of being born again. Salvation and sanctification go hand in hand. “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:1-3).
You are a Chosen People
Peter reminds the believers once again that they are chosen (as seen in 1 Peter 1:2); they are living stones connected to the cornerstone Jesus Christ and are to present themselves as building stones for the construction of a sanctuary vibrant with life (1 Peter 2:4-5). They are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation who offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God. This people belonging to God were to declare the praises of him who called them out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9). In the midst of their suffering they were to report, proclaim, announce and speak about Jesus Christ who offers hope, an inheritance and protection in this troubled world. They were also to “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Peter 2:12).
It is important for believers today to understand how to respond to suffering and persecution. Sometimes when life gets difficult we “cop-out” as Christians. When push comes to shove, we simply get out of the way. When confronted with political correctness we give in rather than standing up for God. It can be a scary thing to be a follower of Jesus when the world around us does not agree with our biblical views, especially about Jesus Christ.
· We can take comfort in these passages of Scripture that offer us a living hope, an inheritance that can never fade and protection by God’s power.
· We can apply the salvation of Jesus into our lives by living holy lives, forgiven when we fall short of God’s glory, but intentional in obedient living.
· We can take every opportunity to proclaim the light and goodness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the midst of a dark world.