STUDY TWO: 1PETER 1:3-5 – OUR SURE SALVATION

© Rosemary Bardsley 2018

A. PRAISE BE TO THE GOD AND FATHER OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

As Christians we do not often notice similarities between Peter and Paul. But we have already seen in the previous study that both greet their readers with a benediction of ‘grace and peace to you’. We have also seen Peter’s strong teaching about election and Christians being chosen by God, a teaching usually associated with Paul.

Moving on to 1Peter 1:3 we read Peter’s introduction to his teaching about salvation – ‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ’. This is identical to Paul’s introduction to his teaching about salvation in Ephesians 1:3.

Like Paul, Peter is convinced that salvation is the work of God, not something that we gain or maintain by our own efforts. And he is careful to clearly identify who this God who saves us is. The God who saves us is not any ‘god’ concept that we humans might imagine, not any idea of god, but a very specifically defined God. The God Peter and Paul speak about, the God who saves us and keeps us saved, is ‘the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ’.

This teaches us that the God who is to be praised for saving us is:

The God acknowledged and obeyed by Jesus Christ during the years of his incarnation.
The God revealed by Jesus Christ by his life, by his miracles and in his teaching.

In addition God is the Father of Jesus Christ, not in the same way that he is ‘our Father’ by virtue of creation and by virtue of salvation, but because he is the eternal Father of Christ, the eternal divine Son. Because of this eternal Father/Son relationship the New Testament teaches that the Son reveals the Father.

Check these verses. What do they teach about the Son revealing the Father?
Colossians 1:15

Hebrews 1:3

These verses teach us that:

The Son is ‘the image of the invisible God’.
The Son is ‘the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being’.

We learn from the Son that, although the Father and the Son are two distinct persons within the Godhead, there is an essential unity and equality between the Father and the Son.

Check these verses. What is the practical impact of the unity and equality of the Father and the Son?
Matthew 11:27

John 8:19

John 12:44,45

John 14:6-9

Romans 1:16

These verses make it clear that:

To know the Son is to know the Father.
To see the Son is to see the Father.
To believe in the Son is to believe in the Father.
To receive the Son is to receive the Father.

Jesus, in fact, said that if we fail to recognize him we simply do not know God, his Father. He also said ‘No one knows the Father except the Son, and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’ And ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ The only way to know the God of whom Peter and Paul speak is by knowing Jesus Christ.

Any other concept of ‘god’ is not the God spoken of by Peter and Paul, and is not the God whom they praise for salvation. It is this God – the God acknowledged and revealed by Christ the Son – who saves us. No other ‘god’ has done what the God and Father of Jesus Christ has done. Indeed, no other ‘god’ could do what the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has done.

The work of saving sinners is not an easy work, and not a simple work. It is the work of God – the same God who powerfully created the universe and all that is in it, the same God by whose almighty power Jesus Christ rose from the dead. The gospel, Paul affirms, ‘is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes’ [Romans 1:16, 2011NIV].

We cannot save ourselves. No religious rituals or formulas can save us. No man-made god can save us. But God, the God and Father of Jesus, can and does save us. For this reason, because he has saved us through the death of his beloved Son, let us join whole-heartedly in Peter’s ‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!’

 

B. IN HIS GREAT MERCY

Peter is about to describe the salvation God has given to those who believe in Jesus Christ.

Having exhorted us to praise God, Peter introduces his description of salvation with the phrase ‘In his great mercy ...’ The King James Version translates the Greek text here with ‘According to his abundant mercy ...’ This KJV wording captures the meaning of the Greek words more fully than the NIV wording.

God has certainly acted towards us ‘in’ his mercy. He has not acted in his anger, or in his condemnation, but in his mercy. And that is indeed important and true. But ‘according to’ (which is the meaning of the word) gives a greater impact. ‘According to his mercy’ teaches us that God’s mercy is not only the manner in which God has acted towards us in Christ, but also the measure of his actions towards us. How can we measure salvation? What ruler or gauge or scale can we use to determine salvation’s size and durability and impact? Salvation is measured by God’s mercy.

Paul similarly states that the redemption and forgiveness we have in Christ are ‘according to the riches of God’s grace ...’ [Ephesians 1:7]. How big is redemption? As big as God’s grace. How much forgiveness do we have in Christ? As much as God’s grace.

Similarly, while it is important to understand that God’s mercy is indeed ‘great’, which speaks of the size of God’s mercy, it is also important to understand that God’s mercy is ‘abundant’. Abundant mercy includes the truth that God’s mercy is not only big, it is also more than enough, way more than we need.

Here also Paul uses a similar description. In Ephesians 1:8 he describes God’s grace as ‘lavished on us’. Like the word ‘abundant’, ‘lavished’ indicates that God’s grace is far more than we could ever need. There is no such thing as God’s grace and God’s mercy running out or falling short.

By the phrase ‘according to his abundant mercy’ Peter is telling us that when God saves us through the death of Jesus Christ:

This salvation is the result of God’s mercy, not the result of our merit.

This salvation expresses towards us God’s mercy, not the wrath and judgment we deserve.

This salvation is immense.

This salvation is inexhaustible.

Just as God’s mercy is more than enough for our needs, so the salvation God gives us is more than enough for our needs.

If God were to cease to act towards us according to mercy, then our salvation would come to an end.

If God were to relate to us according to our merit, then our salvation would come to an end.

If God’s mercy could come to an end, then our salvation, and any and every aspect of salvation, can also come to an end.

If any sin of ours could undo God’s mercy, then it can also undo salvation.

But here in this introductory phrase – ‘according to his abundant mercy’ – Peter teaches us that our salvation in Christ is secure and unlimited. In this he reflects a fundamental truth grasped by Old Testament believers.

Study these verses. Describe the confidence that these writers have in God’s mercy.
1Chronicles 16:34 KJV

Psalm 136:26

Jeremiah 33:11

All that God has done for us in and through the death of Christ arises from his abundant and enduring mercy. All that God has done for us in and through the death of Christ is as sufficient and as limitless as this mercy.

It is no wonder that Peter has just exclaimed, as we saw above, ‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!’

Reflect on these questions:
How often do you praise God for his abundant mercy?

Describe what you feel in your heart when you think about God’s abundant mercy.

What could you do to demonstrate your thankfulness for God’s abundant mercy?

 

C. HE HAS GIVEN US NEW BIRTH

In 1:3 Peter makes it clear to his Christian readers that salvation is the work of God. He writes: ‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth ...’ In these words:

He praises God for saving us, because it is God’s doing, not ours.

He sees salvation as the result of God’s abundant mercy, not the result of our merit.

He knows that the spiritual change that takes place in salvation results from God’s action: God has given us new birth, that is, God has regenerated us, God has given us new life. By God’s action those who were spiritually dead in sin become spiritually alive in Christ. We are the recipients of God’s pro-active regenerating action.

This concept of regeneration, otherwise termed new birth, being born again or born of the Spirit, was anticipated by Ezekiel

How is this new birth described by Ezekiel?
Ezekiel 11:19

Ezekiel 36:26

What did Jesus teach about this new birth?
John 3:3

John 3:5-7

How did Paul contrast our pre-conversion condition of spiritual death with our post-conversion condition of spiritual life?
Romans 6:23

Romans 8:2

Ephesians 2:4,5

How did John acknowledge that this regeneration, this death to life transformation, is the work of God:
John 1:12,13

1John 5:1

How does Peter refer to this regenerating action of God?
1Peter 1:3

1Peter 1:23

The above texts teach us that being ‘born again’ is not something we have to do. Nor is it something we can do to or for ourselves. It is God doing his merciful and miraculous work. It is God, the Holy Spirit, changing spiritual death into spiritual life. It is the living and eternal word of God generating life where there was no life.

We are the passive objects in this new birth. Indeed this new birth, says Peter, is given to us by God. God is the active person, not us. We are, says John, born of God. We exist as Christians today because God has given us new life in Christ Jesus. Indeed, as Paul puts it, Christ is our life [Colossians 3:4].

 

D. A LIVING HOPE

What is the result or outcome of the new birth that God has given to those who believe in Christ? Or, we might ask the question a different way: what was God’s purpose in giving us new birth – what was his intention for us in this new birth?

Peter states that God gave us new birth ‘into a living hope’ [1Peter 1:3].

‘Into’ translates the preposition eis which is primarily about direction towards rather than location. Because of the new birth we have this living hope, and this living hope was God’s purpose in giving us new life in Christ.

In the New Testament ‘hope’ is always a positive, assured, confident thing. It is not at all mere wishful thinking. There is no element of uncertainty in it. We must never think that is like our modern idiom in which we say ‘I hope so!’ without any confidence that what we hope will actually come to pass.

This sure confidence in the future promised by God is expressed elsewhere.

Check these texts. How do they express confident certainty?
Romans 4:16

2Cornithians 1:22

2Corinthians 5:5

Romans 8:31-39

Philippians 1:6

2Timothy 1:12

From these texts we learn that our salvation in Christ is guaranteed; that nothing at all can reverse the love of God shown to us in Christ; that what God has begun he will complete; and that what God has promised he will accomplish.

Because of this, the Christian hope is not a dull, dead hope. It is, Peter says, a living hope. It is in stark contrast to the unbelieving mindset. It is also in stark contrast to the legalistic Christian mindset and the nominal Christian mindset.

Consider:

The atheist believes that death is the end. He has no future hope at all, except perhaps the expectation that his pain and his suffering will end because he believes he will cease to exist.

The legalist, and the nominal Christian, hopes that his good deeds will out-weigh his sins, but he can never be certain that this is so. Mixed with his uncertain hope is a consciousness of his sin and of the impending judgement. He has no certainty about how he will stand in the judgement.

But the Christian with this hope, this living hope, looks to the future, regardless of whether that future is short or long, with absolute confidence that when he stands face to face with God he will be accepted. Indeed, he knows that because of Christ, his Saviour, his substitute, there is absolutely no possibility that he will be rejected.

But isn’t that self-righteous? Isn’t that rather conceited? Even offensive?

It may seem so.

But this living hope is not grounded in the Christian’s personal moral goodness or legal innocence. God has given us this living hope ‘through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead’ [verse 3].

Study these texts. What is confirmed or authenticated by the physical resurrection of Christ?
Romans 1:4

1Corinthians 15:17

Ephesians 2:4-7

1Corinthians 15:12-28

By this resurrection:

The claims of Christ to be the Son of God are confirmed. So the living hope is grounded in the deity of Christ.

The substitutionary, sin-bearing death of Christ is authenticated. So the living hope is grounded in the death of Christ for sin.

The present acceptance of the believer in the presence of God is confirmed. So the living hope is grounded in the Christian’s indissoluble union with Christ.

The future physical resurrection of the believer is confirmed. So the living hope is grounded in the fact of Christ’s real physical resurrection.

Without the resurrection of Christ there is no salvation. Without the resurrection of Christ there is no ‘living hope’. But because there is the resurrection of Christ, there is salvation – sure, certain, guaranteed to all who believe in Christ. Because there is the resurrection of Christ the Christian hope is a living hope – a vital and enduring guaranteed expectation of all that God has promised in Christ.

 

E. AN INHERITANCE THAT CAN NEVER PERISH, SPOIL OR FADE

In verse 4 Peter mentions a second end result of the new birth God has given to us: ‘he has given us new birth ... into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade’.

The New Testament uses the term ‘inheritance’ to refer to the complete salvation that is ours in Christ Jesus and because of Christ Jesus.

Check these verses. What do they teach about the Christian’s ‘inheritance’?
Acts 20:32

Acts 26:18

Galatians 3:18

Ephesians 1:11

Ephesians 1:14

Ephesians 1:18

Colossians 1:12

Hebrews 9:15

Prior to being born again we had no ‘inheritance’. We had no right and no expectation of eternal life in the presence of God or in the kingdom of God. The only thing we could look for in the future was the certainty of God’s judgement.

But now, says Peter, God has given us new birth into an inheritance. Because of this new birth we now have a future. Not just a future, but a glorious and absolutely certain future.

The above verses teach us several truths about this inheritance:

The word of God’s grace, the Gospel, mediates this inheritance to us [Acts 20:32].

This inheritance belongs to all who are sanctified (that is, set apart by God for God) by faith in Christ [Acts 26:18].

The inheritance depends on God’s grace, not on our keeping God’s law [Galatians 3:18].

The inheritance is ours only because we are in Christ [Ephesians 1:11 NIV footnote].

The inheritance is guaranteed by the Holy Spirit who dwells within all who believe [Ephesians 1:14].

The inheritance is rich and glorious [Ephesians 1:18].

In ourselves, we are disqualified, but God has qualified us to share in this inheritance [Colossians 1:12].

The inheritance is eternal, and is part of the new covenant mediated by Christ [Hebrews 9:15].

Reflection:
[1] Which of the above truths is most meaningful for you? Explain why.

 

[2] Which is most difficult for you to believe? Explain why.

 

[3] How do these truths impact your perception of your relationship with God?

 

This inheritance, Peter says in verse 4 -

Can never perish. [It is incorruptible. It is immortal.] The same word is used of God [Romans 1:23; 1Timothy 1:17]; of our resurrection bodies [1Corinthians 15:52]; and of the Word of God [1Peter 1:23].

Can never spoil. [It can never become defiled. It can never become soiled. It remains pure.] The word is used in Hebrews 7:26 to refer to Jesus in his high priestly role.

Can never fade. [It is perpetual. It is consistent.] Nothing can diminish it. Nothing can lessen its content.

It is impossible for any of these three things – perishing, spoiling, fading – to happen to the inheritance the believer has in Christ.

In fact, says Peter, it is ‘kept in heaven for you’. The word translated ‘kept’ means ‘guarded’. And here we learn why Peter can so confidently state that our ‘inheritance’ will never perish, spoil or fade – it is guarded by God. It is kept safe by God. It is watched over by God. He jealously guards it as a person guards a precious treasure. And it is indeed a precious treasure – it was purchased for us by the death of God’s well-beloved Son.

Not only is this inheritance guarded by God, it is, Peter says, ‘kept in heaven for you’. For those who believe in Jesus Christ. God himself is keeping this inheritance – the complete salvation we have in Christ – safe for us. Regardless of our struggles and failures. Regardless of the devil’s accusations.

If it were left to us to guard this inheritance, to keep it secure and complete, we would undoubtedly fail. We would lose it. But not only does God provide this inheritance through the death of Christ, he also, knowing our weakness and our failings, keeps it safe for us.

How great is his love for us! How great is his desire for us to be with him in his eternal glory! How strong and immoveable his purpose for us!

Discussion point: What relevance does 1Peter 1:4 have for assurance of salvation?

 

 

F. SHIELDED BY GOD’S POWER

Peter has already affirmed that those who believe in Christ possess a sure and certain salvation. Peter’s certainty is grounded in his unshakeable confidence in God.

In 1Peter 1:4 he affirmed that the believers’ inheritance is kept in heaven for them. Now in verse 5 he tells us that believers are themselves ‘shielded by God’s power’ pending the return of Christ, and the fullness of salvation that will be revealed at that time.

‘Shielded’ contains all the meaning of ‘kept’ in verse 4, but with an additional, stronger aspect. It is used to refer to a military guard; it is used to refer to a military sentinel or lookout. God is watching over us. He is ‘on guard’. He is alert. He is watchful. He is protecting us.

But Peter is more specific. Those who believe in Christ are ‘shielded by God’s power’.

The same almighty power by which God created the entire universe, is the power that shields every genuine Christian.

The same almighty power by which God continues to sustain the entire universe, is the power that shields every genuine Christian.

The same almighty power by which God has worked amazing miracles, is the power that shields all true believers.

The same almighty power by which God raised Christ from death to life, and seated him at his right hand in glory, is the power that shields all who truly acknowledge Christ.

The same almighty power that is embedded in the Gospel of salvation and has raised us also from spiritual death to eternal life, is the power that shields those whom God has set apart as his own.

Peter is not talking in this context about any power that God may have given to believers – such as empowerment to teach his Word, to perform miracles, to live godly lives. Rather he is clearly speaking of the power of God which is active for or on behalf of believers in saving them and keeping them saved. It is God’s power by which God deliberately and actively keeps believers safe. It is God in powerful action watching over his people; it is not our use of any powers or gifting he may have given to us.

Nor can we understand that this protective, shielding, keeping action of God towards his people is primarily to do with the things of this life, though it may, at any moment, include any of these:

It is not about God shielding us from physical danger.
It is not about God shielding us from physical illness.
It is not about God shielding us from financial disaster.
It is not about God shielding us from relationship failure.
It is not about God shielding us from religious persecution.
It is not about God shielding us from death.

God can, and at times does, shield us from these physical, temporal things. And he certainly does limit them to what we are able to bear, as Paul testifies in 1Corinthians 10:11-13. In this sense, when God shields us from physical harm he is also at the same time shielding us from spiritual harm in the sense of which Peter speaks: that God is shielding us by his power, keeping us spiritually safe by his power, pending the return of Christ and our ultimate salvation. The shielding by God that Peter speaks of is God shielding us, his dearly loved children, even in the midst of any or all of the above traumas and tragedies, and making sure that we will be there with Christ on the last day. Still believing. Still standing firm. Despite the circumstances of our lives.

Peter has thus reminded us of a double barrelled assurance, a double-sided certainty:

That salvation is kept safe by God for those who believe in Christ – verse 4. It is kept in heaven.

That those who believe in Christ are kept safe by God for salvation – verse 5. We are kept for heaven.

Let us join with Peter in this glorious confidence – ‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ’ who ‘in his great mercy’ established us in this ‘living hope’ [verse 3].

Discussion: Peter has given believers two points of certainty: assurance regarding their salvation, and assurance regarding themselves. Answer these questions:
[1] What is the difference between these two assurances?

 

[2] How do these two assurances depend on each other?

 

[3] What does it mean for you personally that God is shielding you by his power?

 

[4] For how long does God shield you?

 

 

G. THE ULTIMATE SALVATION

Peter states that we are shielded by God’s power ‘until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time’ [1Peter 1:5].
Like Paul, Peter is firmly convinced that those who believe in Jesus Christ are already saved, and already possess everything necessary for and included in spiritual salvation.

Study these verses from 1Peter. List the various aspects of salvation that those who believe in Christ already possess:
1: 2

1: 2

1:3

1: 4, 23

1:18

2:24

2:24

2:25

But there is still an aspect of salvation that we do not yet experience, that will not be ours until the return of Christ in judgement, power and glory. Satan is still present and active. Sin is still in us and around us. Suffering of all kinds still impacts us. Death still confronts and claims us. But when Christ returns everything that entered the world in Genesis 3 will be completely and permanently removed.

Satan will be no more.
Sin will be no more.
Suffering of all kinds will be no more.
Death will be no more.

Read the following texts. How do Paul, Peter and Jesus all indicate that there is an aspect of salvation which will not be ours until Christ returns?
Romans 8:21-24

1Peter 1:6

1Peter 1:13

1Peter 4:13

1Peter 5:2

1Peter 5:4

John 17:24

Paul spoke of the ‘glorious freedom of the children of God’ – the physical restoration that will take place when Christ returns. Peter referred to our ultimate future salvation in terms of grace and glory. Jesus anticipated that day as a day of glory.

In terms of our relationship with God, we are already completely and permanently saved. And part of that complete, permanent salvation is the ‘living hope’ of which Peter spoke in verse 3. In this confident hope is the sure and certain knowledge that this life, with its sin and its suffering is not the end.

Beyond our physical death, beyond the return of Christ as the glorious King and Judge, is glory.

It is for this eternal glory that God is keeping us safe by his almighty power.