What marvelous grace!

Posted: December 6, 2009 in 1 Peter

1 Peter 1:1-5, “What Marvelous Grace!”
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If you had the opportunity to speak churches across the known world, what would you say? … Paul frequently wrote to the churches he planted – sometimes to thank them for their help in the gospel, many times to bring correction & directly combat false teaching. James wrote to an early Jewish church, exhorting them to get off their spiritual couches & be doers of the word, rather than mere hearers. Peter? Peter (bombastic Peter who was known for charging into situations before thinking them through – one of the inner circle of Jesus’ friends – the one who had enough faith to actually walk out of the boat)…this same Peter writes a letter of encouragement to the church. There was already persecution of the Church & Nero’s persecution was just around the corner or had just begun (depending on the date of the writing), and to a Church that was beginning to suffer in incredible ways, Peter offers the message of the grace of the gospel of Jesus Christ – the encouragement to keep walking with God – and the hope that one day soon the Lord Jesus will return & change everything!

So who wrote 1 Peter? Peter! 🙂 This should be a no-brainer considering the virtually universal acceptance within the early church…there was no doubt on the authorship of Peter at all until liberal scholarship in the 20th century (but then again, there’s a reason it’s called “liberal” scholarship). That’s not to say there are not fake epistles & gospels out there with Peter’s name on them (there are at least 2 so-called “lost” gospels of Peter & other letters that are surely written by someone else that used Peter’s name as a pseudonym), but 1-2 Peter are definitely authentic.

Peter was writing from Rome at the time (“Babylon” – Ch 5:13), where he was probably teaching & hiding out from the beginning persecution – somewhere in the time-frame of 64AD. By this point, Peter was well-accustomed to persecution, and he was uniquely qualified to encourage the church to “keep on keeping on” in their walk with Christ Jesus. Peter had suffered much (just as the Lord Jesus had told him – John 21:18), and he lived with the expectation of the imminent return of Christ. There was much to be hopeful for: whether the Church had to wait one more day or the rest of their lives, those in the Church would soon see Jesus face-to-face!

Why just look at only the introduction today? Because the introduction is filled with all kinds of examples of the marvelous grace of God! We’ll see the abundance of grace – the completeness of grace – the goodness of grace – and the scope of grace.

1 Peter 1:1-12 (NKJV)
1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

A. 1st example: grace was shown to the messenger – Peter himself. Peter had zero reason to be called an apostle of Jesus Christ, if for no other reason because Peter had vehemently denied Jesus Christ. [3x before the rooster crowed twice – Mark 14:66-72] Surely if anyone beside Judas Iscariot had lost the right to be called an apostle, Peter had – right? Yes & no. Yes, Peter certainly had no “right” to ever be called an apostle of Jesus Christ (just like you & I never have any “right” to salvation) – it’s all due to the grace of God! But even though Simon Peter never deserved it, that’s exactly what the Lord Jesus did when He reinstated Peter during the days following the Resurrection. [John 21:15-19, “Do you love Me?”] If the NT never spoke another word about Peter beyond his restoration, his life would still be a wonderful example of grace!
__ I. Likewise, the fact that many of you are sitting here today is an example of the grace of God! You did nothing to earn your salvation…you should have been dead long before you ever began to even think about Jesus Christ. But God was merciful on you & kept you alive long enough to hear & receive the gospel – you responded by turning away from your sins & personally received Jesus as your Lord & Savior. Praise God for His many examples of grace throughout the Church!
__ II. There are some of you here today that can experience that same grace today. God has mercifully kept you alive this long, though you did not deserve it. Take this opportunity today to respond to His love & receive Christ as your Lord…

B. What was Peter? “an apostle of Jesus Christ”: Technically, the word simply means “one who is sent” – but Peter obviously falls into the category of a “capital A” Apostle…someone who was a physical witness of the Resurrected Jesus Christ & invested with authority to help lay the foundation of the church upon the solid cornerstone of the Lord Jesus (Eph 2:20).
__ I. Interestingly enough, Peter doesn’t come back to his apostleship after the 1st verse, but instead chooses to refer to himself as a fellow elder (Ch 5:1). The whole tone of this letter is not one of correction, but of encouragement & hope from someone who is just like the rest of us.
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…To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,

A. The recipients are interesting…they seem to be mainly Gentiles (all located in modern-day Turkey) – but Peter’s ministry in Acts seemed to be primarily to Jewish believers (hence his encounter with Cornelius & later interaction told by Paul in Galatians…). At some point, this seems to have switched – and although he calls the pilgrims those of the “Diaspora”, he seems to use the term simply to refer to Christians scattered throughout the Roman empire. These Gentile Christians are people (like us) who had zero tie to the gospel promises of the Old Covenant, but were now brought in by the grace of Jesus Christ…what wonderful grace!
__ I. One has to marvel at the various regions listed by Peter…Galatia was obviously visited by Paul (hence, Galatians), but we’re not told of Paul’s missions in the other areas…in fact, Paul was specifically forbidden by the Holy Spirit to travel to Bithynia (Acts 16:7). Paul was probably the greatest missionary of the early Church (and probably of all of Church history!), but Paul wasn’t the only missionary of the early Church! All sorts of men & women were taking the good news of the Lord Jesus all over the Roman empire – the Great Commission is something ALL of us are given!
____ a. BTW – one of the only other times the regions Cappadocia & Pontus are listed in the NT are on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:9). It’s possible that some who heard Peter’s message that day were saved (along with over 3000 others!), went back home & shared the gospel with people in their own cities.

B. Who are the recipients? “Pilgrims” – ESV translates this “exiles”, but that seems to be a bit harsh…most other translations say something to the effect of “soujourners/strangers” – i.e., people who are just passing through. For the Christian, that’s exactly what we are: pilgrims just passing through earth on our way to see our Lord Jesus. This world is not our home; heaven is! For a Church that is to endure much suffering, being able to keep a heavenly perspective is absolutely critical…
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2 elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied.

A. Grace shown to the recipients – they’re the “elect”…the church of God! To be “elect” is simply to be chosen by God for salvation…which for the past 500 years in the Church has been a source of much debate. Interestingly enough, whenever election is mentioned in the NT, it’s always presented as a idea of comfort; not of contention. That those who have placed their faith & trust in Jesus Christ for salvation are elected by God for that very purpose should bring us tremendous comfort! It is the love of God that saved you & me…just as Israel is the chosen nation of God, so have we been chosen by God! We’ve been grafted into His wonderful covenant promises – not because of anything we have done, but because of everything Christ Jesus has done. Let the academics shout at each other regarding the intricacies of predestination & free will regarding our election…may we simply rejoice that we elect of God! It’s a wonderful thing to be God’s elect children for salvation!
__ I. Peter does give us some insight to the workings of election & relates it marvelously to the different Persons of the Trinity…which just goes to underscore that all 3 Persons (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) are all equal in power & essence. Jesus Christ is not less than God the Father, nor is the Holy Spirit less than Jesus Christ. We serve 1 God, eternally revealed in 3 Persons.

B. Why are we elect? It’s “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father…” There is nothing that God does not know. As Almighty God, He is absolutely omniscient – which simply means He knows everything. He knows every action, every thought, every word, every person, every decision, even every possible outcome of different decisions (though He already knows the decision that will be made). There is nothing outside the knowledge of God…it is truly infinite. Regarding our election to salvation, this simply means that God knows YOU. God knows exactly who will repent & will place their faith & trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation…God knew you & chose you for that purpose.
__ I. Where the debate comes in with election is whether or not this is an act of God’s will or if God allows us to exercise our own free will here. Suffice to say that our free-will prior to being born-again is in bondage to sin…any faith we exercise in repentance is faith that is given to us by God (Eph 2:8-9). But even with that in mind, God still repeatedly calls upon us to respond to His offer of grace…so our free-will definitely comes into play. I suggest the debate is flawed in it’s very premise: it’s not that if God wills us to be elect, than we have zero choice (like robots) – nor if we exercise our free-will to respond to the gospel than God is not truly sovereign…that’s a false dichotomy. The Bible speaks of BOTH the sovereign will of God AND the willing response of man to His grace. Election simply speaks of salvation from God’s perspective & repentance speaks of it from ours.
__ II. How do you know if you’re one of the elect? By placing your faith & trust in Jesus Christ for salvation…

C. In what way are we elect? “in sanctification of the Spirit…” Sanctification simply speaks of being “set apart & designated as holy.” Many of us would look at ourselves & laugh – “I’m anything BUT holy!” Outside of Christ Jesus, you’re correct. But when you personally placed your faith & trust IN Christ Jesus, everything changed for you. You went from death to life. You went from doomed to destined. You went from sinner to saint. Right now, God has seated you in heavenly places with Christ Jesus – right now, God already sees you as holy because you’ve been washed in the blood of His Son. Every single Christian has truly been set apart by God the Holy Spirit & proclaimed to be holy in the sight of God.
__ I. ‘That sounds great theologically, but what does it look like practically?’ It looks like a transformed life – someone being conformed into the image of Christ. Someone who naturally struggles with sin, but desires to walk in uprightness with their Lord & Savior. Understand that “sanctification” in this sense does not mean that we ACT perfect; it means that in the sight of God we ARE perfect. Our personal sanctification is a life-long process; our spiritual sanctification has already taken place as an act of the Holy Spirit the very instant we were born-again.

D. For what purpose are we made elect? The “obedience…[to] Jesus Christ…” The ongoing effect of our sanctification by the Spirit & the very purpose of God’s election is that we would be obedient to Jesus Christ. Prior to our salvation, we were definitely NOT obedient! We lied, lusted, coveted, & rebelled against God at every turn. We wanted everything WE wanted; who cared what God desired for us & what His word clearly said we should do? For every Christian, that attitude ought to be past tense! The Spirit has set us apart as holy – and now our conduct is to reflect that. As Peter will quote later in the chapter, we are to be holy because God is holy (vs. 16). The fact that we call Jesus our “Lord” means that we recognize Him as God & because He is God, He is our King & Master. We are but slaves who have been bought at the most wonderful price in all the universe (yet we are His friends & co-heirs as well).

E. By what method are we made elect? “…sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ…” Only through the blood of Jesus Christ are we made holy! His blood is required for the remission of our sins (Matt 26:28) – His blood is required for our consecration unto God (Lev 8 – as seen through Aaron) – His blood is required for our initiation into the New Covenant (Heb 12:24) – His blood is what purchased our redemption unto God (1 Pet 1:18-19)…praise God for the blood of the Lord Jesus!

F. ‘That’s a ton of theology…’ No doubt! But what we see here is the completeness of the grace of God! The whole of the Triune Godhead is involved in our election unto salvation – and it encompasses all of time: from eternity past in God’s foreknowledge, to the day of Jesus’ crucifixion (when we were sprinkled with blood) – to the current day when we are sanctified by the work of the Holy Spirit – to an eternal future (as we’ll see in the next few verses). Praise God for the limitless aspect of His grace!

G. Standard greeting: grace & peace…
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3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

A. Where does all of this grace originate? God! God the Father is to be blessed & praised because of His grace, mercy & promises of hope. For all of eternity, we’ll have the opportunity to give unto God never ending praise – and God is definitely worth never-ending praise. Just spend a few moments considering what God should have done to you in His justice & wrath – and then consider that Jesus took what you deserved upon Himself (something we remember during Communion)…it’s impossible to think on those things and NOT desire to praise & bless God!

B. God isn’t only our Heavenly Father; He’s also the “Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…” There’s an aspect of this that is difficult for us to wrap our minds around – for though Jesus has eternally existed as the Word (there never was a time that He was not), the Son of God is still begotten of God the Father. God certainly is Jesus’ Father in the incarnation (which is the entire point of the Christmas season!), but infinitely before the manger in Bethlehem, the Lord Jesus has always been begotten of God. (Don’t worry…we’ll have all of eternity to ponder it. 🙂 )

C. What did God the Father do? “begotten us again to a living hope…” Not only is Jesus begotten of the Father, so are we – though in vastly different ways. We are begotten “again”…in other words, we have a 2nd begetting. Our 1st is our physical birthday; our 2nd is the moment we’re born of the Spirit – which is exactly the same thought Jesus expressed to Nicodemus. [BIBLE: John 3:3-8] This is why it’s called “new life” – everyone in Christ Jesus has been born again. But note we are born again TO something…we’re begotten again “to a living hope.” What’s our hope? Everlasting life – eternity with the Lord Jesus experiencing His blessing, fellowship, mercy, and grace. Giving Him glory & sharing in His everlasting inheritance… Wonderful! This is one of the reasons the good news is so GOOD! Our hope & joy in Christ Jesus isn’t only for now (it is for now, but it’s not only for now) – we have a future to look forward to…we’ve been given a solid promise of eternity! If our only hope in Christ was for this life alone and not for the next, we wouldn’t have any true hope at all (in fact, we ought to be pitied – 1 Cor 15:19). Why? What would be the purpose of clinging to the promise of grace in Christ Jesus if we still had to face the wrath of God for eternity? The idea of ‘grace’ would be an extraordinarily cruel joke. But it IS true! His grace is so very good because we’ve been given a living hope!

D. How is our hope possible? “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…” We have a living hope because we have a living Savior! Our hope in the resurrection is based solely upon our Lord Jesus’ own resurrection…and praise God that He is indeed alive today! It’s so fitting that Peter begins his letter with this declaration of the resurrection of Jesus – Peter was one of the 1st witnesses of the empty tomb (after the women)…he actually pushed past the apostle John to go inside to see for himself!
__ I. Be careful not to neglect the importance of the resurrection. Jesus’ crucifixion is obviously important – we’d not be cleansed by His blood if He never shed it. But yet we’d have no assurance at all that His blood is sufficient if He had not risen from the grave! [“Passion of the Christ” ended w/ the barest mention of the resurrection – that’s when the story really begins!] The resurrection is the proof of the grace of God!
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4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,

A. When do we experience this grace? In the future: it is “reserved in heaven for you.” This is why Peter called the church “pilgrims” in vs. 1. We are passing through to our home – and our home is reserved for us by our Lord. John 14:1-3 (1) “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. (2) In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (3) And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. [] It is that place to which we have a ‘reservation’ – this is our inheritance.
__ I. BTW – it’s not just OUR inheritance. We’re actually joint-heirs with Christ Jesus in HIS inheritance! Jesus is the one who’s been given all authority in heaven & on earth – yet we’ve been privileged to share in that inheritance with Him. Paul makes it clear that we are joint heirs with Christ when we suffer with Him, for we will be glorified with Him (Rom 8:17). What this truly looks like, no one knows but God…but just the very thought of it is absolutely incredible!

B. How good is our inheritance to come? It’s completely pure & completely everlasting – “incorruptible & undefiled & that does not fade away.” As Jesus said, neither moth nor rust can destroy it – thieves cannot break in & steal away our treasures in heaven (Matt 6:20). Our inheritance is truly everlasting. For all of eternity we will enjoy the presence of God & the glory of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.
__ I. ‘Ok – that sounds good, but so what? Why would Peter make such a big deal of this?’ What could be more encouraging to a Church suffering through persecution & trials than the truth that one day all of those trials will be over? Even in our own troubles, we often look for the “light at the end of the tunnel”…we just want to know how long it’s going to last in order to prepare ourselves to endure… [] That’s exactly what Peter is sharing with the Church! There is a light at the end of the tunnel for all of us – no matter what we’re going through right now, we have an eternal incorruptible inheritance that awaits us – given to us by none other than our Lord Jesus!
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5 who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

A. Do we only experience the grace of God in the future? No – we experience it right now in the present! Peter will get more into this idea in the rest of Ch 1, but for now he shows we “are kept by the power of God.” The idea here is that we are protected – we are shielded by the power of God. Our living hope in eternity is assured; the enemy can not shake us out of the promises of God – no matter how bad persecution & suffering becomes. God Himself keeps us through His power.

B. How are we kept? “through faith for salvation.” Faith is absolutely essential to holding on to the promise of our living hope. Too often, Christians get caught up in looking for physical things – a sign that God has blessed us, or some sort of immediate gift that proves we’ve been obedient to God. “I’ll know God’s on my side if He does ___ for me.” Beware! Not only is that wrong thinking about God – but you’re setting yourselves up for disappointment! We trust God based upon His already revealed action in Christ Jesus & upon His written word – anything else we experience is simply evidence of His grace. But we have more than enough foundation to trust God simply through faith! We walk by faith & not by sight…and it is only by walking by faith that we can get through the sufferings we experience now, because it’s in those sufferings that we may not see anything from God except His word & what He’s already accomplished through Jesus.

C. We have to endure now, but be assured there will come a day when we do not have to endure any longer. Our salvation is “ready to be revealed in the last time.” … (Barclay) “Salvation is a many-sided thing. In it there is deliverance from danger, deliverance from disease, deliverance from condemnation, and deliverance from sin. And it is that, and nothing less than that, to which Christians can look forward at the end.”

Conclusion:
O the wonders & majesty of the grace shown to us by our God! The grace of Jesus Christ given to us changes everything! As the old hymn says, “O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be. Let Thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee: Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, O take and seal it; seal it for Thy courts above.” The grace of God is what takes us through everything we face. It is:

1.The grace of God is abundant: shown to the messenger & recipients.
2.The grace of God is complete. (shown by the fullness of the Trinity)
3.The grace of God is good – we have a living hope.
4.The grace of God is for later – an eternal inheritance
5.The grace of God is for now – we are kept by His power.

Praise God for His marvelous grace! Are you relying upon His grace? Or are you struggling to endure your sufferings in your own strength? In our own strength, we will always despond – we will always be overwhelmed…that’s simply the nature of suffering. But part of the glorious good news of the gospel is that there is indeed an end to our sufferings because of the grace of God – and until we see that place of inheritance, we can rely on God’s all sufficient grace to take us there. Christian, hold fast to the marvelous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ…

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