1 Peter 1 1:12
Even the address on the envelope is full of encouragement for these Christians facing hard times (cf 1:6, 4:4, 4:12 etc). Strangers in the world they may be, disowned and abused by their neighbours, for indeed they no longer belong here; rather they belong profoundly now to God Himself – Father, Son and Spirit. We are chosen by the Father – and “according to his foreknowledge” means not that he simply knew in advance that we would trust Christ and hence chose us, rather the sense of “foreknowledge” is almost that he “fore-loved” us, deciding before the creation of the world to set his love on us – long before we had done anything at all to deserve it. That choice was made effective “through the sanctifying work of the Spirit”, which speaks not of the Spirit’s work over time of making us more like Jesus, but of His work in conversion, taking sinners like us and setting us apart for God to be His people. As at Sinai when Israel was set apart as God’s own people, they pledged their obedience to God and were sprinkled with the sacrificial blood, so it is the blood of Jesus that marks us out as God’s People and our submission to Him as Lord.
Praise and joy pervade these verses (see vv.3,6,7,8) – a joy to be known even in the midst of tough times (v.6). We can rejoice in our hope first of all: a certain hope, for it is founded on the resurrection of Jesus, and it is being kept safe for us even as we are being kept safe for it; and a glorious hope that will never disappoint or grow dull. There’s lots to unpack in those rich verses (3-5), but then notice also that we can and should rejoice in our faith (vv.6,7) – for authentic, genuine faith is truly much more precious even than gold (though our faith might not seem to be worth much now, a day is coming when its true worth will be gloriously apparent). My own hunch is that the “praise, glory and honour” in v.7 extraordinarily is what Christ will give to us – cf the “crown of glory” of 5:4 – though no doubt if we receive crowns of glory on that day it will be our delight to cast them at the feet of our Saviour. The last couple of verses then mention something else for which we can rejoice – our love for the Lord Jesus, ie that relationship with Him which is the very essence of our salvation. It is a relationship which for the time being is by faith, not by sight, but when Jesus is finally revealed (end of v.7) then we will enjoy this relationship fully and perfectly. We long for that, but already we know something of the joy of heaven in the relationship we already enjoy with Christ now. No doubt many of us feel our hope is pretty vague, our faith pretty feeble, and our love pretty weak – and we are much more aware of the griefs and trials of life – but if we are truly Christians, then this hope and faith and love are ours, so take time to help people delight in these things.
In a sense these verses give an added reason to rejoice, as we recognize the wonderful privilege that is ours, knowing what prophets and angels have longed to know. As the Old Testament prophets spoke of the grace that would one day be poured out through the sufferings of the Messiah, they spoke of things they could not fully understand, it remained a mystery to them. But what was promised in the Spirit-inspired writings of the OT, is now proclaimed and revealed in the Spirit-empowered preaching of the Gospel. So often we take for granted what we now know, rather than wanting to look more deeply into and understand more fully all that is ours now in Christ.
I think I might well be tempted to work through the passage with essentially one question:
What reasons does Peter give to these Christians, despite their feeling like strangers in the world who don’t really fit and who are facing trials of various kinds, to rejoice?
Perhaps with a couple of intro questions :
Of course you would certainly need plenty of follow up questions to tease out the details of each bit and to get people to apply them to themselves. (NB one obvious application must be that we rejoice, and people’s joy might be a good indicator of their real understanding!)
Used with the permission of St Ebbe’s, Oxford