Category Archives: 1 Peter

1 Peter: How to live triumphantly in trials

By Spencer D Gear

It is estimated that the apostle Peter wrote this epistle in the the mid A.D. 60s.  He wrote to believers who were discouraged and scattered because of the persecution they were encountering.  Here they are called “elect exiles of the dispersion” (1:1 ESV).  Because they were suffering for their faith, he urged them to look to the example of Christ (3:8ff) and remember that they will be partakers “in the glory that is going to be revealed” (5:1).

The following are expositions from I Peter that I have preached in local churches in Australia.

1 Peter 1

1 Peter 2

1 Peter 3

1 Peter 4

1 Peter 5

vs 1-2
vs 3-5
vs 6-7
vs 8-9
vs 10
vs 10-12
vs 13-16
vs 17
vs 18-19
vs 20-21
vs 22-25
vs 1-3
vs 4-8
vs 9-12

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 1And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 5:6-11 ESV).

Copyright (c) 2007, Spencer D. Gear.  This document last updated at: 14 October 2015.

I Peter 1:22-25, The Christian’s New Way of Life: Purity, Truth and Love

All through life


By Spencer D Gear

A. Introduction

Would you please suggest to me three major characteristics of a Christian’s new way of  life after becoming a Christian.  What should a Christian lifestyle be like?  If you had never ever seen a Christian, what major character traits would you see?  Just three of them please!  [I’ll wait.]

You may not remember the name, Tertullian, but he was one of the great defenders of the faith in the early church.  He was an apologist.  He was born about A.D. 160 to a Roman centurion in Carthage (Northern Africa).  He wrote these words:

It is mainly the deeds of a love so noble that lead many to put a brand upon us. See, they say, how they love one another, for [they] themselves are animated by mutual hatred; [of us they say,] how they are ready even to die for one another, for they themselves will sooner put to death. And they are wrath with us, too, because we call each other brethren.[2]

We have come to the last 3 verses in I Peter 1, and we have some teaching here on three aspects of biblical Christianity that are under as much threat in Australia today as they were in Asia Minor (Turkey) in the first century.

Based on I Peter 1:22-25, the message from this passage is: The Christian’s New Way of Life: Purity, Truth & Love.

Note what is happening in Australia today with this new way of life.

Purity: We want our waterways to be clear and to provide pure & clean water.  But as for the moral slide of our country, we are heading towards God’s judgment with loose living.  We might call it sex, love and rock ‘n roll, but God calls it sexual immorality.

“In Melbourne [in July 2003] . . . the Uniting Church of Australia voted to allow homosexual ministers. They are the first (but probably not the last) Australian church to do so.”[3]

As for truth, I was in a public meeting in Bundaberg a few years ago when the speaker said, “There are no such things as absolutes.” I challenged him and a person in the audience challenged me: “There are no absolutes.”  And you know what?  He was absolutely sure about that.  When we proclaim, “There are no absolutes,” it means that there is no such thing as truth, no right, no wrong.  And that’s an absolute in itself.

The current culture has experienced a paradigm shift from modernism to postmodernism. Postmodern thought is a rejection of absolute, objective truth. One author described the changes this way: “Permanence and solidity in social structures are now bygone commodities, not to mention abiding values and the concept of truth. . .”[4]

Don Matzat puts it so well:

The concept of error or wrong has been removed from the postmodern vocabulary with one exception – it is wrong to say that someone’s world view, religion, culture, philosophy or experience is wrong. The only absolute truth that exists in the postmodern mentality is that there is no such thing as absolute truth, and as far as the postmodern scholar is concerned, that is absolutely true.[5]

Matzat continues:

Our culture is saying truth is no longer that which corresponds with reality. Truth emerges out of a specific community or culture. Christians have their truth. Muslims have their truth. The New Age advocates have their truth.

Individually, truth is that which will produce a better reality for me or give me an excuse for having messed up my present reality. It is my truth if it works for me.[6]

What about love today in Australia?  According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics

The [year] 2002 crude marriage rate of 5.4 marriages per 1,000 population represented the second lowest marriage rate on record, following 5.3 per 1,000 in 2001. The highest crude marriage rate ever recorded was 12.0 per 1,000 in 1942. The crude marriage rate has been declining since 1970. This decline in the marriage rate can be mainly attributed to changes in attitudes to marriage and living arrangements that have occurred since then.[7]

Note what the Australian Bureau of Statistics says about de facto relationships: “Between 1996 and 2001 the census count of people aged 15 years and over in de facto marriages rose by 28% from 744,100 to 951,500.”[8]  They are not marriages at all.  They are de facto relationships.  About one million of them in the year 2001.

You talk to a 16-17 year old down the street and ask them about love and the most likely response you’ll get will be something about sex.  A 16-year-old young man told me a few weeks ago that he was “sexually active” with his 15-year-old girlfriend.  The Scriptures call it sexual immorality.

Let’s unpack I Peter 1:22-25, The Christian’s New Way of Life: Purity, Truth & Love, to see how our society measures up.  What would God say to Australia today from this passage of Scripture?

B.  This salvation brings a new way of life: purity, truth and love (v. 22)

Please observe three things that Peter says about this new way of life through Christ’s salvation.

1. First, this is the “state” of Christians: “You have purified yourselves” (v. 22)

¨ This is not a ceremonial, ritual cleansing like the Hebrew sacrificial system.  It is not physical cleansing of their bodies.  These believers knew that “to purify” meant “moral purity.”

+ This is what James meant in 4:8: “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

+ Or a John wrote in 1 John 3:3, “Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.”

¨ “You have purified” is difficult to translate into English because we don’t have an exact representation of this Greek perfect tense in English.  But it means that this purifying began in the past [at salvation] and is continuing now for the believer.

¨ A believer who is not morally pure is a contradiction in terms.  These Gentile believers had come from a very loose lifestyle in Asia Minor, but they had been redeemed.  This meant that their moral way of life was radically different from the mainstream of society.

¨ If you call yourself Christian, your lifestyle of purity is different than for normal Aussies.  This is the lifestyle of difference – moral purity.  This does not mean that your moral failures in the past cannot be changed.  In fact, the Christian life is one of moral purity that stands out from the way of the world.

How do believers who may have lived a previously immoral lifestyle attain moral purity?

Second, It starts at salvation, but v. 22 tells us the means for it to continue. . .

2. By obeying the truth

¨ What is truth?  Here, it is obedience to the truth of God’s word.  When believers  live a life of obedience to God’s Word, they will live a life of purity.

¨ In Acts 15:9, Peter spoke on behalf of Gentile Christians and said: “[God] made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.”

¨ When we read and study the Bible, we discover that

+ God’s view of sexuality is: no sex until marriage and faithfulness in marriage.

+De facto relationships are not God’s way to purity.  All de facto relationships are outside of God’s rules for moral purity.

+Please understand that moral purity means more than just sexuality.  What are the morals about right and wrong in working for your boss?  What about obeying government?  If you go to I Peter 2:1, you’ll see some more examples of moral impurity that must be gone from the Christian life.  We cannot be malicious towards others; we must get rid of all deceit in our lives.  Hypocrisy (saying one thing and doing another) must have no part in the Christian life.  Moral purity means that we are not envious of anything or anyone.  Slander of every kind must be gone from the Christian’s life.

Brothers and sisters, this Christian life is one of challenge and change.  If we act morally like the world, our Christian life must be questioned.

How do we purify ourselves?  “By obeying the truth.”  I have a grave concern for the current generation of evangelical Christians.  Forget about the liberals.  They don’t preach the Gospel or support the authoritative Word of God, so we can’t deal with them as Christians.

However, if  we have been born again and the Word of God is not faithfully preached from our pulpits, what chance do God’s people have of “obeying the truth” from what is preached from the pulpit?  Desley and I have visited way too many supposedly evangelical churches who do not obey what Paul said to Timothy (2 Tim. 4:1-2): “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.”

This is an awesome charge for anyone who dares to teach any of God’s people: Preach the Word.  Not preach your own opinion.  Preach what the text says.

I was leading a church service recently and asked the preacher to share with me his sermon topic so that I could build the service around his theme.  This is what he emailed me: “I will be preaching, talking, arguing, speaking or even some would say waffling from [and he mentioned the passage] roughly within the limits.”[9]

If Christians are “to purify themselves,” it must be through “obeying the truth” of God’s Word.  You can’t obey what you don’t know.  Therefore preaching the Word of God and not my human opinion is critical in churches today.  Just as important is getting a daily dose of God’s Word in your own lives.  How many of you have a consistent, daily, systematic reading of God’s Word?  Honest now?  How many of you meditate on God’s Word and its application to your lives daily.  I do not know how we can maintain a life of purity in a wicked world without getting God’s view from his word – daily!

If you use the KJV, you will note that it reads: “obeying the truth through the Spirit.”  The words, “through the Spirit” were in some of the MSS at the time the KJV was translated in 1611, but older MSS, closer to the time of the apostles, have been found and they do not include the words, “through the Spirit.”  However, we can understand why a scribe might have added “through the Spirit” and it is “correct enough but it is not a part of the text”[10] according to the best and oldest MSS evidence.

If you . . .

  •  First, purify yourselves by
  •  Second, obeying the truth of God’s word, what will happen?  There will be a result.

3. Third, you will “have sincere love for your brothers” (v. 22)

The Greek word for “brothers” means brothers and sisters in Christ.

The first Christians shared their goods and helped one another. Their common love for Jesus led them to love one another as Jesus commanded, thus allowing them to live in harmony and peace with one another. Seeing this, non-believers remarked, ‘See how they loved one another.'”[11]

Remember Jesus’ teaching in the Gospels (Matt. 22:35-39):

One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

When we love God, purify ourselves by obeying the truth, there will be worldview difference in the way we love.  This is actually a command to love one another that doesn’t show up in the NIV.

Yes, we are commanded to love our non-Christian neighbours.  Peter says one of the defining differences among the Christian community is not only that we are commanded to “love our brothers and sisters, ” but also that “you [must] have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.”

“Sincere love” here means “unhypocritical (unfeigned, sincere, honest) brotherly affection.” It means “not wearing a mask such as ancient actors wore on the stage to represent some fictitious character.  There is always the danger that we pretend like an actor instead of having actual affection.” [12]  This is not agape love, but philia love.

Here, Peter is teaching what John taught in 1 John 3:18: “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”

1 John 4:19-21:

We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

What does loving one another without a hypocritical mask look like in this group of Christians?

  •  Sometimes our love towards another is not appreciated and is met with coldness, and maybe is rebuffed.  That’s no reason to stop loving.
  •  I know that some people seem to be more lovable than others.  But this verse does not say: “Love your brother and sister if they are lovable.”
  •  Peter wants us to love one another without half-heartedness.
  •  Remove all evil thoughts and feelings from your hearts towards other brothers and sisters.
  •  Love needs to have a free reign to demonstrate its genuineness.
  •  All impurity conflicts with God’s gospel of truth.
  •  There must be absolute truth in our relationships.  We mean what we say and say what we mean.
  •  Are there factions and divisions among you.  You can’t truly love your brothers and sisters in Christ if strife continues between you.  Make it right today, in the name of Jesus, if such exists in this fellowship.

Jesus said: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  This is the litmus test of discipleship.  Do you know the Lord?  Are you a disciple of Christ?  Do you love one another in this church?  Or are there tension, factions and strife?  If we do not love one another, we are not demonstrating biblical discipleship to other Christians and to a watching world.

This salvation brings a new way of life: purity, truth and love (v. 22)

C.  Why should we have purity, truth and love in our new way of life?

v. 23: “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.”

¨ You have been born again – we are familiar with this language, but what does it mean?  We have been born into God’s family.  That’s why we are brothers and sisters.

Not perishable, but imperishable seed.  What does that mean?  When I plant a cane stalk, the cane disintegrates, it perishes, in the ground in order to produce another plant, which is also perishable.  However, when the seed of God’s word, the gospel, is planted in your life and you accept it, it becomes imperishable seed, i.e. the imperishable seed of eternal life.  How come?

‘Through the living & enduring word of God.’

A normal seed that is planted perishes as it gives birth to a new plant, which produces seeds which also will perish.  But when the see of the word of God, germinates in your life, you have new life that is eternal, imperishable.

For us living in an agricultural society, this is a wonderful illustration of the power of the Word of God to change people.  I’m reminded of Hebrews 4:12: “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

In vv 24-25, we have a splendid reminder of just how fragile human life is from a worldly perspective:

For,”All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you.

This is a quote from Isaiah 40:6-8.  Isaiah seems to be Peter’s favourite OT book, quoting from it on 6 occasions.[13]

What are these two verses telling us?

D. This salvation majors on the PERMANENT and not on the TEMPORAL [v. 24]

1. This is a shocker for us human beings to acknowledge.

ALL people; nobody is exempt, and all the human glory that we profess (like talents, achievements, wealth), are like grass and flowers – they wither & fall off.  We are temporal human beings.  There is nothing permanent about our human existence and the things we accumulate will with and fall.  The Psalmist reminds us: “As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field” (103:15).  Jesus said: “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matt. 6:30).

Last week, we saw a fearsome example of how frail human beings are.  Talk about grass withering and flowers falling off, what could be more devastating to the hopes of human beings than the force of hurricane Katrina and the damage it did in the USA.

BUT . . . BUT. . .

  • “the word of the Lord stands forever.”[quote from Isaiah 40:6-8]  And this is the word that was preached to you.

Even if you forget everything I have said today, please make this a permanent dwelling in your thinking: “the word of the Lord stands forever.”  Kingdoms will rise and fall.  Your lives may experience considerable disappointment.  But on one thing you can absolutely sure: “the word of the Lord stands forever.”

Please understand that when the critics, whether inside or outside of the church, want to attack the core of Christianity, they zero in on attacking the Word of God.  Here are a couple of examples:

  •  USA Episcopalian (that’s Anglican), John Shelby Spong, wrote:  To believe the traditional understanding of “the inspiration of scripture as the literal, revealed word of God” is “not just naïve, but eminently rejectable. . .  Scripture is filled with cultural attitudes that we have long ago abandoned and with behavior that is today regarded as immoral.”[14]
  • Marcus Borg: “The gospels are neither divine documents nor straightforward historical records.  They are not divine products inspired directly by God.”[15]
  • Back in the 1960s, Anglican Bishop John A. T. Robinson wrote his devastating little book, Honest to God, in which he stated this about the Bible:

In order to express the ‘trans-historical’ character of the historical event of Jesus of Nazareth, the New Testament writers used the ‘mythological’ language of pre-existence, incarnation, ascent and descent, miraculous intervention, cosmic catastrophe, and so on, which according to Bultmann, make sense only on a now antiquated world-view.[16]

What’s “the word of the Lord”?  Peter has just quoted it for us from Isaiah.  It is very deliberate that Peter calls this “the word of the Lord” and not “the word of God.”  Why?  In the OT,

the word LORD signifies “the self-disclosed name of the covenant-God of Israel, Yahweh, ‘Jehovah.”  In the New Testament it is a standard designation for Jesus Christ.  With the term Lord Peter highlights Jesus’ divinity; he shows that the word of God is identical with the word of the Lord Jesus.  For that reason, Peter concludes this section in these words:

25b.  And this is the word that was preached to you.  The word the apostles preached was the gospel of Jesus.[17]

Notice the emphasis of this passage: Keep your eyes on the temporal things of this world and you will not experience real, genuine hope.  Hope comes from your relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  That’s what will last forever.  If you want lasting hope, don’t rely on:

¨ How much money you have, or other temporal things;

¨ Lay up treasure in heaven through your relationship with Jesus Christ.

E.        Conclusion

Let’s draw some applications:

1. Based on this passage, we know that Christians are those who have been born again by God’s imperishable seed, the Word of the Lord.  Rebirth is something that happens in the heart of a person.  The effects of this rebirth will affect your intellect, your emotions and your moral character.

Based on this passage, there are three telltale signs that you are born-again:

a. First, you have morally purified yourself and that is a continuing process;

b. Second, you are striving to obey God’s truth; and

c. Third, you have committed your life to loving God and loving your brothers and sisters in Christ.  Love in action.

2. This passage demonstrates the unity of both the Old and New Testaments.  The believers in Asia Minor, to whom Peter wrote, accepted the Old Testament as the Word of the Lord, but they also accepted Christ’s gospel, preached by the apostles, as the Word of the Lord.  Christ’s gospel of the NT, was on equal par with the OT.

I have a concern that we as NT believers do not read and meditate

on the OT as much as we read the NT.  We cannot do without regular exposure to the OT:

  •  The teaching of evolution in the public schools overwhelms many of our young people.  How can you possibly refute it without an understanding of the Book of Genesis, especially the early chapters?
  •  How is it possible to understand the wickedness in our world without the teaching of the fall into sin, Genesis 3?  From when did you become a sinner?  Psalm 51:5, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”
  •  What is God’s design for marriage?  Genesis 2:24: “a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”
  •  What happens to a people who promote homosexuality?  Read of the judgment of God on Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19.
  •  What happens to a nation that turns from God?  Read the book of Jeremiah.  What about Obadiah v. 15: “The day of the LORD is near for all nations.  As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head.”

We must understand the critical importance of regarding the whole Bible as the Word of the Lord.

Ramad was [one of] the most dangerous men in all of India.  His gang attacked, plundered, and terrified the remote villages of the area.  He was wanted dead or alive.

While ransacking a small home in one of the villages, he found a small black book.  At first he started to throw it away, but he noticed that the paper was very thin and just the right size for roll-your-own cigarettes.  Each evening after a meal Ramad would relax with a smoke.

He would take out the little book, tear a page out, and fold it over for the tobacco.  One evening while folding the paper, he noticed the writing was in his own language.  So each evening after eating, he would read a page of the little book and then smoke it.  One evening he knelt down and asked Jesus to forgive his sins and to be his Savior.  The small black book was the Bible.

He turned himself over to the police, much to their surprise, and turned from a bandit to a prisoner for Christ.  The prison became Ramad’s mission field where he led many other prisoners to Jesus.

God’s word made the change in his life.[18]

Obeying the truth of the Word of the Lord, one of the key characteristics of being a Christian.


[2] Tertullian, “The Apology,” ch. 39, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Available from: [30 August 2005].

[3] Luke Tattersall 2004, ‘Sending a Clear Message,’ Matthias Media, The Briefing, Available from: [30 August 2005].

[4] Ted Cabal 2001, “An Introduction to Postmodernity: Where Are We, How Did We Get Here, and Can We Get Home?” The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 5:2 (Summer 2001), p. 4, cited in D. Massimo Lorenzini 2002-2004, ‘Postmodern truth versus biblical truth’, Taking Every Thought Captive, Frontline Ministries, Available from: [30 August 2005].

[5] Don Matzat 1997, ‘Apologetics in a Postmodern Age’, Issues, Etc. Journal, Fall 1997, Vol. 2 No. 5, Available from:  (Accessed 20 March 2013).

[6] Ibid.

[7] Australian Bureau of Statistics 2005, ‘Year Book Australia Population: Marriages, divorces and de facto relationships,’ Available from: [30 August 2005].

[8] Ibid.

[9] This was the content of an email to me by a Baptist deacon (JB), 25 August 2005, with regard to his preaching at a Baptist Church in Qld., Australia, the preaching being on 28 August 2005.  His actual words were: “I will be preaching, talking, arguing, speaking or even some would say waffling from Acts 17:15 to 34 roughly within the limits. I will get back to you more specifically tomorrow. Thanks …”

[10] Lenski, p. 71.

[11]  Al Cariño, “Paralyzed with fear no longer,” May 19, 2002,, Available from: [30 August 2005].

[12] R. C. H. Lenski 1966, Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John, and St. Jude, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MASS, p. 71.

[13] 1:24-25; 2:6; 2:8; 2:9a; 2:9c; 2:22.  He cites the Psalms twice in 2:7 and 3:10-12; Proverbs twice at 4:18 and 5:5; Exodus once in 2:9b, and Leviticus once at 1:16 (from Simon J. Kistemaker 1987, New Testament Commentary: Peter and Jude, Evangelical Press, Welwyn, Hertfordshire, n69, p. 73).

[14] Spong, J. S. 2001, A New Christianity for a New World, HarperSanFrancisco, San Francisco, p. 2.

[15] Borg, M. J. 1994, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: The Historical Jesus and the Heart of Contemporary Faith, HarperSanFrancisco, San Francisco, p. 9.

[16] Robinson, J. A. T. 1963, Honest to God, SCM Press Ltd., London, p. 24.

[17] Kistemaker, p. 74.

[18] Peter V. Deison, in Roy B. Zuck 1997, The Speaker’s Quote Book, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, Michigan, p. 34.


Copyright © 207 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 13 October 2015.

I Peter 1:20-21, Faith and hope in God alone

Faith Hope Love

(courtesy ChristArt

By Spencer D Gear

A. Introduction

Down through the years in conversation with ordinary folks or university professors, I have heard some interesting views about religion and Jesus Christ.  I have been told:

  • “All religions are the same; how dare you say that yours is the correct one.”  I sometimes say,
  • “If you believe that all religions are essentially the same, you are telling me that you haven’t read those religions very carefully.”
  • Christ said that he came, died on the cross, and rose again so that people could have abundant life now and for all eternity.
  • “Buddhism and Hinduism, on the other hand, teach that life is a great evil.  What we should seek after is the ending of all personal life in nirvana.”[2]
  • “Islam . . . vigorously teaches that there is one God [but not 3 persons in the Godhead].  Hinduism . . . teaches that there are at least 300 million gods.”[3]
  • Islam’s holy book, the Qur’an, teaches that Jesus was not crucified on the cross for our sins (read that in Surah 4:157).[4]  The NT is very clear that Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the whole world.
  • Jesus said, according to Matt. 5:44, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  The Qur’an says, “O ye who believe! fight the unbelievers who gird you about, and let them find firmness in you: and know that Allah is with those who fear Him” (Sura 9:123).[5]
  • “Confucianism recognizes no god.”[6]

Please tell me: Are all these religions the same?

When push comes to shove, the difference with Christianity is the Person, Jesus Christ, who said, “I am the truth” (John 14:6).  He did not say, “I speak the truth so follow me because I will teach you the truth.”  He said, “I am the truth.”  The uniqueness of Jesus Christ is what makes the difference between him and any other world religion.

Here in First Peter, ch. 1, we learn the radical difference between Christianity and ALL other religions.  The difference is the Christ.  These believers in Asia Minor were suffering “all kinds of trials” (1:6).  1 Peter 4:12 calls it a “painful trial” (NIV) or “fiery trial” (ESV).  No matter what the persecution, you will not survive if you depend on “perishable seed” (1:23).  You need the “imperishable” (1:23).  We learned about Christ earlier in

I Peter 1:

v. 2, sprinkling by his blood;

v. 3, we have new birth for a living hope, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead;

v. 11, the sufferings of Jesus Christ and the glories that would follow;

v. 13, Jesus Christ will be revealed again;

v. 19 we learned that we are redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus, a lamb without blemish or defect.  Now in I Peter 1:20-21,  we learn that

  • v. 20, Christ was chosen;
  • He was chosen before the creation of the world
  • He was revealed (what does that mean?)
  • When was he revealed?  “In these last times” (So, when did the last days begin?)
  • Why was he revealed?  “For your sake.”

This amazing Christ did not do this all for his own benefit.  The Christ’s life and death were meant for all human beings.  V. 21, through this amazing, one-and-only Christ, you

  •  Believe in God
  •  The resurrection is core
  •  God glorified him.  What does that mean?
  •  It is in this God that you have faith and hope.

Most of the world’s religions are based on the teachings of each of their founders.  You could have Buddhism without the Buddha because Buddhism is a matter of teachings.  If Jesus Christ never existed, there would be no Christianity.  Christ did teach, but Christianity does not have its foundation just on the teachings of its founder.  Christianity would not exist without the birth, atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  It’s the unique person of Jesus, his life, death and resurrection that separates Christianity from all other religions.

Christ words are: “I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Rev. 1:18) and John 14:19, “Because I live, you [who have faith in me] also will live.”

The main thrust of my message today is:

B. In any time, especially in times of terrorism, your faith and hope must be in God alone

When I speak of God alone, I am referring to the Godhead – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Here the focus is on the unique person of Jesus Christ. The Christian life is lived in the light of who Jesus is.  Let’s look at vv. 20-21 today:

1. The unique Christ was foreknown (ESV)

The NIV translates as “he was chosen.”  The KJV reads that Jesus “was foreordained.”  The ESV, “was foreknown.”  What does it mean?  It’s a straightforward Greek word[7], but it’s in the perfect tense, meaning that Christ was foreknown in the past with results continuing into the present time.

It means to “foreknow, [to] know beforehand or in advance, [to] choose beforehand.”[8]  God foreknew and chose what Jesus Christ was to do in the world “before the creation of the world” (v. 20) – better, “before the foundation of the world.”  Jesus’ virgin birth, dying on the cross for our sins, rising again for our justification, was not a hastily made decision by God in the first century.  Before the creation of the world, the Godhead made this decision of redemption, to be made available for the whole human race.

When God foreknows something it is His guarantee that it will happen.  Remember Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost recorded in Acts 2:23, “This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.”  This is God’s decree that it will happen.

We need to note that this language of foreknowledge of Christ’s saving plan is written for the benefit of the human race.  Here we learn one of the attributes of God.  “God is not subject to time,” so “for him there is no ‘before’ and no ‘after’. . .  Christ’s sacrifice was seen by God as eternally present. . .  before time existed, thus in eternity, timelessly, God foreknew.”[9]

We must get a handle on God’s attribute of eternity – the timelessness of God.  There is no before, now and after with him.  God lives in the eternal present.  This is emphasised by verses such as these:

Ps. 90:2, “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”

In Job 36:26, Elihu says of God, “the number of his years is unsearchable.”

Rev. 1:8: “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.'”

Jesus’ bold use of the present tense verb in John 8:58, “‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I am!'”

Ex. 3:14, “I AM WHO I AM.”  God is the eternal “I AM,” the one who eternally exists.

In the words of Bible teacher, Wayne Grudem, God’s eternity can be defined as: “God has no beginning, end, or succession of moments in his own being, and he sees all time equally vividly, yet God sees events in time and acts in time.”[10]

Do you understand how this applies to us?

1. God knew what would happen to the world before he created it, planned for Jesus to come as our Redeemer before the creation of the world, planned for the Redeemer before Adam and Eve sinned.  What about the future?

2. This God whose plan for the world from eternity past goes into eternity future.  He is utterly dependable and God’s foreknown plan will happen to this wicked world.  It includes his allowing Sept. 11 2001, the tsunami, and the bombings in London.  This world is running to God’s foreknown plan.  It will come to an end in God’s time.

3. You can trust the Lord of the universe with your future.  He’s an utterly just God who does all things well.  If God sustained the Asia Minor believers through “fiery trials” (I Pt. 4:12) in the first century, he can sustain you and me if and when violence like London’s comes to Australia.

4. Matt. 24 tells us the sign of Christ’s second coming “and of the end of the age” (24:3) will be: “You will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. . .  Many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.  Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold. . .  There will be great distress unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again” (24:9-11, 21, NIV).

It should give us great confidence in God and God alone that he who planned Christ’s coming before the creation of the world, knows exactly what will happen as the signs of the end of time and the end of the world.  It is difficult to get our eyes off the violence in London and the havoc that terrorists create (bombs “killed at least 54 people and injured 700”[11]), but at times like this, remember to put your total and complete trust in the eternal God who is always present.

This unique Christ who was foreknown by God,

2. Was revealed (NIV)

Or, to put it another way, he was “made manifest” (ESV, KJV).  This happened at an instant in time.  It happened when Christ appeared on earth, starting with the virgin birth, his life, his death on the cross, his bodily resurrection, and ascension.  This was when the Gospel was announced to the whole world.

Please note:  When was Christ manifested or revealed?  V. 20 says that it was “in these last times” (NIV).  So, when did the “last times” begin?  We often think of it as the rapture or Christ’s second coming.  However, here it is stated that the “last times” began when Christ came to earth as the God-man.  So to speak of the “last times” as the end of the world and Christ’s second coming is not exactly correct.  The “last times” began about 2,000 years ago.

What Christ would do was foreknown by God, was revealed in these last times, but for what purpose?

3. “For your sake”

God’s planning for Jesus’ death and resurrection before the creation of the world was not for the benefit of God but “for your sake.”  Are you grateful that you are included in the benefits of Christ’s death and resurrection?  What does that do for your motivation to reach Gin Gin and district with this glorious Gospel?

Now come to v. 21.

C. This unique person, Jesus Christ, is the one to whom you should turn (v. 21)

1.”Through him you believe in God”

Remember Jesus’ words to Philip:

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:8-9).

Jesus came to earth to reveal God in a concrete way.  Note here one of the core facts about this unique Jesus.

2. God raised Christ from the dead

In I Peter, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is mentioned three times: 1:3; 1:21; and 3:21.  Why is the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ so important?  Acts 2:24 states, “But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.”

Jesus said, “Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19).

Paul, the apostle wrote to the Corinthians, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (I Cor. 15:14).  A dead Christ is useless for Christianity.  If you don’t believe in the literal bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave, 3 days after he died, you can’t be Christian.  Your faith is unfaith, i.e. you have a useless faith.

Without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, there is no future hope for believers.  There is no heaven to gain and no hell to shun.  Life after death is guaranteed because of the bodily resurrection of Jesus.

In the ancient world, outside of Judaism and Christianity, the people did believe in “life after death in general” but “they did not believe in resurrection.”  Resurrection for the Jew and the Christian “was not a disembodied ‘heavenly’ life; . .  It was death’s reversal.”[12]

Therefore, it should not be surprising that people down through the years have launched vicious attacks on Christ’s resurrection.  This has continued until present times.  It has spewed forth from the printing presses around the world at the popular newspaper level, scholarly journals and scholarly books.  I want to mention a few examples of destructive comments made against the resurrection of Christ, because the mass media turn to people like these for their profound negativity at Easter every year.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses try to explain away the empty tomb by stating that, “The human body of flesh, which Jesus Christ laid down forever as a ransom sacrifice, was disposed of by God’s power.”[13]  They say, “the fleshly body of Jesus Christ was disposed of on earth by Almighty God and not taken to heaven by Jesus.”[14]  The founder of the JWs, Charles Taze Russell, claimed that Christ’s body that was hung on the cross “dissolved into gasses” or is “preserved somewhere as the grand memorial of God’s love.”[15]

But you don’t have to go to the cults to have Jesus’ resurrection attacked.  At Easter time 1999, Rev. David Kidd of the Bundaberg Uniting Church, wrote an article in The Bugle newspaper that was titled, The Resurrection of Jesus.[16]  This is what he said: “The resurrection of Jesus.[17]  It’s impossible.  Even our brain dies after a few minutes of death.  It’s just not possible.'”[18]

John Dominic Crossan, who taught biblical studies for 26 years at the Roman Catholic, DePaul University, Chicago (and is now retired)[19], wrote about “the apparition of the risen Jesus.”[20]  What’s an apparition?  A ghostly appearance, a phantom, “anything that appears, especially something remarkable or phenomenal.”[21]  He says that “bodily resurrection has nothing to do with a resuscitated body coming out of its tomb.”[22]  “Empty tomb stories, ” he says, “are parables of resurrection, not the Resurrection itself.”[23]

So, what happened to the body of Jesus?  In his book, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, Crossan wrote: “Jesus’ burial by his friends was totally fictional and unhistorical.  He was buried, if buried at all, by his enemies, and the necessarily shallow grave would have been easy prey for scavenging animals.”[24]

What does all of this mean?  Somehow this phantom Jesus, who did not rise from the dead, is experienced among believers in some powerful way.  Come on folks!  This is invention out of the mind of John D. Crossan.  It’s an heretical version that attempts to shatter the fact that Jesus rose bodily from the grave.  What does it do?  Empties churches!

We note this especially in the diocese of former Episcopalian (Anglican) bishop, John Shelby Spong.  In his book, Resurrection Myth or Reality?[25] he claims that “the angels of the empty tomb, the tomb itself with its massive stone and its female visitors, to say nothing of the entire burial tradition, must all be dismissed as not factual.”[26]  So, what are they?

Get this, from a leader in the church: “All of the appearance narratives that purport to be the physical manifestations of the dead body that somehow was enabled to be [revived][27] and to walk out of a tomb are also legends and myths that cannot be literalized.”[28]

The Anglicans of Spong’s diocese voted with their feet while he was bishop of Newark, New Jersey.  One report said that

He has presided over one of the most rapid witherings of any diocese in the Episcopal Church [USA]. The most charitable assessment shows that Newark’s parish membership rolls have evaporated by more than 42 percent. Less charitable accounts put the rate at over 50 percent.[29]  [He’s now retired.]

What gets me about some of these fellows is that they should be working with those who practise magic (if the subject were not so serious), but instead, they are allowed to devastate the church – from within the church and, as is the case with Spong and the pastor in Bundaberg, are paid by the church to do so.  This is a BIG statement about the nature of those denominations that allow this kind of heretical doctrine to come forth from the pulpit, and from a bishop of the church.

A reviewer of one of Spong’s books put it so well: “Rather than build his own home, his own churches, his own infrastructure, his own congregations, Spong would rather kill Christianity, and take over its shell.”[30]

Yet, eminent British New Testament Scholar and Anglican Bishop of Durham, Dr. N. T. Wright said:

I simply cannot explain why Christianity began without it [ie without the resurrection of Christ]. . .  There were many other messianic or would-be messianic movements around in the first century.  Routinely they ended with the violent death of the founder.  After that, what happens?  The followers either all get killed as well, or, if there are any of them left, they have a choice: They either quit the revolution or they find themselves another messiah.  We have examples of people doing both.  If Jesus had died and stayed dead, they would either have given up the movement or they would have found another messiah.  Something extraordinary happened which convinced them that Jesus was the Messiah.[31]

N. T. Wright has since written these 817 pages to support the resurrection and refute those throughout church history, including current scholars such as John Dominic Crossan, who deny the literal resurrection of Jesus.  Wright concluded: “The proposal that Jesus was bodily raised from the dead possesses unrivalled power to explain the historical data at the heart of early Christianity.”[32]

The Apostle Paul agreed.  In I Cor. 15:14-17 he stated:

If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.

If you are mad at me for mentioning names of people who teach false doctrine, I am simply following the example of the apostle Paul who, in Galatians 2:11ff, condemned the apostle Peter, and named him.  Peter had been eating with the Gentiles, but when certain Jews came from James, Peter drew back and separated from the Gentiles.  Paul named Peter as a hypocrite and we have had it in writing for 2000 years.

Paul said in 2 Tim. 4:14, “Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done.”  We have had this also on record for 2,000 years.

When people are preaching false doctrine in the church or anywhere, when people are harming the church and God’s people, we need to name them, correct them, and proclaim the accurate biblical message.

Why have I spent this time on what the Bible says about resurrection and those who attack the resurrection?  Because this is core Christianity and I urge you to keep it at the centre.  I will stand up and defend the bodily resurrection of Jesus wherever it is challenged because it is central to Christianity and life after death.

Please notice in v. 21. . .

3. God “glorified” this Christ

What does that mean?  God “glorified” the Christ of the cross and through his resurrection.  Literally: “glory was given to him.”  On the meaning of “glory”, go back to I Peter 1:11, where it is said of the OT prophets that they were “trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.”

In John 17: 1, 4-5, Jesus prayed for himself before his arrest before the crucifixion: “After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. . . I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.”

Luke 24:26, Jesus to hid disciples asked, “Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”

So the glory that Christ experienced was through his death, resurrection, ascension and going back to the father.  What is “glory”?  What does it mean that “glory was given to Christ”?  Doxa, glory, means “the luminous manifestation of his person”; Christ’s “majesty and power” are dominant.  For Christ to be glorified, it means that “something radiates from the one who has it.”[33]  We honour and magnify him because of His death, but especially, in this context, because of his bodily resurrection from the dead.

And so . . .

C. Through this unique person, Jesus Christ, you believe in God and it is essential that you place your faith and hope in this God Him alone (v. 21)

You will be tempted to fear terrorism, your “fiery trials”, the state of Australia’s economy, or your family situation.  Turn on the Tele, listen to the radio, read the newspapers, go to school, on the job, and wherever you go, you can be sucked in by all of these wonderful offers of the best way to success.

We have just had a week of world history that should convince you that you cannot place your faith and hope in anything in this world.  If you do, terrorists will rob you of your faith and hope.  Devastation in Australia may cause you to lose your joy.

This book of I Peter was written for those who were going through “fiery trials.”  To them, Peter says, in v. 21, “Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.”

If you place your faith and hope in anything other than God Himself, you should be in the deepest despair at times like this.  With John Howard saying that there could be sleeping terrorist cells in our own country, you dare not place your faith and hope in anything earthly.

As we learn in the verses that follow, “for ‘all flesh is like grass

and all its glory like the flower of grass.  The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.’  And this word is the good news that was preached to you” (I Peter 1:24-25).

D. Conclusion

There was a small town in the [State of] Maine [USA] that was proposed for the site of a great hydro-electric plant.  A dam would be build across the river and the town submerged.  When the project was announced, the people were given many months to arrange their affairs and [to] relocate.

During those months, a curious thing happened.  All improvements ceased.  No painting was done.  No repairs were made on the buildings, roads, or [footpaths].[34]  Day by day the whole town got shabbier and shabbier.  A long time before the waters came, the town looked uncared for and abandoned, even though the people had not yet moved away.  One citizen explained: “Where there is no faith in the future, there is no power in the present.”  That town was cursed with hopelessness because it had not future.[35]

If your faith and hope for the future are based on anything this world has to offer, you are doomed to despair.  Terrorists are here to stay.  “Fiery trials” may be the lot for you as a believer in this world.  Therefore, as Peter has taught us: “Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.”

Therefore, you need to meet regularly with a caring Christian community of believers who reinforce your faith and hope in God alone.  Are you that kind of Christian community?


[2] D. James Kennedy 1997, Skeptics Answered: Handling Tough Questions about the Christian Faith, Multnomah Books, Sisters, Oregon, p. 105.

[3] Ibid.

[4] These verses read: “004.157, YUSUFALI version: “That they said (in boast), ‘We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah’;- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not” (available at:; accessed 20 March 2013).

[5] The Qur’an, YUSUFALI version, available from: (Accessed 20 March 2013).

[6] Ibid.

[7] Proginosko.

[8] P. Jacobs & H. Krienke, 1975, ‘Foreknowledge, Providence, Predestination’,  in Colin Brown (ed.), The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology , vol. 1, The Paternoster Press, Exeter,  p. 693.

[9] R. C. H. Lenski 1966, Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John, and St. Jude, Hendrickson Publishers, pp. 66-67.

[10] Grudem, W. 1994, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, England, p. 168.

[11] Bundaberg NewsMail 2005, “Charges laid over bombings,” July 16, 2005, p. 18.

[12] Wright, N. T. 2003, The Resurrection of the Son of God, series in Christian Origins and the Question of God, vol. 3, Fortress Press, Minneapolis, pp. 82-83.

[13] Things in Which It is Impossible for God to Lie 1965, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Brooklyn, p. 354, cited in Hank Hanegraaff 2000, Resurrection, Word Publishing, Nashville, Tennessee, p. 10.

[14] Ibid., p. 355, in Hanegraaff, p. 10.

[15] Studies in the Scriptures, Series II 1908, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, p. 129, cited in Hanegraaff, p. 10.

[16] Rev. David Kidd, Bundaberg Uniting Church, “The Resurrection of Jesus,” The Bugle (Bundaberg), March 19, 1999, p. 19.

[17].”The Resurrection of Jesus” was the title of the article and the first sentence began with, “It’s impossible.  Even our brain diesY,” so I am left to conclude that the article’s title was the introduction to the first sentence.

[18] The original article had closing inverted commas here, but there were no introductory inverted commas.

[19] According to his autobiography he was hired as an ex-priest and associate professor in 1969 and “took early retirement from DePaul in 1995.” He wrote that “institutional integrity . . . kept me at DePaul for twenty-six years” (John Dominic Crossan 2000, A Long Way from Tipperary: A Memoir, HarperSanFrancisco, San Francisco, p. 95).

[20] John Dominic Crossan 1998, The Birth of Christianity: Discovering What Happened in the Years Immediately after the Execution of Jesus, HarperSanFrancisco, San Francisco, p.560.

[21] Macquarie Dictionary.

[22] Crossan 1998, p. xxxi.

[23] Crossan, J. D. 2000, A Long Way from Tipperary: A Memoir, HarperSanFrancisco, San Francisco, p. 166.

[24] Crossan, J. D. 1994, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, HarperSanFrancisco, San Francisco, p. 160.

[25] John Shelby Spong 1994, Resurrection Myth or Reality?: A Bishop’s Search for the Origins of Christianity, HarperSanFrancisco, San Francisco.

[26] Ibid., p. 235.

[27] He used the word, “Revivified.”

[28] Ibid., my emphasis.

[29] Lasley, D. M. 1999. ‘Rescuing Christianity from Bishop Kevorkian, review of John Shelby Spong’s, Why Christianity Must Change or Die‘, for Anglican Voice, posted June 2 1999. Now available at: (Accessed 20 March 2013).

[30] Ibid., Lasley 1999.

[31] “Peter Jennings Reporting, ABC television (USA), aired on Monday, June 26 2000.  This quote is from Christian Research Institute 2000, “Point-by-point Response to ‘Peter Jennings Reporting: The Search for Jesus,’ available from: [31 May 2005]., p. 51.

[32] N. T. Wright 2003, The Resurrection of the Son of God, Fortress Press, Minneapolis, p. 718.

[33] S. Aalen 1976, ‘Glory, Honour’, in Colin Brown (ed.), The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology , vol. 2, The Paternoster Press, Exeter,  pp. 44-48.

[34] The original said, “sidewalks.”

[35] John Maxwell 1984, Your Attitude, Here’s Life Publishers, San Bernardino, CA., p. 120, cited in Robert J. Morgan 2000, Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations, & Quotes, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, p. 449.


Copyright (c) 2007, Spencer D. Gear.  This document last updated at: 13 October 2015.

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I Peter 1:18-19, The Christ of the cross fills empty lives

(Drought, Australia, public domain)

By Spencer D Gear

I.          Introduction

Maybe it’s the nature of my employment, but I meet a lot of unhappy people.  What really makes people happy?  What causes so many people to be depressed and thinking of suicide?  What causes marriages to bust up?  Why do people choose to live in de facto relationships instead of marriage?  Why is the rate of children with alleged ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) growing?

According to [neurologist Dr. Fred] Baughman, 500,000 children [in the USA] were diagnosed ADHD in 1985 and between 5 and 7 million were today.

Substantial growth has also been reported in Australia, a country of just [21][2] million people, where it’s estimated that at least 50,000 children are now on drugs prescribed for ADHD.”

”University of Queensland figures show that legal use of dexamphetamine in Australia has risen from 8.3 million tablets prescribed in 1984 to 38.4 million tablets in 2001. Over the same period Ritalin prescriptions rose from 1.5 million tablets to 19.3 million.[3]

Isn’t that alarming?

According to the Australian census in 2001, of people aged 15 years and over, there were 951,500 de facto relationships (in round figures: about a million people living as defactos).  This was a rise of 28% from 1996.[4]

It should not be surprising, then, that marriage rates dropped by half between 1976 and 2001.[5]  There are approximately 50,000 divorces a year now in Australia.  Do you know how many divorces we had in 1901, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics?  398.  There were 12,947 in 1971, but the floodgates opened with the Family Law Act of 1975 which took effect in 1976 (when there were 63,230 divorces).[6]

” In Europe alone, an estimated 60 million people suffer from depression.”[7]

Each year in Australia, approximately 2,500 people – roughly seven a day – resort to [the] tragic option [of suicide] in a desperate bid to end their pain and suffering.  This is higher than rates in the USA and the United Kingdom . . .

It has been estimated that for every person who completes suicide, there are another 20 to 100 more attempts . . .

For both males and females, there has been a shift in suicide death rates from older to younger age groups. This is shown by an increase in the suicide rate among adolescents and young adults, and a fall in the suicide rate for people aged 55 years and over. The peak age for attempted suicide is now in the early 20s for males and the early 30s for females.”[8]

What’s the solution to this increasing rate of gloominess and unrighteousness?  I don’t believe the answer can be found in legalising prostitution, decriminalising illicit drugs, making divorce easier and promoting sexual immorality through defacto relationships, or in prescribing more dexamphetamine when there is no biological cause of ADHD.

This passage from I Peter is dynamic in showing us one of the most profound ways to bring lasting change for rebellious youth, depression (that is other than biological), family breakdown, materialism, suicide and other darkness.

Before I get into the main points from the text, we need to note four terms that are used in the Bible to show how Christ’s death on the cross meets four needs of sinners:[9]

1. First, “we deserve to die as the penalty for sin.”  Heb. 9:26 states, “Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.”  We needed a sacrifice for our sins.

2. Second, “we deserve to bear God’s wrath against sin.”  I John 4:10 reads, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (ESV).  We needed propitiation (somebody to appease the wrath of God against us sinners).

3. Third, “we are separated from god by our sins.”  2 Cor. 5:18-19, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”  We needed reconciliation with God and Christ’s death provided that.

4. Fourth, “we are in bondage to sin and to the kingdom of Satan.”  1 John 5:19, “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.”  Through Christ’s death, Heb. 2:15 tells us that Christ died to “deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (ESV).

We needed redemption — to be set free from lifelong slavery to sin.  When we turn to I Peter 1:18-21, we discover that

II. Salvation means you are bought back from an empty way of life (vv. 18-19)

How can this be?  It’s because we are dealing with the core of the problem and not just external behaviour.  What am I saying?  Just look at the text in v. 18, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers . . .”

A.  Salvation through Christ means you have been ransomed/redeemed

We don’t understand this language much these days because we don’t come from a culture of slavery – for which we should praise the Lord.  However, we do understand the “redeemed” language in terms of these kinds of contexts:

· “I redeemed myself when I painted the bedroom walls,” meaning: I made up for the lousy job I did last time.  Or:

· “I redeemed myself and I’m now the manager again.” Or,

· “I redeem my mortgage.”  I pay it off.

· I sell my watch to Cash Converters (or any pawnshop) and when I have the cash I go and buy it back – I redeem it.

· I don’t have many redeeming features.  There’s nothing much good about my characteristics.

But these examples are not the exact concepts of what the Bible means when it speaks about this wonderful redemption we receive at salvation.

1.  What is the Meaning of Redemption?
What does the Bible mean when it says that a person has been redeemed or ransomed?  In the OT,
· God redeemed his people from the yoke of slavery in Egypt (Ex. 6:6).  How did he do this?  By sending 10 plagues on Israel’s enemies.

· In the world of the ancients, “slaves obtained freedom with a sum of money paid either by themselves or by someone else.”[10]  Or “prisoners of war” could be released by the payment of a ransom.[11]

Redemption has to do with “deliverance from some evil or bondage

by payment of a price or ransom.”  In the OT law, “the owner of a dangerous [bull] could be executed if the animal gored someone to death, but he could redeem his life by paying a ransom [see Ex. 21:30].”[12]

This concept is used in Mark’s Gospel to describe the blood sacrifice of Jesus on the cross: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

The NT word for this costly redemption [from lutroÇ = I set free, redeem, rescue] is found only in 10 places. There’s another word meaning “simply deliverance without a price being paid.  The price is Christ’s shed blood (Eph. 1:7; cf. 1 Cor. 16:19f.)”[13]

In the NT, the verb “to redeem” is found only in 3 passages:

· First, in Luke 24:21, “But we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place.”  This was on the road to Emmaus and the risen Jesus was drawing near to those disciples.

· Second, in Titus 2:13-14, “while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”

· Third, here in I Peter 1:18, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers.”

The Christian response to this gracious provision is to live a life of service to Christ, which means not submitting again to the life of slavery of sin.  Gal. 5:1 puts it this way: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

We must understand that the Bible tells us our real condition as human beings in the world and before God:

Rom. 6:6, could not state it more clearly.  Before we submitted to Christ’s rule in our lives, we were “Slaves to sin.”  John 8:34, “Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.'”

Rom. 6:23 confirms that the wages we earn from such sin is death.

Titus 3:3, “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.”

But it gets worse . . .

Eph. 2:5 confirms that all of us, before coming to Christ, were not only enslaved by sin but also we “were dead in transgressions.”

This is the true state of all human beings.  This is one of the major problems facing our society.  We will not acknowledge the true state of all human beings.  This is God’s view of what we are like before him.  God’s description of ALL unbelievers is that we are “dead in transgressions/sin” and are “slaves of sin.”

My counselling colleagues could say things like: You have a low self-esteem that needs to be elevated.  It’s your co-dependency that is keeping you bound.  Or, you need to recover from your alcoholic disease; you need a “higher power,” but you need this special group of us, recovering alcoholics, to help your recovery, but you are always an alcoholic.

This is also one of the defining ways a church can be discerned to be truly biblical in its ministry.  When you go to any church, ask them what their views are about the nature of human beings.  Do they proclaim that all unbelievers are slaves of sin and are dead in sin?  One of the sad notes for me in this seeker-sensitive emphasis in so many churches is that they dumb down the people of God and unbelievers who come to that church on how radically sinful we are before we come to Christ.

How can “slaves of sin” be set free?  By being redeemed from sin. Somebody needs to pay the ransom for us.

For a wonderful understanding of redemption and the price that must be paid to win us back from sin, read one of the minor prophets, Hosea.[14]  It is based on the marriage of Hosea to Gomer, his wife.  His wife was unfaithful to him and the marriage looked like a human disaster.

“But it was a special marriage from God’s viewpoint.  God had told Hosea that the marriage would work out in that fashion but he nevertheless told Hosea to go through with it in order to provide an illustration of God’s love.  God loved the people whom he had taken to himself [the Israelites] even when they proved unfaithful by committing spiritual adultery with the world and its values.  The marriage was to be a pageant.  Hosea was to play the part of God.  His wife would play the part of unfaithful Israel.  She would be unfaithful, but the wilder she got, the more Hosea would love her.  That is the way God loves us even when we run away from him and dishonor him.[15]

At the beginning of this small book of the Bible, Hosea described God’s commission:

When the LORD began to speak through Hosea, the LORD said to him, ‘Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the LORD.’ So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son (Hosea 1:2-3).

The climax of Hosea’s relationship with Gomer was when she fell into slavery (possibly to pay a debt) and “Hosea was told to buy her back as a demonstration of the way in which the faithful God loves and saves his people.”[16]

Gomer was put on the auction block in the capital city.  She had been a vivacious woman, and even in her grossly fallen state, she was still beautiful.  When the bidding started, the offers were high.

“Twelve pieces of silver,” said one.

“Thirteen,” said Hosea.



“The low bidders dropped out.  But someone added, ‘Fifteen pieces of silver and a bushel of barley.'”

“Fifteen pieces of silver and a bushel and a half of barley,” said Hosea.[17]

There was no higher bidder and Gomer was “sold to Hosea for fifteen pieces of silver and a bushel and a half of barley.  Now Hosea owned his wife.”[18]  Hosea had redeemed her – bought her back.  This is how Hosea tells it:

The LORD said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.”

So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley. Then I told her, “You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will live with you” (Hosea 3:1-3).

This is the meaning of redemption – to buy somebody out of slavery (to set a slave free by paying a price).

If we understand Hosea’s story, we understand that we are like the slave sold on the auction block of sin.  We were created for intimate fellowship with God and for freedom, but we have disgraced ourselves by unfaithfulness.  First, we have flirted with and committed adultery with this sinful world and its values.  The world has even bid for our soul, offering sex, money, fame, power and all the other items in which it traffics.  But Jesus, our faithful bridegroom and lover, entered the market place to buy us back.  He bid his own blood.  There is no higher bid than that.  And we became his.  He clothes us, not in the wretched rages of our old righteousness, but in his new robes of righteousness. .  .  He has said to us, “you must dwell as mine . . . ; you shall not belong to another. . . ; so will I also be to you. [19]

There are two basic consequences of redemption:

· First, we are free.  It sounds like a paradox.  We are purchased by Jesus Christ to be set “free from the guilt and tryanny of the law and from sin’s power.”[20]  Gal. 5:1 explains it so well: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”  We are not set free to be libertines to do whatever we want and even to sin as we want.  We are set free to serve God and to do good.

· Second, we are called upon to totally commit our lives to the Christ who set us free.  There is no place for lukewarm Christianity.  Christ gave Himself so that we give ourselves for him.  As James Montgomery Boice put it, “We must be willing, eager and determined to serve him.  He died for us because of his great love.  That love, an amazing love, ‘demands my soul, my life, my all.'”[21]

There was a young boy who lived in a New England seaport [in the USA] and loved to watch the boats come in from their daily catch.  One day he decided to build a little [sailing] boat all of his own.  He worked for weeks making sure each detail was just right.  Finally the big day arrived.  He went down to the wharf and proudly put his boat into the water.  As he triumphantly observed his new [sailing] boat, he noticed that the wind had suddenly changed, and the tiny boat was being swept out of sight.  The little boy was heartbroken.  Every day for a month he went back to see if his boat had been washed up on shore.

Finally, one day in the market he saw his boat in a store window.  He excitedly ran into the store and told the proprietress that it was his boat.  The woman only responded by saying that the boat would cost him two dollars.  After pleading with her to no avail, the boy finally pulled out the money and gave it to the storeowner.  As the boy was leaving the store, he said, “Little boat, you are twice mine.  You are mine because I made you, and now you are mine because I bought you.”[22]

What was your life like before you surrendered to Christ for salvation?  This passage gets straight to the point.  It was

B.  “The empty way of life” (v. 17 NIV, NET Bible)

Other translations define it:

· “the futile way of life” (NASB, ESV “futile ways”, NRSV, NJB),

· “useless way of life” (CEV),

· “aimless conduct” (NKJV),

· “vain conversation” (KJV)

· “empty folly” (NEB),

· “worthless way of life” (ISV).

That doesn’t sound very positive and it isn’t.  Folks, we must never preach the good news unless people understand the bad news.  The good news means nothing to people who don’t understand their true position before God.  Here it literally says that our former way of life is “vain conduct,” meaning “a lifestyle that is without purpose, unfruitful, useless.”[23]  That’s how the Bible describes your life without Christ – empty, worthless, useless, vain, aimless, or futile.

Doesn’t that sound like the world and its problems, personal sins, and the mess our country is in with murder, rape, sexual abuse, prostitution, domestic violence, corruption in government departments, etc.?

Where did it come from? Peter says that it was . . .

C.  “Handed down to you from your forefathers” (v. 18)

We are not told whether this way of life came from our parents and
their heritage.  We are not told if it refers to:

· Jews who were observing the traditions of their forefathers, or

· Pagan forefathers of the Gentiles,

· Or forefathers of both Jews and Gentiles.[24]

But since this epistle is written to “God’s elect, strangers in the world scattered throughout” Asia Minor (1:1), there is the definite possibility that it refers to all people – Jews & Gentiles.

All of us have received a terrible heritage and we pass that shocking background on to our own children and they to their children.  It’s a useless way of life that has been passed on to us and we cannot help but pass it on to others after us.

But we must understand this from God’s perspective: We are sinners from conception.  Psalm 51:5 puts it so clearly, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”  Imagine seeing that proclaimed on the billboards down the highway or on radio, TV and newspaper!  This is the BAD news about all of us BEFORE salvation.  We are sinners from conception.  We are sinners from birth.  If it were not for this BAD news, the GOOD news would be meaningless.

It is only sinners who need a Saviour.  Those who are good living people but are not sinners have absolutely no need of a Saviour.  If you have been a good person all your life, why would you need Christ?  It is absolutely essential that we proclaim Christ as the Saviour of sinners, people who are sinful at the core of their being.

We who are “slaves of sin” were created by God himself but we need to be bought out of slavery to sin.  How can this be done?

We need to be “set free by payment of ransom.”[25]   We cannot be bought back from our “slavery to sin” by paying bucks, like the little boy did at the market to buy back his boat.

It is very interesting to note some of ways of redemption that people are advocating.  These are some examples:

· “With the ‘Fall’ [into sin in Gen. 3], Adam & Eve caused Death & Suffering to enter into our world.  With the Redemption, Jesus through the Blessed Virgin Mary, as Mediatrix of all Graces; caused Grace to enter the World.”[26]

· Witness Lee of China: “Christ in His redemption has healed us of all sicknesses that we might be brought back to Him and to His headship.”[27]

· “One of the popular word faith teachings is that Jesus took on the nature of Satan and had to be born again. This doctrine is intrinsically linked to the ‘Jesus died spiritually’ heresy which postulates that Jesus’ shed blood was insufficient for the redemption of man; He had to suffer at Satan’s hands in Hell and be born again as the first man to conquer death. [Benny] Hinn also teaches this heresy, [saying]:

“He [Jesus] who is righteous by choice said, ‘The only way I can stop sin is by Me becoming it. I can’t just stop it by letting it touch Me; I and it must become one.’ Hear this! He who is the nature of God became the nature of Satan where He became sin!” (TBN, 1 Dec. 1990).[28]  [Please note: Jesus was not righteous by choice.  He was completely righteous, sinless by his  very nature, he is God.]

· Popular TV preacher, Joyce Meyer, in her book. The Most Important Decision You Will Ever Make[29], wrote:

Believe that Jesus did what the Bible says. Believe He is indeed the Son of God, born of a virgin. He took man’s sin Himself. He became our sacrifice and died on the cross. He did not stay dead. During that time He entered hell, where you and I deserved to go (legally) because of our sin. He paid the price there.[30]

The apostle Peter, writing in I Peter, rejects such heresies.  He is very clear about what he means. Note v. 18:

D.  Salvation through Christ means you cannot be ransomed or redeemed using “perishable things.”

Peter is very specific.  In the NT world and even today, silver and

gold were very valuable.

Comparatively speaking [they] are least perishable.  First he specifies silver.  But silver, when exposed to any sulphur compounds in the air, tarnishes, corrodes, and loses its value.  Next Peter cites gold, which is more durable than silver.  Even this precious metal is subject to decay.  In brief, earthly possessions do not qualify as payment to redeem [people from their slavery to sin].[31]

We must understand that NOTHING that we can do by way of good deeds can ever be good enough before God to redeem us from slavery to sin.  NOTHING we do will ever meet God’s standard.

Redemption is entirely the work of God’s grace.  How can it happen?  Any person dead in sin, in slavery to sin, according to v. 19, can be bought back – redeemed – “with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”

E.  Salvation through Christ means you can be ransomed or redeemed “through the precious blood of Christ” (v. 19).

How can this be?  To understand why the spilling of blood is necessary for your redemption from slavery to sin, we need to understand the OT context from the Passover history and ceremony.  Remember the situation told in Exodus 12:1-11:

The Jewish people were set free from slavery when each family took a lamb without defect, slaughtered it at twilight on the fourteenth of the month Nisan, put the blood on the sides and tops of the doorframes of their homes . . . and ate the Passover.[32]

· “The writers of the New Testament teach that Christ is that Passover lamb.  John the Baptist points to Jesus and says, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).”[33]

· Paul stated that our redemption is accomplished because we “are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (Rom. 3:24-25).

· In the Book of Hebrews, it declares that Christ “did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption” (NIV).

· In the Book of Revelation, it is recorded that that saints in heaven will sing a new song to Christ, “You are worthy to take the scroll       and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9).

This is a wonderful teaching that Christ is our redeemer.  We don’t use this language very often. We prefer: He is our Saviour.  It is true that Christ has saved us from “power and destruction of sin.  Of even greater significance, however, is the truth that [Christ] has purchased us by shedding his precious blood on Calvary’s cross.”[34]

I’m convinced that we need to give far greater emphasis to Christ, Our Redeemer.

I am thinking of Philip Bliss’s wonderful hymn that we should sing with triumph and delight:

I will sing of my Redeemer;

And His wondrous love to me;

On the cruel cross He suffered,

From the curse to set me free.[35]

He’s the one who has:

· Set us free.  Paradoxically, “to be purchased by Jesus is to be set free—free from the guilt and tyranny of the law and from sin’s power.”[36]

· It’s “a special kind of freedom.”  You are not free to do what you like and sin as much as you like because your salvation is guaranteed, but you are set free to serve.

More of that next time, when we continue this exposition: Salvation means you are free but you must live a Christ-centred life.

III. Conclusion

When Dr. Howard Kelley of Johns Hopkins University [USA] was going on a walk, he got rather thirsty.  Seeing an old farmhouse, he went to the door and asked the girl who answered if her parents were home.  She said no.  He asked if he could have a drink of water.  She said she would have to [pump][37] it uphill.  She offered to let him come in and have some milk though.  He did, and then went on his way.  Weeks later he operated on a girl on the operating table and she was this same little girl.

The hospital and doctor’s bills soon came to the family and they had no idea how they could pay them.  However, they looked down at the bottom of the bill and read these words: “Paid in full by two glasses of milk.” [38]

Jesus paid the price in full through his own  blood, God’s price, to set us free from the power of sin and to live a life wholly committed to Him.

  •  What have you done with Christ’s sacrifice for you?
  •  Have you accepted Christ’s diagnosis of how bad your situation is – you are slaves to sin and dead in sin.  You are in a hopeless and helpless situation.
  •  But Christ has paid the price in his death for you to be redeemed from sin.
  •  How will you respond to Christ’s offer to repent of your sin and trust Christ and Christ alone for your redemption?  Will you do that today if you don’t know Christ as your Redeemer?


[2] The original said “19 million” but the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that on 8 July 2007, the resident population of Australia had passed the 21 million mark, available from: [8 July 2007].   According to the Australian census 2001, the population was 18,769249, available from: [31 May 2005].

[3] ‘ADHD Statistics: ADHD’, available from: [31 May 2005].

[4] Yearbook Australia, Population 2005: Marriages, divorces and de facto relationships, Australian Bureau of Statistics, “Between 1996 and 2001 the census count of people aged 15 years and over in de facto marriages rose by 28% from 744,100 to 951,500”, available from: [31 May 2005].

[5] “In 1976 marriage rates for the unmarried population were 63 per 1,000 unmarried men and 61 per 1,000 unmarried women. In 2001 these rates fell to 31 and 28 respectively ” ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] “Panic/Anxiety Disorders” January 12, 2005, available from: [31 May 2005].

[8] The Salvation Army 2005, “Suicide Fact Chart,” available from: [31 May 2005].

[9] These points are based on Wayne Grudem 1994, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, p. 580.

[10] Simon J. Kistemaker 1987, New Testament Commentary: Peter and Jude, Evangelical Press, Welwyn, Hertfordshire, p. 65.

[11] Derek Williams (ed.) 1989, New Concise Bible Dictionary, Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, England, pp. 468-469.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid., p. 469.

[14] This is summarised content from James Montgomery Boice 1986, Foundations of the Christian Faith: A Comprehensive & Readable Theology, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois, p. 328 ff.

[15] Ibid., p. 328.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid., p. 329.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid., pp. 329-330.

[20] Ibid., p. 330.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Michael P. Green (ed.) 1982, Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, No. 1118, pp. 298-299.

[23] Kistemaker, p. 67.

[24] Suggested by ibid., p. 66.

[25] A. T. Robertson 1933, Word Pictures in the New Testament: The General Epistles and The Revelation of John (vol. 6), Broadman Press, Nashville, Tennessee, p. 90.

[26] Catholic Church Apologetics ‘Suffering’, available from: [4 June 2005].

[27] Witness Lee 1997-2005, The Body of Christ,  ch. 1, ‘The issue of dispensing the divine Trinity’, available from: [4 June 2005]

[28] ‘Benny Hinn Insights’, Apologetics Coordination Team: Deception in the Church’, available from: [4 June 2005].

[29] Joyce Meyer 1996, The Most Important Decision You Will Ever Make : A Complete and Thorough Understanding of What it Means to be Born Again, Warner Books Edition, New York, p. 35.

[30] Bob Waldrep 2003, ‘What Joyce Wants, Joyce Gets’, Watchman Fellowship of Alabama, available from: [4 June 2005], emphasis added.

[31] Kistemaker, p. 65.

[32] Kistemaker, p. 66.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ibid.

[35] In Kistemaker, p. 66.

[36] Boice, p. 330.

[37] The original read, “Pipe.”

[38] Roy B. Zuck 1997, ‘Redemption’, in The Speaker’s Quote Book, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI., pp. 324-325.


Copyright (c) 2007, Spencer D. Gear.  This document last updated at: 13 October 2015.

1 Peter 1:17 (NIV), Lifestyle and Accountability God’s Way

John 3:36


By Spencer D Gear

I. Introduction

For the last 13 years in the Wide-Bay Burnett region of Queensland (Australia), I have been counselling families who are falling apart and devastated by many of life’s problems – divorce, severe conflict, rebel youth, parents who don’t know how to parent, domestic violence, sexual abuse, drug addiction, gambling problems, etc.

There is a constant that is ever before me: What will it take to have families and individuals healed so that these issues are solved or prevented from happening?  Another burden is on my heart: Where can I find a community of people who will be an example for these fractured folks to see and receive help from?

We, the Christian church, need to demonstrate radically different relationships in our families and churches.  Too often, the conflict in our families and in the church is such a poor example of what Christ wants to be and do in our families and church.

Where can I find a Christian community that is an example – a radical example – of loving, caring, relationships and that have a real burden to reach the lost folks of this community?  A Christian community that will make the world sit up and take notice?

Peter cuts to the heart of this issue.  In 1:10, he stated, “Concerning this salvation.”

arrow-small In vv. 10-12, he links the salvation to the prophets and then Christ’s sufferings and the Gospel.

arrow-small But in vv. 13-16, he says, THEREFORE, and links this salvation to your lifestyle as Christians:

  • Setting your hope fully/completely in the correct direction (v. 13);
  • You must be holy (v. 15).

Now Peter continues this emphasis on the need for a vital Christian community, its salvation, and a lifestyle that stands out.  But this time he reminds us of our accountability.  Why should we live Christian lives of holiness & hope?

The MAIN THRUST of my message from this passage (v. 17) is:  Since you have experienced “this salvation”, your life must show that you are radically different through accountability.

There’s another command here that comes with lots of meat associated with it.

II.  Your salvation means, your lifestyle & accountability must be done God’s way (v. 17).

“Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear” (1:17, NIV).

We understand the meaning of “accountability” as the one who checks up on you.  Who checks on how well you do your work in your employment?  He or she is the person to whom you are accountable.  Who supervises your actions?  In living your Christian life here on this earth, who supervises your lifestyle?  To whom are you accountable – ultimately?

A.  This salvation means that you are accountable to God the Father

“Every word in this text is important and filled with meaning” (Kistemaker 1987, p. 63).  The Greek’s had an important way to emphasise something.  If we are speaking, we might shout for emphasis.  When writing, we would put it in bold, underline, or italics.  That was not possible when writing the koine Greek of the NT, so the writers would put a word near the beginning of a sentence and before the verb if they wanted to emphasise something.  That’s what happens here.  Our translation in the NIV states:

1. “Since you call on a Father” (v. 17)

But the Greek text literally says “And since a father you call on.”  Why is this?  Because if you are going to live a lifestyle of accountability, God’s way, your responsibility to your heavenly Father is at the centre of your accountability.

Not any old father, but God the Father.  This is the language repeated many times in the OT.  Take passages like:

Ps. 89:26: “He will call out to me, ‘You are my Father, my God, the Rock my Savior.'”

Jer. 3:19: “I myself said, ‘How gladly would I treat you like sons and give you a desirable land, the most beautiful inheritance of any nation.’ I thought you would call me ‘Father’ and not turn away from following me.”

Isa. 63:16: “But you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us or Israel acknowledge us; you, O LORD, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name.”

Remember the beginning of the Lord’s prayer?  When you pray, when you call on Him, whom are you calling on?  “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven . . .” (Matt. 6:9).

Paul to the Romans wrote of the Holy Spirit: “And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.'”

Why is it important for the Scriptures to emphasise that God is our Father?  Remember back in v. 14 of this chapter, Peter wrote to these believers as “obedient children.”  He is our heavenly Father, we are his obedient children AND as obedient children, we can expect at the end of this life that we will get either his approval or reproof.

The Scriptures are clear here and elsewhere that for all believers . . .

2. He “judges each [person’s] [2] work impartially” (v. 17)

There are no dud judges in God’s court.  He judges with absolute

justice and there are no favourites with him.

This emphasis comes elsewhere in Scripture.

  • James 2:1-9, God does not show favouritism, to the rich or to the poor.
  • Rom. 2:11, “For God does not show favoritism” to Jew or Gentile.
  • Eph. 6:9, “And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do

not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.”

  • Col. 3:25, “Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.”

Are you living daily for the approval of other Christians?  Do you live so that your church leaders will play favourites with you?  I think many of us would say that we are living for the Lord’s approval, but if that is so:

Why is there such conflict among us?  If we were living for God’s approval, shouldn’t we relate to one another in a godly way that will gain God’s approval?  I’m speaking to me as much as to you: I must think before I speak so that I am living in a godly way in my speech.  I ask you: What have you done this week, this month, that would gain the Lord’s approval: “Well done good and faithful servant”? [3]  OR, “That was a lousy job and I, the Father, am shocked with your performance after you became a Christian.  I am displeased with you.”

3. What will God, the Father, judge?

We must be very clear on this point.  Who is Peter addressing?  Go back to v. 1, “God’s elect.”  In v. 4, he wrote of those who have been given “new birth into a living hope.”  V. 10, “Concerning this salvation.”  He’s addressing Christians.  So, when he says that he will judge each person’s work impartially, he is NOT talking about judging you as to whether you are going to heaven or not.

Whether you or saved or not, is based on what you have done with the crucified risen Lord.  What have you done with the salvation through Christ’s death that has been offered to you?   Have you repented of your sin, accepted his salvation by faith, and are you continuing to live  a Christ-honouring life? If you have, Paul declares in Rom. 8:1, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

So this is included in the final judgment of Matt. 25:31-46 when the sheep are separated from the goats.  But, for the Christian, it is NOT the judgment for sinners who are still in unbelief.  Christ took the sin punishment for you and me and you are declared righteous when you repent.  This is the judgment of your actions AFTER salvation for your rewards.  Your sins were taken care of when you repented.  Here the sheep will be judged to receive rewards, based on their actions during their Christian life.  Unbelievers will be judged for their sins of unbelief.

Paul to the Romans wrote: “You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.’ So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:10-12).

Paul to the Corinthians:  “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad”(2 Cor. 5:10).

It is important for believers to understand that this judgment of believers “will be a judgment to evaluate and bestow various degrees of reward. . . but the fact that they will face such judgment should never cause believers to fear that they will be eternally condemned.  Jesus said, ‘Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life’ (John 5:24) ‘” (Grudem 1994, p. 1143).

What actions in your life will give you God’s favourable judgment?  2 Cor. 5:9, “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.”  What does a life look like that is pleasing to God, and that will lead to his positive, impartial assessment of the deeds of our lives? You will get God’s “well done, good and faithful servant” when you do what God considers is good and faithful.  One of the best recipes for that is to live a life governed by the fruit of the Spirit in Gal. 5:16-26:

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery [ie eagerness for lustful pleasure (4)]; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”

In your daily life with your family, your employment, living in this community, you will gain the better, fair judgment from God if what you do is determined by these kinds of attitudes and actions every day::

  • I will respond lovingly to all people today.
  • I will have a joyful attitude today, whether I am shy, serious or jovial.
  • Today, I will do all in my power to promote peace in the church, at home, on the job, in my community.
  • With God’s help, I will be patient with all people today.
  • Today I will be kind to that difficult person.
  • I will do what God considers to be good today and this week.  I cannot know what is good without studying God’s Word.
  • I will act faithfully to my spouse, children, boss and employees, my community, and most of all to my Lord today.
  • I will seek to do all things today in the gentlest way towards all people.
  • Lord, I need your help to be self-controlled in all my actions today – especially with my anger, eating food, the types of things I view.  In what areas of self-control, do you need the Holy Spirit’s help?

Since they are the fruit of God’s Holy Spirit, he needs to be the one to spiritually water your life so that His fruit will grow.  I do not know how I can have the Holy Spirit’s fruit growing in my life without spending daily time in the presence of God’s Holy Spirit Himself.  Daily time in the Word and in prayer are critical to developing fruit that will last.

Is God the central person in your life.  Are you living so that when your work is judged impartially by God the Father, you will get this decision, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

This verse continues in dealing with our lives.

4. You are to “live your lives as strangers” (v. 17)

Do you ever feel you are out of place in this wicked world?  “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through.”  Please note what v. 17 (NIV) says, “Live your lives as strangers.”  The ESV reads: “Throughout the time of your exile.”  In v. 1 of this chapter, there is a different word, but a similar idea: believers are “strangers in the world.”  Here, the view is that we are living alongside our non-Christian neighbours as “pilgrims or strangers.”  It’s the same word that appears in Acts 7:6, where it speaks of Abraham, whose “descendants will be strangers in a foreign country.”

Peter is preparing us for what he will tell us in 2:11, “I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world.”  That’s for another time.

If you are true believers and you find yourself out of step with what is happening in the world, that’s the way it ought to be.  I’m not talking about being mean-spirited to unbelievers and separating ourselves from contact with them.  That would be contrary to the general emphasis of the Bible.

I did my master’s degree counsellor training at Ashland Theological Seminary in Ashland, Ohio, where there was an old-order Amish community where the people drove around the city and countryside using horses & buggies.  They dressed in old-style, period costumes.  I don’t think that this idea of being “strangers in the world” means that we refuse to use electricity, motor cars, and other mod cons like the Amish, but Peter is making it very clear that we are strangers in the world.  If you are truly Christian you should never really feel at home in this wicked, materialistic, God-hating world.

That’s what we are to do: “Live as strangers” (v. 17).

  • God the Father is the impartial judge;
  • He is the judge of each Christian’s work while on earth;
  • While on earth, Christians are to live as strangers;
  • As strangers, accountable to God, Christians are to do it . . .

5. In reverent fear (v. 17)

Remember the core of this verse?  We deal with God the Father who is the impartial judge of our works.  How are we to live in his presence?  “In reverent fear.”  What does this mean biblically?  It seems to be a country mile from the views of the seeker-sensitive, user friendly evangelical church today.

a. Whom should we fear?

The devil?  Absolutely not!  This is the “reverent fear” of God the Father, as this verse states.

b. What does it mean to fear God?

Does this mean to shake all over at the thought of God? Let me share a few other Scriptures so that we understand the absolute importance of the fear of God:

  • Ps. 112:1, “Praise the LORD. Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who finds great delight in his commands.”  The word, “fear” as it relates to God, appears 49 times [5] in the Book of Psalms.
  • Ps. 2:11, “Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling.”
  • Isa 8:13, “The LORD Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread.”
  • Prov. 1:7, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.”
  • Remember Job?  Job 1:8-12 reads:

Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”

“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and  everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”

Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.

God allowed Satan to kill Job’s children, kill the animals, destroy his property & crops, bring horrible disease on Job, and a wife who urged Job, “Curse God and die” (Job 2:9).  What was Job’s response?

In Job 23:14-17, Job replies to God:

“He [God] carries out his decree against me,
and many such plans he still has in store.
That is why I am terrified before him;
when I think of all this, I fear him.
God has made my heart faint;
the Almighty has terrified me.
Yet I am not silenced by the darkness,
by the thick darkness that covers my face.”

Job feared God, but it did not stop devastation in his life, that was allowed by God.

What does it mean to have “reverent fear” of the Father?

A.W. Tozer said that one of the perils for the preacher is “when he loses his solemn fear in the presence of the High and Holy One.” [6]

What is the fear of the Lord?

“It does not mean fear in our usual sense of being afraid.  It means rather to quake or tremble in the presence of a Being so holy, so morally superior, so removed from evil, that in his presence, human boasting, human pride, human arrogance vanish as we bow in speechless humility, reverence, and adoration of the One beyond understanding.” [7]

This fear of God is not a dread or terror of Him in an horrific sense.  It is a loving reverence of him that finds us falling on our faces before him in willing obedience to his commands.

The fear of God includes trust in God, knowledge of God from creation and His Word, recognition of God’s claim on my life.  It is awe of the power and holiness of God.  When I fear God, I cherish the sense of His presence.  I tremble in his presence, knowing how puny I am, and how transcendently awesome He is.

We as human beings are dependent people.  We depend, not on husbands or wives, not on children, bosses or government leaders.  We must not depend on ourselves.  We cannot act wisely if we are our own king.

Dependent human beings must fear God.  We have a duty to obey Him.  We must carry out the plans of our Creator.  Life is only ordered correctly for us when God is in charge.  We depend on the Almighty One for our very existence.

Paul, the Apostle, knew this:  He wrote in 2 Cor. 5:11, “Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men.”  You will not develop a burden to evangelise this community if you do not have an awesome fear of the Almighty, Holy God, to whom you are accountable.  Do you fear Him?  He is the one who judges your deeds, for rewards, with an impartial judgment.

I want to apply this message to you and me, here in the 21st century.

III.  Application

1. Who are you living to please?  Whose approval is most important in your life?  Your peers?  Your spouse, girlfriend/boyfriend, your boss?  Do you seek the approval of your pastor, the church leaders?  If you seek the approval of anyone less than God the Father, you are doomed to dissatisfaction and failure.

2. Honest now, do you live each day for God the Father’s, “Well done, good & faithful servant”?  If you are not there yet, what do you need to change?

3. If you don’t live for God the Father’s approval, it probably means that you don’t really fear God as you need to.  Where is your “reverent fear” of God Himself?  Why don’t you have it?

4. Ps. 33:8 says, “Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere him.”

Why is this sense of God’s awesome holiness virtually unknown among Christians today?  Why is this holy reverence and overwhelming wonder missing in our lives and churches?  How can we be so blind as to treat God as a daddy, a good bloke, rather than falling on our faces before Him in holy awe?

The apostle John, according to Rev. 1:17, fell as if he were dead at the feet of God.  The reason for this lack of fear of God becomes clear:

“When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.  Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid.  I am the First and the Last.  I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever!  And I hold the keys of death and Hades.'”

Surely, there would be profound reverence and godly fear if we suddenly found ourselves in God’s presence.

In John’s words, the reason he had this holy fear was: “I saw him.”  Our lack of passionate love for God.  The fear of God is not among us because we are so far from our Lord.  We need to seek Him.  We need to see him and know him.

5. What’s stopping you from being an obedient child of God the Father?

6. You will be judged by God for your actions as a believer.  Do you think that you ought to be on your face pleading for God to give you an awesome, reverential fear of Him?

7. Do you understand how radical the early church was?  Acts 19:18 reads, “Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds.”  But for believers, James 5:16 says that this is what should be happening among us: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”  Have you ever thought that our prayers may not be effective and God’s healing does not take place for people in our churches when we call upon him for a miraculous intervention, because we don’t confess our sins to God and to one another?

IV.  Conclusion

Maximilian Kolbe [may be unknown to you, but he] knew the fear of the Lord.  It fueled his obedience—even to the point of pouring out his life for another.  His fear of God was greater than his fear of the tyrants of Auschwitz [the Nazi concentration prison camp in Poland.’The overall number of victims of Auschwitz in the years 1940-1945 is estimated at between 1,100,000 and 1,500,000 people.  The majority of them, and above all the mass transports of Jews who arrived beginning in 1942, died in the gas chambers.’ [8]. “The believers of Eastern Europe knew the fear of the Lord. They chose Christ over their communist [and Nazi] oppressors. (Now they must choose Christ over materialism or whatever elsefollows.)”[9]

The fear of the Lord was the secret of the early church.  When Ananias and Sapphira dropped dead in judgment because they lied to God (they trampled on the holy), Acts 5:11 says, “Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.”  Is it going to take this kind of judgment of people in the church to get them to sit up and take notice of the need to have an absolute holy fear of the Almighty God?  Could the tsunami have been a wake-up call?

The Scriptures link an awesome, reverential fear of God with a determined pursuit of holiness.  Second Cor. 7:1 (ESV), “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.”


2.  The NIV translated it, “man.”  The NRSV says, “All people.”  “Each one” in the NET Bible’s version, which it is “each person’s” in TNIV.

3.  Matthew 25:21.

4.  New Living Translation.

5.  Psalm 2:11; 15:4; 19:9; 22:23, 25; 25:12, 14; 27:1; 31:19; 33:8, 18; 34:7, 9, ; 36:1;  40:3; 46:2; 52:6; 55:19; 56:4; 60:4; 61:5; 64:9; 66:6; 67:7; 72:5; 85:9; 86:11; 90:11; 96:9; 102:15; 103:11, 13, 17; 111:5, 10; 112:1; 115:11, 13; 118:4; 119:38, 63, 74, 120; 128:1, 4; 135:20; 145:19; 147:11.

6. A.W. Tozer, God Tells the Man Who Cares.  Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1992, p. 92.

7. Caleb Rosado, “America the Brutal,” Christianity Today, August 15, 1994, p. 24.

8. “Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum” (Online), available from: [8 May 2005].
9.  Charles Colson, The Body.  Dallas: Word Publishing, 1992, p. 383.

Works consulted

Grudem, W. 1994, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Kistemaker, S. J. 1987, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and of the Epistle of Jude, Evangelical Press, Welwyn, Hertfordshire.


Copyright (c) 2007, Spencer D. Gear.  This document last updated at: 13 October 2015.

I Peter 1:13-16, Hope and holiness in an unholy world



By Spencer D Gear

A. Introduction

Viktor Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist during World War II. “He tells of his years trapped in the indescribable horrors of [the Nazi prisoner of war camps] of Auschwitz and Dachau. He was transported there like a despised animal,

  • given two minutes to strip naked or be whipped,
  • every hair was shaved from his body,
  • and he was condemned to a living death.

His father, mother, brother and wife died in the camps or were sent to the gas ovens. His existence was full of cold, fear, starvation, pain, lice and vermin, dehumanization, exhaustion, and terror.

“Frankl wrote that he was able to survive because he never lost the quality of hope. Those prisoners who lost faith in the future were doomed. . . “Frankl said that this usually happened quite suddenly. One morning a prisoner would just refuse to get up. He wouldn’t get dressed or wash or go outside to the parade grounds. No amount of pleading by his fellow prisoners would help. No threatening by the captors would have any effect. . . [It] was called ‘give-up-it is.’

“When a prisoner lost hope, said Frankl, ‘he lost his spiritual hold'” (Frankl 1984, pp. 95, 163, cited in Morgan, 2000, pp. 449-450).

Where’s your hope? On whom do you place your hope? Is there any hope in this present evil world?

In vv. 1-12, Peter gives statements about hope and the circumstances of the people to whom he was writing – persecuted believers. I don’t believe it was Viktor Frankl’s kind of hope, but something much more fundamental. Here are some of those statements from vv. 1-12:

  • “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”(vv. 3-4).
  • “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” (v. 6),
  • “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (v. 8)
  • Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care” (v. 10).

All the way through these 12 verses, Peter gives us statements of fact “concerning this salvation.” But that changes in v. 13, through to 2:3 (Blum 1981, pp. 207-254). He now commands us to do certain things.
In the passage we will be covering today, he commands two things. One is about hope and the other about holiness.
Also note the first word of v. 13, “therefore.” What’s it there for? It’s a transition from the first 12 verses to the rest of ch. 1. Since you are saved and live in very difficult circumstances, God commands you to do these things.
Christians today seem to be minimising these commands and our lives suffer. You are commanded to do things because “greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world.”
If you use the NIV, you will note that it translates the first two clauses of v. 13 as commands: “Prepare your minds for action” and “be self-controlled.” They are really participles and the ESV translates better as: “Preparing your minds for action” and “being sober-minded.”
The first command in v. 13 is:

  • Set your hope (v. 13). The next is:
  • Be holy (v. 15);
  • Live your lives (or “conduct yourselves”, ESV) as strangers (v. 17);
  • Love one another (v. 22);
  • Long for (“crave” NIV) pure spiritual milk (2:2).

These five commands help us to unlock this passage.

The MAIN THRUST of my message from this passage is: Since you have experienced “this salvation”, your life must show that you are different in these ways.

Today we’ll look at just two commands from this passage:

  • Salvation means, set your hope fully/completely (v. 13)
  • Salvation means, you must be holy (v. 15);

At a time when the world is being rocked by wars, terrorists and tsunamis, Peter has the audacity to state that

B. imageSalvation means you must “set your hope completely” (v. 13)

In today’s values, this verse could be mutilated to say something like this: “Don’t let your feelings be judged by anybody. In your thoughts & actions, be open-minded. You do whatever brings you pleasure right now. Set your sights on your self-esteem and go for it with gusto.”

God’s view is radically different.

God commands Peter’s readers, you and me to “set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed” (v. 13). These persecuted believers of the first century “were to set their hope completely, with finality, on the grace being brought to them in connection with Jesus Christ’s revelation” (Blum 1981, p. 52).

When the going gets tough and you are persecuted for your faith, your salvation means that you place your hope completely on the future grace that you will receive when Christ is revealed. When will Christ be revealed again? We know he was revealed at his birth, death and resurrection. But these believers are told that they must place their hope on the grace “that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (ESV). It was future for the first century church and it is still future for us.

It undoubtedly refers to Christ’s Second Coming (the Parousia). We read about it in I Peter 4:13, “But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” Or, 1 Cor. 1:7, “Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.” Also 2 Thess. 1:7, “and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.”

Our hope is NOT based on the temporal, but on the future revelation of the Lord Jesus. It is sometimes said of Christians that “they are so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly good.” Folks, the true Christian is one who is not half-heartedly, but completely and fully, setting his/her hope on the Christ who is to come. We are of great earthly good, because our hope is set on Him and his coming to rule and reign forever. If you set your hope on anything in this world, you on a sinking ship. Chuck Colson’s view is that “the culture in which we live is nearly lost” (Colson 1994, p. x). What a tragedy that so many Christians have their hope on the sinking ship.

In order to “set your hope completely” on God’s grace at Christ’s second coming, Peter tells his persecuted readers that you must do two things:

  • First, you are “preparing your minds for action” and
  • Second, “you are being sober-minded.”

So that you are able to fulfil this command from God to hope in Christ, you will do it in these two ways:

1. First, you are preparing your minds for action (v. 13)

What does that mean? “It is literally, ‘Girding up the loins of your mind.'” But we who drive cars on bitumen highways don’t experience this analogy. In the first century Middle East, this phrase “refers to the long, loose robes worn by Orientals, which were drawn up” with a belt at the waist when these people worked and walked energetically (Lenski, 1966, p. 51). It’s a metaphor/figure about the mind and how we ought to use it as Christians. The idea is that instead of letting your thoughts and decisions be done leisurely whenever you get the urge, you are “to gird up [your] minds like people who are energetically set on going somewhere” (Lenski 1966, p. 51).

Christians are people who take the decisive step of disciplining their minds for God’s cause. Where are your thoughts right now as I speak? Where will your thoughts be at work on in the home tomorrow?

To “gird up the mind” is the opposite of day-dreaming, idle thinking and drifting off into whatever attracts the eyes. Is your mind on worldly thinking, or do you place your thoughts in the hope that is yours in God?

2. Second, you are being sober-minded (ESV)

The NIV translates it as, “Be self-controlled.” That’s part of it, but it has a more comprehensive meaning than that. The KJV hit the mark: “gird up the loins of your mind, be sober” This is the present tense in the Greek, which means to be continually “sober-minded.” If it were in a context of alcohol drinking, it would refer to being sober – the opposite of being drunk. But in the NT it is only used figuratively.

It means to “be free from every form of mental and spiritual ‘drunkenness’, from excess passion, rashness, confusion” (Arndt & Gingrich 1957, p. 540). To be “sober” biblically “is the opposite of infatuation with the things of this world.” It is “a calm, steady state of mind which weighs things aright and thus enables us to make the right decision. Not only the world with its allurements but also the various forms of religious error and delusion [which] intoxicate the mind” (Arndt & Gingrich 1957, p. 52). To be “sober-minded” is to have clear biblical thinking about the world and doctrine. How we need this today in this era of fluffy, anything-goes Christianity.

Here in I Peter, you are commanded to be “sober-mined” in relation to the world. Isn’t this an amazing insight. You are commanded to set your hope on the grace of Christ’s Second Coming because you

  • “prepare your minds for action” and
  • are “sober” in your response to life.

There’s an interesting use of this word, “sober,” in 2 Timothy 4:1-5: “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded (there’s that word again; the NIV translates as “keep your head”), endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (ESV).

The application to you and me today, would be to be sober-minded, clear and serious in our thinking about the philosophies of this world and the teachings that are being offered in churches and through the mass media.

Paul to Titus: “You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). If the Bible teacher must teach sound doctrine, you the people of God must be “sober-minded” in discerning the teaching.

The first command is:

A. Salvation means that you must hope completely in the grace of Christ

The second command is:

C. Your salvation means, you must be holy (v. 15)

This is not politically correct language in today’s church. We run a mile from this kind of teaching. Let’s get serious. Since you have experienced this salvation, God commands you to be holy, because He is holy. What is holiness?

Before we get to this incredible command for us to be holy, let’s note what Peter calls these believers:

  • “Obedient children.” Or, “Children of obedience.” A core quality of believers is that they are children of the Heavenly Father who are obedient to his commands. “It describes the constitution and the character of these children . . . [and] belongs to their very nature” (Lenski 1966, p. 54). Those of us who have been born again to a living hope (1:3), are by nature born to be obedient to our living God’s Word and commands. When I meet Christians who don’t have a desire to be holy, I am forced to ask: Are they really children of the King of Kings, with a living hope and a new life? Only God knows. However, God’s children are obedient members of God’s family. One of their marks forever is – OBEDIENCE.

But I must say this: Too often our view of obedience is extra-biblical. We label things that we consider are worldly thinking and doing and I wonder if this is exactly what the Word of God says.

  • Are you an obedient child of God? For which of the commands we are dealing with today, could you be called obedient children? Or, are you choosing to be disobedient?
  • Are you living a life of obedience in setting your hope completely on Christ’s Second Coming? Or would you rather live in the hope of brawn, bucks and beauty for today? Is your hope in this world rather than the next? Honest now? Are you an obedient child of God?
  • God’s obedient children have certain qualities: The negative & the positive

Before Peter launches into the command to be holy, he deals with

1. The Negative: “Do not conform to evil desires.”

Why would Peter be concerned about the Christian still living out the evil desires of his unsaved state? It’s because of what he said in 1:3, “In his great mercy [God] has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

To you who have this living hope, Peter urges that you:

  • “Do not conform” – i.e. susch?matizo. This word only appears twice in the Greek NT, the other time being in Rom. 12:2, where it reads, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world.” In Greek, the “sch?ma” (conforming) refers not just to the outward “form” (which is morph?). It “is not concerned merely with making various concessions to this age, or coming down to the same level. It warns against being absorbed by it, surrendering oneself to it, and falling prey to it. To do so is to yield oneself to its power” (Braumann 1975, pp. 708-710, p. 709), which is what we see here in I Peter 1:14.
  • Do not conform to, surrender to what? “The evil desires.”
  • When did you have these evil desires? “When you lived in ignorance.” When was that? In their ungodly days.

This is the situation that Peter is warning against. In 1 Peter 2:22, Peter warns those who have known the Lord and have become entangled in the world again: “Of them the proverbs are true [Prov. 26:11]: ‘A dog returns to its vomit,’ and, ‘A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud'” (NIV).

I think the analogy of a cleaned-up pig returning to the muck and mire of the sloppy mud in the sty is a good one. But that only refers to the externals. God, through Peter, is concerned about our returning to the inner garbage of thinking AND action that we had as unbelievers. It is screwed up inner thinking that ushers us into godless living AGAIN – after we have been born again. What could be more obnoxious to God.

Peter is warning, “It would be monstrous for children of obedience to fashion and fit themselves again to those lusts of a former time ‘in the ignorance’ in which they then lived” (Lenski 1966, p. 54).

Returning to the pig sty, metaphorically, could mean a return to:

  • a lust for love/sex;
  • Or, bucks, bucks and more bucks. I am staggered that an Australian Pentecostal pastor, Brian Houston, would write a book titled, You Need More Money (Houston 2000), and ironically, the publisher is called, Send the Light.
  • Peter warns against any conformity to a worldly way of thinking.

What passions do you have that are ungodly? Whatever they are, you will not have God’s kind of hope while you indulge in such passions. Why? You are not living life God’s way.

What can you do if this is your present way of thinking?

a. First, repent of those ungodly passions NOW;

b   Second, stop doing them now?

c.   Find a Christian with whom you can be 100% open, honest and accountable. Be discipled by that person. He/she can ask you at any time about those passions that pull you down and pray with you. But you must be absolutely honest about your ungodliness.

After Peter urges us to no longer be conformed to our old way of life, he launches into this positive command:

2. “Be holy, because I am holy” (v. 16)

What an incredible command! This is a quote from Leviticus 11:44.
a. What does it mean to say that God has the attribute of holiness?

Remember how the Lord’s prayer starts in Matt. 6:9, “This, then, is how you should pray: “ ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” “Holy is His name.”

Isaiah tells us that he saw the Lord and the seraphim (angels) “were calling to one another: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory'” (Isa. 6:3 NIV).

R. C. Sproul said, “How we understand the person and character of God the Father affects every aspect of our lives” (Sproul 1985, p. 25).

God gave A.W. Tozer the wonderful gift to get to the core of many issues for Christians. He wrote that “what comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. . . For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself” (Tozer 1961, p. 1). Just think on this: What you believe about God is the most important thing about you! True or false?

What comes to your mind when you think of God being “holy”?

To be holy “is very closely related to God’s goodness. It has been customary to define holy as: ‘purity, free from every stain, wholly perfect and immaculate in every detail. . . But the idea of moral perfection is at best the secondary meaning of the term in the Bible'” ( Sproul 1985, p. 53).

The primary meaning of holy is “separate.” It comes from an old word meaning, “to cut,” or “to separate.” If we put this in down to earth language, it means that God is “a cut above something.” He is a “cut above” everything and every person else (Sproul 1985, p. 54)

b. To help us understand the supreme nature of God’s holiness, I want to introduce a theological word that is lofty, exceedingly high, absolutely beyond anything you can imagine.

I’m speaking about God’s transcendence. It means literally “to climb across.” R. C. Sproul helped me to understand the magnitude of “transcendence” in his book on The Holiness of God. God’s transcendence means, we are talking about that sense in which God is above and beyond us. It tries to get at His supreme and absolute greatness. The word is used to describe God’s relationship to the world. He is higher than the world. He has absolute power of over the world. The world has no power over Him. Transcendence describes God in His consuming majesty, His exalted loftiness. It points to the infinite distance that separates Him from every creature. He is an infinite cut above everything else.

When the Bible calls God holy it means primarily that God is transcendentally separate. He is so far above and beyond us that He seems almost totally foreign to us. To be holy is to be “other,” to be different in a special way (Sproul 1985, p. 55).

God applies this view of holiness to earthly things. The Bible speaks of these things as holy:

Holy ground, holy Sabbath, holy nation, holy place, holy tithe, holy jubilee, holy city, holy word, holy city, holy covenant, holy ones, and the holy of holies (Sproul 1985, pp. 55-56).

These are only examples of some earthly things that are called holy.

Here in I Peter 1:15-16, Peter says that the people of God are to “be holy in all you do, for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I [the Lord God] am holy.'” We cannot be transcendent holy like God Himself, but God is calling us to be different in a special way.

You know what the early Christians were called? Saints! In Rom. 1:7, Paul writes: “To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints [or holy ones].” Jude 3 states: “Contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.”
One of the major problems we face as believers is that we know that we continue to sin, but God calls us “saints.” But he also calls us to become holy, to become righteous.
In all my years of Christian ministry I don’t remember anybody ever coming to me for counsel and asking: How can I become holy as God is holy? Or, how can I become more righteous?
How do we become holy, separate, other? Through the sanctifying work of the Spirit.
Martin Luther used a simple illustration of how to explain how we as the saints of God become holy, as God is holy. I share it with you:

He described the condition of a patient who was seriously ill and [close to death] [2]. The doctor proclaimed that he had medicine that would surely cure the man. The instant the medicine was administered, the doctor declared that the patient was well. At that instant the patient was still sick, but as soon as the medicine passed his lips and entered his body the patient began to get well. So it is with our justification. As soon as we truly believe, at that very instant we start to get better; the process of becoming pure and holy is underway and its future completion is certain (Sproul 1985, p. 214).

Do you know what bothers me? I don’t hear Christians asking: How can I become righteous; how can I be holy? Why aren’t we committed to being holy, as God is holy?
I am convinced that if we were as committed to holiness as God is committed to changing us to be holy, people might notice the radical difference and be attracted to our holy god. I’ll speak for me, but I consider that too often I live at a low level of mediocrity. When we become holy, as God is holy, I believe the world will become more interested in our Jesus.
C. S. Lewis once commented to an American friend: “How little people know who think that holiness is dull. When one meets the real thing, . . . it is irresistible. If even 10% of the world’s population had it, would not the whole world be converted and happy before a year’s end?” (1967, p. 19, in Green 1982, p. 189).
It is the Holy God who changes paedophiles, murderers, thieves, gossips & full blown sinners of all kinds into saints. We receive it when we are saved, but we grow to be more like Jesus as we grow in grace.
Are you and I really that committed to God’s holiness in our lives?
Remember 1 Peter 1:2 where Peter spoke of believers who are “God’s elect. . . chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood.”

D. Conclusion

How you understand the person of God will affect the way you live your life.

  • If you understand that your God is the only one who can offer you hope – complete and full hope for the future – it will change your whole life.
  • If your God is holy, absolutely transcendent above everything else, and he calls you to be holy, you will be radically changed and your whole world of influence will be transformed.

Do you love the one and only God who calls you to place your hope in him and to look forward to his second coming?

Do you love the transcendentally holy God? What will you do about his call to holiness?

Music has been one of the most divisive aspects of church life. Based on this passage in I Peter, I am convinced that I cannot be a true worshipper of God if my music is dominated by sensual middle of the road music, OR head-banger rock that drowns the lyrics.

God calls you and me to “prepare your minds for action” and to be “sober-minded” in worshipping the Almighty, transcendent, holy God, who commands us to be holy as He is holy.

About 20 years ago there was a survey of people who used to be members of churches. They asked what was the main reason why they stopped going to church. They found it boring. It is difficult for lots of people to find worship to be a moving experience (Sproul 1985, p. 40). When God appeared in the temple in Isaiah’s day, the “the doorposts and the thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke” (Isa. 6:4).

But what happened in the temple when Isaiah was confronted with God and the angels were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isa. 6:3)?

“Woe is me!” he cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty” (Isa. 6:5).

When we come here to worship with our heart centred on God Himself, the One and only Holy Lord, the style of music will not matter if we fall on our face before Him and acknowledge him, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord almighty.”

In such an environment, we see ourselves as we really are. Woe is me! I am ruined!

You know, if we have come to this gathering, with God alone as your worship focus, I do not believe that we can worship him if our focus is on a seductive, old-style sexy dance-band music. Neither do I think that we can truly worship Him and Him alone, if the clanging music drowns the lyrics of worship. I plead with you to come to every gathering of the church to worship Him and have an encounter with him.

When Isaiah saw the Lord, he cried, “Woe is me! I am ruined! I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

I challenge you to join me in worshipping the one who is “Holy, Holy, Holy, the Lord God Almighty”:


2. Sproul called it “mortally ill.”


Arndt, W. F. & Gingrich, F. W. 1957 (transl. & adapt. of W. Bauer), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early ChristianLiterature, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago (limited ed., Zondervan Publishing House).

Braumann, G. 1975, ‘Sch?ma’, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (vol. 1), ed. Colin Brown, The Paternoster Press, Exeter.

Blum, E. A. 1981, ‘1 Peter’ in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (vol. 12), gen. ed., Frank E. Gaebelein, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids,

Colson, C. 1994, ‘Foreword’, Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live Without God? Word Publishing, Dallas.

Frankl, V. E. 1984, Man’s Search for Meaning, Washington Square Press, New York.

Green, M. P. (ed.) 1982, Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Houston, B. 2000, You Need More Money, Send the Light, Kingstown Broadway, Carlisle.

Lenski, R. C. H. 1966, Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John, and St. Jude, Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.

Lewis, C. S. 1967, Letters to an American Lady, Wm. B. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Morgan, R. J. 2000, Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations, & Quotes: The Ultimate Contemporary Resource for Speakers, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville.

Sproul, R. C. 1985, The Holiness of God, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois.

Tozer, A. W. 1961, The Knowledge of the Holy, Harper & Row, San Francisco.

Copyright (c) 2007, Spencer D. Gear.  This document last updated at: 14 October 2015.

1 Peter 1:10, Tough times, terrorism and God’s answer

(Hamas rocket strike, public domain)

By Spencer D Gear


There was plenty of news coverage during 1999 of the martyrdom, the horrible deaths of Graham Staines and his two sons, Philip aged 10, and Timothy, aged 6, burned alive in their car in the Eastern Indian state of Orissa in January 1999.[1b] A Hindu mob burned their jeep while they slept outside a church.[2] Graham had been ministering in a leper colony for 32 years.[3] Perhaps through his death, Beaudesert‘s Graham Staines, has had more opportunity to reach the Indian people with the gospel than through his life.

“[Some] victims of the Columbine High [School, in Littleton, Colorado, who were massacred, 20th April 1999] were evangelical Christians.” The killers “went to the library and asked Cassie Bernall and many of the others, ‘Do you believe in God?’ Thus it appears that the killers targeted evangelical Christians.”[4]

One of Cassie Bernall’s classmates, “Mickie Cain told Larry King on CNN [cable TV in USA], ‘She completely stood up for God. When the killers asked her if there was anyone who had faith in Christ, she spoke up and they shot her for it.”[5]

“A note written by . . . Cassie Bernall the night before she was killed and handed to her friend the next morning, April 20 1999, at school, reads:

“Honestly, I want to live completely for God. It’s hard and scary, but totally worth it.”[6]

These were martyrs, but you didn’t hear much coverage of that emphasis on the mass media.

In 1995, there were more martyrs for Christ in that one year than in the whole first century after Christ. “According to a study done at Regent University, USA, there were close to 164,000 Christians martyred around the world in 1999.”[7] “A Christian dies for his or her faith every 3 minutes.”[8]

“We are talking… about… persecution of the worst sort: Slavery, starvation, murder, looting, burning [and] torture.”[9] “Why then, are 200 million Christians facing severe persecution [in the year 2004]?”[10]

Most of us are blissfully unaware of the horrible persecution for their faith that many Christians TODAY are suffering.

“For example, 30 to 60 million people belong to house churches in China. Its pastors have been tortured, murdered and imprisoned.”[11] There are “several reports that there are now more than 80 million Christians in China.”[12]

Do you remember how the apostle Paul described his persecution?

Phil. 3: 10 “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…”

Now Paul’s description of the persecution:

2 Corinthians 11: 23ff:

23b …I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.

24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.

25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea,

26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers.

27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.

28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches (NIV).

Voice of the Martyrs tells us that “since 1985, approximately two million people have perished due to war and genocide [in the Sudan]. Because of the war, famine has also plagued the country.

“While the conflict was officially about control of land and wealth, it had a strong religious factor in that they government of Khartoum was strongly Islamic and the people of the south were predominantly Christian or animist. The Muslim government declared a jihad against the people of the south. Churches and Christian relief agencies have been specifically targeted for attack. As an example, in June 2003, Pastor Jacob Gadet Manyiel of the Presbyterian Church of Sudan, along with his wife and four children, were burned to death in their home, while troops threatened to kill anyone who came near to help.”[13]

The title of this message is, Tough times, Terrorism and God’s Answer.

If you are about to die for your faith, what will it take for you to go to a martyr’s grave full of hope and assurance? If terrorism comes to Australia, what will keep to strong in the faith?

I want you to keep these questions in mind as we consider I Peter 1:10

Never forget it: We live by faith and not by sight. If you keep your eyes on the trouble you experience, the persecution, the worldwide terrorism, you will crumble. Get God’s Word in your heart — BELIEVING is SEEING.

If you are persecuted for your faith; if terrorism comes to this Lucky Country, what will keep you strong so that you will not chuck it in under the pressure? v. 10 in the NIV gives the answer in the first three words: “CONCERNING THIS SALVATION”


The whole tone of I Peter shows that these people were going through a horrible time of severe trials.

image 1:6, “to suffer grief in all kinds of trials”;

image 4:12, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you”;

image 4:13, “Rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ”;

image 4:16, “If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name”.

What Peter says to these suffering Christians, he wants to drive home to us. If you are persecuted for your faith – and it’s here in isolated pockets for those who speak out for Christ – what will you need to keep you strong so that you won’t crack under pressure?

Get this right at the beginning of v. 10, “CONCERNING THIS SALVATION” (NIV).

“Salvation” means:

image “present deliverance from sin;

image “everlasting life;

image“the joy of our Lord;

image“the deep, full blessedness of his elect in heaven.”[14]

But it means much, much more — as we’ll discover today.

Unless you get a hold of what your salvation is and what it means for Christ to die on the cross for you to be saved, you will NEVER be able to stand up in the fiery trials that lie ahead. Faith that brings salvation is:

image “not only (agreement) of the mind, though it includes that.

image “Nor only consent of the heart, though it is also that.

image “But it is response of the will. ‘Believe, and be saved.'”[15]

If you don’t get a handle on this phrase, “Concerning this salvation,” you will not:

  •  experience this salvation;
  • you will never be able to stand firm when trials come;
  • you may very well chuck it in.

What have you been saved from?

What have you been saved for?

What does this salvation mean in the here and now?

What will it mean in the future?

This salvation that Christ offers is illustrated in the Bible by vivid imagery. Just remember these five words. This salvation means at least these. Christ’s death provides for those who have faith in Christ (read quickly):

image propitiation;

image redemption;

image justification;

image reconciliation;[16]

image atonement;[17]

I hope you got those because they are core to understanding “this salvation.”

Your salvation means you have been propitiated – and I’m not swearing!

A. Propitiation

Take a verse like, I John 2:2, speaking of Jesus Christ, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins…” (NIV, NRSV, ISV). It is very unfortunate that these Bibles translate the word, hilasmos, as “atoning sacrifice.” While it is true that Christ did provide an atonement for our sins, that is NOT what this verse says.

Hilasmos is as the KJV, NASB & ESV put it: “He is the propitiation

for our sins” (KJV, ESV). But what on earth does that mean? In years gone by, that would be understood, but not today. We live in a day of biblical ignorance.

image “To ‘propitiate’ somebody means to appease or pacify his anger…

image “Does God then get angry?

image “If so, can offerings or rituals [lessen or appease][18] his anger?

image  “Does [God] accept bribes?

image  “Such concepts sound more pagan than Christian.

image  “It is understandable that primitive animists [who worship evil spirits][19] should consider it essential to placate the wrath of gods, spirits or ancestors, but are notions like these worthy of our Almighty God?

image  “Should we not have grown out of [this primitive stuff]?

image  “In particular, are we really to believe that Jesus by his death propitiated the Father’s anger, inducing him to turn from it and to look upon us with favour instead?”[20]

We have got to get something very clear:

image Your sin and mine arouse the wrath/anger of God. Take a verse like Rom. 1:18: “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of human beings who suppress the truth by their wickedness” (TNIV).

This is core Christianity. The anger of God DOES NOT MEAN what the animists fear – “that [God] is likely to fly off the handle” when He is provoked in some trivial way. God never loses His temper for no apparent reason. There is nothing spiteful, malicious or vindictive about our holy God. He is not an irrational, unpredictable, venomous tyrant. God’s anger is always predictable “because it is provoked by evil and evil alone.”[21]

We could say that “the wrath of God… is his steady, unrelenting, unremitting, uncompromising antagonism to evil in all its forms and manifestations. In short, God’s anger is poles apart from ours.” What provokes our anger (eg., injured pride), never provokes His; what provokes God’s anger (his antagonism to all forms of evil), seldom provokes ours.[22]

3d-red-star-small Contrary to what the promoters of self-esteem say today, you and I are NOT of great worth to God. In fact, Rom. 3:10-12 nails our true condition:

As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; [23] there is no one who does good, not even one” (NIV).

Christ died for filthy, rotten, dirty sinners that the Scriptures describe as “worthless.” Other translations say that we are “unprofitable, useless and have gone wrong” (KJV, NKJV, RV, NASB, Amplified).[24] What is it that permits worthless, useless reprobates like us to have somebody even think about salvation, let alone provide it for us? That’s the enormous grace of God. Favour that we cannot possibly earn or deserve!

3d-red-star-small Nothing you or I could do could turn away the wrath of God towards us.  Nothing! We can’t persuade or bribe God to forgive us. We deserve His judgment. We deserve to be sent to hell forever — and that’s where the ungodly will go on God’s guarantee. “The initiative has been taken by God himself in his sheer mercy and grace.”

Christ’s death and His death alone, propitiates (appeases) the anger of God. It happens in the courts of heaven when you repent and trust Christ alone for your salvation.

Question: (1) So, what is propitiation?

(2) Why do you need it?

Do you understand the incredible depth of meaning in this short phrase, “concerning this salvation”?  BUT THERE’S MORE!!

Remember Rom. 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”? Many of us know that verse by heart, but too few of us understand and can quote the next two verses, which are so crucial to our understanding of salvation. Vv. 24-25,

“and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, [25] whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins” (ESV).

There are those three words that are at the core of our salvation:

3d-red-star-small Justification,

3d-red-star-small Redemption,

3d-red-star-small Propitiation.

We’ve looked at “propitiation”, now it’s critical that we understand “redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24).

B. Redemption

This is the language of the markets. We are talking about a business transaction. “Redeem” means “to buy or buy back, whether as a purchase or a ransom.” We are in a sorry state through our sin and need a divine rescue operation. Somebody who will buy us back from the power of sin.[25]

Propitiation focuses on the wrath of God that has been pacified by the cross and fellowship with God that is restored. Redemption zooms in on the plight of sinners who have been ransomed by the cross.[26]

“When anybody heard the Greek word, lutron, ‘ransom’ in the first century, it was natural for him [or her] to think of the purchase-money for [freeing][27] slaves.”[28]

The debt was not paid to Satan but to God. The debt that human beings have to God is due to God’s justice. God’s mercy through Christ’s death on the cross, pays the price to ransom human beings from God’s justice. If we got God’s justice — His absolute perfect standard – all of us would be dead.

Folks, a large part of the Scripture teaches us “that we are redeemed from the penalty of the law, from the law itself, from sin as a power, from Satan, and from all evil, by the death of Christ.”[29]

I heard of a little boy who worked very hard to make his very own, little yacht out of a nice hunk of wood. He loved his yacht and took it to the lake often with other boys who had yachts and sailed it on the calm waters, when there were light winds, near his house.

One day, it drifted out of sight, carried away by a stronger breeze. He splashed out into the water, grasping to reach his yacht – but he couldn’t reach it. Eventually he lost sight of it. He was devastated that his own hand-made yacht had gone.

Some days later he was going through a busy street and he saw his yacht in a shop window. He went in to claim the yacht as his own. But no matter how much he tried to persuade the owner, repeatedly telling him that he had made that yacht with his own hands, the shop-keeper would not change his mind.

The shop-keeper was adamant: “If you want it, you must pay for it.” The boy returned home, counted out his money, asked for a little from his parents to help meet the cost of the yacht.

So, he went in and bought it back. “You’re twice mine!” he exclaimed and as he looked proudly at his own little yacht, he said, “I made you and I’ve purchased you.”[30]

Christian friends, that is how God sees you. Paul said in I Cor. 6:19-20, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price” (NIV). God, by Christ’s shed blood, has purchased us from the power of sin. We have been redeemed.

But God doesn’t take his redeemed merchandise (us) immediately to heaven. Instead, he gives us the token of our redemption — the Holy Spirit who lives in us. We have redemption, the forgiveness of sin. And one day, when Jesus returns, we’ll be in the presence of the One who purchased us — or we’ll meet him at death.

Application: Don’t raise your hands, but I want you to think carefully about what you have been redeemed from by your salvation.

How many of you can identify with being slaves to sin in your life before Christ purchased you?

It does us good to think back on where God has brought us. You still have your daily struggles with sinful thoughts and actions as God causes you to become more like him. This is growth through sanctification.

But let’s face it: your slavery to sin is not what it used to be. That power is broken. You have been redeemed. If the power of sin in your life is the same as or worse than it used to be before Christ, I’d be asking serious questions about the reality of your salvation.

Salvation means

  • propitiation — God’s wrath against us has been appeased;
  • redemption — the price has been paid to God. You have been bought back and the power of sin is broken.

But there’s more:

C. Justification

Take that verse from Rom. 3:24, we “are justified freely by his grace.” When I say that my staff member was justified in taking that action, I mean that he has every reason to believe that what he did was OK. He was right in doing it.

That is not what God means when he says that believers “are justified freely by his grace.” We often say, “justification means: ‘Just as if I’d never sinned.'” But that doesn’t get to the heart of what God means when he says that we receive justification freely by God’s grace.

For God, justification is the language of the law courts. Justification is the OPPOSITE of condemnation.

Take Rom. 5:18, “Consequently, just as the result of one trespass [speaking of Adam’s sin] was condemnation for all [people][31], so also the result of one act of righteousness [Christ’s death on the cross] was justification that brings life for all [people][32] (NIV).

This is in the package of salvation:

Propitiation – appeasing the wrath of God;

Redemption – we are rescued from the grim captivity of our sin and guilt.

Also justification. Since there is nobody who is righteous, not even one, how

can we who are sinners by nature, ever be ushered into the presence of an absolutely holy God?

We are justified by God’s grace (Rom. 3:24) through faith in Christ (Eph. 2:8-9). But what does that mean?

3d-red-star-smallWhen God justifies sinners, he is not declaring bad people to be good;

3d-red-star-small He is NOT saying that they are not sinners after all;

3d-red-star-smallHe is saying that the person who places his/her trust in Jesus Christ for salvation, is pronounced legally righteous before God;

3d-red-star-small How is this possible? Because [God] himself in his Son has borne the penalty of your breaking God’s law.

3d-red-star-smallThat is why Paul is able to bring together in a single sentence the depth of salvation: justification, redemption and propitiation in Rom. 3:24-25(ESV),

“and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, [25] whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.”

3d-red-star-small The reasons why we are ‘justified freely by God’s grace’ are that Christ Jesus paid the ransom-price and that God presented Christ as a sacrifice to appease God’s wrath.

3d-red-star-small In other words, we are ‘justified by his blood’. There could be no justification without atonement.”[33]

But how does this justification become yours in your life? This was the great theme of Martin Luther’s Reformation and the apostle Paul’s favourite expression : JUSTIFIED BY FAITH (see Rom. 3:28; 5:1; Gal. 2:16; Phil. 3:9).[34]

Perhaps the most straightforward verses that help us to understand what happens with justification is Phil. 3:8-9,

What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ

v. 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christthe righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.

You are not condemned by Christ, but justified because of the cross. You are

declared righteous before the just and holy Lord God. When you are justified, God reverses his “attitude to the sinner, because of the sinner’s new relation to Christ.”[35]

When you are justified, it has nothing to do with what happens inside you when you become a Christian. It is everything about what God declares about you. You are no longer condemned as a sinful criminal before God and going to hell, you are right before God’s law.

But God goes one step further. As Phil. 3:9 puts it: “ not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christthe righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.”

Let’s put it this way: Negatively, God has declined to count our sins against us. That’s justification. Of course we deserved to get the full weight of God’s judgment. But if he did that we would die and be damned forever. By an act of God the Judge, he has justified us. He has not counted our sins against us.

Positively, 2 Cor. 5:21, puts it this way: “God made him [Jesus]who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

This “is surely one of the most startling statements in the Bible.”[36] James Denney wrote an outstanding book on The Death of Christ. He puts it this way, “Mysterious and awful as this thought is, it is the key to the whole of the New Testament.”[37]

Because of the sinless death of His Son, Jesus Christ, God refused to count our sins against us. In fact, Jesus’ personal sinlessness gave him unique qualifications to bear our sins. He had none of his own to deal with. Christ became sin for us so that “in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Mysterious, “Yes!” What a glorious rescue!

Throughout the history of the Christian church, disciples “have meditated on this exchange between the sinless Christ and sinners, and have marvelled at it.” How could “the wickedness of [so] many… be hid in a single Righteous One, and that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors”?[38]

At the time of the Reformation, Martin Luther was “writing to a monk [who was] in distress about his sins.” Luther said it this way: “Learn to know Christ and him crucified. Learn to sing to him and say ‘Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, I am your sin. You took on you what was mine [my sin]; yet set on me what was yours [righteousness]. You became what you were not, that I might become what I was not.'”[39]

“Justification means this miracle: that Christ takes our place and we take his.”[40],[41],[42]

Some of you might have read Merlin Carothers’ book, Prison to Praise.[43] He “had firsthand experience of what it is like to be declared righteous.

“During World War II he joined the army. Anxious to get into some action, Carothers went AWOL but was caught and sentenced to five years in prison. Instead of sending him to prison, the judge told him he could serve his term by staying in the army for five years. The judge told him if he left the army before the five years ended, he would have to spend the rest of his term in prison.

“Carothers was released from the army before the five-year term had passed, so he returned to the prosecutor’s office to find out where he would be spending the remainder of his sentence.

“To his surprise and delight, Carothers was told that he had received a full pardon from President Truman [of the USA]. The prosecutor explained: ‘That means your record is completely clear. Just as if you had never gotten involved with the law.'”[44]

When you come to faith in Christ for salvation, your sinful record is completely clear — you have been declared righteous by God. It’s not that your sinful record has been ignored. God has wiped the slate. You are righteous before him.

“Concerning this salvation!” What a mighty God we have to

provide such a Saviour!

Your salvation not only means you have received

3d-red-star-small propitiation, redemption and justification. But there’s more: you have received …

3d-red-star-small reconciliation – that will be for another time if I am invited;

3d-red-star-small put them all together — propitiation, redemption, justification and reconciliation and you have a good idea of what is included in the

3d-red-star-small atonement (but that will also be for another time)

3d-red-star-small but “an even broader term than ‘atonement’ is salvation.”[45]


Let’s summarise This salvation means:

3d-red-star-small God’s incredible eternal plan for the salvation of sinners – planned from “before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:3);

3d-red-star-small The OT preparation for Christ’s coming;

3d-red-star-small Jesus Christ’s incarnation – his birth into this world;

3d-red-star-small His death, resurrection and ascension;

3d-red-star-small The present ministries of Jesus and the Holy Spirit;

3d-red-star-small The wonderful future we have with the second coming of Christ;

3d-red-star-small Living in the presence of God forever in heaven.

That’s a quick overview of salvation. But when we are not referring to it in its full-orbed arrangement, we settle for the more specific terms like sacrifice, propitiation, forgiveness, redemption, victory over evil powers of darkness, reconciliation with God and God’s people, justification and sanctification.[46]

Brothers and sisters:

  • This is what will take you to a martyr’s grave with confidence;
  • You will not face terrorism without this assurance;
  • When you KNOW this Christ “concerning this salvation,” no persecution will be so intolerable that you will want to chuck in your salvation;
  • You can face the future with confidence, no matter what the pain, heartache and disappointment, if you put your absolute trust in THIS Christ, for THIS salvation;

The “godly Dr Archibald Alexander of Princeton [Seminary (USA)] had been a preacher for Christ for sixty years and a professor of divinity for forty [years]. On his death-bed he was heard to say to a friend, ‘All my theology is reduced to this narrow compass—Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.'”[47]

Helen Keller was deaf, dumb, and blind. She “was taken to Phillips Brooks for spiritual instruction. [Brooks (1835-93) was a powerful preacher at Church of the Holy Trinity, Philadelphia & Trinity Church, Boston.][48] In the simplest of terms the great preacher told the girl about Jesus. As she heard the Gospel, her face lit up and she spelled out in the hand of the preacher-teacher, ‘I knew all the time there must be one like that, but I didn’t know His name.'”[49]

“Concerning this salvation,” even the severely handicapped Helen Keller knew of his work.

If this salvation ever grips you, you will never be the same again.

3d-red-star-smallYou will face any opposition that comes along – martyrs grave or terrorism.

3d-red-star-smallYou will know that God sends trials to strengthen your faith in Him.

3d-red-star-smallYou could even face that kind of martyrdom that Graham, Phillip and Timothy Staines experienced.

Tough times, Terrorism and God’s Answer: Concerning This SalvationHallelujah!!


[1] For example, “Lives of charity meet a fiery end,” The Courier-Mail, January 25, 1999, 1.

[2] See the story, Life for Aussie missionary killer – 


[3] Religions in India, “Staines murder trial deferred until Sept. 5,” available from: [1st November 2004].

[4] Dr Ted Baehr’s personal view, “Who was targeted? The politically incorrect truth about Columbine,” New Life, 20 May 1999, 14.

[5] “Littleton’s martyrs,” New Life, 6 May 1999, 3, emphasis in original. This article stated: “As the ‘Washington Post’ reported, the two students who shot 13 people, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, did not choose their victims at random — they were acting out of a kaleidoscope of ugly prejudices. Media coverage has centred on the killers’ hostility toward racial minorities and athletes, but there was another group the pair hated every bit as much, if not more: Christians. And there were plenty of them to hate at Columbine High School. According to some accounts eight Christians — four evangelicals and four Catholics — were killed” (ibid., emphasis in original).

[6] Available from: [4th November 2004].

[7] Available from “Jesus Freaks” at: [4th November 2004].

[8] Available from “Revival Times” at: [4th November 2004].

[9] Michael Horowitz, a fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C., in “The Persecuted Church” (Feb. 2004), available from:,+starvation,+murder,+looting,+burning%22+horowitz&hl=en [4th November 2004].

[10] Kristin Wright, ” Standing with the Persecuted Church: Why Christians Should Help Suffering Believers,” Breakpoint,

November 6, 2003, available from: [1st November 2004].

[11] Ibid.

[12] Andrew Tuck, General Manager of The Voice of the Martyrs in Australia, “The Persecuted Church,” Press Release for Immediate Release, March 3, 1998,, spotted 16 August 99, 1.

[13] Voice of the Martyrs, Canada, available from: [4th November 2004].

[14] B.C. Caffin, “I Peter: Exposition and Homiletics,” in H.D.M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell (Eds.), The Pulpit Commentary (Volume 22). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950, 5.

[15] Caffin, 56.

[16]The last four are based on John R. W. Stott, The Cross of Christ. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1986, 167.

[17] Based on Henry Clarence Thiessen, Introductory Lectures in Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1949, 325-26.

[18] The original word was, “assuage.”

[19] “Animism may be simply defined as ‘spirit worship.'” These spirits may inhabit stones, trees, water, the hills, and the air around themselves and the sky above. It often involves ancestor worship, as well as fetishism and magic. They fear the spirits. Sickness is feared; death is the greatest fear. When misfortune and sickness happen, the medicine man is called in to discover the spirits responsible. Which spirit has been offended. The cause of the trouble is believed to be evil spirits that need to be appeased. It has been said that the animist “resembles a captivated slave pledged to a satanic system, from which he struggles hopelessly to be delivered” [Howard F. Vos (Ed.), Religions in a Changing World. Chicago: Moody Press, 1959, 22, 25, 27]. Animists worship spirits that are believed to live in natural objects such as trees, rocks or springs. They endeavour to appease those spirits. Animists sometimes use fetishes and magical practices of various sorts [Sir Norman Anderson, Christianity and World Religions. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1984, 60].

[20] Stott, 169.

[21] Stott, 173.

[22] Ibid.

[23] This is also the translation of the NRSV and ISV; “unprofitable” (KJV, NKJV, RV); “useless” (NASB); “have gone wrong and have become unprofitable and worthless” (Amplified); “have gone wrong” (NLT).

[24] See footnote 23 for details.

[25] Stott, 175.

[26] Ibid.

[27] The original quote said, “manumitting.”

[28] Deissmann in Thiessen, 328.

[29] Shedd, in Thiessen 328-29. “From the penalty of the law, or as Paul says in Gal. 3:13, from the ‘curse’ of the law, by Christ’s having become a curse for us. From the law itself, by our being made dead to the law by the body of Christ (Rom. 7:4), so that we are no longer under it but under grace (Rom. 6:14). From sin as a power, by Christ’s death to sin and our death to it in Him (Rom. ^:2, 6; Tit. 2:14; 1 Peter 1:18, 19), so that we need no longer submit to the domination of sin (Rom. 6:12-14). From Satan, who held man in captivity (2 Tim. 2:26), likewise by His death on the cross (Heb. 2:14, 15). And from all evil, including our present mortal body (Eph. 1:14; Rom. 8:23), to be fully granted at the return of Christ (Luke 21:28). We thus observe that the term redemption alludes sometimes to the payment of a debt and sometimes to the liberation of a captive” [Thiessen, 329].

[30] A. Naismith, 1200 Notes, “Quotes” and Anecdotes. London: Marshall Pickering, 1963, #933, p. 166-67.

[31] The original said, “men,” but the TNIV translates as “people.”

[32] The original said, “men,” but the TNIV translates as “people.”

[33] Based on Stott, 190.

[34] Ibid., 190.

[35] Thiessen, 362.

[36] Stott, 200.

[37] James Denney (R. V. G. Tasker, Ed.), Death of Christ. London: The Tyndale Press, 1951, 88. I was alerted to this by Stott, 200.

[38] Stott, 200.

[39] Luther, Letters of Spiritual Counsel, 110, in Stott, 200.

[40] Emil Brunner, Mediator, 524, in Stott, 201.

[41] “The sinner must not only be pardoned for his[/her] past sins, but also supplied with a positive righteousness before [he/she] can have fellowship with God. This need is supplied in the imputation of the righteousness of Christ to the believer. To impute is to reckon to one,” Thiessen, 363-64.

[42]As so many passages of the NT prove, we are “justified in Christ” through our legal standing (and personal relationship) with him (Gal. 2:17. Cf. Rom. 8:1; 2 Cor. 5:21; Eph. 1:6), Stott, 191.

[43] Merlin R. Carothers, Prison to Praise. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1970.

[44] “Justification,” in Michael P. Green (Ed.), Illustrations for Biblical Preaching. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1989, #732, p. 209.

[45] Gordon R. Lewis and Bruce A. Demarest, Integrative Theology: Our Primary Need Christ’s Atoning Provisions (Vol. 2). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Academie Books (Zondervan Publishing House), 1990, 408.

[46] The above view of salvation is based on ibid.

[47] Charles H. Spurgeon, in Roy B. Zuck, The Speaker’s Quote Book. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications 1997, 332.

[48] In James E. Rosscup, “The Priority of Prayer and Expository Preaching” (pp. 63-84) in John MacArthur, Jr. and the Master’s Seminary Faculty, Rediscovering Expository Preaching (Richard L. Mayhue, ed. & Robert L. Thomas, assoc. ed.) Dallas: Word Publishing, 1992, 64.

[49] Spurgeon in Zuck, 333.


Copyright © 2004 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 May 2018.

1 Peter 1:6-7, Stand firm in the faith! God is turning trash into treasure in your life


By Spencer D Gear

I.     I Peter 1:6-7 (NIV):

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed .

II.     Scripture Introduction

It was about July A.D. 64 and the great fire had broken out in Rome and destroyed much of that great city.  The city looked like Cuta, Bali, or the World Trade Centre aftermath.  The city was blackened by hundreds of buildings burnt to the ground.  It is said that thousands of homes were destroyed, leaving thousands of people homeless.

History says that Emperor Nero lit the fire to destroy the shanties and rebuild marble palaces and other monuments – to establish a name for himself.

Nero looked over the city and enjoyed watching it burning.

The people of Rome were furious and were ready to overthrow him.  Nero looked for a scapegoat to blame for the fire and the Christians got the reputation from him.  There were rumours that this new sect, called Christians, were cannibals as they met in houses and were supposed to be drinking somebody’s blood and eating his body at their “love feasts” where they greeted one another with a “holy kiss” and it was alleged they engaged in sexual orgies.  Christians were under suspicion.

Many people didn’t believe this, but others believed it, about the Christians, but Nero blamed them.  Christians were lambasted with the reputation for this terrible crime of burning down Rome.

During this time Christians were tarred and burned as torches to light up Nero’s gardens.  They were thrown to the lions, tied up in leather bags and thrown into the water.  When the leather bags shrank, the Christians were squeezed to death. Nero was a brute in his torture of Christians in the A.D. 60s.

The Christians scattered to avoid the persecution.

It was during this time in Rome that the Apostle Peter wrote this first letter to “God’s elect” (the Christians) who were “strangers in the world” and “scattered.” Where were they scattered to?  In the region that we now know as Turkey – Asia Minor.

First Peter begins:

“. . .To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia,  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” (I Peter 1b-2a NIV)

So we have this magnificent letter known as The First Letter of Peter.  It was almost unanimously accepted in the early church as from the Apostle Peter.

At the close of the letter (5:13), Peter says he wrote it from Babylon. There are some who say he meant the literal Babylon on the Euphrates River, but most scholars are of the view that he was using the term that from common among Christians of the first century, and was referring to Rome – the city of sexual promiscuity, idolatry and the evil of Babylon.

Apostle Peter probably wrote this letter from the city of Rome in the mid-60s A.D. He wrote it to mostly Gentile Christians in Asia Minor, known as Turkey today.

Peter wrote to encourage these believers who were facing some incredible difficulties.

If you suffer from difficulties of any kind, including suffering, I urge you to read the book of First Peter.

Are you wondering what God is up to in today’s world of terrorism, tensions and all kinds of pressures – and worse is likely to come – here is a letter that is packed with ways that Christians ought to respond.  It was written to people facing the kinds of terror, suffering and disease that we can identify with.[2]

III.     Background to these verses

In this message, we will address two primary areas that affect all of us.  Don’t chuck it in when the going gets tough in the Christian life.  Why?

First, There is a wonderful attitude or disposition about all of life that the Christian is uniquely qualified to have in abundance.  What is it and how do you get it? and

Second: God has an incredible way of turning trash into treasure in the life of every Christian.

A.      In Reader’s Digest (October 1997)

There was an article called, “The Global War on Christians.” [3]  In it we are told of the persecution around that world against Christians.  It states that “an estimated 200 million to 250 million Christians are at risk in countries where such incidents occur.” [4]

Countries such as China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, the Sudan in Africa, Saudi Arabia, etc.  According to this article, the “two most implacable foes of Christianity” and the main causes of persecution are “Muslim militants” [5] and “Communist oppressors.” [6]

I’ll mention just two examples:

“In Pakistan, Munir Khokher was wounded by a gunshot when he tried to stop the destruction of a Christian cemetery by Muslim mobs.” [7]

In Xinjiang Province, China, “police burst in [to a house church] and found 17 worshippers.  When five women admitted being the leaders, they were detained, beaten and tortured.” [8]

There is “a vast sea of victims–men, women and children who have been tortured, imprisoned and executed [in 1997].  Their crime?  They are Christians.” [9]

But we in the Western church don’t seem to know much about this (unless we receive material from Brother Andrew’s “Open Doors” organisation or Richard Wurmbrand’s ministry, “Voice of the Martyrs.”)  We need to know what’s happening to our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world so that we can pray for them and support as the Lord enables.

B.      Perhaps you can’t identify with this opposition. 

A Christian friend of mine is a Christian counsellor in another city in Qld.  and he tells me that the opposition and antagonism to him as a Christian counsellor seems to be increasing.  He says there is a new wave of anti-Christian persecution in that city, here in Queensland.

Jesus said, “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (John 15:20).  Paul to Timothy said, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12).

For you it might be the difficulties you face personally:

  • life-threatening persecution may still come to Australia;
  • for you it may be children who rebel;
  • a spouse who leaves and divorces you;
  • pain, sickness & death in the family;

[My wife, Desley, (as of 2006) has had 22 years of polycythemia (abnormal growth of red blood cells)—shocking migraines, dull and dizzy head daily, always tired and yet running the family and taking care of her 95-year-old father.]

  • suffering and trials are part of this life.


C.      To the church who were “strangers in the world” and “scattered” through persecution (1:1), Peter writes.  Just listen to some of the things these believers were experiencing in Asia Minor.  Some Christians around the world are experiencing these things now.  These are phrases taken from I Peter (NIV):

· You are “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God” (2:9)  who “are being built into a spiritual house” (2:5) BUT. . .

· “suffering all kinds of trials” (1:6);

· among the pagans “they accuse you of doing wrong” (2:12);

· Slaves are to even submit themselves to masters who are “harsh” (2:18).  Peter goes on to teach them that “it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering” (2:19);

· “suffering for doing good and you endure” (2:20);  “Even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed” (3:14);

· “Those who suffer according to God’s will” (4:19).

· other Christians throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of suffering (5:9); but this suffering is only for a little while (5:10). [10]

Suffering, trials, persecution, discipline are not God’s way of saying, “I’ve had enough of you and your ways; I’m going to abandon you.”  Rather, discipline is God’s loving way of turning trash into treasure in your life.

C.S. Lewisonce said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” [11]

Yet, 14 years after making that statement, Lewis said: “Time after time, when [God] seemed most gracious He was really preparing the next torture.” [12]

These were not the words of an atheist or a sceptic trying to cast doubt on the Scriptures and shake somebody’s faith in God.  They come from C.S. Lewis, Christian writer and one of the foremost defenders of the Christian faith.  He was grieving the loss of his wife from cancer.  Lewis did not marry until late in life.

You and I know there have been times when we would not listen to God and God had to do something to get our attention.  God does that with trials.  He can use even severe discipline to get our attention so that we will listen.

Let’s stop for a moment and apply this to yourself.

Please think of the difficulties in your life right now.  Why is God doing it or allowing it?  Does he have something against you?  Is it punishment?  Does God have something better in store for you?  Let’s get this very clear.  God does not send trials and suffering to your life to play with you like a cat does with a mouse.  What could God be up to in your life and mine by the trials we go through?

D.      Why is the Book of I Peter in the canon of Scripture?

The positive thinkers would say this is a most negative book. They do not want to hear the message of this book.  In their error, they want to speak only positive affirmations.

Yet I Peter 5:12 says: “I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God.  Stand fast in it.”

1.       They were suffering persecution and trials and he wrote to encourage them.

This is a letter of hope to those who are tempted to chuck it in when the going gets tough.  He encourages them to endure, to holiness, to exemplary conduct towards each other and towards the pagans, to direct their minds to their future inheritance “that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you” (1:4).

2.       Also, I Peter is written to “testify” of “the true grace of God.”

Perhaps these scatter, suffering believers in Asia Minor were doubting the grace of God because of the severe trials they were going through.  Peter testifies that the grace of God for salvation came with trials and suffering.

Remember what Paul said to the Philippians (2:12-13): “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”  God was working within the Philippians; God’s work is seen in Peter’s audience of persecuted Christians.  And God is working out your salvation and mine–in the midst of trails.

3. A third reason I Peter is in the Bible, according to 5:12, is to encourage us not to chuck it in, but to “stand firm/fast” in God’s grace.

In spite of persecution, personal pain, suffering and trials, the slander of non-Christians–Peter says to them and to us.  Don’t chuck it in.  Stand firm.

Under the inspiration of the Spirit, Peter, in 5:8 reminds us where some of the trials come from: “Your enemy (adversary) the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

The devil prowls around looking for disillusioned sheep who are wandering from the fold, who are vulnerable – because of the suffering they are experiencing.

  • the devil accuses God to people.

Accusations like: Look at all the trials, suffering and pain you are going through.  How crazy you are to serve such a God
who is doing this to you.  You must be joking when you say he is a good God!  Sigmund Freud was right: the religious have a mental problem.

The devil loves to pull down your view of God.

There is always the danger you will throw in the towel, call it quits and commit apostasy if you listen to the devil’s accusations and not to God’s word.

To counter all these phoney accusations, Peter teaches us to resist the devil, stand your ground, strong in the grace of God–in the midst of trials.

I’ve been having some light-headed experiences of dizziness over the last few months.  I’ve been thinking it is stress related to my work and have had CAT scans, brain wave tracings, seen a neurologist, etc.  But in a recent e-mail from my son, Paul, he wrote this:  “I don’t mean to go over the top, Dad, but I know the devil doesn’t want you to be doing what you are doing.  Remember his strategies.”  How timely this reminder was for me.  I thank the LORD for a godly 30-year-old son.  The devil does not make you do everything, but he certainly is a deceptive, accusing person in the life of the Christian.  But Jesus is the victor.  We need to live in that victory that was obtained at Golgotha.

As long as Jesus allows us to be on earth, trials will be our lot; the devil will be our accuser throughout life.

E.  What is God doing in your lives?

I Peter 2:5 says that God is building “you” (plural) into a “spiritual house.”  That’s His goal for the church.  How does he do it?

In this passage we are considering (vv. 6-7), Peter encourages us, exhorts us, teaches us: READ VV. 6-7.

To all of us, God says through Peter:



If God is going to turn junk into gold, He uses two core principles.  By these principles, God takes what is displeasing to Him and makes you what He wants you to be.

The two principles are found in the contrasts of vv. 6-7:

v. 6.  “In this you greatly rejoice” BUT you may have “to suffer grief.”  The contrast is: Rejoicing in the midst of grief.

v. 6.  You will experience “all kinds of trials” BUT

v. 8.  You “are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.”  Or as the KJV puts it, “ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.”  The contrast: Trials vs. joy – but this is the Christian life.



A.      Changing trash into treasure requires a joyous disposition.

Please understand that I did not say, “Turning trash into treasure requires a happy disposition.”  There’s a great deal of difference between joy and happiness.  These two words, “rejoice” and “joy” come from the same Greek root word, charis.

a.       What is joy?

My wife, Desley, uses a detergent to get out stains and deep dirt, called “Bio-Joy.”  I understand the idea behind such a name: you will experience joy when dirty clothes become clean–thanks to the miracle working Bio-Joy.  But that is not what the Bible means by “joy”.  We need to be fundamentally clear on this:

(1)     Joy is not an option.  You are commanded to rejoice.

Phil 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice.”  This is not just an idea that we can think about.  It is a practical joy that all Christians are commanded to develop.  The imperative is that we are to be joyous people.  So it must be possible, even for some like me who are rather serious people.

Perhaps it would be helpful if we briefly looked at what joy is not. [13]

(2)     First, joy is not the same as fun and playing games

You can have fun and still not find joy.  People around us in droves are pursuing pleasure and fun in sex, illicit drugs, drink, gadgets, entertainment, travelling–especially here in the affluent West, but it is clear they don’t have that deep seated joy.

You can know the joy of the Lord and have lots of fun.  Read the book of Philippians and you’ll find Paul was in prison, expecting to die.  It was no fun.  But he had lots of joy.  Philippians is the book of joy.

These Christians Peter was writing to had severe trials, suffering and persecution, yet they had “joy unspeakable and full of glory.”

(3)     Second, joy is not the same as being the life of the party.

That’s part of being an extrovert.  You can have a bouncy temperament but have no joy.  A Christian may have a face that is thin, bony looking and like a drawn-out coffee pot, but he or she can have joy beyond measure.

What then is joy?

On the evening that Jesus was betrayed and arrested, perhaps only 12 hours before his crucifixion–he knew the horrors that were facing him.

According to John 15:11 he says, “I have told you this [that is, that obedience will keep you in my love] so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.”

Joy was his at that moment, but the circumstances were far from carefree and happy.

Paul could have joy with the threat of being killed.

Here in I Peter 1: 6, Peter commands:

“In this you greatly rejoice.”

Here we have the clue to what joy is and where it comes from.  When he says, “in this,” he is referring back to something he has already said.  Your joy comes from this:

o Your salvation.

v. 2, you have been chosen by God for eternal life;

v. 3, you have a new birth, a living hope;

v. 4, your inheritance is nothing like what a wealthy person leaves behind for his children.  Your inheritance will never perish, spoil or fade.  It is kept in heaven for you.

v. 5.  This salvation, even though you experience it now with enormous benefits, it will be yours fully when Jesus Christ is revealed when he comes again.

o J.I. Packer defines it well: “Joy covers the entire spectrum of what may be called the rapturous, ranging from the extreme achings of ecstasy to the quiet thrill of contentment… Joy is a condition that is experienced, but it is more than a feeling; it is primarily a state of mind…  A state of the whole [person] in which thought and feeling combine to produce total euphoria.” [14]  It is a deep contentment when you are in love with Jesus and nothing–not even suffering, trials, persecution or death–can take it away.

It flows from your relationship with Jesus and knowing who you are as a believer.  You rejoice in the exhilarating knowledge of being Christ’s child.  You possess salvation and eternal life as Christ’s gift.  You can’t earn it.  You accept it.  Joy flows from this source.  I can’t put it into words that are adequate enough.  It’s the joy of relationship, not circumstances.

“R.A. Torrey was one of the great Bible teachers [at the turn of the 20th century] and [was] fonder of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles…  He and Mrs Torrey went through a time of great heartache when their twelve-year-old daughter was accidentally killed.

“The funeral was held on a gloomy, miserable, rainy day.  They stood around the grave and watched as the body of their little girl was put away.  As they turned away, Mrs Torrey said, `I’m so glad that Elizabeth is with the Lord, and not in that box.’

“But even knowing this to be true, their hearts were broken.  Dr. Torrey said that the next day, as he was walking down the street, the whole thing broke anew–the loneliness of the years ahead without her presence, the heartbreak of an empty house, and all the other implications of her death.

“He was so burdened by this that he looked to the Lord for help.  He said, `And just then, this fountain, the Holy Spirit that I had in my heart, broke forth with such power as I think I had never experienced before, and it was the most joyful moment I have ever known in my life!

“Oh how wonderful is the joy of the Holy [Spirit]!  It is an unspeakable glorious thing to have your joy not in things about you, not even in your most dearly loved friends, but to have within you a fountain ever springing up, springing up, springing up, always springing up [365] days in every year, springing up under all circumstances unto everlasting life.” [15]


Do you know this kind of joy as the constant reality in your life?  If not, there is only one way to receive it: repent, fall on your face before God, and be reconciled with Jesus.  Do you want joy?  The Scriptures command you to have it.  Will you seek and experience this “joy unspeakable and full of glory”?

Then you will discover that while you live in this depraved and fallen world, life will not be a “joy ride,” but it can become a “joy road” through your response to God. [16]

Core Principle No. 1 for changing trash to treasure.  You are commanded to have the joy of the Lord.  It must be yours.


The classic case is Job.  At the end of Job we read (42:11-12): “All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house.  They comforted and consoled him over [get this] all the trouble the Lord had brought upon him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.  The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first.”

We have the benefit that Job didn’t have.  We have the Word of God that even tells us in Job chapter 1 that God used Satan to afflict Job.  Will he do any more or less with us?  Without a doubt, God can send trials our way.

Remember Joseph who was badly treated and sent to Egypt by his brothers?  When Joseph finally revealed himself to his brothers in Egypt, he said, “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God” (Gen. 45:8).

Then at the end of Genesis, Joseph was able to say to his brothers: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (50:19-20).

This is the Romans 8:28 principle, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

God turned trash into treasure in Joseph’s life, through the trials of sending him into Egypt.  Again, God sends trials to you, brother and sister, to turn trash into treasure.

Here in 1 Peter 1:6-7, we are given some fundamental steps in this principle of God using trials to turn junk into gold:

1.       Refining gold by fire is used as an illustration of what God does in our lives (v. 7).

To purify gold, you boil it and the impurities rise to the surface to be skimmed off.


2.       Your faith is tested, purified by trials.

The Bible is quite the opposite of the health, wealth and prosperity doctrines that are proclaimed in many churches.  God makes no promise to make you financially wealthy.   A leading Australian pastor has written a book, You Need More Money.  This seems to side-track us from core issues of life.  The true biblical teaching is:

v. 6 says that you will:

  • suffer grief through
  • all kinds of trials

Don’t try to second-guess God as to what trials he sends your way.  Every bit of pain, difficulty, trials, suffering, persecution, that God sends to you is to turn trash into treasure in your life.

This testing time that comes to all of us will cause us to “suffer grief.”  It will be emotionally and physically painful.  The grief and hurt are real.  That’s why Paul to the Romans (12:15) says we are “to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.”  Gal. 6:2, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ.”

However, never forget that, according to 2 Cor. 1:3-4, God is “the God of all comfort who comforts us in our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

God comforts us directly.  But he expects the body of Christ to come alongside of us and offer comfort during our trials.

Why does God do it?

3.       That your faith “may be proved genuine” (v. 7).

There is no room for fakes in the Kingdom of God.  God tests the genuineness of your faith by sending you trials.

The wheat and the tares (look-alike-wheat) will grow together until harvest time.  Christians and fake-Christians will be sorted out when Jesus comes again.  But the Lord tells us that some sorting out is done on earth–by testing what kind of stuff your faith is made of by sending you all kinds of trials.

Changing trash to treasure through trials is God’s message throughout the N.T.  Read about it in: Romans 5:3-5; James 1:2-4; Hebrews 12:7-11; 2 Cor. 1:3-7.

4.      What will be the ultimate result in our lives?  What is God doing through the trials He sends you?

I Peter 1:7.  Trials may “result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed (at his second coming).”

For you, the praise will be, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

The glory will be the glory which was Christ’s before the world began and which he gives to the chosen/elect.  To all believers Jesus said, “I have given them the glory that you (Father) gave me that they may be one as we are one” (John 17:22).

The honour will be the crown of righteousness given to the faithful who have endured.


Bishop John Taylor, a well-known bishop in the past in England, as a student, planned to attend the famous Mildmay Conference at the time when it was very influential.

Just before that time, he injured his knee and had to rest up in bed.  At that time, he lay in bed and began to read through the Book of Romans.  He received such a blessing that he prayed in faith, “Lord, if this be the result of a bruised knee, please give me a broken leg.” [17]


If you are experiencing difficulties right now, how can God turn trash into treasure for you?

Principle No. 1: You are commanded to have the joy of the Lord.  This is the disposition from God that enables you to endure the trials, knowing that they are God-sent or God-allowed.

Principle No. 2: God uses trials to test our faith to see if it is genuine or not.

There’s a country song that Johnny Cash sang years ago.  It says, “I’m just an old chunk of coal, but I’ll be a diamond some day.”

Thank God for the trials he sends — and seek joy.

Don’t chuck it in because God is turning trash into treasure in your life.

Closing Hymn: “Because He lives”
(252 Wesleyan)

Other suitable hymns/songs for the service:

It is well with my soul (262, Wesleyan)

Leaning on the Everlasting Arms (267, Wesleyan)

He lives (Wesleyan 250)

Rejoice in the Lord always [Scripture in Song, Vol. 1:81]

God is so good (Scripture in Song, Vol. 1:121)

Joy is a flag (Scripture in Song, Vol. 2: 218)


  2.       Based on the introduction to the message, “The Message of First Peter,” Ray C. Stedman, [cited 27 November 2002].
3.       Ralph Kinney Bennett ,“The Global War on Christians,” The Readers’ Digest, October, 1997, pp. 104-109.
4.       Ibid., p. 105.
5.       Ibid., p. 106.
6.       Ibid., p. 107.
7.       Ibid., p. 105.
8.       Ibid., p. 108.
9.       Ibid.
10.       Other sufferings/trials emphasised: you are called to suffering because Christ suffered, leaving you an example to follow in His steps (2:21); people speaking maliciously against their good behaviour (3:16); “painful trial you are suffering” and they “participate in the sufferings of Christ” (4:12, 13); insulted because of the name of Christ (4:14);  “Cast all your anxiety on him” (5:7).
11.       C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain.  New York: Macmillan, 1962, p. 93, in Norman L. Geisler and Ronald M. Brooks, When Skeptics Ask.  Wheaton, Illinois: Victor Books, 1990, p. 68.
12.       C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed.  New York: Bantam Books, Inc., 1976, p. 35, in Geisler & Brooks, p. 59.
13.       The points about what joy is not, are taken from J.I. Packer, Laid-Back Religion?  Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1987, p. 98f.
14.       Ibid., pp. 100-101, emphasis added.
15.       In Michael P. Green (Ed.), Illustrations for Biblical Preaching.  Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1989,  #1295, p. 349-50.
16.       Packer, p. 93
17.       Ibid., #17, p. 2


Copyright (c) 2007 Spencer D. Gear.  14 October 2015.

1 Peter 1:3-5, Stand firm in the faith because of the incredible blessings you have received

(North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who is regarded as a ‘god’ by the North Korean people, greets Korean People’s Army pilots during a visit to the summit of Mt. Paektu on April 18, 2015, in this photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency. Courtesy Christian Today, 15 August 2015)

By Spencer D Gear

I. Introduction

In the January 2006 newsletter from Open Doors, a ministry to the persecuted church, it focussed on one of the most persecuted groups of Christians in the world. This is what is happening to the church in communist, North Korea:

It’s hard to imagine how a Church can survive in North Korea. Yet right now, some 400,000 Christians are living in this country. . . and they desperately need your prayers and support.

North Korea is the most oppressive nation in the world. There is no freedom of thought, speech, expression, movement or religion. It is the utmost restricting and punishing place on the planet.

Being a Christian in North Korea is extremely dangerous and difficult to conceal. One in three people [is a] government [spy]. If you don’t regularly bow down to a statue of Kim Il Sung, it’s noted.

Some 200,000 prisoners are serving life sentences in labour camps. . . Prisoners work for up to 18 hours a day. Anyone who talks risks 8 days in solitary confinement in a 0.6m x 1.1m cage. . . Torture, executions and experiments occur daily.

Many thousands of prisoners are Christians. “Christians are the most severely abused,” testifies Soon Ok Lee, a former prisoner. “In seven years I saw many believers die, yet they never denied Jesus.”

Among the North Korean refugees to China, many turn to Christ. They are so full of joy that they want to return to their country to evangelise, despise the risk of imprisonment or death.

“I cannot keep the Gospel to myself!” they say. “Our family, friends and all North Koreans must know this! Our end is not in the camp or in starvation, but in eternal life with Him. [2]

What is it that keeps these persecuted North Korean Christians (400,000 of them in a country of 23 million) firm in their faith? It’s the same kind of faith you will need when you are ridiculed for your faith in Australia. It’s the faith that you need when the going has been tough – and it has been for me during the last 12 months.

In I Peter we find why Christians don’t chuck it in when the going gets tough.

We hear so little of what is happening to the small Christian church in Iraq. I read recently “that Christians and churches are being seriously affected by the internal turmoil across the country. Not only are foreigners being hijacked, but indigenous Iraqi Christians are also disappearing. [Open Doors] contacts stress that in most of these cases, the kidnappers are not Islamic extremists, but more often are young people trying to make some easy money.” [3]

We find it difficult to identify with this kind of persecution. However if you are a

committed Christian here in Australia and you speak up for Christ, persecution will come sooner or later. This is from the mouth of Jesus: “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours” (John 15:20 ESV).

Today we’ll be dealing with I Peter 1:3-5:

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, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, 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 (NIV).

A. Why did Peter write this first epistle?

It is a very warm pastoral letter with lots of encouragement for Christians who are scattered and persecuted. I Peter 5:12, ” I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.”

Peter wrote this epistle to believers who were experiencing trials that were severe:

  • 1:6, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.”
  • 2:21, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”
  • 3:13-14, “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.”
  • 3:17, “It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.”
  • 4:12-16,” Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.”
  • 4:19,” So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.”

Peter wrote this epistle so that these early believers would “see their temporary sufferings in the full light of the coming eternal glory. In the midst of all their discouragements, the sovereign Lord will keep them and enable them by faith to have joy.” [4]

This is a very practical and relevant message for Christians who live in China, North Korea, North & South Vietnam, Cambodia, any Muslim country, and here in Bundaberg, Qld. in the 21st century – where the Christian comes under regular attack for his or her beliefs.

As we look closely at I Peter 1:3-5, we are taught to

II. HOLD FIRM IN YOUR FAITH because of the blessings you have received (vv. 3-5)

These are the blessings that are yours in Christ.

As a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, through God’s “great mercy” you have received blessings beyond anything your boss could offer. Marriage will not give you what God has given. A businessman’s multi-millions of dollars will look like chicken feed when compared with the blessings of the people of God. Nothing bar nothing that you could ever get in this world will compare with the blessings that are yours in Christ.

It’s appropriate that Peter begins v. 3 with an exhortation to “praise.” Richard Lenski says this: “There is too little contemplation of God, too little praise of him in our hearts, especially in our earthly distress.” [5] Would you agree or disagree? Do we praise God enough? Do we know how to praise Him?

The psalmist did.

Psalm 103:1 Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

2 Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits —

3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,

4 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,

5 who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

6 The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.

There is so much to praise God for. Let’s not be slack about it. Peter calls us to praise: The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Peter is singing the true glory of God when he meditates on God’s great salvation through Jesus Christ. When Peter thinks on the blessings of salvation, He has nothing but praise for God the Father.

Would some of you take a moment to think about how you ought to praise God? Remember, we are talking about God, praising our Almighty God. Anybody prepared to verbalise praise of God?

You may have a family member who is:

  • Threatening suicide;
  • Has attempted suicide;
  • Rebellious kids who pull knives on parents, abuse them in other ways;
  • Sexually, physically & emotionally abused teens;
  • Parents who are guilt-ridden because they can’t control their kids, kids on drugs, stealing, vandalising, pumping 100s of dollars through the pokies, etc.
  • Adultery, broken families, talk of homosexual marriage;
  • Youth with outrageous anger problems;
  • How do you survive as a Christian in such circumstances.

You don’t have to be going through such extreme circumstances. You may be persecuted for your Christian convictions. For you, this first epistle of Peter has some exceedingly good news.

Just in case you haven’t remembered what God has done for you through Christ, Peter summarises some of the blessings for us. Surely these are enough to convince you to hold to your faith firmly.

Never forget these blessings:


“He has given us new birth” (“caused us to be born again”). This language is so familiar to many of us that we just gloss over it. Please don’t. What has happened to you, if you are born again, is like going into your mother’s womb again and coming out a totally new person, from the inside out. The image baffled Nicodemus (John 3:3-9). It still puzzles those who have not experienced it. You are born again because the life of God has been implanted in your souls. This is the whole Trinity in you to give you a new life and a new view of the world. Your heart is filled with new powers, new motives, new thoughts, and a new desire. You are not the same.

When we give birth to children whom we love, we shower them with gifts; our kids are our heirs; they receive our inheritance. That’s how it is with God the Father when we are born again. What an incredible blessing it is!

It is ours because of God’s “great mercy.” God saw us in filth, need and rebellion. He was moved with compassion. Eph. 2:4 says He is the God who is “rich in mercy.” Mercy is God’s compassion for the helpless that results in action to bring them relief. “Mercy is a word specially used in the New Testament of God’s kindness in bringing in the outsider and the unworthy, the Gentile and the sinner, to share in His salvation, and in the glories or riches of His Christ” [6] (Read further about it in Rom. 11:30-32; 15:9; Eph. 2:1-7; Titus 3:5). Jesus was moved with compassion when he saw the hungry crowd. But he did more than that. He provided them with the bread and the fish to eat (Matt. 15:32). That’s mercy.

God saw our wretched state, aliens who would rather shake our fist at God than move towards him. We were rebels. In mercy, he offered us new birth through Christ’s death.

It is a new birth that gives us:

1. A living hope (v. 3)

This is a “no hope” world. If we want to put a person down, we call him a “no hoper.” Just think of what has happened to hope during the last century. Two world wars, Hitler’s gas ovens and the deaths of 6 million Jews, the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the atomic age ushered in with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Vietnam War; the killing fields of Pol Pot’s Cambodia. The slaughter in Rwanda, Zaire, Port Arthur, and now the war in Iraq.

Some of the young people I’ve counselled over the years, who are contemplating suicide, tell me they see no hope in the future.

Dr Brendan Nelson is the federal minister of education. He is the former president of the Australian Medical Association. In a letter he wrote to The Australian newspaper back in 1997, he said this:

“The thematic currency of youth suicide is our failure to transmit a sense of belonging and meaningful purpose to young people. . . We have created a culture in which young people frequently feel they have nothing other than themselves in which to believe. The mesh of values that held Australian society together 30 years ago — God, king and country — has been systematically dismantled. . . leaving only a vacuum. . . The price of our shallowness is being paid by our children.” [7]

The hope that people had in the optimism at the beginning of the 20th century is dead in the ashes of wars, crime and violence, high unemployment, etc. When you glory in what human beings can do and achieve, you will be bitterly disappointed, even shattered.

For the believer we have a “living hope.” The opposite, “a dead hope,” is what we would call hopelessness. For the Christian it is a living hope because it is in what God has done. Verse 3 makes it clear what God has done. It is a living hope ONLY…

2. Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

What’s the big deal about the resurrection? If there was only Calvary, we would have a dead Jesus, rotting in the grave. It is because of the resurrection that we have a living Saviour and you can become a new person in Christ. It is a hope that will not die because of the one who conquered death.

Because Jesus lives, we shall live also. As the Bill Gaither song puts it so well:

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.

Because He lives, all fear is gone.

Because I know who holds the future

And live is worth the living just because He lives. [8]

This is the living hope. If Jesus did not rise from the grave, there would be no valid basis for believing in life after death. A person said to me the other day, “I’m going to live it up for all I can get now because I’m going to be dead a long time.” He was dead wrong! You’ll be alive a mighty long time—for eternity—but where you will be, heaven or hell, will be determined by how you respond to the resurrected Jesus in this life.

For what do we hope? What are we looking forward to?


This was familiar language for Jewish readers. They had heard lots about the inheritance that God had for his people. Canaan, the Holy Land, was just for them. They were wanderers in the wilderness after coming out of slavery in Egypt. They looked for the Promised Land. After being brought back from Exile in Babylon, they were looking for their inheritance in the Land God had provided.

But the “land flowing with milk and honey” didn’t fulfil Israel’s hopes. They were soon into idolatry; there was strife between tribes; the land was overrun by invaders. Surely there was something more than this for an inheritance! Was there any lasting hope?

We have seen lots of great things in the Lucky Country of Australia. We have wealth beyond measure. Our natural resources are something to behold. The technology in the land is amazing. The sunburnt country has so much beauty. We have one of the best welfare systems in the world.

But in the midst of this splendour, there is so much ugliness. Surely there is more to yearn for than this!

Australia or Israel is not the inheritance the true Church is expecting. Verse 4 says it is an inheritance that

1. Can never perish

Moths and rats will not eat it up. It will not rust. Thieves will not break in and steal it. No destructive force, natural or man-made, will injure it or take it away. [9] “Unlike any inheritance in this world, it is not exposed to destruction.” [10]

It is an inheritance that

2. Can never spoil

No stain or stink of sin will be there. It is so pure and lofty. Imagine an inheritance that is worth more, much more, than gold. No contamination from anything related to sin. There will be no brothers and sisters fighting over the will to get their share. It will be unspoiled wealth. The believers’ inheritance cannot be “defiled from outside.” [11]

This inheritance

3. Cannot fade

The idea behind this word is that it is

“imperishable, never withering, (never) disappointing, (never) becoming old and worn. The delight of it will never lessen or grow stale. . . Our inheritance will never lose anything through age or sickness on our part or through any damage to itself; it will never be marred by impurity; and it will never lessen in delight because it has been enjoyed for so long.” [12]

Unlike a physical inheritance in this world, it cannot “decay from inside.” [13] But there is more. What makes this inheritance even more remarkable is that the security system is out of this world.

4. It is “kept in heaven for you.” (v. 4)

Literally, you have always been kept and are presently being guarded and will be kept there until you reach glory. God is guarding you. He keeps you safe. What a blessing this is!

Please note that this inheritance is:

5. For you through faith (v. 5)

Faith is not to be thought of as some way for earning your inheritance. Never! However, faith in Christ must surely be our response to God’s mercy and love.

While our inheritance is kept in heaven for us by God, we, as faithful believers, are living on earth, according to v. 5:

6. “Shielded by God’s power” (v. 5).

Did you get what I just said? Your inheritance is “shielded by God’s power.” God has not left the church without protection in this hostile world. God continuously “guards” the church. Yes, even this church. The church is “shielded.” It’s an old military term meaning “to garrison.” [14] A garrison is a military post that is permanently established and stays on guard 24 hours a day.

Extraordinary missionary to India, E. Stanley Jones of the 20th century, “often repeated the prayer of a little girl who was the daughter of missionary friends in India:

“God bless Mama and Papa, my brothers and sisters, and all my friends. And now, God, do take care of Yourself, for if anything should happen to You, we’d all be in the soup.” [15]

The church is guarded by God’s power every moment of every day. There are enemies of the church all around us who want to rob the church of her inheritance. They want you to fail. God says, “You are guarded by my power every moment of every day.” The psalmist reminded Israel: “[The Lord] will not let your foot slip—he, who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” (Ps. 121:3-4); Psalm 34:7, “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.”

The power of God guarded Daniel in the lions’ den; Shadrach, Meshach and Abednigo in the fiery furnace; it set boundaries around Job when he was afflicted; it freed Peter from Herod’s prison; it preserved Paul when he was surrounded by dangers, hardships and persecutions. The faith hall of fame in Hebrews 11 tells us that, through faith, God guarded those who “were tortured and refused to be released… Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned” (vv.35-37). However, others were guarded until God took them to heaven: “They were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated” (v. 37).

What is being guarded for us? v. 5

7. The coming of salvation: ready to be revealed in the last time (v. 5)

We have salvation now that makes a radical personal difference in our lives. But Peter is reminding the church of the final deliverance that will come at the end of the age. There could well be horrible persecution and sorrow in the days ahead for us in Australia from Satan’s final assault — and just prior to the return of Christ.

Revelation ch. 12 speaks of Satan being cast out of heaven and filled with fury “because he knows that his time is short” (Rev. 12:12).

Famous theologian, H. Richard Niebuhr, was on the streets of New York City when he was approached by an evangelist with this question, “Are you saved?” Niebuhr always took people seriously. He paused a moment and gave this thoughtful reply, “I was saved by what Christ did; I am being saved right now; I shall be saved when the kingdom comes.”

We don’t know what the evangelist said. But Neibuhr stated so well what Peter is trying to get across to us: “Salvation spans time. It is grounded in the past; it is experienced in the present; it culminates in the future.” [16]

Without a doubt, we, who believe, have begun to experience a true and great salvation now (Luke 19:9), thanks to Christ’s death on the cross. The joys of salvation come through our daily discipleship (2 Cor. 6:2). However, the absolute wonder and the full dimensions of salvation will not be known until the crowning day of our salvation when Jesus comes again.

When Jesus returns, the church will receive the great deliverance. Salvation will be accomplished then. I pray that “In a little while, the great curtain shall be drawn aside, our entire salvation shall be revealed.” [17]

What a God we have and what a blessing to know that we are guarded by the power of God in this way—in life and through death.

After listening to all this heavenly emphasis, maybe you are tempted to say what Karl Marx said. This is pie-in-the-sky stuff. Religion is the opiate of the people! Isn’t Christianity the religion that is the drug that the ruling classes are using to keep the under-privileged satisfied with their lousy lot? Isn’t this keeping your heads in the clouds so that you don’t have to become involved in solving some of the problems of today’s world?

Of course, this Christian hope can be abused and misunderstood—and it has been. However, it has been the Christians whose hopes have been in heaven who have made a dynamic impact as the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world.” Where would we be without committed, evangelical Christians such as William Wilberforce who helped to eliminate slavery from the British Empire. It was George M?ller who helped the orphans in England and lived by faith to receive funding for his ministry.

Another John Howard, besides our Prime Minister, influenced by the Wesleyan revival, brought about prison reforms in England. Elizabeth Fry continued his work.

William & Catherine Booth founded the Salvation Army and its ministry to the needy has a continuing international reputation.

David Wilkerson went to New York City to work with the junkies and help them be delivered from their drug habits through Christ and established Teen Challenge. Today, John Smith and his team work on the streets of Melbourne with those we call unlovely. Peter Lane and his colleagues of Liberty International work with individuals and groups of homosexuals leading them to salvation through Christ and to a change in their lifestyle. Where would the welfare of our country be today if the church withdrew its ministry to the hurting people of our society?

Those who have a living hope and know their inheritance is in heaven, never to be spoiled, have most often got their hands dirty in the real world of people and their problems.

Even in this letter of First Peter, Peter has some urgent things to say about life in the present. In chapter 2 he deals with how we are to relate to government and our bosses. Marriage and family come into focus in chapter 3. Chapters 3 & 4 deal with how we should respond to suffering if we suffer for doing good. This is very down-to-earth stuff for those who are chosen people and a holy nation.

It has often been said that many Christians are so heavenly minded they are no earthly good. That’s not biblical Christianity. Here in I Peter, those who are sure of their inheritance in heaven and have a living hope that longs for their eternal reward, are most actively involved in this present world — through evangelism and practical ministry. You might ask, “Should we focus on this world or the next?” I think the question is wrong. Rather, it should be, “Does your future belong to a human being’s pride and resources or to God’s grace?” Since our future belongs to God’s grace, our lives ought to demonstrate “Christianity with its sleeves rolled up” to the needy – wherever and whenever.

III. Conclusion

Let us draw some practical applications from this encouraging passage of God’s Word:

1. Notice the overall thrust of this passage for those who are experiencing severe persecution. It is just as relevant to those who have difficulties on the job or at home. These verses, and the entire book of I Peter, do not focus on the extremely difficult circumstances. They focus on God:

  • “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” What should we praise God for?
  • His great mercy;
  • Given us new birth;
  • A living hope (for a hope-less world);
  • We have an inheritance that is out of this world – “can never perish, spoil or fade”;
  • Your inheritance is not in a Kerry Packer lifestyle of billions of bucks. “It is kept in heaven for you.”
  • We praise our wonderful God because we, “through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”
  • When we have to deal with difficulties in our lives, we come to this wonderful Lord. The last 18 months have been rugged for me, but if I focused on the bad things that have happened to me, I would not be preaching this morning. I am so grateful for the lessons I have learned from I Peter. Be God-centred; exalt Him; make Him the centre of my desires. We have an inheritance that “can never perish, spoil or fade” – thanks to our wonderful Lord.

When the difficulties come, and they will, run to Him, not just for a few moments on your knees, but to meet all your needs. Remember God’s mercy, salvation, our future in heaven – an inheritance that is out of this world.

2. Another application: It is so easy to take for granted the new birth that you  have received. Are you living in the reality of this “living hope” in a hopeless world? What is your attitude towards those who live next door, your school mates, your friends concerning this “living hope” that you know and experience every day? Do you share Christ with these people who have an attitude of hopelessness? If terrorism comes to your suburb, if Sept. 11 comes in another form to Bundaberg, how will y our life be a demonstration of the “living hope” that Christ gives. You need to live that life now. Evangelism and discipleship should be a normal part of our lives. It is not for the specialists. We will never get the job of reaching people done unless all of us who know Christ live a life of “living hope” in our daily lives.

A North Korean Christian said that “through the Gospel, North Korean society will change from within.” [18] This is in a land that has 400,000 Christians in a population of about 23 million. [19]

3. Third, over the last fortnight we have been faced with plenty of media coverage of the death of one of Australia’s richest men (Kerry Packer). The Sydney Morning Herald of 28th December 2005, published this statement.

THE LAST time Kerry Packer died [or had a near-death experience], 15 years ago, he quickly took the opportunity to pooh-pooh the existence of an afterlife. “I’ve been on the other side and let me tell you, son, there’s f—ing nothing there,” he was fond of saying. [20]

I say: He will know for certain now. How much went with him? You may be as poor as a church mouse, but you have an inheritance that is out of this world. First Peter says that it is “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.” Where is this inheritance kept? In the National Bank of Australia?

“Kept in heaven for you.” Life is worth the living because, in Christ, your inheritance is gained in heaven. We believers need to be forever heavenly minded so that we will be of earthly good. But also we are heavenly minded because that is where our lasting treasure is “that can never perish, spoil or fade.”

We must never get our view of life after death from any person’s views, and certainly not from a person’s near-death experiences. God alone knows what lies beyond death and it is to Him in His Word, the Bible, that we go for accurate information of what lies beyond the grave. God’s views are radically different from those of Kerry Packer.

4. Finally, based on this message of I Peter 1:3-5, when we come to worship, don’t you think that we should come to praise and worship our wonderful Lord? How do we know about how we ought to worship? Through the Scriptures.

Psalm 96 tells us how we ought to sing to the Lord. This is how God tells us we ought to worship Him in our singing:

Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all the earth.

2 Sing to the LORD, praise his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day.

3 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

4 For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;
he is to be feared above all gods.

5 For all the gods of the nations are idols,
but the LORD made the heavens.

6 Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and glory are in his sanctuary.

7 Ascribe to the LORD, O families of nations,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.

8 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
bring an offering and come into his courts.

9 Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth.

10 Say among the nations, “The LORD reigns.”
The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity.

11 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
let the sea resound, and all that is in it;

12 let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them.
Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy;

13 they will sing before the LORD, for he comes,
he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples in his truth (NIV)

Compare the psalmist’s exhortation to praise our God with how we come with a me-centred approach like:

Just let me say how much I love You
Let me speak of Your mercy and grace
Just let me live in the shadow of Your beauty
Let me see You face to face . . . [21]

That may be OK in our private devotions and praise to God, but when we meet together to worship, is it too much to ask that our focus by on the Triune God alone?

What do you think inspired Isaac Watts, the hymn writer, to write our

IV. Concluding hymn: Blest Be the Everlasting God (tune of Amazing Grace)

Blest be the everlasting God,
the Father of our Lord
be his abounding mercy praised,
his majesty adored.
When from the dead he raised his Son
to dwell with him on high,
he gave our souls a certain hope
that they should never die.
There’s an inheritance divine
reserved against that day,
It’s uncorrupted, undefiled,
and cannot waste away.
Saints by the power of God are kept
till the salvation come;
we walk by faith as strangers here,
till Christ shall call us home. (Words: Isaac Watts (1674-1748) [22]


2. Open Doors, Australia, “The most punishing place on the planet – North Korea,” letter, January 2006. Available from PO Box 53, Seaforth NSW 2092;; email:

3. The Door Openers Club, Frontline, June 2004, Open Doors Australia, P.O. Box 53 Seaforth NSW 2092. Website:

4. Edwin A. Blum, 1 Peter, in Frank E. Gaebelein (gen. ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (vol. 12). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981, p. 213.

5. R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg publishing House, 1966.30.

6. A.M. Stibbs, The First Epistle General of Peter (The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries). London: The Tyndale Press, 1959, 75.

7. The Weekend Australian, January 11-12, 1997, 20.

8. Words and Music by William J. Gaither; Recorded by William and Gloria Gaither; ©1971 BMI All Rights Reserved. Words available at: [24th August 2004].

9. Lenski, 33-34.

10. A.M. Stibbs, The First Epistle General of Peter (The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries). London: The Tyndale Press, 1959, 75.

11. Stibbs, 75.

12. Lenski, 34.

13. Stibbs, 75.

14. A.T. Robertson, Word Studies in the New Testament, Volume VI (The General Epistles and the Revelation of John). Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press, 1933, 83.

15. In Ruth A. Tucker 1994, The Family Album: Portraits of Family Life through the Centuries, Victor Books, Wheaton, Illinois, p. 206; taken from E. Stanley Jones 1968, A Song of Accents: A Spiritual Autobiography, Nashville, Abingdon, pp. 346-347.

16. Lyman Coleman and Richard Peace 1988, Study Guide for the Book of 1 Peter (Mastering the Basics). Littleton, Colorado: Serendipity USA, 22.

17. Lenski, 3

18. Open Doors Australia newsletter, January 2006, available from PO Box 53 Deaforth NSW 2092, Australia. Internet address: ; email: [8 January 2006].

19.  Infoplease: North Korea, available from: [6 May 2007].

20. Available from the Sydney Morning Herald [Online], 28 December 2005, “Media colossus pushed the boundaries of family empire,” with John Huxley, at:–empire/2005/12/27/1135445573138.html [8 January 2006], Or HERE

21. “Just Let Me Say,” Word and Music by Geoff Bullock, Hillsong Australia, available from: Praise Universe at: [7 January 2006].

22. Words available from: [7 January 2006].


Copyright © 2007 Spencer D. Gear.  This document last updated at Date: 14 October 2015.


1 Peter 2:4-8, The road to Christian maturity


CCO Public Domain

By Spencer D Gear

What would happen if you did not water and fertilise plant sugar cane?  It would die or be badly stunted in its growth.

What happens if you don’t give a new-born baby the correct food?  He or she will become malnourished and may even die?

What do you think will happen if you don’t provide baby Christians with the correct spiritual food?  A deformed, immature or malnourished believer will result.  It’s the same for all of us who believe and need to mature in Christ.

Peter (if I say Paul instead of Peter, you’ll know I mean Peter, won’t you?) began chapter 2 with an appeal: “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good” (2:2-3).

To these persecuted believers, Peter wants them to grow up in their faith.  To mature in the faith, he teaches all new-born believers 4 things in vv. 4-8:

1. Come to the living stone (v. 4);

2. Know how you, as living stones mature (v. 5);

3. You will never grow up in the faith unless your foundation is solid (vv. 6-7);

4. Unbelievers stumble at this very point of the foundation (v. 8).

Throughout this passage the “you” to whom Peter speaks is not to “you” as individual single believers but to “you” (plural, collectively) as the people of God.  This is important because we Westerners are so individualistic and we must get rid of such thinking if we are to mature as believers.  You and I need one another – the body of believers.

We think that we can survive on our own.  That is not Christian thinking.  We need each other and we will never grow up at the people of God without the loving discipleship and care of the whole body of believers.

It’s a big ask to move us in our thinking and actions from individuals to the whole people of God.  It would happen very quickly if we were in a persecuted society like China, North Korea, the Muslim world (Christianity is entirely forbidden in Saudi Arabia), Burma, the Sudan, you would quickly learn that you will never ever survive in your faith if you think that Simon & Garfunkel sang the truth: “I am a rock, I am an island” (Simon & Garfunkel n.d.)

Peter uses some down-to-earth images to describe life for the believer:

  • Newborn babies craving milk (2:2);
  • Stones to build a house (2:5);
  • A capstone rejected by builders (2:7).

These are not literal statements; they are figurative images.  They refer to everyday things but point to some spiritual message, just like this first expression.

A. If you are to grow up in your faith, you need to come to the living stone (v. 4)

This is obviously speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ but it is a paradox to speak of Him as a living stone.  Stones are dead objects.  What’s the point of this kind of language?  It’s figurative.  We see this elsewhere in the Bible:

  • When Jesus told the parable of the landowner, the vineyard and the tenants, he referred back to Psalm 118:22-23, as we see also in this passage: “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone.”
  • This same verse from Ps. 118 is quoted in Acts 4:11 when Peter spoke to the Sanhedrin rulers, elders and teachers of the law, including Annas the high priest, in Jerusalem.

What is Peter trying to get across? To grow in your faith, you must have your foundation correct.  That is,

1. Christ, the living stone (2:4)

Peter’s name, petros, means “rock” but Christ is “the stone” in this verse, but he is the stone and the rock in v. 8.  As we will learn soon, not just any old pebble, but the cornerstone, the foundation stone.

If you want a solid foundation for life and its many challenges, you don’t want shifting sand for your foundation.  I saw a photo on the Internet of a 4-wheel vehicle that had been left on the sand on a Fraser Island beach?  The owner returned to this newish vehicle and it was on its side with the salty water flowing in and around it, and half covered in sand.

To grow up in the faith, you need Christ, the stone, for your foundation.  No ordinary sand or soil will do.  Obviously I’m speaking figuratively about Christ, the stone.

But Christ, the stone, has an adjective of qualification.  He is “living.”  The stone is alive.  The NT refers to him as “living water (John 4:10-11) and “living bread” (John 6:51).  Here he is the living stone because of His resurrection from the dead.  He’s the foundation of our lives but he’s no dead Saviour.  He’s alive, through his resurrection from the dead.

However, this living stone, the foundation of new life for believers

2. Rejected by people

This is utterly tragic.  The one who is to be the foundation of all of life and especially of the Christian life is utterly rejected by the unbelieving world.  There is unbelievable hatred towards Jesus among Aussies.  If you don’t believe me, try raising the subject of Jesus as the only way to salvation and heaven among your secular friends and see what you get.  Some not only reject Him, but also abusively treat Jesus with some of the most blasphemous words and acts.

BUT, in spite of the way they humiliate Jesus and you, this living stone is

3. God’s chosen one & precious

Peter repeats the wonderful Christian teaching of election (being chosen by God).  Do you remember what these believers were called in I Peter 1:1?  God’s elect!    God’s chosen people!  Here, Jesus, the crucified and risen Lord, was not killed by some plan of Judas Iscariot and Pontius Pilate.  Oh yes, they were involved.

But Jesus, the living foundation, was a member of the Godhead from eternity, but he went to death for our sins and was raised for our justification, not by some plan of the Roman Empire or the Jewish authorities, but Jesus was chosen by God to take the royal road to death and resurrection – for our sake.

And that is precious!

  4.  Let’s tease out some applications of this point:

a.         Since Christ is the living stone and He lives in every believer (“Christ in you, the hope of glory”, Col. 1:27), how can you relate to the living Stone?  How can you get to know Him better?

There are at least 3 ways:

(1) Through prayer.  Do you spend time in prayer with the living Stone daily?

(2) Heb. 4:12: “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”  If you want to know the living stone, you must spend time with God in reading and listening to God through the Bible.  Do you have a regular plan of spending time in God’s Word and listening to Him – really listening?

(3) Remember Elijah on Horeb, the mountain of God, when the Lord appeared to him (I Kings 19:11-12):

The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by”.

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. (NIV).

Have you heard the “gentle whisper”, the still small voice of God?  God speaks this way when we are in prayer; sometimes when reading the Word, sometimes when we are open to God’s direction.  Listen for the still, small voice of God.

b.         One other application here: When you share the Gospel with unbelievers, there will be some who respond in faith, but do not be surprised when many reject.  The living Stone, Jesus, chosen by God, is rejected by people.

If you are to grow in the Christian life, this passage teaches us a second way:

B. If you are to grow up in your faith, you are to be like living stones being built into a spiritual house (v. 5)

Peter is still talking about stone, but the imagery has changed.  He has moved from Christ, the solid foundation to believers who are

1. Living stones

Will you please come back to the English class room for a moment?  Dare I invite you to come into the English grammar class with my English teacher, Johnny Baird, at Bundaberg State High School?  He would tell you that you need to clearly know the difference between the active voice and the passive voice of a verb.

For example, if I were to say that “I built the house” that’s a verb in the active voice.  I am the one doing the building.  But if I say, “I am being built into a house” it is the passive voice of the verb “to build.”  With the passive voice, something is being done to you by something/someone else.

This is important here because 2:5 says you, as new Christians, are having something done to you by someone.  You, the living stones, have God as the agent and He is building the spiritual house with God working on you (Kistemaker 1987, p. 86).  This has led to the New English Bible translation, “Come, and let yourselves be built, as living stones.”  NRSV, “Let yourselves be built into a spiritual house”(similarly in the RSV, ESV, GNB, Phillips).

The life-giving principle in believers comes of Jesus who is alive and well and living in and among all Christians.  “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).

Did you get a hold of that?  You are living stones because of Christ being in you.  Is your hope eternal glory?  I hope so!

Peter describes believes not just as living stones but also as

2. A holy priesthood

I’ve heard some unfortunate comments from evangelical friends of mine towards the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Eastern Orthodox churches who call their clergy, priests.  Is it correct or not to speak of a pastor as a priest.  Are these other churches biblical or not in calling preachers and pastors, priests?  We’ll get there in a moment.

In the church, we use the phrase, “the priesthood of all believers.”  Some call it “every member ministry.”  Ministry is not limited to pastors and Bible teachers.  By this we mean that “every true Christian is a priest in the household of God” and is thus able to minister in the gifts that he or she has received from God.

John Calvin wrote this: “It is a singular honor, that God should not only consecrate us as a temple to himself, in which he dwells and is worshipped, but that he should also make us priests” (Calvin n.d.).

Every person who is truly a Christian believer is a member of this “holy priesthood.”  Thus, it is wrong to say that only the clergy of certain denominations are priests.  All true Christians are priests and members of “a holy priesthood.”

Why holy?  All priests are “dedicated to God and separated from the world” (Kistemaker 1987, p. 87).

What is this “spiritual house” of the holy priesthood?  Again it’s a metaphor where Peter speaks not of physical stones “but the individual members form the household of God (Eph. 2:19-22; I Tim. 3:15; Heb. 3:6; 10:21).  This metaphor conveys the idea of a community of believers who as a holy priesthood present living sacrifices” (Kistemaker 1987, p. 86).

What is the ministry of this holy priesthood?  See v. 5.

3. To offer spiritual sacrifices

  • Acceptable to God
  • Through Jesus Christ

What does that mean?  Think of the OT priest of Israel.  The NT believer (the holy priesthood)

has no need to offer sacrifices to remove sin and guilt, for ‘Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people’ (Heb. 9:28).  A member of the priesthood of all believers, then, offers sacrifices of gratitude to God for the redemptive work of Christ.  That is, he [or she] presents to God “a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name” (Heb. 13:15) [Kistemaker 1987, p. 87].

What else does a priest do?  Live a life of holiness that reflects what Paul said to the Romans, to offer their bodies as a living sacrifice, offering thankful service to God (Rom. 12:1).  Such sacrifices to God are only possible through Christ because we need to be righteous in Christ because all of our own good works as like filthy rags (Isa. 64:6).

4. Let’s apply this to us!

Please pause with me a moment: What spiritual sacrifices did you make last week?  I am not talking about refusing to go to the pub, the pokies, drinking alcohol or visiting the movies.  That’s the farthest thing from my mind.

  • What thankful service have you given to God?  In praise of Him?  In ministry to somebody in need?
  • How have you denied yourself this last week?  What have you denied so that you can worship and minister to the Lord?
  • Where have you been able to minister in Jesus’ Name last week?

There is only one kind of Christian who will stand against the opposition and persecution of a secular society.  They are the “living stones” who are built on the foundation of The Living Stone, Jesus Christ Himself.

Do you love Him?  Are you embarrassed to own Him in public?  Will He know you when you meet Him at death or the Rapture as one who is a “living stone” who offered Him spiritual sacrifices throughout your Christian lives?  Will these “living stones” in this church gathering be known for how they offer “spiritual sacrifices”?

Firstly, this passage teaches that if you are to grow up in your faith, you are to be like living stones being built into a spiritual house (v. 5)


C. You will grow up in your faith if you stand firmly on what the Scriptures teach (vv. 6-7)

Peter, as an inspired writer of Scripture, could have written this Scripture, based on the fundamental authority that God told him through a divine revelation, and Peter wrote Scripture that was “breathed out” by God, according to 2 Tim. 3:15-16.

But that’s not what Peter did.  God directed him to tell us exactly why Peter gave us these instructions.  In vv. 6-8, Peter lays out the scriptural foundation for what he has just given us.

Note the words: “For in Scripture it says . . .” (NIV).  “It is contained in the scripture” (KJV).  Peter quotes from Isa. 28:16:

For in Scripture it says:
“See, I lay a stone in Zion,
a chosen and precious cornerstone,
and the one who trusts in him
will never be put to shame.”

It should go without saying that when we want accurate information about life and salvation we should go to the Scriptures.  Many don’t.  They think there is more value in secular psychology.

There’s a definite trend against knowing and living according to the Scripture in the liberal church (we’d expect that).  But I’m deeply concerned about the entertainment level in some flourishing evangelical churches that is drawing people and preachers away from preaching the Word.

It’s so important what Peter did.  To lay the foundation for Christian growth he went to the Scripture.  For him, it was the OT and he would not have been able the carry a nicely bound KJV or NIV under his arms.  Imagine what it would have been like to have to read and carry papyrus (a dried mat made from a reed) and velum, made from animal skins!

When Peter turned to the Scriptures for an example from Isaiah 40:6-8, he found a figure to emphasise that “Christ is precious [there’s that word again] and tested cornerstone” (Clowney 1988, p. 84).  Edmund Clowney explains:

In the building technique from which the figure is drawn, the cornerstone of the foundation would be the first stone to be put in place.  Since both the angle of the walls and the level of the stone courses would be extended from it, the cornerstone must be square and true.  Large and precious stones were cut for the foundation of Solomon’s temple (Clowney 1988, p. 84)

In the OT Scripture, it states that God

1. Lay a stone in Zion (2:6 here)

We have learned that the “stone” is Jesus Christ, so Isaiah 28:16 was a Messianic prophecy, predicting the coming of Jesus.  This stone, Jesus, was laid in Zion.  What does that mean?  What is Zion?

Since the day of Christ, Zion (or Sion in KJV) could represent:

  • “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” as in Heb. 12:22;
  • It can refer to the people of Israel in quotations from the OT (Rom. 9:33; I Peter 2:6);
  • The physical city of Jerusalem (Matt. 21:5; John 12:15); or
  • The literal mountain on which Christ and his followers will stand when Christ returns (Rev. 14:1) and Christ will go forth from this mountain to rule forever (Rom. 11:26; cf. Ps. 132:13-14).

Christ was born in the Jewish race, so Zion in I Peter 2:6 probably refers to the people of Israel.  Christ will be a stone amongst this people.  What kind of stone?  V. 6 says in the NIV that he will be a

2. Cornerstone

  • Chosen
  • Precious

Jesus, the foundation cornerstone, from whom we gain the direction for life, impacts believers differently from unbelievers.

3. For believers who continue to trust in Christ

Note 2 things for them in vv. 6-7:

Firstly, they will never ever be put to shame.  Do you mean to say that there could be the possibility of shame when people face Jesus one day?  There most certainly will be for unbelievers who will be shamed, but for those who continue to trust in him they “will never be put to shame.”

The ultimate shame would be to face God when a person dies and be shamed by being send to hell forever and ever.  There is so little preaching on hell these days.  Please note what Jesus said when he spoke about separating the sheep from the goats at the end of the age.  Matt. 24: 46, “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Eternal punishment, hell, for the damned is as long as eternal life for the righteous believers.  Eternal!  Forever and ever.

Believers who continue to trust Christ alone for salvation will never be put to shame by being sent to hell.

Secondly, to believers, Jesus, the stone is precious.

Please note something very important here at the beginning of v. 7 in the NIV.  It’s a simple statement: “Now to you who believe.”  The KJV reads, “Unto you therefore which believe.”

Sounds ho hum to us, but in the Greek language it means: “You, you who continue believing” (Kistemaker 1987, p. 89).  Or to put it in Aussie colloquial language: “Hey you!  Listen I’m talking to you!  This is not for those who make a once off decision and then forget about God.  This is only for those who continue to live the Christian life until God takes them to glory.  Do you get it?”

To those who continue to believe throughout their lives, the stone is precious.  How come?  Precious means “respect” or “honor.” (Arndt & Gingrich 1957, p. 825).  If you don’t respect Jesus, if you don’t honour Him, if you don’t consider Christ’s life, death and resurrection are not precious for the believer, something is wrong with your Christian life.

This is why I cringe inside me whenever Jesus Name is blasphemed or profaned.  When people use His name in vain and treat him as a commoner who can be used as abused, something inside of me rears up against such degradation of my Saviour.  Why?  He is precious to me – because of my relationship with Him and because of what he has done in saving, justifying, propitiating, redeeming, this wretched sinner.  Do you love Him?  Do you honour and respect this Jesus Christ?  Is He precious to you?

If he’s precious to you, you’ll want to tell others about him, proclaim His gospel and defend the cause of biblical truth.

There’s a flip side to what I have just been preaching.

4.       For unbelievers who reject Christ, the stone

  • The Christ becomes  a capstone of rejection (v. 7), AND
  • The stone of stumbling offence
On 8th July, it was the 265th anniversary of the preaching of one
of the most famous sermons of all time.  God used this sermon to
start the New England Great Awakening in the USA.  It was in 1741
at Enfield, CT, and was preached by the colonial American 
theologian Jonathan Edwards.  The sermon was titled: 'Sinners in
the Hands of an Angry God.' In it he preached: "It is nothing but
[God's] mere pleasure that keeps you from being this moment
swallowed up in everlasting destruction. However unconvinced you
may now be of the truth of what you hear, by and by you will be
fully convinced of it" (Edwards 1741).
     Firstly, the Christ becomes a capstone of rejection for
unbelievers.  V. 7 is a quote from Psalm 118:22.  The NIV
translates as "capstone"; the KJV "head of the corner." 
The KJV is the literal translation.  Christ is the chief
cornerstone of the foundation of the building but when
unbelievers reject him, what happens?  See v. 8
     For unbelievers Christ becomes a means of stumbling
and a rock that makes them fall.  This is unusual language
but the message is straightforward:

Peter is Peter Drucker who was a secular, Jewish management guru.  This led the Editor of the Northern Landmark Missionary Baptist magazine (August 2006) to comment, “In other words, the purpose of Warren’s visit was to help Jewish Rabbis to learn how to build membership in their religion which rejects Christ as Saviour. Is this an appropriate role for any Christian minister of the Gospel ?” [3] saying “that we either put our faith in Jesus, the foundation stone, or we dash our foot against it” (Kistemaker 1987, p. 90).

  • Why do they stumble and fall?  Simple.  They disobey the message.  What message?  The Gospel!  Simon Kistemaker puts it beautifully:
The reason for their stumbling is that they have chosen to disobey
the Word of God.  Their disobedience arises from a heart that is
filled with unbelief. 
     In other words, the sequence which Peter delineates is unbelief,
disobedience, and downfall which eventually lead to ruin. 
Unbelievers, then, meet God in Christ as their enemy because they
have chosen to be a friend of the world (James 4:4) [1987, p. 90].
Please note the concluding phrase of v. 8: "Which is also what they
were destined to do."  Note the sequence Peter gives here in vv. 7-8:
  • In v. 7, Peter contrasts the differences between believers and unbelievers;
  • Then, he states that unbelievers reject Christ, the stone;
  • From a human perspective, this verse stated that unbelievers disobey Christ’s message, but finally . . .
  • From God's perspective, these unbelievers were destined to treat Christ this way.

5. How can you put this into practice this week?

a. What is your view of the Bible?  Is this a largish book that is important to some people in the church, but it’s just another piece of literature?  Is it just 1,653 pages to wade through (length of my NIV)?  Or do you know, believe and live by what the Scriptures say?  Is this your commitment to the Word: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 1so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17)?

b. Is Jesus Christ the true cornerstone of your life – the foundation stone by which all other constructs are judged?  Do you know what this means?  When it comes to understand the violence in our world, you go to Jesus Christ for the only diagnosis and solution.  What about social evils like abortion and euthanasia?  Are you going to the civil libertarians or feminists for your understanding, or do you depend wholly on what God says?  What about how we treat one another in marriage?  Marriage?  Aren’t defacto relationships better?  Who are you serving?  You will grow in your faith only when you stand firmly on what the Scriptures say.  How do you treat the elderly in your family, in our community?  What’s God’s view?

c. Continue to proclaim Jesus as the only way to eternal life, remembering all along that there will be many unbelievers who find the living Stone, Jesus, a stumbling stone.  Expect rejection of the Gospel in evangelism, but don’t give up witnessing.  How long is it since this church ran a deliberate evangelism outreach to this town and community?  I’m thinking of something like Christianity Explained [2]; Two Ways to Live [3]; Introducing God [4]; or Evangelism Explosion [5].  Does reaching people for Jesus really matter to this church?

d. What do you plan to do to help people grow in their faith?  How will you disciple new Christians?  What’s your plan?  I see too much of “anything goes” in the church, when it comes to the need for discipleship and how people grow.

e. We face another problem.  Too many of us are in a rut and comfortable with our Christianity.  Imagine what would happen if the financially and socially disadvantaged started coming to our church.  It just might lull us out of our lethargy as we helped them meet their financial, social and living needs.  What would happen if a couple of outspoken homosexuals came here?  Would we reject them or love them into the kingdom, making sure that they understood the gospel and the need to grow in faith?  Are women who have had abortions welcome here?  If families come with unruly children, what will you do?

D. Conclusion

So, how are Christians to mature, to grow-up in Jesus?

1. Come to the living stone, Jesus, rejected by people but He’s precious to God.  He’s precious because there is no other way of salvation that God has provided.  Acts. 4:12, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”  Why is this?  Your sins condemn you to hell and you need a blood sacrifice of eternal worth to God to provide forgiveness for your sins.

Muhammed won’t do it; neither will the Mormon Joseph Smith; nor Charles Taze Russell of Jehovah’s witnesses; nor any other religious leader.  Only one person shed his blood for our redemption and was raised again for our justification.  He was the one and only Jesus Christ.

2. You will mature when you as a group of believers live as living stones, offering spiritual sacrifice to God.  You offer sacrifices of praise and gratitude to God in thankfulness for the once-for-all sacrifice for sins by Jesus.

3. You will mature as believers when you stand firmly on the authoritative, inerrant Word of God which proclaims that Christ is the foundation cornerstone.  He is precious to you.

4. For believers, the Christ who is precious to them is a stone of stumbling to damnation for those who refuse to believer the Gospel and are destined to damnation.

Next time, we’ll consider what that means, from 2:9-10:

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. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (NIV).


[2]  Available from: [9 July 2006].

[3]  Available from: [9 July 2006].

[4]  Available from: [9 July 2006].

[5]  Available from: [9 July 2006].


Arndt, W. F. & Gingrich, F. W. 1957 (transl. & adapt. W. Bauer), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago (limited ed., Zondervan Publishing House).

Calvin, J. n.d., transl. & ed. J. Owen, Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles, Christian Classics Ethereal Library, Grand Rapids, MI, Available from: [cited 8 July 2006].

Clowney, E. P. 1988, The Message of 1 Peter: The Way of the Cross, Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, England/Downers Grove, Illinois, USA.

Edwards, J. 1741, ‘Sinners in the hands of an angry God’, July 8, Available from: (Accessed  8 July 2006).

Kistemaker, S. J. 1987, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and of the Epistle of Jude, Evangelical Press, Welwyn, Hertfordshire.

Rosemond, J. 2001, John’s Weekly Column, December 2, ‘Unearned praise leads to Mediocrity’, Available from: [cited 8 December 2001].

Simon and Garfunkel n.d., “I am a rock,” LyricsFreak “S”, Available from: [cited 8 July 2006].


Copyright (c) 2007 Spencer D. Gear.  This document last updated at Date:  14 October 2015.