Peter opens his letter by contemplating the amazing character of Christian salvation. The very thought of it immediately calls forth worship and doxology. Blessed by God the giver! Let us make what Peter wrote the subject of our own adoring meditation. Let us see what we can here learn about our wonderful salvation.
i) It is the work of all three persons of the Godhead (v. 2). We have been chosen to enjoy it by the eternal purpose of God the Father. Our enjoyment of it depends upon the sanctifying work of God the Spirit and upon the atoning sacrifice of God the Son. It is his shed blood sprinkled on our hearts that assures us of cleansing from sin and seals to us our share in all the blessings of the new covenant. The outworking of this salvation is realised in our responsive obedience; that is in our active intimate co-operation with God in doing his will. Compare Philippians 2:12, 13.
(ii) Possession of it is assured to us by Christ’s resurrection (v. 3). There is here a striking distinctive Christian acknowledgement of God, as, on the one hand, the Father of Jesus and as, on the other hand, the God who raised Jesus from the dead. There is also a significant Christian acknowledgement of Jesus, as the promised Messiah or “Christ.” as the exalted “Lord”, and as “ours.” There is, too, emphatic recognition both of the titter and abundant “mercy” of this divine intervention to save, and, above all, of the fact that all our hope of realised benefit takes its rise from Christ’s own resurrection. Through it we are begotten again unto a living hope. Before God we share both in a decisive change of status, and in Christ’s own undying life. So new and eternal hope is ours.
(iii) It sets before us the sure prospect of a heavenly inheritance (vv. 4-5). This word “inheritance” was in Old Testament times the word for the promised land. It stands in Scripture for the coming crowning reward which God sets before his chosen people. Compare Colossians 3:24. This inheritance is incorruptible, undefiled, and unfading; it cannot be destroyed or damaged from outside; it never decays from inside. For it is already safely laid by in reserve for us in heaven. This means that, however much the world may laugh at the idea of ‘pie in the sky when you die’, the assured prospect of coming heavenly reward is an essential part of the true Christian outlook on life. Also, God himself assures us, as we believe in him, of our continued safe preservation until the day of full possession. This prospect ought to fill us with tremendous joy (v. 6a).
(iv) It is embraced now in the midst of earthly trials (vv. 6-7). The present lot of God’s people is often that of trial. It is not always so, only “if need be”. And such trials are very temporary, “for a little while”. But they have a necessary place; they must needs be. They are divinely intended to demonstrate that our professed faith is a genuine confidence. They are divinely intended to demonstrate that such faith—and faith only—is the simple, single, sufficient secret of victory. Such outwrought proof will bring all the greater praise and glory to our Saviour in the day of his public manifestation. Now it is easy just to pretend to believe, just to say the Creed. Now men often doubt whether faith works. It is the triumph of faith through trial that provides present and abiding evidence both of faith’s genuineness and of faith’s efficacy.
(v) It is enjoyed now by present realised fellowship with the living Christ (vv. 8-9). It had been Peter’s privilege to see Jesus during his earthly ministry. It will be the crowning reward in the coming day to see our glorified Lord. This same Jesus, whom we cannot see now, we do love; and, by faith, we can enjoy, and confide in, his spiritual presence. Such communion with the present Saviour gives to his people a foretaste of the joy of heaven, a joy irradiated with glory, and far too wonderful to describe in words. Thus we can and do experience and enjoy here and now what will in the coming day of the Lord be the consummation of our faith, namely, the realisation of salvation through the manifested presence with us of the Lord of glory.
(vi) It is the great theme of the Spirit, and the crowning wonder of the universe (vv. 10-12). It is of this salvation that the Spirit inspired the Old Testament prophets to foretell. They spoke of the saving grace thus to come to outsiders and sinners through the sufferings which were to come to God’s Christ. It is for the proclamation of this gospel of saving grace that the Spirit has been sent down from heaven by the glorified Lord, and preachers of this gospel are sent to the ends of the earth.
This whole activity of God in saving sinners like you and me is so amazing that the angels are eager to discern more of it. They know that it is the greatest wonder in God’s universe. We Christians know that we are the people for whom its eternal benefits are intended, purchased at so great a price. Can we do other than join Peter in worship and wonder? Blessed be God.
This article was first published in the Australian Church Record on 2 October 1958. In this series we hear reflections on Scripture from the Rev. Alan M Stibbs.