1 Peter 1:3-12 – The testing of faith – 29 March 2020
This is part 2 of the series I preached on “The Trustworthiness of God”, a three part sermon series that followed the closing of church services due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Again, if you prefer to read, I have included my edited notes underneath the video.
This passage overflows with joy, which seems hard during this situation. However, joy doesn’t come from outward circumstances but through knowing Christ.
Troubled times can shake our joy. Notice v6: “though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials.”
The people to whom Peter was writing had every reason to be losing their joy: they were being persecuted for their faith. He is writing this letter to help the believers face suffering, to encourage them through suffering, to help them to trust God in testing times and to stir up their joy.
I) The source of joy v3-6
V6: “In this you rejoice.” The word “this” is referring to our salvation, mentioned in v5. What salvation? In this context “salvation” is referring to final deliverance, our entry into heaven. But this begins with new life on earth, which is explained in the preceding verses.
v3: Great mercy. Salvation is based upon mercy not right. We have no right to final entry into heaven; it comes from His mercy because we are sinners.
New life – born again to a living hope. As sinners, we were spiritually dead. Eph 2:1 – “you were dead in trespasses and sins.” Sin separates us from God in whom is true life. The wages of sin is death. But through Jesus Christ, who died in our place for our sins and rose from the dead, defeating death, our God and Father gives new life to all who believe in Christ. It is a new life that lasts forever and leads to heaven.
v4: The word “inheritance” suggests something in eternity of great worth. Then the next three words, which show how secure the inheritance is, also show abundance and glory. Something that is unfading has to be something glorious.
v4: Kept (reserved) in heaven. It cannot be lost!
V5: In the meantime, every believer is guarded through God’s power until that day when we receive the inheritance in full – either when we die or when Christ returns.
This salvation is the greatest thing of all.
a) To be eternally saved, to have an eternal inheritance, to have complete rescue from sin and death, is the greatest gift of all. When we pray for other things, we must not forget that we already have the greatest thing of all. Since he has rescued us from sin – the greatest problem – he is able to deliver us from any other thing He chooses to and also through any other thing He chooses to.
b) Since He has done the greatest thing of all, there is nothing great enough to take us out of salvation. If you have trusted Christ alone to save you from your sins, then no trial is too great to take you out of the salvation He has given. Coronavirus, cancer, loneliness, losing a job, bereavement, a broken heart, divorce, dementia or even death – nothing can separate you from His salvation. Your inheritance is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, it is kept in heaven for you, and you are being kept by God’s power, through faith; even that faith, according to Ephesians 2:9, is the gift of God.
I need to say, though, that this assurance is given to Christians. A Christian believes that Jesus died for them on the cross, that He rose from the dead and that they are saved by His work alone and not by their own works. Do you believe in Christ alone as Saviour? Salvation, eternal security and peace comes through faith; the things this passage speaks about come through being a believer, that is, believing that Jesus died and rose again, believing it was for you, and entrusting your life to him.
II) The challenge to joy v6-7
But we are not in heaven yet. We were created to live on this earth and we must do so until our time is finished. In this world we will have trouble, which can cause us to lose joy. In v6, the word “grieved” is talking of the effect of trials on us: they make us feel sorrow.
None of this is denying what was said before about the joy of salvation. But the reality is that trials of our faith in whatever form they come (notice “various” trials (NIV: “all kinds of trials”)) cause sorrow.
This is important: feeling sorrow because of trials does not make you a bad Christian. It is not wrong to be sorrowful if you get sick, or are lonely, or you have lost your income, or if a loved one passes away, or if you are insulted or worse for being a Christian. Jesus was a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering. To feel sorrow is normal.
Despite this, Peter still wants to encourage them by revealing something of the purpose of trials. All that is happening now in your life and in the wider world has a purpose. These things are not random.
“if necessary” (v6) – trials don’t come because the Lord is cruel; He always has a purpose.
“various/all kinds” (v6) – trials come in many forms. And they can be different for different people. Sometimes we look at what other people are going through and we think “why are they struggling?” That’s because you are different: what is a trial for them is not necessarily a trial for you. What is a trial for you may not be hard for them, but the Lord knows each one of us – He knows what will be a trial for us. He knows us perfectly and He desires to do us good.
v7: the “tested genuineness” (proven genuineness (NIV)). The image is of our faith going through fire (like a precious metal) in order to prove that it is genuine faith.
Prove to whom? Surely God knows whether our faith is genuine or not. Yes, He does. But WE don’t always. We have doubts and fears and questions. But trials prove our faith: they reveal where our faith lies; they show whether we have truly trusted Jesus or whether we simply have an outward religion.
They also purify and strengthen our faith (James 1:3). Our faith is more precious than gold, our faith is so precious to the Lord that He desires to purify it. Trials expose if we have been relying on ourselves or on other things. Trials cause us to cry out to the Lord, to search the scriptures and to seek His wisdom. And when we come out of the trials, we can look back and say, “yes, I have believed, I am the Lord’s, He has kept me through this great trial and I now I know this is not just a faith for when things are easy, but this is a faith that has proved the test of fire.”
There are three more things about trials here:
First, v3: “Blessed be the God and FATHER of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Trials come through the Father, by His gracious hand.
Here is another quote from the Heidelberg Catechism:
What do you believe when you say:
I believe in God the Father almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth?
That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
(who out of nothing created heaven and earth
and all that is in them,
and who still upholds and governs them
by his eternal counsel and providence)
is, for the sake of Christ his Son, my God and my Father.
In him I trust so completely as to have no doubt
that he will provide me
with all things necessary for body and soul,
and will also turn to my good
whatever adversity he sends me in this life of sorrow.
He is able to do so as almighty God,
and willing also as a faithful Father.
Second, V6 – “a little while”. Trials don’t last forever; there is a limit. They are also a little while compared to eternity. In Revelation 7, you see the great multitude before the throne. They don’t sing, “my trials were terrible, so much I couldn’t bear, and heaven is not good enough, it really isn’t fair.”
They sing “worthy is the Lamb, seated on the throne….” The focus and joy is the Lamb of God – one moment in the glory makes the deepest of trials, the greatest of suffering seem like “a little while.”
Third, v7: “may be found to result in praise, glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Trials don’t just strengthen our faith, but the work of God in us through our trials brings Him honour because others see, other believers and the world around. The angels see. Finally, the whole of creation will be filled with praise when He comes back and everyone sees that His people, who look weak and insignificant now, have been kept for eternal blessing through His great power.
III) The object of joy – Jesus (v8)
Having spoken of the coming of Jesus in v7, he now speaks about Him more, and the effect of Him on our lives now. He is the focus of joy – now. We have joy, not only because we are saved, but because He is so great. “Joy inexpressible…” Amazing overflowing joy.
As our faith is proved and purified, our view of the Saviour becomes clearer because the other things, which seemed important before, fade. Our faith clings onto Him more closely and the wonder of His mercy becomes more precious.
Trials do not necessarily give us better earthly benefits but they do give us a clearer view, even before heaven, of Who is the most important. Each battle on earth is a step along the way, taking us closer to that day when the battle is over (v9). This trial may even be the one that the Lord uses to take us home and then we will see Him face to face.
IV) The foundation of joy (v10-12)
These final verses show us that, even as the prophets of the OT wrote about the coming of Christ, they longed to see with their own eyes. Even the angels are amazed!
This reference to the prophets tells us that everything we have looked at today – what God has done for us, salvation, trials, heaven – all are promised in His word, the scriptures. Fuel for our joy comes through the Word of God. The Word is our solid foundation – it reveals a God who is good to us even in trials. He is a God who keeps His promises. He is trustworthy, so we can trust Him in testing times.
Brothers and sisters, this is a huge challenge, whether we get sick, or we’re worried about loved ones, or we are struggling financially, or we are concerned about the future. But we can be absolutely sure that this is not some random mistake on God’s part. Through this, He is going to prove your faith, and assure you that you belong to Him. He’s going to wean you off things that obscure your view of Jesus; He’s going to reveal His power to keep you even through the greatest struggle.
Let all these things awaken joy in your heart and mind, and let that joy – even in sorrow – fuel your faith in Him, who now you don’t see, but then you will see face to face as you enter into the inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, that is kept in heaven for you.