Week 1 of a series examining Christian virtues
There is much we could say about faith. This is an on-going journey for all of us. Today let’s move forwards on this journey by considering the words of Peter in his first letter; 1 Peter 1:3–12.
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, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 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. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 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, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow.
Peter was writing this letter to Christians facing persecution. His aim was to comfort them with the truth of who they are in Christ—children of God who have every reason to rejoice in their salvation and future glory in eternity. He urges them to live like the holy ones of God that they already are by obeying God now, by loving each other earnestly, and by placing all of their hope in the endless life to come.
Our passage from 1 Peter 1:3–12 is one of the most loved passages in all of Scripture. It begins as a blessing to God, but also describes how incredibly He has blessed us in Christ. Because Jesus has risen from the dead, our hope is not a wish—it is as alive as He is. Our inheritance as God’s children is eternal, full of glory, and secured forever. Even in our suffering, (not if we suffer, but when we suffer) we have every reason to rejoice. So the mystery of God’s plan has been revealed to us in Christ. We are being saved!
In verses 3 and 4, Peter revealed that God has caused us to be born again into a living hope and a forever inheritance of unlimited worth. Now he writes that the merciful God who gives us those great gifts is also actively guarding us, right in this very moment.
Guarding us from what, suffering? No, as Peter will soon say, we will suffer. Instead God is guarding our inheritance. He is guarding us from anything that might cause our inheritance—our eternal life with Him forever—to be lost.
So, we are shielded by God’s power. This is a military term – Peter, therefore, means that God has His spiritual shield around us, protecting us, and so keeping us safe from all the schemes of the enemy.
We are being assured that we are being guarded by God’s power. And how powerful is God? How able is He?
- He is the God who created the universe.
- He is the God who raised Christ from the dead.
- He is the God of all.
He is able.
We are being guarded by God’s power through our faith, (1 Peter 1:5). We must understand that our faith is not powerful. It is God alone who is powerful. Our faith is in the fact that we trusted Him to save us, and we are to continue to trust that God will do everything necessary to keep us saved.
What is God saving us from? We are being saved from the power of sin. As we grow more and more like Jesus we will one day be forever and completely saved from the presence of sin. Until then, God guards us so that nothing can take our salvation away. This guarding of the refiner’s fire shows us that our spirit has been saved, for this is what makes us alive with Christ. And through this refining fire our soul is also being saved and is being transformed, day by day, into the image of Christ.
Jesus speaks on many occasions about faith. When He spoke about “faith”, He meant a belief based on the reality of His deity and the One prophesised by Moses and the Old Testament prophets. To Jesus “faith” is not a hypothetical abstraction. While sailing across the Sea of Galilee, a sudden storm alarms the disciples who, fearful of drowning, awaken Jesus for help. Jesus rebukes them with the words “You of little faith” and calms the sea. Despite demonstrating His power over both the natural world through physical healing and the demonic world by exorcism, the disciples did not fully realise who Jesus was.
What Jesus did in stilling the storm was to assume the authority exercised only by God in the Old Testament (Ps 89:8-9; 106:8-9; 107:23-32); no wonder the disciples question, “Who is this?” (Matt 8:23-27; Mark 4:37-41; Luke 8:22-25).
Jesus again uses this phrase “You of little faith” in Matt 16:5-12 & Mark 8:16-21. On this occasion, after leaving the Pharisees and Sadducees, Jesus warned the disciples about their teaching figuratively as “yeast.” However, the disciples failed to understand this and thought He was referring to food which they had forgotten.
Despite experiencing the previous two miraculous feedings (Matt 14:13-21; 15:29-38; Mark 6:35-44; 8:1-9), the disciples failed to understand that Jesus was God. Jesus says to them….
- “Do you not see or understand?
- Do you have a hardened heart?
- Having eyes, do you not see?
- And having ears, do you not hear?”
- “Do you not yet understand?”
Jesus clearly spoke of “faith” as a belief in the reality of His deity. Miraculous events that were witnessed and experienced by the disciples corresponded to the truth that Jesus was God. On many occasions Jesus came across people of great faith. And because of their faith He was able to perform great healing miracles. The amazing thing with this is that both Jew and Gentile expressed great faith. Some believed he could heal by simply saying so. The Centurion in Matt 8:5-13; Luke 7:2-10. Some knew healing would come by knowing that Jesus could and would forgive them their sin. Healing of the Paralytic in Matt 9:2-7; Mark 2:3-12; Luke 5:17-25. Some were healed simply by knowing that Jesus was the Messiah, and of the line of David. The woman who bled for 12 years in Matt 9:20-22; Mark 5:25-34; Luke 8:43-48. The two blind men in Matt 9:27-30. And I can go on with other examples where Jesus taught about the importance of faith.
When Jesus speaks of “faith,” it is a belief based on the fact that He is the Messiah and human beings recognise the truth about themselves. For Jesus recognised genuine faith when He observed people who understood the true nature of sin, who recognised their unworthiness before God and sought His grace in forgiveness, because He was God.
Our faith, therefore, must go beyond what we believe; it must become a dynamic part of all we do, resulting in good fruit and spiritual maturity. The bottom line is this, Salvation does not depend on good deeds, but it results in good deeds!
Genuine faith in God will be visible to others. Is your faith visible to those who live around you? If your life is not having a positive impact on those around you perhaps you need to look again at your understanding of faith and at what God has done for you, and remind yourself that if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, (2 Peter 1:8).
Based on a sermon from 13th October 2019