Sermon Text– “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:6-9).
The Apostle Peter in chapter one of his first letter blesses his readers with a strong theological introduction where the reality of God’s Trinitarian nature is vividly expressed in the life of Christian believers (1 Pe. 1:1-2). Following his introduction, Peter then spends the next ten verses unpacking the truth of what he has expressed in the first two, but with vibrant detail. Peter desires his readers to have a healthy understanding of God’s Trinitarian nature but within the context of the Christian life. It is edifying to know what the Bible teaches doctrinally about the Trinity, but even more worthwhile to know how the doctrine of Trinity is to be articulated in the life of a Christian. Picture an impenetrable suit of armor that is prepared for battle. That armor is only useful to a warrior who wears it into battle. Doctrine can, in many ways, be compared to a suit of impassible armor that protects the one who wields it from the flaming arrows of the enemy’s attacks. However, this doctrine is only effective by those who live out what they believe to be true. This is what Peter wishes his readers to understand regarding knowledge of the Trinity. Knowing about and being able to expound the biblical doctrine of the Trinity is of utmost importance, but it’s not enough. Christians must live out the implications of this biblical teaching, and this is what the sermon text conveys.
In what follows, there are at least two very important evidences that Peter gives to display the model of a true Christian who is basking in the reality of a Trinitarian God. Evidence number one designates the fact that true converted Christians will continually be rejoicing in a hope of future salvation obtained by the Father through the resurrection of Jesus (1 Pe. 1:5). This rejoicing is a continual rejoicing even though, if it be God’s will, Christians should suffer grief as a result of various trials that only last for a short season. Hence, one piece of evidence indicating the reality of saving faith is that those who suffer grief continually rejoice in the God of their salvation and that will result in praise from God Himself. Evidence number two of a truly converted believer should logically result from the first. If there is continual rejoicing in the life of a Christian, though grieved by trials for a time, then an immense and profound love for Jesus Christ will result. This love for Christ will by consequence produce a life full of excitement as Christians engage in the reading and meditating on Scripture, a life of devout prayer, and a renewed interest in the mutual edification of other believers through worship and discipleship. Both evidences will thus result in an overall indication of saving faith.
Evidence #1- Christians continually rejoice even though grieved by various trials
1 Peter 1:6– “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials”.
Peter, referring back to verses three through five of chapter one, declares that Christians are to rejoice in the promised hope of an eternal inheritance through the resurrection of Jesus that is now being guarded by the Father and will be ready for us to receive in the future at Christ’s return. Revelation 21:1-4 describes a stunning portrait of what this inheritance will look like in the future to come. As a result of this truth, the rejoicing that is produced in the life of a Christian should be one that is so pleased with what God has done that they can hardly contain their happiness. Christians should rejoice and praise God with all of their might because of this amazing truth of a future inheritance. A perfect example of this would be Mary, the mother of the Lord Jesus, when she proclaims, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46-47). This rejoicing, this exceeding joy in what God has done, is a rejoicing that should be continually ongoing in the life of a Christian even though, for a season, lovers of Christ are grieved by many trials.
Concerning this grieving, Peter focuses on the notion that though suffering occurs in a Christian’s life, it is only for a season and should be viewed in light of the promise of an eternity with God. Paul affirms Peter’s claim and states, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18). Along with Paul’s mention of suffering and eternity is James’ truth that, “For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (Js. 4:14). James argues that the human life is nothing more than a vapor. Much like one’s breath in the chill of a winter’s morning, for a split second the breath is visible but then vanishes. The grief that Christians experience on this side of eternity is only for a season. Though Peter’s claims are thought provoking and should lead to a life of praise towards God, what exactly is the point of suffering grief from trials? Why does God feel that this grief may be necessary?
1 Peter 1:7– “So that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ”.
It seems to be the case then that the reason Peter gives for suffering grief is so that the faith of a Christian be purified resulting in God’s personal praise. Peter asserts that the faith of a Christian is much like that of gold, which was and is very valuable, and the more purified it is, the more valuable it becomes. God states in the Old Testament, “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction” (Is. 48:10). The idea of a “refiner’s fire” is in view from this passage . Just as gold is purified by the fire, the Christians faith is purified by various trials. It seems that a real test of devotion towards God becomes abundantly clear through trials. What one truly believes about God will become evident in the midst of suffering. A total reliance on the hope that God has given to his people will produce rejoicing, even through grieving is the consequence of many trials. This is a clear evidence of saving faith. As a result of being grieved the Christian’s faith will be purified and will result in praise from God. It should be every Christian’s desire to hear these words, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matt. 25:21). So it seems then that Peter has good reason for declaring the necessity of suffering grief. It is for the purifying of one’s faith in the work of Christ resulting in a Godly praise.
Evidence #2- A devoted love for Christ results from Christian grieving
1 Peter 1:8-9– “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls”.
Peter concludes then, by logical necessity, that a Christian’s faith that is being purified through suffering must lead to a profound love for Jesus Christ though He is not physically visible. This is the essence of how the Bible defines biblical faith. Consider the words of the writer of Hebrews, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). Faith is having hope for a future inheritance guarded by God, and the reality of loving Christ though He is not physically present. The question that remains is to ask how this love for Christ might manifest itself in the life of a Christian. Jesus’ own words are helpful here, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (John 14:21). Jesus is obvious in this passage that the way to show one’s love for Christ is to keep His commandments. Perhaps then, the way to keep His commandments is to do the following: A Christian should have a sincere thirst for the continual reading and meditation on Scripture, and as a result of meditating on Scripture a continual fellowship with God through deep prayer results, along with a mutual edification of believers through worship and discipleship together. All of which are healthy indications of a sincere love for Christ because of a purified faith. All are signs of a Christian working toward the “outcome of their faith”; looking forward to the time when their final salvation is revealed in the future.
Notice how what Peter declares in the sermon text is directly linked to what Peter informs his readers of in the opening two verses of chapter one. Peter states, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ. To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according o the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ…” (1 Peter 1:1-2). The emphasis should focus on the last part of that passage, “For obedience to Jesus Christ”. Verses six through nine are all about producing obedience to Jesus Christ. Through the continual rejoicing of Christians who suffer, obedience for Christ is cultivated. This obedience comes out of the love that one possesses for Jesus and will manifest itself in the everyday life of a Christian. Peter is strongly touching on the fact that a Trinitarian understanding of God in the life of the Christian is important, but should also be displayed in their lives.