by Roger McCay
12 January 2020
Sermon Passage: 1 Peter 1:10-12
Link to Audio Version
Whenever studying the Scriptures, it is good to bear-in-mind the answer to the question, “What is the author’s purpose in writing?” Peter, in his first epistle, doesn’t keep us guessing on this matter. He says in 5:12, “I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.”
So, as we study Peter’s letter, we know he is “exhorting and declaring” what is “the true grace of God.” On this truth we have a firm foundation upon which to stand. Because of this truth, we are able to stand firm in God’s grace, no matter what might come.
Peter wrote to a persecuted church in order to encourage them in the midst of their tribulations. His words were not platitudes. Due to hard gospel realities, the church could really and truly find joy even in the midst of suffering.
Starting off his epistle, Peter reminds the recipients of who they are—elect sojourners, exiles in this world, citizens in the Kingdom of God. This world is not their home. They are God’s people. God has called them as his own. They have been born again (what we call the first resurrection), having been brought from being spiritually dead to being spiritually alive by the power of the Holy Spirit. They have a living hope in Christ, who was resurrected from the dead, and who rules in Heaven over the heavens and the Earth. They are adopted children of God the Father, with an eternal inheritance worthy of him and secured in heaven by the power of God.
Despite all this, paradoxically, it is necessary, at times, for them to suffer in the world. Yet, even in their suffering, they possess joy—joy in God and the truth of his grace.
Suffering is ultimately only ever a temporary thing. Suffering even serves a purpose. It tests the genuineness of their faith. It purifies and refines their faith, which is more precious to God than gold. Christians come out of suffering better than they were before, empowered by God’s Spirit to do his will, confident in the Lord, and confident that their faith is sure.
Through it all, Christ Jesus is the love of their life, even though they have never seen him. In his love expressed to them on the cross, he has saved them, and they long for his return. Standing firm in their faith in Christ, they rejoice with a joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory no matter what life’s circumstances might be (pain or bliss). In Christ, in his blessings, they find the outcome of their faith, the salvation of their souls.
If you are a Christian, a disciple of Christ, these words are about who you are, your hope in Christ, and the grace of God in which you can stand firm.
Peter, after outlining these wonderful truths, rather than moving immediately on to the hortatory aspects of his message, digresses a bit in verses 10-12. Tim Keller helps explain why:
He [Peter] anticipates somebody saying, “Okay, I’m a Christian, I think. At least I believe in all this salvation, and I believe in Jesus and that he died for me in all that, but I’m not rejoicing in my trials. I’m not moving on through my suffering, feeling like I’m being purified like pure gold. Not at all. I’m not rejoicing in my sufferings. What’s wrong with me?” 
Peter’s answer to this?
“The reason a lot of us who do believe in the good news, in the gospel, still are not able to handle our troubles is we do not know how to look into the gospel.”
In order to find that inexpressible joy in suffering, we need to look into the truths of the gospel—like the prophets and the angels. But most people don’t. Most Christians don’t. Most only read the Bible sporadically.
People say, “Well, I know the facts of the gospel, and all the elements the Apostles Creed. I get that Jesus died for me, and I trust in Jesus to save me. What more is there to really know?” Such a question betrays the problem. If you have ever looked longingly into the gospel, you wouldn’t ask such a question.
It’s like how when you want to teach kids something. Perhaps they’ve grown up in the church and heard the Bible stories in Sunday School. So, they know a bit about the Bible, the gospel, and about Jesus. You sit down with them, oh, around sixth-grade or so, and you want to explain a parable to them, perhaps from Mark 4. Yet, it’s typical, as Keller puts it, for the kids who have been in church for a while to say, “I already know that. I know Jesus died for my sins. What are you telling me about that for? Everybody knows that.”