Lesson 1 - 1 Peter 1:1-9 - A LIVING HOPE
INTRODUCTION: This morning we start a new Sunday school quarter that will encompass the Epistles of 1 and 2 Peter and Jude. The opening verses of 1 Peter identify the apostle Peter as the author. Most likely written from Rome in the 60-65 A.D. timeframe (30 years after the resurrection of Jesus), it's addressed to all Christian believers dispersed throughout the known world who were at the time experiencing intense persecution for their faith. The letter was intended as a message of living hope that encouraged believers to endure and stand fast in their faith in the midst of the adversity they were facing. Instead of being disheartened by opposition, Peter exhorted them to count it a privilege to suffer for the sake of Christ, in view of the how their Savior had suffered for them. Peter, who had been beaten, punished, and jailed for preaching the gospel of Christ, knew first-hand what it took to endure persecution without losing hope and instead, live a victorious and obedient life.
Read 1 Peter 1:1-2 - TO THOSE WHO ARE CHOSEN
1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.
vv. 1-2: First, Peter establishes his authority: He is one of a select group chosen by Christ Himself to proclaim the Gospel and to provide direction and leadership to the early church. Apostolic authority is imperative and authoritative, not merely advisory. The addressees of the letter are identified as "those who reside as aliens" (Gk. parepidemois diaspora, lit. scattered exiles). The locations listed, "Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia," were all located in Asia Minor, which is now part of modern Turkey). Since this letter predated the widespread Roman persecutions, their opposition is thought to have come mainly from local populations. The recipients of the letter were largely Gentiles, although churches in the areas mentioned would have included some converted Jews. Finally, Peter encourages them to rejoice and live holy lives in spite of their trials, clinging to the truth that God had selected them to live forever in a place reserved especially for them in heaven.
Read 1 Peter 1:3-5 - A LIVING HOPE
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
v. 3a1: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" - When we use the word "blessed," it usually means something good we've received from God, like our families, our home, or church; but notice as used here, Peter expresses "blessed" as praise to God Himself, declaring that God is worthy to be praised, which presents a model that should be part of all of our prayers.
v. 3a2: "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" - Jesus repeatedly acknowledged God as His father and taught that we are God's children and heirs of God through Christ (Gal. 4:6-7; Rom 8:15).
v. 3b: "who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again" - "mercy," which is the application of grace, tells us that we did not earn or deserve God's favor. And by this grace, we are "born again" by the Father, leaving behind our old life and entering into a new life with Christ.
v. 3c: "to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead," - Our belief isn't just another theoretical religion but a "living hope" based upon the resurrection of Jesus, as our living Savior and Lord, and His resurrection points directly to our own resurrection at the end of time.
APPLICATION 1: Out of His mercy, God reached down from heaven to save us because we could not save ourselves. Mercy, which is the application of grace, means that we did nothing to earn God's favor, and only by His mercy and grace are we born again in order to leave our old life behind and enter a new life with Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
v. 4a: "to obtain an inheritance" - This verse is key to the passage, and Peter uses it to give these Christians the confidence to ride-out these hard times by reminding them that their spiritual "inheritance" is guaranteed. How so? Because, as God's children, our inheritance can never be taken away from us.
v. 4b: "which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away," - This refers to the glorified bodies we'll receive that never get sick, wear out, or decay, and are made to last for eternity.
v. 4c: "reserved in heaven for you," - And "reserved" means a completed transaction-irreversible.
v. 5a: "who are protected by the power of God" - The word "protected" (Gk. phroureo) has the sense of an armed military guard, which pictures God Himself protecting us. We are vulnerable here on earth, but as Paul said elsewhere, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Rom. 8:31).
v. 5b: "through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." - In the present, here on earth, we are constantly being renewed through God's power-our sanctification; and in "the last time," there will be the ultimate expression of our salvation-our glorification.
APPLICATION 2: Our hope of eternal life never dies because it's as sure as the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As God's children, our spiritual inheritance is a completed transaction (v. 4) that is protected by the power of God (v. 5).
Read 1 Peter 1:6-9 - JOY INEXPRESSABLE AND FULL OF GLORY
6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 8 and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.
v. 6: "In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, - Peter characterizes our earthly lives as a time of trials and sorrow, which is accurate: we inevitably age, lose loved ones, and suffer many disappointments. Yet, as Christians, we can "greatly rejoice" with the inner-peace we experience from our relationship with God, knowing that this life is but "a little while"-a temporary, eye-blink in the context of eternity. And for virtually all Christian believers, "various trials" are "necessary." You might ask why it is so?
v. 7a: "so that the proof of your faith," - This phrase answers the question posed by v. 6. God often tests us as a means that compels us to prove our faith in Him and His promises. Scripture is replete with examples of this: Abraham by telling him to sacrifice Isaac (Gen. 22:1-19), and he was ultimately justified by faith (Heb. 11:17-19); the Children of Israel in their wilderness wanderings that ultimately allowed them to obtain victory in the Promised Land (Ex. 15-20; Judges 2-3). We might think of these trials as a spiritual quality-control process that God uses to reveal and remove the flaws in our faithfulness in order to make us even stronger, more effective witnesses for Him. Although God's corrective discipline can be painful at times, it's always designed to build us up, not to hurt us.
v. 7b: "being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;" - The refining process for rough gold ore involves applying extremely high levels of heat in order to remove all the impurities; but, what remains afterward is very pure, durable, useful, and valuable. By analogy, the sanctification process-the trials and tribulations we are subjected to as believers in this life are all designed to bring us "praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ"-so that when we stand before Him, our Savior will say to us, "well done good and faithful servant" (Mt. 25:23).
APPLICATION 3: The various trials Christians encounter in life are necessary in order to prove our faith. We might think of these trials as a spiritual quality-control process that God uses to reveal and remove the flaws in our faithfulness in order to make us even stronger, more effective witnesses for Him. Although God's corrective discipline can be painful at times, it's always designed to build us up, not to hurt us.
v. 8a: "and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now," - Coming from Peter, whom Jesus asked three times, "Do you love Me?" (John 21:15-17), this phrase is particularly moving: He had not only seen but walked and lived with Jesus Christ, yet denied Him three times after His arrest. Now, he's calling on people who've never seen Jesus in the flesh to maintain their love for Him even in the midst of persecution, indeed, even to the point of death. Because Jesus knew that most Christians would never see Him in the flesh, He told Thomas, who had seen the resurrected Christ face-to-face, "Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed" (John 20:29).
v. 8b: "but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory," - Even though, as saved Christian, all of us will experience "joy inexpressible" when we see our Lord and Savior in person, we can experience this joy right now because we have hope (v. 3: not an empty philosophy but a hope based upon a living Savior), faith (v. 7: a dynamic belief that sanctifies us and continues day-by-day to strengthens us with His power), and love (v. 8: even though we've never seen Jesus, we love Him and personally experience His love in return). And the joy we derive from our hope, love, and faith is "full of glory" because out present joy is infused with the glory that we all will see when Christ returns. Our joy will be no different then, just inexpressibly greater.
APPLICATION 4: As Christians, we experience joy in this life because of the hope, faith, and love we have in Jesus Christ as Lord. Our hope isn't an empty religion or wishful thinking but is firmly grounded upon our personal relationship with a living God and Savior. It is based on a dynamic, living faith that's infused with the power of God and the love, given and received, we experience from it.
v. 9: "obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls." - This is the completion of God's saving work-eternal salvation-the "outcome of [our] faith." The word "obtaining" (Gk. komizomenoi) refers to someone receiving a reward, and the word used for "souls" (Gk. psychon) literally means our person, the whole being that God saves. In other words, although we've suffered physical death (unless Jesus comes sooner) and inhabit glorified bodies, God still saves and preserves our individuality as a person-I will still be me and you will be you. Notice also that Peter phrases "salvation" in the present tense: Our salvation has already happened-a finished transaction-and the outcome, the final prize-eternal life in heaven-is the only thing awaiting completion.
APPLICATION 5: The outcome of our faith in Christ in the salvation of our soul. When our mortal body dies (or gets raptured, whichever should occur first), God saves our soul, the whole self that makes us a unique person, and then gives us a glorified body that never ages, never becomes ill, and never decays. We will be equipped to live in perfect peace with God forever.