God’s Word for You
1 Peter 1:6-7 Hope for the future
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, February 18, 2022
6 Because of this you rejoice very much, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various kinds of trials 7 so that the proven character of your faith—which is more valuable than gold, which passes away even though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
Peter’s train of thought is simple and logical: Since we have this certainty in the future (1 Peter 1:3-5), we have it as comfort and hope in the present, even if we suffer in the meantime. The various kinds of trials that might grieve us are depicted in the Scriptures and in the recollections of some of the early Christians writing in the second century. Paul admits that before his conversion, he “persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison” (Acts 22:4). He was there giving his approval when Stephen was stoned to death by the Jews (Acts 7:58, 8:1). And he “began to destroy the church” (Acts 8:3). A gruesome scene is recorded by later Christians about a believer named Germanicus:
For the most noble Germanicus encouraged their timidity through the endurance he showed. He fought valiantly against the wild beasts. When the proconsul tried to persuade him to take pity on his youth, he willingly and forcibly pulled the wild creature toward himself, wanting to be rid of their unjust and lawless way of life as quickly as possible. After this the whole crowd, amazed at the bravery of this pious and beloved Christian race, began shouting “Away with the atheists!” (“Atheists” in this context means anyone who denied that Caesar was a god. Martyrdom of Polycarp 3:1-2)
In the same record, a Phrygian named Quintus became frightened when he saw the wild animals in the arena. Rather than go to such a savage death, he swore an oath to Caesar and made a small sacrifice to him. He had gone forward voluntarily, as a test of his own faith, and couldn’t go through with it. There are many passages in the Scriptures that show us that we do not need to volunteer to be persecuted for our faith. Jesus “purposely stayed away from Judea because the Jews were waiting to take his life” (John 7:1). When the Jews tried to stone him to death, “Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds” (John 8:59). When the Jews came to Berea to stir up the crowds against Paul, things became so dangerous for the Apostle that “the brothers sent Paul to the coast” and brought him to Athens (Acts 17:14-15).
But whether we use our common sense to avoid violent persecution or find ourselves in the middle of it, or other kinds of oppression and grief, Peter assures us: Our true hope and comfort is in Paradise. The shouts, sneers, jeers and false accusations of the world will fall away, replaced by praise, glory and honor from God our Father.
Peter compares our faith, when tested, to the testing of gold. In simple terms, this involves heating up the metal until the gold and lesser metals separate. The clump of lesser metal, called dross (Psalm 119:119; Isaiah 11:25), is skimmed away. What remains is a much purer gold, and the entire process can be called “testing.” When our faith is tested, the sinful residue and habits fall away as we focus more and more clearly and only upon Christ.
But if gold endures this kind of testing, why does Peter say that gold “passes away even though tested by fire”? This is Peter’s eye on the resurrection, when all of the elements will be destroyed (2 Peter 3:10). Wood, stone, water, metal, and even gold will be consumed and destroyed to nothingness in the fire of the final moments. All of the precious possessions of man will disappear. The loot of the thief, the hoard of the collector, the treasures of museums, the praised architecture and artwork of the ages, all will vanish in flames. Even the sculptured cities, canals, bridges, tunnels, and secret places will be consumed, vanishing in a moment in that terrible conflagration. But what cannot be purged away is the Christian’s faith. Tested and certain, we will retain our faith and be saved from the fiery judgment by the simple miraculous water of our baptism. Jesus will be revealed in all his glory, and he will call us home.
There is an ancient gate into Jerusalem, the way into the city from the Mount of Olives, known as the Gate of Mercy or Golden Gate. The Muslims bricked it up in 810, and after the Crusaders opened it again it was walled up once more by Saladin in 1187. It was opened once again still later, but Suleiman the Magnificent walled it up once more in 1541 (during Luther’s lifetime). Why do they keep closing it? Because they have read Ezekiel 44, where the prophet is shown that gate, “the one facing east” (44:1), and he is told: “The prince himself is the only one who may sit inside the gateway to eat in the presence of the Lord. He is to enter by the way of the portico of the gateway and go out the same way” (Ezekiel 44:3). What Saladin and the others believed was that by bricking the gate up, they could keep the Messiah (the prince) from entering into the city, and thereby keep Jerusalem for their own people, the Muslims. The trouble is that Saladin was 1200 years too late. Jesus entered through the gate on Palm Sunday; he does not need to enter all over again during this world’s lifetime. When Christ returns, he will be seen by all mankind. “The glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken” (Isaiah 40:5). Everything will wither and fall, “but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8).
If your faith is tested, if your life is troubled, stand firm and ask the Lord to help you stand firm. Keep your eyes turned toward the cross of Jesus Christ, and know that your salvation is there, “and the kingdom will be the Lord’s.” (Obadiah 1:21)
Something extra: OUTLINE
I agree completely with the assessment of Pastor Mark Jeske as to the outline of 1 Peter. Pastor Jeske brilliantly outlines the book according to three cycles, with a brief interlude or side-bar between the second and third cycle about Christian submission.
Theme: Living Hope in a Hostile World
1 Peter 1:1-2 Greeting
1 Peter 1:3-2:3 First Cycle
A, The great and glorious plan of God the Father (1 Peter 1:3-12)
B, How the Father’s children shall live (1 Peter 1:13-2:3)
1 Peter 2:4-3:17 Second Cycle
A, Christ’s relationship with believers (1 Peter 2:4-10)
B, The believer’s relationship with others (1 Peter 2:11-3:17)
1, With pagan society
2, With government and authority
3, With masters and employers
Interlude: Christ as our example of submission
4, With husbands
5, With wives
6, With fellow Christians
7, With pagan society (again)
1 Peter 3:18-5:11 Third Cycle
A, Christ triumphant and risen (1 Peter 3:18-22)
B, Encouragement for individuals (1 Peter 4:1-19)
1, Living as Christians
2, Suffering as Christians
C, Advice for the congregations (1 Peter 5:1-11)
1 Peter 5:12-14 Final Greetings
Pastor Timothy Smith