God’s Word for You
1 Peter 1:8-9 The salvation of your soul
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, February 21, 2022
8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not see him now, yet by believing in him, you are filled with a joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
God’s divine punishment on the devil and the demons is that they had seen him, had spoken with him, had lived in their places in heaven, and yet they rebelled against him. Compare this with God’s praise of Christians: Though you have not seen him, you love him. This is common to every believer in every age. One of Job’s friends had the mistaken idea that God does not see us “as he goes about in the vaulted heavens” (Job 22:14), but the Patriarch corrected him: It is we who do not see God, but he sees us. “I do not see him… I catch no glimpse of him. But he knows the way that I take”(Job 23:9-10).
Even though we don’t see God, we know about him. We learn a few things from nature, such as his almighty power (Psalm 19:1), his all-surpassing genius (Numbers 24:16), and his wrath (Job 20:23). But in his revealed word, the Scriptures, we learn about his mercy, his love, and the salvation he offers through Jesus Christ.
Peter says that our faith fills us with a joy that is “inexpressible.” The rare word aneklaletos (ἀνεκλάλητος, used only here in the New Testament) is also used in the early Church Fathers to say that the star seen at Jesus’ birth (Matthew 2:2) was “indescribable” (Ignatius to the Ephesians 19:2). Such is our future joy in heaven. Paul talks about a man (Paul himself) who was briefly “caught up to the third heaven” and heard “inexpressible things,” that is, overly sacred things, “things that man is not permitted to tell” (2 Corinthians 12:4). These are the closest things we have to descriptions of heaven and the kinds of things we will hear when we are there, and yet neither Peter nor Paul can put them into words. Surely the experience of heaven is as different from the one we know here on earth as the sun is different from the moon. The one can only dimly reflect the glory of the other. Here is a place in our worship life where art and music augment our words as we praise God. The agony of Christ in the garden and on the cross is expressed in art with deep, solid colors (blacks, blues and purples) to highlight the intensity of the moment; it is not a place for washed-out or soft pastels. And in our music, the so-called church modes remind us of theological truths even if we don’t understand the musical significance of the chord structure, we feel it as we sing it. Consider the C-natural in John Ireland’s tune for “My Song Is Love Unknown.” As we arrive at the tenth bar of the verse, we begin to sing, “Oh who am I that for my sake, my Lord should take frail flesh and die?” The C-natural we sing with the word “who” is echoed by the alto line as the women sing “my” in “for my sake,” and the result is an almost wistful, uncertain longing to understand God’s grace, which is resolved immediately in the mixolydian mode of the song by the strong descending progression as we sing: “that for my sake.” The composer has added, in the music, the question and resolution of man’s inadequacy and God’s immeasurable gift. God saves because God is gracious. Man can only wonder at this and be grateful.
Now, look at verse 9 in our text, and wonder! In the present tense, Peter assures us that we “are receiving” the goal of our faith, the salvation of our souls. Here we see something that for some might be a subtle doctrinal point, but it is something we need to be aware of because of those who confuse the moment of conversion with what happens every single time a sinful Christian repents of a sin and is forgiven. The end result is similar: forgiveness and salvation are received. But at the beginning of a Christian’s life of faith, his rebirth through baptism or conversion, he does not “begin” to be justified. Rather, he is truly and completely justified by faith (Romans 3:28). We are shown by the Scriptures that we stand in this faith (Romans 5:2), and “by the power of God we are guarded for salvation through faith” (1 Peter 1:5). How? Peter explains here: “because you are receiving the goal of your faith, which is salvation.” The present tense of this verb (a participle) means that we receive it and keep on receiving the goal or end of our salvation. It is not as if we haven’t gotten to the end yet; it’s that we keep receiving all of it, again and again, through the gospel of forgiveness. It comes to us through the instrument of faith.
It’s important to remember that it is not a portion of the remission of sins that we receive, but all of it. A writer from Gaul (Prosper of Aquitaine) who corresponded with St. Augustine said it well: “The generous faithfulness of God, will not cut his pardon in half,” and again: “He will give his pardon in full and not in halves.”
Many modern Christian groups reduce the certainty of salvation to an argument over whether there is really one truth or not. They refuse to call the Bible’s teaching a doctrine, but instead they want to talk about a Lutheran tradition and a Catholic tradition and a Baptist tradition, etc. They like to say that all that matters is God’s love, and whether my “tradition” is that we are saved by faith and someone else’s “tradition” is that one can be saved by his own works, then that (they think) is okay. This talk of “traditions” turns Jesus into a fool. They are saying that Jesus died for nothing, since various “traditions” make his sacrifice nothing but an example and not the act of salvation at all. If their teaching (tradition) is correct, then all of God’s word is wrong. The sacrifices of the Old Testament, the priesthood, the teaching of Moses and the prophets, must not have pointed to Christ’s atoning work (they claim), but all of it was only, what? A backward tradition that pointed to nothing at all?
Other attacks on the doctrine of Justification include the outrageous belief that salvation is merely possible, not fully accomplished through Christ. This is Arminianism, which also treats prayer as a means of grace, and robs the Christian of the certainty of salvation.
There is also the belief that man, by his own works, can merit salvation. Besides being the core belief of all non-Christians, this is also the belief of Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism. Pelagianism is the belief of the lodges and of the Boy Scouts and denies original sin. Semi-Pelagian teaching (the modern teaching of the Catholic Church) condemns anyone who teaches that man is passive and receives salvation without any merit, a reference to Lutheran doctrine, while also condemning certain Bible verses such as Ephesians 2:8-9.
Finally, there is the teaching of Calvinism (today found mainly in Dutch-Reformed churches) that if a man goes to heaven, he was predestined for it, but that if he goes to hell, God must have predestined him for damnation. This doctrine of double predestination stands opposed to Scripture: “God our Savior wants all men to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:3), which would hardly be true if he had already predestined some to be damned.
Peter’s point: You have received and you keep on receiving the goal of your faith: the salvation of your soul. You are saved because Christ’s blood, shed on the cross, atoned for your sins, once for all (Romans 6:10; 1 Peter 3:18). This is our eternal redemption (Hebrews 9:12).
Because the devil was eternally condemned for his rebellion, he rages with indescribable fury that God is gracious to man. He will do anything to overturn that grace, even attacking the Lord’s promise of forgiveness with human doubts, human errors, and flawed human attempts at logic. But your salvation is certain as you put your trust in Christ. Your faith is the instrument that receives God’s holy grace. You are saved. You are safe. You can be certain of it.
Pastor Timothy Smith