Scripture is primarily taken from the CSB translation, with careful consideration and study given also to the KJV, NASB and NKJV.
The below commentary is not meant to replace your own reading of the Scriptures, nor to act as an alternative to seeking the Holy Spirit directly for an understanding. It is simply an encouragement meant to supplement. I pray it leads you deeper into the vast wisdom of God and that it helps you to apply that wisdom to your life in a transformational way.
1 Peter 1
“To those chosen, living as exiles dispersed abroad in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient and to be sprinkled with the blood of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:1-2
First, to the chosen. And elaborated on in verse two; chosen to be obedient, chosen to be sprinkled with the blood. And perhaps most importantly, chosen according to the foreknowledge of God. This choosing then must fully humble us in both how it is initiated and in the ways it is carried out. Certainly, again, we see this is a covenant of grace, not merit. And this covenant is incredibly powerful and everlasting, deemed to be an inheritance that is, “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.” These blessings not stored where moths and rust might destroy, but kept in heaven.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. You are being guarded by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1:3-5
Then we have these personal pronouns which we are apt to pass by quickly, with little notice, “kept for you,” and, “you are being guarded by God’s power.” Let us never forget this is a personal God we serve and this relational aspect of His nature is found intermingled throughout the whole of 1 Peter. I draw your attention to it now so that you will be on the lookout as we go further in our reading. The culmination, of course, will be the glorious promise offered in the final chapter of the book, “The God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, establish, strengthen and support you.” This approach from the Creator of the universe is so personal as to be nearly unfathomable. Yet, we must read this and hold it dear in our hearts as another example of His “love that surpasses knowledge.” Even now, before we move on, let us reflect on this love, poured out on us.
Some are tempted to stop here, claiming the promises of the chosen, basking in such personal love, and ever reading these passages through the lens of "me, me, me.” However, if we have accurately reflected above, our spirit will have born witness to the fact that this truth is revealed, not to bask in me, but to bask in Him. All power, all glory, all mercy, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“Because of his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
Now, before we move past the third verse we must call attention to two phrases, as they will be very useful moving forward: new birth and living hope. This new birth is of course an integral part, promise and requirement of the covenant of grace, “Unless a man is born again,” and, “born of water and the Spirit,” “he cannot see the kingdom of God.” The new birth comes joined together with a new heart, new mind and new Spirit, no longer hostile to God but obedient (as we saw in verse two). Able to be obedient because it has been sprinkled with the blood, not of bulls or goats, but the blood of Jesus Christ. A blood, and the only blood, possible of complete cleansing, forgiveness and redemption. This is why He is called the great high priest and the better sacrifice, “able to save completely those who come to God through Him.” This is also why Christ’s command to His disciples, and we see this echoed in Peter’s famous Acts 2 sermon as well, contains this phrase, “repentance and remission of sins should be preached.” We must not forget this word remission. It is quite possible to be one who holds to repentance but knows nothing of this idea of remission. Being of this sort will lead either to a place of continual woe or to a position of judging after the flesh and human standards, rather than judging by what is true, just and righteous. If we know not remission of sins, along with repentance, we will not understand how to judge rightly.
Next, living hope. Now the adjective “living” is of supreme interest here. Some have hope, we have living hope. The understanding of the contrast between the two is better explained to us in verses 18-19.
“For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ.”
And we might insert our previous description here as well, from verse four, “into an inheritance that is imperishable.” So we have one way of life that promises the hope of perishable items, given to us according to our bloodline. In contrast, another way of life, promising the living hope of an inheritance that cannot fade, for it is kept for us in heaven. At face value then the choice seems quite easy - imperishable over perishable. Yet, looking closer, we see three difficulties that stand in the way.
“Though you have not seen him, you love him; though not seeing him now, you believe in him, and you rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy.”
First, we live on earth, where the perishable things are what we can see, touch and taste, while the imperishable are “not seen.” This raises a serious difficulty, as Peter describes, “Though you have not seen Him…though not seeing Him now.” We cannot see Him.
“…set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
This difficulty becomes even harder though, for living hope does not mix well with others. It is not a hope designed to be held in one hand while we hold a backup hope in the other. Instead, “set your hope completely,” is the command. Followed by a more serious instruction, “Be holy, because I am holy.” And lest we quickly try to justify the holy nature of a perishable inheritance, Peter is quick to point out that we were redeemed from, “an empty way of life.” Have you ever known something most holy to be empty? Especially when we examine the meaning of the word more closely - empty, futile, vain, profitless. There is no way then that our conscience would allow us to hold onto such an empty thing and consider it to be holy as He is holy.
This inability to mix well with others we know from the Gospel teachings as well. To truly follow Christ must be a total cleaving from the things of the world - relationships, ambitions, possessions, a love for the world, and so forth. Again I say, this living hope does not mix well with others.
So far, we’ve heard of two difficulties that get in the way of a seemingly easy choice - we cannot see Him who promises and we must let go of everything else in order to partake of His inheritance. A final challenge gets laid upon our situation. Peter seems unconcerned to gloss over the less glamorous parts of this life in Christ, instead, he heaps shovel and shovel of weighty considerations upon his readers, we included.
“even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials…”
In other translations, we can further understand this word grief to mean heaviness, sorrow and distress. Yet, there is a reason for all of this, Peter continues.
“…so that the proven character of your faith—more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
It is not, as some would say, meaningless. It’s not suffering for the sake of suffering, nor is it happenstance, the type of thing we experience simply because we all experience it. To take up this living hope will, he warns, most likely result in grief, heaviness and distress, but it is for our very specific benefit, “the proven character of our faith.” This proving can be understood simply to mean a revealing of the truth - whether our faith is real or false. Peter’s caution tells us something significant then, that it is possible to be one who believes themselves to have taken hold of faith, yet for this faith to be untrue. Let us consider this more closely.
If our faith be revealed as false, it will happen in either one of two places. First, as a person goes through times of grief, heaviness and distress - some will have their faith proven, others will fall away, not enduring until the end. This is a sad matter indeed, and one that surely causes additional sorrow to those holding fast to the faith, watching those who once walked with us abandon their faith. Yet this sorrow pales in comparison to the thought of the second, a revealing of false faith, “at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” This, of course, referring to the second coming of Christ and the judgment seat of Christ, when all men will give an account for the deeds done in the body. We know a few things about that day. One, it is inescapable. All will give their account. Two, some will be eternally sentenced to death, wailing and gnashing of teeth, while some will be granted eternal life with Christ, dwelling again with God. Third, some will be ashamed at His second appearing, while others will experience, “praise, glory and honor.” And of this group in shame, there will be a subset who I call both shamed and confused, for they are those who thought themselves possessing the living hope, yet He will say to them on that day, “Depart from Me, I never knew you.” Peter gives us these two times then when our faith can be proven untrue, one much more tragic than the other, and this I believe is why Peter pulls no punches in his detailing of the difficulties of the Christian life.
“You are being guarded by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time….and you rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
At this point, perhaps you are overwhelmed by these difficulties, who could possibly come? We have found the correct posture then, the one in which I believe Peter intended us to take. It points us back to where we started - a chosen people, chosen by God Himself, kept by God Himself, through an everlasting covenant born not of merit but grace, and into an inheritance imperishable. Our ability to choose the living hope is made possible only because He first chose us and chose for us to be obedient. This speaks to the new birth, the one that comes with a new heart, new mind and new Spirit. The new birth makes the choice of living hope possible and the vision of, “a salvation to be revealed” and “the receiving of the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls,” is the vision we lift our eyes to the hills to see, the one that gives us the strength to press on and the energy to persevere.
Stephen gives us one of the clearest and most compelling depictions of this type of vision, in Acts 7, “Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven. He saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” The careful reader will pick up on one word there above the others - saw. He saw.
“…angels long to catch a glimpse of these things.”