Passage: 1 Peter 1:6-9
I mentioned last week that 1 Peter 1:3–12 is one long sentence in the Greek. I’d like to begin by reading this section. I hope you will follow along attentively, and I’d like you to look for one outstanding quality that characterizes these verses. (Read 1 Peter 1:3–12). What quality stands out to you about this text? There are a few legitimate options. The central concept is the greatness of our salvation. We have an incredible treasure, and Peter opens this book with a powerful statement of its glory. But this text also has a definite mood doesn’t it. It is not simply a theological declaration; this passage is filled with joy. Hopefully you recall, that the introduction to v. 3 governs the entire text. Peter opens by saying, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Peter calls on his readers to join him in praising God for the greatness of salvation, and vv. 6–9 note that his readers shared his joy. Peter had heard that they “greatly rejoiced” according to v. 6 and that they were “rejoice(ing) with joy inexpressible and full of glory” according to v. 8. Therefore, this section is an expression of joy from one happy recipient of God’s grace to a network of churches that were also happy recipients of God’s grace. That’s great, but it isn’t all that uncommon. I mentioned last Sunday my love for the Cubs. If the Cubs ever win the World Series, I probably will share some happy moments with other Cubs fans. It’s normal for us to share joy with others who are happy about the same thing, and salvation is certainly worth sharing joy over. But there’s also something very unnatural or striking about this text. That is, the very thing that was causing such joy for Peter and his readers was also causing Peter’s readers to suffer. Peter acknowledges this in v. 6 when he states they were facing “various trials.” Chapter 4:12 states that they were enduring a “fiery trial.” They were enduring hostility for their faith. They were outcasts in their culture and probably some were outcasts from their families. Some of them had probably lost their jobs, and some had maybe even endured physical persecution or even imprisonment. But despite all of this, they had joy. How is this possible, and how can we experience the same kind of joy when things are going well, let alone when things are going poorly? This morning, I’d like to consider vv. 6–9, where Peter considers his readers’ ability to have joy in spite of difficulty.
These verses naturally divide into two sections, which consider two hindrances to joy that the gospel enables Christians to overcome. The first hindrance is…
The Hindrance of Suffering (vv. 6–7):
The way Peter constructs v. 6 has always been incredibly encouraging and challenging to me.
Statement of Joy: Verse 6 begins with a very positive and hopeful statement, “In this you greatly rejoice.” The pronoun “this” refers to the entirety of vv. 3–5. Last week, we saw from these verses that God has blessed Christians with an incredible inheritance that is reserved by the power of God. Peter’s audience responded to this promised inheritance with great joy. This verb pictures an intense joy, not merely a token expression. And this kind of intense joy was the normal experience of his readers. The literal idea is “you are greatly rejoicing.” Now, I think it’s important to note what Peter is not saying because this statement can almost seem out of touch with reality. Were these Christians skipping around singing while ignoring the challenges of life? Absolutely not, later in the verse Peter says they were being “grieved by various trials.” They felt the pain of their trials. Christian joy isn’t a denial of suffering; rather it is a deep rooted peace in God and a gladness over what he has for us in the future. But while this joy doesn’t ignore pain, it is still a “great rejoice(ing).” This is because no matter what happens in life, we have a great inheritance that outshines any challenge we may face. The remainder of the verse demonstrates this fact.
Grieved by Various Trials: As I already noted, this great joy was in spite of the fact that the readers were “grieved by various trials.” We must not minimize the significance of their suffering. This verb describes significant internal pain over the various trials the readers were enduring. They weren’t just being afflicted in one particular way; they were experiencing “various trials” that were pressing on them from different directions. And these weren’t minor challenges. They were facing real grief.
But they still had great joy. In fact, v. 6 has a sort of dismissive tone in regard to their suffering.
Suffering is temporary. We see that in the phrase “for a little while.” Peter says that you “greatly rejoice” though “for a little while” you have to suffer. Now, it’s important that we read this phrase correctly. A “little while” does not mean a week or a month. Peter never indicates that their hardship would end soon; therefore, the little while may include their entire lives on earth. This may sound like a long time, but not when compared to our eternal inheritance. In comparison to eternity anything we may face in this life is only for a little while. And so the emphasis in v. 6 is on GREAT JOY despite temporary trials. This fact ought to be incredibly encouraging because no matter how dark life may seem, Christians always have reason for joy. We always have a hope that far exceeds any suffering we face. We have a hope that gives purpose no matter how discouraging or empty everything else in life may seem. I want to challenge you to cling to this hope at all times. Christians never have reason to be depressed or to despair. No matter what direction your life may take, you have a hope this world can never touch. It’s true that life can really hurt. But a Christian can have joy at all times because no matter how bad life may be, we have an eternal inheritance awaiting us which far exceeds any difficulty we may face. The key is perspective. Will you live your life focused on what you have or don’t have right now, or will you focus on your eternal inheritance and see the world from this perspective? The other key is God’s grace. Galatians 5:22 says that joy is a fruit of the Spirit’s work. God’s grace produces joy. Rejoice today in what is ahead, and by the grace of God seek joy in your Savior.
But not only can we have joy in difficulty because God has something better for us in eternity, God also teaches that suffering is never random; rather, he is accomplishing his purpose through it.
Suffering contributes to glory. The fact that God has a purpose in trials is first evident through a little phrase in v. 6 that we can easily skip over, “if need be” or “if necessary.” This phrase indicates an important assumption by Peter. Suffering isn’t random or merely the product of chance. When a Christian gets a rare form of cancer, or they have a child with a rare genetic disorder, it isn’t merely the result of statistical probabilities. It is because God knew it was necessary. Verse 7 explains why. It does so by comparing and contrasting faith that is tested by suffering with gold that is refined by fire. Throughout human history, gold has generally been considered the most precious and enduring symbol of wealth. Gold is rare, beautiful, and very durable. But when gold is first mined, it is typically intermingled with other metals or minerals. One method for purifying gold is to heat it to a very high temperature, which then separates the gold from the other substances and leaves behind a purer gold. Peter states that suffering has a similar purpose in the life of a Christian. In context, Peter is specifically thinking of suffering which results from our faith—persecution, though other forms of suffering can have a similar effect. Suffering can certainly feel like being in a hot furnace. It’s not comfortable or relaxing. It’s hard. Because of that, when we suffer, we are always motivated to get out of it. We don’t naturally want to be in the furnace. But while suffering can be excruciatingly painful, God uses it to do something very valuable in his children. God uses suffering to remove impurities from our lives. Sometimes, we get too comfortable in this world, and we need difficulty to help us see our dependence on God. Sometimes, we fall in love with sin, and God rips our comforts away to show us that eternity is all that matters. Sometimes we have weak character, and God allows us to suffer so that we are made strong and able to endure the greater challenges ahead. Through these difficulties, God refines our faith. Trials produce a stronger, purified faith. They also reveal the genuineness of our faith. When we endure, it demonstrates that God’s grace is truly alive and active in our hearts. They demonstrate that we are truly God’s people. As a result, Peter states that when we endure, we can look forward to “praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Someday all Christians will stand before God at the judgment seat of Christ, and we will receive praise from God himself for how we endured. We will be honored in that we will receive positions of honor and will rule and reign alongside Christ in his kingdom. Finally, we will receive glory. We will share in the glory of Christ because we will be made like him. These blessings won’t last for a week or a year or 100 years. They will last for all eternity. Because of that, Peter states that genuine faith that has been tested by suffering is “much more precious than gold that perishes.” This may be a surprising statement because we consider gold to be the most enduring form of wealth you can possess. When the economy is struggling, people invest in gold because if the economy crashed, your dollars may not be worth anything, but gold is thought to last indefinitely. But the Bible is clear that nothing in this world is eternal. It is all going to burn. In light of eternity, all of the gold and everything we could gain in this world cannot compare to the praise, honor, and glory that awaits God’s people in heaven.
Application: Verses 6–7 teach that Christian joy overcomes suffering. We can rejoice greatly even in the face of tremendous opposition because we have a great inheritance awaiting us and because trials only contribute to the glory we will receive. It might be that following Christ is costing you in some difficult way. Maybe your family is rejecting you, or maybe you are mocked at work or at school. Maybe doing the right thing will cost you money. I want to urge you to endure because eternity is worth it. It is not possible to give more to God than he will give in return. Maybe you are enduring some other trial, and you just want out of the furnace. I want to urge you to look past your present pain and to see the eternal good that God is doing in you. Your pain isn’t random or meaningless. You don’t need to despair; you have hope in God. Embrace God’s purpose and press forward with faith and hope. Praise the Lord that we can have joy in the face of any trial.
The second hindrances to joy that the gospel enables Christians to overcome is…
The Hindrance of Lack of Sight (vv. 8–9):
As with vv. 6–7, the central idea of vv. 8–9 is expressed in the verb “rejoice.” Verses 8–9 are again filled with hope and joy, but as well like vv. 6–7, this joy persists despite a great challenge. They cannot see the source of their joy. How can they have joy in someone they have never seen?
Relationship to Christ: Verse 8 picks up on the final phrase of v. 7. The great hope of every Christian is “the revelation of Jesus Christ.” There will be many wonderful aspect of heaven, but the best part will be the presence and glory of Christ. We will be united with our Savior and enjoy his glory. Again, this hope drives our lives as Christians, but v. 8 notes a significant hindrance to this anticipation. Peter’s readers and all of us in this room have never seen Jesus. This fact probably especially affected Peter because he had seen Jesus. He spent three years living with Christ, watching his life, observing his miracles, and listening to him teach. Peter seems to be acknowledging that faith was a bit easier for him than for those of us who have never seen Christ. Peter understood that his readers were staking their lives on someone they had never met. That’s what we do as Christians. It’s pretty incredible for me to imagine how different my life would be if it were not for my faith. I’d probably be farming in Illinois. Your life would be very different also. Peter’s original audience would not have been undergoing persecution. But despite the fact that they had never seen Jesus, Peter notes that they loved him. The fact that they had never visibly looked upon Jesus’ face didn’t stop them from making Jesus the passion of their lives. Peter takes the idea to another level with the next statement. Again, we can’t see Christ visibly right now, but we can see him and see the inheritance he has awaiting us by faith.
Christian Joy: And because of this faith, Peter’s readers could “rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.” The verb for “rejoice” is the same verb Peter used in v. 6, and again, it describes an intense joy, which Peter says is “inexpressible.” The idea is that a Christian’s joy in Christ is beyond human expression. We can’t possibly put into words the joy we possess. Christian joy is something the world just can’t understand no matter how we may try to explain it. I can imagine some of the conversations Peter’s readers may have had with unsaved family. Maybe a dad comes to his Christian son who just lost his job because of his faith, and dad is concerned that his son may be in despair, and he is certain that his son will be ready to turn back from his new faith. But as the father talks to his son, he sees that his son is grieved by his situation and is concerned for how he will provide for his family, but oddly enough, he has an incredible peace and joy. He’s not anxious at all. And even more surprising, he is excited to go to church and to pray with his church family. Dad asks why he would go back to church when his faith is the very reason for his hardship. The son does his best to explain that he may have lost his job but eternity awaits him and gives him hope and joy that cannot be shaken. Dad just doesn’t get it and walks away. Christian joy is inexpressible in the sense that it is beyond the natural man. And not only that, it is “full of glory.” The idea is that God has packed it with glory. Have you ever gone on a trip with someone who way over packs? You are going on an overnight trip, and somehow, they have managed to stuff a suitcase full of stuff for just one night. The idea in v. 8 is that God has stuffed a suitcase full of glory. He has a great inheritance waiting for us.
End of Your Faith: But this inheritance is not just for the future. Verse 9 states that even now, believers are receiving “the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.” The word translated “end” has the idea here of “goal” or end result. The idea is that God’s ultimate purpose toward which he is moving our faith is toward salvation. As I mentioned last week, salvation is often used in the NT to refer to the day we will receive our full inheritance as God’s children. Someday, we will be made perfect, we will enjoy perfect fellowship with God, and we will enjoy all of the blessings of heaven. But Peter says that we are even now receiving this great inheritance. God is changing us into the image of his Son, he is sustaining our faith, as we saw last week, and the hope of our inheritance gives strength and motivation for each day. We enjoy a taste of our inheritance every day as God gives us grace to believe his Word, to grow in holiness, and to rest in his care. And so our faith isn’t just based in a promise; it is based in the clear evidence of God’s grace at work in our lives. Peter’s readers could see that grace at work in them. They were experiencing a piece of the glory even as they waited for their full inheritance. And because of that, they had great joy.
Summary/Application: And so vv. 7–8 note that Christians face a significant challenge to our joy. We have never seen our Savior. But we can still have great joy because we have already begun to experience the fruit of our inheritance. Based on v. 5, I would also add because God sustains our faith. He protects our faith through the many challenges that arise. Therefore, we can have a joy which is inexpressible or beyond the comprehension of unbelievers.
What a powerful text of Scripture! Christians can always rejoice when we keep trials in perspective and when by faith we see coming our salvation. I’d like to conclude with five summary points of application.
First, we have talked all morning about the joy Christians can have at all times, but it might be that some people here are not truly Christians, and you do not possess this joy. If that’s you, then I want to urge you to…
Receive Christ. Verse 9 mentions the fact that God provided salvation for his people. Salvation from what? The Bible teaches that all of us are sinners and that we deserve the judgment of God because of our sin. They also teach that there is nothing we can do to save ourselves. Acts 4 records a conversation our author Peter had with the most religious people in Israel, the Sanhedrin. He told them “There is no salvation in any other name under heaven” other than the name of Christ. You cannot save yourself, but Acts 16:31 says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” All you have to do to receive salvation is to turn to Christ. Repent of your sin and believe on Christ. If you’d like to do that, I hope you will talk to me after the service today.
See suffering in light of eternity. Some of you are even now facing tremendous hardship. There’s no way around the fact that life can be incredibly difficult. Sometimes when we face hardship, it can completely consume our lives. Peter doesn’t promise us any magic pill to make our difficulties disappear, but he does say that if we view our difficulties in light of eternity, it radically alters our perspective. As we make sacrifices for Christ and suffer other hardships, we must not forget that these things are temporary but eternity is forever. We have an eternal inheritance awaiting us that far outweighs any difficulty we may endure. Because of that, we can have joy no matter what comes. Cling to that hope.
Embrace God’s sanctifying work. As we face trials, not only do they consume our lives; we also often respond by looking for any out possible. We just want it to go away. But we need to recognize that that the heat of the furnace is sometimes the best thing for us, that God uses trials to bring us a step closer to our full inheritance. Rather than just looking for a way out, consider what God is trying to accomplish through your difficulty. Embrace the lessons he is teaching you, and pursue godliness, not ease.
Live with unbreakable joy. Praise the Lord that as Christians we never have reason to despair. Our lives are not random or meaninglessness because God is working his purpose in each part. As well, we always have hope because eternity awaits us. Live with joy. See your inheritance clearly. Believe the promises of God. Rejoice with inexpressible joy.