The Pinnacle of Grace
Passage: 1 Peter 1:10-12
Jesus said that the primary purpose of the Lord’s Supper was to remind believers of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Our next passage in 1 Peter complements the Lord’s Supper because it reflects on the historical significance of Jesus’ death and the salvation he provided. It’s not as simple to follow or immediately applicable as the passage we studied last week, but it is rich and encouraging if you do the work to understand it (Read).
One very helpful tool for interpreting Scripture is to observe patterns in how different authors write and particularly how they construct their arguments. This is an important part of interpretation because you aren’t done interpreting words, phrases, sentences, and even whole paragraphs until you understand how they fit into the broader argument of the book. Most bad interpretations are the result of not reading a verse in context. It’s why people will take the promise, “I can do all things through Christ” (Phil 4:13), and apply it to mean that God will enable them to pick up cars, defeat a superior opponent, or get a job they aren’t qualified for. We must understand Scripture in context. But as I mentioned, different authors develop context differently. Probably the biggest differences are between Paul and John. Paul thought and wrote pretty much in an outline format. Romans, for example, has clearly defined units that each have a theme. Each unit is developed in a clear pattern. In contrast, 1 John has major themes, but John circles back to those themes over and over rather than dealing with them in succession. Peter writes more like Paul than John, but he also has his patterns, and one of these is that Peter often links ideas like a chain. In other words, he will pick up a minor theme in a particular section and expand on that idea in the next. Each section is linked to the previous section by expanding on something in the previous section. We see this in the opening paragraph. Verses 3–5 describe our inheritance, and vv. 6–9 expand on the joy of the readers in this inheritance. Verse 9 concludes the section by mentioning salvation, and in vv. 10–12, expands on the significance of salvation. And so, vv. 10–12 add another link to the chain of vv. 3–12 by reflecting on the significance of the salvation Jesus provided through his death. Now, if you’ve spent much time at all in gospel-preaching churches, you know that salvation is important. But Peter takes a unique route in establishing the significance of salvation. He establishes the significance of salvation from a historical point of view. In so doing, he provides a unique perspective on the significance of the gospel and a unique reason for us to rejoice that we probably don’t consider often.
Peter establishes the historical significance of salvation through a three-part argument. Notice first of all that…
The prophets recognized the significance of the gospel and searched to know more (vv. 10–11).
Peter was a Jew, and he grew up studying the OT. This perspective shaped how he thought. In vv. 10–11, Peter goes back in time to the days before the gospel, as we know it was fully revealed, to the days of the OT prophets. The prophets played a significant role in Israel’s religion. They were God’s mouthpieces to Israel, especially in times of spiritual darkness. Much of the time, God used them as preachers to confront Israel’s sin and to call them to repentance. But God also frequently gave them predictive prophecies that looked toward the future. Many of these prophecies were centered on the coming Messiah. God promised Israel that someday he would send them a deliverer who would accomplish a wide-range of works. He would bring military victory. He would defeat Israel’s enemies and establish a great kingdom in Israel.
But even more significantly, he would bring spiritual deliverance, and Peter picks up on this fact, and he makes several references to the fact that…
God revealed a great salvation was coming.
Salvation: Remember that vv. 10–12 pick up on the salvation mentioned at the end of v. 9. Peter proceeds in v. 10 to note that the prophets foresaw this coming salvation. Peter elaborates on what this salvation is with the phrase “grace that would come to you.” God revealed to some of the prophets that one day he would bring about a gracious salvation that was in some sense different from what Israel experienced. One of the clearest statements of this coming salvation is found in Ezekiel 36:24–27. When you read this section, it’s hard to deny that it is directed toward national Israel, since it mentions gathering them from the nations into the Promised Land, and Romans 11 states that God will ultimately fulfill this promise for national Israel in the last days. Ezekiel describes a great salvation that would come to Israel. Verse 25 talks about washing, and v. 26 talks about a new heart, and v. 27 talks about the new gift of the Spirit. Ezekiel describes an incredible national revival where hearts will be transformed.
Argumentation: Before we go on, you might be wondering if I am saying that salvation wasn’t available in the OT. I am not. Romans 4 states that Abraham was justified by his faith, and that David was forgiven of his sins. Paul’s point is that they were saved by faith, not by works and that salvation has always been by faith. But Ezekiel 36 promises something new when it says that God will give the indwelling Spirit and transform hearts. God promised to provide an enablement for godliness that Israel didn’t possess. Returning to our text, the prophets saw a great salvation was coming.
Verse 11 adds another description to what they saw.
Suffering and Glory of Christ: It notes that this revelation came by the “Spirit of Christ.” This is a reference to the Holy Spirit. Peter calls him the “Spirit of Christ” because one of his primary ministries in the OT was to reveal information regarding the coming Messiah. Peter notes that he revealed to the prophets the “sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.” Israel tended to ignore the prophecies about suffering and only focus on the ones about glory. That’s why in Jesus’ day, the disciples and especially the religious elite struggled with a suffering Messiah. But the prophets clearly foresaw a Messiah who would provide salvation through his suffering (Isa 53). As we read, notice all of the references to Messiah’s substitutionary suffering or to the fact that he would suffer for our sin. Over 700 years before Christ came Isaiah foresaw his substitutionary death. But the prophets also foresaw Christ’s glory. Notice that “glories” is in the plural. Peter seems to have in mind the various stages in Christ’s glorification. Christ’s glory was first demonstrated by his resurrection from the dead. He received further glory when he ascended to the right hand of the Father, and he will receive ultimate glory when he returns in glory to establish his kingdom. The Spirit also revealed Messiah’s glory and righteous kingdom to Isaiah (Isa 9:6–7; 11:1–10).
The prophets saw that a great salvation was coming through the Messiah who would suffer and then be glorified. The implication of vv. 10–11 is that they understood that this salvation would be the climax of history.
Because it was so significant, Peter notes that…
The prophets searched to know more.
Verses 10–11 describe the prophets as very curious to learn about the great salvation that was coming. They responded like we do to teasers on the news. The newscaster says, “After this break, find out about a boy who saved a community.” It sounds interesting, and so you sit through the commercials so you can hear the story. The prophets knew enough to know something great was coming, and so v. 10 states that they “inquired and searched carefully.” There is no significant difference in meaning between these terms. They are both intensive, and together they describe the prophets as conducting an eager search in an effort to learn as much as possible about this coming salvation. Verse 11 specifies what they were trying to learn. It states they were “searching what or what manner of time.” Scholars differ over what this phrase means. Some believe the idea is “person or time.” According to this view, the prophets wanted to know the identity of the one who would bring salvation and when he would come. Others translate the phrase as “time and circumstance,” and they believe the prophets’ focus was on determining when Messiah would come and the circumstances surrounding his coming. The difference in meaning isn’t huge, but I prefer the translation “time and circumstance” because the prophets knew the person was Messiah. But they wanted to know when these things were going to happen, and so they studied their own prophecies, and the prophecies of those who came before them. For example, Daniel 9 describes how Daniel studied the prophecies of Jeremiah in an effort to know Israel’s future. In chapter 12, he asks Michael the archangel for more information about what was to come, but Michal replied, “Go your way Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.”
Peter’s point in noting the prophets’ efforts to understand more about the coming salvation is to highlight the historical significance of salvation. The prophets recognized that God was going to do something great, and they longed to know more, and ultimately, they longed for see this salvation in their day.
The prophets recognized the significance of the gospel and searched to know more. Verse 12 then notes the second stage of Peter’s argument.
God revealed that the gospel is for us (v. 12).
The OT prophecies looked forward to our time. Verse 12 gives God’s answer to the prophets. He revealed to them that they were not ultimately ministering to themselves but to us. This does not mean that their prophecies had no benefit to them or their contemporaries because they did. These prophecies assured Israel that God hadn’t abandoned them, and they gave hope. Rather, Peter’s point is that we are the ultimate beneficiaries of their prophetic ministry. This great salvation that the prophets longed for and looked into has ultimately been made available to us. The Messiah has come. Jesus is the one the prophets longed for, and he has fulfilled numerous OT prophecies about himself. And most significantly, he has made available the great salvation that was prophesied in the OT. The gospel that we have received is the great gift which the prophets anticipated for hundreds and even thousands of years. Because the gospel is the fulfillment of these prophecies, Peter links the ministry of the prophets to those who now proclaim the gospel. The link is the Holy Spirit. Verse 11 notes that the Holy Spirit is the one who revealed this coming salvation to the OT prophets, and v. 12 notes that the same Spirit, who Peter states was “sent from heaven,” stands behind those who continue to proclaim the gospel. We must not miss the weight of what Peter is saying. God has sent the Spirit into the world to protect the authenticity of the gospel message and to empower its messengers. And Peter’s ultimate point to his readers is that those who brought them the gospel were not merely human messengers. They were fulfilling a ministry in the power of God that was continuous with the ministry of the OT prophets. For us, that means that when the gospel is truly preached, we are receiving a message that is just as much from God as the messages that Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel delivered on God’s behalf.
What is the point of this? Peter’s point in v. 12 is…
Our salvation in Christ is the pinnacle of God’s revelation. Today we celebrated the Lord’s Supper. We looked back on God’s greatest revelation. God sent his Son into the world, and he died for our sin, and he rose in victory. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus provided forgiveness, righteousness, new life, and eternal hope. Peter’s point is that the revelation of Christ and the salvation he provided are the very thing that human history has been building toward since Adam and Eve sinned in the garden. If you know Christ, you possess the gift that Adam, Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel all hoped for. God has given us a great salvation, and we must rejoice in this great gift. Jesus made this point himself when he said in Matthew 13:16–17, “But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”
Peter then concludes the text with the third and final stage to his argument.
The gospel is so great that the angels long to understand it (v. 12).
Angels are, of course, very significant beings. They have existed since creation, they are perfect in holiness, and many of them are very powerful. But they take a backseat to the elect within God’s redemptive purpose. Hebrews 2 teaches that for the time being, we exist at a level lower than the angels, but God’s ultimate purpose is to exalt his people above the angels and to make us rule alongside Christ in his kingdom (Heb 2:6–8). For this to happen, Christ had to do something for us that he has not done for the angels (Heb 2:9, 16). Christ became one of us, and he provided an incredible redemption. Returning to our text, Peter states that the angels long to understand these things. Peter pictures them as very hungry to understand. The word translated “desire” implies strong passion, and the word translated “look into” means to “to stoop over to look.” Peter pictures the angels as up in heaven peering down, longing to grasp what we have been given.
Application: Peter’s point is that we have been given a salvation that God hasn’t even provided for the angels. We are identified with Christ in a way they have never experienced but they long to understand. God has given us a great salvation.
What should we take away from this text? I’d summarize it by saying, “salvation is the greatest privilege man can receive.”
To the Saved: If you know Christ as Savior, I want to urge you to appreciate the gift you have been given and to thank God for it. We are the recipients of a great treasure. If you know Christ, you are rich regardless of what else is happening in your life. Cling to this gift.
To the Lost: It might be that someone here has never truly been saved. You have heard a lot today about the gospel through our singing, the Lord’s Supper, and this text. Maybe you are wondering why Jesus’ death is so significant to us. The reason is that all of us are sinners. We have rebelled against God, and we deserve his eternal wrath. Because God is just, he cannot ignore our sin, and because he is holy, we can never reach him on our own. On our own, all of us are hopelessly condemned to judgment. But Jesus provided salvation through his death. He took on himself my judgment so that I could receive his righteousness. The reason we focus so much on the gospel is because it is our life; it is our salvation. If you put your faith in Christ, you can also receive this great gift. I pray that you will do that today.
If the ushers will come forward, we will collect our benevolence offering in a moment. While we do so, we will sing the first and last verse of #111 “And Can It Be.” Let’s rejoice in our salvation. If you need to accept Christ or if you have some other spiritual need, I hope you will find Pastor Kris or me after the service. You can also talk with one of the ushers, and they can direct you to find help.