Second Sunday of Easter (April 23, 2017)
1 Peter 1:3-9 | New Living Translation (NLT)
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.
So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.
You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.
The Salvation of Your Souls
In the early church, each Sunday was in effect a mini resurrection celebration. Over the next few weeks, the New Testament Epistle Lectionary texts take us to the 1st letter of Peter. It also happens that I have chosen these texts for my preaching during the Easter season this year.
As we think about salvation and the work of God in our lives, we often focus on the cross and the saving work that happens because of the cross. As we look at this passage today, we see that Peter writes, “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead.” If we look at Paul’s words in Romans we hear something very similar. Paul writes, “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” We see that the resurrection – the fact the Jesus rose from the dead – plays a big part in the work of salvation. It is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead that allows us to live in eager expectation. This resurrection gives us hope of eternal life. Peter writes that because Jesus was raised from the dead, we have the hope of an eternal inheritance. Because Christ is risen from the dead, we can live with great expectation.
When we think of inheritances, we think of relatives of ours who die before we do. I’m sure most of you have seen the bumper sticker that says, “I’m spending my children’s inheritance.” Some of us will receive a great inheritance and some will receive little, if any inheritance – at least as it applies to this life.
But those who hope in Christ – those who hope in his resurrection – we have an inheritance that goes beyond the grave. It is an inheritance that awaits us in heaven. I love the fact that it says that this inheritance that we receive from Jesus is pure and undefiled – more important it is beyond the reach of change or decay. We have several antiques that we have inherited over the years. Sometimes those antiques – have to be kept in places where they don’t decay – think of special clothes or newspaper clippings or similar pieces. The great, amazing news is that the inheritance that Jesus gives us (if we hope in him and place our trust in him) will never, never, never, never, never decay…it will never, never, never, never change. It awaits in heaven for those who place their trust in Jesus. This is the hope of the resurrection – this is the hope of eternal life.
Peter goes on to say that if you have faith in Christ, that faith is protecting you by God’s power…until you receive it on the last day when it is revealed. We don’t have to worry when we encounter various trials. Because we are told that those trials only serve to strengthen our faith. We often think of trials and testing as a bad thing, but we are reminded that when our faith is tested – when we go through various trials, it is like what happens when gold is refined by the fire – the impurities are taken out – they rise to the top and are scooped out. We often think of gold as being one of the most precious metals (certainly one of the more expensive metals) that we have on this earth. Peter reminds us that our faith is more precious than gold. How does that make you feel? Gold is the most valuable thing here on earth – and yet our faith is more precious to God than gold. That is amazing.
We don’t like to go through trials – as humans we don’t like to be uncomfortable and yet listen to these words from Peter: “So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” How cool is that?
We have an eternal hope. In the Gospel of John we have the story of Thomas. You may remember that Thomas was not with the disciples on the Sunday evening when Jesus rose from the dead. The other disciples told Thomas that they had seen Jesus. Thomas was unconvinced. He said “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.” Eight days later the disciples were together once again – this time Thomas was with them when Jesus appeared to them. He spoke to Thomas: “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”
“My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.
Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”
In the next paragraph John writes that the Gospels were written so that we may believe. The Gospels were a first hand account of the life of Jesus. Peter writes to us who lived after Jesus walked on this earth. He tells us:
“You love him even though you have never seen him. Though, you do not see hem now, you trust him: and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.”
I would encourage you to check out this Jesus, because Jesus is alive we have a wonderful inheritance – it is the salvation of our souls.