The Demonstration of Godís Great Power in Salvation
(1 Peter 1:3-5)
Did you ever get so excited about something that everyone had to know? You called everyone on the phone or gathered everyone in the household together and told them, "Look at this!" or said, "You wouldnít believe what happened!" There are many things over which we get excited. But some of the greatest things over which to get excited are God and what He does in the lives of people. Peter, in beginning his letter to these residents of Asia Minor, gets excited about Godís great work in salvation. He gets so excited that before he ever gets started in the letter breaks out in spontaneous praise to God. In the same way we ought to praise God for the demonstration of His great power in salvation
In this section of Scripture, Peter gives us two reasons why we ought to praise God for the demonstration of His great power in salvation.
1. The first reason we ought to praise God for the demonstration of His great power in salvation is because He has caused us to be born again by the act of raising Jesus Christ from the dead.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the act that allows us to be born again. Paul said that if Christ is not raised from the dead then your faith is in vain, you are still in your sins. A new birth into the family of God would not be possible without the resurrection of Christ. If Christ did not rise then neither will we. But Peter makes this clear that God has brought about your salvation through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. God showed His great power on that first Easter morning when the tomb burst forth with a great light and Jesus Christ came out shining in the power of a resurrected life. It is this same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead that makes us alive in Christ. There are many here today that could give testimony of the transforming power which the gospel made in their lives as a witness to the praise that God should receive for the demonstration of His great power in their lives.
Though some have criticized the term born again, and the necessity for a new birth to have a home in heaven, besides explicitly being mentioned three places in Scripture, the idea of being born into Godís family or becoming His children occurs through out the New Testament. It is a thoroughly biblical concept. And there are three exciting characteristics of this born again experience that Peter describes.
A. It is according to Godís great mercy
The first exciting characteristic of this born again experience that Peter describes is that it is according to Godís great mercy. We did nothing to deserve this act on Godís part. It is not because we shaped up our lives. It is not because we earned it. The Bible says that God acted in our behalf when we were dead in trespasses and sins. God uses the picture of a dead person to describe our condition because it shows the utter helplessness of our state. Death is always portrayed in Scripture as separation. There is a great gulf fixed between God and us. And that is the point God is making by calling us dead in trespasses and sins. We are separated from Him by an infinitely wide chasm and there is nothing, absolutely nothing we can do to gain Godís favor. It is according to His great mercy. Why is it great mercy? Because in light of all the anguish that we have caused God by rebelling against Him and sinning against Him Godís mercy and forgiveness are great. The fact of Godís great mercy in being born again shows why we must praise Him. His mercy, His great mercy deserves great praise.
B. It is accompanied by a living hope
The second exciting characteristic of this born again experience that Peter describes is that it is accompanied by a living hope. Peter describes our experience in being born into the family of God as possessing a living hope. This hope is not the dead hope of a defeated people, but it is the living growing hope of a people confidently expecting a future home in a world no longer racked by pain, no longer harassed by sin. This confident expectation grows as the believer matures in his walk in Christ. As the believer grows so does the hope until it is as bright as the noonday sun shining overhead. The Apostle Paul says that we once were without hope. Now we possess a living hope, which has been given to us according to Godís mercy.
The living character of this hope was seen in the lives of the early believers. Though men put them to death, they could not put their hope to death. Many saw the hope of these believers and came to trust in Jesus Christ themselves, the one could bring them this hope. This living hope should also be evident in our own lives as well. When difficult and despair ridden situations come into our lives, they should not dampen our hope. As a matter of fact if our hope is firmly grounded in the salvation that Peter has described, then it should make our hope all the more firm. Our final hope is heaven. When loved ones die, when sickness comes or persecution from friends or coworkers occurs we should evidence the same hope that the 1st century believers had.
C. It contains an inheritance that is reserved in heaven for us
The third exciting characteristic of this born again experience that Peter describes is that it contains an inheritance that is reserved in heaven for us. You see we have born into the family of God not to receive an earthly inheritance, but a heavenly one. It is an amazing thing to be birthed into a royal family. You see we were all dirty little orphans. We had nothing to our names and no one to love us, and then it was as if a great king stopped as he passed by the street we were on and said, "You! I want you to be my child. I want to love you and care for you. Will you come and live in my house?" We then became children of the king and heirs to all He owns. Is it not praiseworthy that One as great as God should do this for us?
Let me mention two concepts about this verb "reserved." First of all, it is a passive verb. This reservation is being kept for you. It is not you who is keeping it. It is God. You see we have a sure reservation because God has made it.
Secondly, this type of verb used by Peter has the idea of a completed past action but its effects continue into the present. You see not only do we have a sure reservation (not only was it completed in the past) but we also have a continuing reservation (its effects are felt even to the present and beyond). It wonít be something that is lost in the future. As an contrasting example Peter uses the same verb and same verb form in 2 Peter 2:17 when he describes those who have died and are waiting to be thrown into the lake of fire as being reserved for darkness forever. You see if those wicked who have rejected Christ can lose their reservation in the lake of fire, then I can lose my reservation in heaven. But since it is clear that they canít lose theirs then I canít lose mine. This inheritance has three extraordinary marks associated with it.
i. It is imperishable
The first extraordinary mark associated with this inheritance is that it is imperishable. Unlike earthly possessions which do not last. This inheritance outlasts them all. You may treasure your car and take great care of it, but let me tell you it will rust. In Massachusetts it will rust. Your money that you treasure, it may not rust but it will sure decay. Decay? Have you ever heard of the word inflation or stock crash? Unlike uncertain riches we have an imperishable inheritance.
ii. It is undefiled
The second extraordinary mark associated with this inheritance is that it is undefiled. This pictures that which is morally without defect. In other words this inheritance which we will receive contains nothing which does not meet with Godís approval. It is acceptable with God. Therefore if it meets Godís approval, this inheritance must be good and worth the wait. Can we but imagine inheriting that which is without blemish or defect. We canít even get a studio picture taken without finding some fault in it (my hair is messed up/my eyes were closed). Have you ever bought some product that didnít do what it is supposed to do? This inheritance is something with which God has found no problem. If thatís the case how good is it going to look to us?
iii. It will not fade away
The third extraordinary mark associated with this inheritance is that it will not fade away. This word depicts that which never fades with the passing of time. I have a tassel that hangs in my car. It is a symbol of my achievement of graduating from college. Now however, it is highly faded and the black tassel is a washed out brown. You see all our achievements fade with the passing of time. That race that was won, the goal that was attained, these things all seem to fade with time. Yet this inheritance, stored up in heaven, will never become tarnished and dull, but will continue to be a glorious inheritance for all eternity. As I visited my motherís house a number of summers ago when we still lived in Minnesota, she had some beautiful Hibiscus plants. Every day my mother would point out the each flower that was blooming. Each one was so beautiful. But you know by the next day; it had wilted up and fallen off. Its beauty was fleeting. Peter is contrasting things of this life whose beauty passes away with that inheritance which is stored up for us that will never wilt or fade away.
Are you beginning to see the things of this life that you have put so much hope in fading away and perishing? Are you yet realizing that this life is truly fleeting and will soon be gone? Peter encourages us to put our trust in that which will never perish, spoil or fade.
You see Peter is stacking adjective upon adjective to get his point across that this inheritance will neither change, nor change hands. We need not worry that it will be something different than what we expected nor shall we find it missing when we come to inherit it. We will not be disappointed when the moment comes to receive this eternal inheritance. Peter is ecstatic about this inheritance and he has run out of ways to describe it so he heaps adjective upon adjective.
2. The second reason we ought to praise God for the demonstration of His great power in salvation is because He protects us.
The second reason we ought to praise God for the demonstration of His great power in salvation is because He protects us. The word "kept" is a military term referring to the guarding of someone/or something by a garrison. It is used of Paul in 2 Cor 11:32 when he states that the governor guarded the city in order to arrest him. The way the verb is used is also significant. The verb is passive which shows that we are the ones who need the guarding and the verb tense indicates that this is an ongoing process. We are continually being guarded.
There are three aspects of this protection
A. It is accomplished by God
The first aspect of this protection is that it is accomplished by God. We are protected by a power no less than that of Godís power. Paul said, that if God be for us, who can be against us. Also it is written, "Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world. Who can come and take away what God is guarding? Since God is greater than all no one can stop Him from His guarding protection. In the gospels, Jesus said, "I give eternal life to them and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of my Fatherís hand. I and my Father are one." In that statement, Jesus makes it clear that Godís power in guarding our salvation will never fail. He will not allow anyone who has trusted in Him for salvation to lose their salvation. Earlier in that same chapter Jesus said, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. God protects that which Satan would desire to come and destroy. If you have placed your trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior you are protected by God.
B. It is activated through faith
The second aspect of this protection is that it is activated by faith. Godís power in protection becomes effective when we place our trust in Him. Wayne Grudem says, that Peterís statement, "seems to imply that Godís power in fact energizes and continually sustains individual personal faith." So our faith in Christís work for us on the cross causes God to then in turn protect and sustain our faith so that it is not lost. You could see it in a car analogy. The battery, which would represent our faith, starts the car. This causes the alternator, which is like God, to operate. Then in turn the alternator charges the battery to prevent it from running down. When we put our faith in Christ, that causes God to go into action to prevent our faith from failing. If you have ever heard someone say something like, "Iíve lost my faith" then they didnít have true biblical faith to begin with. They might have had trust in something but it was a misplaced trust, a faith that could not save.
Faith is the cornerstone of the Christian life. Faith is based on the truth of Godís Word and it is our trust in it. Faith is not a mere belief about Christ but actual trust in what Christ did when He died on the cross and rose from the dead. When we put our trust in the fact that Jesus Christ died to pay for all our sins and cease trusting our own effort to get right with God He gives us salvation as a free gift. And it is this faith that activates Godís protection in our lives.
C. It is applied until the revealing of our salvation
The third aspect of this protection is that it is applied until the revealing of our salvation. This guarding by God continues until the coming of the Lord Jesus makes our salvation visible. Godís salvation is already present, but invisible. It only needs to be revealed and the moment of that revelation could be at any time. Godís salvation is already present in that He gives eternal life to all who come to Him through Jesus Christ but it is invisible. Faith allows us to see the invisible, not the non-existent. That which sees the non-existent is superstition. That which sees the invisible is faith. Superstition is based on lies, faith is based on truth. Superstition is not walking under ladders, not going to the 13th floor, praying to saints. Faith believes the promises of God that He gives us in His Word, not tradition that someone has made up. The object of faith is just not visible to the naked eye. Our God will soon reveal our salvation. Peter says it is ready to be revealed. There is nothing stopping that event. We who have trusted Christ will see His return as a blessed salvation, a blessed hope, but the world will see it as a great damnation. Godís righteous judgment will be loosed upon the earth and He will justly repay the world for its rebellion. The only reason we will escape such judgment is only because of Godís mercy. Because we have trusted Christ as our Savior He has caused us to be born again. God will continue to protect us until the revealing of our final salvation.
So what is the application:
To the believer:
Meditate on these truths about Godís great power in salvation
That God has caused us to be born again through Christís resurrection and God secures our salvation.
Then begin to praise Him for it. Praise is not silent. The psalmist says, "Declare His glory among the heathen His wonders among all peoples." Tell others about His glorious gift of salvation.
Thank Him for your new birth, for His mercy, your heavenly inheritance, His protective power.
This truth of Godís great power in salvation shouldnít leave us unmoved. The truth that God has given people like you and me the free gift of salvation and that He should change our eternal destination because we called out to Him to save us should so grip our hearts that we spontaneously burst out in praise to God (even as Peter has done here).
If we leave here unchanged, unmoved by this great truth, do we really understand it?
To the unbeliever:
Is there anyone here today that needs this new birth, this transforming power of being born into Godís family. Do you know if you have ever placed your faith in Christ and been born into Godís family (John 1:12)? Did you know that today you can have your sins forgiven and a new relationship with God that will change your life? All you need to do is to trust Christ and His power to save you.