Sermons

The Greatness of the Gospel

September 1, 2013 Speaker: Jeff Breeding Series: 1 Peter: Sojourners and Strangers

Passage: 1 Peter 1:10–1:12

The Greatness of the Gospel

If you have your Bibles, I invite you to open with me to 1 Peter 1. We’ll be looking at vv10-12. For the last two weeks, we’ve been studying this opening section to Peter’s letter, and this morning’s passage is the conclusion of that opening section. Vv3-12 in chapter 1 are all one sentence, and these three verses really wrap the section up before Peter moves on in v13 to give instructions about holiness. So if these verses are the conclusion, let’s just briefly remind ourselves of what we’ve seen so far in vv3-9. We’ve seen that believers have a living hope in Christ and an unfading inheritance that is kept in heaven for them. We’ve also seen how God uses trials for our good, testing our faith until it is purified and genuine. We’ve seen how believers can rejoice in the midst of suffering. And we’ve seen the need to walk by faith and not by sight. All of that comes from vv3-9, and these verses, vv10-12, are the conclusion to the entire section.

These verses are really about the gospel. Look there at v10, where Peter says, “Concerning this salvation.” He’s already mentioned salvation in v5 and in v9, so he’s continuing on with that theme of salvation. And in doing so, Peter is talking about the gospel, the message of Christ crucified, buried, and risen again. I’ll confess that coming to the passage this week, I didn’t think there was much in these verses. Of course, I expected to find helpful, Christ-exalting truth because that is what we find throughout Scripture. But I wrongly assumed that these verses were not as rich and full as the previous ones. I thought, “Peter’s just wrapping this section up before moving on to the command for holiness in the next part.” But as I studied the text this week, God reminded me that my first impressions are often wrong. This is a rich text, full of truths about the gospel, and full of how the gospel applies to our lives as pilgrims and exiles in this world. There is so much here that we can learn about the gospel. In many ways, these verses seem more like the climax to vv3-12, rather than simply the wrap up to what we have seen so far. My prayer this morning is that the Spirit would reveal to us the greatness of the gospel from these verses in 1 Peter 1, and that we would see just how much the gospel does speak to our everyday lives as believers seeking to follow Christ in the midst of suffering.

 

The Gospel Reminds Believers of the Privilege It Is to Know Christ

There are four points to our message this morning, and each point is about the gospel. Four gospel points from vv10-12. First, the gospel reminds believers of the privilege it is to know Christ. In vv10-12, Peter wants to remind his readers of the privilege it is to live on this side of resurrection Sunday. Because believers know Christ as risen from the dead, we know in full what God’s people in the past only knew in part. Believers know by experience what others only know from a distance. Therefore, believers have this privilege of knowing Christ in full. And Peter wants believers to see the value that adds to their lives now, so that they might be better equipped to rejoice in the midst of suffering. To accomplish this goal, Peter contrasts believers with two groups – the OT prophets and the angelic beings. Let’s look at each group and note the specifics of Peter’s contrast.

He starts with the OT prophets. In v10, Peter writes, “Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours.” Let’s stop there for a moment. The OT prophets prophesied about the grace to come. In other words, they made predictions about the Messiah and his work of salvation. But note that Peter says this grace was to be ours. It was destined or intended for believers in a way that it was not intended for or revealed to the prophets. The prophets predicted what God intended to reveal to us in the gospel. They saw from afar what we have clearly seen in the gospel.

Peter goes on in v10, “the prophets searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.” What did the prophets predict? The sufferings of Christ and his subsequent glories. They predicted Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension. The prophets foretold that these things would come to pass. But they did more than predict these things; they also investigated what the fulfillment would look like. Note the two words in v10, searched and inquired carefully. The idea here is that with carefulness and effort, they investigated the grace that they prophesied about. They wanted to not only make the predictions, but know the fulfillment. That is the point of the difficult phrase in v11, “what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating.” The phrase most likely means something like circumstances or time period. In other words, the prophets wanted to know when and how their predictions about the Christ would come to pass.

But here’s the key to Peter’s reasoning – the prophets did not find those things out. Even though they searched carefully, they didn’t know the fulfillment. They did not live to see Christ, the cross, and the resurrection. They died in faith, not having seen what they predicted. Look there in v12 where Peter writes, “It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news.” You see that? The prophets searched carefully and tried to discern what this fulfillment would look like, but they never saw it. Their ministry was not for themselves but for us. If their ministry was for themselves, then they would have seen the fulfillment. They didn’t. But we do. Therefore, they were serving us.

What this means is that believers have a privilege that even the OT prophets did not have. The prophets predicted Christ’s sufferings and his subsequent glory, but we have seen his death and resurrection through the gospel proclaimed to us and recorded in Scripture. They saw the work of Christ from a distance, almost in shadows. But we have seen the work of Christ in the full light of the life of Jesus. In a very real sense, then, we possess a privilege that even Isaiah or Jeremiah or Moses or David did not possess.

Next, Peter contrasts believers with the angelic beings. Look at the end of v12, “things into which the angels long to look.” What’s this about? It seems that what Peter has in mind is the desire of angelic beings to know redemption through Christ in the way that we do. The angels in heaven do not know God in the same way that we know him. They have not experienced his mercy and grace in the way that believers have. The angels in heaven, those who are not fallen, only know God as holy. They have never been restored from sin, or had their transgressions forgiven. If they were to sin, there would be no redemption or mercy for them. They would only know God as holy and, in that moment, just.

Believers, on the other hand, know God as merciful and gracious. Through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, we know what it is like to be reconciled to God, to have our sins forgiven, to be counted righteous, to be free from condemnation. These are things the angelic beings do not know. Peter even says here that the angels long to look into these things. They wonder what it must be like to know God as gracious and merciful. They desire to know what believers have tasted through Christ. In that sense, we have a privilege that not even the angels possess. We know the Father through Christ, and in that, we know God’s mercy and grace, things the angels know from a distance but have never tasted.

In light of these two contrasts, believers can say, “What a treasure we have been given in Christ!” What a treasure it is for us to know and hear and see the truths of the gospel. We live in the age of fulfillment, when Christ has been made known and his work of redemption has been accomplished. This is the climax of history, the time when Christ has been revealed and when salvation in his name is proclaimed to all nations. The prophets themselves longed to see these days but did not see them. The angels even long to know this redemption but cannot. We, however, have seen the fulfillment of what the prophets longed to see, and we have experienced the redemption that the angels long to experience. What a treasure and privilege we have been given in Christ. In the midst of suffering and sorrow, we can take comfort and rejoice in the treasure that we have been given in Christ. We do not trust in a promised-but-yet-to-come Redeemer. We trust in a Redeemer whose name is Jesus. When we consider what has been revealed to us in the gospel, we should remember our privilege in knowing Christ, and we should rejoice.

 

The Gospel Gives Certainty in the Midst of Uncertainty

Christians live in the tension of two competing visions of reality. On the one hand, we have the announcement of living hope through Christ, the promise of an unfading inheritance kept in heaven for us. These truths are announced to us in the gospel. But on the other hand, we have the announcement of despair and hopelessness. These things are announced to us in the sufferings of life. These two announcements compete for our understanding of reality. Which announcement will define reality for us – the announcement of the gospel, or the announcement of suffering? Christians live in that tension.

And this tension creates uncertainty. Will the announcement of the gospel really prove true? Will we actually receive the unfading inheritance? Will our hope actually live all the way to the last day? The question then is, “How do we have certainty in the midst of so much uncertainty?” And the answer to that question is through the gospel. The gospel both announces our hope and gives certainty to that hope. Let’s look at our passage to see how this works out in Peter’s mind.

First off, we should note that the gospel has always been God’s purpose for history. From the Garden onward, God’s purpose has been to redeem a people for himself through the work of his Son, who would take on human flesh, live and die as our substitute, only to rise again on the third day and ascend to glory. That message, that good news has always been God’s purpose and plan. We could spend years walking through the OT demonstrating how the gospel has always been the central purpose of God. We don’t have years, so we’ll content ourselves with the way Peter demonstrates this point. The OT prophets, with their predictions of Christ’s sufferings and subsequent glory, reveal that the gospel was always God’s purpose in history. The Spirit of Christ was at work in the prophets, inspiring them to predict what the Christ would accomplish. In other words, the prophets predicted the historical realities of the gospel – that the Christ would suffer, that he would die, but also that he would rise again and receive glory from his Father. Even though they did not see these things in history, they predicted them.

These predictions were then accomplished by Jesus during his ministry on earth. What the prophets predicted in the past, Jesus fulfilled in history. And his accomplishment is now announced in the proclamation of the gospel. Let me try to put it plainly – when Christ is proclaimed as crucified, dead, but now risen, the certainty of God’s purposes is revealed. Since Christ accomplished what the prophets predicted, we know that God’s purposes are certain. 

This certainty becomes even clearer when see that the same Spirit who inspired the prophets is now at work in the proclamation of the gospel. Note in the passage the repetition of the Spirit’s work. V11, the Spirit of Christ was at work in the prophets to predict Christ’s suffering and glory. Then v12, the Holy Spirit is at work in the preaching of the gospel. The same Spirit that inspired the prophets is the same Spirit at work now in the preaching of the gospel. There is a continuity to the purposes of God that stretches from the OT prophets to the NT preaching of the gospel. And that continuity reveals the certainty of God’s purposes.

The result, then, is assurance and confidence for the Christian. How can we have certainty that we will receive the unfading inheritance? Because the gospel reveals the certainty of God’s purposes. It has always been God’s plan to send his Son as the sacrifice for sin. We know this in part because the prophets long ago predicted precisely that – the sufferings of Christ and his subsequent glories. But how do we know that what the gospel says to us will be accomplished? Because the same Spirit that was at work in the prophets is now at work in the proclamation of the gospel. What the Spirit said through the prophets has been fulfilled. Therefore, what the Spirit says to us in the gospel will be fulfilled as well. God’s purposes are certain and sure, and we see this certainty in the gospel itself.

This means we can have hope in the midst of suffering, which is precisely what Peter intends to give believers through this letter. When the dark days of suffering begins to whisper those questions – Will your hope really live? Is the inheritance really imperishable? – we can answer with a resounding yes because the gospel reveals the certainty of God’s purposes. What God purposed to accomplish in Christ, he has accomplished. The gospel both announces our hope and gives us certainty that those hopes will be fulfilled. We don’t have to question the truths of the gospel, because the gospel itself is testimony to God’s faithfulness.

This is why in the midst of suffering, the best action you can take is to look away from yourself and look to Christ. Suffering tempts us to look only at our circumstances, only at ourselves. But in doing that, we lose sight of both our hope and our certainty. When we look to Christ, we see in him the hope of salvation. But we also see in him the certainty of that hope. Christ accomplished what God predicted through the prophets, and that means he will surely finish what his gospel promises to you. Look to him for both hope and certainty in the midst of suffering. Rehearse the historical realities of the gospel – that Christ has died, he has risen, and he will come again. Those realities about Christ are what give hope and certainty in the midst of suffering.

 

The Gospel Reminds Us That to Follow Christ Means Suffering, Then Glory

The gospel is the announcement that Christ lived, died, and rose again in order to bring redemption and forgiveness to those who were enslaved to sin. It is good news about Christ and what he has accomplished for us. But the gospel also reminds us what it means to follow Christ. In that sense, the gospel makes us followers of Christ, and it shows us what it will be like to follow Christ. Let me show you this from the passage.

Look again in v11 where Peter writes that the prophets predicted Christ’s suffering and then his glory. Before Christ could receive glory from on high, he suffered. We could even say that his suffering was necessary for his glory. If he did not die on our behalf, then there is no resurrection and glorious ascension to the right hand of the Father. Christ received glory through his suffering.

Jesus himself taught his disciples this very truth. Remember at the end of Luke’s Gospel, chapter 24, the risen Jesus is walking on the road to Emmaus with two disciples. They do not recognize him as Jesus, but they are engaged in conversation about what has recently happened in Jerusalem. In v24, the two disciples express their bewilderment at the empty tomb. They can’t understand what has happened. Then Jesus says to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Then Luke writes, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Suffering was the road to glory for Christ. He suffered so that he would receive glory.

As Christ’s followers, the shape of our life will match that of our Lord’s. We have a living hope. We have an unfading inheritance. In other words, we are destined for glory. But like our Lord, we must endure suffering before the glory. The path to our unfading inheritance is paved with suffering, just as Christ’s path to glory was paved with his suffering on our behalf. Now, our suffering is not exactly like Christ’s in that we are not atoning for sin and conquering the grave. There is a uniqueness to the suffering of Christ that is never matched in the lives of his followers. But our suffering is still suffering, and we must certainly endure such suffering before we reach the promised glory. The shape our lives as Christ’s followers will match the shape of Christ’s life as our Savior.

Here’s why this is important. Suffering often leads us to think there is something wrong with us. Maybe we haven’t believed the gospel rightly, or maybe we’re going about this whole Christianity thing in the wrong way. We might think there is something wrong with us. But the gospel reminds us that suffering doesn’t mean there is something wrong with us; it might just mean that we are on the road of discipleship, following Christ. And just as he suffered, so also we suffer. To put it another way, suffering does not question our future glory, but rather it is the means through which God intends for us to attain that future glory. Christ’s own life is testimony to this. He suffered, but through that suffering, he was exalted. In the same way, as we suffer, our very suffering reminds us that we will be exalted with Christ on the last day. Therefore, we can have hope. Our lives may be difficult in the present, but they match the life of our Lord. If Christ suffered and then received glory, the same will be true for us, his followers. As your endure suffering, remind yourself that your life matches Christ’s. As his follower, you are walking a similar road to what he walked, the road of suffering. But let his life remind you where that road ends – in glory with your heavenly Father. Take hope, then, even in the midst of suffering.

 

The Gospel is the Good New That Someone Suffered for You

Over the last few weeks, we have seen the hope that 1 Peter offers to suffering Christians, and it is a great hope. And we’ve also seen how believers can endure in the face of suffering – how we should walk by faith, not by sight; how we can rejoice even in the midst of suffering; how we can have certainty even when things appear uncertain. There has been this repeating focus on hope and perseverance in midst of suffering. And for that, we are thankful, because like we saw last week, the question of suffering is not ‘if’ but ‘when.’

Still, with all that being said, we should acknowledge that suffering is still very hard. Being tested by trials is not fun, even if you know that the process leads to genuine faith that is worth more than gold! Even when we remember these glorious truths, we still have to face the fact that today’s sufferings will be extremely hard to endure. In addition to that, we have to be honest that many times, we don’t remember these truths in the midst of suffering. We forget to rejoice. We forget the living hope. We forget the unfading inheritance. We forget to walk by faith. We forget that glory comes at the end. We forget those things. Even after we’ve read and meditated on these great truths from 1 Peter, we still forget and thus struggle.

The gospel speaks to that reality. The gospel speaks to the fact that we still forget, that we still struggle. Look again at our passage. Peter says that the prophets predicted the sufferings of Christ. Now, why would Christ suffer? He was perfect and blameless, so his faith didn’t need to be tested and proved genuine. He didn’t need to learn truths about the character of God because he was God in the flesh, the eternal son of God, the second person of the Trinity. Why would Christ suffer and die on the cross?

The answer is that he suffered for us. He suffered in our place. His suffering paid the penalty for our sin. His suffering atoned for the fact that we sometimes forget, that we don’t always walk by faith, that we don’t always rejoice. His suffering paid for the fact that we have all broken God’s commandments and disobeyed God’s law. He suffered in our place. He suffered for us because if our future was based on our ability to endure, then none of us would have any hope, let alone a living hope.

But the gospel reminds us that our future is not based on us or on our ability to endure suffering. Our future is built on the rock-solid hope that Christ suffered many things, died, and then rose again. Our future is built on the fact that Christ is now seated at the right hand of the Father, receiving glory and preparing to return again to finish what he started. And it is that reality that gives us hope in the midst of suffering. Christ suffered for us and received glory. We have hope of glory not because we can endure, not because we can rejoice, and not because we can always walk by faith. We have the hope of glory because Jesus Christ, who suffered in our place, is risen from the dead.

We have hope because of the gospel. The prophets long ago predicted that the Christ would suffer and then receive glory. That good news is now announced to us in the gospel, and in that good news alone, we have hope. When you fail to rejoice, when you fail to walk by faith, when you fail to handle suffering the right way, look to Christ. It is his suffering for you that gives you hope in the midst of your suffering. 

Work hard to endure and rejoice and walk by faith. Work hard at those things. Labor and strive to remember the truths Peter reveals here in chapter 1. But each day, when your hard work is ended, and maybe even when your striving ended in forgetfulness yet again, rest in the gospel, the good news that someone suffered for you, and because he has received glory, you have the hope of glory as well.

More in 1 Peter: Sojourners and Strangers

March 2, 2014

Stand Firm in God's Grace

February 23, 2014

Humble and Vigilant

February 16, 2014

Shepherding the Flock of God
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