Sermons

May 3, 2020

The Privilege of Salvation

Jason Meyer | 1 Peter 1:10-12

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours 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. 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 to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.1 Peter 1:10–12

Introduction: The Theme of the Letter (5:12; 1:1–2; 3–9)

When reading a letter, it is always vital to examine what the author himself says about (1) what he is writing and (2) why he is writing. Thankfully, we have a one- verse summary that answers both of those questions in 1 Peter 5:12.

By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.—1 Peter 5:12

  1. What has he written? He has exhorted them and declared to them what the true grace of God is. All five chapters of this letter are the grace of God coming from the mouth of God.
  2. Now what do they do with this grace? Stand firm in it.

This grace is a firm foundation—so his exhortation is to stand firm on the firm foundation! Therefore, the theme of the letter according to 1 Peter 5:12 is stated in seven words: Stand in the true grace of God. I think a helpful further analysis would be one that can combine this verse with the first verse in which Peter tells the readers who they are. 

To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.—1 Peter 1:1

 So once we add the phrase “elect exiles,” the melody line of the letter can be stated in 10 words: Stand in the true grace of God as elect exiles. We will keep referring back to this melody line as the letter returns to this note again and again.

Peter wrote this letter to a church living in the midst of chaos and trial and uncertainty. It was during the reign of the emperor Nero and was probably a few years before the climactic persecution of Christians that Nero would lead. Peter and Paul would be martyred during that time. So in this letter, there is not an outbreak of persecution but the threat of it. The volcano has not yet erupted, but it is smoking and the ground is shaking and it seems ready to erupt. 

The letter is written to Christians living throughout the provinces of Rome in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). Most people think that he names these provinces in the order of the route that the letter would follow as it is delivered.

Peter names believers with some weighty words of identification: “elect exiles of the dispersion.” These three words are bursting with Old Testament background and meaning. We know what it is like to read about exiles in the Old Testament, when the chosen people of God were conquered and carried away to exile in a foreign land away from the Promised Land. They had to live in Assyria and then Babylon—foreign lands not their own. That was the Jewish diaspora.

Peter’s point here seems to be that we are all spiritual exiles—­­we are all citizens of heaven and thus exiles on earth always longing for our true home and thus never fully feeling at home here. There will always be a sense of deep spiritual homesickness. Have you felt this? You never feel like you fit fully here. To feel at home in this world would be worldliness. Citizens of heaven are exiles on earth always looking for that city whose builder and maker is God—the heavenly country (cf. Hebrews 11:16). God has not given us a stay-at-home order, but a heading-Home order. 

I wonder if you feel like an exile?

Do you have this deep longing that you struggle to find words to describe? Carry deep within you a longing for your true home and never feeling at home here? It is the deepest kind of homesickness. Peter puts words to it and names it as our identity. But why do we have this homesickness? How did we become these exiles? We already have the clue in the phrase itself “elect exiles.” Elect means that God chose it. It is God’s doing. The very next verse makes that even more explicit and emphatic. Peter explosively exults in this truth.

How We Are Who We Are

So how did they ever come to join the people of God? Answer: They were chosen by God to become part of the people of God. That is how they got here. That is why they are who they are. God chose them. They are elect exiles. Peter expands upon this truth from three different angles. They are elect (1) “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father,” (2) “by the sanctification of the Spirit,” and (3) “in order to obey Jesus and be sprinkled with his blood.” 

1. Elect Exiles According to the Foreknowledge of God the Father

This refers to a kind of knowing that is both personal and powerful, like in 1 Peter 1:20. Jesus was “foreknown before the foundation of the world.” Are you telling me that God merely had a cerebral, mental knowledge of the Son? Do you think that he was just a fleeting, passing thought in the Father’s mental frame?

But there is a personal knowledge—and this personal intimate knowledge is reserved for his people as he chooses them and sets his love upon them. The movement of God’s will or choice (election) comes from a personal knowledge (foreknowledge), but it all comes from unconditional love. Romans 8:29 is similar in saying that those whom he foreknew he predestined. It does not say that he chose those he knew would choose him anyway. He chose those that he set his mind and heart upon in sovereign freedom.

2. Elect Exiles by the Sanctification of the Spirit

The word sanctification means to be “set apart.” The work of the Holy Spirit sets us apart as God’s holy people—sets us apart from this fallen world and citizenship here and sets us apart for citizenship in heaven.

We did not make this happen. We could not will it into being. It is God’s work. A word of clarification: In terms of theological categories and biblical usage, sanctification has two aspects: positional and progressive. Progressive sanctification refers to a process in which we progressively become more and more conformed to the image of Christ—we grow in Christlikeness and holiness. But sanctification can also be positional or definitive. This is the initial work of being set apart: The Spirit brings new life to a dead soul—this is the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5). It is this work, this initial work, that caused us to become citizens of heaven and thus exiles on earth. Our whole relationship to this world changed when we were set apart as citizens of heaven and a new inheritance in heaven.

Notice the third angle and the order: In order to obey Jesus and be sprinkled with his blood. One would think the order would be “the blood of Jesus” (salvation) and then “obedience.” The reason for the order is that Peter is drawing upon the old covenant picture in Exodus 24.

3. Elect Exiles in Order to Obey Jesus and Be Sprinkled With His Blood 

Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.”—Exodus 3:24

Then Moses took the blood of the sacrifices and it says in verse 6: 

And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”—Exodus 24:6–8

We are a new covenant people in a time of exile. We have been redeemed from our slavery to sin—the way we used to live and think and act and talk. That redemption was not the sprinkled blood of a bull or goat. We were not bought with the world’s currency—things of value in this world that are destined to perish (silver or gold or money). 

The Christian banner flying above us is this: Christ is Lord. We must obey him above all else. Our highest allegiance is to him. His blood of the covenant is the reason that sinners can be heaven’s citizens. We are bought with a price. Now we exist by him and for him. 

Who has determined that we would be elect exiles—at home only in heaven— not at home here? God the Father. 

How did we become elect exiles? By the work of the Holy Spirit—setting us apart from this world and setting us apart for our heavenly home with a heavenly inheritance so that this world is not our home anymore.

Why did God will this and the Spirit do this work? So that Jesus is our Lord and we will obey him. We are bought with a price—the precious blood of Jesus—so we must glorify him and honor him as obedient subjects of the heavenly king here on earth.

Peter is trying to pull out all the stops to let these suffering saints know the way God knows them—to see the way God sees them. We are not lost orphans—we are chosen children (1 Peter 1:1). O, hear me: The fact that you are a believer and a citizen of heaven is not a cosmic accident or random fluke of the universe. He planned for you to be a saved citizen of the kingdom of heaven, and that is why you long for heaven. He even planned your wandering—wherever you feel so out of place—like you do not quite fit (family, work place, university classroom; perhaps you have same-sex attraction, and you have chosen to be celibate and single).

This temporary wandering, feeling like an exile, not ever fully at home until you reach your heavenly home—that too was planned by our loving heavenly Father. We are not lost orphans in the world, but we are chosen children of the world to come who have an imperishable hope (1:3–5), an inexpressible joy (1:6–9), and a profound sense of privilege (1:10–12).

Outline:

  1. Historical Privilege (the Prophets, vv. 10–12)
  2. Cosmic Privilege (the Angels, v. 12)

1. Historical Privilege
(the Prophets, vv. 10–12) 

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours 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. 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 to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. 

Notice first the line of continuity that Peter draws between the Old Testament prophets and these first century believers in Christ. In both time periods, people were laboring to make the gospel of Christ known through the work of the Holy Spirit. 

A. Old Testament: The Prophets Labored/the Work of Christ/the Spirit Revealed 

The Prophets inquired carefully ...
The prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully (v. 10). 

To Understand the Work of Christ ...
The prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully (v. 10). 

As the Spirit Revealed It to Them ...
Inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories (v.11) 

B. 1st Century: Preachers Announced/the Good News/by the Spirit

Preachers announced ...
In the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven (v. 12)

The Gospel (work of Christ) ...
In the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven (v. 12)

Empowered by the Spirit ...
In the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven (v. 12)

In other words, Peter highlights the presence of the Spirit at work to reveal Jesus to both Israel’s prophets of old and Peter’s readers today. This dynamic of the Spirit’s work to reveal Jesus also helps account for the unique phrase “the Spirit of Christ” (v. 11).

The point is that the Spirit is always at work to shine the spotlight not on himself, but on Jesus. He is the Spirit who reveals and glorifies Christ. The Spirit who spoke to the prophets of old is the same Spirit of Christ who was still at work in the first-century church. The Holy Spirit is the same Spirit who was at work in the life and ministry of Christ. The Spirit who inspired the prophets also descended on Jesus at his baptism. And Jesus identified the Spirit as the One who would take the things of himself and glorify them. 

Feel the line of continuity between what was foretold in the Old Testament, what was accomplished by Jesus, and what was proclaimed by those preaching the gospel. Peter says that his readers are not part of some upstart new religion that began with Jesus of Nazareth.

Now think about how much that would be important as Peter begins to quote Israel’s Scriptures like Leviticus and the call to be holy as God is holy (1 Peter 1:13–15). These Scriptures did not just belong to Israel, but they speak to the church as well. But Peter goes even further than that! Look at what else Peter emphasizes.

Second, Peter says that the Old Testament writings do not just apply to Peter’s readers, they were intended for them. Look again at what the Spirit revealed to the prophets: 

  • The sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow (the gospel)
  • They were serving you, not themselves (their own ministry) 

They are part of something much bigger—stretching back into the corridors of time in God’s purpose and plan—and even more than feeling like they are part of something bigger, they are a privileged part of that plan. The Old Testament prophesies about the work of Christ do not just apply to them; they were intended for them (the prophets knew it!).

Here is the point: Believers show feel profoundly privileged and incredibly blessed not just to be part of this line of continuity, but to be living in the prime time of the privileged point of fulfillment. 

That was the same message that Jesus gave the apostles.

Blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”—Matthew 13:16–17

Peter has one more point to make in terms of how privileged believers are on this side of Jesus’ coming.

2. Cosmic Privilege (the Angels, v. 12)

… things into which angels long to look.

Believers are also privileged far more than the angels. The angels are witnesses of redemption and rescue, but believers are recipients of redemption and rescue. We know there is all the difference in thanksgiving between the crowd who witnesses the rescue on the beach and the person being rescued!

Do you feel the point of privilege being intensified even more? The prophets see it from afar, the angels marvel at it and reflect on it from above, but believers know it and see it up close and personal by experience.

That is the main point of the passage:

Believers today should have a profound sense of privilege for how they have received salvation. Specifically, they do not merely see what Christ did in salvation from afar like the prophets or from above like the angels, but they see more (historically,specifically) and experience more (cosmically)!

What a message to these elect exiles. Here they are facing a volcano of persecution ready to erupt at any moment and Peter says:

What better time could there be to be alive in human history than right now? You see more than anyone saw before the coming of Christ. Through the witness of all those who spoke of Jesus before he came and the witnesses who saw and heard Jesus when he came, subsequent generations can see and hear and know and love and receive Jesus.

The gospel is the center of the prophet’s searching and the center of the angel’s looking. The gospel captivates both prophets and angels—how dare we be bored with it! Does it still captivate you? Do you still say, “And when I think that God his Son not sparing sent him to die, I scarce can take it in. That on the cross my burden gladly bearing, he bled and died to take away my sin. Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee, how great Thou art, how great Thou art. Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee, how great Thou art, how great Thou art!”

We are far more privileged than prophets of old or angels above. We rejoice in this salvation with such imperishable hope and inexpressible joy and profound privilege. This gospel and the salvation found in the gospel are of surpassing value if it can captivate the attention of prophets and angels. As we look at the historical perspective and the cosmic perspective we see the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord!

Conclusion: The Letter Read in the Context of Worship

Part 1: Preparing to Hear the Letter for the First Time

Can you imagine a small band of weary saints sitting together listening to this letter read? I can just picture it—as the reader gets to the part that says it was revealed to them that they were serving you. So God’s revelation through the prophets does not just apply to you, it was intended for you. God had his eye on you even then.

And what you have received through the preaching of the gospel—this salvation and this work of Christ applied to your souls—it captivates the attention of angels. If they could gaze anywhere in the entire cosmos it would be here. How great is God’s love for you?! What a blessing you have received. What a privilege—not just to see it from afar or gaze on it from above, but experience it up close and personal! How great our joy! O, how we bless our God that saved us and made us citizens of heaven, even in the midst of the mess of being exiles on earth. 

How do you think about salvation today? What kind of value do you place on it? Is it something that is assumed or just blends into the background? Or is it in the foreground of your mind and heart as something exceedingly precious so that you feel the privilege of being a recipient of the most precious gift anyone could ever receive?

Part 2: Preparing to Sing Our Closing Song for the 100th Time Like It Is the First Time

I think it is good that while we are in a season of Shelter at Home and having to sing in smaller groups or even by yourself at home, if we sing songs that are well-known and well-loved that we can really belt out. I want you to be able to belt out Charles Wesley’s hymn “And Can It Be.”

The second stanza really gets to the heart of this text today.

’Tis mystery all: th’Immortal dies:
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
Let angel minds inquire no more.

Do you hear what we are doing? We are trying to plumb the depths of the mystery of the death of the Son of God for us. How? He puts together two concepts that are not often paired together: immortality and death. These two do not seem to belong together. I thought immortal means “cannot die.” And yet, the Immortal dies. This is the wondrous mystery of the Incarnation and Atonement. The depth of this mystery is highlighted by how the angel’s attempt to plumb the debts of love divine. This is a reference to our text (1 Peter 1:12 ). Wesley is content to put an end to the speculation with the declaration that it is simply a mystery of mercy that is to be received and celebrated and sung.

Sermon Discussion Questions

Outline

  1. Historical Privilege (1 Peter 1:10–12)
  2. Cosmic Privilege (1 Peter 1:12)

Main Point: Believers today should have a profound sense of privilege for how they have received salvation. Specifically, they do not merely see what Christ did in salvation from afar like the prophets or from above like the angels, but they see more (historically, specifically) and experience more (cosmically)!

Discussion Questions

  • Describe how Peter draws a line of continuity between the prophecies of the Old Testament and the lives of the first century believers.
  • How does Peter show that these Christians are not just part of the story, but a privileged part of the story?
  • How does Peter show that these Christians have a cosmic privilege in comparison with the angels?

Application Questions

  • How do you think about salvation today? What kind of value do you place on it? Is it something that is assumed or just blends into the background of your life? Or is it in the foreground of your mind and heart as something exceedingly precious so that you feel the privilege to be a recipient of the most precious gift anyone could ever receive?
  • According to 1 Peter 1:1 and 5:12, what is the theme of the entire letter? How does that theme connect to the main point of 1 Peter 1:10–12? That is, how does Peter’s point about the preciousness of salvation relate to the call to stand firm in the true grace of God as those who know this world is not our home? Is that your mentality? Or do you find yourself sometimes trying to make this world your home?
  • In this sermon, what truths landed upon you that you need to share with others in your life? How can you share these truths? Devote it to prayer!

Prayer Focus
Pray for a grace for the Lord to restore the joy of your salvation as you rejoice in your privileged place in salvation history.

Downtown Campus

720 13th Avenue South, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 55415
Sundays: 7:30am, 9am & 11am

North Campus

5151 Program Ave, Mounds View, Minnesota, 55112
Sundays: 9am & 11am

South Campus

20700 Kenrick Ave, Lakeville, Minnesota, 55044
Sundays: 10:30am