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Faith Upon Faith Upon Faith: 1 Peter 1:3-12

Updated: Dec 11, 2020

A Man of Principle:

“Boy, be a man of principle!” As a kid I heard something of this sort from multiple sources. Whether it be through movies, day-time television, and/or Saturday morning cartoons, living life based off principle seemed to be a virtuous trait. Though as a young boy I had no clue what it ultimately meant, as I entered adulthood, I found its premise fundamentally necessary and progressively true. That is, could I navigate through life without any sense of moral obligation and/or ambitious pursuit? If no, why not? If so, why so? What was informing me of “proper” interaction with people of the general population? How was I to measure “faithfulness” in my everyday encounters with teachers, professors, employers, co-workers, and so on? What was guiding me, a young man, in my everyday ventures in life? Ultimately, what was driving me to do the things that I was doing? I soon found out that I was not much of a man of principle, and, honestly, that bothered me. It had seemed as though everyone else was operating out of a grid that primed them toward convictional engagement. I, on the other hand, seemed a bit nonchalant in my own personal outlook on life.


And yet, as the Lord took hold of my heart, I began to sense a deep and profound conviction. I started to meditate on texts like Colossians 1:16b which says, “all things were created through Him and for Him.” If everything—hence the “all”—is created by Him and, therefore, everything is created for Him, I had to reevaluate my own motivations amid these truths. And if this is the case, how does that truth impact the very fabric of my life and, thus, my direction, from this moment forward, as a follower of Jesus Christ? Is not this a principle, i.e., a theological truth, that must transform how I live? Should not this color every (I mean every) aspect of my daily engagement? Slowly, but surely, by God’s grace, I had begun to be a man of principle, a man of conviction. In an age of compromise and false unity, biblical principles temper your outlook on life when the winds of modernity and the waves of secularism seek to unhitch us from the Rock of Ages.


Thus, in an age of subjectivity, guarding one’s heart from ambiguity is done, first, by informing the mind and, second, by generating new affections for the commands of Christ. Thus, wisdom literature rightly informs us when it says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Prov. 4:23). Faith, then, is heart transplant for new living (cf. Ezek. 36:26-27).


An All-Consuming Faith:


Faith, simply, is the rudimentary marker for regenerate believers which shape and frame how the world is to be perceived and, in turn, embarked upon. Faith in Christ, then, is not an empty belief void of logical coherence. Rather, faith is trusting and holding to the fact that the Person of Christ is sufficient in interpreting reality and establishing coherence. The Apostle Paul asserts that it is in “Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3; cf. Prov. 1:7; 9:10-11; 111:10). Thus, as one author concludes, “Knowing Christ, in other words, means learning humility.”[1] This humility reasserts the primacy and Lordship of Christ. Thus, the Christian faith does not merely impact a peculiar aspect of human life, but rather encapsulates the entirety of the created order. To this end, we will evaluate the three components of faith in Christ found in 1 Peter 1:3-12: (1) a living hope, (2) a trial by fire, and (3) the living Word.


In A Living Hope. The Apostle Peter directs the reader’s attention to the anchor that secures divine hope amid their election as exiles (cf. 1 Pet. 1:1). First and foremost, not only do they have a confidence of peace in God through Christ (1 Pet. 1:2b), but their union, furthermore, constitutes familial assurance. The Sonship of Christ, then, is attributed to those who have been “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1:3b). To this end, the Apostle asserts a doxological acknowledgement of God as the “Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:3a). Calvin, in turn, winsomely articulates,

As formerly He marked the difference between Him and all fictitious gods by calling Himself the God of Abraham, so now after He has manifested Himself in His own Son, He wills to be known only in Him. Hence those who conceive of God in His naked majesty apart from Christ have an idol instead of the true God, as the case is with the Jews and the Turks. Whoever then seeks really to know the true God must regard Him as the Father of Christ, for, whenever our minds seeks God, unless it meets Christ it will wander and be confused, until it is wholly lost. Peter meant at the same time to show how God is so bountiful and kind towards us, for, unless Christ stands in between as Mediator, His goodness could never be really known by us.[2]

The covenantal grounding, then, that affirms the election of the saints is tethered to the notion that God has actively and providentially brought forth the church’s salvific appeal. Peter, in 1:3, asserts that “He has caused us to be born again” (Gk. anagennesas). Thus, the emphasis is directed upon God as being the active agent in producing new life in the believer.[3] This is consistent with Peter’s earlier charge of God’s foreknowledge in electing the saints to be the people of God (cf. 1:1-2). This new birth, or rather rebirth, is “being guarded” (1:5) by the power of God through the expression of faith.

And yet, this faith is placing its (living) hope upon an inheritance that will be rewarded to those who are found in Christ Jesus. This new life, which has been formed through the resurrection, is joined “to an inheritance . . . kept in heaven for you” (1:4). This inheritance, then, is the promise of eternal life that is awaiting fulfillment in the new heavens and new earth (cf. Rev. 21:1-4). Just as Abraham was promised a land—the land of Canaan—and Israel was given that land, so Christ will usher in the fulfillment of the new promise land through the reconstruction of the earth (cf. Gen. 12:7; Jos. 2-7; Rev. 21-22). Oren R. Martin helpfully writes,

At this time in salvation history, however, the fulfilment is focused primarily on Christ, who Himself has inaugurated a new creation through His resurrection and has made new creations out of those united with Him. That is, in Christ God’s covenant presence and blessing is found, and those united to Him by faith in His death and resurrection receive their inheritance, rest, and indeed every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Him (Eph. 1:3). In the present, believers live as exiles (1 Peter 1:1; 2:11) between the inauguration and consummation of the kingdom and anticipate the final fulfilment and enjoyment of these covenant blessings in His presence in the new heaven and new earth won by the Lord Jesus Christ ( Rev. 21-22).[4]

The inheritance affirmed by Peter is a symbol of hope for believers which embodies a fellowship with the Father in the eternal kingdom of the triune God. That is, the blessings of the inheritance are an eschatological reality brought forth by the King amid His return, i.e., parousia. This, inevitably, is ensured not by the strength of the individual, but through the covenantal faithfulness of the Savior (1:4b; “kept in heaven for you”). “The passive of the word ‘kept’ (teteremenen) is a divine passive,” according to Thomas R. Schreiner, “referring to God as the one who reserves the inheritance for believers. Peter emphasizes in the strongest possible terms the security and certainty of the reward awaiting believers.”[5] Furthermore, that divine security is expressed through faith: “who by the power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1:5; italics mine).


Amid Trials by Fire. The current struggle that is being experienced, then, is to be seen from the standpoint of divine initiation. That is, imminent trials are forged to test the “genuineness of your faith” (1:7; italics mine). Like the purification of gold and precious metals, faith is strengthened, bolstered, and invigorated by exertion through affliction which refines the will and shapes the heart. Similarly, the Apostle Paul urges the saints by saying, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom. 3-5; italics mine). Even as personal trainers, in principle, convey to their clientele that “pain is weakness leaving the body,” turmoil is tension weening worldliness from regenerate believers.


Thus, Peter gives account for the existential binaries that are ever present within the believers (cf. 1:6). Yet, the moorings of such joys are fettered to Christ Jesus Himself. The Apostle charges the saints to rejoice in the Gospel, while simultaneously identifying with the grievousness of “various trials” (1:6). The perseverance of the saints, then, is marked by fixing our eyes upon the promises of God and tempering our thoughts to the world that is to come (cf. Heb. 12:2). As the Apostle Paul notes, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Col. 3:2). Hence, it is by our faith in Christ that we can overcome the deplorableness of this world even though we do not see Him now (1:8; cf. 5:9). To this end, our joy will be infinitely more glorious than the momentary affliction that is being endured in “obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1:9; cf. 2 Cor. 4:17).


The Living Word. And yet, this faith is not a new venture nor an innovation of modern development. Rather, faith is intrinsically tied to the progressiveness of God’s self-revelation in bringing forth His redemptive purposes to a broken and fallen world. As Andreas J. Köstenberger contends, “Evangelical fidelity is centered on a person, the triune God, who has borne witness to Himself in the written texts of the canon of Scripture.”[6] The prophets, who were guided by the hand of the Spirit, “searched and inquired carefully” to make sense of God’s salvific ends which is ours in Christ Jesus (1:10; cf. 2 Pet. 1:19-21). A point of encouragement, then, is that the prophets of old toiled for the good of the church which obtained a witness of faith that the body of saints can now stand firm upon amid the terrors of trials. “It was revealed to them,” says Peter, “that they were serving not themselves but you” (1:12, italics mine). Thus, the narrative of Scripture is the description of the faithfulness of God in working through broken man to bring forth restoration to the world through the messianic seed, Christ Jesus.


This charge, then, encourages and empowers the church to stand firm in the midst of suffering for the sake of Christ and the coming generations. That is, by upholding the doctrines of faith, we not only preserve the dogmas that have been handed down through the church historic, but, furthermore, we model a zeal and affection for the truths of God that anchor our hearts amid a polarizing world. We must suffer, then, knowing that we have an audience that is conscious of our movements rooted in the Person and work of Christ.


Fixing Our Eyes:


Faith, then, is not merely a theoretical guise nor an intellectual rouse. Rather, faith is centered upon a Person. A historical figure who was foretold of by the prophets of old and embodied amid the Nazarene pathways of 1st century life (cf. Gen. 3:15; Isa 53; John 1:9-11; Heb. 1:1-4). Furthermore, He was enthroned beyond the boundaries of time and latitude of space, and yet He “emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7; cf. Jn. 1:1-3; Col. 1:15-20). In so doing, He took upon Himself the travesties of the world that He would rectify and atone in Himself a people for His Name. By substitution, “He is the propitiation for our sins” (1 Jn. 2:2; cf. Rom. 3:25) that we might become the children of God (cf. Jn. 1:12; 1 Cor. 4:8; 2 Cor. 5:21; Tit. 3:7).


To this end, the Gospel of Christ, the trials of life, and the living Word that has been kept for the benefit of the church has been given in order that the faith of the saints may be instilled, invigorated, and refined for the glory and renown of the triune God. Amid God’s created order, there is no event that is passed without His sovereign decree nor without His perfect will (cf. Eph. 1:5-10). He has purposed all things to the fancy of His infinite, omniscient, and perfect foresight. Therefore, let us fix our eyes on “Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2, italics mine); knowing that He is seeking to sanctify His elect for the glory of His fame and the good of His peoplethe church.

 

***footnotes***

[1] Mark A. Noll, Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind (Grand Rapid, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2013), 62. [2] John Calvin, Hebrews and 1 and 2 Peter: Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries, vol. 12, trans. W. B. Johnston (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1980), 231-232. [3] Thomas R. Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, NAC (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishers, 2003), 61. [4] Oren R. Martin, Bound for the Promised Land: The Land Promise in God’s Redemptive Plan (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2015), 119. [5] Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, 63. [6] Andreas J. Köstenberger, Excellence: The Character of God and the Pursuit of Scholarly Virtue (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011), 167.

 

McYoung Y. Yang (MDiv, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; ThM, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the husband to Debbie and the father to McCayden (12), McCoy (10), McColsen (8), and DeYoung (5).  He is the Teaching Pastor at Covenant City Church in St. Paul, MN and a homeschool father to his children. McYoung is continuing his doctoral studies at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, MO. His ambition is to use his training as a means to serve the local church in living life through the Gospel lens.

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