In order to understand what Peter writes next you have to put yourself in the shoes of his first audience. In 1 Peter, Peter repeatedly makes reference to suffering (1:6-7, 2:13-14, 2:21-23, 4:15-16, 5:10). If you are a Christian suffering because you are a Christian you are in a difficult position in need of encouragement. It is important to be reminded of the importance of your faith and precious nature of your identity in Christ.
Peter is trying to renew a sense of hope in them and does that through reminding them of who God is making them to be and what it is God has done and continues to do for them. Not only are they elect, sanctified and sprinkled (a trinitarian combination in 1:1-2), they are chosen by God. Peter hopes that this gives them hope to make it through their struggles,
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” – 1:3
What makes this hope a “living hope”? First they need a living hope because they are faced with death because of their faith. Second it is a living hope because it is a hope based on resurrection because it is a hope that is supported by the fact that Jesus was crucified but came alive again by the power of the same Spirit who is at work sanctifying them and now us. If you struggle to find hope because you are suffering, dwell on these words and realize just how precious you are to God for God to sanctify you, give you the blood of Jesus and choose you. The world doesn’t have this kind of hope because the world has no sense of or connection with resurrection.
The next thing Peter tells them, to encourage them, in 1:4 is that they have an inheritance,
“and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you,” – 1:4
What prerequisites must be met to legally receive inheritance? One must be proven to be legitimate children. Paul addresses this in Galatians 4:6-7 where it is the Spirit who testifies on our behalf that we are God’s children and so we can legitimately receive God’s inheritance. The same thing is said in Romans 8:17. Why is this important? It is important because our hope hinges on receiving the eternal blessings God has promised to His children. If only God’s children receive these blessings then it is important to know you are one.
Next, in 1:5-7, Peter openly discusses the tension of the intersection of faith and suffering. I believe he does to put their struggles into perspective to help them persevere in their trials,
“5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” – 1:5-7
How can someone be shielded by God’s power and still undergo suffering and trials? Peter doesn’t say the first prevents the second but seems to say both are happening at the same time. If one was shielded by God’s power you might expect to not have to endure suffering? That is not the case. Often our faith is the direct cause of suffering rather than a preventive agent against it. God is allowing his people to go through difficulty for a greater purpose that he defines in 1:7 – the proving of their faith. When we go through difficult things for a cause it strengthens our resolve in the cause by deepening our level of investment in the cause we are supporting. Peter will later tell his readers that not only is their faith refined through suffering but there is also an evangelistic bi-product of the Christian who endures suffering in a similar manner to Jesus – you will gain the attention of unbelievers and have opportunity to explain the reason for the hope you have (1 Peter 3:15). This is also how Peter concludes verse 7, that their suffering may result in Jesus being honored. There is no greater vocation a human being can engage in than bringing honor to Jesus, so if suffering accomplishes that (along with the refining of our faith) then so be it.
Peter also encourages them that their suffering is not forever, rather, it is for a “little while.” Suffering isn’t forever. God is faithful and God will take care of us, ultimately just as we are shielded by his power when we suffer. What kind of suffering have you had to endure in your life? Have you ever had to suffer for your faith in Christ? Remember that our suffering in Jesus’ name comes with a blessing (Matt 5:10-11). Maybe you have had to suffer for what seems more than a little while. Maybe you have suffered for a long time. In what ways has God reminded you of his faithfulness and protection in the midst of difficulty?
All of this is moving them and us toward salvation,
“8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.” – 1:8-12
Peter says you do not see God directly, God has revealed (enabled you to see) what you need to see in order to have the faith He is calling you to. It is so easy to take the Gospel for granted, especially if you grew up in church. The Jesus story can seem so ordinary but it isn’t ordinary at all. God doesn’t become a man to suffer and die for His creation. It is an odd story…it was a mysterious story (Paul calls the Gospel a mystery in Ephesians). Yet it is our story. What angels and prophets wanted to know has been revealed to us. Praise God! No, this is not an ordinary story and that means our faith is not ordinary either, which means we must hang on to our faith and not lose heart. It is all too precious and too valuable to ignore or reject. You now know the answers to the angels questions for all eternity.
All of this means you are special to God. No matter what you are going through hang in there!