“We’re being saved by someone we cannot and never will see.” In a way, that describes the Christian faith, and I have to admit that at first glance it sounds ridiculous. Being saved? What is “being saved” all about? Christians talk about being saved, but what do we mean? Saved from what? And saved by whom? Jesus? A guy that lived 2000 years ago? How does this work? Does it seem illogical or anti-intellectual? If you say “yes” to that, I don’t blame you. It does sound odd.
As we continue looking at 1 Peter 1:6-12, Peter delves into this issue because the people he was writing to are like us, they never met Jesus and never would. He was gone 30 years prior to this writing.
Start by reading verses 6-7 and the post about those verses. Then look at verses 8-9 for how Peter’s thought proceeds. When you keep the faith in the midst of trials, what happens? First, he encourages the people because even though they didn’t have the privilege of knowing Jesus in the flesh, like Peter did, they still love him and believe in him. That is pretty deep. It describes you and I, and our belief in Jesus. We never knew him in the flesh, and yet we still believe and love him. It takes serious faith to believe in that which you cannot see or touch or hear.
Peter’s goal is to be very encouraging to the people because if they wanted to, they could feel that they are really far removed from Jesus. Not only did they never meet the guy, and never have the experience of his touch, his miracles, his teaching, and everything that made him so compelling, they are now being persecuted for faith in him. It’s almost ridiculous. You can hear the people in their towns. Maybe their family and friends saying “So you’re telling me that you are following the teaching of some prophet from Israel who died 30 years ago, and you never met him? Are you sure about this?” Add in the persecution, and a person could have less and less reason for keeping the faith.
So Peter just calls it all out. “I know you are suffering trials. I know you didn’t see him. But you still love and believe in him! That is awesome. Rejoice!” Peter is saying, “you are doing the right thing. It might seem ridiculous, it might not make sense to the people around you, and they might try hard to get you to stop it, but you are doing the right thing. So rejoice in that!”
In fact, the words the Peter uses in the original are “greatly rejoice joy inexpressible and praise”. That’s three rejoice words, and two emphatic words all jumbled together. That means he thinks they should really, really be happy about this situation.
But there’s more. They should be super excited and happy not just because they are doing the right thing in the middle of a difficult situation, but also because the benefit to them is amazing. He says, “For you are receiving the goal of your faith, salvation of your souls!”
Wait…what? Aren’t they already saved? Yes. Why does he say “you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls”? He makes it sound like salvation isn’t fully theirs yet.
Jesus and the apostles taught that we were saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved. Sound confusing? It was surprising and confusing to me, too, the first time I hear that. That word “saved” is a Christian word we throw around a lot, but what is this salvation, and how can it possibly be saved in the past, being saved in the present and saved in the future?
Let me explain. You can be saved from something, and you can be saved for something. When a person is drowning in a pool, a life guard jumps in and saves them. The life guard saves that person from dying. Or you can go to the store, and find that packs of Oreo cookies are on sale, buy one, get one free. Jackpot. You buy them, bring them home, and you don’t want your family to ravenously eat both packs in one day, so maybe you hide it in the back on the pantry. You are saving that pack for use another time.
Like the drowning man, Jesus’ life, death and resurrection can save us from the penalty of sin, which is separation from God.
In other words we were saved in the past, as we talked about last week, when we were born again. Remember that phrase? Born again. We talked about it last week. Look at verse 3 and you see the words “he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus.” New birth, or born again, we saw last week, is from Jesus’ teaching in John 3. Being born again is when we believe in Jesus, and his Holy Spirit enters our lives, and we follow Jesus.
But that doesn’t mean that you have suddenly become all that God wants you to be. There is still a process of transformation that God is working by his Spirit in our lives. In other words, we Christians are not finished works, we are in process, we are being changed, and because of that we say that we are in the process of being saved. We were saved from the penalty of sin, and we are being saved, like the Oreos, for a new life of following the way of Jesus.
But there is still that day in the future, that day of Jesus’ revealing Peter said earlier in verse 5, that day when we will be finally and completely saved, either when we die and go to heaven or when Jesus returns.
We are saved, we are being saved, and one day we will be saved. So keep the faith, Peter says, no matter what you are going through, keep the faith. Even though you have not seen and do not yet see Jesus, choose to love him and follow him, even if you are being persecuted for him, because you are being saved. And in that you can rejoice!