Peter understood crises of identity. Perhaps more than any other figure in our Bibles, this Apostle wrestled with who he was.
We meet Peter in the first chapter of John’s gospel. His brother Andrew has discovered the Messiah, Jesus Christ, whom John the Baptist pointed to as the Lamb of God come to be offered for the sins of the world.
To Jesus, Andrew brought Peter, whose given name was Simon. At once, the Savior gave him a new name, Cephas in the Aramaic language, or Peter, which means “stone” or “rock.”
This naming convention executed by Jesus follows a pattern in the Scriptures. Naturally given names are modified or overwritten by the Lord to signify the transformation that the grace of God brings.
We see this in Genesis 35, in particular, with Jacob. The name he carried meant “supplanter” or “follower.” Some have written that Jacob means “cheater” or “heel” for he came forth from his mother clinging to the heel of his twin Esau.
During a night of wrestling with the Angel of the Lord, Jacob refused to let go. His hip was displaced to bring him to submission. He pleaded for a blessing and so the Lord gave it to him in the form of a new name – Israel, prince with God.
As we read through the pages of the Bible, we find that Israel (Jacob) did not always behave royally. He possessed a cleverness and propensity for trying to manipulate situations for his advantage. And yet God blessed him with 12 sons whose descendants formed the tribes that made up the nation of Israel, the Chosen People.
Likewise, Peter was not always rock-solid in his walk with the Son of God. He famously boasted that he would die for Jesus and then denied knowing the Savior three times. He fell asleep as Jesus agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane.
After experiencing the presence and ministry of the Resurrected Lord, Peter got the idea that it was time to fall back into his old line of work as a fisherman in John 21. Being a leader among the disciples, he was followed in his misadventure by several others. But Jesus met Peter there on the shore, fed him breakfast, and commissioned him afresh in his calling.
The letter of 1 Peter gives us an indication of how this follower of Jesus developed a mindset that solidified him in his eternal purpose.
The very first sentence of the salutation is declarative: “Peter, an Apostle of Jesus Christ.” The writer’s simple introduction of himself is brief and to the point. Nothing could alter this reality of Peter’s person. Christ called him, named him, and equipped him for the ministry of grace and hope. He wants the readers to know that this is who he is. He then sets about telling them who they are.
The words Peter uses to indicate our identity in Christ are these: elect or chosen, foreknown, sanctified by the Spirit in obedience to Jesus and for sprinkling with His Blood. All who believe in Christ possess these identifiers.
A short, simple prayer concludes his salutation: “May grace and peace be multiplied to you.”
A Secure Inheritance
Next, we are introduced to the primary theme of 1 Peter. It is that we are born again to the living hope. This living hope comes to us from the living God who sent His Son to die for the sins of the world.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time”(1 Peter 1:3-5)
Let’s look at the words that Peter uses to define the basis for this hope that we have. He begins by speaking of being born again. Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3 that none can see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again.
Birth comes as a gift of grace to us. Especially in our present world culture, none are guaranteed a place in this world even after he has been conceived.
Peter makes the point that we need regeneration. That is, we cannot make ourselves fit for the Kingdom. God saves us by grace through our faith in the Son.
Our new birth brings to us an inheritance. By being made one with Christ, it means that all that belongs to Him also belongs to us. Nothing can touch this inheritance and Peter defines its permanence with three words.
“Imperishable” – our inheritance is not subject to decay.
“Undefiled” – our inheritance is pure and clean.
“Unfading” – our inheritance possesses a glory that can never grow dim.
The validation of our regeneration and inheritance is the resurrection of Christ. And His resurrection confirms the promise or hope of a total renewal of who we are. An ultimate salvation is being kept and guarded for us. This ultimate reality for us is described in 1 John 3:2, “We know that, when He is revealed, we will be like Him; for we will see Him just as He is.”
The Day of the Lord will come when all things shall be made new and right. For now, let us look to that day with the living hope given to us by the living God. With our hearts and imaginations, we feed our hope as Moses fed his hope “by seeing Him who is invisible” (see Hebrews 11).
Tried by Trials
Peter wrote of hope as a way to encourage those who faced various or manifold trials.
“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ”(1 Peter 1:6-7)
The various challenges facing the readers of Peter’s letter could only be faced by thinking with God. A concentration on the living hope brings keeping power. Paul wrote to the Philippians about rejoicing always and the key to rejoicing is in the things that we mind.
Peter understood the trials of faith. He heard Jesus say that tribulation would be part of life for believers. He would suffer a cruel death in Rome as mentioned in his second letter. Sporadic persecutions were coming to believers everywhere.
The citizens of the Roman world were watching. The faith exhibited in the midst of these trials proved the power of the Gospel and the Spirit.
Tested faith, like purified gold, shines brighter and there are those who notice. The revelation of Jesus Christ shall reveal just how faith in trials did its work in the hearts of those watching.
Peter commends believers for their faith in Christ unseen. Peter did see Jesus, even in a transfigured form. Thomas believed and felt the wounds still present on the Resurrection Body of the Son.
“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8-9)
Perhaps, you have heard of love at first sight. Maybe you have even experienced it. What of love without sight at all? This, Peter said, is most glorious and praiseworthy.Perhaps, you have heard of love at first sight. Maybe you have even experienced it. What of love without sight at all? This, Peter said, is most glorious and praiseworthy. Click To Tweet
Born again unto the magnificent, ever alive hope, we now live and love in the fellowship of the Spirit and the communion of the saints. We experience Christ in us and among us, even though we cannot see Him. We may come to know the words He told the disciples: “Lo, I am with you always…even to the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20).
Read the record of what John was shown in Revelation. Take note of the singing and shouts that proceed from the mouths of those who see the Lamb of God in all of His glory.
We will be there. We will bow, we will weep, and we will cast our crowns before Him.
We will rejoice forever for we will have obtained the full outcome of faith in the salvation of our souls.
Our ultimate living hope is this: the full, complete, and total victory of Christ and of Christ in us is coming. Think on that glorious Day and be encouraged in the face of the troubles, trials, and persecutions. Christ is with us always. He is present even now. The glory to come can be imagined and experienced even today.