1 Peter 1:6-7 – Rejoicing and Grieving (I)

Peter's first letter

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 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. (1:6-7 ESV)

As we move along in 1 Peter and we’ll be considering verses 6 and 7 of chapter 1.
In those verses we’ll see two apparently contradictory characteristics of the Christian life. What are those characteristics that Peter highlights in these verses? Well, firstly, he speaks of our rejoicing;

“In this you greatly rejoice”.

He then goes on to speak of our grieving;

“though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials”.

They seem to be quite contradictory dispositions. They seem to be at odds with one another. They seem to be mutually exclusive.
How can you be rejoicing if you’re grieving?
How can you be grieving if you’re rejoicing?
These verses show that the Christian can and should be characterised by both rejoicing and grieving. That comes about as a result of the curious position that we find ourselves in as believers in Christ in this present world.
Perhaps you’ll remember that Peter was writing this letter to believers in Christ throughout a number of Roman Provinces in the area to the south of the Black Sea that was known as Asia Minor and is now modern day Turkey and he described them as “scattered, elect sojourners”. That is a description that applies to all Christians during their time as believers in this world. It speaks of the reality of our present situation. That reality is that we are no longer at home in this world.
As believers in Christ our citizenship is now in heaven so, for the time being, we are away from our heavenly home. We’re living here, so we are in the world, but we are aliens so we are not of the world. That description, “scattered, elect sojourners” implies both rejoicing and grieving. Knowing that we are “elect” surely suggests great cause for rejoicing but being told that we are “scattered sojourners” suggests that there is also plenty of scope for grieving.
In verses 6 and 7, Peter spells out this apparent contradiction more clearly. That we are to be characterised by both rejoicing and grieving is more than an implication or a suggestion. Both are genuine realities for the Christian in this life.
So, we’ll look at these verses under two main headings:

For this post: Christians really rejoice now

And followed in our next post with: Christians genuinely grieve now

Christians really rejoice now
You’ll see that verse 6 begins with Peter making the assertion: “In this you greatly rejoice”. In considering that statement, let us answer four questions about this great rejoicing:

Who rejoices?

When do they rejoice?

How do they rejoice?

Why do they rejoice?

Who rejoices?
From the context it is clear that the statement “In this you greatly rejoice” was being made to those that Peter was addressing in the letter. You’ll perhaps remember that, in verses 1 and 2, he had described them as “scattered, elect sojourners” and he’d then went on to say that they were those “who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood”. In short, without expounding all that again, he is referring to Christians. It’s those to whom God the Father, His great mercy, has given new birth into a living hope and into an eternal inheritance. It is believers in Christ who have cause for the rejoicing that Peter is talking about here. Next, let us answer the question:
When do they rejoice?
We see the answer to that question by noticing that Peter’s statement, “In this you greatly rejoice”, is in the present tense. We are to be rejoicing here and now even though we are strangers in a hostile world and away from our heavenly home. This present world confronts the believer in Christ with all sorts of problems and hardships and tensions but, nonetheless, we’re not to be grimly hanging on until a better world comes. Christians have every reason to be rejoicing now and are to be characterised by rejoicing now. Next, let us answer the question:
How do they rejoice?
If you’re using the ESV you’ll see that it simply says “In this you rejoice” but other versions such as the NIV or NKJV have “In this you greatly rejoice”. Now, the Greek word for “greatly” isn’t actually in the Greek text but it has been added in an attempt to capture the sense of the Greek verb that is being translated as “rejoice” here. It is a word that is never used by secular Greek writers and, when it’s used in the New Testament scriptures, it invariably refers to a deep spiritual joy that consists of rejoicing in who God is and in what He has done. So, for instance, look at Luke 1v46-47 where we read “And Mary said: My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour”. Mary wasn’t simply feeling a bit happy there. She was rejoicing in God and particularly in the fact that He was her Saviour.
For another example we can look at the words of Jesus in Luke 10v20: “However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven”. Here the 72 disciples that Jesus had sent out had returned to Him with great joy. They were thrilled by what they’d been doing. They were on an emotional high but Jesus quickly applied the necessary corrective. In effect He said “Don’t be superficially thrilled by what you think you’ve been doing for God – rather rejoice in what God has done for you. The fact that He has written your names is in heaven is the cause for real rejoicing”.
So, you see, Peter isn’t talking about a superficial, happy-clappy, “now I am happy all the day” sort of rejoicing. It’s a deep, underlying rejoicing that’s based in knowing God and what He has done.
Neither is Peter talking about rejoicing as a facade that pretends that problems don’t exist and denies the reality of difficulties and grievances. Sometimes you hear people say “If I didn’t laugh I’d cry”. The idea is that they’ll put on a facade of happiness in an attempt to try to forget or ignore or deny their sadness. Well, our rejoicing isn’t the spiritual equivalent of that. As we’ll be going on to see, Christians genuinely grieve now as well as really rejoicing now. The fact is that the things that cause us grief cannot nullify the reasons that believers in Christ have for real rejoicing. So, next, let us answer the question:
Why do they rejoice?
Notice that Peter said: “In this you greatly rejoice”. In what do we “greatly rejoice”? What is the reason for the Christian rejoicing here and now despite facing problems and genuine grief? Well, in the context of 1 Peter 1, Peter is referring back to what he said in verses 3 to 5: “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, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade— kept in heaven for you, 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. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials”. We’ll not go over those wonderfully encouraging words in any detail now because we’ve done so previously but let us briefly remind ourselves of what we saw in those verses.

In verse 3 we saw what God has already done for us in the past: He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection from the dead.

In verse 4 we saw what God is doing with regard to our future: He is keeping an inheritance for us in heaven that can’t perish or spoil or fade.

In verse 5 we saw what God is doing for us now: He is keeping us so that we will be able to go on to receive that inheritance that is being kept for us.

So , Peter is saying that what God has done for us in the past and what He is continuing to do for us in the present and what He will do for us in the future are all reasons for us to “greatly rejoice” now.
In our next post we will take up the “grieving” factor of verses 6 and 7.
~ Steve
Dr. Steve Orr
Dr Orr has served the Body of Christ in the United Kingdom for many years and in various capacities (preaching, teaching, etc.,). Steve is a regular contributor to the pages of Christ My Covenant. His insights into the Word of God will serve you in your personal study of God’s Word. Learn of Christ!