1 Peter 1:8-9 – ..because of an invisible Person (I)

 

Peter's first letter

 

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, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls (1:8-9)

We’re going to continue to look at Peter’s first letter this morning. Last time we considered verses 6 and 7 of chapter 1 where Peter said “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 honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ”. We saw that Peter spoke of two apparently contradictory characteristics of the Christian life. Firstly, he spoke of our rejoicing. He said: “In this you greatly rejoice”. Then he spoke of our grieving. He said: “though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials”. We saw from that that Christians really rejoice now and that Christians genuinely grieve now.

That apparent contradiction stems from the tension that exists for us as believers in Christ in this present world. Peter had already suggested something of that tension. He’d described believers in Christ as being “scattered, elect sojourners”. In this world we are absent from our true heavenly home and are in a hostile environment. That gives rise to “suffering grief in all kinds of trials”. However, Peter had also spoken of believers in Christ as having been “given new birth into a living hope” and “into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade” that is being “kept in heaven for us”. What’s more, we are being ”shielded by God’s power” until we receive that promised, eternal inheritance. No wonder we have reason to “greatly rejoice”! So there’s tension between genuine grief as we suffer in a hostile environment and real rejoicing as we experience new life, living hope and the prospect of an eternal inheritance.

For this session we’re going to move on to consider verses 8 and 9 where we again find some rather surprising words. We read: “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”.

Those verses might not appear to contain such a blatant contradiction as verses 6 and 7 but they certainly include a couple of conundrums. Perhaps a suitable title would be something like “Inexpressible rejoicing because of an invisible Person”. We’re going to look at four components of those two verses and they are really four important facets of the Christian life. They are all true of those who are “scattered, elect sojourners”. The four points are:

The FOCUS in these verses

The RELATIONSHIP in these verses

The EXPERIENCE in these verses

The END in these verses

For this post we will consider the first two of these four points. Next post we will consider the remaining to points.

It wasn’t intentional but I’ve noticed that first letters of those four headings spell out the word “FREE” which is an appropriate description of the Christian isn’t it. Remember that Jesus said in John 8v36: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed”. So perhaps that simple acronym will help you to remember the four points as we go along. Let’s start by noticing:

 

The FOCUS in these verses

The focus is immediately evident when we read verse 8: “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”.

The focus of that verse is unmistakeable. You can’t miss it! The emphasis is so clearly on “Him”. The verse is full of “Him”. That repeated use of the word “Him” reveals several things about the focus of the Christian life.

Firstly, it immediately shows us that the focus is on a person.

We don’t read: “Though you have not seen it, you love it. Though you do not now see it, you believe in it and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory”. The focus of Christianity is not a thing or an idea or a system or a philosophy. It is centred on a person. Its focus is “Him”.

Secondly, the context makes it very clear who that person is.

If we look at the preceding couple of verses we see that Peter said: “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. 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”.

So, the person who is repeatedly referred to as “Him” in verse 8 is “Jesus Christ”.

He is at the heart of the Christian life. He is the focus of the Christian life. Of course, we know that don’t we? Even so, we find it all too easy to shift that focus. In principle we are aware that Jesus is at the heart of our faith. We readily assert that Jesus is at the centre of our faith. But, in practise, we all too easily become preoccupied with ourselves – our feelings, our responsibilities, our actions, our understanding of doctrine, our church fellowship and so on. Now, all of those things matter. We’re not to disregard them or dismiss them but “Jesus Christ” must always come first. He is the focus of the Christian life. He is the very heart of the Christian life.

Having recognised the fundamental truth that “Jesus Christ” is the focus of the Christian life and Biblical Christianity, we must also recognise that it’s all too easy to simply think in terms of “Jesus Christ” as just being an important character from history. Of course, He was a genuine and important historical character but His name “Jesus Christ” speaks of Him being so much more than that. He was specifically given the name “Jesus” because it means Saviour. That was appropriate because He would save His people from their sins. And, it didn’t just so happen that He would save His people. The word “Christ” speaks of Him being the promised Messiah. He was specifically sent by God to be the Saviour.

Peter makes it clear how “Jesus Christ” brings about salvation for His people. Back in verse 3 Peter had already said: “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”. You see, we have new birth and a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. For there to be a resurrection there had to be a death.

A little later, in verses 18 to 21, Peter said a bit more about that death. We read: “knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God”. So, Jesus was raised from the dead following a sacrificial death on behalf of those who believe in Him. This is the focus of our faith: Jesus the Saviour who laid down His life for us and was then raised from the dead.

The third thing to notice about the focus of these verses is that He is now unseen.

Perhaps that is one of the reasons we find it so easy to shift the focus. It’s an invisible or unseen focus and we find it much easier to grasp things that are tangible. Of course, Peter was writing as one who had seen “Jesus Christ”. He’d spent about three years following Him on Earth. He’d heard Him teaching, he’d witnessed His miracles, he’d eaten with Him and spoken with Him. He’d even seen something of His true glory revealed on the mount of transfiguration. Look at what Peter said in his second letter, chapter 1v 16-18:

“For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain”.

But, that wasn’t true of Peter’s readers and we see that he was aware of that.

He said “Though you have not seen him”. They had never seen Jesus in the past as Peter had done and neither have we. Peter also knew that, like himself, they certainly weren’t seeing Jesus in the present either because he went on to say: “Though you do not now see Him”. Why didn’t they see Him? Why did Peter no longer see Him in the way that he once had? Well, remember the words of the Lord Jesus Christ to His disciples shortly before His death in John 16v7-10. We read:

“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer”.

You see, Jesus was going to go away. He was going to return to the Father in heaven. That’s why He is no longer seen.

It’s exactly the same for us too. We haven’t seen Jesus in the past and we don’t see Him now because He is with the Father in heaven. So, the focus of our faith is unseen. Jesus is real, He’s alive but, nonetheless, so far as physical sight is concerned, He is unseen. As believers in Christ we walk by faith and not by sight.

Jesus is not merely the focus as some sort of unseen talisman. The next thing we must notice is:

 

The RELATIONSHIP in these verses

Peter mentions two aspects of the relationship between his Christian readers and the unseen Jesus Christ who died as a sacrifice and rose from the dead.

The first aspect of the relationship between Christians and the unseen Jesus Christ is that it is a relationship of love.

Peter says: “Though you have not seen him, you love him”. The word “love” there is in the present continuous tense. It speaks of a present and ongoing loving relationship with Christ. The word “love” is often used in a very transient way in our society. During the commentary on the Royal Wedding or in the reports after it you would hear commentators saying that they “loved the dress”. What they meant by that was that, at that time and in that context, the dress made a favourable impression on them. They certainly didn’t mean that they would spend the rest of their lives “loving the dress”. The believer’s love for Jesus Christ isn’t like that. It’s a lifelong and moment by moment loving relationship with Him.

I wonder if Peter had in mind the probing conversation the risen Lord Jesus Christ had with him on the beach. You’ll remember that, despite all Peter’s self confident boasting and bravado, he’d gone on to deny Jesus three times. What was the main concern of the risen Lord Jesus Christ as He spoke to Peter later? What was the crucial, all important, question? Will you really protect Me more bravely than the others? Will you really follow Me more closely than the others? Will you really confess Me from now on? No.

We find the account of the encounter in John 21v15-17 where we read: “When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep”.

Three times Jesus asked the question “Do you love Me?” Peter was left in no doubt about the importance of loving Jesus and he was confident that, although his readers had never seen Jesus, they loved Him. It’s interesting that he wasn’t exhorting them to love Him. He wasn’t encouraging them to love Him. He was stating it as a fact that they loved Him. You see, you cannot be a Christian without having a relationship of love for Jesus Christ.

Well, what about you? You’ve never seen Jesus but do you truly love Him?

Do you love Him for who He is? He’s none other than the living God made flesh. In which case, in the words of Mark 12v30: “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength”. Is that how you love Jesus?

Do you love Him for what He is like? He is “holy, innocent, unstained”. He is “a friend of tax collectors and sinners”. He is “the good shepherd”.

Do you love Him for what He has done? He “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”.

We have every reason to love Jesus even though He is unseen. May we all have such a loving relationship with Him.

The second aspect of the relationship between Christians and the unseen Jesus Christ is a relationship of belief.

Peter says: “Though you do not now see him, you believe in him”. Once again, as with our love for Christ, our belief in Him is expressed in the present continuous tense. It speaks of our relationship with Christ as being one of a present and ongoing belief in Him as well as a present and ongoing love for Him.

Also, again, notice that Peter wasn’t exhorting them to believe in Christ. He wasn’t encouraging them to believe in Him. He was stating it as a fact that they believed in Him. You see, you cannot be a Christian without having a relationship of belief in Jesus Christ.

The words that have been translated as “believe in” should, more literally, be translated as “believe into”. So, Peter was saying that they “believe into” Jesus Christ. That speaks of an active involvement with Him or an interaction with Him. It doesn’t simply mean to “believe in the existence of Jesus”. Neither does it merely mean to “believe certain things about Jesus”. That would be to remain separate from Him or outside of Him. You remember what James said in James 2 verse 19: “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” You see, the demons believe things about God – even true things about God but they certainly don’t “believe into” Him in the way that Peter means here.

What Peter means here is to “trust in” or to “depend upon”. To “believe in him” means to wholeheartedly place your confidence in “Jesus Christ”. You might have heard of the famous tightrope walker named Blondin. One of his amazing feats was to walk across the Niagara Falls on a tightrope. Between 1859 and 1860, he did so 17 times and he did all sorts of variations on the stunt. He’d do it blindfolded or wearing stilts. He’d ride a bicycle across.

On one occasion he carried a stove on his back, stopped half way across, cooked an omelette and ate it! On another occasion he pushed a wheelbarrow across and when he reached the other side, he said to the audience: “Do you believe that I can carry a person across in this wheelbarrow?” The crowd enthusiastically shouted, “Yes, yes, yes. You are the greatest tightrope walker in the world. You can do anything!” Blondin said “OK, who’s going to get into the wheelbarrow?” No one did. You see, they said they believed but not enough to entrust themselves to him. Well, the belief in Jesus that Peter is talking about isn’t a belief that merely says that you think that He can save you. It’s a belief that actually trusts Him to save you. It’s a belief that causes you to get into the wheelbarrow.

Notice that Peter says that we do this despite the fact that we “do not now see him”.

We place our confidence in someone who is unseen. To the natural mind that probably sounds foolish. It sounds crazy. You remember that we read in John 20 that the risen Lord Jesus once appeared to ten of the disciples when Thomas hadn’t been there and afterwards they had excitedly told Thomas “We have seen the Lord”. How had he responded to that great news? He said: “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe”. He wanted tangible, physical evidence. He wanted to see with his own eyes and touch with his own hands. Eight days later, Jesus appeared to them again and, this time Thomas was present. Apparently without even touching the nail marks or the wounded side, Thomas believed and exclaimed “My Lord and my God!” We then read in John 20v29: “Then Jesus told him, Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”. Of course, Peter would have been present when Jesus spoke those words so he was encouraging his readers who believed in Jesus though they’d never seen Him.

We haven’t seen Him either but we have the assurance from Jesus that there is great blessing in believing in Him even though we have not seen Him.

In my next post we will consider the last two points:

The EXPERIENCE in these verses

The END in these verses

~ 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!

Share