preaching and peering
Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. ESV
We’re going to continue in 1 Peter chapter 1.
You’ll remember that Peter had spoken of his readers as being “scattered, elect sojourners” and we recognised that that is an apt description of every believer in Christ in this world. Peter pointed out that being “scattered, elect sojourners” can involve being “grieved by various trials” in this present life. Even so, as believers in Christ we have every reason to rejoice because we have been born again to the living hope of an eternal inheritance that is being kept for us. Furthermore, besides having confidence that this inheritance is being kept for us we also have the assurance that we are being guarded by God’s power until that time so that we can be sure that we will receive that inheritance.
Last time we looked at verses 8 and 9 where Peter said: “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”. Peter was acknowledging the fact that we do not literally or physically see Jesus at the present time but, nonetheless, He is a powerful, present reality. We noted four components of those two verses that are four important facets of the Christian life.
We saw that the FOCUS in those verses was “Him” – none other than the unseen Lord Jesus Christ.
We saw the RELATIONSHIP in those verses – a relationship of love for the unseen Lord Jesus Christ and belief in or “into” the unseen Lord Jesus Christ.
We saw the EXPERIENCE in those verses – Peter spoke of “joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory”.
We saw the END in those verses – Peter referred to it as “the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls”.
Having mentioned “the salvation of your souls” we find that verse 10 then goes on to say “Concerning this salvation”. Up until now Peter had been encouraging his readers by pointing them forward to the ultimate end of their salvation. He was pointing them to the certainty of their eternal inheritance. Now he is going on to encourage them by pointing out the background to their salvation. In connection with “this salvation”, he says in verses 10 to 12 that: “the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look”. Those are the verses we are going to consider this morning.
The logic that Peter is employing here is very similar to that used by Jesus in Matthew 13v16-17 where He said: “Blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For truly I say to you, that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it; and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it”. Jesus was saying that His hearers were blessed because they were seeing and hearing firsthand what the prophets of old had an awareness of and a desire for but had only been able to anticipate from afar.
Likewise, Peter’s point is that his readers might be “scattered sojourners” suffering in this world but they were blessed. Why? It was because they were experiencing and partaking of a salvation that the prophets of old had spoken of but could only look forward to and long for.
That’s the overall thrust of verses 10 to 12 but the text itself is quite convoluted and takes a bit of untangling so I’ve struggled with deciding how to go about expounding it. I eventually decided to entitle this sermon ”Prophecy, prediction, preaching and peering” because in the text we read of the prophets who prophesied, the Spirit of Christ who predicted, the evangelists who preached and the angels who peer. So, let’s start by considering:
The prophets who prophesied
In speaking of “the prophets” Peter is surely referring to the Old Testament prophets and probably to the whole of the Old Testament scriptures. You’ll remember how Jesus walked incognito with those two sad and confused disciples on the road to Emmaus after His crucifixion. They were reeling at the shock of His death and struggling to make sense of the suggestion that they’d heard that He might be alive after all so Jesus explained what had happened. How did He do that? Well, we read in Luke 24v27: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself”. I’m sure that, in verse 10, Peter was referring to the same prophets whose words can be found throughout the Old Testament scriptures and he mentions a few things about them and what they did.
Firstly and most obviously, he says that they prophesied.
That’s exactly what you’d expect prophets to do. About what did they prophesy? Well, in particular, Peter says that they “prophesied about the grace that was to be yours”. Remember that Peter was speaking “Concerning this salvation”. That is, concerning the salvation that his readers had received through faith in Christ and he refers to it here as being “the grace that was to be yours”. So, that tells us a couple of things at least. It tells us that the salvation that they had received was salvation by grace. Their salvation was described as “the grace” or the undeserved favour. It also tells us that this salvation, this grace, had been foretold and articulated by the prophets long ago. The salvation that they had now received was “the grace” that the prophets had said was to come. Those are two great reasons for encouragement for those who believe in Christ but are currently struggling as “scattered sojourners”.
There’s great encouragement in knowing that our salvation is by grace because that means that our salvation does not depend on our effort or goodness or worthiness. If it did, we could have no assurance of salvation at all. But, we are saved by grace. As Paul says in Ephesians 2 verses 8 to 9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast”. You see, we are saved by God’s grace through faith and even that isn’t our own doing – it is the gift of God. Surely, there’s great encouragement in knowing that our salvation, from beginning to end, is entirely God’s doing.
There’s also great encouragement in knowing that this salvation by God’s grace was foretold by the prophets of old. There are some who look at the old and new covenants and take the view that God tried the Old Covenant as a means of solving the problem of sin and making people right with Himself but it failed to do the trick so He thought He’d better try something else and He brought in the New Covenant as a second stab at solving the problem. Such an idea really doesn’t provide a basis for much confidence in God’s ability to save us does it? If He’s tried once and failed how can we be sure that He won’t fail again? How can we be sure that plan B will be any more successful than plan A? The reality, of course, was nothing of the sort.
The fact that the prophets “prophesied about the grace that was to be yours” shows that this was God’s purpose all along. You see, the Old Covenant was never intended to bring about salvation. It was never going to able to really take away sin and create a right relationship with God. Its purpose was to point to and pave the way for the New Covenant through which true salvation would be accomplished. And, as we’ll see shortly, what the prophets foretold has come to pass showing that, as you would expect with God, everything has gone according to plan. So, there’s great encouragement in knowing that this salvation by God’s grace was foretold by the prophets of old.
The second thing for us to notice about the prophets is…
In prophesying, according to verse 12, they were also serving. They were acting as servants. Now, of course, in a very real sense they were God’s servants but that isn’t Peter’s emphasis here. Did you notice how Peter described the grace that they “prophesied about”? It wasn’t the grace that was theirs or the grace that would be theirs but “the grace that was to be yours”. They were prophesying about the grace that was to come with the New Covenant and that would be experienced by New Covenant believers such as Peter’s readers and such as us as believers in Christ today. So, in verse 12 we read: “It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you”.
Now, of course, that is not to say that weren’t serving God. Neither is it to say that nothing that the prophets said had any relevance to their immediate hearers or for the near future. But, it is saying that that wasn’t the main point of what they were doing. They weren’t primarily serving themselves and their own generation. The real thrust of what they said pointed to the New Covenant and was directed towards new Covenant believers. I wonder how often you think in terms of the Old Testament prophets as being your servants. That’s what Peter says they are and recognising that should be a great encouragement to us. Look at what Paul says in Romans 15 verse 4: “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope”.
In view of that, we mustn’t make the mistake of thinking that the Old Testament Scriptures are somehow less important or less relevant to us than those of the New. No, reading what was foretold by the prophets and seeing how it has been fulfilled in Christ should give us grounds for hope and encouragement.
Notice, too, that the prophets weren’t merely unwittingly serving us.
It’s not that they thought that they were only serving their immediate hearers and it just so happened that they were also serving us. It’s not that serving us was an incidental side effect of which the prophets were unaware. No, Peter tells us that “It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you”. The Greek word that has been translated there as “revealed” is a word that is always used of revelation given by God. So, the prophets were in no doubt that they were speaking of things that were far greater and way beyond their immediate context. God Himself had made that clear to them. They knew that they were referring to something tremendous that God was yet to do in the future. They knew that they were greatly privileged to speak of these things and were excited about the things of which they spoke.
Thirdly, we see that, besides prophesying and serving, they were also searching and enquiring.
We read in verses 10 and 11 that “they searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories”.
The Greek word that’s been translated here as “searched” is often used in the New Testament and it has the sense of diligently seeking for something. It has the idea of desperately trying to find something. The Greek word that’s been translated here as “inquired” is only used in the New Testament on this one occasion but it is often used in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. There, it has the idea of searching through something like searching a house or a tent or a country. Sometimes it’s used to refer to searching through Scripture.
So, these two terms seem to speak respectively of what they were looking for and where they were looking for it. We’re told what they were looking for – it was the “person or time” about which they’d prophesied. We’re not told where they looked but it seems likely that they searched through earlier Scripture as well as their own prophecies to try to find out the “person or time”. What’s clear is that they didn’t just ponder their prophecies and wonder about them. It wasn’t just an intriguing question for them. They actively searched. They desperately wanted to know because they knew how important it was. We now know the “person and time” about which they’d prophesied but I wonder if we really appreciate what a glorious privilege we have in knowing the “person and time” in a way that our servants the prophets were so eager know.
Now, how did the prophets manage to speak of “the grace that was to be yours”? Next session we will pick up this thought and move on to consider “prediction, preaching and peering”.
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!