“…by God’s power…. through faith”
3 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, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1:3-5)
We’ve been looking at 1 Peter and last time we considered verses 3 and 4 of chapter 1. We saw that, after the introduction in which Peter had described believers in Christ as “scattered, elect sojourners”, he burst into praise of God with the words: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” Why was Peter praising God the Father in that way? Well, he went on to say that it was because “According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again”.
You see, as believers in Christ we might be “scattered sojourners” in this world but God has been merciful to us and “caused us to be born again”. We recognised that one aspect of this being “born again” is that we have received new spiritual life that we wouldn’t naturally have. We are naturally “dead in trespasses and sins” but through the new birth we are made alive to God.
We also recognised that, just as with natural birth, being born again also results in new relationships coming into being. So, as a result of being born again we become “children of God”. He becomes our Father. That Father – son relationship is brought into existence through our being “born again”. Not only that, a wider family relationship is also brought into being. As a result of being “born again” and so being “children of God” we are also brothers and sisters in Christ.
Now, we saw from verses 3 and 4 that this new birth is a past change and that it leads to a present consequence and a future certainty. That it’s a past change is seen from the fact that Peter said that God “has caused us to be born again”. So, we are no longer what we were and it was God who caused that change to happen. He brought about that change in us.
Then Peter went on to say that “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ ….. has caused us to be born again to” two things.
The first thing that he said we have been “born again to” is the present consequence of “a living hope”.
This new birth brings with it “a living hope”. A consequence of that new birth that God brought about in the past is a very real “living hope” for the present. It helps us now and encourages us now while we are “scattered sojourners” in this world.
The second thing he said that we have been “born again to” is the future certainty of “an inheritance”.
Being “born again” has brought us into God’s family so that we are His heirs. Peter emphasised the certainty of our inheritance by describing it as “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading”. Not only that, Peter said that it is “kept in heaven for you”. The idea is that it is “stored up” or “reserved” for us. It’s as though God has it locked up in safe storage for us until the time to receive the inheritance comes.
I don’t know if you can remember back to the Conservative Party Conference a couple of years ago here in the UK. The news drew attention to a party member who was still campaigning even though he was into his 80s. He’d lived in Wakefield and had never seen a Tory MP returned for his constituency. I saw him being interviewed and he was asked how he had coped with the lack of success and disappointment for so long. I was quite amused when he replied: “I moved to Harrogate”! He must have felt a bit of a political stranger in Wakefield and no doubt, was much more at home in Harrogate. As believers who are strangers in this world we don’t have the option of, as it were, “moving to Harrogate”.
What we do have is “a living hope” for the present and a certain “inheritance” stored up for the future.
We stopped at that point last time because of time constraints but Peter actually continued the sentence into verse 5. He’d been emphasising the certainty of the inheritance that is “kept in heaven for you”. Now, as soon as he said “for you” he went beyond the inheritance itself to say something about the heirs of that inheritance – those who have been “born again” and are intended to receive the inheritance. What he said about them is both important and very encouraging. He’s already said that they have “a living hope” but he now goes on to back that up with something more.
You see, it’s all well and good saying that what is to be inherited is certain and that it’s secure but that alone doesn’t guarantee that the heir will receive the promised inheritance does it? An earthly heir might die before the time comes to inherit. The inheritance might be safe and secure but what about the heir? How safe and secure is the heir? Our inheritance might be secure in heaven but will we receive it? Will we get there?
Well, look at what Peter went on to say in verse 5 about those who have been “born again” to this certain inheritance that’s being kept in heaven for them. He said “who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time”. Those are the words we are going to consider this morning. The crucial point is that the heirs, those who have been born again, are being “guarded”. Paul uses the same word in Phil 4v7 where we read: ”And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”.
A Guarded Inheritance.
Now, when you hear that word “guarded” you perhaps immediately think in terms of being protected against attack. You might think in terms of guards who keep out intruders who would cause harm. So we hear a lot today, for instance, about guarding against the terrorist threat. That’s the sort of emphasis that the NIV places upon it by translating this verse as: “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”. That speaks in terms of a shield to protect from attack. Now, believers in Christ certainly are guarded in that sense.
We have promises of being guarded or protected against the wiles of the Devil for instance. However, the Greek word that has been translated as “guarded” in the ESV or “shielded” in the NIV is most often used in another sense. The word literally speaks of being kept safe by being carefully watched over. That can certainly include the sense of being “protected from attack” or protected against harm but it’s more commonly used in the sense of being “kept from escaping”. So for instance, we find the same Greek word being used in 2 Corinthians 11v32-33 where Paul said: “At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me, but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands”.
You see, in this case the city was being guarded or carefully watched in order to keep Paul in. There, the emphasis wasn’t so much on shielding from attack as on guarding against escape. The guarding was intended to prevent Paul from getting away. Paul used the same Greek word in a more metaphorical sense in Galatians 3v23 where we read: “Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed”. Again, you see, the idea is of being “under guard” in order to prevent from straying or from wandering away.
God’s Will if for you!
The words of Jesus in John 6v39-40 suggest this sort of guarding. We read: “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day”.
You see, those who believe in Christ have eternal life and are spoken of as having been given to Him by God the Father. They’ve been entrusted to Him for safe keeping and He won’t lose them. He won’t let them go. He’s guarding them. He’s keeping them safe right up until they are raised up on the last day.
If we look at John 10v28-29 we find that Jesus again spoke in terms that suggest this guarding in order to keep His people safe with Himself. We read that he said: “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand”.
This is in the context of Jesus speaking of Himself as the Good Shepherd who has laid down His life for His sheep and He describes His sheep as being those who hear His voice and follow Him and receive eternal life from Him. Then, in these verses He says that those who have been born again to eternal life will never perish. Why is that? It’s because they are in His hand and no-one will ever be able to snatch them out of His hand. They belong to Him. They are in His keeping and the promise is that they won’t be taken away from Him. He’s guarding us by keeping His hand around us.
Next, let us look at the words of Jesus in His great high priestly prayer in John 17.
We read in verses 11-12: “And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled”.
Jesus speaks of guarding His disciples and the result was not that they never came under attack; think of Peter’s own denials for example. No, the result was that they were not lost. They were kept safe in His love until the end.
You see, the point is that just as the inheritance is being kept safe in heaven for us, so believers in Christ, as strangers and sojourners in a hostile world, are being kept safe until we receive that promised inheritance.
Let us now consider what our text tells us about the guard that we are under. There are four things in particular to notice. We are being guarded presently. We are being guarded powerfully. We are being guarded personally. We are being guarded purposefully.
We see that when we notice that the text says that we “are being guarded”. The point is that it is in the present continuous tense. So, the guard that we are under is ongoing. It’s continuous. It doesn’t stop.
It’s not like the case of earthly children who are guarded and protected by their parents when they are small but who are gradually being trained and prepared for being able to leave home and care for themselves. Spiritual children of God are never able to stand in their own strength but they have the assurance of being constantly guarded.
So, as believers, we have been guarded from the time in the past when we were born again. We are being guarded now. We will continue to be guarded throughout the rest of our time as sojourners and strangers in this world until we finally receive our future inheritance. You see, even as we mature and develop as Christians we need to be guarded and we are guarded every step of the way. It’s not just that we are being continually guarded. The next thing to notice is that we are:
We see that because Peter said that those that God has caused to be born again are those “who by God’s power are being guarded”. It’s nothing less than the power of God that is guarding us. In an earthly context, guards can often fail to protect because they are overpowered by a superior force but we are being protected by nothing less than “God’s power”. What can be greater than that? What can overcome that? Nothing!
We read in Genesis 17v1-2:
“When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly””.
You see, the Lord referred to Himself there as “God Almighty” and you’ll find that He did so frequently throughout the Old Testament. In saying that He is “Almighty” He is saying that He has supreme power. Is that an unreasonable claim? Is that an exaggeration? No! He’s the One who has created the heavens and the earth. As Genesis 1v1 states: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”. Then, we’re told that He simply had to speak the word and by His power the whole Earth was fashioned out of the material He had brought into being. So, for instance, we read in Heb 1v2 “but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world”.
You see, God, through His Son, created the world. That’s not all. If we continue into Heb 1v3 we read:
“He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power”.
It’s not just the world but the whole universe in all of its vastness and complexity that has not only been created by Him but is also kept and sustained by “the word of his power”. You see, this is not just great power as some sort of brute force. It’s “the word of his power”. The power of God is controlled and directed power.
Throughout the Bible we have many examples of God’s great power being displayed and exercised but the supreme demonstration of His power is seen in His raising of Jesus Christ from the dead. Let’s look at the wonderful words in Eph 1v18-20 where we read: “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places”.
You see, God raised Christ from the dead and He did so by “the working of his great might”.
It was by the almighty power of God that Jesus was raised from the dead and then notice that these verses tell us that those who believe in Him know “the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us”. The staggering truth that this is telling us is that the directed and controlled power of God that raised Jesus from the dead is known and experienced by believers in Christ. That very power is at work for us and in us.
It’s by that same power that we’ve received new birth that Peter mentioned previously. Look at Colosians 2v11-13 where we read: “In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses”.
That’s speaking of the new life that believers in Christ have in Him.
Why do we have that life? It’s because we have been “raised with him”. How are we raised with Him to that life? We’re told that it’s “through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead””. So, we become Christians by the power of God. We find that His power will accomplish even more for us if we look at 1 Corinthians 6v14 where we read: “And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power”. That’s talking about the future resurrection of our bodies and that will be brought about by the power of God just as the resurrection of Jesus was.
It’s not merely that our dead bodies will be brought back to life again. Look at Philippians 3v20-21 where we read:
“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, ho will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself”.
You see, the power of God will not only raise our bodies. It will transform them so that they are like Christ’s glorious body.
So, the power of God is so great that it raised Jesus from the dead. It was by that same power that that we received new life in Christ. We look forward to receiving glorious resurrection bodies through that power. In the meantime, Peter tells us that we are being guarded by that power. As believers in Christ we might be “scattered sojourners” in this world but we are being guarded powerfully.
The next thing to note is that we are being:
We see that because Peter says that we “are being guarded through faith”. Yes, it’s God’s power that guards us but there is a personal dimension to this. It is “through faith”. Without, this element of true, personal faith we won’t be guarded. To try to illustrate the role of faith in this, imagine the scene in days of old when there were fortresses or castles and the ordinary people lived and worked in the surrounding area. In times of danger when they were faced with the approach of an attacking army the people would go into the castle for protection. What made them go into the castle? What kept them in the castle? It was their belief that the castle with its strong walls and its soldiers would keep them safe. They trusted in it to protect them. It was their faith in the castle that took them into it and kept them in it. Now, it certainly wasn’t their faith that protected them. The castle did that. But without faith they wouldn’t have availed themselves of the protection that the castle afforded.
So it is with our Christian faith as believers. It isn’t our faith that guards us and keeps us but our faith lays hold upon God’s mighty power to guard us. It’s our personal faith that brings us into the fortress of His guarding power and it’s our faith that keeps us there.
Is that saying that our being guarded by the power of God is dependent on ourselves to some extent?
No, it’s not. Our text tells us that we “by God’s power are being guarded through faith”.
Let’s remind ourselves of another verse that speaks of something being “by” something “through faith”. We find it in Ephesians 2v8 where we read:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith”.
You see, both being guarded by God’s power and being saved by God’s grace are said to be “through faith”. Is it our faith that actually saves us? Is it our faith that guards us? No.
Just as it’s by God’s grace that we’re saved so it’s by God’s power that we’re guarded. It’s God who does the saving by His grace and it’s God who does the guarding by His power. Are these things dependent on our personal faith? Yes they are. They are “through faith”. Without faith they won’t happen. But, is our personal faith our own doing? No it’s not. Look at what Paul goes on to say in Ephesians 2:
“And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast”.
So, the personal faith through which we are saved by God’s grace and through which we are guarded by God’s power is not of our own making. It is the gift of God. That’s not say that it isn’t personal to ourselves but it’s by God’s enabling that we have that personal faith and it’s by God’s working in us that such personal faith is sustained.
Finally, let us notice that we are:
For what purpose are we being guarded? Well, Peter tells us that we are being guarded “for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time”. What does he mean by that salvation? It is surely the receiving of the “inheritance” that he mentioned back in v4. Remember that he described it as being “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you”. That’s why he here describes this “salvation” as being “ready”. We haven’t received it yet but it’s “kept in heaven” for us. It’s ready and waiting. It’s ready to be revealed. When will it be revealed? Peter says: “in the last time”. By that he means the Day of Salvation when Jesus comes again.
Peter has spoken of our being born again in the past, He’s pointed forward to an inheritance in the future and he’s said that, in the meantime, we are “scattered sojourners” in this world. The whole point of 1 Peter 1v5 is that in the interim between being born again and receiving the inheritance we have the reassurance of continually being guarded by the power of God so that we will receive that promised inheritance when Christ returns.
Let me just conclude with a couple of verses that emphasise the confidence that we have that we will be safely kept until then.
1 Corinthians 1v4-9: “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord”.
Philippians 1v6: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ”.
1 Thess 5v23-24: “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it”.
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!