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
Picking up where we left off in 1 Peter chapter 1.
If you recall, 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.
I mentioned that is 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 did eventually decided to entitle this section ”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 continue by considering:
Now, how did the prophets manage to speak of “the grace that was to be yours”? How did they know that there was a “person and time” to search for and enquire about? The answer to that lies in the fact that, closely connected with the prophets who prophesied, there was also….
The Spirit of Christ who predicted
Peter said of the prophets 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”.
Peter referred to “the Spirit of Christ in them”. He was saying that “the Spirit of Christ” was in “the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours”. They didn’t invent the prophecies they gave. What they said wasn’t according to their own insight or imagination. They didn’t dream up “the grace that was to be yours”. No, they prophesied because “the Spirit of Christ” was “in them”. That is, God the Holy Spirit was in them and they spoke accordingly. So, when the prophets prophesied they were speaking according to what the Holy Spirit said.
We find that to be recognised in the New Testament.
For instance, we read in Hebrews 3 verse 7 that the writer says: “Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says” and the writer then goes on to quote from the Old Testament. To quote from the Old Testament is to quote the Holy Spirit. In turn, to say that the prophets spoke according to what the Holy Spirit said is to say that they spoke the Word of God. In 2 Peter 1 verse 19-21 we read: “And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit”.
You see, Peter is there speaking about “the prophetic word” – that is the word spoken by the prophets and he says that in prophesying they were speaking “from God” – that is, it was God’s word that they spoke. How were they able to do that? Peter said that they were able to do so because they “were carried along by the Holy Spirit” – that was “the Spirit of Christ in them”.
Now, you might well ask why the Holy Spirit should be referred to here as “the Spirit of Christ”.
I suggest that it was because the Holy Spirit in them was pointing to and speaking of Christ – He was speaking of the coming Messiah. When Jesus was telling His disciples that He was about to return to His Father and that He would be sending the Holy Spirit to them as another comforter He told them what the Holy Spirit would do. So, in John 15 verse 26 we read that Jesus said: “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me”.
Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would bear witness about Him. That’s the role of the Holy Spirit. He doesn’t draw attention to Himself. He points to Christ. He draws attention to Christ. He speaks of Christ. He’s “the Spirit of Christ” because he bears witness to Christ. That’s exactly what He was doing in “the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours”. He was acting as “the Spirit of Christ” by drawing attention to the coming Messiah.
Peter said that “the Spirit of Christ in them ………predicted”.
The word that’s been translated as “predicted” there means to testify or to bear witness beforehand. You see, just as the Holy Spirit now bears witness to who Jesus is and what He has done so the same Holy Spirit in the prophets was bearing witness beforehand to the coming Messiah and what He would do. The prophets were able to prophesy concerning the grace to come because “the Spirit of Christ in them ………predicted”.
What exactly did He predict or bear witness to beforehand? Well, Peter goes on to tell us that the Spirit of Christ in them “predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories”. Jesus Himself was acutely aware that the Holy Spirit had done that through the prophets. We thought earlier about Jesus on the road to Emmaus with those two disciples and how “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself”.
What in particular did all the Scriptures say concerning Him?
What did He point out to them as He interpreted the Scriptures? We’re told in Luke 24 verses 25-26: “And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”
The context of these words of Jesus, just after His resurrection following His death on the cross, surely makes it abundantly clear that the suffering predicted by the Holy Spirit through the prophets was specifically that death that Jesus had just gone through. So, for instance, Jesus death on the cross was the fulfilment of what the Holy Spirit predicted through the prophet Isaiah.
We read something of that suffering in Isaiah 53v3: “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not”. Isaiah prophesied that this suffering would culminate in death.
He said in verses 7 to 9: “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth”.
It was this suffering and death, predicted by the Holy Spirit that was the basis for “the grace” prophesied by the prophets that was “this salvation” that Peter’s readers had received. How come? Well, Isaiah had even said why Jesus would die that death and what it would accomplish. Look at Isaiah 53 verses 4 to 6: “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all”. You see, He died because God laid our sin upon Him and that was in order that we might be healed and know peace with God.
Or, look at verses 10 to 11 where we read: “Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities”. You see, He died as an offering for our guilt so that we might then “be accounted righteous”.
Notice that the “the Spirit of Christ” in the prophets didn’t only predict “the sufferings of Christ”.
He also predicted “the subsequent glories”. Christ’s death wasn’t to be the end but the beginning of glorious things. He was to rise from the dead and return to His Father in glory having conquered sin and death and having accomplished salvation for all those that the Father had given Him. Peter’s readers were among them. They had received this salvation that is by God’s grace and is accomplished through Christ’s suffering in dying on the cross and being raised from the dead and ascending to heaven in glory. How had they come to receive that salvation by grace through Christ’s death? Well, next, let us notice that Peter spoke of:
The evangelists who preached
We read in verse 12 that: “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”.
The first thing to notice is that Peter’s readers had had something “announced” to them The word that’s been translated in the ESV as “announced” could equally be translated as proclaimed or declared or heralded. You see, they hadn’t just happened stumble upon salvation for themselves. Neither had they somehow managed to work out something about salvation for themselves. No, someone had deliberately and pointedly gone out of their way to make an announcement to them.
How had that announcement been made to them? Peter says that it was made “through those who preached”. And, what had they preached? Peter says that they had “preached the good news” or, if you like, the gospel. And, what is that good news? Clearly, from the context, it’s the grace that had been prophesied by the prophets on the basis of “the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories” as had been predicted by the Holy Spirit.
So, we can say that preaching the gospel is announcing or declaring the grace of God as accomplished by the death of Christ. That message must be proclaimed if people are to be saved. That’s how Peter’s readers had received their salvation. That’s how 3000 people were saved on the day of Pentecost and that’s how people are saved today. Announcing that message is essential. But, did you notice that Peter didn’t speak of “the things that have now been announced to you by those who preached the good news to you”? No, he actually said “the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you”.
Those who preached were the channel or vehicle.
They were the means but the announcement was actually made “by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven”. It is God the Holy Spirit Himself, sent by the ascended Lord Jesus, who actually makes the announcement. Just as the prophets of old didn’t make up their own prophecies but were vehicles for what the Holy Spirit predicted concerning the coming of Christ so a preacher today is a vehicle for what the Holy Spirit is announcing about the fact that Christ has come and died for sinners and risen from the dead.
That being the case, I suggest that, if you’re a believer in Christ, it should be a further cause of encouragement. It means that what you believe and what you’ve received isn’t dependant on man. You don’t believe because you’ve been persuaded or coerced or hoodwinked by a clever preacher – you believe because of the convincing power of the Holy Spirit.
Finally and briefly, let us notice:
The angels who peer
Peter closes verse 12 by saying that “the things that have now been announced to you” through preachers and by the Holy Spirit are “things into which angels long to look”.
That expression “long to look” might give the impression that the angels are looking forward to a time when they will be able to consider these things but that isn’t the sense that’s being expressed here. The Greek word that’s been translated as “long” speaks of having a very strong desire to do something and the Greek word that’s been translated as “look” means to look into something or to peer. The idea is of peeking or peeping into a situation from the vantage point of an outsider. We must also note that the verb “to look” is in the present tense. So the idea isn’t that the angels are looking forward to sometime being able to look into these things and it certainly isn’t that they once looked into them once but then lost interest. No, it’s saying that the angels have an ongoing strong desire to see how these things unfold and work out.
Unlike the prophets, the angels know how the prophecies had been fulfilled.
They no longer needed to enquire about the “person or time” as the prophets had. They’d seen the suffering and death of Jesus. Some of them had been present at His resurrection and they now had the risen and glorified Jesus in heaven. Even so, this matter of our salvation continues to hold their attention here and now. You see, this salvation by the grace of God brought about by means of the death of Christ doesn’t directly involve the angels but they are incredibly interested bystanders. They are intrigued and fascinated and inquisitive because they are aware that this is a great and glorious thing that God has done and is continuing to work out.
How encouraged we should be when we recognise that angels who exist in the very presence of God and see His glory should be so spellbound by the salvation that God has lavished on us.
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!