1 Peter 1:10-12 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.
After a two week break to focus on missions from Psalm 67 we’re back in 1 Peter. The primary aim of 1 Peter, once again, is to help suffering Christians honor God in their suffering. Peter understood well that Christians will inevitably go through “various trials” (1:6), some big and some small. He wrote this letter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to instruct and strengthen the Church for faithful suffering. To this end and to this point in the letter, Peter has already offered a number of “helps”.
For instance, he sought to help suffering Christians by reminding them that their suffering was “according to the foreknowledge of God, in the sanctification of the Spirit, [and] for obedience to Jesus Christ” (1:2). As we suffer, knowing that our suffering isn’t catching God off guard, isn’t purposeless, and isn’t survived in our own strength, but is rather a part of the will of God, to accomplish the good and glorious purposes of God, and empowered by God, are powerfully sustaining realities.
He also sought to help suffering Christians by reminding them of who their God is: “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:3) and the One of great mercy and power (1:3, 5). Knowing well the power and goodness and wisdom of the God who is for us and ruling over our suffering is another powerfully sustaining reality.
And he sought to help suffering Christians by reminding them of what God has accomplished for them through his Son, Jesus: new birth (1:3), new, living hope (1:3), an “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” inheritance which is kept by God (1:4), divine, undefeatable protection (1:5), indeed, the very salvation of their souls (1:5)! Understanding all that already belongs to, and all that still awaits those who remain faithful to Jesus, is a great source of strength, strong enough to enable God’s people to persevere through anything.
This morning, in 1 Peter 1:10-12, we find another divinely inspired means of help for the suffering Church. Peter means to help Christians persevere in faith through their suffering by pleading with them to recognize the amazingness, the awesomeness, the gloriousness of the grace of God which was theirs.
I know that some/many/most/all of us are going through some type of grievous trial, right now. When this happens—in whatever form the trial takes—we want help. That’s what this passage (along with the rest of the letter) is meant to provide: real help for our real, various, grief-producing trials—especially those which come as a result of our faith in Jesus. Whatever your trial, though, this passage is for you.
Let’s pray that God would awaken us or awaken us even further to the glorious grace that is ours in Jesus Christ, in order that we’d be strengthened for times of trouble.
GRACE THAT IS GREATER THAN YOU REALIZE
Have you ever had someone try to convince you that something was more impressive than you currently understood? I remember one time particularly well. It was many years ago, just after Christmas. As a Christmas present a friend’s wife had gotten him a trip to Texas (or somewhere south). The trip included a hotel stay, tickets for both of them to a Love and Respect conference, and, most relevantly, a gift card for the two of them to go to a restaurant.
My friend quickly told me about the trip with his wife part, the hotel part, and the conference part. The real source of his excitement, though, was the restaurant part. I remember how excited he was and how hard he tried to draw me into his excitement. He even had a brochure to show me. I remember him telling me about the meat selection and how it was an all-you-can-eat meat place. All I could picture, though, was Golden Corral or Ponderosa—neither of which were particularly impressive to me.
He noticed the token nature of my replies and redoubled his efforts. I remember being impressed with how impressed he was, but I just couldn’t bring my excitement level to match his.
Perhaps the funniest part of the story happened a few months later (after he’d already returned from the trip) when we got together again. Having forgotten all about his restaurant rant I went on one of my own. For lunch at a pastor’s conference, several of us had gone to an amazing all-you-can-eat meat place called Fogo de Chao. I couldn’t help but to share my excitement with him. He needed to consider how great this place was and then he needed to double his best guess.
After a few seconds into my Fogo worship song, he stopped me and informed me that he knew the song and had sung it to me earlier. It was the same restaurant he’d raved about when we talked last.
Each of us, having come to understand the glory of Fogo de Chao, really wanted the other to come to understand its glory as well. We knew that however great a picture comes to mind when you think of the greatness of an all-you-can-eat meat place, it wasn’t great enough to capture the greatness of Fogo.
That is what Peter is doing in this passage. He is trying help the Church see that the grace of God which they’ve received is far, far greater than they realize. And, as I mentioned earlier, he’s doing so to strengthen the Church and help Her remain strong in Her suffering. The more aware and impressed God’s people are by the reality of God’s grace, the more strength they will have to endure difficulty. To make his point he draws his readers attention to three perspectives on this grace: that of the prophets, the apostles, and the angels.
Before we get there though, let’s quickly reconsider the basic nature of God’s grace and the salvation it brings.
Grace and the people of God.
In 1:10 Peter picks up where he left off in 1:9. In v.9 he spoke of the salvation which his readers had received and which was already bearing fruit within them—love, belief, and inexpressible joy in Jesus Christ (1:8). Regarding that fruit-bearing salvation, Peter taught his readers that they’d received it by grace alone, through faith (1:5), alone, in Christ alone (1:3). His main thrust here, however, is the preciousness of the grace by which God had saved them. And the main thrust of the grace of God is that it is the only hope of mankind in light of his sin.
As we speak of often here at Grace Church, and as I hope you never get tired of being reminded, all of us, as Adam’s children, have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. By nature and by choice we have all broken God’s laws. This makes us guilty before God. And because we are guilty we deserve the wages of sin: death.
Grace, the precariousness of this cannot be overstated. Left to ourselves we are enemies of God, under the wrath of God, awaiting the judgment of God, which will certainly and justly result in the eternal punishment of God. That’s meant to feel uncomfortable—really, really uncomfortable. Let yourself squirm in this. Don’t be too quick to move on from this because, once again, the measure of our joy in our salvation is always inversely proportional to our grief over our sin.
Do not miss the fact that truly joyful Christians are not the ones who forget or minimize their sinful past or present, but the ones who have thought and continue to think deeply about the sinfulness of their sin.
As morbid as it may sound, commit to spending regular, significant time contemplating the holiness of God, the wages of sin, the diseased condition of your heart apart from Christ, and the reality of the hell you deserve. Pray that God would continue to awaken you to the treachery of your treason against God and the horrific nature of its consequences.
Why, because as you do, your recognition of your need for grace will grow, and as your recognition of your need for grace grows so too will the sweetness of receiving it. Ironically, when the gospel is rightly applied to your life, the more you think about your sin, the more it gets joyfully overshadowed by thankfulness for grace.
The grace of God, Grace Church, is the undeserved favor of God that comes upon us in our guilt. It is our only hope. It is our only rescue. We cannot save ourselves. We do not deserve to be saved. And yet, while we were still God’s enemies, he sent his grace to us in his Son, Jesus Christ.
Do you know the sweetness of grace, Grace? Can you taste its goodness? Have you been amazed by it? I hope so. If you’re a Christian, I know so. You can’t be a Christian without knowing the greatness of grace. However, Peter’s point, the main point of 1:10-12 is that however sweet it already is to you, you need to understand that it is, in reality, far sweeter still. And in understanding that is sufficient help to get us through any trial this world has to offer.
Again, to make this point clear (that God’s grace is greater than we realize and that the more we realize the greatness of God’s grace, the greater help we’ll have for times of trouble), Peter calls upon the prophets, apostles, and angels. Let’s consider their perspective on grace in order to grow ours.
Grace and the prophets.
God’s grace is greater than you can imagine, Grace. From vs. 10b-12a we can see that the prophets understood this.
1 Peter 1:10b-12a … 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…
I want to point out four things concerning the prophets’ perspective on the saving grace of God.
First, they understood the grace of God to be so essential and so precious that they searched for it and inquired about it carefully (10b). These words (“searched” and “inquired”) do not suggest quiet contemplation. To “search” for something in this sense involves actively seeking something significant. And to “inquire” in this sense is to dig through a purse or drawer or a garage or a house to find something important that has been lost. In both, the seeking isn’t indifferent as to the results. Whether or not the search or inquiry is successful has real consequences.
The prophets longed to know the nature and details of the coming of the full measure of God’s grace to the extent that they gave themselves to that pursuit in remarkably significant ways. The prophets knew grace for sure. They recognized the constant need for God’s grace, and the constant giving of it by God. But they also understood, from their own prophecies, that there was a time coming when that grace would come in fullness. And they understood this grace to be so essential and precious that they searched for it and inquired and they did so, v.10 tells us, with great care.
Second, they understood the essential, precious grace of God to come in fullness through God’s anointed one, the Christ, the Messiah (11a).
The promised Messiah finds its roots all the way back at the beginning of the Israelite bible. It was promised in Genesis 3:15 that a descendant of Eve would come to crush the descendant of the serpent. Psalm 2:2 speaks of the “anointed” of the LORD (the Messiah). Daniel 9:25-26 promises a future messiah as well. In the familiar passage we often read at Christmas, Micah prophesies “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days” (Micah 5:2).
It’s been estimated that there are over 3000 messianic texts in the OT.
The prophets longed for this grace such that they combed the scriptures for clues as to who the Messiah would be and when He would come. They knew the Spirit was inspiring them to write about the Christ and so they longed to understand the specifics and final significance of their prophesies. They prophesied about the Christ, but realized that they couldn’t understand the full meaning of their prophecies and so they searched and inquired.
Consider again the glory of the grace of God in your life in light of the fact that it was promised for centuries before it came in Jesus Christ and was searched for and inquired of in a consuming way by the very deliverers of God’s promises.
Third, they understood the essential, precious grace of God to come in the Christ both through his sufferings and glories (11b). “…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….”
The Holy Spirit revealed to the prophets that God’s grace would come through a suffering servant. We see this in passages like Genesis 3:15, Psalm 22:1, 7-8, 18; 34:19-20, 69:21, Isaiah 50:6, 52:14-15, 53:1-12, and Zechariah 12:10, 13:7.
Zechariah 12:10 And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.
The Holy Spirit also revealed to the prophets that the grace of God would come in the Christ through his glories. We see this in passages like Psalm 2, 16:10, 22:22, 45:7, 110:1, 4, Isaiah 9:6, 40:3-5, 9-11, 42:1-4, 61:1-3, Jeremiah 33:14-15, Ezekiel 34:23, Daniel 7:13-14, Malachi 3:1-3.
Daniel 7:13-14 I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
Again, they didn’t know the specific meaning of these things (including who the messiah was or when he would come), but they did know the glorious grace of God would be found in them and so they searched and inquired.
Finally, the prophets understood that the essential, precious, saving grace of God would come in the Christ, through his sufferings and glories at some point in their future (12a). That is the meaning of the beginning of v.12, ” It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you…”.
Somehow, at some point the prophets realized that the fullness of God’s grace was not going to come in their lifetime. Instead, they understood, it would come in the future. And yet, once again, this did not stop them from searching and inquiring on behalf of those future generations.
Peter’s point here, once again, is that the grace of God is so glorious that the prophets gave themselves to understanding it as much as they possibly could. Further, it is so glorious that they longed to understand when and where and through whom it would come in its fullness. Further still, God’s grace was so precious to them that they did all of this even with the knowledge that God’s grace was not going to be experienced by them fully, but by some future generation.
We’re meant to ask ourselves if our understanding of God’s grace is big enough to account for this type of searching and inquiring and longing and patience? Look to the prophets, Peter says, in order to grow in your amazement at the grace of God; the grace you and I have which is even beyond what the prophets tasted; the grace that is able to keep us through even the greatest trials.
Grace and the apostles.
Peter charged his readers to consider the prophets’ understanding of grace. He also charged them to consider the perspective of the apostles, those who, according to v.12, had been sent and strengthened by the Holy Spirit to proclaim the fulfillment of all that the prophets searched for and inquired of to Peter’s readers.
It was revealed to them [the prophets] 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 apostles]…
Peter wants his readers to be amazed by the grace of God as he explains to them that they have received, from the apostles, what the prophets longed for: the fullness of God’s grace in Jesus, the Christ. God sent his Spirit to come upon the apostles in order that they would preach the good news of his grace in the suffering, death, and glorious resurrection of Jesus—even at the cost of their lives!
Jesus is the seed of the woman. Jesus is the bruised reed. Jesus is the anointed one of God. Jesus is the fullness of God’s grace. And Peter wants his readers to be amazed and strengthened in their trials by the the bigness and glory of this grace.
As you experience trials in this life, Grace, an appropriate understanding of the glory of the grace that is yours in Jesus, as told to you by the apostles, is real help. And to gain an appropriate understanding of the glory of the grace that is yours in Jesus, Peter points you to the perspective of the apostles who saw God’s grace as so supremely valuable—even essential—that they gave their lives to give it away.
Grace and the angels.
Finally, Peter meant to strengthen the people of God for their suffering by reminding them of the glory of God’s grace as seen by angels. This grace described by Peter, which leads to the salvation of God’s people, is so glorious that God’s angels in heaven “long to look” at it applied to mankind.
Angels do not know grace. Jesus did not die for them. The fallen remain reprobate and the upright remain in God’s favor. There is no redemption, no grace for angels. And yet, as they witness it being given to mankind, they long to look upon it. Beings who live in the presence of God and see his wonders day after day after day long to see the effects of saving grace on the people of God. Consider what that says about the glory of grace.
If I have a house on the ocean, I don’t long to see a shack in the woods. If I have a stake from Manny’s, I don’t long to see a can of Bushes Beans. If I’m riding around in a ’65 Mustang Shelby, I don’t long to see my ’04 Focus. I long to see things even greater than I currently have, not lesser. Apparently, then, watching God’s grace reach his people is a step up from merely being in God’s presence! Imagine that! That’s the grace that is ours, Grace! Oh what grace! And oh what help it is to receive it and know it in all its fullness. Consider the perspective of the angels and grow in grace.
I want to close by reminding you of the simple message of this passage: God’s grace, which has come upon you and I, is so glorious that rightly understood and experienced, it is able to get us through any of this world’s trials. The prophets understood this and so they searched and longed for it. The apostles understood this and so they traveled throughout the known world at the cost of their lives in order to give it away. And the angels understand this and so they long from heaven to see and look upon God’s giving of it.
The application of all of this, then, Grace, is that we would think and study and give ourselves to knowing this grace, that we would cry out to God to grant us a fuller and fuller experience of it; so that, when various trials come our way (as they were for Peter’s readers), we would be so enthralled by God’s grace and find ourselves so secure in it, that we’d joyfully and faithfully endure whatever comes at us (as Peter’s readers did).
Cancer can’t compare, losing our jobs can’t compare, the death of a child can’t compare, being jailed or killed for our faith in Jesus can’t compare. Nothing can compare to the surpassing greatness of knowing the grace of God in Jesus Christ our Lord. God’s grace is greater than all these things and we have it in Jesus Christ! Amen.