1 Peter 1:20-21 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for your sake, 21 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.
Last week, in 1 Peter 1:18-19, we found more help from Peter to suffer well. In those verses Peter offered help in calling the people of God to remember that Jesus Christ suffered well on our behalf. In particular, Peter reminded the Christians to whom he was writing (which includes you and I, and all who rightly call on God as Father) to remember in our suffering that we’ve been ransomed from the very sin that causes our suffering by the precious blood of Jesus!
Peter’s point was largely that, as we increasingly realize the preciousness of the price paid to rescue us from sin and the One who paid it, we’ll be far less apt to return to the sin we were rescued from. In other words, you and I will suffer. Jesus promised it. The question, then, is not if we will suffer, but if we will do so in a way that honors God. If we have a small view of God and a small view of the price paid to rescue us from our sins, we are exceedingly unlikely to suffer well. If, on the other hand, we have an accurate view of God (infinitely glorious) and an accurate view of the price paid to rescue us from our sins (the precious blood of Jesus), we will certainly remain faithful through our suffering.
In our passage for this morning, we see a bit more about the glory of both our ransom-paying Father and his ransom-being Son—and, consequently, even more help to honor God in hardship. Let’s pray that glory of the Father and Son would become increasingly apparent to us in order that we’d live increasingly holy lives to their glory—come what may.
THE PERSEVERING POWER OF BEHOLDING GLORY
Some of you are suffering right now. Your marriage is struggling, you have a kid who is wayward, someone you love was diagnosed with cancer, an important relationship is deteriorating, your work situation is tenuous, or, perhaps, a Christian friend is angry with you for calling her out on a sin, your boss is on your case for being forward in your evangelism, family relations are strained because of your desire to honor Jesus with your life, or you’re seen as an outsider in your neighborhood because you represent an unwelcomed conscience. Whatever form it might take, everyone in this room is likely suffering or close to someone who is. The question is, how do we suffer in ways that honor God.
We dishonor him when we suffer without hope. We dishonor him when we suffer as if our suffering is pointless. We dishonor him when we suffer as if we’re barely getting the better deal by hanging on. We dishonor God when we suffer without giving any thought to God in our suffering.
Conversely, we honor God when we suffer hoping in his promises that while all suffering is relatively short, the inheritance of the saints is eternally imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. We honor God in suffering when we believe his promises that all things (including our suffering) are for the good of those who love God. We honor God in suffering when we come to realize that the greatest measure of earthly suffering absolutely pales in comparison to heavenly blessing. And we honor God in suffering when we look to him, trust in him, rest in him, and even delight in him during it.
Even as Christians it’s often too easy to suffer poorly, in ways that are dishonoring God, and too hard to suffer well, in ways that are honoring to God. And so, once again, we need help, which is exactly what Peter is after in our passage for this morning: help to glorify God when life is hard—especially when it’s hard for following Jesus.
Specifically, he offers help for suffering by putting on display the magnitude of God’s glory. In these two short verses, there’s wave after wave after wave of glory. And as we come to see it and experience it, we find tremendous help to suffer well. As we come to truly see and experience the glory of God it serves as a light which overpowers all other lights. It is not as if knowledge of God’s glory ends suffering. It is, rather, that it puts suffering in its proper place.
Every kid in this room has practically experienced the persevering power of beholding glory. Kids, how many of you have been asked by your parents to do something—some chore, perhaps—that you really didn’t want to do? How many of you have you ever gotten your room so messy that you could barely see the floor? At some point your mom or dad noticed this, right? And then the worst words you could possibly imagine came out of their mouths…”Go clean your room!” The horror. The suffering. As you contemplate what it would take to get your room clean, it seems like hours of misery are certain. You’ve all been there, haven’t you?
Now consider this…instead of simply telling you to clean your room, what if they said, go clean your room and I’ll give you $20? For some this might be all the incentive you need. For others, you remember the yogurt you spilled in there last week and the dog mess you’ve been covering with your play clothes and $20 just doesn’t seem worth it. Well, what if they offered you $100 instead? Now we’re talking; it’s still not a pleasant idea, but not out of the question anymore either. But what if they offered you your own, brand new 4-wheeler? How about a car? What if they offered you $1,000,000 to clean your room. Now, all of a sudden you’re eager to clean it. The room is still a disaster, the yogurt and dog business is still ground into the carpet, and your dirty clothes and toys from the past few weeks are still spread over every inch of your room, but none of that matters compared to $1,000,000.
That’s what Peter is trying to help us to see in our suffering. We will suffer—knowledge of the glory of God doesn’t fix our marriage or cure our cancer or make our family turn to Jesus—but, seen rightly, knowledge that eternal communion with the God of this glory awaits all those who persevere in suffering will certainly overshadow any suffering that we might experience.
And so, Grace, this passage, 1 Peter 1:20-21, puts on display the glory of the Father and Son in an overwhelming way in order to help us suffer well in this life by reminding us of the glory of the One who gives us life. Let’s consider first the glory of the Father.
THE GLORY OF THE FATHER
Though the point of vs.20-21 is to highlight the glory of the One who shed his precious blood on our behalf, by my count there are at least eight descriptions of the glory of the One who sent him. Before we get to the main focus of this passage, the glory of the Son, let’s first consider the glory of the Father. Some of Peter’s descriptions of the Father’s glory are explicit and some are more implicit, but all are help for suffering well.
- The Father’s glory is such that he knows the beginning from the end. Right away in v.20 we read that “He [Jesus] was foreknown…”. The question, of course, is “foreknown by whom?”. And the answer is, the Father. Our heavenly Father’s glory is such that he knows the beginning from the end. He knows in complete detail every movement of every atom in every corner of the universe, from their first moment of existence until their last. We saw this glory already back in the first two verses of this letter when Peter acknowledged that the election and exile of the saints, the sanctifying work of the Spirit, and the redeeming blood of Jesus were all foreknown to the Father as well. Grace, there is power for perseverance in beholding the glory of the Father’s foreknowledge of all things.
- The Father’s glory is such that he laid the foundation of the world. Again, v.20 states that Jesus was foreknown by the Father “before the foundation of the world”, but what is implied is that it is the Father who laid that foundation. Grace, you know this. You know that God created the heavens and the earth. It’s one of the first things most of us were taught as kids. What we lack, however, is that which only the Holy Spirit can bring, true comprehension, appreciation, and amazement at the reality that the billions and billions and billions of cubic light years of our universe were brought into existence by a mere word of the Father. Pray right now that the Spirit would see fit to bring those things (comprehension, appreciation, and amazement) to us right now, because in them is glory and in the glory is power to persevere in suffering.
- The Father’s glory is such that he not only knows but determined the exact right time to manifest the Son. It is one measure of glory to have knowledge of the past, present, and even the future. It’s another measure of glory to know them because you are the author of all of them. In the middle of v.20 we read that Jesus “was made manifest”. Just as it was the glory of the Father to foreknow Jesus before Creation, it was also the glory of the Father to make him manifest at the proper time. It is the Father who determines the events of mankind and in that is glory and in that glory is persevering power.
- The Father’s glory is such that he determines the times of creation. Further still, God’s glory is such that he not only knows all things, and determines all events, but he also determines epochs of history. That is, he determines periods of time to accomplish certain aspects of his redeeming work for his glory. That is why we read at the end of v.20 that Jesus was made manifest in the “last times”. What makes the days between Jesus’ first and second comings the “last times”? Or who has the authority to declare such a thing? Our heavenly Father alone has such authority and in that authority is glory beyond imagination and in that glory is help beyond imagination.
- The Father’s glory is such that he is always working for the good of his people. Again, grace, cry out to the Spirit to help you apprehend, appreciate, and be amazed by this glory. God foreknows all things, because he determines all things in time, even all periods of time, and he does so—every one of them–“for your sake”. In the context of this verse, it is for our sake that Jesus was made manifest, but in the context of the whole of God’s word, it is clear that all things work together for the sake of those who love God. The last words of v.20 speak to this glory of the Father. Grace, the glory of God is the good of the elect, and in that is strength for suffering.
- The Father’s glory is such that belief in him is counted as righteousness. Recently, during a conversation I was having with my sons about the condition of their faith, Daniel said something really profound. He commented on how amazing it is that we can be forgiven of our sins and brought into the kingdom of God while sitting comfortably in our chairs on a Sunday morning. The heavens shake, angels rejoice, blood was spilled, and spiritual battles are fought for our salvation, and we gain access to all of that by merely trusting in God. We never even have to get up out of our chair. In v.21 Peter declares that through the Son we are believers in the Father. It is the glory of the Father that through simply trusting in his provision for our sins (the precious blood of Jesus), we are saved. In that glory is help to honor God in difficulty.
- The Father’s glory is such that he has the power to raise from the dead. If you’ve ever been with someone who is dying you know what powerlessness feels like. It is a humbling thing to know that there’s nothing you can do to stop what’s coming. What is impossible for mankind, however, is possible for God. It is the Father, Peter writes in v.21, “who raised [Jesus] from the dead”. The Father has power over life and death. Though you already know this, Grace, there is help here that none of us have yet fully realized.
- The Father’s glory is such that he has the power to give glory. Perhaps one of the most significant displays of the Father’s glory in this passage is in the fact that Peter understands him as the Lord of glory. All glory belongs to the Father, and as such it is his to give to others as he pleases. And it pleases him to give glory to the Son. We read in v.21 that the Father, having raised Jesus from the dead, “gave him glory”. It is the Father’s glory to be able to give glory. And, as Peter explicitly states, there is great help here, help of such magnitude that it (the Father’s giving glory to the Son) causes our “faith and hope [to be] in God.”.
Grace, in these few verses is more glory and, therefore, more help for honoring God in suffering than we could possibly imagine. The Father’s glory, if you have eyes to see, is limitless, and so is the persevering power of beholding it. But this isn’t all. There’s more glory and more help to come.
THE GLORY OF THE SON
Just as the glory of the Father is on display in these two verses, so is the glory of the Son. Consider with me now the main point of the passage, the glory of the Son. Specifically, ask the Spirit to give you new eyes to behold these six descriptions of Jesus’ glory and, therein, find even more persevering power.
- The Son’s glory is such that he consented to give his life as a ransom for sinners even before sinners were created. The Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, has eternally existed as one God in three Persons. Before the foundation of the universe was laid, the godhead alone existed. In v.20 Peter states that Jesus “was foreknown before the foundation of the world”. In context, this clearly means that from eternity past, within the godhead was a plan to redeem mankind through the blood of the Son. Grace, please don’t miss the unimaginable glory of this reality. Before we were created Jesus consented to die for us. Glory and help!
- The Son’s glory is such that he was “made manifest” by taking on flesh. Having eternally determined to spill his blood for man as a man, Jesus appeared in history and put a previously unseen glory on display. In the incarnation of Jesus, the glory of the godhead was seen in human form. And in the hypostatic union (the melding of Jesus’ divine nature with his new human nature) a glory sufficient to save mankind from his sin was born! I doubt it takes much of an imagination to realize that this is a sermon in itself. For now, though, Grace, fight for awe at this glory…the Son of God has come in the flesh, fully God and fully man to show the glory of God and save the elect from their sins. Glory and help in the highest!
- The Son’s glory is such that all history points to his appearing. As it is the Father’s glory to declare the epochs, it is the Son’s glory to be at the center of the central epoch. Our entire frame of reference, along with the rest of the world (even if they don’t realize it) centers around the incarnation mentioned in 1 Peter 1:20. Genesis 3:14-15 states, “The LORD God said to the serpent, “… 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” God’s first order of business after the Fall was to begin pointing mankind to the appearing of Jesus. And at the end of these last days, all creatures of our God and King will forever look back at the cross of Jesus and sing of the worthiness of the Lamb to receive honor and glory for what he accoplished there. Grace, there is glory here and there is help here.
- The Son’s glory is such that his work on our behalf is what makes belief in God possible and effective for salvation. Peter writes that Jesus was made manifest “for [our] sake, and that it is “through him” that we “are believers in God”. The glory of Jesus is, perhaps, most clearly seen in the salvation he won for the children of God. It is his work on the cross that saves us. As John MacArthur notes the “through him” in v.21 indicates that Jesus is both the way and the power of our salvation. It is only through him that we can be saved, but it is also through him that we are saved. He didn’t merely make us savable; he saved us. He is why we believe in God and why belief in God works—because on the cross he paid it all. How can we miss this glory? How could we ever diminish it by seeking to add to his work with our works? How can we doubt the power of the blood? There’s help in this glory to suffer well.
- The Son’s glory is such that death could not hold him. Jesus, the Son of God, was murdered at the hands of lawless men. He was mocked and scorned and beaten and killed. He was spit on and speared. He was nailed to a tree and forced to suffocate to death while his clothes were fought over by his killers. And yet, in all of that was unspeakable glory because that was never going to be the end. Neither mocking men nor sin’s greatest weapon (death) could keep him. The glory of Jesus was displayed and forever sealed when he “was raised from the dead”. In that act, the Son’s teaching was confirmed and the Father’s acceptance of the Son’s sacrifice was finalized. From there he ascended to the right hand of the Father and sits in glory unimaginable. In the knowledge that the worst our suffering can possibly threaten (death) has already been defeated is glory and sufficient help for whatever suffering we might face.
- The Son’s glory is such that it was given to him by the Father in order that we’d hope and trust in God. Peter’s final words in v.21 speak to the fact that the Father “gave him [Jesus] glory, so that [our] faith and hope [will be] in God”. The title and emphasis of this sermon came from this phrase. There is persevering power in beholding glory. The Father gave the Son glory in order to give his people to behold it and find help in trouble. That is, one significant reason that God glorified Jesus and put that glory on display and preserved that glory in his word, was so that we would have faith (joyful trust in God’s promises for sufficient grace in the present) and hope (joyful trust in God’s promises for sufficient grace in the future) in God when we suffer. It doesn’t get much clearer than that. Grace, there is persevering power in beholding the glory of God.
Our eyes aren’t fully restored yet. And therefore, there’s much more glory and therefore much more help here than we can see or receive. Let me suggest, then, that you pick one or two descriptions of the glory of the Father or Son and spend this week burrowing down deeper into them in study and prayer. Cry out to the Spirit for help to see the glory that is there and to get from it all that help that is there. Don’t let this glory and help lie untouched. Grab a hold of this glory and with it fight.
That’s a lot of glory for two verses. Grace, what is exceptionally clear here is everywhere throughout the bible. The glory of the godhead is limitless. It is infinite. The heart of the message of the Christian faith is that we were made for that glory—to know it and love it and be forever satisfied by it.
In our sin, however, we became blinded to it. We even (perhaps unknowingly) grew to hate it. In the sin and glory-rejection inherited from our forefathers we were all spiritually stillborn. We come out of our mother’s wombs alive physically, but dead spiritually.
Through the precious blood of Jesus, though, God made a way for us to come alive and to regain sight. Through the precious blood of Jesus he ransomed his people from the death and blindness bondage of sin. And because of the precious blood of Jesus, even if only slightly at first, we are again able to behold the glory of God. But, Grace, know this, even a slight view of infinite glory is enough to convince us of our sin and ruin and need for a savior.
And so, with this new life and new sight we are free to trust in Jesus as our savior-king, to rescue us from our sin and rule over us in benevolence and victory.
And yet, as Peter makes clear, we are rescued into a word that is still dead in sin and hostile to God. We are rescued into a world that is decaying because sin has its diseased tentacles wrapped around all of it. And so we are rescued into suffering. Though our eternal inheritance is secured, though our everlasting satisfaction in communion with God is certain, though nothing can overcome the victory accomplished by the precious blood of Jesus, this life, until Jesus’ return, will be marked by swimming against the current at best and malicious violence at worst.
And so, again, we need help. 1 Peter 1:20-21 gives us help by opening our eyes even wider to the glory of God. Would you take a paper cut for $1,000,000? Would you take a sprained pinky for the cure for cancer? Would you take a bruised shin for a healthy, successful family? The point of this passage is that the gap between those things is miniscule compared to the gap between any suffering or persecution that might come our way in this life and the infinite glory of God that is ours through the precious blood of Jesus. That’s the greatest help we could ever hope for.
That’s the story contained in and described by 1 Peter 1:20-21. That story is the greatest story ever told. That story is our only hope. That story is one of great glory. And there is persevering power in beholding the glory of that story and the God of it. In the name of Jesus, amen.