1 Peter 1:3-5 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.
The next major section of 1 Peter (after the introduction in 1:1-2) runs from 1:3 to 2:10. In it Peter focuses on the glory of God and his salvation as the primary power for Christian perseverance in persecution. In other words, Peter here asserts that the main way God’s people are empowered to stand up to suffering is by considering the greatness of God and all that he has done and will do to save his people.
This second section begins, as we’ll see this morning in 1:3-5, with a remarkable doxology. That is, it begins with a recounting of God’s glory and work and promises and a call to praise him in response.
This truly is an amazing section of this letter and of the entire bible. Be prepared to be filled with awe and wonder and thanksgiving and great help for times of trouble.
Simply, once again, in this short passage Peter issues a call to the suffering saints to worship God and then gives several reasons why worship is to be the first and main response of God’s people—even in the face of significant suffering.
Accordingly, let’s ask God to fill us with a sense of awe and wonder in this description of his glorious nature and works and promises; sufficient to draw us into worship. And let’s ask God to use these things to carry us when difficulty comes upon us; even as it did the early Church.
A CALL TO WORSHIP IN SUFFERING
Before looking at Peter’s argument, I want to help you all feel the need for the argument.
If someone you knew were suffering significantly because of their faith in God (picture Marty and Selena and the kids), how would you comfort them? What would you say to them to encourage them in their suffering? What advice would you give them as they endured isolation and confusion and fear and the anger of others? What would you focus on? What would you avoid? What’s the first thing you’d tell them to do?
Would you tell them to hang in there and remind them that it won’t last forever? Would you first encourage them to pray for help and deliverance? Would you offer to go and help?
All of these are fine in their own way, but Peter takes a different approach from any of these. He starts by telling the suffering Christians of the dispersion to worship God. He admonishes them, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” Another translation (NIV) reads, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” While this might sound like a description (“God is blessed”), it’s really a command (“Bless God”).
Are you suffering for identifying with Jesus? Praise the Father. Are you having a hard time finding food because of your belief in the gospel? Worship God. Have you been disowned by your family because of your allegiance to Christ? Declare the glory of God. Are you suffering physical abuse, is your life being threatened at the hands of God’s enemies? Bless the One in whose name you’re beaten and threatened.
Whatever your circumstances, Grace, praise God. Praise him first and praise him most. In other words, praise him before you do anything else and praise him more than you do anything else, no matter what type of situation you find yourself in.
But why would we do this? Or how does this make sense? Or for what reasons is this the right response? Peter gives two reasons. The first is implicit and the second is explicit.
First, Peter’s implicit reason…It makes sense to praise God first and most (even in times of severe persecution) because the aspects of God’s nature that are praiseworthy are so much greater than everything else that they overshadow everything else.
Let me give you an example. Suppose you’d been planning on going to the store to pick up toothpicks (stubborn popcorn kernel). Now imagine getting a call on your way to your local toothpick dealer letting you know your best friend had just been in a terrible car crash.
How many of you would continue on to get the toothpicks before heading to the hospital? None of you would because picking up toothpicks is such a minor thing compared to the life of your friend. In fact, you’d probably immediately forget all about your toothpicks and everything else you’d planned to do that day and rush to the hospital. The popcorn didn’t leave your mouth but it is utterly insignificant compared to the injury of your friend. Your friend’s accident is so much greater in importance that it completely overshadows your toothpick need.
Grace, let me challenge you on something here. All too often we treat worship like the toothpicks and challenging circumstances like the car crash. We act as if God is to be praised right up until any manner of hardship comes our way. We act as if God is to be blessed as long as he provides us with sufficient comfort and excess (defined by us, of course). We’ll worship God right up to the point where life gets hard and then we allow self-focused despair to overshadow God’s glory.
But Peter’s point here is that Christians honor God when their response is the opposite. For all who have eyes to see (that is, for all who are truly in Christ), no matter how bad our circumstances appear to be (or are), they are absolutely miniscule compared to the glory of God. God’s glory completely overshadows them. When a candle is held up against the sun its flame doesn’t go out, it just becomes nearly invisible compared to the blinding light of the sun. In the same way, when viewed in light of God’s glory, our suffering doesn’t go away, it still hurts, but rightly seen it pales in comparison to God’s glory; and so we praise God even in it—we can’t not.
The first, implicit reason why Peter begins his address to the suffering saints with a charge to bless God in their suffering is because God’s glory is infinitely greater than their suffering.
But there’s another reason praising God must be first and most in the lives of Christians regardless of our level of comfort. The second, explicit reason for this is that the things that make God worthy of worship and praise and blessing do not change according to our circumstances (or anything else for that matter). Everything in God that is worthy of praise remains constant, yesterday, today, and forever even as the things around us do change (for better and worse). Everything that makes God worthy of worship—his nature, works, and promises—are eternal and unchanging.
Therefore, once again, even as things seemingly fall apart around us God remains infinitely glorious and, thus, worship remains our highest and most appropriate response in all circumstances.
Let’s be honest, though. This sounds a bit counterintuitive, doesn’t it? We often act as if worshiping God is for times of blessing and joy, not times of suffering and sorrow. We typically pray for deliverance in times of trial and then praise God when the deliverance comes. Our usual response is to cry out to God for mercy when things are hard and then bless God as the storms pass—not the other way around.
Let me suggest to you that this is because many times we think we’re worshiping God when we’re actually worshipping the comfort or abundance God gives. In our suffering God seems less worthy of worship or (as we’d probably rather put it) in our suffering worship seems less appropriate, because we weren’t worshiping God in the first place; we were worshiping his gifts. When his gifts (at least the kind we like) were taken away so was our object of worship.
Again, however, Peter’s point is to flip this sinful perspective on its head. That is, once again, he calls Christians to the opposite. Where suffering increases, so does worship for those who are trusting in God because God remains untaintedly glorious.
What’s more, in many ways difficult circumstances serve to make the glory of God even more visible and obvious. In suffering (as well see in a minute) God’s mercy is put on greater display. In suffering God’s saving grace is seen as even more gracious. In suffering God’s certain promises are even more marvelous. And so we worship God; we praise his name; we bless the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Again, Grace Church, please, please don’t miss the fact that the reasons for worship in times of suffering are in most ways the same as the reasons for worship in times of comfort and ease: God’s glory is infinitely greater than your circumstances (good and bad) and God’s glory isn’t at all effected by your circumstances (good or bad).
THE REASONS FOR WORSHIP IN SUFFERING
Immediately after commanding his people to praise God, Peter turns his attention to the things in God and accomplished and promised by God that are eternally worthy of being praised—even and especially in times of suffering. The rest of this short passage is a description of a few (four) aspects the infinite and unchanging glory or God’s nature, work, and promises.
So, to what specific aspects of God’s nature, works, and promises (that are infinitely greater than the suffering of the saints and are not affected by their suffering) does Peter draw the believer’s attention? In our passage for this morning, there are four:
- God is eternally, greatly merciful (v.3). Peter writes, “according to [the Father’s] great mercy…”. Grace, consider for a moment the mercy of God. Consider its nature and magnitude.Concerning its nature (as we saw back in Titus), mercy is probably best understood in relation to grace. Because we have all sinned against God we are all guilty before God. In our guilt our souls have become corrupted to the point of death. That is, our sin-induced guilt produces a helpless condition of misery. God’s grace is what he extends to his people with regards to our guilt. His mercy is what he extends to us with regards to the suffering caused by our guilt.Again, then, God’s mercy is the aspect of God’s nature that causes him to feel compassion for us and actually rescue us from our misery.Concerning its magnitude, Peter calls it “great”. That God would have mercy upon us at all in light of our sinful rebellion is amazing. What’s more amazing still is that he has it for us in abundance. Indeed, he is merciful to us even though our sin’s corrupting work is so total that we certainly do not deserve God’s mercy, we could never earn it, and we would never even seek it if left on our own.God’s mercy comes to us even while we are still in our sin; still rebelling against him; still determined to be his enemies. That is great mercy!
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ—even in times of seemingly unbearable suffering—because God is merciful. Indeed, his mercy is greater than our suffering and comes in even greater measure during our suffering, and so we praise him, we bless him, we worship him!
- God has caused us his elect to be born again into a living hope through Jesus’ resurrection (v.3). The second aspect of God’s nature that makes him worthy of being praised as the first and main response of our entire lives, including when we’re persecuted, is his saving work in us.Peter writes (in v.3), ” 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…”.In our suffering the salvation of God through the cross of Jesus Christ does not change. In fact, once again, our suffering only highlights the amazingness of God’s grace.When we were dead in our trespasses and sins God caused us to come alive—to be born again. This is greater than our suffering and our suffering doesn’t change this one bit and so we praise him.God causes us to be born again to a new and living hope. This is greater than our suffering and our suffering doesn’t change this one bit and so we praise him.
God accomplished all of this by sending his one and only Son to take on human flesh in order to die in our place. This is greater than our suffering and our suffering doesn’t change this one bit and so we praise him.
- God has given his elect a heavenly inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading (v.4). The third aspect of God’s glory that overshadows and isn’t changed by our suffering is his promise to keep our inheritance secure.”[God] 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…”All the blessings of God are secured for all of the people of God in such a way that they will never perish. While everything around us can be taken away in a moment, our heavenly reward can never be killed or stolen or lost. Our suffering doesn’t change this and so we praise God in our suffering.God’s blessings are also secure in that they will never be defiled. That is, our inheritance can never go bad or become polluted. Our heavenly inheritance remains pure. And for this we worship God in our trials.And God’s blessings are secure in that they are unfading. Gold rises and falls in value. The stock market fluctuates dramatically at times. But our inheritance in heaven remains immutably invaluable and so we bless God in our times of great difficulty.
All of this is certain because our inheritance is being kept by God. God himself is guarding it; the one whose power is infinite in magnitude and inexhaustible in amount. Whatever happens around us, God’s great promise to us is that our heavenly reward will never perish, rot, or diminish, and so we praise God.
- God is eternally committed to using his limitless power to guard his elect through faith for salvation (v.5). Finally, not only is our inheritance secured, but the faith through which we are saved and promised this great reward is secured as well. Indeed, God is eternally working to glorify his name in the final salvation of his elect.”…by God’s power [God’s people] are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”In other words, it’s good news that the reward of God’s faithful people is secure, but it’s only good news if we remain faithful. The greater promise of God is that he will keep us faithful even as he keeps our reward for faithfulness secure.We are saved by grace through faith as a gift of God. The key to understanding this (which has largely escaped the modern notion of salvation) is that we are not saved by having had faith, but by having faith. Too many people feel confident in their salvation because they “had faith” at some point in the past. The clear and unwaivering message of the bible, though, is not that we’re saved by having trusted in Jesus, but by trusting in Jesus. The really, really good news of the gospel—the really, really great promise of God—is that both the initiation of our faith and the continuation of our faith is God’s gift.This promise is greater than our suffering and is not changed by our suffering and so we praise God for it in our suffering.
For all of these reasons and more worship is to be the first and main response of God’s people to all of our circumstances (including the exceedingly difficult ones). This was meant to be a help to the early church as they endured persecution at the hands of the Jews and Romans. And it is meant to be a help to us today as we find ourselves persecuted in increasing ways.
The main charge of our life is to glorify God. We do that well in our suffering when we worship in our suffering.
Are you being persecuted for your faith? Worship God. Worship God in your suffering because God’s glory is infinitely greater than your difficult circumstances and because the things in him worthy of worship are not altered one bit by your difficult circumstances. Once again, that’s the main message of this passage.
Before I close, however, I want to say two quick, pastoral things to those of you who are suffering or who are close to someone who is suffering. First, while Peter is primarily speaking to those suffering persecution for their faith in Jesus, the principles here also apply to suffering of all kinds (physical, emotional, spiritual, relational, etc.). That is, regardless of the kind of suffering you experience God’s glory is infinitely greater and your suffering doesn’t affect his glory.
But second, I want to make clear the fact that being called to worship God in your suffering is not in any way meant to minimize or trivialize your pain. That worshiping God ought to be our first and main response to difficult times, does not mean that we should pretend that difficult times aren’t difficult. Sadness is appropriate at times. Tears are appropriate at times. Brokenness is appropriate at times.
Calling Christians to worship God in their trials is not the same as calling them to be calloused to their trials or to pretend that they are not really trials.
Similarly, we ought to weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn. Good theology, good doctrine, should never diminish our empathy or emotions, only inform and shape and enhance them.
And so if you are suffering, worship God while you weep. Praise him for his glory and his purposes in your suffering and morn. And if you know you know someone who is suffering, cry with them as you remind them of God’s goodness and majesty.
Because of the cross of Jesus, for the Christian, suffering is never meaningless and it never ends in ruin. And therefore, because of the cross of Jesus, for the Christian, trials are not for despair, but for worship and longing and growing in our recognition of our dependence on God.
Worship God, Grace. Both when the sun’s shining down on you, when the world’s all as it should be and on the road marked with suffering and when there’s pain in the offering. Bless the name of God. Amen.