1 Peter 1:6-9 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith- more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire- may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
In my experience the world around us defines faith as something people choose to believe in spite of significant contrary evidence. To word it slightly differently, the modern notion of faith is belief in something that is unlikely.
When you despair because your favorite team is down by 30 points with 15 seconds to go, your fellow fans might chastise you for your lack of faith. When your house is on fire, burned nearly to the ground, a comforting neighbor might tell you to have faith that your family photos are safe. When everyone around you tells you that belief in God is silly, you acknowledge the truthfulness of their assessment but let them know that you just have faith.
This type of faith—worldly faith—is of little value. It almost never proves right. It almost always proves wrong. Having this kind of faith is more akin to burying your head in the sand than anything else. More often than not, faith in this sense is simply a way to ignore reality and to dismiss all evidence in order to make yourself (or someone else) feel better in a difficult situation. When there is nothing solid to build hope on, it is said, we must have faith. Again, this type of faith is virtually worthless.
There is, however, another kind of faith. A faith of supreme value. A faith more valuable than all the gold in the world. This morning we’re going to look at the nature, reason, source, and outcome—the preciousness—of that kind of faith. Please pray with me that God would grant us all such faith.
THE NATURE OF BIBLICAL FAITH
As we just heard, 1 Peter 1:6-9 speaks of a kind of faith that is “more precious than gold” (v.7). If worldly faith is unreasonable, wishful thinking, what is biblical faith? The most straightforward definition comes from Hebrews 11.
Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
From this, in simplest terms, it seems to me that there are three essential components to biblical faith: 1) Certainty in 2) an invisible 3) promise of God. So certainty, invisibility, promise are the three essential components of biblical faith.
The type of faith that Peter writes about—the kind that is God-honoring and more precious than gold—is not wishy washy. It is certain. It is assured. It flows from well reasoned, evidence backed, deep conviction, truth. It is not something we make up in a moment of difficulty or despair.
The faith of Peter’s readers had this certainty. That’s what allowed them to rejoice even in their great and various trials. Their faith had been tested and found genuine. Their faith produced love (v.8) and belief (v.8) and inexpressible and glorious joy (v.8). That’s not wishy washy. That’s assurance and conviction.
It is also, however, by its very nature, certainty in something that is invisible to us. One popular Christian song from a while ago had the line, “I will walk by faith even when I cannot see”. Do you see the problem with that line? It’s the word “even”. Get rid of the word “even” and it’s fine. “I will walk by faith when I cannot see.” We can only have faith in something we cannot see. If you can see it, it isn’t faith.
Again, as v.8 makes clear, Peter’s readers had deep conviction and sure hope in One they “have not seen” and “do not now see”: Jesus Christ.
Finally, while worldly faith sets its hope in manmade objects or ideas, biblical faith has certain hope in the invisible person and promises of God. In the OT the prophets rebuke Israel for their worldly objects of faith.
Isaiah 44:13-17 The carpenter … plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. 15 Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. 16 Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” 17 And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!”
This is one of the clearest examples of worldly faith that I know. But one of the clearest examples of God-honoring faith I know is found in our passage for this morning. Peter’s readers, in spite of all the hardships they were enduring had chosen to place their faith—their trust, their entire hope—in the promise of God that through their faith they were and would obtain its outcome: “the salvation of their souls” (v.9).
They believed the objective promises of Jesus, given to Peter during his earthly ministry, and then written down by Peter in vs. 3-5 (summarized in v.9, “salvation of your souls”) and throughout this letter. Jesus’ wisdom and miracles and resurrection from the dead proved the truthfulness and trustworthiness of his teaching, and so Peter’s readers believed.
Again, then, worldly faith is foolish. It is wishful thinking. But biblical faith is different. It is a certain trust in the person and promises of God even though both are invisible to us. This is the precious nature of biblical faith. Let’s now consider the precious purpose, source, and outcome of biblical faith.
THE PURPOSE OF BIBLICAL FAITH
Biblical faith is precious, in part, because of God’s purpose for it. Grace, God has chosen to use faith as a conduit for his grace.
Let me back up just a bit.
God made us to glorify and enjoy him forever. But we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, and the wages of our sin is death; bad news indeed. However, that’s not the end of the story. While we were still sinners God sent his Son, Jesus, to die in the place of sinners; great news indeed, right? Well…maybe.
Let’s say that word came to you that someone had left you $1,000,000…on one of the Hawaiian Islands. That’s good news, right? It is unless you don’t have a boat or a plane or some way to get there. It could be $1,000,000,000, but if you can’t get to it, it does you no good.
The same is true concerning the cross of Jesus. It’s only great news if we have access to it. Have you ever wondered about that? Have you ever wondered how Jesus’ death on the cross 2000 years ago can really help us today? The answer is faith. Across time and space and age and gender and tribe and tongue and nation God has chosen to unite his people to the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ through faith.
Water comes to our homes through pipes. Electricity comes to church through wires. Cell signals come to our phones through air waves. Grace comes to God’s people through faith alone. This is never seen more clearly than in Ephesians 2:8.
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith…
We need grace because of our sin. Jesus secured amazing grace on the cross. God has chosen to give us access to this grace through faith. Faith’s purpose is to connect sinners to the grace of the cross.
Before we move on, though, I want to draw your attention to something that is both interesting and glorious. In addition to giving us the purpose of saving faith, the rest of Paul’s thought in Ephesians 2:8-9 also gives us the purpose of God in assigning this purpose to faith. In other words, beyond merely telling us the purpose of faith (to unite God’s people with the cross-work of Jesus), this passage also teaches us why God chose faith to accomplish this purpose.
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing… 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
The purpose of faith is to give God’s people access to God’s grace. But the reason God chose faith to serve this purpose was so that no one could boast. If faith is not based on anything we do or anything we work, there is no place for us to brag about our salvation. Salvation through faith is humbling. We didn’t earn it and we don’t deserve it. God chose faith to serve the purpose of giving God’s people access to God’s grace so that God, not us, would get all the glory for our salvation.
And this leads us directly into my next point: the precious source of biblical faith.
THE SOURCE OF BIBLICAL FAITH
The next question we need to ask, which is the next step in coming to understand the preciousness of biblical faith, is, “from where does faith come?”. Where do we get the type of faith Peter speaks of in v.7? What is its source?
The rest of Ephesians 2:8-9 states explicitly what our passage for this morning states a bit more subtly.
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
This passage makes clear that grace and salvation and faith are all gifts from God. More subtly, so does our passage for this morning. Look at 1 Peter 1:8-9. Like I said, it’s a bit subtle, but bear with me and I think you’ll be able to see something remarkable in this passage—subtly but clearly.
8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
V.8 is the perfect picture of faith in effect. Though Peter’s readers have not seen Jesus (either in the past or now in the present), they believe in him such that they rejoice even in their trials. Their faith in the invisible Jesus is so great—as we saw earlier—that nothing can shake their inexpressible, glorious joy in his promises. That’s v.8, and that’s fairly easy to see.
What’s a bit harder to see though, is the source of that faith which produces persecution-enduring joy. Where did that faith come from? Look at v.9. It came from the fact that Peter’s readers were already “obtaining the outcome of their faith, the salvation of [their] souls.”
This is key, Grace, don’t miss it. As we’ve seen many times from 1 John and Titus and 1 Peter, salvation is a gift of God…beginning to end. What’s more, we’ve also seen that God’s saving work begins before the foundation of the world in election and ends, finally, at the return of Christ. That is, there are past and future components to salvation. But what we cannot miss is that from the moment God causes us to be born again and grants us faith in his gospel there are countless, present aspects of our salvation as well.
Peter wanted to make sure his readers understood that they were experiencing many of them at that moment. Their love for the invisible Jesus, their belief in the invisible Jesus, and their inexpressible, glorious joy were the effects of their salvation. More specifically, they were the outcome, the out flowing of their faith, which had been given to them by God.
Peter is saying, “You have not seen Jesus, but you love him. You do not now see Jesus but you believe in him. What’s more your love and belief—indeed, your faith—are producing in you joy that is beyond measure. All of this is the product of the salvation won for you and given to you by God, which you are already experiencing in part. And the true source of all of this is the grace of God.”
Do you see it in Ephesians 2:8-9? The source of faith is God’s grace. And do you see it in 1 Peter 1:9? The source of this precious, glorious faith is the work of God.
THE OUTCOME OF BIBLICAL FAITH
Very briefly, the precious outcome of biblical faith is not to be missed. Peter states it clearly at the end of v.9 and the end of v.7.
First, as Peter clearly states in v.9, the outcome of faith is the salvation of our souls. Sinners need grace. God secured it on the cross. God grants his people access to it through faith in the person and promises and work of Jesus. The outcome is that we are justified, adopted, sanctified, persevered, and glorified…indeed, the outcome is that we are saved!
What’s more, second, faith is precious because it results in our “praise and glory and honor” at the second coming of Jesus. I mentioned last week that when Christians have joy in the gospel in times of great suffering it gives us a unique opportunity to praise and glorify and honor Jesus. That is true. However, that’s not the main point of v.7. The main praise and glory and honor spoken of in that verse is for the Christian. Our faith is precious in that because of it, we will be praised and honored and glorified by God himself.
Can you imagine such a thing? How precious is the faith which results in our praise and glory and honor in the presence of God…”well done, good and faithful servant.” What an amazing thought.
THE PRECIOUSNESS OF BIBLICAL FAITH
Do you see how precious faith is? Do you see how it is to be more desired than gold? Through gold can come houses and cars and TVs and jewelry and all kinds of things, but through faith comes everlasting life, the salvation and satisfaction of our souls.
Back to our original question: what makes the type of faith mentioned by Peter precious?
It is precious in its nature. It is more precious than gold because it is a God-given certainty in the invisible promises and person of Jesus Christ.
It is precious in its purpose. Faith is precious, more precious than gold, because it is the means by which the benefits of the cross come to us. Faith is the one and only conduit for God’s grace to flow from the cross to the sinner.
What would be the point of all the gold in the world, or all the world, if our souls remained in enmity with God? Faith is precious because it is what connects us to Jesus’ saving work.
It is precious in its source. God is the source of our faith and so faith is more precious than gold because it uniquely sets God up to receive the glory that is due to him alone. To God alone belongs supreme glory and honor and praise. Faith, as we saw earlier, strips us of any claim of having earned or merited our salvation and it, therefore, strips us of any claim for glory in it. Biblical faith, by its very nature, loudly proclaims that we are not able to save ourselves and that salvation is found in God alone. Faith is precious because constantly reminds us of God’s great glory.
And it is precious in its outcome. Through faith comes salvation and praise from God. What could be more precious than this…to hear our Creator and Savior praise us and honor us for a moment would be worth all the gold in the universe.
Oh Grace, let us never forget the preciousness of our faith. It is worth more than all the money in the world. It is worth forsaking every relationship. It is worth giving up our very lives. It is that precious.
If you are a Christian, if you’ve been given the gift of faith in Jesus, praise God for it. Worship him for his great blessing.
But also, walk in it. Every minute of every day, walk in faith. Believe the promises of God to protect and defend you and so take risks for the gospel. Believe in the promises of God to provide for you and so give generously to the poor and vulnerable, to the orphan and the widow, to the cause of the gospel. Believe in the promises of God to balance the scales of justice and so forgive freely, endure mistreatment for the sake of the gospel, treat your husband or wife, brother and sister, neighbor, and coworker, not as they treat you, but as Christ treats you.
And if you are not a Christian cry out to God for mercy. Call on the name of the Lord. He has promised that if you do he will grant you saving faith. He will not withhold this great and precious gift from anyone who truly seeks it. Turn from yourself and to God and he will rescue you and give you everlasting life.
Grace, may your faith, like that of Peter’s readers, make it such that “though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory…”. Amen.