“The Salvation of Your Souls”
It is commonly agreed that Peter wrote his first epistle in the year 65 A.D. within a year after the Emperor Nero burned the city of Rome to the ground. That happened in July of 64 A.D. Let me summarize what took place.
A fire broke out in the city of Rome that eventually engulfed the whole city in flames, leaving it a virtual heap of ashes. You can imagine the devastation. Historians are certain that the fire was set by Rome’s insane Emperor, Nero. He wanted to make space in the city to build some great palaces that would give his name an unforgettable place in history.
You have all heard that “Nero fiddled while Rome burned.” Actually, the story is slightly embellished. The violin had not yet been invented. So the Emperor was not fiddling. However, he was seen looking over the city, playing some kind of instrument, as he watched the devastation with delight. Of course, he was never charged with the crime; but historians are agreed that he was the man responsible.
The inhabitants of Rome were convinced that he had done it and were enraged. They were on the brink of anarchy and ready to overthrow the Emperor. Nero needed a scapegoat, someone he could blame for the fire.
There was a group of people in Rome who were just suited for his wicked scheme. They were called “Christians.” They followed a man called Christ. They were a strange group of people, commonly disliked and evil spoken of by the masses. Rumors about this strange religious sect were many. It was commonly reported that thy were cannibals, because when they got together in their homes to worship that man they called God, they greeted each other with “an holy kiss”, and it was reported that they ate someone’s body and drank his blood.
Of course, that led to more rumors. People commonly accused these Christians of engaging in horribly evil things. They were a people looked upon with great suspicion. So, when Nero needed a scapegoat, he started the rumor that the Christians had burned down the city of Rome, and it was readily accepted.
That is what was behind the infamous persecutions that took place under Nero’s infamous reign as Emperor of Rome. Believers were hunted, arrested, tortured, and put to death by the hundreds. They were dipped in tar and burned as torches to light Nero’s courtyards while he threw an outdoor party. They were tied to chariots and dragged to death through the streets of Rome. They were thrown to the lions. They were tied up in leather bags and thrown into pools of water. In countless other ways the saints of God were persecuted and slaughtered as the most despicable people of the world.
It was during this time of persecution that Peter wrote this blessed epistle to God’s suffering saints scattered as “strangers throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.” Peter wrote this letter of encouragement and hope to his suffering, persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ, encouraging them (and us) to endure the things they suffered as Christians, knowing that even the sufferings they endured at the hands of wicked men were according to the purpose of God, just as our Savior did (3:21-24).
How can men and women enduring such evil, such hardships be expected to take it patiently? What will inspire them to persevere? How can they be comforted? Peter knew exactly what they needed. He wrote to them about redemption and grace in Christ, about the salvation of their souls (1:1-9).
“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.”
The first part of this epistle (1:1-2:12) beautifully describes God’s free, saving grace in Christ, “the salvation of your souls.” Multitudes live in frustration because they think their lives are meaningless. And the fact is — Life in this world is meaningless until we find its’ meaning in eternity, until we find meaning in Christ.
There is nothing that is of greater importance than the salvation of your soul. You are a living soul. You have a body; but you are a living soul. You will spend eternity somewhere, in some state. You will live forever, either in the eternal bliss of salvation in heaven, or in the eternal state of death, the second death, in the torment of divine wrath in hell.
The salvation of your soul involves the very glory of God himself. If the Lord God is pleased to save you by his almighty, free and sovereign grace in Christ, it will be to show forth the praise of the glory of his grace. God saves sinners for his name’s sake (Eph. 1:3-14). He says, “For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it” (Isa. 48:11; Ps. 106:8). The salvation of your souls is the subject of 1 Peter.
Because the salvation of our soul is of such immense importance, we are admonished in the Scriptures to make our calling and election sure, lest we be deceived with one of Satan’s devices to the damning of our souls. May God the Holy Spirit make us honest with ourselves and honest before him. As we look at the salvation described in this book, let us ask ourselves one question — “Is this the salvation I have?”
If the salvation described here is your salvation, you have reason to give thanks to God continually. If the salvation you think you have is not described in these terms, then your imagined salvation is a vain delusion, a refuge of lies that will crush your soul down to hell forever, unless the Lord delivers you from it.
Ten Things About Salvation
In the first twelve verses of this epistle God the Holy Spirit describes what salvation is. If we are saved by the grace of God, this is the salvation we have experienced. If we have not experienced this salvation, we have not yet been saved by the grace of God. Here Peter tells us ten things about God’s great gift of salvation in Christ.
1. In Bible terms salvation is a radical thing (v. 1).
Salvation is something so radical, so life altering that it makes every saved sinner a stranger in this world. Religion makes people strange; but grace makes believers strangers to the world. “Therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.” Believers are strangers to the people of the world. We are a paradox, a people puzzling to the world. The world can never understand what makes us tick, why we do what we do, how we live, or what motivates us. The world can understand and explain any and every form of human religion. But the world can never understand a child of God. It’s a grace thing. They just can’t get it. Grace experienced in the soul makes a person a stranger in this world.
2. Salvation is the work of the triune God alone (v. 2).
It begins in that blessed, eternal work of God the Father called, “election”. Salvation is wrought in us by the regenerating, sanctifying work of God the Holy Spirit by irresistible grace. This salvation was earned and purchased for us by the obedience and death of God the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ in effectual redemption.
God’s salvation brings both grace and peace. It brings every gift and blessing of grace as a matter of pure, free grace. And where there is grace, there is peace. — Peace With God. — Peace From God. — The Peace of God. — Grace and peace are multiplied to saved sinners in Christ, never subtracted or divided.
3. Salvation, as it is described in the Bible, both honors God and gives all praise and honor to God (vv. 3-4).
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.” Compare Ephesians 1:3-6.
4. That salvation which is described in the Book of God gives hope.
Grace gives us a living hope. That hope is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” It is a hope that is based upon and is found in God’s abundant mercy in a risen Savior. It is a hope for eternity, the hope of an inheritance, an incorruptible inheritance, an undefiled inheritance, an inheritance that fadeth not away, an inheritance reserved in heaven for us.
5. God’s salvation is a salvation that keeps all by grace who are in grace (v. 5).
Believers are a people “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” Grace chose us. Grace found us. Grace put us in the way. Grace keeps us in the way. Grace keeps us through faith. Yes; and it is grace that gives us the faith through which we are kept.
6. This great salvation, great as it is now, in this present, earthly experience of it, is a salvation “ready to be revealed” (v. 5).
7. Salvation, real salvation, causes saved sinners to rejoice in the Lord (v. 6).
“Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations.” — This is real joy, joy in the very depths of our hearts and souls, joy in God our Savior. When we have nothing else in which to rejoice, we can and should rejoice in our God and in his salvation (Phil. 4:4-5).
“Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:6-9).
8. This salvation is a salvation which is consistent with all the Scriptures (vv. 10-11).
This salvation that God performs and gives freely to chosen sinners in Christ is the fulfillment of all the Old Testament Scriptures. — The prophets of old inquired and searched diligently for it (v. 10). — He who taught them was the Spirit of Christ, who was in them and “testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow” (v. 11).
Now, let’s look at verse 12.
9. The only way any sinner can ever know and experience this salvation is by divine revelation (v. 12).
That is how the Word of God describes this thing we call “salvation.” Have I described your salvation? If I have, how thankful we ought to be! How we ought to love our God! That is what we are told in 1 Peter 1:13-2:12. How we ought to consecrate ourselves to our Savior, remembering that…
· He who loved us and redeemed us has given us faith and hope in God (1:21-22).
· We have been born again by the Word of God (1 Pet. 1:23-25).
· We are living stones in the temple of God, built upon the Foundation Stone, Christ Jesus (2:5-12).
Hear what Peter says to you and me. Hear the motives he gives for us to live in utter consecration to our God. Begin at verse 10 and go backwards to verse 5. We are the recipients of mercy (2:10), saved to show forth the praises of him who called us (2:9), God’s own, special, distinct, peculiar people (2:9), a holy nation (2:9), a royal priesthood (2:9), a nation of kings and priests unto God, a chosen generation (2:9), and a royal priesthood offering up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by the merits and mediation of Christ (2:5). Not only is it true that our prayers and gifts, our specific deeds of worship and love are accepted of God as spiritual sacrifices, but our very lives (Rom. 12:1-2; Eccles. 9:7).
The Will of God
Perhaps you are thinking, “I want to live for Christ, I want to honor God. I just don’t know how. I just don’t know what I should do and not do.” If you are a believer, I know that it is your soul’s desire to live for Christ, to honor God in your life. I also know that it is the nature of man to desire rules and laws by which he can measure his success. But the Holy Spirit, instead of giving us rules and laws and commandments to fulfill, gives us a principle by which our lives (all areas of our lives) are to be governed. That principle by which grace governs the lives of God’s saints in this world is submission — Submission to the will of God. That is what Peter shows us in 1 Peter 2:13-3:12.
Grace teaches us to submit to all God ordained authority; particularly, Peter tells us to submit to our political, civil rulers for Christ’s sake (2:13-17). If the saints, to whom this epistle was addressed, were expected to honor and submit to Nero and the Roman rulers under him, it certainly applies to us today. Where there is no honor given to government, there is no fear of God.
Grace teaches us to submit to our employers (2:18-19). Peter is not here giving approval to the inhuman, horrid practice of slavery that was so common throughout the world in that day. He is simply using the common practice to teach submission to the will of God. He tells even those who were slaves with wicked masters to be subject to them for Christ’s sake. Believers ought to be the best, most dependable, most trustworthy workers in any place of employment.
Grace teaches us to patiently endure suffering, even from wicked men, just as our Savior did, knowing that the things we suffer are according to the will of God and ordained by him for our eternal good (2:20-25).
Grace teaches us to honor God in our homes, submitting one to another (3:1-7). Wives, even those married to unbelieving men, are to live in submission to their husband’s as their heads. One reason given for this is that their unbelieving husbands might be converted because they observe true grace manifest in their wives, “even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.”
1 Peter 3:3-4 is not a prohibition to women fixing their hair and wearing make up and jewelry. It is simply a declaration that the believing woman is to be more concerned about living in godliness than about dressing in gaudiness
Husbands are to love their wives, submitting to their needs as the weaker vessel. Believing husbands and wives ought always to live together “as heirs together of the grace of life.”
Grace teaches us to live together in the church of God as brethren, submitting our own wills and preferences to one another (3:8-12) — “Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves” (Phil. 2:3). The church of God ought to be the one place in this world where God’s saints find nothing to hurt them. It ought to be a blessed habitation of peace, a household of faith and grace in which every person is treated with pity, kindness, and courtesy, in which none should ever experience gossip, slander, reproach or abuse of any kind.
Even when we are called upon by God’s good and wise providence to suffer evil at the hands of men, let us suffer well, as those who believe God. Peter teaches us how to do so in 1 Peter 3:13-4:9. Even in such circumstances as these persecuted saints found themselves, he asks in verse 13, “Who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?” Let us behave in such a way that we do not suffer as evil men, because we have done evil. And when we do suffer for the gospel’s sake, let us sanctify the Lord God in our hearts, not murmur against him (3:15). Let us ever be ready to give reason for the hope that is in us (3:15). Let us remember that Christ suffered much more for us (3:18). And let us remember that he who suffered and died for us, that he who loved us and gave himself for us is seated in heaven and has dominion over all things, even over those who cause us to suffer by their evil deeds (3:22).
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf” (1 Peter 4:12-16).
Serving God in His House
In chapter 5 Peter moves directly from the matter of how we are to endure suffering from the hands of wicked men to how we are to serve God in his house. It is as though he is telling us to make certain that none of God’s elect suffer anything in his house, but that we should labor together as one body in peace for the glory of God, strengthening one another for life in this world.
Let every pastor in the church of God be a faithful shepherd, tenderly caring for Christ’s sheep, feeding them, watching over them, guiding them, and showing them by example how to live for the honor of God in a world of woe (5:1-4). Let every child of God walk in loving submission to our God and to one another, casting all our care upon him, knowing that he cares for us (5:5-9). Let us ever remind ourselves and one another of God’s boundless, sure grace in Christ, keeping our hearts fixed upon eternity, not upon our temporary trials here (5:10-11; 2 Cor. 4:18-5:1).
You will notice that, at the close of this letter, Peter says he wrote it from Babylon. Many imagine that Peter is here using the word Babylon as a spiritual term for Rome. But there is no foundation for that supposition. There is no historical or biblical evidence that Peter ever visited Rome. Peter was obviously in Babylon (Baghdad) on the Euphrates River in Assyria.