1 Peter 1:3-9


This is the first of six texts in succession from 1 Peter in Series A. It is suggest that the preacher read the entire Epistle first. 1 Peter has aptly been called the epistle of Hope and that it is. The hopelessness of the world is constantly affecting Christians. In fact, it might not be a bad idea to use "My Hope is Built on Nothing Else" 370 The Lutheran Hymnal  or 368  Lutheran Worship  as a hymn on this Sunday.

In verses 1-3 Peter addresses the elect children of God scattered through various provinces of Asia Minor as pilgrims and strangers in this world. They were elect of God only because of His gracious foreknowledge in eternity. In time this caused the Holy Spirit to bring them to faith in the sprinkled blood of Jesus Christ. And therefore, Peter can say to them: "Grace to you and peace be multiplied."

Note that our text, verses 3-9, is only two sentences

  1. verses 3-5 which dwell on the certainty of salvation, and

  2. verses 4-9 which dwell on the joy of the Christian although he must suffer, if and when God so wills.
Bengel: From verse 3 to 2:10 Peter recounts what GOD has done for our benefit and from that saving provision he draws most effective admonitions to hope, 1:3-13; to sanctification and fear in believing, 14-21; to love 22-2:10; most sweetly introducing now and then doctrine concerning Christ.
Formula of Concord: (Tappert 556.34): Paul attributes to faith alone (as opposed to our works and worthiness) the beginning, the middle, and the end of everything. In 1 Peter 1:5 we are told that 'by God's power we are guarded through faith for salvation' and in verse 9: 'As the outcome of your faith, you obtain the salvation of your souls.'

At the beginning of this section Lenski shows the similarities and differences between Ephesians 1:3-14 and 1 Peter 1:3-12. It is worth reading but too lengthy to quote here. We limit ourselves to two sentences: "To be sure, we are foreigners in this world, little groups scattered here and there, but we are not inferior to those who treat us as being inferior . . . We as foreigners in this world are made strange and alien to it by the wondrously high position which God has bestowed upon us."

1 Peter 1:3 (NIV) Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

"Praise," a verbal adjective, not found in classical Greek, but found in LXX for "praised" or "blessed" of God or His Name. Look at Ephesians 1:3 and Luke 1:68.

Rienecker: The participle gives the reason why God is blessed.
Bengel: 'Blessed' the sentiment is, God has regenerated us.
Stoeckhardt: What is this beneficent act of God, which forms the basis and content of the doxology? In a word it is conversion.

Note that "God" and "Father" have only one article. He is the God of Jesus Christ according to His human nature, Ephesians 1:17, and the Father of Jesus Christ according to His divine nature.

Rienecker: A living hope is one that is never extinguished by untold circumstances.
Bengel: It is termed LIVING, because it springs up from Christ's resurrection.
Stoeckhardt: The Christian's hope never deceives and never fails to reach its goal.
Selwyn: A hope that is never extinguished by untoward circumstances.
Lenski: It is the opposite of an empty, false deceptive hope. This hope is 'living' because God guarantees and produces its fulfillment . . . We have a living hope resting on God's promise and power.

JB translates: "a sure hope." In the hymn "In the Cross of Christ I Glory" stanza two (TLH 354; LW 101) we read: "When the woes of life o'ertake me, hopes deceive, and fears annoy." Mere human hopes can easily vanish like vapor. Not so the Christian hope.

Stoeckhardt: God has begotten us again. In 1:23 Peter says we are 'born again.' In John 3:3 'Except a man be born again.' In Titus 3:5 'By the washing of regeneration.' In James 1:18 'Of his own will begat He us.' It is the same event which Paul describes as a quickening from the dead, Ephesians 2:5-6; Colossians 2:12, as a new creation, Ephesians 2:10; Galatians 6:15.

1 Peter 1:4 (NIV) and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade -- kept in heaven for you,

Another purpose phrase. An inheritance, of course, is totally a gift. Note that it is qualified by three adjectives - imperishable, unstained, unfading. The inheritance is "untouched by death"  "unstained by evil" and "unimpaired by time." 

Selwyn: Unlike Canaan, the promised possession of the Christians is not subject to the ravages of war or calamity, nor to idolatry and the sensual vices that accompanied it, nor to the wasting effects of time or unkind seasons.

Moth, rust, nor anything else can corrupt it. Sin and evil cannot defile it. And it will never wither, disappoint or wear out. Why? Christ's resurrection caused the inheritance to be absolutely safe.

Curiously at this point Peter switches from "us" to "you." This verse tells us that our inheritance is safeguarded beyond question. The next verse tells us that we as heirs are guarded and protected. What comforting words!!

1 Peter 1:5 (NIV) who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

"Power" is a very strong word, denoting the mighty acts of God. It is used in the synoptics for the miracles of Jesus.

"Faith" denotes the manner in which this assurance is brought to us and whereby we live. It is never causal or temporal. My faith or feelings do not cause the "power." When you are weak, down and dejected, look only at the promises of God in Christ.

The final purpose of all this is salvation, which denotes the final deliverance either at death or on judgment day.

Rienecker: 'Salvation' here indicates salvation in its broadest sense . . . The word 'time' indicates the fit or appointed time or season for some particular thing, whether it be a period or a moment.
Bengel: 'Power' He himself does, and does it entirely. Without this protection, how could we remain steadfast in the presence of the adversary? 1 Peter 5:8. . . The inheritance is kept; the heirs are guarded . . . TO BE REVEALED, a common word in this Epistle: verses 7, 12, 13; 4:13.
Stoeckhardt: Peter attributes preservation in faith especially to the power of God.
Lenski: The power kept Daniel in the lions' den, the three men in the fiery furnace, set bounds for Satan in afflicting Job, freed Peter from Herod's prison, preserved Paul amid dangers, hardships, persecutions, etc., etc. Great and wonderful is this protection of omnipotence, without which we should soon be overwhelmed . . . Everything is ready and complete for its glorious unveiling.

1 Peter 1:6 (NIV) In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.

This verse and verse 7 is a highly complex sentence. We give a free translation for the whole verse: "Concerning this you are constantly exulting (although you are pained for a little while now because of diverse trials, if God so wills) over the fact that the approved character of your faith, which approved character is more precious than perishable gold even when it is tested by fire, might be found to your praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ reveals Himself."

In verse 5 the word "faith" is used of the God-given instrument whereby God protects and keeps us to the very end. In verse 6 the word "faith" is described as to its character. It reminds us of the words of Jesus: "Well done you good and faithful servant."

Intense heat does not destroy gold but brings out its true character. Likewise, trials do not destroy the approved character of faith but bring out its true character: praise-worthy, glorious and honorable in God's sight. We have an argument from the lesser to the greater: If fire purifies perishable gold, now much more won't various trials purify true faith.

"To exult" is stronger than "to rejoice."

Rienecker: This verb is always used with the connotation of religious joy, a joy which springs from the contemplation of God or of the salvation which comes from God.

The Christian can exult even when not happy or feeling good.

Stoeckhardt: They are elect strangers. And their eternal election, which cannot fail or be revoked, guarantees that God will preserve them for eternal joy and blessedness.
Selwyn: The meaning is to be found in the paradox of joy in suffering which is characteristic of New Testament thought.


Lenski: Peter admits that trials produce grief, but our exulting is not lessened thereby . . . Our trials often hurt severely, yet we keep on jubilating and celebrating.

True. We often see grieving relatives exulting thus in the sick-room or at the grave.

Here Peter says: "If such should be the will of God." He means that it is not uncertain that trials will come.

Lenski: Two points are touched upon in connection with this grief: it is only for a little while, it will soon cease; and, it occurs only when God finds it necessary.
Luther: The fact that you must have outward misfortune does no harm . . . do not think that you will be rid of misfortune . . . We should wait to see what God imposes on us and sends us, in order that we may go and follow as He leads us.

Read all of hymn #528 TLH or 407 LW. Jesus says: "In the world you have tribulation. But be courageous. I have overcome the world." John 16:33. He did so by His death and resurrection, look at Romans 4:25.

1 Peter 1:7 (NIV) These have come so that your faith -- of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire -- may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

The phrase does not refer to the praise, glory and honor of God, but of the believer.

Bengel: Praise in words, honor in deeds, glory in the judgment.
Luther: When Christ is revealed, splendid honor, praise, and glory will follow.

This phrase reminds us of as similar one in Matthew 5:12.

Stoeckhardt: The Christian's entire lifetime is a time of testing. When he grows stronger and perseveres in faith as he goes from one trial to another, there follows for him at the end of his pilgrimage the final confirmation, James 1:12.
Lenski: Peter speaks of the tested genuineness of our faith, which God means to find, so as to reward it at the last day, and states that such genuineness is more valuable than any tested genuineness of gold.

On the last day Christ will make public what was decided at the death of the Christian.

1 Peter 1:8 (NIV) Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,

The original Greek text makes verses 8-9 a subordinate adjectival clause. The English translation starts a new sentence at this point. Christ is the subject. "Although" under ordinary circumstances we do not love or believe in people until we've seen them and have come to know them. We have a third participle in this verse which is extremely important. Christians love Jesus and exult only because they believe and trust what He said.

Bengel: The apostles, who had seen Him themselves, thought that their faith was not so great as that of others.
Stoeckhardt: Peter, as it were, envies the Christians, who as yet have not seen Christ, envies them for the unique joy that will be theirs at their first seeing.
Lenski: A contrast with Peter himself is implied, for Peter had seen Jesus both before and after his resurrection . . . Peter silently places himself below his readers. It is more praiseworthy to love as they do, then to love as Peter does.

JB: "A joy so glorious that it cannot be described."

Rienecker: The verse contains the sense of a divine mystery exceeding the powers of speech and thought.
Bengel: Unspeakable even now, see 1 Corinthians 2:9.
Lenski: We are not yet glorified, but our joy is.

1 Peter 1:9 (NIV) for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

We have five participles in verses 8-9. We offer a translation: "Although you have not seen Him you constantly love Him, although you are not seeing Him but by constantly believing in Him you are exulting with a joy which cannot be expressed, a joy which has already been clothed with glory, as you are constantly carrying away for yourselves the consummation of your faith, the salvation of your souls." 

Rienecker: 'Soul' is not a special part of man's structure but is man as a whole.
Bengel: Receiving now, at present by faith, verse 8.
Hofmann: Soul is not contrasted here to the body since salvation included also the glorification of the body, but designates, as elsewhere, the soul as 'life itself' as 'a moral existence, appointed for eternal life.'
Selwyn: 'Goal' means the logical end of a process or action, its issue, consummation, perfection, and thus its ideal or chief good.
Lenski: 'Soul,' the word designates the person. When the soul is saved, the body, too, is saved, and in due time will join the soul.

It should be obvious that "salvation" is used in a broad sense. Here it means the final deliverance, by Jesus, from this vale of tears.


Adapted from"Exegetical Notes, Series A Epistle Texts, Festival Season Sundays, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1983, pp. 108-111. Used with permission.

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