Scripture References – 1 Peter 1:3-9
Peter directly relates Christian hope to an “inheritance” for God’s people; that inheritance, obviously, is salvation. “Receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls,” Peter wrote. Seeing “souls saved” or “getting souls saved” are overused and underdefined phrases in evangelism. Peter is therefore talking about the whole human being in the experience of salvation when he makes reference to the salvation of souls. Salvation is God’s liberating us from the power of sin and self-destruction, setting us in a right relationship with God, and working in our lives to make us healthy and whole persons in all respects; it’s an ongoing process. All of the best we can know in these areas of life is just a mere “down payment” of that complete inheritance which is not fully realized until we step into eternity. We can’t even imagine the bounty awaiting us when we receive the inheritance in full. So, for now, we sing, “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine.”
We have difficulty trying to comprehend the value of God’s gift of salvation which we as His children will someday fully inherit. The Apostle picks three beautiful terms to describe salvation, which is life with God. It is life unending and immortal. It is life undefiled and pure, unstained by any moral or spiritual evil. It is life unfading as a flower which never loses its beauty.
Christian hope gives God’s people the assurance of God’s protection. Now, that is not properly interpreted the way it is popularly treated. Protection by God means that once we become children of God, we are not left to “go it alone.” As we face the difficulties of life, as we struggle to make our lives more of what God wants them to be, as we deal with the continuing battle between good and evil, God is with us. God never leaves or forsakes us.
Through faith, we have continual access to God’s power as we attempt to handle whatever life may bring to us. Don’t misunderstand me to say that God protects Christians in the sense of insulating them from all the potentially bad experiences human beings can know. That isn’t true; and that isn’t God’s perfect will for His children.
God’s protection of His people means that divine power is available to us in such a way that we have sufficient stamina and courage to be God’s children in any and all circumstances. There’s a big difference between saying that God will be with us, making divine resources available to us, and saying that God shields us from situations. Protection in this context means that God gives us strength to be God’s people in spite of any temptation or evil that may come to us.
This protection is not a deliverance from suffering, grief, and pain. God does not inflict these upon us; however, they are the realities of living as human beings in an imperfect world. God will not forsake us when these times come; we have God with us as we walk through the dark valleys, and this is an essential part of Christian hope.
Peter wrote this in a time during which Christians certainly suffered because of their commitment to Christ. There were different levels of punishment inflicted upon the faithful, including death. When 1 Peter was written, suffering for the faith meant having your life threatened if you publicly confessed Jesus Christ as Lord. Christians in that time were often faced with a dilemma, a life-and-death dilemma. All people could be required by law to bow down before the statue of the emperor (probably Domitian) and say, “Caesar is Lord.” It was not uncommon for the emperors to make divine statues for themselves. Most had not insisted upon a universal acknowledgement of this deification; however Domitian was an exception. He referred to himself as dominus et deus, lord and god. To make such a statement as “Caesar is Lord,” would be to deny Christ as Lord, yet the penalty for refusing to worship the emperor was often death. Should the Christians say it and not mean it, or refuse and leave one less Christian in the world?
This is something we need to consider today, very seriously, as we see things turning against those with Christian values more and more frequently. It is obvious that history is beginning to repeat itself with the ultimate outcome soon upon the horizon. This is all the more reason to cling to Christian hope.
To Be Continued