How would you explain computers to someone from biblical times? Or, let’s take something simple like running water. Think about it for a moment. We’d have to explain pipes, faucets, drains, pressure, electricity, magnetism, motors, and pumps. Things we take for granted would be foreign, mysterious, and perhaps magical. In this Walk Through 1st Peter, we encounter something just as mysterious and magical as explaining running water to someone living 2000 years ago – the grace of salvation.
Welcome to our fourth installment in our Walk Through 1st Peter. In the opening verses of this letter we’ve encountered hope and faith in regards to salvation. In this lesson, Peter unfolds the longing of folks to see the age of grace. “As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look.” (1 Peter 1:10–12, NASB95)
So far Peter has used four words in conjunction with salvation; hope, faith, joy, and grace. We often use terms like saved, born again, delivered, and redeemed to explain what we mean. Peter, however, doesn’t define salvation, he expects that his readers know exactly what he is talking about. And most of you probably do know the meaning and experience of salvation. But for those that don’t let me briefly explain.
The simplest way to put it is that we are born broken. It’s a common observation that children don’t need to be taught how to be bad, it comes naturally. The Bible tells us that humankind was not created broken but became that way because of disobedience to one command which shattered our relationship with God. But our need for salvation is not just because of Adam and Eve, we bear the responsibility for our own rebellion; our own sin. But we are incapable of repairing the damage and removing the stain of our sin. We need to be saved from it. It’s like we’ve fallen overboard in a deep ocean and we desperately need someone come to our rescue. What we couldn’t do, God did by sending His only Son to redeem our sin debt before God. Jesus’ death and resurrection are the means, it is the life-preserver of our salvation. But it’s our choice whether we grab on the lifeline offered by God or not.
We often lose the perspective of time as we read through the Bible. It’s easy for those of us on this side of salvation history to see how the puzzle pieces all fit together. We read Psalms 22 and Isaiah 53 and marvel at the accurate depiction of Christ’s crucifixion. But Psalms 22 and Isaiah 53 were written hundreds of years before the events portrayed in the Gospel accounts. It would be like someone in the 1600’s accurately describing the running water we have today.
Peter wrote, “the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow.” The prophecies of the Old Testament are said to be meaningful both in their time and looking forward to ours. The prophets didn’t come by this themselves, but it was the Sprit of Christ or the Holy Spirit that provided the necessary glimpses. In their obedience to the Spirit’s promptings, they not only served their time but ours as well.
In a way, the prophets of old looked through a darkened glass towards the age of grace the same way we look towards the end of the age. We have puzzle pieces, but we don’t yet have the full picture of when or how the events will take place. Jesus said, ““For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” (Matthew 13:17, NASB95)
The Bible may seem like just an odd collection of writings from the ancient near east. Just books on Jewish history, poetry, wisdom, the blog entries of prophets, and letters written to scattered groups. But the books are all connected by the larger story of salvation history. What some have called the scarlet thread of redemption runs through each book from Genesis to Revelation.
Peter concluded that what the prophets longed to see has been proclaimed to us today. “But you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.” It’s important for us to see that Peter points out the men and women who obediently and sacrificially preached or proclaimed or shared God’s good news. This message was not just a sales pitch designed to induce someone to join a cause, but a message empowered and confirmed by the Holy Spirit.
We may have heard the story of Jesus a thousand times. But most of us who follow Jesus had that one moment where our heart beat loud, and we were moved but didn’t understand why. Perhaps nervous, perhaps in tears, perhaps feeling like God was looking right at us. At that moment, whether it was in a group, in a church, in a quiet conversation, or alone we knew we had a life-changing choice to make. The words the preacher, co-worker, or friend used to explain the Good News were not as important as what the Holy Spirit was revealing to our hearts at that moment.
Isaiah prophesied hundreds of years before Jesus, “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18, NASB95) Only God can make stained wool pure white again. Only God can take a heart stained and scarred by our sin and the sins of others and make it new again.
Almost as an afterthought Peter adds, “things into which angels long to look.” The words Peter uses mean to intently study the matter. We would say something like, “putting it under the microscope.” Not to test it but to try and understand it. The angels are curious about our salvation, it is something outside of their experience, and it is a wonder to them.
In the midst of life’s busy-ness, in the habits of church life, in the heat of a disagreement, in the moments of sacrifice and service, and in our times of despair we often forget the wonder, the majesty, the awesome feeling of forgiveness, and the refreshing of our souls because of salvation. It becomes something we did instead of something we are. Salvation is not an initiation rite; it is a new life.
But maybe, just maybe, this is all foreign to you. Or maybe it’s just a theological construct. Or just something people do to feel better about themselves. Or maybe when you look inside your heart in a quiet and honest moment you also feel the scars. Perhaps you, like the angels, should look intently at God’s good news. It’s not complicated, but it is marvelous to behold. There are many ways to say it, many metaphors to explain it. In simple truth, we have all rebelled against God, including you. We are wounded, broken, and scarred by our rebellion and that of others. Now, God could have just wiped us out and started over again, but he didn’t. He instead sent Jesus as a sinless offering to make the way for you and me to be reconciled again with God. He doesn’t force this on anyone but holds it out as a choice. We chose to rebel, we can choose to return.
There are no magic words to say. No set prayers that must be uttered. God hears your words, but He is listening to your heart. Just talk to Him. Some have started by saying, “Lord, be merciful to me a sinner…” others began, “God, if you’re real…” even “God! HELP!” is a good place to start. The key is that we agree with God about our rebellion, that we ask His forgiveness, and that we place our lives in His hands.
I’d love to hear about your salvation experience, whether it was just now or years ago. Write me at Dale@lambchow.com