1 Peter 1:3-9 (Second Sunday of Easter—Series A)
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
April 19, 2020
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Our text the Epistle lesson from 1 Peter 1:3-9:
3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to his great mercy, has caused us to be born again into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4into an inheritance imperishable and undefiled and unfading, guarded in heaven for you 5who by the power of God are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time, 6in which you rejoice, though now for a little while, if it is necessary, you are grieved by various trials, 7in order that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which perishes when it is tested through fire, might be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelatory unveiling of Jesus Christ, 8whom you do not see but you love, and whom you do not see now but in whom you are believing. And you rejoice with inexpressible joy and glory 9obtaining the completion of your faith, the salvation of your whole person.
It is said that Napoleon, while looking at some papers, let slip the bridle of his horse, which reared so that the Emperor was in danger. A corporal of the grenadiers leaped forward and caught the bridle, bringing the horse under control. Napoleon saluted the corporal and said, “Thank you, Captain.” “Of what company, Sire?” asked the corporal. “Of my guards,” replied Napoleon. The young corporal picked up his musket, hurled it aside and walked across the field toward the Emperor’s staff, tearing off his corporal’s stripes as he went. When he took his place among the officers, they asked him what he was doing. He replied that he was a captain of the guards. “By whose order?” asked one of them “The Emperor’s order,” he replied.
The incident may have never actually taken place, but there is a truth that we can learn from it. God is ready to do a great deal for you, if you are ready to take Him at His Word. A man of less faith might have picked up his musket, stepped back into the ranks and boasted for the rest of his life that Napoleon had called him captain. But this man took Napoleon at his word and received his new rank, not just a title. In faith, we take God at His Word and so enter into the blessing that He has prepared for us—the salvation of our whole person—body and soul.
Now, it can be very difficult for us to take another person at their word. People are not always trustworthy. They go back on the word and promises. But God is different. Paul reminds us in his letter to Titus that God never lies. We also read in 1 Thessalonians 5:24 that God “is faithful; he will surely do it.” When God’s Word promises something, you can be certain that God makes good on that promise. It’s guaranteed. He says, “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Is. 55:11 ESV). Why, then, do doubts arise? God doesn’t lie. God is always faithful to His Word of promise. Why do God’s people sometimes doubt His Word?
For example, look at the Apostle Thomas. He had been with Jesus. He had heard Jesus predict what was going to happen to Him during Holy Week: “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Luke 9:22). This is the Word of the Lord! It’s what the Old Testament said would happen. It was necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and then enter into His glory. But Thomas doubted, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” He couldn’t take God at His Word. Why do doubts arise in God’s people?
In our Epistle lesson this morning, Peter reveals to us much of what encourages doubt among believers in Jesus Believers in Jesus are grieved by various trials through which our faith is tested. Here at the beginning of his letter, Peter is praising the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He triumphantly proclaims that God has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, guarded in heaven for us, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Peter says that we rejoice in this, and rightly so! But then comes the contrast in that, now, for a little while, if it is necessary, we have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of our faith may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelatory unveiling of Jesus Christ.
It is in the times of trial that can doubts arise. We are the people who, through faith in Jesus, God has caused to be born again by water and the Spirit to a life of faith. This faith has received the imperishable, undefiled, and unfading inheritance of salvation. The Holy Spirit’s words are very clear. We are being guarded by God’s power through faith for this salvation. Yet, God allows our faith to be tested. In the midst of trials and times of testing, doubts may arise. In one breath we hear that we are being guarded in our faith and in the next breath we under a fiery test! Is it any wonder we have doubts?
- “God, I thought you loved me. Where are you? I feel so alone right now.”
- “God, you said you’d never leave me or forsake me. Here I am suffering through a pandemic. Where is the blessing in all of this?”
- “Lord, I don’t know where the next mortgage payment is going to come from. I don’t know how I’m going to put food on the table with being out of work for so long. You said that you would provide for us. I have no job. How are You going to get us through this one?”
When doubts do arise, we may feel lonely, helpless, and fearful. We might begin to think that there’s something wrong with our faith. “If I were a stronger Christian, I wouldn’t feel like this. If I were a better Christian, I wouldn’t have doubts. If I were a true Christian, I would be able to trust God no matter what happened.” If . . . If . . . If. If is a “doubt” word. It’s a word of uncertainty. “If” means that you hope for another situation, thinking that it will change the one you are in. But the situation in which you find yourself when those doubts arise is exactly the situation in which you will find God hard at work in your life.
You are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Think about what it means to be “guarded.” The term here is a military term indicating the guarding done by soldiers who are continually on watch and protecting those they guard. In the unending struggle that we face in body and soul in this life, we have a need for continual protection. That protection comes to us by the very power of God. We are being watched over and protected, guarded in our faith, by God’s power, which guarantees us the final victory—the salvation of our whole person!
Our faith in Jesus as the Crucified and Risen Lord is God’s gift to us in Holy Baptism. We ought not talk in terms of being a “stronger” or a “better” or a “true” Christian. In Holy Baptism, God has made you His son or daughter. He has called you by the Gospel into faith in Jesus. You are simply a Christian, a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. God’s gift of faith, which makes you a Christian, is more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire. Your faith in Christ is so guarded by the power of God that it cannot perish, though now, for a little while, you are grieved by various trials.
As you suffer physical troubles and emotional difficulties, as you grieve and hurt and suffer, your faith is being guarded and protected. It is being sustained and strengthened by the Gospel of Christ. We see this so wonderfully in Revelation 7, “After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree. Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, saying, ‘Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads’” (Rev. 7:1-3). The sealing of God’s people here refers to the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit through God’s Word and Sacraments by which the Christian is kept in faith and is protected in hope through all the tribulations and sufferings and persecutions which they face. The Spirit, in His gracious activity through the Gospel Word, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, seals God’s people so that you know you belong to God and that He will protect you in your faith throughout all tribulations and suffering.
Isn’t it a blessing, then, that when doubts arise, Jesus comes to us in the power of the Holy Spirit in Word and Sacrament, and erases those doubts? When Thomas was doubting God’s Word and promise, what did Jesus do? Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered Him, “My Lord and My God!” Jesus who was crucified, is risen from the dead. His nail-scared hands and pierced side are the trophies of the victory He won for us over the power of sin, death, and the devil. Our sins are forgiven. Our eternal life is guaranteed because He who was dead is alive forevermore. 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, obtaining the outcome of your faith, your salvation in body and soul.
When doubts arise in the midst of trials and suffering, Jesus comes to you through His Word and Sacrament. He shows you His hands and His side and says, “Peace be with you.” The living Lord Jesus is your absolute guarantee that you are Christians who have been given the precious gift of faith in Jesus which comes complete with the forgiveness of sins and the imperishable, undefiled, and unfading inheritance of salvation and eternal life with God in heaven. The Lord God is guarding your faith with His almighty power so that when you come through the trials, you will be enabled to give Him the praise and glory and honor. When doubts arise, look only to Christ, the founder and perfecter of your faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2). Be assured of His love and His presence and His power which guard you in your most holy faith. He who has called you is faithful; He will surely do it! Alleluia, Amen!