2017-2-19 Concerning This Salvation

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          February 19, 2017

“Concerning This Salvation”
Text: 1 Peter 1:10-12

On my family’s summer 2010 vacation, we attended Sunday morning worship at First United Methodist Church in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.  The pastor that morning, in his opening remarks, exclaimed, “There is nothing like being a preacher on Sunday.”  I immediately concurred and settled in to enjoy the hour with him and his flock.

Come to think of it, there’s nothing like being a Christian—whether pastor or otherwise—at worship on the Lord’s Day.  We together celebrate the greatness and goodness of our God, and we together enjoy and encourage one another.  We do these, however, in an increasingly alien culture.  Can any of us remember such national and world-wide upheaval?  Some of us might offer 1968 as a good rival to our own time, but others might insist our own time is even worse.  More than this, we have a situation in our time that resembles then situation in Israel at the time of the book of Judges (ca. 1200-1000 BC), “In Israel there was no king.  Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).  Moral relativism, and consequent moral decay, is the inevitable result.  What can avail in such a time as ours?

Happily, though the grass wither and the flower fade, the Word of our God stands forever (Isaiah 40:8).  Let’s hear God speaks to us by His Spirit in His Word.

(HERE READ THE TEXT)

 

The Apostle Peter, led by the Holy Spirit, has been greeting his readers and praising God in these first verses of his epistle.  Soon he will come to the heart of his letter—how to live as elect exiles, or resident aliens—in this world.  Here, at the end of Peter’s opening praise, he begins, “Concerning this salvation….”  We have heard much concerning this salvation in the earlier verses, and we gain new information in today’s text.  Let’s note some facts concerning this salvation.

First, it is our living hope.  As we noted weeks ago, our living hope in our living Lord Jesus Christ is no dead hope—for He is no longer dead, but He is living and evermore shall live.  Moreover, this living hope is no vain hope; it is not like many hopes in this world that have zero chance of coming to pass.  It is a sure hope, as we now see.

Second, this salvation is a vast, sure inheritance.  Its substance, beyond all valuation, is simply all that God is and does for us in Christ Jesus.  This includes Christ’s Person and work, to be sure, but it also includes the whole grand sweep of God’s redemptive history.  We have the foretaste of our eternal inheritance—the earnest, or small deposit guaranteeing the fulfillment of the whole—in the Person of the Holy Spirit.  I submit to you, if the earnest be so indescribably wonderful as it is, how much more will the full inheritance be?  Our language simply cannot describe the whole that shall be ours in Jesus.

Third (and with this we come to today’s text), this salvation is no recent invention.  Peter, led by the Spirit, notes that the prophets prophesied about the grace—the inexpressible kindness of God toward us in Christ—to be ours.  Those prophets wrote 500-1,000 years before Peter’s letter—and, hence, they wrote 2,500-3,000 years before our time.  They searched and inquired carefully about the things pertaining to our salvation: the Person Who would save and the time in which this salvation would occur, to name but two—and all of this more for our sakes that for theirs.

Yet God’s gracious intention toward us is older still.  Even from primeval time God announces his good news in His condemnation of the serpent in Eden (cf. Genesis 3:15).  Many a Christian thinker—myself included—hold that God covenanted with His Son before any creative act to redeem a people for Himself.  Truly, our salvation is no recent invention.

Fourth, this salvation is now announced to the full.  To Peter’s original readers, this salvation came by those who preached the Good News—to wit, the Person and work of Jesus Christ—to them.  This is a subject so glorious that even angels long to look into it.  Because angels are not corporeal, and because angels are not omniscient (this is rightly accorded to God alone), and because elect angels neither sinned nor had the possibility of sinning, their experience and understanding of God’s grace to us in Christ is necessarily limited.  Hence, they long to look into this Gospel that is so dear to our souls.

Peter’s original hearers heard preachers proclaiming the Gospel from Old Testament texts.  Few of the books from our New Testament circulated widely at the time, and a few of them were not yet written (the entire canonical output of the Apostle John, e. g.).  Jesus, beginning with Moses and the prophets, explained everything in the Old Testament concerning Himself to two men walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus (Luke 24:27).  This was the apostolic pattern as well.  Today, we heard the Gospel announced from both Testaments—somewhat implicitly in the Old, but highly explicitly in the New.

True, God-honoring, God-owned preaching, occurred the same way in Peter’s day as not—namely, in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.[1]  Preaching done in this way announces the Gospel in such a way that hearts are changed, stubbornly-held strongholds are broken, and Jesus becomes irresistibly attractive to the soul.  This Gospel is announced to us in this way even today.

Therefore, in view of this salvation, rejoice.  Rejoice in your salvation even amid trial, as we heard some weeks ago.  Rejoice in your salvation even though you sojourn in a country not our own—for, after all, our citizenship is in Heaven (Philippians 3:20). Also, in view of this salvation, continue to live as becomes followers of Christ—and to do this more exactly as the days pass.  We shall look more at this, God willing, on the Sundays to come—for, beginning at 1 Peter 1:13, we come to the heart of Peter’s Spirit-led letter.

AMEN.

[1] For a fuller defense of this, note, among other resources, my “The Ministry of the Holy Spirit in the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons: As Evidenced by Four Representative Southern Presbyterian Exemplars” (unpublished D. Min. thesis-project, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, South Hamilton, MA, 2008).

Advertisements