STUDIES IN FIRST PETER
"4To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, 5Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."
(1 Peter 1:4-5)
Only the Spirit can speak in such concise, yet meaningful language. We are in the midst of a presentation of our status in Christ-how it was initiated, and how it is maintained. The whole of our salvation is traced back to the purpose of God, the effective work of the Holy Spirit, and the powerful effects of Christ's death. Our obedience and our dedication to God through the sprinkling of Christ's blood are the declared objectives of the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit (v. 2). The purpose for which we were born again, and the means of obtaining it are expressed (v. 3). The nature of our inheritance, where it is, and how we are guaranteed of obtaining it are spelled out (vs. 4-5). In these few verses, our attention has been drawn t the foreknowledge of God, the sanctifying work of the Spirit, and the blood of Christ. The multiplication of grace and peace is declared to be for us. God has willed to cause our new birth through His mercy and in order to a living hope-all by the resurrection of Christ. It is difficult to conceive of more truth being poured into such a few words. This is the manner of Divine instruction, and it is effective.
BEGOTTEN IN ORDER TO AN INHERITANCE
"3b-4 . . . begotten . . . to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you."NKJV The objective of our salvation cannot be fully realized in a cursed and decaying world. As Micah would say, "this is not your rest: because it is polluted, it shall destroy you, even with a sore destruction" (Micah 2:10). Here, in my judgment, is an aspect of our salvation that has been sorely neglected. The Spirit, however, will not allow such neglect. He will now bring us back to a serious consideration of what lies ahead. We have been begotten "to an inheritance," or "to OBTAIN an inheritance."NASB Remove the inheritance, and there is no reason for the new birth! We are "saved by hope" (Rom 8:24), or by the joyful anticipation of the future. It should at once be apparent that this future does not have to do with this "present evil world," for it is destined to "pass away" (Matt 24:35; 2 Pet 3:10). A religion, therefore, that focuses upon this world cannot reflect the mind or purpose of the Lord.
INCORRUPTIBLE-The inheritance for which we have been begotten again is "incorruptible," or incapable of passing away. It stands to reason, therefore, that we also must become in corruptible. Already, we have been born again through "incorruptible" seed, even the Word of God (1 Pet 1:23). Further, in the resurrection, our bodies will become "incorruptible" (1 Cor 15:52). Thus, in the world to come, we will be perfectly adapted for the "inheritance" for which we have been begotten. The best of this world is described by Jesus as things "moth and rust doth corrupt" (Matt 6:19). Sin has brought frailty and temporality into the natural realm. Grace is preparing us for an inheritance marked by neither frailty nor corruption. Faith will cause us to long for the incorruptible and thrust what is corruptible into the background of life.
UNDEFILED-In this world, defilement is found everywhere. Sin has contaminated the whole heavens and earth, compelling God to cast the mantel of mortality upon the whole of them (Rom 8:20). To be "undefiled" is to be uncontaminated or pure. Nothing about our inheritance will defile or weaken us. Nothing about it will need to be minimized or thrust from us. Sin has contaminated the universe, but it has not contaminated our inheritance! Whatever tends to defile, or introduce spiritual erosion, is not of God. Whether it is a possession or a relationship, if it is defiled, it must eventually be left behind. Our inheritance is not defiled, and our new birth prepares us for it.
FADES NOT AWAY-The fairest things of this world eventually "fade," decline, weaken, and deteriorate. How appropriately Isaiah describes the condition introduced by sin. "But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all FADE as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away" (Isa 64:6). OF THE RICH MAN, James writes, "So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits" (James 1:11). But we have been born again to an inheritance that is not so identified! It never wanes, diminishes, or becomes less. There is nothing about it that can erode or wear away. It our inheritance seems less to us now than it did before, it is owing to a lack of faith, not any inferiority in the inheritance. We must see that anything that tends to subside, slacken, or diminish cannot be the objective of our new birth. Such things must not be allowed prominence in our thinking or our lives. God has raised us from death in trespasses and sins to an inheritance that "fades not away."
RESERVED IN HEAVEN-Jesus once said, "I go to prepare a place for you" (John 14:2). Some have concluded a sort of heavenly construction or work in progress was intended. But this is not the case. It was Christ's going itself that prepares the way for us. In a very real sense, "The works were finished from the foundation of the world" (Heb 4:3). Our inheritance is "eternal" (Heb 9:15). It includes God Himself (Ezek 44:28), an incorruptible body (2 Cor 5:1-5), an eternal reign (Rev 22:5), and a new heavens and earth (2 Pet 3:13; Matt 5:5). Our inheritance is presently "in heaven," with our Lord. While you must wait to obtain it, it is nevertheless "reserved in heaven for you." Your name is on it, so to speak, and only time stands between you and its possession! Fight the good fight!
KEPT BY THE POWER OF GOD THROUGH FAITH
" . . . who are kept by the power of God through faith." NKJV Time seems to introduce serious jeopardy concerning obtaining the inheritance. Often, the smallest of circumstances seem to obscure glory and accentuate corruption. How will we be able to survive the onslaughts of the devil and our own natural wretchedness. As Paul would say, "And who is sufficient for these things?" (2 Cor 2:16). Indeed, were we left to "our own devices" (Jer 18:12), we would soon despair. However, salvation does not leave us dependent upon ourselves or natural resources.
KEPT BY THE POWER OF GOD. The very "power of God" is employed to maintain us in a cursed world. Divine power is engaged to keep us as well as save us-to uphold us as well as initially rescue us. The same God who delivered Israel from Egypt kept them in the wilderness. The God who delivered Joseph from the devices of his brothers kept him in Egypt. The God who commissioned Paul to go to the Gentiles kept him when he was in prison and treacherous circumstances. How tragic it is that a generation still remains that "know not . . . the power of God" (Mk 12:24). Many followers of Jesus, because of flawed teaching, are not aware they are being "kept by the power of God." It is exceedingly difficult to live for the Lord imagining that everything depends upon you. To be sure, every ounce of your effort is required. Nevertheless, the honest soul knows that is really not enough to keep us. What a glad announcement, therefore, that we are being "kept by the power of God."
It is no wonder our faith is said to stand "in the power of God" (1 Cor 2:5). Like holy men of old, we acknowledge we are "weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God" (2 Cor 13:4). If we ever thought we had sufficient strength in ourselves, such foolishness was dissolved when we became aware of our position in Christ Jesus. Concerning our own strength, we became "weak in Him." Thus we placed our confidence in "the power of God," gaining assurance that He is "able to keep us from falling, and present us faultless before His throne with exceeding joy" (Jude 24).
This is "His power toward us who believe"-a power that is intended for us. The nature of this power was revealed in the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus Christ. Of this power the Spirit says, "according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come" (Eph 1:19-21). That is precisely the power that is presently keeping us-keeping us to obtain the inheritance for which we were begotten of God (Acts 20:32; 26:18; Eph 1:11,14; Col 1:12; Heb 9:15). David once said, "He will keep the feet of His saints" (2 Sam 2:9). It is written of the righteous man, "Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the LORD upholds him with His hand" (Psa 37:24). The Lord "does not forsake His saints; They are preserved forever" (Psa 37:28).
THROUGH FAITH--Lest we become complacent, the means through which we are kept is declared: FAITH. Where there is no faith, there is no keeping. However, praise the Lord, where faith is found, the power of God is keeping the believing one. This is why it is written, "you stand by faith" (Rom 11:20). It is not that faith itself upholds you. Rather, it is the appointed means through which God's power keeps you. Again, it is written, "for by faith you stand" (2 Cor 1:24). This is why we "live by faith" (Gal 2:20). God cannot and will not ignore your faith. He gave it to you, and He uses it to sustain you.
The importance of building ourselves up in the most holy faith is at once apparent (Jude 20). When we are "strong in the faith" (Rom 4:20), we become invincible against the devices of the devil. The glory for this situation all belongs to God, for it is His power that keeps us. If we devote ourselves to believing, God will see to it that we stand. Of even the weakest believer it is said, "God is able to make him stand" (Rom 14:4). But He will do so through his faith. As Jesus said, "Have faith in God" (Mk 11:22).
A SALVATION READY TO BE REVEALED
" . . . for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."NKJV And why does the power of God "keep" us? Why is it necessary to keep us? First, we must see that the whole of salvation has not yet been experienced. We have but "the firstfruits of the Spirit" (Rom 8:23). The bulk of our salvation is yet to come.
The completion of our salvation, or the revelation of it, is an emphasis of Scripture. "And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed" (Rom 13:11). "Are they (the holy angels) not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?" (Heb 1:14). "Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life" (Rom 5:9-10). We are en route to glory, and have not yet arrived. We have received the "earnest," or pledge, of our inheritance, and not the whole of it (Eph 1:14). We are to conduct our lives in an acute awareness of this reality, not living as though we have already finished the course and were in the promised land.
Here is a message faith requires: the salvation is "ready to be revealed." While we are working out our own salvation (Phil 2:12), we are contributing nothing to it. We were born again to obtain the inheritance. It is not obtained by our work, though we will not enter into it without "the work of faith" being fulfilled in us "with power" (2 Thess 1:11). Herein is a great mystery. There is a sense in which our labors determine the measure of our inheritance. As it is written, "Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things" (Matt 25:21). And again, "He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully" (2 Cor 9:6). It is possible to "suffer loss" in the day of the Lord (1 Cor 3:15). However, the inheritance itself is already in tact. It but remains how much of it we will possess.
The "great salvation" (Heb 2:3) brought to us by Jesus is infinitely larger than ordinarily conceived. Throughout the centuries, the people of God have been subjected to minuscule views of this salvation, and thus have not extended themselves to obtain its fulness. Our hearts must take hold of these words: "Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory" (2 Tim 2:10). Paul extended himself because he knew the saints could "come short" of the "rest" reserved for them (Heb 4:1).
Salvation in all of its fulness is "ready to be revealed." In a very real sense, the "kingdom" you will inherit was "prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Matt 25:34). Just as the land of Canaan was reserved for the children of Israel, so our inheritance is reserved for us. The only question is whether we will possess it or not. It is possible to be a "castaway," forfeiting the inheritance altogether (1 Cor 9:27). It is also possible to "suffer loss," not possessing the fulness of our inheritance. However, if our hearts are convinced of its greatness and worthiness, and if we remain strong in faith, we will obtain more than we have dared to imagine. If God can do "exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think" now, in this time (Eph 3:20), what can be said of the "salvation that is ready to be revealed?" The only question that remains is our capacity to receive and handle the inheritance reserved for us, and the salvation ready to be revealed.
The purpose of this teaching is to nourish hope, assisting us to look forward to "the last time." Those living in aloofness from the Lord fear "the last time." Those living in fellowship with Christ, and in the energy of faith, look forward to it. Our text is strongly affirming that when everything temporal is brought to a conclusion, everything that is eternal will be made known. In the interim, it is only to the degree that we are not distracted by the seen that we obtain any significant awareness of the unseen. As we take hold on the promises and nourish our faith, God, will keep us from the wicked one, and enable us to develop a large capacity for the "salvation ready to be revealed."