When do you question the faithfulness, power and presence of God the most? The message of salvation is a message that highlights the faithfulness, power and presence of God. God has been faithful to sacrifice his Son Jesus at the cross in our place and the power of his shed blood, broken body and empty tomb give us access to his life-giving presence.
When we begin to question whether or not we really belong to God, we are actually questioning whether or not God is faithful enough, powerful enough and present enough to overcome what we are struggling with. The churches that Peter was writing to were probably struggling with some of this; wondering if God was faithful, powerful and present.
They were most likely struggling with the fact that they were scattered outcasts. But they were scattered outcast who belonged to God because they had believed the message of the gospel that had been prophesied in the past, preached in the present and anticipated throughout eternity. These early believers were experiencing the normal emotional and spiritual highs and lows of living in this sin-soaked world as strangers and aliens.
Imagine how easy it would be to get discouraged and to even begin to doubt the message of the gospel. Isn’t this what happens when adversity and suffering enter our lives? Adversity and suffering have a unique way of causing us to question the trustworthiness of the gospel. Whether the adversity and suffering we face is a consequence of our own sin or someone else’s sin, it can be really hard to remain steadfast in the face of adversity and suffering.
When hardship and suffering enter into our lives, we begin to ask questions. Does God really love me? Is God really good? Is God really present in the midst of my suffering? If he really is present in my suffering, then why hasn’t he put an end to it? Why do I struggle with so much temptation when the Spirit of God lives inside of me? Why do I stumble into sin so often if the King of kings is the Lord of my life?
These were most likely some of the questions that Peter’s listeners were struggling with. So, he writes these verses to simply encourage them with the truth that God loved them enough to bring them to a place where they had heard and believed the message of the gospel that had been prophesied in the past, preached in the present and anticipated throughout eternity. Think about the prophets of the past, the preachers in the present and the angels throughout eternity…
1 PETER 1:10 – 12
10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.
#1: THE PROPHETS OF THE PAST SPOKE OF THE GOSPEL (VV. 10 – 11)
Peter says that the prophets of the past “Concerning this salvation… prophesied about the grace that was to be yours [as they] searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories” (vv. 10 – 11). The prophets of the past simply spoke of the gospel of the grace of Christ’s suffering and glory not only for the people in their time but for people in the future.
Take for instance, the prophet Isaiah who spoke to the people of Israel approximately 800 years before Peter writes this letter when he says “thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (Isa. 43:1 – 3). So, Isaiah, a prophet of the past, spoke of the good news of God’s saving grace nearly 800 years before Jesus was born.
There are multiple other places you could turn to hear the message of the gospel (the good news of God’s provision of salvation for sinners) from the past prophets in places like Isaiah 53; Psalm 118; Hosea 14; Amos 9:11 – 13, just to name a few. How encouraging would it be to comprehend the fact that God was thinking of your salvation 800 years ago and he moved (not just one prophet) but multiple prophets to speak about it?
Again, put yourself in the seats of the original readers of this letter for a minute. You do not have the political power; you do not have the social capitol; you do not have the relational influence; you do not have enough money in the bank to change your predicament. You are viewed as the scum of the earth, a little lower than the poverty line and a forgotten race and to top it all off, you are scattered and disconnected in small insignificant groups enduring persecution all over the known world.
And into this mess of suffering and adversity, the apostle Peter steps in and reminds you that the prophets of the past (some 800 years earlier and some even further back than that) were raised up by God himself, the Creator of all things, to speak of your salvation today. Where have you been questioning God’s faithfulness lately? Where have you been doubting God’s power recently? Where have you been missing God’s presence; wondering where he’s at lately? God wants to encourage you today by reminding you that he raised up the prophets of the past to speak the good news (the gospel of salvation) to assure you today of his faithfulness, his power and his enduring presence.
#2: THE PREACHERS IN THE PRESENT PROCLAIM THE GOSPEL (V. 12)
Notice how Peter builds on the foundation of the prophets of the past as he reminds his readers of the preachers in the present when he says, “It was revealed to them [the prophets of the past] that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news [the gospel] to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven” (v. 12). Whoever the preachers of the present were, they proclaimed the gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit on the foundation of the prophets of the past.
I don’t know where you are struggling to believe in the faithfulness, power or presence of God right now, but I do know that in the midst of the suffering and adversity, God has people into your life to proclaim the good news of the gospel to you. I’m not talking about people who just smooth things over with placating words.
A real prophetic preacher stands in God’s presence seeking His Word so that they can stand in the presence of other people and speak God’s Word of direction, correction, rebuke, comfort and salvation.2 A preacher in the present who founds his message on past prophets will not only proclaim a message of glorious triumph but will also proclaim the gospel of suffering, adversity and hardship; he will not preach a truncated, feel good, pump you up message that is so prevalent in the Western church today.3
Preaching that is all rainbows and unicorns is simply not Biblical preaching because preaching that only focuses on combat and the glory of triumph without suffering and adversity will leave believers weak and bewildered when suffering and adversity rocks the waters of the sea of this life. The human soul will never be eternally refreshed by a pop culture Christianity that proclaims the health, wealth and prosperity of political power, social reform, relational psychobabble, or pragmatic five easy steps to living your best life now. This isn’t Biblical preaching and it lacks the power of the gospel.
The gospel isn’t the starting point of your walk that helps you move on to more important things that make you a better Christian. When the marriage is a wreck; when the finances don’t stretch; when the kids rebel; when the friend betrays you; when your political party doesn’t win or just flat out acts stupid; when you wake up and realize that you are the same today with the same temptations, weaknesses and rebellion very much alive inside of you, what you don’t need is some goofy five step pragmatic plan that promises you rainbows and unicorns.
Your soul needs the message of the gospel every moment of every day to keep your head, heart and hands in the game when the other team has you down by fifty points. Who is that person in your life who is presently preaching the good news of the gospel to you when the going gets rough? Who is it that proclaims the finished work of Christ at the cross? Who is it that proclaims the power of the empty tomb? Who is it that proclaims the faithfulness of the promise of heaven to you?
No matter what you are facing today, God wants to encourage you by reminding you that he has sent preachers in the present to speak the good news (the gospel of your salvation) to assure you today of his faithfulness, his power and his enduring presence.
#3: THE ANGELS THROUGHOUT ETERNITY LONG TO SEE THE GOSPEL IN ACTION (V. 12)
The realities of past prophets and present preachers bringing the gospel to us is certainly encouraging when we face suffering and adversity. But Peter wants his readers to expand their vision of the love of God towards them; he wants them to see that Salvation isn’t just a thing of the past or a thing of the present but a thing of eternity.
This is why Peter ends his encouraging note about the gospel of our salvation by turning our attention to the fact that the gospel in action is the “things into which angels long to look” (v. 12). While prophets labored to present the gospel in the past, and preachers travel the globe to proclaim the gospel in the present, angels have been standing at rapt attention longing to see the gospel in action throughout eternity.4
Ancient prophets, itinerant preachers, and exalted angels have stood for ages in service to this message of the gospel which is the good news of our salvation through the shed blood, broken body, empty tomb and promised return of Christ Jesus our King.5
The gospel in action is simply the thing into which the angels long to see; when a person repents and turns to Christ, the angels throw a party in Heaven; it’s a party that never ends and never gets disrupted by pain and suffering. It’s a party that exults in the faithfulness, power and enduring presence of Christ at work in sinners who once were alienated by their sin but have now been brought into the throne room of the Father by the power of the Spirit. This is an eternal celebration in the presence of angels that blows the doors off of any Super Bowl party you’ll ever attend!
Have you been questioning God’s faithfulness? Have you been doubting God’s power? Has it been really hard to believe that God is present with you no matter the circumstances? Be encouraged my friends! God raised up prophets thousands of years ago to encourage you with the message of Christ crucified, risen and returning. God sent preachers in the present to call you to the foot of the bloody cross and the doorway of the empty tomb in light of the promise of eternity. God has appointed angelic beings throughout eternity to observe His good work in and through you in the message of the gospel.
If God is for us in the sufferings and subsequent glory of his Son, then who or what can be against us? Who or what could ever separate us from the love of God in the salvation of his Son over us? No one! Amen!
1 Unless otherwise specified, all Bible references in this paper are to the English Standard Version Bible, The New Classic Reference Edition (ESV) (Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, 2001).
2 David R. Helm, 1 and 2 Peter and Jude: Sharing Christ’s Sufferings (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, ESV Edition, 2008), 49.
3 Ibid., 50.
4 Ibid., 53.