13 August 20131 Peter 1:3-9
“In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials.” (v. 6)
The Peter to whom this letter is ascribed was Peter the disciple, although his authorship is somewhat disputed. The letter is written to Gentile (non Jewish) Christians living in Asia Minor (around where Turkey is today), a vast area with a diverse population. Throughout 1 Peter there are numerous references to the readers' suffering, particularly persecution for their faith as they are "accused of doing wrong"' (1 Peter 2:12) and "reviled for the name of Christ" (1 Peter 4:14).
The key message is of hope. Peter encourages the people to persevere, trust in God and the salvation given to them, and to live godly lives despite their trials.
Peter speaks of being filled with "an indescribable and glorious joy" (v. 8). He does not deny the reality of suffering, speaking of it clearly in verse 6 that "you have had to suffer various trials", but believes that joy can occur alongside and amidst pain.
The passage details two things which can be seen as the root of this joy. One is the idea that through trials faith is refined. The other is "an inheritance ... kept in heaven for you" (v. 4), which can never perish, spoil nor fade. The inheritance of the Israelites in the Old Testament was Canaan, "the land which the Lord is giving you to possess as your inheritance" (Deuteronomy 15:4), a land which could be invaded by enemies. Another inheritance was that passed down through family. In Luke 12:13-21 when asked a question about family inheritance Jesus shows that storing up wealth on earth is pointless because it will be left behind when life on earth ends.
The inheritance described here outshines both that of the Old Testament land and that of material family inheritance. Here the inheritance is one which is stored up in heaven, "where neither moth nor rat consumes, and where thieves do not break in and steal" (Matthew 6:20). It is in the knowledge of this that Peter hopes that suffering Christians will be revitalised; an assurance of the "living hope" (v. 3) of their salvation and inheritance as God's children.
- How do you think being a Christian can help when facing the reality of "various trials"?
- Have you ever experienced this "indescribable joy" (v. 8) in a difficult time?
- What do you think the inheritance spoken of actually is?