Sermon on August 22, 2021
KaB FKB (Eddy Lanz)
“God be praised”
“1.Peter 1, 3”
This sermon is translated from German into English. You can find the original video here
God be praised. This is how our Bible text begins today, from 1 Peter 1, 3ff.
1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: 7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: 8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: 9 Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. 10 Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: 11 Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. 12 Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.
This 1st letter of Peter is not addressed to a single church, but to the following areas, as he says in chapter 1, 1:
Peter, Apostle of Jesus Christ, to the chosen strangers who live in the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, the province of Asia and Bithynia. This is all in the area of what is now Turkey. As far as we know from the Acts of the Apostles, these areas were reached by Paul and his team. If you go to the 2nd century, the letter is written in the sixties of the first century, between 62 and 67. Peter will be murdered under Nero in a few years, just like Paul. If you go on from 63 – 64 hundred years later, into the 2nd century, you notice that these areas, which Peter writes here, were probably a main focus of world Christianity. There was a tremendous revival and almost all of the important issues that moved the church in the 2nd century all come from this area.
What is happening now that the letter was written is actually something shocking. Peter compares this to a wildfire that has hit these areas. Persecution of Christians. Some have been killed, others harassed, there are believing Christians who are slaves and are beaten by their masters. Peter gets all the information and now he’s responding to it with this letter.
The question now is: what do you write there? In ancient times a letter was written like this: Mr. or Mrs. A writes to Mr. or Mrs. B: Greetings first! That could be very brief. Usually the apostles do it differently, so they don’t just name A and B. They say more about yourself and about the recipient and the greeting is even longer. Peter does the same here and so the actual content of the letter begins with verse 3. There are three letters in the New Testament that begin like our verse 3. Praise be to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who … that is the letter to the Ephesians, chap. 1,3 the 2nd Corinthians and 1st Peter. Praise be to God, the Father of Jesus Christ, who … and then it is stated in that: what God has done and why it is right that we praise God. Just imagine: you are affected. The women among us may imagine that the man is in prison and she doesn’t know how to feed her children. The men among us may imagine that someone could put you in jail, or you are a slave and your master has noticed that you are a Christian and treats you badly. And now comes the letter from Peter.
That is of course copied (copied) and the communities gather in these places. That’s a whole area. Galatia, the letter to the Gelater was written years ago, Capadocia, Bithynia, Asia. Asia had Ephesus in the center, one of the largest cities of the Roman Empire with a large amphitheater. There were many Christians and churches in these areas and now imagine you have come together for worship, maybe early in the morning. Everyone knows: Peter wrote to us. Maybe you’ve already sung a song or two and then this letter will be read. What will he tell us in this situation? The first thing he says: Praise be to God …! Praise be to God who gives us bread, wine, etc.
These were formal Jewish prayers (Jewish: Baruch Adonei) that were said on many occasions in everyday life. Now Peter is pulling these old Jewish prayer items into this situation and calling out: God is praised, praised, worthy of worship. He could have started differently. Maybe we would start differently in the 21st century: I heard what happened to you, what happened to Brother A, and I could have made a list of everything that happened badly. But it starts with: Praise be to God. That’s really impressive. One might ask: what is the reason for praising God here?
What he says in these verses is this: He says first; Praise be to God, and secondly: You have reason to be happy in spite of your suffering, and thirdly: You have a part in the greatest salvation in history! Praise be to God, verse 3. This is our starter today. Praise be to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to his great mercy, has reborn us to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Why did God give you that you came to believe in Christ, who was spiritually dead and is now made alive, that one who was blind to God’s actions, began to see, that one who was deaf to God’s words, began to hear? Why he did that? Praise be to God who, according to his great mercy …
God saw you in your misery as a blind and deaf spiritually and spiritually dead. He developed a strategy to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ into your life and then it came at some point: There was a knock on the door of your heart and you opened it. Then began the events that made you here today! Praise be to God who, according to his great mercy, reborn us to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead!
How did he give us the beginning of a new life? Rebirth is a figurative word, it is reminiscent of babies that are conceived, grow up in the womb and then are born at some point. That is a fantastic picture. The picture behind is this: It’s a baby, but this baby never dies! It is not that all who hear and accept the gospel and call Jesus Lord Lord are all like that. That is not congruent with the visible church. The gospel is preached and not all accept it. The miracle of rebirth does not happen in all. Some begin to claim parts of it, but the power of rebirth is so strong that this child will grow, but it takes faith. You will only be born again if you hear and accept and believe the gospel. But if you accept it and believe it, then you are part of it. One has passed from death to life. You have left the darkness because God has taken you out and put you in the realm of light. Therefore, it is appropriate that we praise God. He addressed this mystery of election earlier in verse 2: Those who are chosen according to the providence of God the Father in sanctification by the Spirit to obedience and to be sprinkled with the blood of Jesus Christ.
This is a secret that no one can fully understand. The reason for this is that God is eternal and we humans are temporal. The origin of election is providence and goes back to before the foundation of the world. But it is effective. We don’t need to understand this, we don’t need to worry about it, but it’s taught in the New Testament whenever the church comes under fire. So wherever in the New Testament there is always talk of Persecution is, you will find such texts again and again. Wherever there is talk of false prophets, false teachers, false Christs or the Antichrist, that appears. My impression is that it gives us comfort. We might ask ourselves, what will happen if something like this happens to us, when they torment me as they tormented him? Would I Deny Christ Under Torture? If I have been in prison for three years and do not know how my family will survive and they offer me to save my family to be there again as bread-buyers on the condition that I reject Christ. You can ask yourself such questions and that is what happened. Some then denied Christ.
Wang Min Thao in China, when it started under Mao, when he was grabbed and caught, he did something, where he said afterwards: “I am Peter, I have denied Christ!” He ran through the area crying and said always: “I am Peter!” (who is known to have denied Jesus three times). Then he said, “I can’t do that.” He went back, reported himself and was in prison for over 20 years. When he came out the question was, of course, what about my family now? When he was interviewed: “Every day was a Honeymoon Day with Jesus!”
We also learn about this love for Jesus here in the text. “You have never seen him and yet you love him.” That is the secret of being born again, that people who are born again, although they have never seen God, like most of us, some have visions and have seen him, like Paul too, but most of them do not, who live for and with a man in the Spirit of God, whom they love more than their own life and therefore the question: How is that possible?
That is why Peter says here: “Praise be to God!” God did something that is tremendous. If you ask yourself: How did he do it? Where does he get the strength from to bring people who are spiritually dead back to life, who are blind, see and those who are deaf can hear, where does this power come from? The instrument is: “Praise be to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to his great mercy, leads us to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead!”
We celebrate Good Friday when Jesus Christ died for us. Chapter 1 verse 2 it said: for sprinkling with the blood of Jesus Christ. One power of this change is that there the blood of Jesus Christ wipes away all the filth of our lives at once. We stand before God as absolutely sanctified people. We get dressed in new clothes: the righteousness of God, the righteousness of Christ. We are then 100% righteous before God through Christ. We are simply redeemed.
But it is not enough that the dirt is gone, something new is needed, a new heart is needed. It takes a new life, and it does so through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. We celebrate Easter. Easter means that Christ on the third day (Good Friday crucified, died and buried, on the Sabbath he rested) on the first day of the week, Sunday, very early in the morning he rose from death who said: “I am the resurrection and that Life. Whoever believes in me will live. ”
The resurrection of Christ is not a private experience! The resurrection of Christ is part of God’s salvation. The moment Christ comes into contact with a dead heart, that heart comes alive. As soon as he comes into contact with a blind person, that blind person can see again. As soon as he comes into contact with a deaf, that deaf becomes hearing, he begins to hear, appreciate and obey the word.
Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep. I know mine and am known to mine and they hear my voice.” (John 10, 11-14)
They just go ahead. So he says to Matthew: “Come and follow me.” Matthew gets up and from his customs post and follows him. This is repeated thousands and millions of times across the world. You just have a fantastic God! Peter says, “Praise be to God!” He does not complain about the fire that is burning there. He doesn’t go into it as much as he did at the beginning. At the beginning he creates the foundation that he makes clear that what is happening here has not shaken God, that has not run out of God’s hand, that does not make the great God small, but God has his own plan, also with what happens here.
He gave us rebirth! Now verse 4, being born again into a living hope. This hope is twofold. The word “hope” means both: I hope, you hope, that is, the act of hope, the deed that one hopes, but it also means the good of hope. When we always say in German: “I hope for something. Hope always expresses something you want, what you want. This is also the case here in Greek. What he means here is the hope of an eternal, imperishable and immaculate inheritance that will be kept in heaven. It is the hope of an inheritance, a piece of property. You can sit down or stand, depending on what you want to do, and say, “God, I thank you for my inheritance, my property in heaven.” Have you ever done that? Many of us see our own house, our own property here every day and say, “Thank you Lord for giving this to us” and some do not have their own house or property. Some people in Pakistan, where I was a missionary for 18 years, are rented and that is increasing every year. If that becomes too much, they have to move into a worse room. Many Christians in this world do not have much in this world where they can say: “This is mine”, as did the slaves of that time, of which Peter is talking here. And now he not only directs the gaze to the fact that God is wonderful and: “Praise be to God, who has born you again into a living hope.” What kind of hope is that?
Hope is directed to a place for you in heaven. It is your place, it is your apartment and whatever else there may be in heaven. This apartment is immortal and imperishable. This imperishable is actually reminiscent of the most beautiful plants or flowers. But what do they do after a short time? They wither! That is a nice figurative word. We can get excited about things that are beautiful: things that are beautiful to the eye or ear, for the tongue, the taste, things that we experience, etc. What Peter is doing here: He says: It’s already there. There is a place for you in heaven! What’s behind it?
After Israel was redeemed from bondage, they came to the promised land. Under Joshua the whole land was divided. Each tribe received its inheritance. Nobody could take that away, and that could not be lost even through appropriate marriage. It always had to stay in the same tribe. The inheritance was never lost. So it is with your inheritance in heaven. You keep that forever and it is ready for you in heaven.
Revelation says that Jesus gives one who is redeemed a name that no one knows but the one who receives him. Your love for Jesus today, in this life and his love for you that is an interplay. The church, the people of God of all times, until the second coming of Christ is compared to “the beloved”, the bride. Each of us who belong to Jesus is part of this body of Christ, of a greater whole. That is an immeasurable, fantastic love, and the place where all these redeemed come together is the heavenly Jerusalem. The bride of the Lamb, in Revelation 19, 7 and then 21, is a city, a huge city, the heavenly Jerusalem coming down from heaven.
When the time is right, he and the bridegroom and bride will reign together as king and queen for all eternity. Everyone who belongs to this bridal congregation has an apartment there. Jesus says: “There are many apartments in my father’s house.” The special thing about this heavenly Jerusalem, interestingly called a tent, is its size: if you take it literally, it is 2200 kilometers long, wide and high. A city that all people who have ever lived would fit into if they had lived with Jesus and everyone would have his inheritance there. Jesus said:
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6, 19-21)
That’s exactly the point here. That is why I am asking you here: “Have you ever thanked God for your apartment in heaven?” Inheritance means: It is yours, no one else. There is your heavenly name on it, which nobody knows but the one who receives it. Your whole life will be reflected there. It is not as if your life has no relation to eternity, but what a person sows here, he will reap there. All that you did for God, out of love for him, with all your heart, because you care for him hoped and trusted him will reappear there in some form. You will not lose what you have lost here in this life, what you leave here in faith. What we do here for our Lord can all be found in eternity. If someone gives a righteous man a glass of water for being righteous, it will be rewarded in heaven. You can maybe imagine what that means. Are you getting an appetite?
“To an incorruptible and immaculate and imperishable inheritance that will be kept in heaven for you who are preserved to salvation out of God’s power through faith”. This is now the interaction between God and man. The power that keeps the sheep is the hand of the Shepherd who says, “neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” (John 10,28) Man participates through faith. By faith we accept the gospel and are born again. There is one side that God does: being born again. Only God can bring the dead to life, which is paradoxical: the dead must want it! He must realize that he is a sinner, that he is dead in his sins and that he is separated from God. There must be a longing in him, a cry, a call: God, have mercy on me, the sinner! When people scream like that, no matter how far away they are: God hears! When they whisper: He hears it! If only they cry out in their hearts: God, have mercy on me sinner: he hears it! He comes to him to find him and to save him! For you who are saved to salvation out of God’s power through faith. Jesus says: “He who endures to the end will be saved”. That means: this belief begins, leads to rebirth and remains with it. Proverbs say: The righteous fall seven times and get up again. This righteous one will rise again and again. He will come to the Lord and say, “I’m sorry, I’ve done this, I’ve sinned again. This is exactly my problem that you already know, please forgive me. ”The blood of Christ cleanses us from all guilt. By the power of God, by the wonderful salvation of our God, he keeps those who cling to Jesus, who take his hand. But he does not really take the hand of Jesus, but the hand of Jesus takes him and he leads us step by step towards this goal. “For you, who are saved to salvation out of God’s power through faith.” Now it is about this bliss, this salvation from great danger. There comes this savior, he grabs the one who is in danger and pulls him out of trouble. “… which is ready to be revealed at the last time.”
This bliss that Peter speaks of here in verse 5 is salvation. The word bliss and salvation now makes the drama clear in practice. Everything comes to a head in your life, everything comes to a head in the life of God’s church. Similar to the situation at the Red Sea. The people of Israel are out of Egypt and now they are coming to the Red Sea. Now it doesn’t go any further and they start screaming and grumbling. We shouldn’t do that. How often has God helped you and how often, when another trial comes, do you question everything? Is it not so? We have to admit that to our own shame. How often do we pretend God has just started helping and saving us? So this is our whole accumulated experience of our faith life: climate fear, your personal story, etc. all come to the point where everything is questioned. And then the hand of Jesus comes, tears you out and brings you through to your goal. For the church this means: It will be revealed at the last time on the last day. If you take the believers of all people of all times, everything comes to this point: Until now this salvation is believed. It is preached, it is preached, but not yet seen. But then it will happen as it did with Israel on the Red Sea. When Pharaoh comes with his chariots, the whole force is revealed and all Israel begins to fear, and then God intervenes. The Red Sea divides and the people of God can walk through it with dry feet. When Pharaoh’s forces chase after them, God brakes the wheels of the chariots, they all get stuck and then the water flood comes and the army of the Egyptians is destroyed. Before the water hits them, God shows his face out of the cloud and the Egyptians are totally shocked and finished before they drown. So will God do it when Christ comes with the clouds of heaven in great power and glory. It will be a time when the believers are the “bastards,” the enemies of everyone. they are in prisons, killed by the thousands and by the millions. Then Christ comes in the clouds of heaven and the believers look up and those who know and love him will rejoice and their hearts will tremble.
It all happens very quickly, “in Atomo”, in a moment it is translated. “In Atomo” is a unit of time that is so small that it can no longer be measured and divided. It all works: “Boom” and it’s done. The dead rise and the living are changed and in that same moment the judgment of each individual happens in the sense that we recognize our sins again, including those of those we have not yet recognized and that they have been forgiven and that the Reward for all the good has done in our lives, is realized, so to speak, and when you have the resurrection body, then you have the body with which you move into your heavenly abode. You will be happy and celebrate forever, if you can put it that way. That salvation is coming. The Savior is on the way and we may be living recently. Each generation of the church has always seen this for itself. God did that brilliantly. We have good reasons to think: if God wills, I’ll still see it. That would be the “first class ticket”. The other would be if you die beforehand, if you have to put down your earthly hut beforehand so that it is demolished. But that’s not an advantage. Both will be raptured into heaven by him at the same time, perhaps carried by angels, because they will gather the elect from all corners of the world and, if need be, from the last prison with the last prisoner who is about to be executed. He will bring him home to Christ! God be praised!
“Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations” (1.Peter 1,6).
Peter says that, Paul says that. They know very well that they are suffering terribly and if you were to list it all, it would make a huge list. He loads that summarized in the “if it should be that you suffer a little while”. The bottom line is that you are sad, and that’s ours. Someone who has lost their spouse in the persecution is allowed to cry. Someone who is in prison and doesn’t know whether he will remain faithful is allowed to cry. He can be sad. We can take our suffering seriously, but under the aspect of eternity it is tiny and eternity is infinite. Peter writes that, he has experienced both. He denied Christ three times and bitterly repented and wept terribly. But he also stood like a rock, more than once. More than once he has seen death before his eyes. In the second letter he will say: He knows that my death will soon be here, I will soon die. He knows what he’s writing about. Nevertheless, he says: Rejoice in it, have this future in mind: Your dwelling in heaven in the presence of God.
Everything is transparent there. The gold in the sky is transparent. The walls do not separate you from the view of Christ. Where you live is the direct presence of God. You worship God and serve him day and night for ever and ever. The family is not separate in the sense that it is separate from God and the communion of saints, you have communion with all saints. You can talk to Abraham and everyone else. Rejoice in this, who are now sad for a little while in various trials so that your faith is righteous and will be invented much more delicious than the ephemeral gold that is proven through fire for praise, praise and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. That is the purpose. Your faith and my faith are precious to God. In the tabernacle and in the temple there were things made of gold and silver, there were the precious stones on the breastplate of the high priest where the lots “light and justice” were inside. There the names of the twelve tribes of Israel were recorded, e.g. Reuben. There was a gem on it that said: Ruben. If you look at the life of Ruben and you ask yourself: Why does God see this man as a precious stone? Look at your own life: why should God see you as gold, silver, or a piece of jewelry? Why should I be a gem in God’s eyes? Your suffering, which you experience, the fire through which you go, serves you, who you are like gold in God’s eyes (it’s about believers), your faith is like gold, it is purified and you are perfected.
The most difficult times of your life, with the greatest agitation, will forever be rewarded with an unbelievable, huge, unbelievable glory. You have reason to be happy in spite of your suffering. You are part of the greatest salvation in history. May your faith be invented much more deliciously than the perishable gold that is proven by fire to praise, praise and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. You have not seen him and yet you love him. You believe in him although you do not see him and rejoice with inexpressible, glorious joy which you carry away the goal of your faith, namely the bliss of souls.
This bliss, which is then revealed at the last moment when Christ comes and you then suddenly see the heavenly Jerusalem and Christ and everything, and you realize what riches you have. Salvation, says Peter in the next verse, is so great that the prophets in the Old Testament, Isaiah, Jeremiah and the others, have always asked themselves what this prophecy is actually aiming at? Every single one of the prophets, in whom the Spirit of Christ was, who prophesied about the sufferings of Christ, about the cross and the glory after it, asked himself about it and Peter said: They received the answer: It is not for your time . It is a great salvation and in the end he says: “Whatever the angels long to see.”
The church is something fantastic and wonderful. Do not despise the church of God! We must not see the life of Ruben without thinking about the gemstone. All the brothers and sisters we have are fantastically wonderful in God’s eyes, even if there is a brother or a sister who is “cross in the stomach” and who contribute more to my fire than to my joy, but if one Engel would get an order for him, he would be there immediately.
God be praised. We have cause for great joy in spite of our suffering. We have fantastic salvation ahead of us and it is so wonderful that the angels in heaven are dying to see it. Hallelujah.