Notes on 1 Peter 1:9
by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)
1Pe 1:1 KJV Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,
Peter is of course Simon Peter, son of Jonas (Matt 16:17) and brother of Andrew (Matt 4:8, among others). Both of these men, along with James and John were fishermen on the Sea of Galilee. The Gospels show numerous glimpses of Peter’s folly and faithfulness, devotion and denials, and other things as well. Someone once observed that John was the disciple Jesus loved but Peter was the one Jesus spoke with the most.
Compare the list of destinations here with the list of Jews who had come to Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost some years earlier (Acts 2). Pontus, Cappadocia and Asia (Minor) are in common but Bithynia is new. “Galatia” may be a way to combine Phrygia and Pamphylia; all of these, at any rate, were located in what is now Turkey.
See how Peter calls the believers “strangers” in this verse. James, years before, had written to the “twelve tribes scattered abroad (James 1:1)”, a majority-Jewish audience and letter. By the time Peter wrote this letter, many Gentiles had come to the saving knowledge of Jesus. Oddly, Peter was known as the “Apostle of the Circumcision (Gal 2:7-8, paraphrased) but he also was one of the first preachers to the Gentiles, at the house of Cornelius (Acts 10). Peter reminded them, and us, that regardless of where we live on this earth, we don’t belong to it. Jesus had mentioned this in John 15:18-19 and 17:14.
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.
Peter may or may not have been familiar with Paul’s letter to the Romans in which Paul gives more information about election (election simply means chosen or selected). A thorough discussion of “election” is beyond the scope of these notes. It is enough to know that God knows everything (omniscient), even who will and will not accept His gift of salvation. He is sovereign but every person is responsible for his or her own eternal destiny. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved!
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,
Here Peter pauses to offer a word of praise for God the Father. “Lively” means “living” and it refers to a hope that we have because Jesus rose from the dead.
4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,
Jesus had said not to lay up or store up treasures on the earth where thieves could steal them, or moths could eat clothing (Matt 6:19, paraphrased). The inheritance promised (reserved) for believers in Heaven is not corruptible (nothing can touch it), undefiled (nothing can harm it) and won’t fade away (nobody can take it away)!
Peter may also be remembering the words of Jesus Himself, when He promised the disciples that He was going away to prepare a place for them (John 14:2 has “mansions”, in the KJV or perhaps dwelling places, rooms, etc., per other translations). Regardless, it’s reserved and waiting for us to get there!
5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
This verse is somewhat difficult to understand or follow as written. Here are a few thoughts:
First, Peter is linking the “who” of the first word with the “you”, the last word of verse 4. There were no verse divisions in the original language, but were added later. Some versions retained the “paragraph” format (Tyndale, Geneva, etc.), i.e., not separating text into verses. Thus, he assures believers that just as the inheritance is reserved, they are kept by God’s power. Salvation was, is, and always will be a gift,
something nobody can ever earn (Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 6:23, etc.).
Second, Peter does not specify exactly what he means by “salvation” and “revealed in the last time”, When a person is born again, by faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone, the person immediately receives salvation. God does not put a new believer or new convert in a “waiting period” or “time of probation” before granting salvation. Perhaps he has a different shade of meaning in mind, but that is beyond the purpose of these notes. The reader is encouraged to explore this further.
Yet we do have a hint of “the last time”. The Eleven Apostles had asked Jesus in Acts 1 if He was going to restore the kingdom to Israel at that time but Jesus basically told them that their business was to be witnesses to what He had done, etc. So they were expecting Jesus to return although there never has been a specific date or time when a chain of events would begin to make this happen. Some years later, John would write that it was “the last time (see 1 John 2:18)” but the Lord has not yet returned as of the date of these notes.6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:
James had already written about some of this in his letter, especially chapter 1. But here, Peter introduces a new thought, namely, that believers could rejoice even though they were in heaviness. James, like Peter, makes reference to manifold temptations (“diverse”, James 1:2) and some of these temptations or testings would be specified later in the letter. Peter may also have had in mind the words of Jesus when He encouraged the believers to even “leap for joy (Luke 6:22-23)” whenever they would encounter persecution.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:
Notice how Peter compares the trial of the believer’s faith with that of gold being tried by fire. Perhaps he had 1 Corinthians 3 in mind; Paul mentions there that the believer’s works would be tried by fire and the result could be gold, silver or precious stones, valuable things; or wood, hay or stubble (straw), much less valuable items. And Peter reminds the believer that when faith is tried, it brings praise, honor, and glory when the Lord Jesus Christ appears. Peter knew first-hand how faith could be tried, nearly destroyed, but could also be restored. Compare his denials of Christ with his restoration by Christ in John 21.8 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:
Peter and over 500 believers had seen the Lord after His resurrection from the dead (1 Cor. 15:6) but no one else has since that day. John also would later write that one day we would see Him (1 John 3:2).9 Receiving the end of your faith, (even) the salvation of (your) souls.
Again Peter mentions salvation, but not which aspect of it. An unbeliever, once he or she accepts God’s gift of salvation, is “saved” instantly. The new believer will still be living in this world, with the old nature or the sin nature still in his or her body (Romans 7). Peter knew he had been “converted” or “born again” at some time in the past but he still had occasional struggles with sin (witness his hypocrisy in Antioch when leaders from Jerusalem came there. Paul wrote of this in Galatians 2:11-14. Some think Paul’s answer extends to the end of the chapter).
Still another emphasis that is sometimes overlooked is Peter’s declaration that salvation is the end (result?) of one’s faith. He does not mention the possibility of earning or working for salvation.
Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV).