“…for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” – 1 Peter 1.9From David King
My birthday is coming up and in our family we get really excited about birthdays. What I actually mean, of course, is that I get excited about birthdays. When, this year, our eldest was missing his birthday for the first time (he was at university), his brother and I were campaigning that we could still have a birthday meal for him. We argued to Katy that Samuel surely wouldn’t want us not to celebrate his birthday simply because he wasn’t there.
Katy was unconvinced…
When you are really excited about something, you look forward to it. It starts to colour everything in the lead up to it. We saw in our Bible reading last Sunday that believers have the hope of a great inheritance – what Paul describes as “Glory!”. More than that, he encourages us to get excited about it as we look forward to it.
1 Peter 1.3-9 is really a meditation on that hope. But when you look at it, what we are hoping for seems to shift! In v.4 it seems to be an inheritance; in v.7 it seems to be our praise, glory and honour; in v.8 it seems to be Jesus; in v.9 it seems to be the salvation of our souls. So which it is? Or if it is all of them, do they relate to one another?
When I was growing up in Wallington, my dad was General Secretary of the South American Missionary Society. His role included a lot of foreign travel, often for weeks at a time. We missed him. But we were always excited about his return because he brought us gifts from the country that he visited. One of the first things we did when he returned was to ask him what he had bought. Looking back, that might not have been the most diplomatic thing we ever did as children.
The thing is, we were very excited about the gifts, but they were universally rubbish. One time he came back from the USA and the gift I got was a Pittsburgh flag. When I say flag, please scale down what you are visualising. In effect it was a straw with a triangular piece of card on it and the single word, “Pittsburgh”. On one occasion my dad did spend significant money on gifts for my sisters. It wasn’t wholly successful. I don’t believe they ever wore those patterned ponchos in public…
I’m not telling this story to highlight my lack of gratitude, rather the strange aspect of this story – the rubbish presents didn’t dim our excitement the next time round. I think that the reason it didn’t was that what we were really excited about was our dad being back and that is what made the presents exciting.
This is a dim illustration of what Peter describes. The real Glory we long for is Jesus – the one whom we love and in whom we believe. The other things are what he brings with him: it is as we meet him that we will see the completion of our salvation, as we are transformed into his likeness (of character) with ever-increasing glory (2 Cor 3.18); it is in the salvation that he completes in us that we experience praise, honour and glory – we will reflect his beauty in our very selves; it is he himself that is our inheritance.
There are many things to look forward to in Glory, including banquets, a renewed creation, the end of suffering and sorrow, but every one of these is found in Jesus. The many different descriptions of our hope are really different ways of describing finally meeting Jesus.
“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.
Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13.12