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1 Peter 1:6-9 meaning

Believers are to rejoice knowing their salvation is secure. Even though we must endure various trials on earth which God designed to test our trust, love, and faithful obedience, we can have joy. Our faithfulness will be acknowledged when Jesus returns. This should result in believers experiencing deep inner joy while making their lives count for eternity.

As believers think about the security of their salvation (saved from the penalty of sin) as well as their promised inheritance they can possess through living faithfully, Peter reminds them in this you greatly rejoice (v. 6). Indeed, the truth about our eternal security contained in verses 3-5 should cause us to make a conscious decision to greatly rejoice. But we can also rejoice because of the fact that all our suffering and enduring of trials will directly result in the full possession of the inheritance we have been granted in Christ.

The Greek word translated greatly rejoice is “agalliasthe” which means to be extremely joyful.

Jesus used this word “agalliasthe” to indicate what should be the disciple’s response to persecution:

 “Rejoice and be glad (“agalliasthe”), for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” 
(Matthew 5:12)

Peter used this word in a sermon he preached after being filled with the Spirit on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, quoting Psalm 16:9,

“For David says of Him, ‘I saw the Lord always in my presence; For He is at my right hand, so that I will not be shaken. ‘Therefore my heart was glad (“agalliasthe”) and my tongue exulted; Moreover my flesh also will live in hope.”
(Acts 2:25-26)

Peter also uses this same word translated “rejoice and be glad” three times in his first letter (1 Peter 1:6, 8, 4:13). The final use of this word in the Bible describes the believer’s response at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb,

“Let us rejoice and be glad (“agalliasthe”) and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” 
(Revelation 19:7)

The principal application of this is clear—because of our salvation, in all its aspects, we have a reason to be extremely joyful even when suffering. This is because of the immense future benefit we will receive for our faithfulness (James 1:2-3, 12).

Peter stresses this practical application in recognizing his readership’s true suffering: even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials (v. 6).

A trial is some form of suffering that God uses to test a believer’s trust and build a believer’s character (James 1:4, Romans 5:2-4, 1 Peter 4:12-14). The word various indicates many kinds of trials. Trials may come in the form of a loss, an accident, an injury, or some form of sickness, conflict, or problem. Peter acknowledges that difficult circumstances can cause us great stress: you have been distressed which translates the Greek word that refers to severe mental or emotional sadness.

It seems paradoxical to think that someone can rejoice greatly while being saddened by suffering. But that is the power of knowing by faith that enduring the suffering will be worthwhile. It is an investment in the future. Each believer has the hope and promise that it will be worthwhile to faithfully endure suffering in this life knowing we will receive rewards for it in the next life. As the book of James indicates, these trials are not temptations; temptation only comes from within ourselves, from our flesh (James 1:13-14).

It helps to understand that suffering trials during our time on earth is both temporary and necessary. Peter reminds us that even though now for a little while, if necessary, believers may experience suffering. The Scriptures reinforce the temporary nature of trials, as Paul similarly affirms,

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us”
(Romans 8:18).

The Bible also talks about the expectation of suffering, but indicates that the rewards God has in store will make the suffering seem trite in comparison, as illustrated again by the Apostle Paul:

For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison”
(2 Corinthians 4:17).

James explains the purpose of trials is to develop our faith and build Christlike character as he exhorts believers to:

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
(James 1:2-4)

Toward the end of this first letter, Peter also repeats the concept of rejoicing during suffering now and receiving glory later (1 Peter 4:12-13).

The fact that God repeats this principle of rejoicing during difficulty multiple times through multiple authors highlights the importance of choosing the proper perspective about difficulty. Believers have hope in anticipation of future glory for living faithfully through trials. This demonstrates that this principle is extremely important to God and highly valuable to His children.

Peter also explains another purpose for which God allows us to go through various kinds of trials: the proof of your faith (v. 7).

The idea behind the Greek word translated proof is to determine the quality of something by testing. This indicates that what God is determining is the quality of your faith rather than the existence of your faith. This is similar to an assay to measure the purity of a sample of gold.

The word faith comes from the Greek noun “pistos” which involves the idea of faithfulness, and reliability. The context here describes a living faith. This letter is written to those who have already believed on Jesus. Our initial faith causes us to be born again and placed into Christ (John 3:14-15). From that point, we have a daily opportunity to make a choice, a choice whether to live by faith in God or faith in ourselves.

The verse Habakkuk 2:4 shows that pride (faith in self) is the opposite of faith (in God). Habakkuk 2:4 is quoted in the theme verse of Romans (Romans 1:17) and is also quoted prominently in two other books (Galatians 3:11, Hebrews 10:38). When we live in pride, our rewards are only that of this world, and they will fade away. When we live according to faith, we can gain ultimate fulfillment of who God designed us to become.

The method God uses to test the quality of our Christian living faith is through allowing us to endure many kinds of trials. Enduring these trials purifies our faith like fire refines and purifies the most valuable gold. God promises to bring something good out of all circumstances (Romans 8:28). The good in Romans 8:28 is described in Romans 8:29, it is to gain Christlike character. We will all be conformed to the image of Christ.

It seems however that the choice of each believer is whether to endure trials faithfully in this life and be refined like gold, or to be refined by the fire of the judgment seat of Christ. Those who endure faithfully in this life create deeds that are like gold and precious stones that the judgment fire of Christ purifies even more (1 Corinthians 3:12-13). But if we do not endure in this life, our deeds will be burned, and we will be saved though as through fire (1 Corinthians 3:15). Scripture is filled with exhortations to endure faithfully and hope for the rewards God promises for faithfulness in the kingdom to come (Hebrews 11:6). To learn more, read our article on The Gift and the Prize.

Peter recognizes the high value of such tested faith, describing it as being more precious than gold (v. 7). The word precious refers to something being of very high value in the realm of finances, thus considered very desired and valuable. One of the most highly valued metals in Peter’s day was gold.

To keep the readers’ minds focused on the eternal rather than the temporary, Peter looks on earthly gold as that which is perishable, referring to the temporary nature of gold which can be lost or stolen. As Peter will state in his second letter, this current earth will eventually be destroyed in fire (2 Peter 3:10). This includes even gold.

Gold is a metal which can increase in value when heated hot enough by fire to cause impurities contained in the metal to rise to the top where they can be removed. This leaves the gold tested by fire as a higher quality gold that is more valuable. Peter likely had this process in mind when he described quality and value of the believer’s faith as even though tested by fire. Toward the end of his letter Peter intentionally refers to the believer’s trials as “the fiery ordeal among you which comes upon you for your testing” (1 Peter 4:12).

The goal of God testing our faith by the fiery ordeals of trials is so that our tested faithfulness in this life may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (v. 7).

The revelation of Jesus Christ refers to Christ’s returning to earth at the end of the age, at which time our lives will be evaluated for how we have lived. This occurs at the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10). This is the time believers will receive rewards for their faithful obedience to Christ during their lives on earth.

The praise and glory and honor from our rewarded faithfulness all goes to Jesus Christ (Revelation 4:10-11). He is the one that is worthy. Without Him, nothing would be redeemed. All will be redeemed through Jesus. However, incredibly, Jesus has promised to share His glory with all who follow Him (Hebrews 2:10, Revelation 3:21).

There are practical applications that come from knowing that when we faithfully live our Christian lives on earth our lives will count for all eternity. First, it impacts our love for Jesus Christ as Peter tells us, and though you have not seen Him, you love Him.

Peter had seen Jesus and spent three years walking with Him during His time on this earth. But he realizes his readers had not seen Jesus, yet they still love Him. They love Him because they believe in Him, and follow Him. To those who love Him, Jesus promised rewards that exceed our ability to fathom (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Second, living faithfully for Jesus impacts our trust in Jesus. Peter affirms, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him (v. 8). To believe in Him refers to trusting Jesus by walking in faithful obedience to Him during our daily lives. The idea seems to be that trust breeds more trust. There is a virtuous cycle of faith. Faith breeds more faith as well as more love.

As we walk in faith, Peter says, you greatly rejoice (v. 8). This is the same Greek word as used in verse 6, also translated greatly rejoice. Thus, Peter continues to emphasize that joy is a choice. Peter exhorts his disciples to choose joy during difficulty. This is the same basic message with which James opens his epistle (James 1:2-3).

This joy Peter exhorts his followers to choose to have is joy inexpressible. This is because it is too deep for words. It is a spiritual joy that surpasses circumstantial happiness. By definition, this cannot refer to circumstantial happiness, since the context expresses circumstantial difficulty.

This joy is also full of glory (v. 8). This likely refers to praise that glorifies the Lord, as Peter stated in verse 7 that all praise belongs to Jesus. But it could mean more. The Greek word translated “glory” refers to the essence of something being observed. Paul speaks of the observable essence of the moon differing from that of the sun, noting that different things have different glory, because their essence differs (1 Corinthians 15:41).

Glory can be good or bad. Paul speaks of people controlled by their appetites as having a glory of shame (Philippians 3:19). When believers live faithfully, we glorify God, because we are abiding in Him (John 15:7-8). When people see our fruit, they are seeing God.

Hebrews quotes from Psalm 8 which notes that God gave to humans the “glory and honor” of having dominion over the earth, a glory humanity squandered in the Fall of Man. But Jesus has restored this glory, through the suffering of death (Hebrews 2:8-9).

All authority was granted unto Him (Matthew 28:18). He was appointed as the “Son” over creation, meaning He has the right to reign. Scripture says Jesus desires to bring “many sons to glory” for those willing to suffer as He suffered (Hebrews 2:10, Romans 8:17b, Revelation 3:21).  

The eternal benefit of a Christian trusting Jesus enough to endure trials joyfully and grow from them is the obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls (v. 9).

The word salvation refers to a deliverance. Context determines what is being delivered from what. Greek uses “save” like we use in in English. Context determines whether a person is delivered from drowning, money is being delivered from being spent, or meatloaf is being kept in the refrigerator as a leftover rather than being flushed down the disposal.

In scripture, “save” (verb) or “salvation” (noun) can refer to deliverance from death, danger, disease, a wasted life on earth, or the lake of fire depending on the context. An example of this is when the verb form of the Greek word translated here as “salvation” is translated “I will get well” in the episode where a woman was healed from a chronic flow of blood by Jesus (Mark 5:28).

The Bible speaks about three tenses of salvation:

·      Past tense — We are saved from the penalty of sin when we first believe (Romans 4:3, John 3:14-15).

·      Present tense — We are saved daily from the power of sin when we walk in the power of the Spirit (Romans 5:9-10, Galatians 5:16, 6:8-9), and

·      Future tense — We will be saved in the future from the presence of sin when Jesus returns (Romans 8:18, 13:11).

In this application, Peter is speaking to these believers about the present tense of salvation, to be delivered from the negative effect of sin through making choices based on faith. When Peter uses the concept of the salvation of your souls, perhaps his mind went back to the day in Caesarea Philippi that Jesus taught His disciples about saving and losing their souls, in which Jesus was speaking of the present tense of salvation.

There Jesus taught them that their choices would determine the extent of their rewards in heaven. Jesus spoke of a loss of rewards as a loss of one’s life or soul:

If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds.”
(Matthew 16:24-27)

In this passage from Matthew 16, the Greek word “psyche” is translated “life” the first two times it appears and “soul” the second two times. The idea of “psyche” is the entirety of one’s being. It is all we are and all we can be. When we opt for the rewards of this world we lose who God created us to be. In this, we lose our “psyche,” the person God designed us to become.

The phrase of your souls in 1 Peter 1:9 also translates a form of the Greek word “psyche.” Peter is conveying the same message he learned from Jesus: when we allow ourselves to sink into sin we give up becoming the person God designed us to be. Accordingly, we give up the fulfillment we could have had. We exchange the life Christ has for us for the death of the world. Death is separation, and when we allow the world to shape us, we are separated from all God intended us to be. We lose life, benefit, and joy. We lose “shalom”/peace.

Christ’s message to Peter and the other believing disciples in Matthew 16 is speaking of the present tense of salvation—being saved daily from the power of sin. Peter also speaks of the present tense of salvation in 1 Peter 1:9.

Neither Jesus nor Peter are talking about the past tense of salvation, which speaks of going to heaven when they die. Jesus was speaking to His disciples who had already believed in Him. They believed He was the Messiah. They were already saved from hell to heaven. The past tense of salvation had already occurred. The same is true for those to whom Peter addressed this letter. They already have faith. What Peter is speaking of is the outcome of your faith. It is the result of their faith being discussed.

The result of faith presumes the past tense, that their faith already exists. The question now is what their future reward will be, and that depends on what choices are made in the present. The context of verse 9 includes 1 Peter 1:7 which speaks of living a life that creates a result of praise and glory and honor when we meet Jesus (at the revelation of Jesus Christ). This fits well with the passage from Matthew 16 where Jesus was exhorting His followers to lay aside the temporal pleasures of this world in order to lay up treasure in heaven—rewards that last forever—as well as the benefit of a greatly enhanced life in the current age.

In Matthew 16, Jesus was speaking to disciples whose future in heaven was secure. In fact, Jesus promised them they would sit on twelve thrones judging Israel in the kingdom that was to come (Matthew 19:28). This would infer an emphasis on the current benefits of living faithfully. Scripture is filled with references to this. An example is in Galatians, where Paul describes living in the flesh as leading to a life full of biting and devouring one another, a life of being “consumed by one another” (Galatians 5:15). This is a miserable result of walking in sin. The vastly superior alternative is to live in peace, sharing life and love (Galatians 5:13-14).

In the referenced message from Matthew 16, Jesus is challenging His believing disciples to live with a deeper commitment to Him: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). Peter is doing likewise. He is copying his Master. He is exhorting his followers to live lives of life and peace, which also lays up treasure in heaven.

Jesus wants His disciples to live their life on earth by trusting and obeying Him, so that their souls, their “psyche” (meaning their life experience here on earth), will be saved (“sozo,” meaning delivered) from the negative consequences of sin. As Romans 1:18-28 states, when we sin we suffer the negative consequences of sin, which progresses from lust, to addiction, then to a loss of mental health. The adverse consequence of sin is imposed on any of us who gives ourselves over to the power of sin in our daily walk. But we can be delivered/saved from this negative consequence through walking in the obedience of faith. This is also the message being conveyed by Peter.

A positive outcome of a walk of faith is that we are delivered (saved) from living a wasteful life on earth. Again, in Matthew 16:24-27, the words translated “life” and “soul” are the same Greek word “psyche,” meaning in both instances the all-encompassing nature of ourselves, who we are and become. Also the souls in 1 Peter 1:9 translates “psyche” and could also be translated “lives.”

It might seem paradoxical to speak of saving the soul of the saved. However, this makes sense because we who are saved in the past tense (from the penalty of sin) are being saved in the present tense from the power of sin. We are saved in the present tense from the power of sin to create adverse consequences for us (like a culture of biting and devouring one another). We understand that what is being saved in this passage is our life experience (“psyche”) from the negative consequence of sin.

The eternal soul or life of any believer is delivered/saved from having the lake of fire as their final destination when they first believe (John 3:14-15). But the eternal value of this life on earth lived in obedience to Christ even while suffering trials determines the extent to which our lives are fulfilled—our reward of inheritance. This is the case spiritually, now in this life, as well as materially in the age that is to come.

Every believer has the gift of eternal life through simple belief in Jesus (John 3:14-15). A believer who overcomes rejection, loss, and even death in this life in order to live as a faithful witness for Jesus will gain the greatest of fulfillments, and the reward of eternal life. They will gain:

  • Entering into the joy of their Master to share a great responsibility with Him (Matthew 5:21)
  • Sharing the reward of a “son” which is to share the reign of Christ (Hebrews 1:5, 13, 2:9-10, Revelation 3:21, Romans 8:17b)
  • Regaining the “glory and honor” of stewarding the earth in harmony with God and His ways through the “suffering of death” (Hebrews 2:5-9).
  • Gaining glory, honor, immortality, and the reward of eternal life from God for faithfully doing good (Romans 2:6, Galatians 6:8-9)

Thus, by living faithfully, a believer is delivered from living an empty, defeated, wasted life on earth that will not count for eternity. The apostle Peter remembered this message from Christ, and it forms a theme for the entire letter.

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