Throughout this Eastertide we cannot help but be very conscious of the connection between Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and our own baptism. For we all are baptized into the death of Jesus as our own death (Romans 6:3-7). His death actuates and signals our own death in baptism—sharing in His and accomplishing ours. It is the death of the old self, and a rising to life of a new being, walking with Jesus in newness of life.
We take up from that point. Peter’s first epistle begins with the words, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” because, “According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1:3). The same baptismal connection is found in Peter as in Paul. “[God the Father] has caused us to be born again… through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Peter opens his letter by declaring we share in resurrection life.
Now we move forward to learn about our new life in Christ. What is it like? What is it about? What is it for? What is it, this new life in Christ? And the word Peter uses several times in this little passage is the word “faith.” The new life Christ opened for us in His resurrection, the new life into which we were baptized is a life of faith.
At once there is an issue. The word “faith” means two things. Sometimes we use the word “faith” to mean the things we believe. So, we speak of the Christian faith as the things we believe to be true, the things about God, for example. When we confess the Creed, we say, “I believe…,” and then we list several crucial facts about the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, that is our faith. It matters very much that we know the truth of these matters, the truth God has revealed to us. But this is not what the word faith means here.
The faith that characterizes the Christian life - which in a sense is the Christian life - is not the facts, the things and the events out there, but something within. The faith of the Creed is something shared by all believers, but the faith within is personal and individual: A real, ontic something. It is the very essence of the new life. When we speak of faith in this sense, we are talking not so much about agreeing with the facts and acknowledging the truth of them (although that is very important), that is, something primarily of the mind. No, we are talking now about a matter of the heart, the soul of a person. Because now we are talking about a crucial relationship with God through Jesus Christ, stirred within us by the Holy Spirit. It is the act of believing, rather than the fact of our believing. A better word for it might be trusting, rather than believing. We trust God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. This is the faith Christ gives when He gives Himself. To receive this faith is to receive Christ. To receive Christ is to have this faith.
To receive this faith is to receive Christ. To receive Christ is to have this faith.
When Peter speaks of our faith, he refers to the trust we have in Jesus Christ, so much that we anticipate what he calls an, “inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in Heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1:4-5). It means we anticipate eternity with Him, and we depend on Him to give us this inheritance. This, in fact, is the most distinctive feature of the Christian faith. It trusts in what Christ has done for us, and not in what we might do or not do for ourselves or for God for that matter.
So, a couple of things about this faith. It is faith in Jesus. He is the one we trust and depend on and love. But here is an obvious though curious point. We have not seen Him. We do not see Him now. Yet, we have faith in Him. Our trust is in someone we have never set eyes upon, except representatively through the crucifix and sacramentally through the Eucharist. “Though you have not seen Him,” writes Peter, “you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible” (1:8). Our Lord also made this observation: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).
That is us. We have not seen Him, but it does not matter. We are still blessed. “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible.” It turns out we have hit upon a feature of faith. The New Testament’s letter to the Hebrews sets out a definition of faith in the very sense of the word we have been talking about. “Now faith,” it says, “is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
Faith must be this way. It must be so because nobody can see everything. Even Thomas, who saw Jesus risen from the dead in such an indisputable way, could not see his conclusion. Thus, Peter ends our text with the words, “the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1:9). Even Thomas, who felt the marks of the nails in Jesus’ hands, could not see the outcome, the salvation of his soul. He had to believe that. And we all must believe it, rather than see it during this life.
Nor can we see how God’s hand will guide us through every challenge of this life, we have to believe it. Afterwards, we see how it happened, but in the midst of challenges and trials, we walk by faith and not by sight.
This is the other thing we learn about faith. For our trust to be cultivated, trials are necessary. “You have been grieved by various trials,” writes Peter, “so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:6-7). Faith is tested by trials, not to destroy it but to refine it, as gold is refined.
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in I Peter 1:3-9
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach I Peter 1:3-9.