Trials, According to Plan (1 Peter 1:1-7)- Teaching Thursdays

Out of Darkness Into His Marvelous Light (1 Peter 2:9-12)

Welcome to Teaching Thursdays, a collection of sermons and lectures by Kevin Morris on the Better Bible Reading Podcast. Today we begin a new series on 1st Peter. To get things started, here is an introductory sermon on one of the main themes in the book: Our trials as Christians are according to plan.

The following is a modified outline from the sermon, Trials, According to Plan. I am thankful for Westminster Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Jacksonville for the opportunity to preach! 

Trials, According to Plan: 1 Peter 1:1-7


Jeremiah Burroughs is known for his puritan identity as pastor, lecturer, and most famously, among the Westminster divines. Today we know him largely from his sermons into book form. One such book has the title: The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. In that book he says this:

“God’s ordinary course is that his people in this world should be in an afflicted condition”

Is it for you to agree with this statement? Does this statement make a strange sound to your ears?  It certainly does to much of today’s broad evangelicalism.

Simply say this to Eliphaz, Zophar and Bildad the three friends of Job, and they will conclude that only a wicked person could utter such a statement in the first place. But what if it was restated in a slightly different way, such as:

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” (1 Pet. 4.12)

This of course is from the apostle Peter from the pages of scripture itself.

No doubt, early Christianity knew something of the suffering nature of our faith. Even Burroughs was a contemporary of the horrors in England, including the persecuting arm of the Church of England which looked and sounded too much like Rome. Puritans like Burroughs refused to conform and were either banished, driven to hiding, or in some cases executed.

But this is not the audience of Burrough’s remarks about affliction. Instead, they met years later during the commonwealth of England, enjoying wealth, relative peace, and religious liberty. Generally speaking, they were like us.

And because of this similarity, we also need a refresher of a proper theology of trials as being neither surprising nor strange to the Christian, and we will do so from these first 7 verses of 1st Peter.

My aim is not to encourage you to seek martyrdom or to make you feel ashamed of any peace or comfort you presently enjoy.

Rather, my aim is simply to teach you that our trials are, without qualification: according to plan- and this is good news to us.

Verses 1-2

Verse 1

  1. The tension of elect exiles

  2. The chosen/rejected

Verse 2

  1. The Trinitarian framework of salvation

  2. Foreknowledge of the Father

  3. Sanctification of the Spirit

  4. Obedience to the Son

  5. Irony 1 of 3: Foreknowledge

  6. Foreknowledge transliterated designates “prognosis”

  7. prognosis mean a guess, while diagnosis means assessment or conclusion

  8. John Wesley’s definition of a term like foreknowledge

  9. God seeing, deciding, acting (i.e. crystal ball theology)

  10. This spin of foreknowledge is actually not forethought, but afterthought.

  11. Acts 2:23 connects this to God’s “definite plan”

  12. foreknowledge is qualified by God’s perfection of attributes (i.e. omniscience)

  13. foreknowledge means looking to the full scope of His redemptive work

  14. It is not us that He sees, but rather His work in us, accomplished and applied

  15. Notice what God’s foreknowledge corresponds to:

  16. not only our election, but also our exiled status

  17. both are equally according to God’s definite plan

Verses 3-5

Verse 3

  1. Born again

  2. Just as we are passive beneficiaries of our first birth, so it is in our second birth.

  3. Peter no doubt reflects here on Nicodemus’ visit to Jesus in John 3

  4. Popular evangelical question: Why should Christians be hopeful?

  5. the emphasis of the answer should not be the cross, but the empty grave!

  6. Our hope is alive (efficacious) because Christ is alive

Verse 4

  1. Irony 2 of 3: Inheritance

  2. Our human use of inheritance requires death

  3. we could even say it requires someone to be utterly taken out of the picture

  4. But this inheritance is only “imperishable, undefiled, etc…” because of life

  5. it requires the ongoing life of the giver!

  6. Our “living” hope in this sense is both anticipatory and realized

Verse 5

  1. Note the definitive design of God in all this

  2. the front end of God’s determination to cause us to be born again

  3. the back end of guarding us to “the last time”

  4. This is all brought about at every turn of life “by faith”

  5. We could end the sermon here by emphasizing this assurance of salvation

  6. and this would be correct to do so, if that were the whole argument

  7. Peter has in fact given us at this point a very useful catechism, we could ask:

  8. Q: How does God guard us and our inheritance in this life?

  9. A: by faith

  10. But this is not the whole argument.

Verses 6-7

Verse 6

  1. We actually have another catechism by also considering verses 6-7

  2. Q: How does God preserve our faith?

  3. A: Trials.

  4. Irony 3 of 3: Trials

  5. The likelihood that modern man would agree with Burrough’s argument that “affliction is ordinary” is about as likely as agreeing with someone who says that “God preserves our faith by trials”.

  6. We argue that trials are antithetical to faith

  7. We suppose that trials will lead to the compromise of our faith

  8. We worry about Jesus’ words: “Those who endure to the end will be saved”

  9. But we must appreciate the fact that the Christian life is a life tested by fire.

  10. Explain: the function of the crucible

  11. Propositions about God’s will for trials and afflictions:

  12. Trials do not compromise our faith

  13. We can actually reverse Jesus’ warning to a propositional truth as well.

  14. Trials do not merely sustain our faith

  15. Trials refine and further sanctify our faith

  16. Luther says this of trials:

  17. “They teach you not only to know and understand, but also to experience how right, how true, how sweet, how lovely, how mighty, how comforting God’s word is.”

  18. Just as the crucible sets apart pure metal from impurities, trials set apart or sanctify our faith from impurity. Trials secure the purity of our faith.

  19. notice the correspondence of this to our salvation

  20. exiles and sanctification:

  21. set apart to God, set apart from the world

  22. maintained by faith, which is maintained by trials

  23. If we trust our salvation as being “according to plan” from beginning to end

  24. we must see our trials in the same light, just as Peter presents them

Verse 7

  1. This lends to Peter’s explanation of “the chief end of trials”

  2. Christian, stay awake to the familiarity and normalcy of trials in your life, to the “according to plan” nature of them for the preservation of your faith and the contentment which you are to have in God.

  3. Trials may come by legislation designed to stop the mouths of God’s church, but let God be true and every man a liar.

  4. Trials may come by a government’s growing animosity to this heavenly assembly, but we must obey God rather than men.

  5. Trials may come from within, from wolves seeking not to spare the sheep, but let us contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

  6. Trials may come from without, from the cursed environment of a world saturated in sin and misery, but let us redeem the time, knowing that our labor in the Lord is not in vain.

  7. Friends, trials may come, but may they be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.


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