His Story

The things we take for granted are the things that the Old Testament saints would have given up everything to experience. We’ve been born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and these are the glory days.

JDudgeon on October 8, 2023
His Story
October 8, 2023

His Story

Passage: 1 Peter 1:10-12
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It was almost 30 years ago that my elementary school first got the Internet. The Internet, as a way to connect computers, had been around for a while, but the brand new thing was the World Wide Web. Using a web browser like Netscape Navigator, you could look at these new things called web pages.

And what made web pages special were these new things called hyperlinks, where you could click on text or images to take you to another page. You could be reading an article about a historical person, and if you wanted to know more about the city they were born in, instead of having to write it down somewhere and go look it up later, you could just click on the city name and instantly be on a page all about that city. Though hyperlinks, one page could link to another, and they were all connected to each other like a web—a world-wide web.

The web changed our world because it mirrored the way we think. Our brains are always moving from one topic to the next, like a series of links being clicked. Have you ever been in a conversation with someone, and wondered, “How did we end up talking about this?” Or just let your mind wander? It’s like looking back over your browser history. Your brain was clicking from one link to the next.

We’re talking about this because I think a series of pages connected by links is one helpful way to think about the structure of these crucial ten verses at the beginning of 1 Peter 1.

Consider where we started in verse 3. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” This was our home page.

And it’s like there was a link on that page that said “Find out why.” So we clicked on that, which opened up a pop-up window, explaining that God is to be praised because He’s caused us to be born again through Christ’s resurrection to a living hope and a totally safe inheritance, which Peter said is kept in heaven “for you.”

And that last word, “you” was blue with a line under it. So we clicked on it and found ourselves on a new page which told us all about ourselves. That was verse 5, which told us that we are being guarded by God’s power through faith for this salvation that’s ready to be revealed in the last time.

“Salvation ready to be revealed” was also blue with a line under it, and clicking on it brought us into verse 6, where we read about the joy we experience in this salvation, despite our present sufferings, which are testing our faith and proving it to be the genuine article. Verse 7 went on to tell us that this tested faith is going to result in glory at the return of Jesus Christ.

“Jesus Christ” was another link, and clicking on that link opened up a new page in verses 8 and 9, where we read all about our love for Jesus and our faith in Jesus while we wait for him to return. And if you weren’t here last week, you can read or listen to or watch that message on our website.

What Peter emphasized in these verses was that though we haven’t seen Jesus, believing in Him results in love for Him and joy in Him as we wait for, quote, “the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (v. 9b).

That word “salvation” was another link. And this morning, we’ve just clicked on it. We’re on a new page, a slightly longer page, that opens with the words, “Concerning this salvation.” And from verse 10 up to 12 we’re going to hear more about this salvation that we’re waiting for and have already begun to experience.

But something about this page feels a little different. We saw last week how Peter’s perspective has been shifting back and forth between the future and the present. But in verses 10-12, his perspective goes into the past. This mention of our salvation brings his Sprit-inspired train of thought back to the people who first spoke and foretold this salvation: the Old Covenant prophets. And in verses 10-12 he unpacks and explains our relation to the prophets who foretold this salvation which we now enjoy and hope for.

Our Relation to the Prophets

“Concerning this salvation,” verse 10 says, “The prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully.” This verse, as it flows into the next two verses, introduces three really important ideas for us.

1. Old Testament prophecy is about Jesus

The first key idea here is that the Old Covenant prophets were speaking about Jesus. Old Covenant prophecy is about Jesus. We know that because Peter says that the prophets who prophesied were prophesying about what? “The grace that was to be yours.”

That’s how Peter sums up the message of the prophets in what we call the Old Testament. If you asked him, what were the prophets prophesying about? What is Isaiah about? What is Ezekiel about? What is Daniel or Micah or Nahum about? His answer: “the grace that was to be yours.”

And that’s not the only way he sums up their message. In the last part of verse 11, he says that the Spirit of Christ in these apostles was predicting “the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.” That’s what their prophecies were about: Christ’s suffering and glory.

It’s just like what Jesus said to the two men on the way to Emmaus: “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scripture the things concerning himself” (Luke 23:25-27).

One more time Peter emphasizes this when he says, in verse 12, “It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you though those who preached the good news to you.” In other words, the things that the prophets foretold and the things that the apostles preached were the same things.

Jesus’ apostles preached Christ and Him crucified. And according to Peter, that was the message of the prophets before them.

So Old Covenant prophecy is about Jesus. It’s about the gospel. It’s about the salvation that these Gentiles in the far-flung corners of the Roman Empire were now experiencing.

Now this has pretty big implications for how we read the whole Bible, which is something that we’re going to come back to. But for now let’s just recognize an important implication of this truth: according to Peter, the good news of salvation through Jesus for all peoples, including these Gentiles, was a message foretold by the Old Testament prophets.

In other words, the salvation of these Gentiles was not a “Plan B.” Christianity was not a brand new religion. And the Gentiles weren’t in a separate class of people than the Jewish believers.

There was one plan of salvation, foretold by the prophets, that includes Jew and Gentile being welcomed into the family of God through the sufferings and glories of Christ.

And we’re going to see more of this theme as we keep going through 1 Peter. But for now we don’t want to miss that the salvation of the Gentiles was not a plan B. The prophets prophesied about the grace that was to be given to people from every tribe, tongue, nation and language.

2. The prophets didn’t understand all that they wrote

Now the second truth we see here about our relation to the prophets is that the Old Testament prophets didn’t always understand what they were actually speaking or writing about.

At the end of verse 10 Peter says that the prophets “searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.”

In other words, the prophets were puzzled about the very things they prophesied about. They searched and inquired and tried to further understand the very things about which they spoke.

We have examples of this in the prophets, like Daniel 8:15. “When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I sought to understand it.” Later on in Daniel 12 we read, “I heard, but I did not understand. Then I said, ‘O my lord, what shall be the outcome of these things?” He said, ‘Go your way, Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end’” (Daniel 12:8–9).

And Daniel wasn’t alone, according to Peter. The prophets did not fully understand what they wrote about, but searched and inquired carefully to see what person or time was being pointed to by these prophecies.

Now again, this has pretty major implications for when we read the Bible. One of the big principles for how to interpret the Bible accurately is to ask the question, “What did the original author intend for his audience to hear?” That question keeps us from ripping Scripture out of context and applying it to ourselves in a slipshod way.

When we read Jeremiah 29:11—“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future’”—we shouldn’t immediately think, “yay, God has plans to prosper me.” We should ask, “Who was Jeremiah writing to? What was God saying to the original audience through that human author?” And that’s a really important question to keep our interpretation of the Bible in check.

However, our passage today is telling us that while we should start by asking what the human authors of Scripture meant, we can’t stop there. Because they themselves didn’t always understand what they were saying. God was revealing things through them that went beyond their intentions and their understanding. They were filled with intent curiosity about the time and person and circumstances in which their prophecies would be fulfilled, as they spoke about the grace that was to be ours.

3. They knew they were serving us

Here’s a question, though: if they themselves didn’t fully understand what they were prophesying about, then what was the point?

What would be the point of God revealing truth to them which they didn’t totally understand?

And the answer comes in verse 12: “It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you.” They knew that their prophecies weren’t for their own benefit as much as for our benefit. This is the third truth we’re seeing here: the prophets knew they were serving us.

Of course their prophecies had some benefit to themselves. Many of their prophecies had relevance to their original audience. And even those prophecies about the future made them hope and long and look forward to the Messiah. But so much was still shrouded in mystery.

The clarity and full understanding of their prophecies was not for them to enjoy, but for us to enjoy. “It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven” (1 Peter 1:12).

And I say “us” because we’re in the same shoes as Peter’s readers. We never saw Jesus while He was on the earth, but we’ve heard about Him through the Apostles’ teaching in the New Testament. And through the Apostle’s teaching we can see that their message was the same as the one given by the prophets.

And now, the clarity and understanding of the Old Testament prophecies has been unlocked. We finally know what person and what time the Spirit of Christ was indicating in them. We can see the way in which the prophecies point to Jesus in His full glory. And we can see how the prophets were actually serving us all along.

Our Relation to the Angels

And if that wasn’t enough, Peter throws in a “by the way” at the end of verse 12 that levels this whole conversation up even further. These things—the things the prophets prophesied about, the things which were preached to us by the Apostles—are “things into which angels long to look.”

The angels—the heavenly beings—desire, present-tense, to peer into this salvation which we enjoy. The word here for “look” suggests peering through a window as an outsider. You’ve seen those pictures at Christmas of little kids looking through shop windows at the wonders inside. That’s how the angels are with this salvation we enjoy. It’s like they’re lining up, hoping to see inside at the wonders we enjoy.

This reminds us that the angels are not the recipients of salvation. There is no plan of salvation for the angels.

2 Peter 2:4 says that “God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment.” When the angels fell and became demons, they gave up all hope. The only future ahead of them was judgement.

That’s why, when Jesus encountered demons in his ministry on earth, they don’t once ask for forgiveness. They only plead in terror that he not send them away to the abyss or destroy them before their time is finished. “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?” (Mark 1:24). “Have you come here to torment us before the time?” (Matthew 8:29b).

This is actually a very relevant point in discussions about God’s sovereignty in salvation. When some people are confronted with passages in Scripture which suggest that God choses to save some people but does not choose others, they really struggle with that, because it feels deeply unfair.

And I’ll never forget when I read someone ask the question: would it be fair for God to create a race of beings with the ability to sin against Him, and full knowledge that many of them would sin against Him, but provide absolutely no plan of salvation or redemption for them? They get one chance, and if they rebel against God then that’s it—there’s no hope but only judgement.

Would he be fair to do that?

Be careful how you answer, because He did that with the angels. And He is not unjust. Rebellion against God deserves judgement, and when the demons get what they deserve, not a single one is going to be able to complain that God is being unjust.

And that’s why angels long to peer into this mystery of redemption. It must blow their minds that for all of our sin against God, and how much we deserve nothing but judgement, He came in His Son to redeem for Himself a people by taking their judgement onto Himself and reconciling them back to Himself forever.

How many times did the angels watch, slack-jawed, struggling to process the grace that was unfolding before them? Did they turn to one another and ask, “Can you believe what’s happening right now?” As Christ was suffocating on the cross, did those twelve legions of angels need to be held back from rushing to His rescue, amazed at what He was going through for our sake?

Next time you think that God’s been unfair to you, next time you struggle to care about mission to the unreached, think about the angels. Think about the demons. See the angels longing just to peer through a window and see the grace that’s been given so us. Think about our privilege to invite men and women from every nation into this salvation. It’s really beyond words.

Conclusion: More Privileged me than Prophets and Angels

And that’s a great point for us to step back and survey these 10 verses we’ve spent the last few weeks in. As verse 12 comes to a close, and Peter concludes this big sentence that began back in verse 3, we can see Peter’s aim to help his readers understand the gospel wonders that we’ve been swept up into.

We are exiles, outsiders as far as the world is concerned. But from God’s perspective, we are insiders of the most wonderful experience imaginable.

Peter is trying to help encourage his readers in their suffering by pointing them to their privileges. Even though they—and we—do not currently see Jesus, we are more privileged than the Old Testament prophets and the angels currently in heaven. That’s his point here in verses 10-12. The prophets prophesied about the grace we are enjoying. The angels are wanting to peek into the salvation we are enjoying. The world’s assessment of us is 100% wrong. What we’ve been given makes us more privileged than the prophets and angels.

Application: Enjoying our Privileges

And what we want to do in the next few minutes is to really try to think this through and appreciate what Peter has said here.

And my assumption as we talk about these things is that many Christians, perhaps most Christians, don’t go through their lives thinking of themselves as more privileged than the prophets and the angels. In fact, the opposite is true. I suspect that many Christians read the Old Testament and the times that the prophets lived in and think that they were the privileged ones.

After all, they were the ones seeing the miracles all the time. They were the ones hearing from God all the time. Here we are and all we’ve got is this Bible and some pretty normal-looking people around us and it doesn’t feel like a lot of privilege.

1. The “Bible Times” were not the glory days

And that’s what we want to realize here—the “Bible Times” were not the glory days.

I think I first picked up on this idea as a kid. Perhaps it’s the way I was taught Sunday School, which was all Bible stories about all the great things God did back then. It was not until I was an adult that I was really taught how all of those Old Testament stories point to Jesus and the salvation that belongs to us today.

It was not until I was an adult that I learned that the Old Covenant believers didn’t experience miracles all the time as a way of life. Miracles in the Old Testament are mostly clustered around two major seasons—the Exodus from Egypt and the Ministries of Elijah and Elisha; the giving of the Law and the dawning of the age of the prophets. And other than those seasons, not a lot of miracles are recorded

Normal life in the Old Covenant was more like the book of Ruth or Esther than the book of Exodus. God working and directing the lives of His people in “normal” ways just like He does for us.

And yet, even in the height of the seasons of miracles, look at the results of the miracles. Look at Israel pass through the Red Sea and worship a golden calf right away. Look at Israel watch fire fall from heaven on Elijah’s sacrifice and continue to drift further away from the Lord.

I remember hearing about a couple who took a trip to Israel together, seeing all the places where all these miracles had happened, and a year later she left her husband for someone else. And the person who told me expressed some surprise that they could have that experience in the land of the Bible and fall apart so quickly.

And what I wanted to say was, the Pharisees lived in the land of the Bible and when the Son of God showed up they killed him. Miracles and experiences can’t do a thing for a hard heart.

And that’s why you and I, sitting here in a small town in north-east Saskatchewan, are more privileged than Moses and Elijah. We know the fulness of what all of those miracles pointed forward to. We know Christ. We know the New Covenant. We know what it’s like to walk with God in the newness of the Spirit, not the oldness of the Law. We know what it’s like to have His instruction written on our hearts.

I just think about some of the conversations I’ve had with so many of you over the years, when you’ve said things like “I just want to do what God wants” or “I don’t want to do those things that pull me away from the Lord.”

That’s the New-Covenant work of the Spirit, making us want to obey God from the inside out.

And I can just imagine sitting down with Moses or Elijah and having them say, “You’re kidding? You help lead a group of people who want to do God’s will? Nobody’s threatening them with the death sentence? They’re just choosing that? Seriously?”

The things we take for granted are the things that the ancients would have given up everything to experience. Not to mention everything we know about Christ and what He’s done and what He’s yet promised to do for us.

We’ve been born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and these are the glory days.

And this isn’t just about miracles. It’s about the words of the prophets, too. Here’s what I mean: many Christians today read the Old Testament and see God talking to people all the time, and they think, “I want that, too.” I read a book this past spring where that was the basic thesis. God talked to people personally in the Old Testament all the time, so that should be normal for us too.

And this misses the point in two big ways. The first is that, just like miracles, God did not talk to everybody all the time like we might think. He spoke to certain people at certain times who played certain key roles in His unfolding plan of redemption. But He did not tell Ruth to marry Boaz. He did not tell Esther what was going to happen after she went in to the king. He didn’t give Nehemiah a vision of a finished wall.

It doesn’t mean that He wasn’t deeply active in each of those situations, but He wasn’t speaking to everybody all the time the way he did to the prophets.

But even for those key figures whom He did speak to, we miss the point if we just think of the Old Testament like a Richard Scarry book, fill of colourful characters bustling about, miracles here, words from the Lord there, and it’s all really interesting and that’s about it.

No—Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Samuel and Isaiah were key figures in the unfolding a plan of redemption. Their whole lives were a part of a bigger movement hurtling towards Christ. Everything had meaning and direction as it pointed to Jesus.

And that’s why Peter can sum up the message of the Old Testament prophets as “the grace that was to be yours.” Taken together, that’s the big picture that everything they said, and everything they experienced, pointed towards.

So we miss the point if we look back at the prophets and think, “I wish God would talk to me like that.” The prophets instead are looking at us, with our open Bibles, the Spirit within us, knowing Christ the way we do, and thinking, “I wish God would talk to me like that.”

Compared to the Old Covenant era, these are the glory days! And yet even the glory we know now will pale in comparison to the praise, glory and honour that will be revealed when Christ returns.

We need to see that. We need to recognize that. It will affect how we live. If we think we’re just part of some religious social club, we’ll live that way.

But if we know that we live in the era of fulfillment in redemption, when the Spirit has been poured out on us to enjoy Jesus together and make Him known together, then we’ll live that out together.

2. Reading the Bible with Jesus at the centre

And one of the best ways we can get that perspective and keep that perspective is by reading the Bible properly. Isn’t that what led us into this discussion this morning? Peter’s words in Scripture. And notice how Peter points his readers, no to seeking further revelation from God, but to enjoying and appreciating the revelation God has already given them.

And we’re going to see, as we keep going through 1 Peter, how Peter himself trains us how to read the Bible with Jesus at the centre. He quotes from the Old Testament all over the place and helps us see how it’s all fulfilled in Jesus.

And that can continue out throughout the New Testament. The apostles, writing in the New Testament, teach us how to properly read the Old Testament as a Christian book.

So many Christians struggle to read the Old Testament. How many of us started out reading through the Bible and got bogged down in Leviticus or Numbers or Ezekiel? And is at least a part of that because we’re reading it as a bunch of stuff about back then, instead of being about the grace that’s now been given to us?

As we wrap up here, I want to get really practical by recommending three ways that we can learn how to read the Bible with Jesus at the centre.

The first is to read the New Testament slowly. And any time the writers reference the Old Testament, go back and read the passage they are quoting. Not just the passage, but the whole chapter. And then go and re-read the New Testament passage to see how it gets fulfilled in Christ.

A good study Bible can help you with this. Or just a Bible with footnotes that helps you go find the Old Testament references. Read through the New Testament slowly enough to let the apostles teach you how to read the Bible.

Second, use a commentary to help you read the Old Testament. A commentary is just a study tool to help us read the Bible well. In our library we have a series called “Focus on the Bible.” They’re small and written for everybody, not just scholars. We’ve got one on every book of the Old Testament, I think. And they are a great tool to help you read the Old Testament in a way that shows how it’s fulfilled in Christ.

The third suggestion is to revisit a series that we did here about five years ago, called “You Are Here.” In eight months we walked through the whole Bible and saw how it’s one story, Jesus is the main character of that story, and we’re a part of that story today. You can find it right here on our website, and it could be a really helpful way to help you get oriented in reading the Bible with Jesus at the centre.

But let’s not forget this isn’t just about reading the Bible. This is about better understanding the greatness of the salvation given to us, so that we might know and love the Lord Jesus more and more, like we talked about last week. It’s about us living faithfully in a hostile culture. It’s about us going out for the sake of His name. It’s about us journeying together until we see Christ. It’s about Him.

As we understand that prophets and angels longed for what we enjoy, that should make us say with Peter “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!”

It should make us say to the Lord, “Here’s my heart. Here’s my life. Whatever you want. Whatever you ask. Wherever you send me—all the glory to you.”

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