1 Peter 1:6-7
A Faith More Tested
Peter is writing to Christians who are suffering—so was James, and Paul, and Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and all the writers of the New Testament. I once heard that the New Testament is a martyrs’ theology, a martyrs’ book, for that was precisely the context in which it was written and precisely the way in which it was read the first three-hundred years of the Church’s existence and at various other times, most of which have been in the last one-hundred years under Communism and more recently under Islam. It was written by those who suffered martyrdom to those who suffered the same. This is why I fear that much of the New Testament is incomprehensible to American Christians—though that may not be for long.
So the Christians to whom Peter was writing rejoiced over their heavenly inheritance and that they themselves were guarded by God’s power through faith “for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” But then Peter speaks of the present struggles of his readers: “Though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials.” Asia Minor was a scene of horrible persecution in the second century and we have every reason to believe that such was gearing up in the first as Christians and their odd behaviors became more noticeable to their pagan neighbors and the authorities. But let us read further on: “…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.” The “revelation of Jesus Christ” is the equivalent expression of “a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” of verse five.
Christian faith is built upon the Christian hope—the sure hope that our redemption draweth nigh. And Christian hope is built upon the conviction that God’s word is true. And the truth of God’s word rests upon our God’s holy character which is pure, unadulterated love. Armed with faith, hope, and love, we can endure any struggle—indeed, how many Christians over the centuries have been fleeced of possessions and lands, and bereaved of dear and loved ones? How did they ever bear up? By looking to the One who made the promise, so that though tested by fire—and millions have been literally burned—the fire only burned away the dross and residual debris of a life reaching for greater holiness and union with God through Christ—lives that ended up shining far greater than gold and precious metals, lives ready to be meet Christ at his revelation when the Day appears. Yes, they rejoiced. Will we?