1 Peter 1:8

Sermon preached on September 22, 1996 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2009. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

When I was growing up we had a row boat and we used to spend quite a bit of time playing out in the harbor in it. A few other friends had boats as well and we spent many hours on the water having races, swimming and one of our favorite activities was to splash the other guys in the other row boat and then take off before they could splash us. We'd get close, stand up in the boat and try to hit the oar against the water as hard as we could to splash the other boat. And then we'd take off as quick as we could.

But one day I was out in our rowboat with a friend of mine and one of the oars broke while I was rowing, it just split right in two. (I have no idea why it broke!) But really, I wasn't splashing anyone else when it broke—it was really rough and I was rowing hard to get back in. It actually would have been good if there was another boat near us as they could have helped get us ashore. But we were all alone and as soon as the oar broke I knew we were in trouble. It was rough, the wind was blowing off shore and the tide was going out. So basically we were drifting out of the harbor into the ocean. But the guy that was with me treated it all as a joke. He had just moved to the area and he wasn't acquainted with the sea. He wasn't worried, he wasn't concerned. I was sweating bullets. I had grown up by the ocean and for as long as I remember I had a healthy respect for it. I knew people who had drowned, I knew of ships, both small and big that had been lost and I was really concerned about being swept out to sea. But Karl just sat down in the back and wasn't the least bit concerned. I had to take the remaining oar and try to paddle in. It was pretty slow going but after awhile I got us into the shore. But throughout it all Karl's calmness seemed out of place.

And sometimes the way that Christians behave seems out of place. You all know about
Paul and Silas in Philippi. They had been arrested, whipped and thrown into jail with their feet being put in stocks. Yet, rather than moaning or complaining, we read that around midnight they, (Acts 16:25)

"were praying
and singing hymns to God."

And we see much the same thing here in our text. Peter is talking about Christians undergoing trials of many kinds. And he has told us that they have come so that our faith may be proved genuine and so that it may result in praise, glory and honor on the day that Jesus Christ in revealed. And then he tells them that in spit of their trials, that they are filled with inexpressible and glorious joy.

Now the first thing I want you to see is that

from the world's viewpoint this doesn't make sense.

It's not logical that people be joyful when trouble comes. Trials bring grief and Peter acknowledges that in verse 6. He admits that they bring us sadness but he so emphasizes the joy that we have, that the grief fades into the background. He describes this joy as being,

"inexpressible and glorious".

It's not just any joy or ordinary joy. It is joy that is so unique that it is unspeakable. It is so great that it cannot be adequately expressed by human words. It is also a joy that is full of glory. In other words, it is a joy that is in some measure already radiant with the glory of the perfect life to come. It is joy suffused with glory. It is a joy that is radiant with glory.

Unbelievers would accuse us of not living in accord with reality. They would say that we're in denial. Some have said that religion is a crutch and we're believing in something that is not true and something that we can't prove. Karl Marx said that, "Religion is the opium of the people."

But what Peter is talking about here is something that sustains us even in our times of grief. He is talking about something that is so great that it even has the capability to lift us above our grief and trials and to fill us with the greatest joy that is known to human beings.

And what is Peter talking about here? He is referring to our relationship to Jesus Christ, about our faith in Him and the effects of that faith.

Now the first thing I want you to see is

how wonderful it is that you believe in Jesus.

What Peter is doing here is commending these Christians for their faith. It was remarkable that they believed. To believe in one that they have not seen, to love one that they have not seen, to be devoted to One that they have never met—it's nothing less than astounding. It's remarkable that you believe.

I've mentioned
how unbelievers think that the belief of Christians is remarkable. And in a way they are right. It is remarkable—but rather than being foolish, as they think, it's absolutely wonderful. Consider what Peter says here. He writes,

"Though you have not seen him,
you love him;
and even though you do not see him now,
you believe in him..."

It is absolutely incredible that you believe in Jesus.

It defies logic! On one level you could say that it is preposterous. That's what the world thinks. In 1 Corinthians 1:21f we read the words of the apostle Paul,

" God was pleased
through the foolishness of what was preached
to save those who believe.
Jews demand miraculous signs
and Greeks look for wisdom,
but we preach Christ crucified:
a stumbling block to Jews
and foolishness to Gentiles,
but to those whom God has called,
both Jews and Greeks,
Christ the power of God
and the wisdom of God."

The world does think it's foolishness. But to us it's the power of God. And we know that. For what Peter is actually doing here is actually extolling the grace of God. For it's by God's grace that we believe. As the apostle Paul said in Ephesians 2:8,

"For it is by grace
you have been saved,
through faith--
and this not from yourselves,
it is the gift of God--

Our eyes have been opened. And we see things correctly. To the world, the preaching of the cross is foolishness. To us it is the power of God unto salvation. We see things as they actually are. They are the ones that are blind. As the apostle Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:4f

"The god of this age
has blinded the minds of unbelievers,
so that they cannot see
the light of the gospel
of the glory of Christ,
who is the image of God."

The Christians life is one of faith. 2 Corinthians 5:7,

"We live by faith,
not by sight."

Hebrews 11:1,

"Now faith is being sure
of what we hope for
and certain of what we do not see."

And what I would say to unbelievers is that

you too should believe in Jesus.

What's stopping you from believing?

You can believe without seeing.

"Though you have not seen him,
you love him;
and even though you do not see him now,
you believe in him..."

Some would repeat the words of Thomas. In John 20:24f we read about how Thomas did not believe that Jesus had risen from the dead. He was not there when the others saw him and when they told him that they had seen the Lord, he said,

"Unless I see the nail marks in his hands
and put my finger
where the nails were,
and put my hand into his side,
I will not believe it."

Many people say, "O, if I saw, I would believe." Scientists, skeptics, say that. If we could prove it scientifically, they say that they'd believe.

But sadly, in many instances that would not be the case. We see this in the story of Lazerus and the rich man. When the rich man found himself in a place of torment, he said to Abraham. (Luke 16:27f)

"He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.' "Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.' " 'No, father Abraham,' he said,

'but if someone from the dead goes to them,
they will repent.'
"He said to him,
'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets,
they will not be convinced
even if someone rises from the dead.'"

John 11

And we learn much the same thing from John 11. Many people saw Jesus raise Lazerus from the dead. But did they all believe? No. Indeed, we read in verse 53 that,

"from that day on
they plotted to take his life."

The Pharisees saw the miracles, they heard about Lazerus being raised from the dead—and what did they do? They plotted to kill Jesus.

Sight would not make any difference to many people.

You see, the problem is much deeper than mere sight, than mere intellectual facts. The problem is with men's hearts.

The problem is not an intellectual one, but a moral one.

As we read in John 3:19f,

"This is the verdict:
Light has come into the world,
but men loved darkness
instead of light because their deeds were evil.
Everyone who does evil hates the light,
and will not come into the light
for fear that his deeds will be exposed."

Intellectually, there is no reason for you not to believe. Everyone knows that God exists. . Psalm 19:1f,

"The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world".

(See also Romans 1 & 2)

Don't let anyone ever tell you that you're foolish for believing in Jesus, for hoping in the promises of the gospel. Quite the contrary, it's wonderful and amazing.

So don't accept that. Our apologetics- don't buy what unbelievers say. Even if they saw with their eyes—most would not believe.

So what do we say to unbelievers, how do we approach them?

Jesus commands that they believe.

You don't have to see in order to believe.

Lack of personal contact with the Jesus of history did not place the readers at a spiritual disadvantage.

John 20:29 Then Jesus told Thomas,

"Because you have seen me,
you have believed;
blessed are those who have not seen
and yet have believed."

The Bible- tells you about Jesus. The Spirit impresses Him upon our hearts. John 16:7,

"But I tell you the truth:
It is for your good
that I am going away.
Unless I go away,
the Counselor will not come to you;
but if I go,
I will send him to you."

You do not have to see Jesus in order to believe in Him. Sight is not necessary for faith in Jesus.

As a matter of fact,

you ought to love Jesus precisely because you don't see Him.

Think about the reason that you don't see Him.

Why isn't He physically with us today? He had no sin, and death is the result of sin. So looked at from that perspective, He should be here today. He would never have died. We would be able to fly over to Israel and hear Him teach. We would be able to see Him.

But He's not here physically today. Why? The reason He's not here is because He loves you. You don't see Him. Why? Because He died for you, for your sins.

So rather than being a reason why we might have trouble loving Him, the very fact that we can't see Him should help us to love Him more, believe in Him more.

Trust in Him. Let go of your pride, your sin, your self. You can know Jesus even though you don't see Him.