Stewardship: It’s NOT What You Think It Is, Part 2

last-will

A Whopper of an Inheritance, 1 Peter 1:1-5

As we continue our look at Biblical stewardship, it would be helpful to recall how Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines the word “stewardship”:

the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially : the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care

We have already considered the stewardship of the things God has given us that we often squander on selfish things, like the pursuit of money for example.  Our time, our talents, our character, our ability to dream and imagine, and other things we take for granted have been given us to glorify God, yet all too often Christians are guilty of using these things for our purposes, not God’s.  Being good stewards of what God has given us means that we use what we have to magnify and glorify God in our lives.  In this way, we are accumulating treasure in heaven.   Our treasure in heaven is a direct result of what we have done here on earth.

We now turn our attention from our treasure, which we are responsible for accumulating, to our inheritance, which is something given to us, based on the work of someone else.

1.  Handpicked, verses 1, 2

To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood.

When we read all the epistles in the New Testament, whether they were written by Peter, Paul, or John, we need to remember that they were all written to Christians, so the blessings, promises and truths contained in the epistles are exclusive to Christians.  Into that context, Peter makes some stunning comments.

(1)  God’s elect

Christians are first and foremost described by Peter as “God’s elect.”   In the Greek, the word “elect” is by itself; the noun “God” is absent; Christians are simply “the elect.”  Of course, as we read on we know that God is the One who has elected or chosen the readers of this letter.   A great many Christians have difficulty understanding what the doctrine of election is all about; instead of giving to glory to God that they have been chosen by Him, they get angry that some have not been chosen.  However, that kind of thinking shows a complete misunderstanding of the essence of election.  In fact, the doctrine of election is linked by Peter to three separate acts of God involving His entire Person; furthermore, election primarily concerns Him, not us.  Consider these points:

  • Foreknowledge.  Foreknowledge means much more than just having knowledge about the future.  It has to do with the absolute sovereignty of God in His decision to implement a plan to save sinful man.   God has a plan and He working out His plan for you in the way He sees fit.  God’s plan for you will glorify Him in that His holiness, His sovereign acts done on your behalf, and His grace will be manifested such that all will see His goodness toward you.
  • Sanctification.  Peter writes that those whom God has chosen, the elect, are sanctified through the Holy Spirit.  This includes yet another work done on behalf of sinful man for his benefit.  Man, because of his sinfulness, cannot enter into God’s presence, so God cleanses man’s sinful heart so that he may enter into fellowship with his Creator.  This does not man that sinful man is made morally perfect which would preclude the possibility of improvement, but it speaks of a careful and deliberate restoration of God’s image in the soul of man.  This amazing work for man makes man fit for life and service to God, yet does not represent man in a perfect state.  This means that our sanctification is an ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in and for us.  In this process, we are not passive but we are actively cooperating with the Holy Spirit (see verses 15 and 16).
  • Obedience and sprinkling. God elects and the Spirit sanctifies for a very specific reason:  it is so that we may be obedient to Jesus Christ.  Peter uses the words “obedience” and “sprinkling” as a reference to Exodus 24:3—8).  After Moses read the Law to the people, the people promised their obedience and then Moses sealed the deal by sprinkling them with the blood of a sacrifice.  Similarly, through Jesus’ sacrificial death on the Cross and the shedding of His blood, He redeemed and purchased the elect.

In these opening two verses, we marvel at two things.  First, an uneducated fisherman like Peter was able to explain a complex theological doctrine that stymies highly educated people today.  Second, the Triune God has done so much for sinful human beings:  God the Father foreknows and elects them; God the Holy Spirit sanctifies them; and God the Son cleanses them through the shedding of His precious blood.  Even though Christ’s blood was shed one time only, it continually cleanses the human heart.

All this was done for the handpicked few.   Just because there are some “elected,” this does not mean that others are excluded.  All sinners may become the elect by choosing to respond to the calling of God.  Purkiser writes,

God’s election and predestination…are His gracious provision for and purpose to save all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and not an arbitrary predetermination of those who can believe.

2.  Hope, verse 3

In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead

The Christians to whom Peter was writing were facing terrible trials and unbelievable hardships, and so Peter wrote to remind them of two things.  First, the purpose and power of God as revealed in their salvation, and second, to encourage them to face their future with holy boldness because their salvation was not only secure now but would be perfected in the future.   Despite their hopelessness, they were not hopeless. As one theologian said,

Hoping is disciplined waiting.

The Christian has a living hope because Jesus has been raised by God the Father.  Our faith is not based on a dead person’s words or ideas.  Roy Nicholson observes:

Faith establishes Christians in believing; obedience directs them in doing; and patience comforts them in suffering.

Patience is linked to hope; it is believing that something better is coming.  This makes perfect sense because this world is temporal in nature, and the things it gives us, good or bad, are also temporary.   It is important to keep this in mind, that whatever state we may find ourselves in will change; nothing ever stays the same.  It is this way by God’s design, so that human beings will never be satisfied with the things of the earth, and believers will understand that their sufferings are temporary.

Our hope of a better future is grounded in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  At first, we may wonder what those two things have to do with each other.  The resurrection of Christ was a good thing for Christ, but what does that have to do with our future?  It goes back to the previous verse about the blood of Christ; a body without blood is dead, but a living body has blood flowing through its veins.  We have a living hope because Christ shed His blood for us and it courses through His Body:  the Church.  In other words, the power that raised Christ from the dead is within the Body of Christ and within each individual believer.  Now, that is real power!   Our hope is rooted in the power of the resurrection; if Christ could be raised from the dead, then nothing is impossible with regard to our future.

3.  Inheritance, verse four

an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you…

Part of our new birth is an inheritance.  Once again, we have a working definition of “inheritance” courtesy of Merriam Webster:

the acquisition of a possession, condition, or trait from past generations

“Inheritance” is the key word of verse four and it must be understood correctly to be appreciated.  Hebrews 9:16—17 helps us in this regard—

In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living.

This links an inheritance to somebody’s death, but Peter uses the word in the context of life, namely, eternal life.  In verse 3, Peter wrote that through the death and resurrection of Christ, we have a hope, and we find out that part of our hope is that we are now the recipients of an inheritance.   But our inheritance can’t be enjoyed here because it is being kept for us in heaven.  Oddly, instead of receiving an inheritance because somebody else died, we are the ones that have to die in order to receive our inheritance!

The Jews understood “inheritance” well.  Since the days of Abraham, the nation of Israel has been waiting for their inheritance; a permanent home.  It is true that for a while Israel occupied their inheritance, the Promised Land, but it has never been safe and secure.  Israel has always had to fight for their inheritance.  But for the child of God, the “inheritance” is not for a plot of land; it is something different.  Our inheritance refers to the salvation—not that we already have—that we will receive upon our deaths and entrance into eternal glory.

But what exactly is it?  Peter, for some reason, cannot put it into words, so he describes our inheritance in negative terms.

  • It is imperishable.  Our inheritance cannot be destroyed and it won’t die.  It is therefore not subject to the laws of time, but it of eternal nature.
  • It is undefiled.  Our inheritance can never spoil, be corrupted or be polluted, or watered down.  Our inheritance in heaven will be forever free form any kind of blemish and is eternally pure.
  • It is unfading.  In other words, our inheritance is always brand new!  No matter how beautiful a rose is at its peak, its beauty has already begun to fade.  However, our inheritance in heaven will always be at its peak!

Earthly possessions are subject to change; they rot, they get damaged or they wear out, or we get bored with them.  But our inheritance in heaven is safely guarded by God for us.   The Greek for “kept” (NIV) is teteremenen, which means “reserved for.”  The word is in the perfect tense, meaning our inheritance is being actively reserved by God for us.

God, like a doting and loving Father, is carefully holding on to our inheritance until we arrive in heaven to enjoy it.

Conclusion

Finally, to demonstrate how seriously God takes our inheritance, we read this in verse 5—

…who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

God’s people, the ones whose inheritance is being kept in heaven by God, are also seen benefiting from something else being done by God for them while they are on earth to ensure that they get to heaven to enjoy that inheritance.  The Greek is very descriptive:  “the ones being guarded”  is actually a military term that can mean either “to protect someone from danger” or “to prevent someone from escaping.”  The Greek is also in the present passive tense, meaning God’s involvement in the lives of His people is ongoing.  There never is a time when God is not active in the life of a Christian.  How is He active?  He protects believers from the onslaught of Satan; he cannot harm us as long as we are under God’s protection.  But God also is active in keeping us from leaving Him.   This really is a phenomenal thing!  There is security for the believer; it is for all eternity, but it is not unconditional, for it requires faith, which is a mental assent and a personal commitment.  The key is the phrase “through faith.”  This means that we have a responsibility in all this.  Although God has promised to protect us and save us, we must use our faith in our fight against the Devil and the dark powers around us.  Faith in God and in His power is both subjective and objective.  In other words, we just can’t sit around and coast until our deaths.

God shields us, according to Peter, until our salvation, which we have now, becomes complete upon our entrance into heaven.  God protects us in order that we may receive our inheritance.  Some scholars believe that “salvation” and “inheritance” are synonymous terms, although I believe they are two separate blessings; our salvation is what unites us with our inheritance.

When we realize all that God has done and continues to do for us, it is hard not to want to be good stewards of His gracious blessings.

(c)  2009 WitzEnd
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