Those of you who have been around Christians and those of you who have been around Bible study for a long time, when you hear the words sanctification of the Spirit, you immediately think of the process by which after you’re saved. After you become a Christian, the Spirit of God comes into your heart and slowly, through supernatural influences, bit by bit, incrementally, and progressively conforms you more and more into the character of Christ. Where there is hatred, there is more love. Where there is impatience, there is patience. Where there is doubt, there is faith, and so on.
But Peter give us a much more broader understanding of the Spirit’s work.
“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, 2 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: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.” – Apostle Peter, 1 Peter 1:1-2
If today you believe in Jesus it’s because from the very beginning the Spirit of God has been on your life. You know how in Genesis 1 it says, “… the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the [chaos].”
What is it doing? It’s getting ready for action. It’s going to bring, out of the chaos, order.
Similarly, the Spirit of God broods over you all of your life. Before it ever enters you in the sense of regenerating your heart, it’s brooding over your life. It’s been there. Do you remember those strong religious impressions and desires for God you had when you were 17? Then they vanished for the last 20 years and just came back last year. Where did that come from originally? What has kept it alive all these years? Don’t you see the Spirit of God has moved across and brooded over the face of the chaos of the waters of your life, getting ready for action, slowly shaping and changing and putting ideas in your mind at different times? When the times were fulfilled, when the time was right, the Spirit of God began to open your eyes to see the truth.
If today you don’t know what you believe about Jesus – you’re not sure you believe any of this stuff – and yet you find yourself intrigued and interested in it, or perhaps you are afraid – relax. You’re already having the Spirit of God work in your heart. How do we know that? Because of what Peter says which is essentially this:
“You couldn’t even know that you don’t believe unless the Spirit of God was working in you, sanctifying you, getting you out of the things you used to live for, and setting you apart for the work of God. Maybe you do need to receive Christ as Savior; maybe you don’t. Maybe you need to repent; maybe you don’t. Either way, don’t give yourself too much credit. If you’re upset about the fact that you’re far from God, if you’re worried about it, if you are freaking out, if you’re afraid God won’t receive you… just keep this in mind: you wouldn’t be afraid unless God was trying to deal with you through his Holy Spirit, if he wasn’t opening your eyes, and he wasn’t drawing you to receive him.”
The doctrine of election is a tremendously comforting thing. Your whole life is shaped by a love that was set upon you from the beginning of time. Everything going on in your life is shaped by that love, which through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, eventually will bring you to the place of being sprinkled with the blood and obedience to Christ.
“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, 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: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.” – Apostle Peter, 1 Peter 1:1-2
More and more, churches are abandoning the idea that Jesus’ death on the cross was a sacrificial atonement, paying for our sins, turning aside the justice of God and satisfying it. They say, “Well, we believe in a loving God now, not a wrathful God who demands payment.” In the name of the doctrine of the love of God they have completely made the death of Christ on the cross inane, ridding it of all its cosmic profundities.
The irony is that the doctrine of the love of God is not that he needs no atonement, but that he provides it himself. God is not like some primitive bloodthirsty ego maniac. The whole point of the doctrine of the cross of Jesus Christ is not that God is like those kinds of gods, but he’s utterly unlike those kinds of gods. He’s different. He offers the atonement. He doesn’t ask for for us to sacrifice our child; he gives his own. That’s the difference. It’s a huge difference.
You’re never going to have any idea about the love of God if you say, “I believe in a loving God, a God who listens to my verbal apology, and that’s all it takes. I believe there doesn’t need to be a sacrifice.” Is that your idea of a loving God? a God who makes light of these things?
Until you understand, you have committed cosmic treason, until you admit you needed atonement at a cosmic level, i.e., Jesus Christ to die for you, until you rest in the fact that Jesus Christ died for you – and not only died for you, but did so gladly; until you’re so full of joyful gratitude for the fact that he died for you that you’ll obey … that’s the reason why obedience and the sprinkled blood of Christ always go together in the Bible. You’re obeying because you’ve been forgiven.
“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, 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: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.” – Apostle Peter, 1 Peter 1:1-2
The foreknowledge of the Father … not the same thing as foreseeing … Many people who really get concerned and uncomfortable around the doctrine of election say, “Oh, okay. The foreknowledge. There we go! Now I have it! God foreknows who is going to receive him and who is not, so he chooses.” You’re defining foreknowledge as foreseeing. “God sees what’s going to happen, he foreknows what’s going to happen, and then he chooses you on the basis of what he foreknows.” Does that fit in with what the Bible says?
Take for instance Romans 8, it says, “… those God foreknew he [justified] … those he [foreknew], he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” It doesn’t say some of those he foreknew. If foreknowledge is foreseeing, then he foreknows everybody, right? He foreknows everybody. He knows what you’re all going to do, but he should only choose some of you, but it doesn’t say, “Some he foreknew he called, and some that he called he justified.” It says, “… those …”
To put it another way. In Jeremiah 1:5, God says to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in [your mother’s] womb I knew you …” What does that mean? “… I knew you before you were born …” Isn’t that foreknowledge? Yeah. What does that mean? Does it mean, “Before you were in your mother’s womb, I knew you were going to be born?” I don’t think that’s what God would be saying. It’s kind of obvious. Obviously, God knows everything. What would be the big deal?
Why does he come and say, “Before you were in your mother’s womb, I knew you?” Because in the Bible the word know does not simply mean to know ‘about.’ When it says, for example, in Genesis 4:1 that Adam went in to Eve and knew her and she bore a son, does that mean Adam knew she was in there and suddenly she got pregnant? No. In the Bible, in the Semitic language, the Hebrew word “know” means something much more than our English word for “know.”
What it tells us when it says, “I knew you, Jeremiah,” is not “I knew about you.” Of course, he knew about him. He knows about everybody. What was different was, “I set my love on you.” When Adam went in and knew Eve, it meant he set his love on her in the most literal and complete way possible; he slept with her. He loved her. He loved her in totality. They were completely one, and she bore a son. When God says to Jeremiah, “I knew you when you were in your mother’s womb,” what he means is, “Before you were even born … way, way, back then … I put my love on you.” Therefore, in the Bible foreknowledge does not mean foreseeing; it means fore-loved. It’s not talking about the recognition of an existence that already is there; it’s talking about the shaping of an existence through love.
Peter is telling people who were about to face death, about to face economic disaster, “The reason you know Jesus died for you right now is because, from all eternity, I have had a plan for you. The entire plan is completely shaped by a love I put on you way back then.”
Everything about your life is being shaped by that love, because you see, the foreknowledge of the Father means you’re chosen. That’s good news, because on the one hand the doctrine of election takes humble people and lifts them up. It shows you the reason God loves you is not because of anything better in you at all. Not because I was humbler. Not because I was wiser. Not because I was more obedient. Not because I was more repentant. Even my repentance was a gift. On the other hand it takes those of us who tend to be proud and humbles us into the dust.
“What is hell? I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
“Before I was diagnosed with esophageal cancer a year and a half ago, I rather jauntily told the readers of my memoirs that when faced with extinction I wanted to be fully conscious and awake, in order to “do” death in the active and not the passive sense. And I do, still, try to nurture that little flame of curiosity and defiance: willing to play out the string to the end and wishing to be spared nothing that properly belongs to a life span. However, one thing that grave illness does is to make you examine familiar principles and seemingly reliable sayings. And there’s one that I find I am not saying with quite the same conviction as I once used to: In particular, I have slightly stopped issuing the announcement that “Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” – Christopher Hitchens
“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” – Apostle Peter, 1 Peter 1:6, 7
The author writes a letter to a group of people who are going through tremendous suffering and are about to go through more. Through it, he show us how we can gear our understanding towards suffering in a particular way that is neither cavalier nor self-pitying. And what’s that? Join us and find out as we go through this new teaching series through the book of 1 Peter.