At this present time in American history, we are finding arguably more than ever that relevance is built upon, almost exclusively, the perceived importance of the subject. We see major headlines come and successively disappear, celebrities are made overnight on the internet only to fade when we become disinterested, and stories at best endure until a better reinterpretation is presented. The greatest novelists, artists, musicians, innovators, philosophers, scientists, and theologians seemingly matter less to us when we inherit their work to inform our own, individual understanding of the place, time, and cultural environments in which we live. Western society has become nearly post everything. There is post-colonial, post-modern, post-religion, post-dictatorship, post-9/11, post-this, and post-that. Radio and television interviews entertain post-ideologies on a regular basis; and then there is the Gospel. Is it possible that in our post-designations and identifications that we have become progressively post-Gospel in our attitudes as Christians? With this question in mind lets take some time to again consider the importance of the gospel we have been commissioned to preach (Mark 16:15). This passage in 1 Peter 1:17-25 helps us to reconsider the Word that the Lord has given to us and reminds us again that this Word was and forever will be His enduring Word.
(v17) Be reverent of the Father, and let our works demonstrate this in our time on earth (resident alienation). Work here is a call to holiness (previous passages). Works certainly cannot save (Eph 2:8-9) but we know our faith without deeds is dead (Jas 2:14-19). Do our works credit the Father more than our speech?
(v18) Our redemption is not bought by perishable means nor is it inherited by futile ways of life (idolatry, paganism, human wisdom). The word futile (kenos)means here empty, vain, or devoid of truth. What about our worldly thinking? What is impossible with man is possible with God (Lk 18:26-27 NIV).
(v19) 1 John 1:7 tells us But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin (HCSB). He is the spotless lamb who once and for all provides redemption.
(vs20-21) The impossibility of making redemption ourselves was made possible by Him. His work did what our work couldnt, it redeemed us to God. Therefore, our faith and hope are in God (v21).
(v22) In cleansing our hands and purifying our hearts we draw near to God (Jas 4:8) and this closeness inspires a love for one another as He has loved us which is the new commandment Jesus gives us concerning love (Jn 13:34).
(vs23-25) [Isaiah 40:6-8] Unlike silver and gold or futile, empty ways of life (1Pe 1:19), we have been born again of an imperishable seed. The enduring word of the Lord will not wither nor will it fall off.
When compared with our Lord, we are literally described as grass that withers and all the glory we attain in this life is as a flower that falls off. We cant redeem ourselves and we can therefore never consider our importance as individuals as even near that of Christ our Savior. The problem of evangelism therefore becomes a difficult recognition that:
This is His Gospel, not ours.
That it is for His glory, not ours.
We are extended an invitation and commissioned to take part in the witnessing, and the preaching of His Gospel.
The imperishable Gospel (v23)
One of the most important clarifications that this passage makes is the profound nature of this imperishable Word.
This Word stands
This Word endures
And this Word is imperishable
We serve a God whose Gospel is expressed in the motive, birth, life, baptism, miraculous ministry, death, resurrection, and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit made possible in the person of Jesus Christ. The Gospel we have been commissioned to preach is one that changes lives.
You know this because its changed you
When we understand the Gospel is imperishable and that it endures beyond our lifetime there is a newfound humility with which we begin to preach and interact with it.
Do we have an inward compulsion to preach it? (1Co 9:16).
The continuing impact of the Gospel (vs22-23)
The esteemed theologian John R.W. Stott writes in his remarkable book The Cross of Christ about the new relationship the believer experiences with the Lord upon a confession of sin and acceptance of Christs redemptive sacrifice for them. This is accompanied by an increased boldness, love, and joy according to Stott (pp. 250-251).
Do we who would consider ourselves as having been saved still continue to feel boldness, love, and joy?
Were humbled by His sacrifice but our redemption affords us a boldness to ask, seek, and knock (Mt 7:7).
We feel a greater love for one other, as was referenced earlier in the new commandment.
The Psalmist David writes return to me the joy of your salvation
From this we can ask ourselves where we stand presently in proximity to the Gospel. Does it still excite, inspire, or motivate us? Do we experience the same boldness, love, and joy? In order to be effective witnesses we must ask this of ourselves.
Do we see our lives in the peace and righteousness God has redeemed us to (2Co 5:21)?
He made Him become sin who knew no sin, that we might become the righteousness of God (2Co 5:21).
We learn in life that we must press onward toward the goal that is our salvation (1Pe 1:9).
Defeating a post-Gospel attitude
When we live in times that exclaim thats old news! to nearly anything that happens or develops and we pride ourselves on the immediate access of information (e.g. Wikipedia, Google, Facebook) a post-Gospel attitude can easily overcome us.
We must understand that the Gospel endures forever and that when we who were once sinners lost to the pleasures of this world encountered the Gospel, it changed us. When we encounter the Gospel we not only are filled with gratitude but we are filled with a joy that motivates the sharing of our testimony to any that will listen. A post-Gospel attitude is one in which we neither feel the same gratitude or indebtedness to the work of Christ nor do we feel motivated to share it with others. Let us here consider a story Richard Wurmbrand shares in his book Tortured for Christ that helps illustrate this.
The passage we have discussed in 1 Peter should remind us of the ever enduring Word of the Lord; it should also further reveal to us what a mighty God we serve. But, it should also be a convicting call to be better stewards of His Gospel. We must be reverent of our Father in how we conduct ourselves during our time on earth (v17), recognizing the imperishable redemption bought for us (v18). He is the final atonement as the spotless Lamb who redeems us again to relationship with God (v19). Therefore, our faith and hope are in God (vs20-21). In our purification we learn to love and love well (v22). We recognize in new light that though we wither and our glory falls away we have been entrusted to preach an imperishable, enduring Word.