20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you 21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for
“All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.”
And this word is the good news that was preached to you. – 1 Peter 1:20-25 ESV
“He was foreknown before the foundation of the world.” Who and what is Peter talking about? Obviously, the “he” to which Peter refers is Jesus. But what does he mean when he says that Jesus was “foreknown?” Isn’t Jesus part of the Godhead and, therefore, a non-created being who is eternal in nature? So, in what sense was He foreknown?
The answer is found in the preceding verse, where Peter refers to Jesus as the lamb whose precious blood was shed. It was John the Baptist who, upon seeing Jesus, stated, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 ESV). It was Jesus’ incarnation that had been foreknown by God. In other words, it was His assumption of humanity that God preordained, long before He spoke the universe into being. And it was in His role as a man that Jesus would serve as the substitutionary sacrifice for the sins of mankind. The incarnation was not a knee-jerk reaction on God’s part. The fall did not catch God off guard and force Him to implement an alternative strategy. In fact, at no point in the unfolding of the human story has God ever been surprised or forced to come up with a plan B. His Son’s invasion of earth as the sinless Lamb of God had been in place long before Adam and Eve were create or had the opportunity to sin.
And Peter drives the home the point that the preordained plan for Jesus’ incarnation was ultimately fulfilled in time and space. He actually showed up, on time, and according to plan. And Peter reminds his readers that, “in these last days he has been revealed for your sake” (1 Peter 1:20 NLT). Jesus, the Son of God, became a man living, breathing man and made Himself known and knowable. The apostle John put it this way:
…the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. – John 1:29 ESV
Yet, as Peter stated earlier, his readers had never had the privilege of seeing Jesus with their own eyes.
You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. – 1 Peter 1:8 NLT
But it was Jesus’ preordained and predetermined incarnation that made possible His death, burial, and resurrection. Had Jesus not taken on human flesh, He could not have lived a fully obedient life and fulfilled the requirement of a sinless sacrifice. It was only as the unblemished Lamb that Jesus could offer His life as an acceptable payment for the sins of mankind. And His resurrection was proof that God the Father was fully satisfied with His sacrifice. That lead Peter to announce:
Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory. – 1 Peter 1:21 NLT
The apostle Paul echoed Peter’s sentiments when he wrote:
…being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. – Philippians 2:8-11 ESV
Both Peter and Paul stressed the significance of Jesus’ resurrection. Had Jesus not been raised from the dead, there would be no hope of forgiveness for sin or any chance of being restored to a right relationship with God. It was Paul who repeatedly warned the believers in Corinth of the vital nature of the resurrection.
And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. – 1 Corinthians 15:14 ESV
And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. – 1 Corinthians 15:17 ESV
If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. – 1 Corinthians 15:19 ESV
And Peter reminds his readers that because Jesus was raised from the dead, their sins truly were forgiven.
You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth… – 1 Peter 1:22 NLT
Having never seen the resurrected Lord themselves, they still placed their faith and hope in the reality of His resurrection. They believed the truth concerning His sacrificial death and the miraculous news of His restoration to life.
This is where Peter takes the inexplicable doctrine of the resurrection and makes it practical. Jesus’ resurrection guaranteed their transformation, and their transformation was expected to result in tangible manifestations of love for one another. They were expected to “love one another earnestly from a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22 ESV). Their new lives in Christ were expected to bear fruit. The “seed” had been planted and the expectation was for that seed to produce fruit. This statement from Peter is reminiscent of the words of Jesus.
“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives.” – John 12:24 NLT
God had spoken His plan of redemption into existence long before He created the sun, moon, stars, the earth, or any living thing that lives on it. His Word concerning mankind’s salvation had included the death of the Seed – His Son. But with Jesus’ resurrection, He became the first of many who would experience newness of life. Or as Paul put it in one of his sermons recorded in the book of Acts: “…the Messiah would suffer and be the first to rise from the dead, and in this way announce God’s light to Jews and Gentiles alike” (Acts 26:23 NLT).
This new life should produce a new way of living. Those who have placed their faith in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ have received the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit of God. And the Spirit provides them with a radical new capacity to live and love like Jesus did.
Peter seems to be attempting to refocus their attention from their sufferings in this earthly life to the joys of eternal life in Christ. Because of the resurrection of Jesus, their lives were to be marked by joy, hope, and love. Even the trials and difficulties of this life were powerless to thwart the preordained will of God. Earthly troubles were incapable of thwarting God’s sovereign plan of redemption or robbing believers of “the gracious salvation that will come…when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world” (1 Peter 1:13 NLT).
Peter reminded them of the fleeting nature of this life.
“People are like grass;
their beauty is like a flower in the field.
The grass withers and the flower fades.
But the word of the Lord remains forever.” – 1 Peter 1:24-25 NLT
The trials of life will one day end, and those who perpetrated them will pass away as well. But the word of the Lord remains forever. His promise of eternal life will never end. The resurrection of Jesus remains historically true and eternally significant. And, as followers of Christ, we can rest in the knowledge that God’s promises will all be fulfilled.
God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through? – Numbers 23:19 NLT
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
New English Translation (NET)NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.
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