1 Peter 1:20-22: A Devotional Commentary

Lord, in our busy lives we tend to get so distracted by the concerns of TODAY, that we totally forget the exceptional gifts of YESTERDAY and the astounding promises of TOMORROW. Enable us today to fix our eyes on the One who fixed His heart on us.
Amen.

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For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but was manifested in these last times for the sake of you 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.

1 Peter 1:20-22

Last week we were challenged to “conduct our lives in fear” because of who God is and what He has done. Who He is: the Universal, unbiased Judge of all people. What He did: purchased us out of our enslavery to worthlessness at infinite cost to Himself. But even though we studied these things at length, we never finished reading this remarkable sentence — a fact that is hidden in most English translations, in which verse 19 wraps up with a nice little period, and verse 20 kicks off with a brand new capital letter. But that punctuation masks the flow of Peter’s original language and breaks up his climactic conclusion.

What you can’t see in the English is that the final word of v. 19 is “Christ”, and the first word in v. 20 is a verb describing him; in fact, it is the first of four verbs outlining the extraordinary arc of his redemptive work across all time and space. So our goal for today is to unpack these four verbs and let them remind us of our amazing Savior and God.

1.  He was FOREKNOWN

The first verb in this portrait is: “He was foreknown” (before the foundation of the world). Other translations say “ordained” or “chosen”, but “foreknown” is the most literal. It comes from the Greek word meaning “known beforehand”. But of course, that doesn’t mean that God merely “predicted” Christ’s coming. It’s not as if the Father looked way off into the future and said, “Well, what do you know? I see Jesus going up on a cross!” No, God knew the end of the story from the beginning the way an author knows what’s going to happen in chapter 15 even when you are just getting started on page 1. He knows because He decided. It’s what we call a “foregone conclusion”. The plan was all laid out from the beginning. The cross was not the backup strategy.

And when exactly did He know this plan? Peter spells it out: “Before the foundation of the world.” So just pause there and consider the ramifications of that statement. Genesis 1:1. “In the beginning, God created.” He made a decision at that moment to create the Universe. Nothing forced him to do this. There was no unmet need inside Him that compelled Him to create us. It’s not as if He was lonely or anything. He was never “alone”. For all eternity the three persons of the Trinity existed in perfect joy and fellowship. They needed literally and absolutely nothing.

But God chose to write Genesis 1:1. And when He did, He knew what it meant. At the very moment He spoke the cosmos into existence, He did it knowing that He was signing His own son’s death sentence. He foreknew it. When He opened his paint can and began splattering the stars across the galaxy, He knew exactly what He was in for — what His only SON was in for. He knew which rocks would form the Via Delarosa. He knew which forest would one day provide the wood for a Roman cross. His finger traced the ribbon of iron ore in the bedrock from which He knew the nails of Calvary would one day be forged.

He knew.

And He went through with it anyways.

2. He was REVEALED

Peter now brings us to the next stroke in this majestic portrait. “He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was revealed in these last times.

Now, I unpack the verb in this clause, I need to point out a grammatical detail that doesn’t come across in the English very clearly. There’s two tiny little words that Peter salts this sentence with; they are called “particles” by the grammarians. In the greek they are “men” and “de”, one before the first phrase and the other before the second. These two particles are often found gluing two halves of a Greek sentence together, and there really isn’t a close English equivalent for the pair. Sometimes they highlight the contrast between two phrases (as in, “on the one hand x, but on the other hand y). But other times they connect the sentence more tightly than a regular conjunction (“both x and y). In this particular case — if I understand Peter correctly — I think they could best be translated as “Not only… but also…”

“Not only was he foreknown before the foundation of the world but was also revealed (made manifest) in these last times.”

The point Peter seems to be driving home is this: Not only did God very intentionally plan the entire redemption strategy before the beginning of time… but He also followed through. He didn’t back down when the curtain call came. He turned the spotlight on His Son and “manifested” Him when the time came to enact the death scene. And in these first two phrases, Peter emphasizes the history-spanning scope of this spectacular drama: stretching from before the “foundation of the world” all the way to these “last times” (that is, to this final age which was inaugurated at the incarnation of Christ). From the beginning to the end of time, the Messianic story occupies center stage.

Peter concludes this verse with a tiny phrase that is so  inconspicuous that we are liable to glance right past it without much thought. But when we pause to really study it, the full force of it is so overwhelming that it borders on the unbelievable.

For your sake.

In the Greek, it’s just two short  words: ”for you.” and from the structure of the sentence, it is evident that Peter means to apply this descriptive phrase to the entire verse. Now just think about the implications of that for a moment: we are accustomed to believing that whatever God does, he does for his own Glory. And rightly so, for “all things were created by Him and for Him,” as Paul reminds us (Col. 1:16). But Peter is asserting another truth here — one so astounding that it should literally take your breath away: the entirety of God’s sweeping Redemptive plan, from the Trinitarian deliberations in Heaven before the beginning of time, to the ascent of Jesus up Calvary’s hill, was, and is, all FOR YOU.

The God of all the cosmos looked down onto our sorry little lives, and He said, “Have I got something for you!” He thought it, He bought it, and He brought it about — for us. The most expensive gift in the history of the universe was addressed with our names. Have you ever heard him whisper these words to you? “I did it all for you.” This week as I pondered that, I honestly couldn’t help but protest: “No, Lord! It’s not about me! It’s not about us! We’re not the heroes in this story! It’s all about you!” And I heard his gentle response whispered through the words of this verse, “Yes. But My love, My gift, My desire is for you!  I did it all FOR YOU. Embrace it!”

Ah, but there’s the rub, no? This extraordinary gift cannot be enjoyed until it is received. And it cannot be received by those incapable of receiving it. Peter highlights this fact as he moves into the next verse. The last two words of verse 20 were “for you”. The first two words of verse 21 are “Through Him.” Peter explains that the very ability to receive this gift — the ability to “believe in God” — came through Jesus. He is saying that Jesus is not only the target and focus of our faith, but the source of it as well. Peter apparently had the same thought in mind in one of his very first sermons when he proclaimed, “It is in Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through Him that has given this healing” (Acts 3:16; emphasis added). Praise God! Not only does He extend an outlandish gift to us, He also provides the strength in our hands to be able to reach out and accept it!

3. He was RESURRECTED

But Peter is not done with his extraordinary portrait of the Savior. Two final verbs round out the picture. The next verb is found in the phrase, “God raised him from the dead.” For those of us who have been raised on the Easter Story since we were children, the impact of this comment may perhaps be lost on us. But just imagine what the resurrection must have meant to Peter himself. After watching his best friend get brutally tortured and executed… after suffering through days of bewildering darkness and grief… and after racing madly to the place of burial, only to find an empty hole in the ground… Peter finally saw something with his own eyes that would utterly and permanently transform his life: he saw his Lord and Savior alive. He never forgot this encounter until the day he died, and he preached it wherever he went: “God raised him from the dead.” Oh, may that cosmos-cracking reality grip our hearts every time we hear it!

4. He was GLORIFIED

And now we come to the final verbs of this profound proclamation: “and [God] glorified him” or “gave him glory.” This word “glory” is another of Peter’s favorites. He has already mentioned that the prophets of old predicted the sufferings of Christ and “the glories that would follow” (v. 11). And in a couple chapters he will remind us that “in everything God will be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.” (4:11). In fact, Peter concludes his second and final epistle with a similar doxology, in which he praises “our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to Whom be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” (2 Pet. 3:18) Keep in mind that Peter could be considered Jesus’ closest friend on earth — his dearest companion even amongst the disciples. I think it is fair to say that Peter likely knew Jesus better than any man alive. And if there is any question about what Peter really thought about this carpenter from Nazareth, passages like this resolve all doubt: He clearly considered Jesus as not just a normal man, not just a great Jew, or a mighty teacher and honored prophet. He considered Him the One who deserves all the glory due to God alone. And He boldly proclaims in this verse that it was God the Father Himself who bestowed that glory upon Him. This was either the greatest blasphemy a devout Jew could utter, or it was a proclamation of the deity of his Savior. What an amazing testimony!

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And so we finally come to the concluding stroke of this glorious painting. But before we look at it, I want you to ponder once more the four verbs that we have been studying, and I want to ask you this simple question: Who was the subject of each of these verbs? I asked this in a Bible study, and the first answer offered was “Jesus”. Seems obvious, right? We’ve been talking about Jesus since the beginning of this study. But in fact, that is not technically accurate. Grammatically speaking, the “subject” of the verb is the one who performs or accomplishes the action. In that sense, Jesus could be called the “object” of the verbs, but who was the “subject”? Look at them again:

He (Jesus) was foreknown before the foundation of the world.

He was revealed in these last times.

(God) raised Him from the dead…

…and gave Him glory.

So who did the foreknowing, the revealing, the raising, the glorifying? The answer, of course, is God the Father. And why is this such a significant point? Because in our last study we were told that God judges all men indiscriminately, based on their works. And Peter made it very clear that this ought to frighten us. And it absolutely should, because if I am relying on my works, even to the smallest degree, to get right with God, I have nothing to look forward to but fearful judgement. But praise God — Peter did not leave us in that hole. Instead he explains that this same God, this same holy Father, forged all time and space, bent earth and Heaven, and dedicated His own precious Son to free us and redeem us and make us holy. And so, as Peter so boldly proclaims in this final phrase, when you come to faith in Christ, your faith and hope are not in your works, they are not in your religion or philosophy, they do not rest in your great intellect or your moral discipline. No, they rest entirely in what GOD DID. “And so your faith and hope are in God” (v. 22).

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

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