Sermon preached on 1 Peter 1:10-12 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 2/20/2011 in Novato, CA.
Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
1 Peter 1:10-12
“Who Prophesied of the Grace That Would Come to You”
When you read a book it generally tells a story. It has some main story or plot that it is developing throughout the book. This story will usually come to some climax and resolution in the book. Of course, this is not the case with every book. Some books are an anthology. Instead of one story, they might be a collection of stories. Sometimes they are even a collection of whole books. I have some of those in my theological library; a book that collects all the books and writings of a scholar into a single big book. When you have those anthologies, the individual stories and books inside may or may not be very related. But they usually aren’t telling one main story or plot.
Well sometimes when we approach the bible, we can think of like it’s an anthology. It is a book that contains within it sixty-six books written by about forty some human authors, written over thousands of years. We can think they are just loosely connected books. And yet as we’ll see today, they are more than that. This Bible tells a story. Though each book within it can stand on its own, the reason they are collected together for us is because they are also telling a larger story. It’s the story of Christ. It’s the story of salvation. It’s the story of how God redeems a people from their sin through the appearing of Jesus Christ. Of course, that shouldn’t surprise us when we realize who the author is. Yes, forty some human authors wrote the books in the Bible. Yes, they were written at different times. But this passage tells us that there was a single divine author behind all of these books. It’s the Holy Spirit. And here in verse 11, we see Peter call the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ. The Spirit of Christ, has spoken through the prophets and apostles to tell us about Christ.
That makes sense. And that’s what we’ll get to consider today. The focal point of this passage is about Christ revealed in Scripture. The focal point of this passage is that Christ is the focal point of Scripture. This should color our perspective on how we approach and understand God’s Word. It fundamentally is a unified story. At its core, it’s developing a main plot about the Messiah. About how the Christ would bring salvation to God’s elect. And so here’s how we’ll tackle this passage today. We’ll consider first the Christ-centered perspective of the prophets. Related to that, we’ll think about the sufferings of Christ and his subsequent glories. Then we’ll survey the Scriptures a bit to demonstrate this perspective in them. Lastly, we’ll relate this to the gospel preaching that we do today, and think about the application that has for us.
Let’s dig into then this Christ-centered perspective of the prophets. Let’s begin in verse 10. Peter draws us back to consider the prophets. These are the prophets of the Old Testament, though you could certainly include John the Baptist as the last of these prophets. Prophets, of course, are people who have been given revelation from God. We see that here in this passage. Well, Peter tells us in verse 10 the subject matter of these prophets. He tells us in verse 10 that they were told to prophesy about salvation and grace.
Verse 10 says “concerning this salvation.” That’s looking back to the previous verses, especially verse 9. This is the salvation that has saved us from our sins. It’s the salvation that is now awaiting Christ’s return when we will be brought to glory. This salvation is put here in terms of grace in verse 10 as well. The salvation that’s mentioned here is intimately connected to the grace that’s mentioned there. They are two sides to the same coin. Our salvation is all the grace of God. So, verse 10 says that these prophets were dealing with this salvation and grace. But notice who is the main beneficiaries of this salvation and grace. It’s us. Peter calls it grace that would come to you. That includes us!
Verse 11 describes further the revelation that the prophets of old were given. It was revelation about the Christ. It says that the Spirit of Christ in these prophets was bearing witness ahead of time about Christ. Specifically about the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow those sufferings. In other words, the subject matter given to these prophets was salvation and grace through Christ. Salvation by grace, brought about through the sufferings and glory of Christ. That’s what Peter says the prophets were told about. That was their ultimate message.
Because of this, Peter says that the prophets were ultimately serving them: the recipients of Peter’s letter. The Christians who had seen the coming of Christ. Who had received Christ into their lives. Who had experienced the revealed salvation of Christ. Who had tasted of God’s grace in Christ. The prophets of old were ultimately serving the Christians who’d experience firsthand what they predicted long before. That, would of course, include us! In other words, the prophets of old were ultimately serving us!
Now, let me offer some important clarification here. Peter is not saying that the prophets didn’t have any way in which they served their own generation. No, certainly, the messages the prophets gave, were needed for those generations too, before Christ came. The revelation given to the prophets did have value for them too. But a lot of the value came in declaring wonderful promises of grace that would be realized with the coming of Christ. Much of the value of these prophecies back then, was to call the people to faith in the coming of Christ. In the same way, Peter is not saying that the prophets and saints of old weren’t saved. No, they too knew the grace of God. They too knew the salvation of God. But they knew it from afar. They looked ahead in faith to the coming of Christ. And they experienced in types and shadows, like in the salvation from Egypt. As they trusted in the promised Messiah to come, the were saved, even from their sins. They found their salvation through faith in Christ to come who would achieve that salvation.
So, my clarification is that these prophecies blessed the original generations that received them. And yet, we can’t miss that Peter’s point is that in a real way these prophecies particularly serve us now, today. Now, with the coming of Christ, the things they saw from a distance have been clearly manifested to us. We now can benefit from these in a way even greater than the saints of old could. That’s why it says in verse 12 that the prophets were told this. The prophets were told that these things had a greater value beyond their day. How they’d ultimately and especially serve a greater generation. You might think about how Daniel in Daniel 12:4 was told to seal up the book of his prophecy because it dealt with the matters of the end times. Or, how Habakkuk in Habakkuk 2:3 was told that the vision he received was for an appointed time; that it will speak at the end, though for now he had would have to wait for its fulfillment. Those are examples of Peter’s point. That the prophets were told that their prophecies ultimately served a future generation. Our generation.
And so how did the prophets of old respond to this? They inquired. They searched carefully. Three times in verses 10-11 with three different verbs we’re told this. In other words, this was really interesting to them. They got these prophecies about the Christ to come, and they wanted to know more! Verse 11 tells us a little about their search; “searching what, or what manner of time.” They wanted the details. When would this happen? Who would be the Messiah? How would all these things work themselves out? Would they live to see these things? The wanted the details. We’re not told exactly how their search went. They probably meditated specifically on the things they were told. But they probably compared them with the other prophecies that had come before them too. The verbs used here about their search are very active verbs. They weren’t just wondering about these details. They were actively searching them out. They longed to see how they’d all work out. And yet, we are the ones who been able to see how they have worked out.
This is so exciting that this passage ends with the angels inquiring into all of this. When you first read it, what the angels are doing sounds very similar to what the prophets are said to have done. However, the prophet’s inquiry is put in the past tense. In the past, the prophets diligently searched out all of this as best as they could. Yet, the angels still have a desire to currently look into all of this. We’re not told much about this angelic inquiry. But I think the basic idea is that what’s going on in all this is still something very exciting. Currently. Christ has appeared, his salvation has come, it’s being received by Christians. Seeing how all the aspects of this great salvation is being worked out in the lives of the church is exciting! That, coupled with the fact that some of this is yet to be fully realized, also is something that I’m sure the angels long to understand more too.
You see, the prophets spoke about both the sufferings of Christ, and his subsequent glories; per verse 11. The sufferings have happened already. Christ came and suffered on earth, culminating in the cross and the grave. His glories have already begun to be realized. He rose again. He ascended into heaven. He is seated at the right hand of God. Those are all a part of Christ’s glory. Yet, we talked about last week that Christ is coming again. He will come again to bring us to glory. That too is part of his glory. The prophets of old spoke about those things too. The angels surely are wanting to look into those matters too. How will the remaining prophecies concerning Christ’s glory be realized? When and how will it happen! Those are questions that we ask too.
And yet right now we can stand back and see Christ’s sufferings as having happened. We can stand back and see much of Christ’s subsequent glory already. We can see that this is fulfillment of the Old Testament. The Old Testament pointed to Christ. As Christians, we now identify with Christ. Through faith, we are united to Christ. That means that we are identified and united with his sufferings. And we are identified and united with his glory. Scripture can say now that we’ve died with him, and that we’ve been raised with him. The Christian gospel says that Christ had to suffer in order to atone for our iniquity before God. He suffered and died on the cross, to pay the price of sin. That the guilt we had before God would be forgiven. He did that in our place. He asks us to identify with him through faith. Identify with him in the cross; see that as in our place. And then we identify with him in glory. That is our hope. We now have a living hope of future glory when Christ returns. What the prophets spoke about from a distance, now has so clearly become our identifying story. We are united with the Christ who both suffered and has now risen to glory! The story so many prophets of old told, has so clearly been revealed now. And it so clearly has become our story. They identified with it at a distance, as a promise. We’ve tasted of it in fulfillment.
So, what I’d like to do now is to drive home this point with a brief survey of Scripture. Peter essentially says that Christ is the focal point of the Scriptures. Particularly he says that Christ’s sufferings and glories are the focal point of the Old Testament scriptures. I want to show that to be the case; that this is not just Peter’s idea. First, observe with me that this is the both the witness of the New Testament, and its example.
If you have your Bibles, and you’re quick, you can flip along with me. Start in Luke 24. There Jesus appears to some disciples after the resurrection. The disciples are on the road to Emmaus. Jesus appears to them but doesn’t at first let them recognize him. They are dumbfounded at Jesus’ death, and even more so by the reports of his resurrection. In Luke 24:25, Jesus rebukes them and says they should have believed the prophets. Jesus said to them, “Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” Jesus was referring to the prophets. Then he goes on to show them from Moses and all the prophets the things concerning himself in all the Scriptures. Later in that same chapter, Jesus tells the disciples that the Law, and the Prophets, and the Psalms, all talked about him! It says that Jesus then opened their eyes to understand the Scriptures. Presumably that’s when Peter himself finally got it. That’s why he was able to write this passage today that we’ve been studying.
Again in John 5:39, Jesus says that the Scriptures testify about him. Matthew 26:24 says that the Son of Man, i.e Jesus, goes as it is written of him; referring to Scripture. Well, these Scriptures referred to in Matthew and John would have been the Old Testament. Or in Acts 17:11, when the Bereans are commended, it’s because they searched the Scriptures to verify Paul’s teaching about Jesus. Well, those Scriptures would have been the Old Testament; they would have been able to see Christ in the Old Testament. Actually, earlier in that same chapter, Acts 17:2, it says that Paul was reasoning with the Thessalonians from the Scriptures to show that the Messiah had to suffer and rise again from the dead. It says that was his custom. In other words, Paul regularly showed the sufferings and subsequent glories of the Christ from the Old Testament. There are other passages as well I could refer to. My point is that the New Testament witnesses to the same thing Peter is saying in our passage. It’s also seen by way of example. You’ll notice as you read the New Testament it’s full of quotes from the Old Testament. Repeatedly the Old Testament is quoted to talk in some way about the Christ. And so both the witness and example of the New Testament affirms what Peter says right here in this passage.
So let’s do briefly what Jesus did on that road to Emmaus. Let’s survey the Old Testament and see Christ’s sufferings and glory predicted. I won’t have the time to go into the depth Jesus probably did. But let’s just take each major section of the Old Testament and find an example. You’ve got the Torah, the Historical Books, the Wisdom Literature including the Psalms, and you have the Prophetical Books. Certainly some passages are more specific than others in Scripture. That’s why the prophets had to inquire on this. That’s why the disciples needed their eyes opened up. But we now can sit back and see all the connections from the vantage point of the New Testament.
Let’s start in the first section – the Torah. Go ahead and turn to Genesis 3:15. Right at the fall of mankind, a seed of the woman is promised. This seed would do battle against that serpent, the devil, who had tempted mankind to fall into sin. Right at the moment of the fall, God promises a savior; the Messiah. One of the woman’s seed would rise up and crush the serpent’s head. Yet it also says the serpent would strike his heal. That one verse talks about both the sufferings of the Christ, and the glorious victory of the Christ.
Flip over into the historical books. There you find God making a promise to David of a coming king from his lineage that would rule forever. That’s in 2 Samuel 7. That’s a promise of the Messiah. It speaks of the Christ’s glory. Yet, that’s put into tension by the fact that the historical books record the nation being destroyed because of their sin. How could the people experience this glorious king, while in exile because of their sin? How could the promised Christ come and reign forever in the midst of such suffering?
Well, that’s a problem that the prophets take up. Flip over to the prophetical books. Isaiah, for example, promises the coming of a Suffering Servant. Isaiah 53 talks about how this servant would atone for the sins of God’s people. He would do it through his sufferings. Well, that predicted the sufferings of the Christ! Other prophets talked about these sufferings, as well as the glories of the Christ. You have the glory of Christ, for example, seen in Zechariah 9. There it talks about the King riding into Zion on a donkey. That passage describes this king ultimately bringing peace and a kingdom whose dominion is to the ends of the earth.
Of course, then you have the Psalms. You have ones like Psalm 2 that talk about the glory of the reigning Messianic king. This king has the nations and the whole earth as his inheritance, and the world is told to kiss the king, lest he be angry. Yet, at the same time we see psalms like Psalm 22 talk about the suffering of the coming Messiah. Psalm 22:1 is the one that starts out saying, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” Jesus made it clear that ultimately described his suffering.
So much more could be said here. As we’ve been doing our Bible Survey through Sunday School I’ve tried to help us think this way. But let me offer a clarification here as I sum up this point. Am I saying that every single passage in the Old Testament is about Jesus? Well, in some sense, yes. But, certainly I would need to clarify that. Obviously, not every single chapter is as explicitly a reference to Christ as others. Some chapters and verses in the Old Testament are clear, explicit, direct references about the Christ to come. Others have the overarching story of Christ and redemption somewhere in the backdrop. It’s the story of Christ and his salvation that’s the overarching story being developed in the Old Testament, and in the whole Bible. That means that for us as Christians, we can and should make use of the Old Testament. And I think we can and should look for Christ as we study it. We should be learning to see how the New Testament apostles found Christ in the Old Testament. We should look to read the Old Testament in the same way they did. As we do, the sufferings and subsequent glories of Christ will jump out at us more and more.
You see I’m coming from the perspective that preachers today are to be gospel preachers. They are to chiefly preach about Christ and the gospel. They are to teach about salvation, and God’s grace. They are to do that from Old and New Testaments. They are to present this as the central message of Scripture. Please understand that I’m not saying we don’t have a place for moral imperative in our preaching. Of course we do. We must teach the moral imperatives along with the core of the gospel. We should look to pointedly apply all of that to us as Christians. But you see the perspective I’m emphasizing here is from verse 12. Verse 12 draws a connection between the prophets of old with the gospel preachers of today. Verse 12 says that the things the prophets proclaimed are the same things that the gospel preachers today have announced. I’m sure the gospel preachers that Peter especially had in mind here is the holy apostles that first brought the gospel to the people. But now, what do pastors and preachers do? They preach the Word of God. But the Word of God according to this passage, both old and new, is about Christ. The prophets of the Old Testament and the apostles of the New Testament all preached about Christ and the gospel. This isn’t to say that they didn’t have a lot of things to talk about. I’m not discounting the full breadth of Scripture. But the focal point of everything they taught was Christ. This is true for all the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments. They are unfolding God’s plan of salvation achieved in Christ. This is why Paul can summarize his ministry in 1 Corinthians 1:23 saying, “But we preach Christ.”
If you are ever looking for a new church or are evaluating a pastor, this is where you should start. Are they preaching Christ? Are they proclaiming the gospel of salvation from all the Scriptures? If that isn’t their primary focus, then they’ve missed the point. They’ve misread the story. The Bible is a story about Christ written by the Spirit of Christ.
As we close out this message for today, let me offer some final application to us. I want to bring that application by fitting this passage for us into the context of 1 Peter. We’ve already said the last two weeks that Peter is presenting our life here and now as one of pilgrims. Pilgrims that may suffer now for a little while, and yet we rejoice in this as we have a hope of glory. Well, do you see how this passage today paints that as the story of Scripture? The story of Scripture is about Christ’s sufferings followed by his glory. As we are reminded of this story today, be reminded that it’s the story of our life as well. Our life has become identified with Christ.
So put that all together. See the high privilege you have. When we suffer now for a little while, we might be tempted to just grieve. Maybe even get depressed. But do you see the great position in history that we live? Prophets of old long to experience what we are experiencing. The angels of heaven desire to look into more the things we are experiencing. And our momentary afflictions now for a little while identify us with Christ. Think about that – if we pray to be more like Christ, don’t be surprised when suffering comes. And yet if we identify with Christ in his sufferings, we will certainly identify with him in his glory. God has orchestrated all of history to come to this point. And that point is described in verse 10 as “Grace, that would come to you.” In all this, it’s God’s grace to you.
As we rejoice in the grace that has come to us, we see our high place of privilege. And yet we do recognize one part in which we can still identify with the prophets of old. They investigated and inquired about the times of Christ’s suffering and glory. We’ve seen his sufferings. That time has come. We’ve seen much of his glory already too. But we too join with the prophets of old looking for those remaining glories of Christ to be revealed. We too yearn and groan for the day of Christ. We desire to know what time that will be. As each day goes by, we are closer to glory than the day before. Come quickly, Lord Jesus. Amen.
Copyright (c) 2011 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.