Thursday, November 08, 2007

What a Privilege!

A meditation on 1 Peter 1:10-12.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be someone else? Little boys and girls may dream of being baseball players, astronauts, pro golfers, or firefighters, but they don't know what it's like. What's it like to feel the grass beneath your feet in Fenway Park? What's it like to walk on the first tee at a major championship? What's it like for every part of your body to feel the force of the space shuttle lifting off? What's it like to walk out of a burning building with a child in your arms who would have otherwise died?

We can make guesses, read accounts, even interview people who have had the experience, but it's not quite the same. There is a certain privilege to having the experience. In these verses, Peter is writing to scattered, suffering believers about their experience in Christ. He has already assured them in their status as "elect aliens" (v. 1-2), instructed them in the blessings of salvation (v. 3-5), and encouraged them for their joy in all things (v. 6-9). Now, Peter tells them how their salvation really sets them apart from two distinguished groups...the prophets and the angels. In comparison with these two, these scattered, suffering believers are really quite privileged.

Peter first mentions the prophets, who prophesied of the grace that was to come (v. 10). As the young children's catechism reminds us, these prophets were some of the "chosen men inspired by God" that wrote most of what we call the Old Testament. They stood up to rebellious, sinful people and called them back to the Lord. They predicted the coming of the Messiah in a multitude of passages. What an amazing place these men have in the salvation history of God! So, what does Peter say about them?

First, the prophets made searches and inquiries, seeking to know more about the Messiah (v. 10-11a). The prophets did not only preach with passion and predict the Messiah, they intently looked for Him. They longed to see Him, to know Him, to follow Him. Who was this Messiah that would be full of grace? When you take a look at a few places in the book of Daniel, you'll see that amid all the prophecy are places where Daniel didn't get it and wanted to study more (8:15, 27; 9:2; 12:8). In fact, Jesus said, "...for I say to you, that many prophets and kings wished to see the things which you see, and did not see them, and to hear the things that you hear, and did not hear them" (Luke 10:24). The prophets lived searching lives, trying to understand what God was doing...maybe even wondering what the fulfillment of their own prophecies would look like.

Second, the prophets were inspired by the Holy Spirit (v. 11b). We know this from 2 Peter 1:21, but we can also see it right here, as the Spirit of Christ indicated the Messiah's sufferings and future glories. The Spirit was active among the prophets, keeping them from error in their prophecies and protecting the writings that would be handed down for generations to come. These men spoke wonderful, Spirit-inspired things that they would never see fulfilled in their lifetime.

Third, the prophets understood that they were serving Peter's readers, and even us (v. 12). They understood that their place in salvation history was to lay the groundwork for not only the Messiah's coming, but also for the faith of men and women who would read their prophecy and see the Messiah as the fulfillment of those prophecies. Their great service to you and to me is that the fulfillment of their writings, the Lord Jesus Himself, is preached in the gospel.

Having looked at all that the prophets accomplished, do you see your great privilege? (1) The prophets searched and searched for a Messiah that they would never find in their lifetime. They died with only the hope that one day He would come. We actually have this Messiah in the person of Jesus Christ, having our sins cleansed by Him, and having Him stand before the Father as our Advocate. It is a life experience that not even the prophets had. (2) The prophets had the Holy Spirit inspire them to speak wonderful truths about the Messiah, but we have the Holy Spirit...God Himself...dwelling in our hearts. He testifies that we are the children of God, and He is the seal that we are forever redeemed. These are assurances that can only be experienced after the death and resurrection of Christ, so they are privileges that the prophets did not have. (3) The prophets were our servants. Their lives were about our lives. They spoke and wrote so we would listen and believe. Their writings exist to help us see and savor the glory of Jesus Christ and embrace Him as the supreme Lord of all.

The other thing that Peter mentions is that angels long to look into the things of salvation. There's not much written there, but it seems that our position in Christ is the envy of angels. It is our redemption and the daily experience of it that angels wish they knew. You see, fallen angels are not redeemed, and holy angels are not redeemed. I think Peter is getting at this...there is something so great, so glorious, so Christ-exalting about having fallen into sin and being redeemed from it that angels wish they could glorify God as we do. They can read the Scripture, watch and celebrate as men and women are converted, and continually wonder...but they will never know what it's like to be be bought with the precious blood of the Lamb.

You know that saying, "It's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all"? Well, I think it would be fair to say that it's better to have fallen and been redeemed than never to have fallen at all. In the sovereignty and wisdom of God, He allowed mankind to fall into son because there was something more glorious then for humans to never sin. That something is for a race of redeemed, born-again men and women and children to have been redeemed from their sin. Why is this so glorious? Because it fulfills God's ultimate purpose in the universe, which is to exalt above all things His name and His exalt the Lord Jesus Christ to the highest place with a name that is above every name.

Now, knowing your privileged position in Christ, don't take it for granted. Don't think that conversion is "the shallow end of the pool". Enjoying the work of God in Christ is the greatest joy there is on earth. Don't long for "deeper things". This is the deepest water there is...that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died a substitutionary death, was buried, and rose on the third day, proving that He was, is, and always will be the Savior, King, and Judge of all mankind. By faith, He is ours, and we are His. This is not is glorious!!! Swim in the great waters of redemption today, and know that you are the envy of prophets and angels because of what Christ has done in and for you.