“6In this you greatly rejoice even if now, for a little while, you are being distressed by various trials, 7so that the genuineness of your faith—more valuable than gold, which perishes—though being tested by fire, may be found to praise, and honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8Him you love [though] you do not see, in whom you believe though you have not beheld [Him], but greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory 9to receive the end of faith: the salvation of your souls,” (1 Peter 1:6-9; from the Greek).
The idea of the new birth, which we examined last week, Peter means for us to keep ever before our eyes as we continue our reading through his letter. We have been born again into a new family and, as such, we have a new relationship with every individual and group that exists. We have a new relationship with God our Father (1:3, 14, 17), with believers (1:22-2:5), with unbelieving Jews (2:6-8), unbelieving Gentiles (2:9-12), with unbelieving magistrates (2:13-17), with unbelieving masters (2:18-20), with unbelieving spouses (3:1-7) and, yes, with the whole unbelieving world (3:8-22).
In our dealings with these unbelievers, we will go through various trials. Even those to whom Peter was writing at the time were already undergoing much hardship at the hands of their oppressors. How ought we to think about these trials? How ought we to consider these hard times God’s people often have to undergo? Should we look at it with a cynical eye as is modeled by Tevye throughout the play Fiddler on the Roof, second-guessing God every step of the way? No.
We must come to see our trials as God working out the best possible good through even the worst of circumstances. We stand as it were on one side of a mountain, and all we see is the mountain. We do not see the prize toward which we journey, but only the obstacle. We fret, and moan, and complain. “Why is it,” we ask, “that we must choose between taking the long journey around the mountain or the treacherous journey over the mountain? Why, God, did you have to put this mountain here in the first place?”
Peter would have us to understand that the mountain exists to prove our character, to prove what God has already declared of us: that we are his beloved children and heirs of His promise! Peter has declared of us that we have an inheritance being kept for us and, not only that but, we are being kept for that promise that is being kept for us. How do we know? How can we be certain? The way that we know is that we have faith. To put it succinctly, the proof of our hope in this great promise of God is our faith.
What though is the proof of our faith? The proof of our faith comes through the testing of our faith. The trials we undergo in this present time, though they be many, are meant to prove the genuineness of our faith, just as the refiner’s fire is meant to test and prove the genuineness of gold. Yet, our faith is greater than gold. The gold of this world must be left at the doorstep of heaven. We cannot take it with us into eternity. Only the soul that passes the test of the Grand Refiner may truly pass into eternity and receive the promised blessing.
This is the end of our faith: the salvation of our souls. Those who remain in the world, those who do not bend the knee in this life, have an eternity of fire and judgment to which to look forward. Those who have been judged in this life (1 Peter 4:17) and proven true may enter His rest having been kept by Him for it.