Enjoying Fellowship with Christ

“Though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Pet. 1:8).

Fellowship with Christ is built on love, trust, and obedience.

The recipients of 1 Peter, like us, had never seen Christ but they enjoyed fellowship with Him just the same. And their fellowship was genuine because it was marked by love, trust, and obedience.

The love Peter speaks of in 1 Peter 1:8 isn’t shallow emotionalism or sentimentality. It’s the love of the will— the love of choice. His readers had chosen to love Christ despite never having seen Him physically. Such love is marked by obedience, as Jesus affirms in John 14: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. . . . He who does not love Me does not keep My words” (vv. 15, 24). To have fellowship with Christ is to love and obey Him.

Another element of fellowship is trust. After hearing reports about Christ’s resurrection, the disciple Thomas declared that he would trust Jesus only after seeing and touching Him. Jesus honored his wishes, saying, “Reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing” (John 20:27). But then Jesus said, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed” (v. 29). We as Christians are among those who believe in Christ, not having seen Him.

The result of loving and trusting Christ is “joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Pet. 1:8). This joy is something beyond the ability of speech and thought to convey. That’s obvious even on the human level—as evidenced by the thousands of songs that have attempted to communicate the joy of being in love. “Full of glory” refers to the divine element in Christian joy. It’s a supernatural endowment bestowed and energized by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22).

Enjoying fellowship with Christ is one of the supreme privileges of your Christian life. Strengthen and enrich that fellowship by learning the Word and relying on the Spirit. As you do, you will learn to love and trust Christ more deeply.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Ask God to teach you how to love and trust Him more faithfully. Thank Him for the joy that comes as you do.

For Further Study

  • Memorize Matthew 22:37.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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The Joy of Anticipated Reward

“That the proof of your faith . . . may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:7).

Your future reward is directly related to your present service.

The joy you experience after your faith has been tested and proven genuine is largely due to your present blessings and assurance of salvation. But there’s a future aspect as well: the joy of anticipating the reward you’ll receive from Jesus when you see Him face to face and hear “Well done, good and faithful servant! . . . Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matt. 25:21, NIV). Peter described it as the “praise and glory and honor [you’ll receive] at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:7).

“Praise” in that text speaks of verbal commendation. To receive “glory” is to be made like Christ. Jesus is the incarnation of God’s glory (John 1:14) and “we know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2). Paul spoke of those who “by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality” (Rom. 2:7). As a result they will receive what they seek (v. 10).

Peter probably used “honor” as a synonym for rewards, which God will grant to all who faithfully serve Him. I believe those rewards are various capacities for heavenly service and are directly related to the believer’s service in this life. Jesus said, “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done” (Rev. 22:12, emphasis added). Paul said, “He who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor” (1 Cor. 3:8, emphasis added).

God alone is worthy of praise, glory, and honor, but He will give you all three because you’ll be in the image of Jesus Christ—sinless and fully glorified (1 John 3:2). Until that time, “watch yourselves, that you might not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward” (2 John 8).

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Praise the Lord for the joy of anticipating your future reward.

For Further Study

  • Peter spoke of a time when Jesus will reward believers. What do these verses teach about that time: Romans 8:18, 1 Corinthians 1:7-8, 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10, and 1 Peter 4:10-13?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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Proving Your Faith

“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:6-7).

Proven faith brings joy and confidence.

Although some Christians fear that trials and persecutions can only rob them of their joy, Peter taught just the opposite. In fact, he said that joy comes not in spite of trouble but because of trouble. That’s because it’s easy to lose your joy if you doubt your salvation, but when your faith has been tested and proven to be genuine, doubts will disappear and you’ll have joy and assurance.

Every trial you face is designed to test and perfect your faith, and God carefully controls their parameters to accomplish that purpose. Verse 6 specifies that they are temporary, necessary, distressing, and multi-faceted, but they should never diminish your joy. He won’t allow you to undergo more than you can bear (1 Cor. 10:13).

Peter used the analogy of an assayer or goldsmith to illustrate the purging process that produces proven faith (v. 7). The fire symbolizes trials and the gold symbolizes your faith. Just as the refiner’s fire burns away the dross and leaves only pure gold, so God purges you through trials to reveal the purity of your faith.

That’s an appropriate analogy because gold was the most precious of metals and the standard for all monetary transactions. But as valuable as gold is, proven faith is infinitely more precious. Gold is temporal and perishable; proven faith is eternal.

So don’t fear trials when they come your way. Welcome them as opportunities to prove that your faith is real. Be encouraged that “after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you” (1 Pet. 5:10).

Suggestions for Prayer

  • If you are currently going through a time of testing, ask God for the grace and wisdom to pass the test. Thank Him in advance for the joy and confidence you’ll gain when the test is over.

For Further Study

  • Read 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, noting the trials Paul endured for His faith in Christ.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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Rejoicing in Your Inheritance

“In this you greatly rejoice” (1 Pet. 1:6).

Contemplating your eternal inheritance should give you joy that transcends any temporal circumstance.

Joy is a major theme in Scripture. The psalmist said, “Sing for joy in the Lord, O you righteous ones; praise is becoming to the upright” (Ps. 33:1); “My lips will shout for joy when I sing praises to Thee; and my soul, which Thou hast redeemed” (Ps. 71:23).

Even creation itself is said to rejoice in the Lord: “Thou dost make the dawn and the sunset shout for joy. . . . Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all it contains; let the field exalt, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy before the Lord. . . . Let the mountains sing together for joy before the Lord; for He is coming to judge the earth” (Ps. 65:8; 96:11-13; 98:8-9).

Joy is the special privilege of every believer, regardless of his or her circumstances. You might suffer untold heartache and persecution for your faith in Christ, but amid the severest trials, God wants you to know profound joy. That’s why Peter said, “To the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation” (1 Pet. 4:13).

First Peter 1:6-9 identifies five elements of your Christian life that should bring you joy amid trials. The first is your protected inheritance. That’s what Peter referred to when he said, “In this you greatly rejoice” (v. 6, emphasis added). Other elements include a proven faith, a promised honor, a personal fellowship, and a present deliverance (vv. 6-9), which we will explore in coming days.

The Greek word translated “greatly rejoice” in 1 Peter 1:6 is not the usual Greek word for “rejoice.” Peter used a more expressive and intense word, which speaks of one who is happy in a profound spiritual sense rather than a temporal or circumstantial sense. That’s the quality of joy God grants to those who trust in Him and look beyond their temporal trials to the glory of their eternal inheritance. Let that be your focus as well.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for the joy that transcends circumstances.

For Further Study

  • Read John 16:16-22.
  • According to Jesus, why would the disciples lament?
  • What would bring them joy?
  • What does their experience teach you about the basis for your joy as a Christian?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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Your Secure Inheritance

“To obtain an inheritance which is . . . reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pet. 1:4-5).

Your eternal inheritance is doubly secure: it is reserved for you, and you are reserved for it.

When Peter wrote his first epistle, attitudes toward Christians in the Roman Empire were not at all favorable. Because they would not worship the emperor as a god, or enter into other sinful pagan practices, Christians were looked upon with suspicion and disdain. In addition, Nero had blamed them for burning Rome (an act he himself perpetrated), so anger and hatred toward them was at its peak.

Peter wrote to encourage them—and all believers—to live out their faith amid persecution, just as Jesus had done when He suffered unjustly (cf. 1 Pet. 2:21-23). He reminded them that despite the sufferings they might endure in this life, God will reward them with an inheritance that is eternally secure because it is reserved in heaven for them.

“Reserved” in 1 Peter 1:4 indicates an inheritance that already exists, is presently protected, and will continually be protected. The place of its protection is heaven, where “neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal” (Matt. 6:20), and where “nothing unclean and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever [enter], but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Rev. 21:27). There is no safer place!

Not only is your inheritance protected for you, but also you are protected for it! That’s what Peter meant when he said that it is “reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pet. 1:4-5). The omnipotent, sovereign power of God will continually protect you until His work is fully accomplished in your life. Then He will grant you glorification: the fullness of the salvation for which He redeemed you.

You needn’t fear the loss of your inheritance. Instead, rejoice in the protection of our gracious God.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for His protection and for the assurance of your inheritance.

For Further Study

  • What do these verses teach about the security of your salvation: Romans 8:31-39, Philippians 1:6, and Jude 24?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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Your Incorruptible Inheritance

“To obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away” (1 Pet. 1:4).

Unlike earthly treasures, your eternal inheritance can never be taken away from you.

Despite the benefits of bank accounts, stocks, bonds, and a myriad of other investment opportunities, every earthly inheritance eventually is lost. If someone doesn’t steal it, or if it doesn’t lose its value in a stock market crash or recession, death will separate it from you. It’s inevitable! That’s why Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal” (Matt. 6:19-20).

The influence of sin and corruption doesn’t apply only to finances—it affects everything. Paul said, “The creation was subjected to futility . . . in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now” (Rom. 8:20-22). Nothing on earth escapes sin’s corruption.

But your eternal inheritance is not like earthly treasures. It is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading (1 Pet. 1:4). “Imperishable” means it is incorruptible and unable to decay. The Greek word used describes a land that had never been ravaged or plundered by an invading army. The idea is that your spiritual inheritance is secure and can never be violated by an intruder—not even Satan himself. “Undefiled” speaks of something unpolluted by sin. “Will not fade away” suggests a supernatural beauty that time cannot impair. Peter used the same word in 1 Peter 5:4 to speak of the unfading crown of glory that faithful church leaders will receive when Christ returns.

Your inheritance is unique among treasures. No one can steal it, and nothing can corrupt or diminish it in any way. It’s yours to enjoy to its fullest throughout all eternity. Don’t let the pursuit of perishable things distract you from the joy of eternal riches.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Ask the Lord to help you keep a proper perspective on what is of greatest value in His eyes.

For Further Study

  • Read Matthew 6:19-34.
  • Why shouldn’t you worry about the necessities of life?
  • What priorities should you have?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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Inheriting Heaven or Hell

“[God] caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet. 1:3).

Everyone receives an eternal inheritance—either Heaven or Hell.

We have seen several aspects of the believer’s inheritance, and will see more in future days. But realize that unbelievers also will receive an inheritance, for Jesus will say to them, “Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels. . . . And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matt. 25:41, 46).

Only Christians have eternal life and a royal inheritance. When you received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you became a new creation in Christ and your life began to center on Him rather than yourself. The Holy Spirit indwelt you and began to transform your attitudes and actions. That’s the new birth! It’s like starting all over again, only this time you’re pursuing God’s glory rather than worldly pleasures or goals.

Also, when you were saved you became an heir of God and a fellow heir with Christ (Rom. 8:17). So the new birth was the means of your salvation and your eternal inheritance.

Having said that, I must admonish you, just as Paul admonished the Corinthians, to “test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?” (2 Cor. 13:5). You never want to be deluded about your relationship with Christ. When you trust in the living Lord, you have a living hope and a glorious eternal inheritance. Anything less results in an inheritance of eternal damnation.

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies” (John 11:25). Be sure your faith is firmly fixed on Him.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Pray for family and friends who don’t know Christ. Ask the Lord to redeem them so He will be glorified, and they will become joint heirs with Christ.

For Further Study

  • What do these verses teach about the new birth: John 1:12-13, John 3:3, and 1 Peter 1:23?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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