Today in the Word is a daily audio devotional available via podcast. Today in the Word features solid biblical content and study that models the mission and values of Moody Bible Institute.
How Great a Salvation
What did people living in Old Testament times understand about salvation? Charles Spurgeon explained how the message of the Cross runs throughout the entire Bible: “The Old Testament and the New are one, inspired by the same Spirit and filled with the same Subject, namely, the one promised Messiah. The Prophets foretold what the Apostles reported. The Seers looked forward and the Evangelists look backward—but their eyes meet at one place—they see eye to eye and both behold the Cross.” Peter explains our salvation in biblical and historical context. The gospel is all about the “sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow” (v. 11). The Old Testament prophets looked forward to His coming, which was revealed to them by the Spirit. But although they “searched intently and with the greatest care,” their curiosity about exactly when and how this would happen was not satisfied (v. 10). Like others, they “did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance” (Heb. 11:13). It was revealed to the prophets “that they were not serving them- selves but you” (v. 12). They were providing pieces of the larger puzzle and didn’t always understand the full implications of their own words. Not even angels have been given the full picture of God’s gracious plan of redemption. With Christ’s first advent, death, and resurrection, it has now been more clearly revealed, both to Peter’s original audience and to believers today (see Rom. 16:25–27). This is encouraging for at least two reasons. First, as we’re following a Messiah who suffered and then was glorified, we, too, can expect our suffering to lead to glorification. Second, the same Spirit who worked in the Old Testament prophets works in the church today (v. 12)! >> Have you trusted Christ for your salvation and spiritual rebirth? If not, please take this important step today! To learn more, go to moodybible.org and search for “How to Know Christ.”
Refined by Suffering
In the final stanza of Christina Rossetti’s poem, “A Better Resurrection,” she calls her life “A broken bowl that cannot hold / One drop of water for my soul.” She prays for it to be “Cast in the fire,” melted, and remolded “till it be / A royal cup for Him, my King: / O Jesus, drink of me.” “Refined by fire” is a biblical metaphor that shows suffering and purification (see Zech. 13:9). In today’s reading, Peter explained that our salvation fills us with “an inexpressible and glorious joy” even when we go through suffering and persecution (vv. 7–8). This truth is repeated several times from different angles: We can “greatly rejoice” despite our trials (v. 6). How is joy possible under such circumstances? Joy flows from faith in Christ (v. 8) and from the fact that our suffering occurs in the process of receiving our salvation (v. 9). The larger purpose of our suffering is that Christ will receive even more glory and honor when He returns (v. 7). In other words, salvation is not just a past moment when we trusted Christ and crossed over from death to life. It’s also a future moment when we will receive our full inheritance and Christ returns to reign. Finally, it’s also this present moment, as we “exiles” walk the road of sanctifying faith. The difficult present is just “a little while” compared to eternity (v. 6). As Paul wrote: “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Cor. 4:17). It is no wonder then that faith has a value we cannot measure (v. 7). Just as gold is refined or purified by fire, our faith is refined or purified by suffering. The certain outcome, since our faith is sustained by God, will be faith’s “proven genuineness.” >> Friends, whatever you’re going through today, we invite you to draw near to God in humble, joyful faith. Know that His promises are true, and our hope is certain!
An Eternal Inheritance
Some years ago, my wife and I decided to prepare a will. We wanted to know our children would be cared for in the event of our untimely deaths. If our lives unfold as normal, they will inherit whatever we leave behind. Making a will is the responsible thing to do, yet the things we pass on through it are only material and temporary. By contrast, the inheritance described in Peter’s letter is eternal and indestructible! Peter praises God for the gift of our salvation using word pictures. The first is of a “new birth into a living hope” (v. 3). Our “old birth,” so to speak, was hopeless. As humans, we are in bondage to sin and death. But through faith in Christ, we can be spiritually reborn (John 3:3–8). Christ is our Living Hope! The second picture of salvation is of an eternal inheritance (v. 4). Unlike earthly treasures, it “can never perish, spoil or fade” (see Matt 6:19–21). Although it’s not fully ours yet, God is keeping it safe in heaven for us. The Holy Spirit is our deposit or promise of inheritance (Eph. 1:13–14). In the meantime, we’re “shielded by God’s power” (v. 5). This does not keep us from trouble or suffering, but we will never lose the inheritance. In other words, God’s power sustains believers’ faith, and His work is never unsuccessful. Our hope is therefore not wishful thinking, but a God-guaranteed certainty. We call this certainty “perseverance” or “assurance of salvation.” These two pictures are connected: Through spiritual rebirth, we’ve been adopted into a new family, and as family members we have a new inheritance. Why did God do this? >> What do you want to leave behind? When we think of end-of-life planning, we think about making a will (which is an act of responsible and loving stewardship). But you should also consider your spiritual legacy. What are you doing today to ensure that those you love know Jesus?
Dear Exiled Elect
Imagine going to your mailbox. Among the bills and advertisements, you find a special letter written by Peter, a friend and follower of Jesus. Peter was one of the first witnesses to the Resurrection and preached a powerful sermon on the day of Pentecost. He also wrote two epistles (letters) to believers scattered throughout western Asia. Knowing that Peter is the author should encourage us. Although he stumbled badly, denying Christ three times (Mark 14:27–31, 66–72), Peter had been fully restored and forgiven (John 21:15–19) by Christ. He went on to become a key leader in the early church, as we see in the book of Acts. God even chose this flawed disciple to write two books of the New Testament! Peter’s first epistle was probably written from Rome—symbolically referred to as “Babylon” (5:13)—in about 64 A.D. The original audience would have included both Jewish and Gentile believers. He addressed these believers as “exiles,” a word which has been translated “strangers” and “pilgrims,” in part because as believers our ultimate citizenship is in heaven (v. 1; Phil. 3:20). Here we are introduced to the Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (v. 2). The readers of this letter, including us, have been chosen by the Father and are undergoing the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. We have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood, an image of atonement that indicates we are called to obey Him. Like other New Testament epistles, it begins with a salutation and ends with personal greetings. Doctrine is featured early in the letter, followed by how to put that doctrine into practice. We will learn about salvation, suffering, standing firm, holiness, submission, hope, and the return of Christ. >> As a special challenge, try listening to the entire book of 1 Peter using an audio Bible. Doing so takes less than 20 minutes! Imagine that you just received this letter in the mailbox and Peter is speaking directly to you.
Waiting for Righteousness
Some people don’t like to talk about the end of the world—it’s too depressing. And they’re right. The Bible does not teach that things will get better and better. It says just the opposite. But the biblical perspective isn’t pessimistic. It is hopeful because it teaches that, at the end, God will usher in a new world. Those of us who are waiting for the new heaven and new earth may get impatient. Indeed, in today’s passage, Peter warns that unbelievers will misinterpret the wait as proof that God does not exist (vv. 3–4). But what feels like a delay is evidence that God’s timing is vastly different from ours (v. 8). More importantly, it is a sign of God’s patience. In Scripture “the day of the Lord” is a frequent designation for a time of judgment (see Isa. 13:6, 9; Ezek. 30:3; Joel 1:15). In verse 10 it refers to the final judgment, which will be ushered in by Christ’s return. Following will be the creation of a new heaven and a new earth. Peter’s outlook is not pessimistic. He doesn’t say, since you can’t improve the situation, don’t bother to do anything. His message is the opposite. Since the end will come this way, we are to “make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him” (v. 14). Just as Jesus is the only hope for the world to come, He is the only hope we have for being found spotless and blameless before God. If God does not seem to be in a hurry to wrap things up, it is because He is providing space for those who have not yet turned to Christ to repent and believe. >> In these days, when right and wrong are often confused, we must continue to point people to Jesus. Only Jesus is the answer to humanity’s problem with sin and our only hope for righteousness. If you have not done so already, turn to Him in faith today.
A Salvation Yet to Come
The book Waiting for the End of the World by Richard Ross features photographs of fallout shelters. In the introduction, Ross calls these structures “the architecture of the end of the world.” The shelters reflect a spirit of optimism (our hope for survival). But they also show our tendency to live in denial (choosing to ignore the complete devastation that will follow such an incident). Today many people are living in denial by ignoring the coming of divine judgment. Hebrews 9:27 observes, “People are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.” Verse 28 speaks of a salvation that is yet to come. That may seem like a contradiction, since we usually think of salvation in the past tense. But it is not. Hebrews 9:23–27 describes a salvation that has already been accomplished on our behalf. These verses show the difference between the Old Testament sacrifices and the “once for all” offering of Jesus Christ (v. 26). Jesus entered the true tabernacle in heaven, not an earthly copy (vv. 11, 24). Instead of offering the blood of bulls, Jesus offered His own blood which obtained eternal redemption (v. 12). Instead of merely offering ceremonial cleansing, Jesus’ blood cleansed the conscience (vv. 13–14). Clearly, Jesus offered a “better” sacrifice (v. 23). Jesus did not need to be sacrificed repeatedly (v. 25). The many different sacrifices required by the Law of Moses did not have the power to take away sin. We can be thankful that “Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many” (v. 28). >> You may still be wondering: Why does the writer speak of salvation in the future tense in verse 28? It is because we, who have been saved by Christ’s sacrifice, are still waiting for His return and the final judgment. Jesus will “bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”