That the trial of your faith…might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love.

1 PETER 1:7, 8

The Apostle Peter, who had seen Jesus Christ in the flesh with his own eyes, passed along to every believing Christian the assurance that it is possible for us to love the Saviour and to live a life that will glorify Him even though we have not yet seen Him!

It is as though Peter is urging: “Love Him and work for Him and live for Him. I give you my testimony that it will be worth it all when you look upon His face—for I have seen Him with my own eyes, and I know!”

In his epistle, Peter, who had known Jesus in the flesh, was moved to write to the strangers scattered abroad—the Christians of the dispersion—to remind them that they should love Jesus Christ even though they had not seen Him in the flesh.

The Lord Jesus Himself had set His own stamp of approval and blessing upon all Christians who would believe, never having seen Him in the time of His own flesh. He told Thomas after the resurrection, “Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”

God has seen fit to give us wonderful and mysterious faculties, and I truly believe that God has ordained that we may actually know Jesus now, and love Him better never having seen Him, than Peter did when he saw Him![1]

Confidence in a Proven Faith

even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, (1:6b–7a)

Peter next turns to a source of joy that has immense practical ramifications for believers—confidence in a proven faith. Rather than allow severe trials and persecutions to steal their joy and spoil their anticipation of future blessing in heaven, genuine believers with a biblical perspective know that such sufferings actually can add to their joy as they experience grace and anticipate the future.

In the remainder of verse 6 the apostle lists four concise features of the trouble God uses to prove believers’ faith. First he declares that their troubles are now for a little while. They are transitory (cf. Ps. 30:5; Isa. 54:7–8; Rom. 8:18), literally “for a season,” which means they will pass quickly, as does one’s time on earth. Paul calls them “momentary, light affliction” (2 Cor. 4:17), relative to the “eternal weight of glory.”

Second, troubles come if necessary; that is, when they serve a purpose in believers’ lives (cf. Job 5:6–7; Acts 14:22; 1 Thess. 3:3). God uses troubles to humble believers (Deut. 8:3; 2 Cor. 12:7–10), wean them away from worldly things and point them toward heaven (John 16:33; Rev. 14:13; cf. Job 19:25–26), teach them to value God’s blessing as opposed to life’s pain (4:13; Rom. 8:17–18), enable them to help others (2 Cor. 1:3–7; Heb. 13:3), chasten them for their sins (1 Cor. 11:30; cf. Job 5:17; Luke 15:16–18; Heb. 12:5–12), and to help strengthen spiritual character (Rom. 5:3; 2 Thess. 1:4–6; James 1:2–4; 5:11). Later in this letter Peter sums up troubles’ benefit, “After you have suffered for 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” (5:10).

Third, Peter with the term been distressed acknowledges that trouble undeniably brings pain (cf. Gen. 3:16–19; Pss. 42:7; 66:12; 89:30–32). Distressed refers not only to physical pain, but also to mental anguish, including sadness, sorrow, disappointment, and anxiety. By God’s design, trouble needs to be painful in order to refine believers for greater spiritual usefulness (cf. Pss. 34:19; 78:34; 119:71; John 9:1–3; 11:3–4; 2 Cor. 12:10).

Fourth, the apostle notes in verse 6 that Christians experience various trials; troubles come in many forms (James 1:2). The Greek word rendered various is poikilos, which means “many colored.” Later Peter uses the same word (rendered “manifold” in the nasb and kjv) to describe the diverse grace of God (4:10). Just as trouble is diverse, God’s sufficient grace for believers is equally diverse. There is no form of trouble that some facet of divine grace cannot supersede (cf. 1 Cor. 10:13). God’s grace is sufficient for every human trial.

Those simply stated elements implicitly reiterate why trouble should not diminish believers’ joy, and the first half of verse 7 states the reason explicitly: they rejoice so that the proof of [their] faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire. This perspective on trouble not only does not diminish joy but actually produces triumphant joy, since the experience validates Christians’ faith. Proof (dokimion) was used to describe the assaying of metal. The assaying process discovers a metal’s purity and determines its true content and worth after all impurities have been smelted away (Num. 31:22–23; cf. Prov. 17:3; Zech. 13:9). By analogy, God tests the believer’s faith to reveal its genuineness (cf. Job 23:10). (He does this not because He needs to discover who is a true believer, but so that believers will gain joy and confidence in their proven faith [cf. Abraham in Gen. 22:1–19, and the example of the seeds in shallow and thorny soils in Matt. 13:5–7].) The adjectival phrase proof of your faith, more accurately “the tested residue of your faith,” captures the essence of the spiritual assaying process.

In addition to Abraham, the Old Testament contains several other examples of how God put the faith of His people to the test. Exodus 16:4 says, “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction.’ ” In Deuteronomy 8:2 Moses commanded the Israelites, “You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.” But the entire book of Job is the classic example of God’s putting a believer to the test. No matter what Satan, with God’s permission, threw at Job, Job never stopped trusting the Lord (Job 1:6–2:10). In spite of his friends’ terribly misplaced efforts at consoling and advising him, and their constantly misjudging him—in addition to his faithless wife’s demand that he curse God and die—Job remained steady and his faith proved real (27:1–6) and was greatly strengthened (42:1–6, 10–17).

Peter used gold in his analogy because it was the most precious and highly prized of all metals (Ezra 8:27; Job 28:15–16; Ps. 19:10; cf. 2 Kings 23:35; Matt. 2:11), and in ancient times it was the basis for most monetary transactions (cf. Ezek. 27:22; Matt. 10:9). Just as fire separates gold from useless dross, so God uses suffering and trials to separate true faith from superficial profession. But even though gold can be purified when tested by fire, it is perishable (cf. James 5:3). However, proven faith is eternal, making it more precious than gold.

The apostles, ministering in the aftermath of Pentecost, are excellent examples of those who went through difficult trials and thus became confident in their proven faith. After the Jewish leaders flogged them for continuing to preach the gospel, “they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41; cf. 4:13–21; 5:17–29, 40–41). They rejoiced not only because God deemed them worthy to suffer for righteousness’ sake, but also undoubtedly because of the confidence they gained in passing the test. They had come a long way since the days when Jesus admonished them for their “little faith” (Matt. 8:26; cf. 16:8; 17:20; Luke 8:25; 17:5), when they forsook Him and fled prior to His crucifixion (Mark 14:27, 50–52), and when Peter denied Him three times (Luke 22:54–62).

Confidence in a Promised Honor

may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; (1:7b)

The apostle’s discussion of proven faith in the first part of verse 7 actually leads into his main point in the latter half, namely that believers would rejoice in the prospect of a promised honor. True faith will ultimately come through all of life’s troubles and trials and obtain eternal honor from God.

Peter’s focus is not on Christians’ honoring God (though they will, cf. Matt. 28:16–17; John 4:23; 9:38; Rev. 4:10–11), but on His commendation of them. God will grant believers praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Incredibly, believers, who in this life are called to give honor to the Lord always, can by their faithfulness in trials elicit praise from the Lord in the life to come (cf. 1 Sam. 2:26; Pss. 41:11; 106:4; Prov. 8:35; 12:2; Acts 7:46). Near the conclusion of His parable of the talents, Jesus told the disciples,

His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, “Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” (Matt. 25:21–23; cf. 24:47; 25:34; Luke 22:29; 2 Tim. 4:8)

True saving faith and its resultant good works always receive divine commendation. “But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God” (Rom. 2:29). That God would praise saving faith and genuine faithfulness in difficulty is truly amazing, inasmuch as both are gifts of His grace and power in the first place (Eph. 2:8; Phil. 1:29). Such praise for believers demonstrates His supreme generosity (cf. Ex. 34:6; Pss. 33:5; 104:24; 2 Cor. 8:9).

Peter also uses the term glory, which, like praise, refers to that which believers receive from God. This echoes the apostle Paul’s teaching: “[God] will render to each person according to his deeds: to those [believers] who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life … glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom. 2:6–7, 10). Glory may relate best to the Christlikeness God will endow every believer with (John 17:22; Rom. 9:23; 1 Cor. 15:42–44; 2 Cor. 3:18; Phil. 3:21; Col. 3:4; 2 Thess. 2:14; 1 John 3:2). Jesus Christ was God incarnate (John 1:14), and the apostle John says, “We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2).

Honor likely refers to the rewards God will give to believers because of their service to Him. Paul explains this in more detail in 1 Corinthians 3:10–15.

According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. (cf. 9:25; 2 Cor. 5:10; Col. 3:24; James 1:12; 1 Peter 5:4; 2 John 8; Rev. 21:7; 22:12)

This threefold tribute (praise and glory and honor) occurs at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Revelation (apokalupsei) refers to the second coming of Christ and particularly focuses on the time when He returns to reward His redeemed people. Later in this same chapter Peter again directs his audience to these realities: “Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:13; cf. 4:13; Rom. 8:18; 1 Cor. 1:7–8; 2 Thess. 1:5). In His parable of the expectant steward, Jesus spoke of such eager anticipation of eternal reward:

Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit. Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them. (Luke 12:35–37)

None of these passages, however, indicate that believers have to wait until Christ’s return before He finds their faith genuine. The reality of their faith is already validated by their faithful enduring of trials and testings. It is an amazing truth that when Jesus returns for His own, not only will they joyfully serve Him, but also He will graciously serve and honor them.[2]

1:7 There is further comfort for suffering saints in knowing that their sufferings are neither purposeless nor fruitless. The sufferings of the ungodly are only a foretaste of the pangs of hell which they will endure eternally. This is not true for the Christian. One of the many beneficial purposes of afflictions in this life for the child of God is to test the genuineness of his faith. Peter contrasts our faith with gold. Of all the substances known to man, gold is one of the most imperishable. It can be subjected to intense heat and might seem to be indestructible. But the truth is that gold perishes through use, pressure, and fire.

True faith is indestructible. The believer may undergo severe tests and trials, but instead of destroying his faith, they become food for faith to feed on. Job probably sustained heavier losses in one day than any other man in the history of the world, yet he was able to say, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15). The three men in the Babylonian furnace were literally tested by fire. The fire proved their faith to be real. Also it burned away the ropes that held them, setting them free (Dan. 3:12–30). And during their flaming ordeal, they had the companionship of One “like the Son of God.” The genuineness of faith can be proved only by fire. When prevailing conditions are favorable, it might be easy to be a Christian. But when public confession of Christ brings persecution and suffering, then the casual followers drift away and are lost in the crowd. A religion which costs nothing is worth nothing. Faith which refuses to pay the price is spurious. It is the kind of say-so faith that James condemns.

Genuine faith will result in praise, honor, and glory when Jesus Christ is revealed. This simply means that God will reward every instance of faith that stood the test. He will praise those who are joyful though surrounded by trouble. He will award honor and glory to tried and suffering believers who were able to accept their tribulations as a vote of confidence from Him.

This will be apparent when Jesus Christ comes back to earth to reign as King of kings and Lord of lords, and all those whom the world rejected will be shown clearly to be sons of God. A comparison of Scripture indicates that rewards will be announced at the Judgment Seat of Christ, in heaven, after the Rapture. But the public display of these rewards apparently takes place at the Second Advent of Christ.

1:8 Peter now discusses the present enjoyment of our salvation—Christ taken by faith. Though we have never seen Him with our eyes, we love Him. Though we do not see Him at this time, yet we believe in Him. That is how we enter into the blessedness which He mentioned to Thomas, “Blessed are they who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

William Lincoln writes:

People talk a lot about love, but the true test of love to God and Christ is, that in the trial it says—“I would not lose the favor and smile of God, so will rather suffer than grieve Him.” Love will be content with a crust and the smile of God, rather than a better position and the popularity of the world without it. Such tests must come to all the true children of God; they winnow the chaff from the wheat. The gold comes out from the fire tried, and purified from its dross.

Believing on Him we rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory. To be united to Him through faith is to have uninterrupted and eternal contact with the fountain of all pure joy. The Christian’s joy is not dependent on earthly circumstances but on the risen, exalted Christ at God’s right hand. It is no more possible to rob a saint of his joy than it is to unseat Christ from His place of glory. The two stand together.[3]

[1] Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter (pp. 42–46). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 2252–2253). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

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