1 Peter: How Never Having Seen Jesus Can Produce Joy That Is Inexpressible And Glorious

Though you have not seen him, you love him.  Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 

1 Peter 1:8-9

I confess that I envy Peter and the other apostles sometimes.  They saw Jesus with their own eyes and heard His voice with their own ears.  They saw Him resurrected from the dead and ascending into the sky.  How I wish I could have experienced the same!  I then remember the risen Lord’s statement to the doubter, Thomas:  “Have you believed because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

At times this statement puzzles me.  On one level I understand that as Christians we must “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7) and that faith is, among other things, “the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1).  On the other hand, I see that Christ’s statement to John, and Peter’s statement in the above passage, correlate great happiness and joy to those who have not seen Christ yet believe in Him.  “Blessed” in John 20:29 is from the Greek term makarios, the same term He used repeatedly in the beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-11), and literally means “happy.”  This means that Jesus promised Thomas that those who believe in Him without having seen Him will be happy, just as Peter observed that his first century readers – and by extension us today – who have not seen Jesus yet believe in Him “rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (1:8).  How can faith – even a strong faith – in someone whom we have not seen produce happiness, specifically happiness and joy which is so powerful that the inspired writer calls it “inexpressible and filled with glory”?

In hindsight, the times in which this supposed conundrum has baffled me are, not by coincidence, also the times I have taken for granted what I have with God, and even more specifically why I have it.  Remember, God’s Word is the source of our faith, Christians (Rom. 10:17).  The Lord wishes us to study and meditate on His Word day and night (Ps. 1:1-3; cf. 1 Tim. 4:15-16; 2 Tim. 2:15; 3:15-17).  Think of what would happen after many continual days and nights of study and instruction that comes from the entirety of Scripture!  Consider the results of regular, continual meditation upon the Old Testament with its fulfilled prophecies of the Messiah and its revealing of the nature of God and man; the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life and teachings which show His compassion and how He died and rose again for us; the letters from the New Testament writers which show the growth of the church and teach us more about the many blessings found within Christ and the eternal victory which is ours!

Speaking personally, I remember the times in my life when I rarely if ever opened a Bible.  It is not coincidence that I did not obey God during those times.  I remember the cynicism, the sullenness, the lack of joy and purpose, the feeling of something lacking in my life.  My faith was weak, my zeal non-existent.  Yet when I started focusing more on the Word of God day after day, it didn’t take long before my faith began to grow stronger, my obedience in more and more parts of my life began to take shape and increase…and my attitude about my life and how I viewed things overall began to change from negative cynicism to positive optimism.  My gratitude increased, and with that my joy for all that God by His grace has and continues to do for me in this life and the next, not the least of which being what Peter called “the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1:9).

When I remember all of this and look at these passages from that perspective, I can better understand how a faith in Christ held by someone who has never seen Him results in great love for Him and a “joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.”  I’ve experienced it.  You can experience it too.

— Jon

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