What’s an Exile to Do? Give God Thanks

Posted by R. Fowler White

For all us Christians who find ourselves increasingly marginalized in society, the Apostle Peter’s “Survival Manual for Exiles” tells us how to persevere. He opens his manual with a call to take courage from our identity as God’s elect (1 Pet 1:1-2). He continues with a review of God’s past, present, and future saving work on our behalf. In light of God’s work, Peter challenges us to bless God, to give Him thanks for His great mercy to us (1:3-12).

Give God thanks, says Peter: He has given us new birth (1:3-5). He has given us just what Jesus said we must have in order to inherit God’s kingdom: you must be born again (John 3:7). God has done for us what we could never have done for ourselves: He has caused us to be born again. Through this rebirth God has brought us a living hope, a hope of new life before death and more: as the reference to Christ’s resurrection makes clear, a hope of new life after death. Through that new birth God has also brought us a lasting inheritance, one with no expiration date. It’s an inheritance that God guards for us, while by His power He protects us now through faith. Our place in the heavenly country is, thus, secured with a divine reservation that no creature can ever cancel. So, give thanks to God for His great mercy of rebirth.

Give God thanks, says Peter: we have joy, love, and faith now, despite testing (1:6-8). Though we face the trials of being exiles, we still have joy in our salvation. Yes, trials hurt, but they’re temporary. Yes, trials injure, but they’re valuable. They prove that our faith is genuine. They bring God glory, and they bring us reward when, at last, we see Christ face to face. So, give thanks: God has given us joy in our salvation. Moreover, though we haven’t yet seen Christ face to face, we do now love Him. God converted us from hating Christ to loving Him, and, with that adoration and affection, we gladly present ourselves to Him as living sacrifices. Give God thanks, then: He has put love for Jesus in our hearts. Furthermore, though we don’t now see Christ face to face, we do now have faith in Him. To be sure, our faith is not yet sight. But we are now trusting Him, and through that faith He is protecting us. So, we give God thanks: He has given us faith more precious than gold. And one more thing: though we don’t now see Christ face to face, we do now have joy in the future He holds for us. Again, though our faith is not yet sight, we find joy now in knowing that whoever believes in Christ will not be put to shame. On top of that, we find joy now in knowing that trials do to faith what fire does to precious metal: as heat separates dross from metal, so trials test and prove that our faith is genuine. We endure the testing of our faith, then, strengthened by the knowledge that trials are our God’s refining fire. So, give God thanks: we do have joy, love, and faith now, though we’re tested in exile.

Give God thanks, Peter writes: we’re blessed to hear the preaching of that grace predicted and investigated by the OT prophets (1:9-12). We now see the grace that they could only predict as a service to us in their future. As Jesus said, Many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it. Ours is the blessing, then, to live in the time of fulfillment! Ours is the privilege to see and hear what even the OT prophets did not! Give thanks to our God, then: He has granted it to us a great advantage to live in the time of which the prophets could only dream.

Peter’s first readers were much as we are: pushed into cultural exile, sometimes geographical exile. As it was then, so it is now: the world wants us just to shut up and assimilate. But we need to listen to Peter. He knew the temptation to deny his identity and to assimilate. After all, though he had been the first to confess Jesus’ identity as the Christ, on the night when Jesus was betrayed, Peter had three times denied both Jesus’ identity and his own identity. Jesus, however, had prayed for Peter that, though tested, his faith would not fail. God by His power guarded Peter through faith so that, when he turned again, he strengthened his brothers in faith (Luke 22:32). Peter continues that strengthening ministry to us in his first letter, telling us that, though the trials of exile test our faith, we should give God thanks for His great mercy to us. Will we heed his message?

2 Comments

  1. November 21, 2020 at 9:01 am

    […] new life to which Christ calls us. So now, as we take courage from our elect identity in Christ and give thanks for God’s saving work, Peter instructs us about how we exiles should […]

  2. November 27, 2020 at 4:48 pm

    […] directions on the right path to take. Having filled us with courage in our elect identity and with thanksgiving for God’s saving work, Peter exhorts us in 1:14-16. Be holy, he says. Be devout. Devote yourself to your God. Look at the […]


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