Blessed Be!—In the Verbs
1 Peter 1:3–9
ESV 1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith– more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire– may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 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, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Blessed be . . . God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the one true and triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Blessed be his holy name in light of the salvation he has won for you! You, dear saint, have received the outcome of your faith—the salvation of your soul. Yes, in light of Good Friday, Jesus’ three-day rest in the tomb, his glorious descent, where he preached to the souls in perdition, and his triumphant rising from the dead, your salvation is won; it is sure; it is firm, and it is founded on what Christ has done, for you!
That’s what Easter says, isn’t it? It’s done. It’s all done. All the actions necessary for your salvation Christ has done, accomplished. Easter is the culmination, God’s stamp of approval, his exclamation point, on a whole lot of action verbs: promised, sent, lived, fulfilled, died, rose.
Prior to salvation you were dead in your sins. And you know as well as I that dead people do no action verbs. Dead people have no power within them whatsoever. The grave holds its prey secure, tight, more firm than the jaws of an English boxer. None has escaped its jaws, save Jesus and a handful of others whom Jesus, his prophets, and his apostles raised back to life.
Like Lazarus (Jn 11:38–44). Lazarus had been in the grave four days, and there was an odor. There was no formaldehyde. Israel is on the same latitude as Savannah, Ga., and so the forces of nature quickly took their course. That being said, it is we who were in the grip of a most tenacious death, which held us more firmly and more tightly than Lazarus experienced wrapped in decay.
It’s not as though a dead man in the grave could respond to Jesus’ voice. Jesus’ Word has its own power to quicken and vivify. Jesus’ voice, his Word, is a Word that “gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist” (Rom 4:17).
Our death was deeper and darker than Lazarus’s. It was back-of-the-closet dark, for Scripture tells us that Jesus and his gifts are spiritually discerned, and without the Spirit natural man does not accept things that come from the Spirit (1 Cor 2:14). And so, Christ and all he offers are seen as foolishness to the unbeliever (1 Cor 1:23, 25). And, if you can bear it, our spiritual death was worse and darker than that. Our spirit within us fights, resists the Holy Spirit’s work (Gal 5:17). Now this is a lost “ness,” a death “ness” that is deeper than physical death, for our spiritual death actively and willfully fights against Jesus and the good gifts he offers sinners.
Most people resist going to the hospital until the pain gets the upper hand. We do our best to stay away, for going to the hospital humbles us, showing we are not able to care for ourselves. When we finally go, it’s because we realize—somewhat grudgingly—that help can only come from the outside. When it comes to such enemies as polio, measles, and mumps, we readily acknowledge that help can come to us only from the outside; it comes in the form of inoculations.
It’s so humbling to acknowledge that we need help from outside ourselves.
Spiritually, we just can’t accept the truth that we are the problem and as such we are incapable of healing ourselves. This is most certainly humbling. Our condition is so bad that our Savior, Jesus, came from the outside to rescue us from ourselves.
If the problem was things we do, we could rightly view ourselves as basically good with a few blemishes needing attention. In this way we would be no different from our personal computers! To keep them running safely, we install an antivirus program that protects our computer from viruses. Those who think of themselves as basically good believe all they need to do is purchase an anti-sin program. And so, on occasion, we run out and purchase a self-help, anti-sin book that would supply us with six easy steps to stop swearing or a foolproof manner in which to put off sins of lust, or any number of such blemishes.
When an antivirus program is no longer able to rescue the computer, a complete overhaul is needed. Disk cleanup and defragmenting are incapable of solving this problem. The computer can only be helped from the outside. What does the Information Technology savior do? The Information Technology savior rebuilds the computer from the bottom up. Through a death and resurrection of sorts, the entire operating system is deleted and then methodically reinstalled along with all application software.
In our mothers’ wombs we were conceived in sin (Ps 51:5), born spiritually dead (Eph 2:1, 4–5). We are born fighting the Spirit of Christ (Gal 5:17), incapable of pleasing Jesus (Rom 8:6–8), not accepting what comes from the Spirit (1 Cor 2:14), viewing the cross as foolishness (1 Cor 1:23, 25). No action we could ever take, no verb we could ever do—try, try harder, work, work harder, pray, pray harder—could fix that. We needed help from the outside.
Computers are saved by the Information Technology savior, who administers a type of death and resurrection to the computer. Real-life sinners are reborn and rebuilt as the Savior, Jesus, administers his life-giving death and resurrection delivered in Holy Baptism.
Do you want deliverance from the power of sin that lurks within your body? Are you seeking rescue from the steely strength of the grave, whose fingers slowly tighten their tenacious grip with each visit to the doctor? Do you cry out to be released from the guilt of past transgressions that keep you in restless turmoil through the night? Then grasp hold of what Christ has done for you!
Peter was still living in the glow of Easter all these years later when he wrote this first epistle. All the apostles went out on their missions in the Book of Acts and beyond in the glow of Easter, on the energy of deeds accomplished, work done, verbs of action by Jesus, their Lord. Listen and hear how Peter writes to us. Listen to the verbs.
According to mercy, that is, according to unmerited kindness and goodness, Jesus has caused you to be:
“Born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (v 3), pause;
“Jesus has caused you to be Born again to a living hope… “To an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” (v 4), pause;
“Jesus has caused you to have …an inheritance that is Kept in heaven for you” (v 4), pause;
“Jesus has caused you to be guarded through faith by God’s power for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (v 5), pause.
All this and more is what Jesus has done for you. He serves you because he loves and delights in you! That is why we Lutherans call this time on Sunday morning the Divine Service. Here, around certain gifts, the Divine, Jesus, Serves you with forgiveness of sins, mercy, truth, and the gift of life eternal.
It’s all about the verbs! Our Lord Jesus is the subject of the verbs. He, Christ, the Resurrected One, is serving you, preparing an inheritance for you that is unspoiled, undefiled, kept just for you, Jesus Christ has sealed you in his blood that flowed from his throne on Calvary.
During different periods of the Church’s history, the Church has had to deal with certain issues. Such issues of doctrine have needed to be refined, and clarification was the order of the day. A contemporary issue for our generation centers around how we praise Jesus in our language, music, sermons, and daily life. Do we praise him with verbs? Do we praise him with adjectives? Or do we praise ourselves rather than him? Let’s try this little exercise.
For example, Grandma excitedly tells her friends about Ingrid, her six-year-old granddaughter. And so Grandma joyfully says,
“I think Ingrid is the most beautiful thing around.”
“I get all excited when I see Ingrid.”
“‘I’m in heaven when I’m with Ingrid.”
Has the Grandmother praised Ingrid in any of these three statements? No, actually she has not. Amazingly, though perhaps not surprisingly, the subject of every sentence spoken by Grandma is, well . . . Grandma herself—not her granddaughter. Grandma thinks Ingrid is beautiful. Grandma gets excited about Ingrid. Grandma hears angels singing when she’s with Ingrid. This is like so many songs today that say, “I love God.” “I worship God.” “I feel so good when I’m with God.” It’s all about me, not God.
Let’s give Grandma another try:
“Ingrid is so lovely.”
“How darling Ingrid is!”
“Ingrid is always cheerful.”
Well, that’s a little better. Grandma is no longer the subject of the three sentences. The subject of each sentence is now her granddaughter. But, the adjectives that describe this little girl can and most likely do fit any number of delightful six-year-olds who can be the object of these adjectives. It’s like saying, “God is so good.” “God is great.” “God is love.” These are all true, but anyone would say the same thing about whatever God he worships, even if it was his girlfriend.
Hmm. Grandma gives it one more try:
Ingrid is an avid reader of books from the library.
Ingrid takes tumbling classes with the desire of becoming a gymnast like her older sister.
Ingrid helps her mom take care of her baby brother, Tom, by getting him his bottle and rocking him when he cries.
Again, we see Ingrid is the subject of these three sentences—and this is good. Additionally, Ingrid is described by Grandma through the use of verbs, which cannot be used interchangeably when speaking about other six-year-olds. Through the use of verbs, we definitively know which delightful six-year-old Grandma is so enthusiastically talking about. And through the use of verbs, Grandma has showered praise upon her granddaughter Ingrid. Oh, blessed day and blessed confession!
Praise for God in Scripture is based on the verbs. He is praised for what he does. For his acts of mercy. For his deeds of salvation. For solid, concrete actions, not abstract concepts or ideals.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has made us to be born new.” You want to praise Jesus—do not speak of yourself, nor use adjectives to describe Jesus. Adjectives can be used interchangeably for any number of the so-called gods that people look to for “all good and in which [they] are to take refuge in all distress” (LC I 2).
You praise Jesus when you confess what Jesus did for you through his innocent, bitter suffering and death, and his resurrection.
It’s Really All about the Verbs!
“He has made you to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (v 3)
“He has given you an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.” (v 4)
“By God’s power, he is guarding you through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (v 5)