Blessed Are Those Who Believe Without Seeing

Peter’s Exhortation for Believers Today

In the Book of Hebrews, faith is described as the “evidence [or conviction] of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).  This word “evidence,” or “conviction,” means a firmly held belief, which implies that if we have faith, we strongly believe in spite of what we see.  This exposes the lie buried in the statement we hear so commonly: “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

While reading the Apostle Peter’s first letter written to believers today, “those who reside as aliens,” those who are scattered throughout the world yet who have been chosen by God the Father by the Holy Spirit to “obey Jesus Christ” (I Peter 1:1-2), I couldn’t help but be amazed that Peter, this uneducated fisherman, was able to write such poignant and exemplary spiritual truths, or mysteries.  

Surely we too may be included in Peter’s audience, for we are among those scattered abroad to the uttermost parts of the world.  And significantly, the theme that strikes me most in his first chapter is that our faith is more precious than gold, a valuable metal which by comparison is perishable, and therefore less reliable than our faith.  In our physical world, we see gold as being solid and refined, more reliable than any other natural metal or form of money exchange.  Yet Peter writes about how our faith is more precious and valuable than gold:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, 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, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. (I Peter 1:3-9) 

Peter refers specifically to the solid faith of those Christians in his reading audience who live far away and are scattered abroad, and he sees their faith as more reliable and steadfast than the world’s means of exchange (gold), even though their faith is not based on anything that they have actually seen with their eyes.  This faith will mean that our lives will be saved and our souls will receive God’s salvation, for it is more valuable than silver or gold in His eyes.  

We Must Not Be Like Thomas

Of course, Peter is also speaking from a different experience than ours, for he indeed saw the living Christ after His death, burial, and resurrection.  And Peter likely recalled the confusion of his fellow disciple, Thomas, who refused to believe the testimonies of the other disciples who had seen Jesus after His resurrection.  

Thomas said, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” (John 20: 25).  When Jesus appeared again and Thomas was present, Thomas was ultimately convinced, for he saw the imprint of the nails and presumably placed his hand into the side of Christ Jesus.  

When Thomas became convinced that Jesus had indeed been raised from the dead, Jesus had something significant to say to him: “Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.’” (John 20:28-29)

Peter was a true believer, who later saw this living Christ Jesus ascend into heaven after giving His promise that He would return with salvation and be revealed to all.  But Peter must have understood Christ’s message to Thomas, for in his letter he first refers to those who came before Christ’s first appearance, the prophets of old who received insights into God’s plan of salvation for humankind: 

As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look.  (I Peter 1:10-12)

Even Angels Desired What We Have Received

These prophets were given secrets, or “mysteries,” that they earnestly desired to understand.  How confusing it must have been for these prophets to know, through the Spirit of Christ, that the coming Savior would suffer and die in order to atone and redeem all people  from the sins that so constantly destroyed their lives.  Yet the mysteries were so valuable that even the angels desired to learn and understand the mysteries revealed to the prophets.

This understanding leads Peter to his ultimate conclusion, that all Christians must believe not what they see in the physical realm, but what they see through faith:

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. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (I Peter 1:13-16)

Peter’s exhortation is framed in this context, therefore, and it applies to Christians today just as much as it did to those in the Early Church:  We must look not to the conditions of the world and give up our hope in the final return of Christ by being conformed again to the false deceptions of the world’s beliefs.  

Can it really be true, for example, that some Churches are incorporating astrology into their teachings?  Or are the beliefs in Eastern Mysticism truly compatible with the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles?  If Jesus is indeed the “Way, the Truth, and the Life,” and “no one may come to the Father except through Him” (John 14:6), then we are misguided if we accept the notion that all religious beliefs are acceptable, and we must not judge others for their false beliefs?  No one was less politically correct than the Apostle Paul, who stood before the philosophers on Mars Hill in Athens and chastized them for their beliefs in pagan gods, those made of wood and stone:

Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”  (I Peter 1:29-31)

Does this mean we need to become “hateful,” despising and shunning those who seek to lead us into the sins of the times of Noah, or Egypt, or Athens?  No, we still must exhibit love towards all, as Paul did, seeking to lead them to the salvation that comes only through the love of Christ’s atoning sacrifice, through Jesus, who gave up His life for us all.  

Nevertheless, we must fervently oppose the deceptions of Satan, who seeks only to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10).  Peter’s advice is as follows:

If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. (I Peter 1:17-21)

We must not seek happiness or fulfillment in life through money (silver or gold) or through the futile and empty promises of those who promise joy, or contentment, or peace through meditation, yoga, sexual sins, or choosing the correct political party.  Instead, it is our faith in Jesus Christ’s promises that is more precious than what we only see or experience in this life.  Seeing a miracle will not change our lives significantly, at least in terms of obtaining as the outcome of our faith the salvation of our souls.

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