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One of the more tender ways our heavenly Father has revealed Himself is as the guardian of His people. Psalm 121, a Psalm of Ascents, describes God’s watchful guardian care. His pilgrim people apprehensively lift their eyes to the hills, asking, “From where does my help come?” The resounding response: “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (emphasis mine). The word “keeper” refers to the guarding protection and power of God, and what better keeper could there be than the very One who made heaven and earth?

The Apostle Peter speaks of this guarding power of God in his first epistle when he writes: “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, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3–5; emphasis mine). But even as Peter writes, he does not write as an unaffected outside observer to God’s power; rather, he writes as one who himself had experienced God’s guarding power at work in his own life. So, what does Peter, speaking by the inspiration of the Spirit, teach us about God’s guarding power, and how does his own experience inform what he writes?

First, Peter tells us that there are two ways that God exercises His guarding power in the lives of His people. On the one hand, there is a heavenly inheritance that is being guarded for us, and on the other hand, we are being guarded for that inheritance. This language of inheritance would not have been lost on those in Peter’s original audience who were familiar with the Old Testament Scriptures. Abraham was promised that he would inherit a land and that his children would be made heirs of that promise. Indeed, this is why we speak of the “Promised Land.” But we also know from Scripture that in looking for the inheritance, Abraham did not look simply for an earthly plot of real estate. He looked beyond any earthly country to a heavenly one (Heb. 11:8–16). And it is this heavenly inheritance that Peter says is being guarded or kept for us.

We know that this inheritance is the heavenly inheritance because of the other terms used to describe it. In fact, Peter says that this inheritance is nothing less than “salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5; emphasis mine). And in place of the earthly land of Canaan, which might perish and fade away, defiled by the sin of God’s people, this ultimate heavenly inheritance is characterized as “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (v. 4; emphasis mine). Whereas the earthly inheritance might be lost, and was lost by the generation sent into exile, the heavenly inheritance has been secured “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (v. 3) for all those past and present who share the faith of Abraham.

But it is not just that the inheritance is being guarded for us. No, the more salient point is that we are being guarded for the inheritance. It’s one thing to know with certainty that an inheritance is there, but it’s another thing to know with certainty that we will inherit it. This inheritance is “kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed(vv. 4–5). Peter is clear that we are being guarded for salvation by God’s power. It is God’s sovereign power that is on display in this work of salvation, and yet that power is being exercised through the instrumentality of faith.

What a comfort to know that the same Jesus who prayed for us in life continues to intercede for us from His heavenly throne.

This is where it’s useful to consider Peter’s own experience of God’s guarding power. This is just one of several places in Peter’s letter where he is likely reflecting on or alluding to his own personal encounters with Jesus recorded for us in the Gospels. And now, as he writes this letter, the Spirit does His work of bringing “to [his] remembrance” the things that Jesus had taught him (John 14:26) in order that by these very things he might serve “[to] strengthen [his] brothers” (Luke 22:32). So, what incident is behind this encouragement to us? I believe Peter is actually reflecting on what must have been one of the most demoralizing and discouraging spiritual defeats of his life—his denial of Christ. At the very moment when Jesus most needed a friend, Peter denied that he ever knew his Lord (Luke 22:54–62). His denial was so vehement that the Gospels tell us he actually took an oath and invoked a curse on himself (Matt. 26:69–75). As heartbreaking as Peter’s denial must have been for Jesus, it did not come as a surprise to Him. He not only knew that this would be Peter’s response, but He foretold it, saying “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me” (Luke 22:34).

It must have been nauseating for Peter to look back and reflect on his own treacherous denial of Christ. And yet in looking back, he would have also been met by words of comfort coming from the lips of his friend and Lord. It is these words that immediately precede Jesus’ foretelling his denial that I believe Peter is reflecting on when he tells us that we are being guarded through faith for salvation by God’s power. Jesus said: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31–32; emphasis mine). It’s a marvelous thing to consider that in His earthly life, Jesus embodied God’s own guarding power. In His High Priestly Prayer, He says of His disciples: “While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled” (John 17:12; emphases mine). And perhaps nowhere is that guarding power more perfectly on display than in this exchange with Peter. Jesus says to Peter, “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.” God’s guarding power through Christ was exercised through the instrumentality of faith, a faith that did not finally fail (because Peter ultimately returned to Christ in repentance) because his very faith was being upheld by God’s own power.

You see, then, that Peter writes from experience when he writes, “By God’s power [you] are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed.” He knows what it means to be guarded through faith for salvation. Christ prayed for Peter that his faith might not fail, and now that he has “turned,” he intends to do just what Jesus told him to do: “Strengthen your brothers.” By these words, the Spirit speaking through Peter means to strengthen us. Whatever temptation, whatever trial, whatever failure or weakness we are experiencing, these words might be the very words that God uses to turn us and strengthen us, to remind us that the guardian of Israel does not slumber or sleep.

In His High Priestly Prayer, Jesus not only prayed for Peter and the other Apostles, but He also prayed “for those who will believe in me through their word” (John 17:20). What a comfort to know that the same Jesus who prayed for us in life continues to intercede for us from His heavenly throne. He has ascended to the right hand of the Majesty on high, where He not only guards a secure heavenly inheritance but from that inheritance now guards His people through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Preaching, Seeker-Driven Churches, and Unbelief

An Ever-Present Help