Remember the song, “Deep and Wide”? If you were a kid going to church in the 70’s like I was it was the staple of Sunday Schools everywhere. Complete with a catchy tune and simple hand-motions, it was everything we loved in a Sunday School song.
As I got older though I realized it wasn’t much of a song. What was deep, what was wide, and what fountain are we singing about? I know, I know. It was just a kids song and it really is fine. I got to thinking about that song again this week as I was preparing for us to begin digging into the text of First Peter at River Community Fellowship.
This week we are only going to cover the first two verses of this most wonderful letter but talk about Deep and Wide! Take a look…
1 Peter 1:1-2 (NASB95) Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.
In these two verses Peter opens and introduces a letter about grace (see 5:12) to suffering believers who are scattered and displaced. As he does, he paints a very broad and far-reaching overview of grace, yet he does so in such a way that is unfathomable in its depth.
Too avoid making this so long that few will endure to the end, I want to identify four significant points to consider in the context of grace and suffering into which Peter writes.
1) He begins his pastorally address not with sympathies or shallow platitudes but with significant theology. What we need in suffering is hope and hope comes from a solid and stable foundation of truth; truth about God, truth about our standing with God, and truth about God’s purposes for us.
2) Foremost in Peter’s mind was to remind his severely suffering readers of their relationship with God. His first point is very simply, God chose them. They were His because of the initiation of nothing other than His sovereign will towards them. While suffering can make our lives seem small and worthless, nothing in this life can change the fact that the Father chose to make us His children.
3) Following closely behind that truth is that not only has He chosen us, He has set us apart (sanctified us) to Himself. One of the great fears of suffering is that it is meaningless and serves only to destroy who we are. Quite the opposite, even in our suffering we have been set apart to God and for God. Nothing gives our lives more meaning and purpose than that simple yet profound truth.
4) Peter then reminds his readers the purpose for God’s choosing and setting them apart is that they would obey Him. Lately I have found myself watching World War II documentaries and what stands out above them all is how only in dark times can heroes emerge. Suffering displays what is real, and suffering produces what God desires in the lives of His people, a deep abiding trust that is displayed in submitting to Him in faith, even when our emotions scream at us to give up and give in.
When we know God, trust His favor toward us, believe His purpose in us, only then can we acknowledge the suffering that is real yet move forward in hope as we fixate not on the pain but on the grace in which we live and stand.