The Gem of Salvation
First Peter is a missive of hope for a dark time. Less than a century after the cross had set them free, believers in Asia Minor suffered persecution for their faith in Jesus Christ. Alarmed by their differences, their Gentile neighbors spoke out against this new faith, and the Roman government pressed hard on any Christian activity that hinted at dissent (1Pe 2:11-15). Far away from many of the prominent early assemblies and dispersed exiles in pagan lands, these believers needed encouragement.
In a loving response, the apostle begins his uplifting letter by reminding them that their salvation is like a bright, precious gem. It shines imperishable, uncorrupted, unfading and kept securely in heaven for them (1Pe 1:4 HCSB). Because their faith is not merely a selfish want but a living hope secured by a precious living and eternal Savior, nothing from within them or pressing hard from without can ruin this great inheritance, nor will it ever lose its value! No force of earth can steal what God has prepared for His people.
The Gem of Faith
Peter reminds the scattered saints that a believer’s genuine faith in Jesus Christ takes on the character of its object. Faith is a precious gem, too, and more valuable than gold. Neither fiery ordeals nor the crucible of experience can destroy it (1Pe 1:7).
Let’s consider the character of this precious, genuine gem of faith using an analogy. Modern jewelers evaluate the quality of a gem by four C’s: color, cut, clarity and carat. The color of a gemstone is the key to its identity. Green emeralds, red rubies, deep blue sapphires and brilliant-white diamonds are all known by their specific colors. In a comparable way, all genuine Christian faith is known by the color of Christ. Saturated by the character of His person, our faith in Him defines us and our testimony identifies us.
The cut of a gemstone determines its use. Solitaires, ovals, pears, and marquise cuts each have a setting that accentuates their beauty. So it is with faith. The path set before you in this life was drawn by the hand of God; it is uniquely yours, and the high quality of your faith, tried in the fires of experience, brings praise and honor to Jesus Christ (1Pe 1:7).
Now, truth be told, in sketching this analogy, it seemed good to equate clarity with purity, string together a few words about steering clear of sin, and move on. The analogy proved truer than your author. In reality, the clarity and fire-light of a gemstone is greatly enhanced by small, natural imperfections of color called inclusions. These apparent scars increase the brilliance and richness of the gemstone’s sparkle. It would seem that the manifold trials of faith, leaving indelible marks on the life of a believer, may actually cause them to burn brighter than those who tread an easier way.
In a similar fashion, let’s rethink the character of carat. Bigger doesn’t always mean better, and the true value of a gemstone is not by size, but by weight! Formed under more intense, dark pressure, a smaller stone may have a greater carat weight than a larger specimen. The crush of sin and circumstance a fellow believer has overcome may not be apparent to you and me. It would be a mistake for anyone other than God, who tries the heart and weighs it in His balance, to judge the faith of another by sight and size.
The Gem of Testimony
Genuine faith in Jesus Christ had a remarkable and enviable effect on the believers who received Peter’s letter. Knowing and loving the Savior more deeply through oppression, they rejoiced with joy unspeakable and full of glory (1Pe 1:8). Such faith, though unseen, could not be hidden – it became a great witness! It was obvious to their neighbors, their government, and even Peter, who wrote from hundreds of miles away, that these Christians walked by faith, not by sight, and that they walked in joy!
What does such deep and genuine faith look like? How does it shine? What testimony does it bear? Consider the true faith of Enoch in Hebrews 11, faith’s greatest chapter. Enoch walked by faith with God. He pleased God, and he knew God. He didn’t just know about Him, that there was a faraway God in heaven, but the very presence of the God of heaven came down and walked beside dear Enoch.
We imagine Enoch taking time each day to walk and talk with God. Grabbing his coat by the door, Enoch leaves home and begins to walk a two-fold path over wild hills. It wasn’t made by wagon or oxen but by a man and his God, walking side by side in fellowship. Perhaps they discussed Enoch’s trials. Maybe they remarked on the beauty of creation or the promise of a coming savior for sinners. Whatever the topic, Enoch was fully satisfied in the person of God and God Himself was pleased to walk with Enoch (Heb 11:5-6).
Enoch’s faith was obvious to God, but it undoubtedly affected those around him, too. What’s his secret? He speaks about the Lord coming back in righteousness, but how does he know (Jud 14)? How can I have peace like his? Enoch carried the precious gem of a good testimony in the world and the light of his faith shined before others.
Peter wrote to the faithful and rejoicing believers that they were receiving the goal of their faith as it shined each day, even the salvation of their souls (1Pe 1:9). It was the same with Enoch, who looked forward thousands of years before Christ. But one day Enoch “was not there” because God took him (Gen 5:24 HCSB). A southern gospel hymn, “Come Home With Me,” playfully suggests that on that day Enoch left home to commune with God by faith, and God simply said, “Come home with me, we’re closer to my place than yours!” While this is certainly not how Enoch was transfigured, the sentiment proves out that genuine faith will receive its inheritance and reward, and the very object it reflects: the promise of eternal salvation through Jesus Christ.