Salvation was so marvelous a reality that even the Old Testament prophets spent their time trying to understand its wonders. That's how great it is. That's how wonderful it is. Of all the things they might have searched out, this was what they chose to search in. Welcome to Grace to You with John MacArthur.
I'm your host, Phil Johnson. The story is told of King Christian, ruler of Denmark, as he stood at a corner waiting for a trolley car. Two little girls suddenly ran across the tracks, not realizing a trolley was bearing down on that very spot. Onlookers were horrified, but the king leaped out and pulled the children to safety just in time. Moments later, the girls proudly proclaimed that they had been saved from death by the king. Well, when you think of your salvation from sin, do you see yourself in a similar way as being rescued from judgment by the King of the universe? Today, John MacArthur helps you praise God for your salvation, your rescue from the crushing, eternal punishment for sin. John calls his study, Our Great Salvation.
And now here's John with the lesson. We're going to be looking now to 1 Peter in our study. We come to verses 10 to 12 as he begins really opening up his heart in this wonderful epistle. And if I were to give a title to these three brief verses, I would call them, The Greatness of Our Salvation. That seems to me to be his theme, The Greatness of Our Salvation. Beginning in verse 10, Peter writes, As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful search and inquiry, 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. Peter wants to call his readers and us to remember the greatness of our salvation, to worship God, to adore God, to thank God for the privilege of being so favored as to have been saved eternally. He has already mentioned back in verses 3 and 4, you might look at it, that we have a living hope through the resurrection of Christ from the dead which provides for us an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, unfading and permanently reserved for us in heaven and that should be the greatest source of joy in the midst of our sufferings. No matter how bad it gets, verse 8 says, we should greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory because we know we will obtain the salvation of our souls.
This is a good reminder. No matter what happens in life, we focus on salvation. When everything in life isn't the way we would like it, we go back to this point, the blessedness of our eternal salvation.
That's his theme. Now in these three verses, you're going to find this fascinating. He approaches the greatness of salvation or the blessedness of salvation in a most unusual way.
Rather than looking and mark this because you'll need to get this or you'll miss the intent of the passage. Rather than looking at salvation's greatness through the eyes of the recipient, he looks at the greatness of salvation through the eyes of the agents who brought it. He doesn't look at the greatness of salvation from our viewpoint, but from the viewpoint of four very key persons. One, Old Testament prophets who proclaimed the message. Two, the Holy Spirit who inspired the message. Three, the New Testament apostles who were the gospel preachers and four, the angels. And he demonstrates the greatness of salvation by how the prophets viewed it, how the Spirit viewed it, how the apostles viewed it, and how the angels viewed it. What a fascinating approach.
Not how we view it, but how the agents that brought that message view it. So we can say then four things to follow. Salvation was the theme of the prophets' study. It was the theme of the Spirit's inspiration. It was the theme of the apostles' testimony. And it was the theme of the angels' interest.
This is so rich, so rich. The first testimony then comes from the prophets. And he begins in verse 10, as to this salvation, the salvation of our souls just mentioned. The prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful search and inquiry, seeking to know what person or time.
Stop at that point. Now he's talking about the prophets here, the Old Testament prophets. And he says, they who prophesied of the grace that would come, the salvation to come, made careful search and inquiry into those prophecies, trying to determine what person or time was involved. They literally studied their own prophetic writings to know all they could about the promised salvation.
Now think of it. Of all the truth that they might have studied, why would they be so preoccupied with this? Because this is the greatest theme in the universe, the salvation that God has provided for sinners. At this particular point in time and on this little theater called earth, this is the greatest theme of all the truth that they received in their divine revelation to speak and write down.
This was their passion. They wanted to understand salvation. This was the pursuit of the Old Testament prophets. Now some of the detail as to this salvation, he says, and there's no article here in the original text, just a general reference, prophets who prophesied from Moses to Malachi. All those Old Testament prophets who spoke for God had their gaze on salvation. They were really fascinated by the promises of salvation. You say, well, weren't they recipients of salvation?
Yes. But even though they received salvation, mark this, they received it not having fully seen its accomplishment. You understand that? They received the gift of salvation without ever seeing or knowing the Savior, Jesus Christ. They received the gift of salvation without ever seeing or fully understanding all that was involved in His life and His death and His resurrection. They received a salvation in a sense without the full benefit of seeing the accomplishment of that salvation. But there was more to it than that because in their prophecies, the promise of God was that this salvation to come was a salvation that would go beyond Israel to all the nations of the earth. That was the mystery of it.
That was the uniqueness of it. So they knew that God had revealed a future great redemption plan, not only for Israel but for the world, and that that redemption and deliverance would be brought by the promised Messiah, the prophet, priest, king who was to come. They knew it was future, the grace that would come, and they wanted to better understand it.
They were fascinated by it. Notice that little phrase of the grace that would come. The subject of their intense study was grace. That word grace is a bigger word than salvation. Salvation speaks about the act of saving. Grace speaks about the motive, and it embraces all of God's motive behind His saving work. So grace really encompasses salvation but is a bigger term. They were fascinated to study the grace of God, God's undeserved blessing, unearned favor, forgiving goodness toward sinners. They were fascinated to know that God had promised a salvation by grace that would embrace the world. Now let me hasten to add, beloved, you must not think that because it says they prophesied of the grace that would come that there was no grace in the Old Testament. That is a terrible error to make, and many people make that error, assuming that the Old Testament was all law and no grace. That is not true. God, listen to this, God by nature is gracious.
Is that true? God by nature is gracious. The same God who was gracious in our age was gracious in that age because that's who He is.
God is not in process in spite of what process theology tells us. God has always been unchangeably the same and always unchangeably gracious. He was gracious in the Old Testament economy. He is gracious in the New Testament economy. God is gracious, period. And as long as there has been God, and that's eternal, and as long as there will be God, and that's eternal, He is gracious.
Back in Genesis, the very first book in the Bible, Joseph lifted up his eyes, saw his brother Benjamin, his mother's son, said, Is this your youngest brother of whom you spoke to me? He said, May God be gracious to you, my son. The patriarchs were fully aware of the grace of God.
They knew that. In Exodus 33, you remember Moses was having a vision of God, and in verse 19 we read in that 33rd chapter, God said, I myself will make all My goodness pass before you. I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.
Those are a few samples taken right out of the first two books of the Old Testament. God has always been gracious. The Psalms are replete with statements about the grace of God. The prophets knew that God was gracious. The very fact that He did not consume them in their sin was an indication of His grace.
Jonah, for example, the prophet, Jonah chapter 4, prayed to the Lord, Please, Lord, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore, in order to forestall this, I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that Thou art a gracious and compassionate God. You know why Jonah ran from God? He was afraid to preach to the Ninevites.
You know why? Because he thought God would save them, and he couldn't stand the idea of Gentiles getting saved. It was repulsive to him. So he ran because he knew God was gracious. There was never any question in the Old Testament about whether God was gracious.
He's always been who He is. But there was a surpassing grace to come. There was a greater grace to come than they had even seen in Nineveh or in Israel.
There was a grace that went way beyond anything they had assumed. For example, Isaiah the prophet prophesied of it in chapter 45 verse 20. Listen to what Isaiah says from the Lord, Gather yourselves and come, draw near together you fugitives of the nations. They have no knowledge, who carry about their wooden idol and pray to a God who cannot save.
Declare and set forth your case, indeed let them consult together. Who has announced this from of old? Who has long since declared it? Is it not I, the Lord, and there is no other God beside me, a righteous God and a Savior? Here is Isaiah saying God is announcing He's a Savior to all the nations.
There is none except me. Turn to me and be saved all the ends of the earth, for I am God and there is no other. I have sworn by myself the word has gone forth from my mouth and righteousness will not turn back, that to me every knee will bow and every tongue will swear allegiance and they will say of me only in the Lord our righteousness and strength. Men will come to Him.
Absolutely incredible. Isaiah is predicting that every nation will bow the knee to God, that they will enter into a salvation, a gracious salvation. They hadn't yet seen that come to pass. They knew that was tied into the Messiah. In Isaiah 55, look at the first seven verses.
Listen to what Isaiah says. O everyone who thirsts, come to the waters. That's a free invitation to every one of every nation. And you who have no money, come by and eat. Come by wine and milk without money, without cost. Why do you spend money for what is not bread? Why do you follow false gods?
He's saying. And your wages for what doesn't satisfy. Listen careful to me and eat what is good and delight yourself in abundance. Incline your ear and come to me. Listen that you may live and I'll make an everlasting covenant with you. According to the faithful mercy shown to David, behold I have made him a witness to the peoples, the nations, a leader and a commander for the peoples. Behold, you will call a nation you do not know and a nation which knows you not will turn to you because of the Lord your God, even the Holy One of Israel." God says everybody can come. And then He says that nations are going to come and people who were not His people will become His people, Gentiles, Gentiles.
So that's what you need to understand. The prophets were writing about a salvation grace to come that was far larger than anything they had experienced. They were writing about the Messiah who would bring a salvation that would touch the world. Their prophecies had several basic facts.
I can only just touch them lightly because of time. But when they prophesied about the Messiah and the grace of salvation, they prophesied first that the Messiah would suffer. Psalm 22 details His crucifixion. Isaiah 53 details His suffering. Secondly, they prophesied that Messiah would triumph.
The Psalms that says that God will not leave His Holy One to see corruption. Psalm 2, that He would set His King on His holy hill, He would rule with a rod of iron and a scepter. Isaiah 9 said that the government would be on His shoulder and He would be the mighty God. So the prophets prophesied a Messiah that would suffer and a Messiah that would triumph. Thirdly, they prophesied a Messiah that would save, a Messiah that would save, that would bind up the brokenhearted, that would bring salvation to the ends of the earth.
That is why Jesus, when He went to the synagogue in Nazareth and was given the book of the law of the Old Testament, opened it up and read right out of Isaiah chapter 61 these words. The Spirit of the Lord is on me because He's anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He sent me to proclaim release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are downtrodden, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord. That's a messianic prophecy of the coming Savior who would save. And then He closed the book and He said, Today the Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. So the Old Testament prophet said He will suffer, He will triumph, He will save. Perhaps as good an illustration of the content of the Old Testament prophet's message as any is given in Romans by Paul, as Paul quotes some of these prophets. Look at Romans 9.
We're just going to touch very briefly on this. Romans chapter 9 verse 25, this is so good, so rich. And here Paul is, of course, making an argument for salvation. It's a part of his whole sweeping discussion of salvation. And here he talks about the fact that the Old Testament prophet saw Gentile salvation. Verse 24 mentions that people would be called from among the Gentiles. And then it says, as he says also in Hosea, the Old Testament prophet, I will call those who were not my people, my people, and her who was not beloved, beloved. And it shall be that in the place where it was said to them, You are not my people, there they shall be called sons of the living God.
Isn't that wonderful? There's Hosea the prophet predicting a grace that will come, a salvation that will embrace the Gentiles. Go to chapter 9 verse 33. It says, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.
And again, the qualifying element is not a nation, not Israel, but anyone who believes. Then in chapter 10, would you please notice verse 11? And here he quotes in verse 11 out of Isaiah 28, 16, whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed. The same statement as at the end of chapter 9, a universal salvation for anyone who believes. Look at verse 13. Verse 13 is quoted out of Joel chapter 2, whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved. And then down to verse 20. In verse 20, he is quoting out of Isaiah 65, I was found by those who sought me not. I became manifest to those who did not ask for me. And that's Gentile salvation.
On the other hand, I tried all day long to reach my people and they were disobedient and obstinate. Go to chapter 15 for a final thought. And here again, Paul is talking about God's grace in salvation to the Gentiles and he quotes again in verse 9 here out of the Old Testament. He says, for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy as it is written. And he quotes out of Psalm 18, 49, therefore I will give praise to thee among the Gentiles and I will sing to thy name. And then verse 10, again he rejoices...he says, rejoice, O Gentiles with His people. That's taken from the Pentateuch, Deuteronomy 32. Moses the prophet said that. Then verse 12, verse 12 comes out of Isaiah, there shall come the root of Jesse and he who arises to rule over the Gentiles, in him shall the Gentiles hope. So you get the picture, Gentile salvation. Over in verse 21, they who had no news of him shall see and they who have not heard shall understand, taken again from Isaiah 52.
Now notice what Paul is doing. All those prophecies, whether it's Moses or Joel or Hosea or Isaiah, they were all predicting a grace that would come that was surpassing anything they had experienced. The Messiah would come and save not just the Jew, but the nations. And so Paul in Romans, as he writes about the salvation that has come in Christ, goes back and picks out choice prophecies and says that is now fulfilled. In Christ is the grace the prophets wrote of.
But here's the point. When they wrote of it, they didn't have Romans. When they wrote of it, Christ hadn't been born or died or risen. When they wrote of it, the church had not been born.
So there was not one body, Jew and Gentile, with a middle wall broken down. There was not a surpassing grace that had extended around the world. But so deep and pervasive was their desire to understand that marvelous prophecy that he says back to verse 10, the prophets made careful search and inquiry into it. They studied their own writings. They studied their own writings. They knew they were prophesying of grace that would come to you.
Those little words, to you, very important. They knew they were writing about a future generation, not to them, but to someone in the future. And it was so fascinating to them to study about the Messiah and about His suffering and about His triumph and about His salvation and about the world coming to God, that they made careful search and inquiry. Those two words, I don't think we can split up their meaning and say they each mean something very distinct. They really mean the same thing.
It's just enriching the idea by including two words. They diligently studied their own writings. They dug into their own writings and the writings of the other prophets to better understand salvation. If I were sitting down to write this little section on the greatness of salvation, I would never have approached it this way. I probably would have talked about the fact that salvation is great because of the great God who gave it. Salvation is great because of the great Savior who purchased it. Salvation is great because of the great difference, change, dramatic alteration and so forth in life that it produces.
I would have focused on God's plan, Christ's work, the transformation of a person's life and thereby demonstrated the greatness of salvation, but the Holy Spirit doesn't do that. Salvation was so marvelous a reality that even the Old Testament prophets spent their time trying to understand its wonders. That's how great it is.
That's how wonderful it is. Of all the things they might have searched out, this was what they chose to search out. We're listening to John MacArthur, pastor, author, chancellor of the Master's University and Seminary, and Bible teacher here on Grace to You, Finding Joy in Your Salvation. That's the focus of John's current study from 1 Peter chapter 1, titled Our Great Salvation. John, you said there at the end that the Old Testament prophets searched the Scriptures carefully to better understand salvation, and I know you'd say that's not just a calling for Old Testament prophets. It's for every believer today. Searching the Scriptures diligently and carefully is the greatest endeavor a believer can be engaged in. It holds the highest joys, the greatest thrills, the deepest pleasures. That's why the psalmist said that the Scripture is sweeter than honey from the honeycomb, more to be desired than gold, yes, than fine gold. That's why David said, oh, how I love your law.
It is my delight. Can I encourage you to be a student of the Bible? If you haven't really dug down deep, let me suggest, since we're in 1 Peter, why don't you contact us today and order a copy of the commentary that I've written on 1 Peter. That's a full commentary on every word, every phrase, every verse in 1 Peter. Dig down and see the joy that will come to you as you take in this divine revelation.
My guess is, if you order the commentary in 1 Peter and go through it, you'll want more. And let me encourage you as well, if you don't have a copy of the MacArthur Study Bible, get a hold of one of those. Contact our ministry. We have them in hardback and leather, the NAS translation, the ESV, the New King James, whichever one you prefer. Get a Study Bible that has 25,000 footnotes that will explain the meaning of Scripture and begin to enter into the joy that comes from that experience.
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It's affordably priced in hardcover and leather and it's available in several different translations. To order the MacArthur Study Bible, call 800-55-GRACE or go online to gty.org. And while you're online, remember you can download today's sermon and the rest of John's 3500 sermons free in MP3 and transcript format. Now for John MacArthur and our entire staff here at Grace To You, I'm Phil Johnson with a question. How should your eternal rescue from hell affect the way you live your life today? Find out tomorrow as John continues unleashing God's truth one verse at a time on Grace To You.
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