What is the salvation of the soul, and what does it look like? The first few verses of 1 Peter chapter one give us a strong sense of this salvation and then concludes with, “receiving the end of your faith – the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:9). What is this salvation, and how can we know whether our spiritual growth is heading in the right direction?
The salvation of the soul is a finished work in one way (having become a forgiven child of God) and a process in another (becoming more like Christ). The wording of several passages elsewhere in scripture point out this process: “being saved” (1 Corinthians 1:18), “work out your own salvation” (Philippians 2:12), “you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (1 Timothy 4:16), “to make you wise for salvation” (2 Timothy 3:15), and they point to something unfinished or at least to be perfected. These salvation verses are all directed to the believer. First Peter gives us a glimpse of what the salvation looks like.
Look at the background material of the chapter: Peter tells us that we have received a “living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1:3): “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,”
We also have an indestructible inheritance reserved in heaven for us (1:4): “to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,”
God is guarding them for a future salvation (1:5): “who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
Peter notes that they are rejoicing in these treasures even though they are experiencing much pain in trials (1:6): “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials,”
He comments that their trials demonstrate the state of their faith in God (1:7), that though they don’t see Christ with their eyes, they can still rejoice in Him throughout their trials (1:8): “that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,”
Then we get the conclusion, “receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls” (1:9).
In summary, the salvation of the soul is seen as great trust in God’s promises – for instance, of resurrection and inheritance. This salvation of the soul withstands all efforts to rob the person of this trust.
So as long as the world’s provision is more real to me than God’s blessings, I don’t enjoy this salvation of my soul. If my worldly comforts and objects are taken away, and I complain, feel hurt, irritated, angry, or are depressed rather than resting in God’s future blessing, then I act like the Israelites who complained as they marched away from Egypt, only to die short of reaching the Promised Land. Only two men of that crowd believed that what God was bringing them to was worth all their trials, and they entered into God’s blessing. (The Israelite wanderings is an allegory of God training them in faith through hardships, with the intention of their reaching the Promised Land of trusting God fully and being blessed fully by that knowledge.)
My soul naturally looks to its environment for help and comfort. The work of God is to convince the us that the world is insufficient and He is all we need for life. Then we of our own free wills restrain the soul’s desire for the world. We learn how the world fails us again and again, and learn of its empty promises leaving us unfulfilled, but at the same time, we learn that God never fails, and His promises are trustworthy.
This salvation of the soul’s turning to rest on God happens over many experiences. But when we interpret our experiences apart from God’s word, we don’t turn away from the world to trust God; rather, we get cynical, angry, or depressed, or get trapped in the flow of the world’s ways and can’t see our way out. We just try harder to get what we believe the world can give us, and never reach the salvation of our soul to become more like Christ. For instance, many American Christians believe in The American Dream, which only pushes them more fully into debt and into slavery to objects that can give them no lasting life. Christ was devoted to God and His purposes, not to the worldly system and its ways.
For the continued salvation of the soul, we must say with John, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). The “I” of John is the flesh which desires the world and its comforts, its respect and plans. When Christ increases, when the soul sees His worth, then the world’s system sways us less. Satan uses this world to push us, so his ways are less effective to the saved soul; there is greater resistance to him as we stand for Christ more.
The saved soul has been weaned off this world to focus on God. As Peter further says, “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11). The saved soul does not let its lusts drag it to the world, but disciplines the flesh (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). It recognizes the fleshly desires as not from God and refuses to express itself except in godly ways.
We have been saved – we are children of God. Now we are being saved – we are learning to live as children of God!