Suffering & salvation
6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.
7 These have come so that your faith— of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire— may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.
8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,
9 for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
In verse 8 St. Peter introduces us to the profound paradox of living our Faith: the presence of inexpressible joy amidst the reality of suffering. This would seem to be an expression of what the Lord Himself told the Apostles in Luke 6:22-23. This is a mark of the disciple of Christ. It also seems to echo what St. Paul says in 2 Cor 4:17.
The metaphor of the refiner’s fire we find commonly in the OT (Job 23:10; Prov 17:3; Wis 3:5-7; Zech 13:9). The Greek is not easy to follow, or translate, and here the NIV does a good job. If gold, the most precious of earthly metals requires purification, how much more do we? We read in Sir 2:5: ‘For in fire gold is tested, and worthy men in the crucible of humiliation.’ Bede’s commentary, one the earliest complete treatments of 1 Peter, has some good comments on this section, but they are too long for reproduction here.
Like us, these Christians (unlike St. Peter) had not seen Christ with their own eyes, but they believe in Him and love Him. Jesus Himself said to Thomas: ‘Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.’ (John 20:29).
Their suffering is not the stoic philosophy of the ancient world, it is something new; it is the product of the deep joy of tasting our heavenly inheritance. They, like ourselves, are on the way to salvation; again we see that being saved is a process, not a one off act. This the Church has from Peter and passes to us.