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“. . . obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:9).

FAITH IS A PRINCIPLE OF SUCH IMPORTANCE, WE MIGHT HOPE THAT EVERYBODY WOULD UNDERSTAND IT. But many people do not. And one of the most misunderstood things about it is what Peter here calls the “outcome” of faith. Before we go any further, surely we can see that this point is important. If we fail to grasp what the outcome of our faith is supposed to be, we are bound to have trouble.

In 1 Peter 1:9, the word translated as “outcome” by the ESV is telos, a common Greek noun which usually meant something like goal or purpose. The corresponding verb meant to set out for a particular destination or goal. Even in English, however, these words are very flexible and can have different connotations; within a single usage, they can carry more than one meaning at the same time.

When Peter wrote that the “salvation of your souls” is the telos of our faith, he may have meant that heaven is the end point of our journey. Our salvation will be the culmination of our earthly sojourn. Also, he may have meant that salvation is the consequence of our faith. For some other result to be produced, a person would have to do something besides follow Christ. And lastly, he may have meant that salvation is the meaning of our faith. When we say that history is “going somewhere,” we’re stating that it has a meaning and is not purposeless. Similarly, the faith of the Christian is not random or absurd; it will have a meaningful outcome.

But if you’ve read the New Testament, you know something else about heaven: it is the reason why people become Christians. At least, that is what life in Christ was about in the apostolic age. Its purpose or intended goal was not a better world in the here-and-now; it was, as Peter saw clearly, “the salvation of your souls.”

Stephen R. Covey said we should “begin with the end in mind.” And the New Testament leaves absolutely no doubt: the “end” we’re trying to get to is heaven. That’s the meaning of my life, and I hope it’s yours. Any other outcome will not have been worth the journey.

My life, as his,
slips through death’s
time’s bars,
joins hands with heaven,
speaks with stars.
(Luci Shaw)

Gary Henry — +

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