“Receiving the end of your faith–the salvation of your souls.”
This is the most difficult of the passages on “soul salvation” in the Bible, in my opinion.
A casual reading of this text seems to suggest that eternal salvation is in view. This is suggested by the fact that the salvation in question is said to be the result of faith (v 9). Since we know from many other passages that eternal salvation is conditioned solely upon faith, it would seem reasonable that eternal salvation is meant.
However, there are insurmountable difficulties with that view which lead me to a different interpretation.
First, the very first word in v 9, receiving (Gk komizomenoi), cannot be made to fit the eternal salvation interpretation. This word is one which refers to “pay” or “wages” received for work done (BAGD, p 442). It is used in a number of passages dealing with the accountability of believers. See 1 Pet 5:4, 2 Cor 5:10, Eph 6:8, and Col 3:25. Believers will receive a recompense from the Lord for what they have done with their Christian lives.
It is also used to refer to unbelievers receiving wages for their evil deeds (2 Pet 2:13).
The only other NT uses of this word also deal with someone receiving something they deserve (Matt 25:27; Luke 7:37; Heb 10:36; 11:13, 19, 39).
There is not even one NT use of this term to refer to receiving something undeserved. While one could argue that this use is the exception, that is very unlikely. The two other times Peter used the term in his epistles (1 Pet 5:4; 2 Pet 2:13) it referred to receiving wages for something one deserved. If Peter wanted to refer to the reception of an undeserved, free gift, then he would have used another word like the one used in John 1:12 (lambano).
Second, the reference to faith in v 9 does not concern saving faith. Rather, it concerns faith that stands the test of fire (v 7). Of course saving faith undergirds all good conduct. However, Peter is concerned with the practical outworking of what we believe.
We may, for example, believe that it is better to give than to receive. However, if we are not practicing giving in our daily living, then we are not putting that belief into practice.
Third, what is promised is broader than eternal life. The context speaks of “praise, honor, and glory [to be received] at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (v 7) and of God “who without partiality judges according to each one’s works” (v 17). Eternal salvation is not based on our works! Praise, honor, and glory at Christ’s coming are. Only believers whose works stand the test of fire will receive those things (cf. 1 Cor 3:10-15; 1 Pet 1:7).
Fourth, “soul salvation” is not used anywhere else in Scripture to refer to eternal salvation. Elsewhere it either refers to temporal salvation (deliverance from physical death) or to eternal rewards. For further details see the previous articles in this series.
Fifth, the “soul salvation” in view here is future, not present. Eternal life is the present possession of all who believe (John 5:24). This salvation, whatever it is, is future.
Sixth and finally, the rewards view best fits the theme of the whole book as well as this subsection. The theme is this: if believers are faithful in their earthly trials–willingly suffering for Christ, then they will obtain an abundant life forever. “Soul salvation” in this context is the abundant life which faithful believers will receive.
The following references from First Peter support this understanding of 1:9. Notice how Peter repeatedly refers to suffering and to the rewards that come to the believer who does so for Christ’s sake.
“Be holy, for I am holy. And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear” (1:16-17).
“When you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God” (2:20).
“But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed” (3:14a).
“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy” (4:12-13).
“The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away” (5:1-4).
The salvation of the soul in 1 Peter 1:9 refers to the abundance of life which shall be the eternal experience of the believer whose faith stands the fiery test. We should live each day with our hearts set on obtaining this “soul salvation.” As the Lord Himself said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth. . . but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven. . . For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt 6:19-21).