The focus of the believers' quest for joy cannot be that God would relieve them from suffering. It is necessary that before the appearing of Christ, believers will be called upon to suffer various tests (vv. 5, 6). What makes them jubilant (literally, “much leaping”) is that salvation works for them even in the midst of their trials. The trial itself will cause grief (“sorrow”), so how do believers balance the command to be joyful with the sorrows that suffering brings? The answer is found in understanding salvation’s glorious hope in the end.
First, they needed to understand that trials reveal the genuineness of faith (v. 7). Saving faith always results in praise, glory, and honor at Christ’s revelation because fiery trials prove Christ faithful. Seeing God faithful in trial results in love for Christ, continued trust, and settled joy (a state of being as compared to the act or expression of emotion, v. 6), waiting faith’s full revelation (v. 9).
Second, they needed to understand that this salvation is a work of such grace that it captivated the attention of the prophets and angels to whom it was first revealed. They saw that their message was serving future generations of Gentile and not merely their own Israelite peoples. So, they were driven to search it out deeply (vv. 10–12).
Third, they needed to understand the purpose of this salvation to produce a holy and obedient people who refused to shape their lives by the passions that ruled them in their former ignorance. They were now to be governed by godly fear, protecting them in their sojourn (vv. 13–17).
Fourth, they needed to understand how this salvation accomplishes the purpose just stated (vv. 18-23). These believers needed to know that they were liberated from the slavery of futile ways inherited from their forefathers. This is a reference to v. 14 and their having been enslaved to the sin-conforming immoral passions of their pagan past. Redemption or ransom means that a payment was made to free them from sin’s bondage. The ransom payment consisted of Christ’s own blood. Here is the wonder that captivated prophets and angels: the sinless Son of God became the perfect sacrificial lamb, bearing the sins of His people. How can this be?
Our election (v. 1) rests on the election of Christ (“foreknown before the foundation of the world,” cp Acts 2:23). Foreknowledge cannot be understood here as God’s foresight of something Christ would do. It was determined before the first man sinned that the Lamb would die for sinners (note verse 21). Christ shed His blood and because of that, God raised Him from the dead so that, through Him, we can believe to salvation.
Now you see why we can jump with joy in the midst of trial. Our faith and hope are in God so that in the test our souls are purified through obedience to truth. The clear mark of sonship is obedience to Christ, manifesting genuine love from a pure heart (John 14:18–24). We do this because we are born again (vv. 22, 23; 1 John 3:9, 10, 16–18).