HOPE THAT LIVES

 

Week of December 10, 2006

 

Bible Passages:1 Peter 1:3-13,18-21.

 

Biblical Truth: Believers can live with hope because their salvation is guaranteed by the death and resurrection of Jesus.

 

The Foundation of Hope: 1 Peter 1:3-5,18-21.

 

[3]Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, [4]to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, [5]who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. [18]knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, [19]but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. [20]For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you [21]who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.[NASU]

 

[3]Peter encourages his readers to praise God [Blessed be], a helpful remedy for hearts weighed down with discouragement because of suffering. He then lists the reason for praise: according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope. In blessing God, Peter thinks first of the new spiritual life that God has given to His people. The only reason given for God causing us to be born again is according to His great mercy. The living hope is the eager, confident expectation of the life to come, which Peter describes in more detail in the next verse. It is living in the sense that it grows and increases in strength year by year. If such a growing hope is the expected result of being born again, then perhaps the degree to which believers have an intense, confident expectation of the life to come is one useful measure of progress toward spiritual maturity. God brought about this new birth through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The resurrection of Christ from the dead secures for His people both new resurrection bodies (at the future resurrection) and new spiritual life (beginning with our regeneration).

 

[4]Peter explains that the object of their living hope is an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away. The New Testament regularly uses inheritance to refer not only to an earthly inheritance but also to a believerís share in the heavenly kingdom. But the Old Testament spoke of the promised land of Canaan as Israelís inheritance and frequently used inheritance to refer to the portion of Canaan belonging to each tribe or family as its share. The contrast is striking: the readers have been born anew, not to obtain a family inheritance in the earthly land of Canaan, but to obtain an inheritance in the eternal city of God. The inheritance is thus their portion in the new creation and all its blessings. This heavenly inheritance is imperishable, meaning that it is not subject to decay, unable to be worn out with the passage of time. The New Testament uses this word only of eternal heavenly realities, such as God Himself and our resurrection bodies. This inheritance is also undefiled. The Old Testament uses the verb defile to speak of ceremonial defilement which made a person or thing unfit to come before God in worship and of moral defilement of the land by sin. Peter invites contemplation of a heavenly inheritance unpolluted by sin and containing nothing unworthy of Godís full approval. God is keeping our inheritance reserved in heaven for us. It will never be denied to us. Thus the inheritance of the New Covenant is shown to be far superior to the earthly inheritance of the people of Israel in the land of Canaan.

 

[5]Peterís readers may have been anxious about whether they would have strength to remain faithful to Christ if persecution or suffering became more intense. He assures them that they are people who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Protected means kept safe, carefully watched, and is frequently used in military contexts. The present participle which Peter uses gives the sense ďyou are continually being protected by the power of God.Ē Yet Godís power does not work apart from the personal faith of those being protected, but through faith. The parallel examples of God working through someone or something in Peterís writings [1 Peter 1:3,23; 2 Peter 1:4] suggest that the believerís personal faith or trust in God is the means God uses to guard His people. This guarding is not for a temporary goal but for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Salvation is used here not of past justification or of present sanctification but of the future full possession of all the blessings of our redemption. This last phrase makes it difficult if not impossible to see any end to Godís guarding activity. If Godís guarding has as its purpose the preservation of believers until they receive their full, heavenly salvation, then it is safe to conclude that God will accomplish that purpose and they will in fact attain that final salvation. Ultimately their attainment of final salvation depends on Godís power. Nevertheless, Godís power continually works through their faith. Do they wish to know whether God is guarding them? If they continue to trust God through Christ, God is working and guarding them, and He should be thanked.

 

[18]Knowing that connects verse 18 with verse 17. The sense seems to be: ďConduct your lives with fear of Godís discipline, because you know that God redeemed you out of a sinful manner of life at great cost Ė with the precious blood of Christ.Ē The realm from which the readers were redeemed is from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers. The image is that of people being physically removed from one place (the sphere of sinful patterns of life) to another (the sphere of obedience to God). The remarkable change brought about by conversion to Christ is seen in the fact that these abandoned sinful patterns of life had been inherited from your forefathers, an influence made weighty by the accumulation of generations of tradition in a society that valued such ancestral wisdom. Peter once again shows the surpassing value of spiritual realities by calling the most precious and abiding metals perishable things. Perishable is always used in the New Testament of things which will decay or wear out because they belong to this world or this age.

 

[19]But with precious blood affirms Christís blood to be much more precious or valuable than gold or silver, apparently meaning precious in Godís sight and therefore inherently valuable. The blood of Christ means His death in its saving aspects. The New Testament writers attribute more importance to His blood that just the removal of our judicial guilt before God. By the blood of Christ our consciences are cleansed [Heb. 9:14], we gain bold access to God in worship and prayer [Heb. 10:19], are progressively cleansed from more and more sin [1 John 1:7], are able to conquer the accuser of the brethren [Rev. 12:11], and are rescued out of a sinful way of life [1 Peter 1:19]. Coupled with the idea of the payment of a ransom is the idea of Christ as a substitutionary sacrifice who bore our penalty. This is emphasized in the phrase as of a lamb unblemished and spotless. So precious in Godís sight is this death and the blood which represents it that it should never be lightly esteemed by us. Nor may we underestimate its value: Christís blood alone could pay the price of our redemption.

 

[20]The word translated foreknown is also translated by foreordained, predestined, and chosen. This is because of (1) a sense that when God knows something beforehand it is certain that that event will occur, and assuming the event to be therefore ordained by God seems to be the only alternative to the non-Christian idea of a certainty of events brought about by impersonal, mechanistic fate; (2) the fact that the use of the word when applied to God is found in contexts that suggest predestination [Acts 2:23; Rom. 8:29; 11:2); (3) a realization that in this context it would make little sense for Peter merely to say that God the Father knew Christ before the foundation of the world. Rather, the immediately preceding context with its emphasis on Christís redeeming death suggests that it is as a suffering Savior that God foreknew or thought of the Son before the foundation of the world. These considerations combine to indicate that the foreknowledge was really an act of God in eternity past whereby He determined that His Son would come as the Savior of mankind. The foundation of the world is a New Testament phrase for the creation of the world. This long-awaited appearance of the Messiah was for the sake of you showing the importance that Peterís readers had in the plan of God.

 

[21]The God who planned their redemption is now the object of their trust. The phrase who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory refers to Christís resurrection, His ascension into heaven, and reception of honor and glory from the Father. After telling his readers to live holy lives [14-16] and to fear Godís discipline and displeasure if they disobey [17] Ė for God redeemed them from sin at great cost [18-19] Ė he concludes by reminding them that the God whom they are to fear as Judge is also the God whom they trust as Savior. He planned their redemption in the counsels of eternity [20a], He sent forth His Son for their sake [20b], He is the one whom they even now depend on [21a], He raised Christ from the dead and glorified Him [21b], and thus He is the one in whom they place all their trust and hope [21c]. The God whom Christians fear is also the God whom they trust for ever, the God who has planned and done for them only good from all eternity.

 

The Perspective of Hope: 1 Peter 1:6-9.

 

[6]In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, [7]so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; [8]and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, [9] obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.[NASU]

 

[6]The word this in the phrase in this you greatly rejoice is best understood to refer to the entire future hope discussed in verses 3-5. The flow of thought in the context makes the combination of rejoicing in hope of the future [3-5] and suffering grief in the present [6-7] a very appropriate one here. Rejoice represents a verb which always signifies a deep spiritual joy in the New Testament. This kind of joy could be called the joy of salvation for it is always a spiritually prompted joy. When they think about their future inheritance, the Christians to whom Peter is writing respond with intense Ďsalvation joyí which continues throughout their earthly lives. He thinks such rejoicing in heavenly realities to be a normal part of the ordinary Christian life. The Christian life is not all joy, however, for Peter adds though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials. These believers are rejoicing even though they may suffer grief. It is evident that by if necessary Peter means Ďnecessary in Godís sightí, an idea which would greatly encourage his readers. Peter says therefore that Christians will experience grief only as it is necessary in the light of Godís great and infinitely wise purposes for them. The phrase various trials should caution us against looking for any specific kind of persecution or suffering as the historical background for this letter. Since no one kind of trial or testing is in view, Peterís words have their application to all the trials which Christians experience. It is best to understand the word now as referring to the present existence of believers during which for a little while, compared with their enjoyment of eternity, they may have to suffer. Peter thus shows simultaneous grief and joy to be normal in the Christian life. Grief arises because of many difficulties encountered in this fallen world, but faith looks to the unseen reality beyond this present brief existence and rejoices.

 

[7]In this verse Peter gives a fuller explanation of the divine purposes behind the grief which Christians now experience. Peter uses the analogy of testing or refining metal to say that situations of testing are occasions when God refines and purifies the faith of His people. The trials burn away any impurities in the believerís faith. What is left when the trials have ended is purified, genuine faith, analogous to the pure gold or silver that emerges from the refinerís fire. By the phrase at the revelation of Jesus Christ, Peter is referring to the judgment of the last day when the secrets of all hearts are revealed. He thus reminds Christians that Godís purposes in present grief may not be fully known in this lifetime. It is in times when the reason for hardship cannot be seen that trust in God alone seems to become most pure and precious in His sight.

 

[8]The verb love in the present tense indicates a continual or regular activity. The Christians to whom he is writing have as their normal present experience continuing love for Jesus Christ, even though they have never seen Him. This implies a personal daily relationship with the ascended Lord Jesus, through prayer and worship and reflection on the written words of Scripture. The verb translated believe means here to Ďtrustí or to Ďrest oneís confidence iní or to Ďdepend uponí. The combination of believe with the preposition into implies strong personal involvement in the act of believing, and carries a sense of resting oneself in Christ. Just as the verb believe in gives the sense of continual present activity, the verb rejoice is also in the present tense and may be translated Ďcontinually rejoiceí. This verb is also used in verse 6 of rejoicing in future heavenly reward. But whereas in verse 6 Peter used the word alone, here he strengthens the word by adding with joy inexpressible and full of glory. The contrast is clear: whereas in the earlier verse Peter spoke of strong rejoicing in future hope, here he says that our personal, daily fellowship with Jesus Christ Himself is cause for even greater rejoicing. The word translated inexpressible describes a joy so profound as to be beyond the power of words to express. This joy is also described by Peter as being full of glory, which indicates the presence of God Himself. Thus this joy results from being in the presence of God Himself, and joy that even now partakes of the character of heaven. It is the joy of heaven before heaven, experienced now in fellowship with the unseen Christ.

 

[9]Peter says his readers are receiving or obtaining the goal or outcome of their faith while they are believing in Christ and rejoicing in Him. Once again the verb obtaining is in the present tense giving the sense of a progressive obtaining of more and more of this goal or outcome to which their faith leads. Salvation then must be used here to refer to the full possession of all the blessings of salvation [see verse 5]. The process described in verse 9 is the entire process of growth in the Christian life, the process of appropriating in oneís own life more and more of the blessings of salvation. This process happens, Peter says, as Christians continually believe in Christ and continually rejoice because of that personal trust in Him. Such day by day faith and joy produces an unexpected benefit: continual growth toward Christian maturity.

 

The Fulfillment of Hope: 1 Peter 1:10-12.

 

[10]As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, [11]seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. [12]It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven ó things into which angels long to look. [NASU]

 

Sufferings now, glories to follow. Peter wants to encourage Christians who face the first to look for the second. He has pointed our hope to the glory of Christ, and to His return. Now he would have us remember that the Christ of glory is the Christ of the cross. The sequence of our lives follows the sequence of Christís life. He suffered first, then entered into His glory. So must we. The pattern of sufferings and glory has profound meaning for the church. Our suffering is not a sign that Christ has betrayed us, or that He is no longer Lord; rather it is a sign of our fellowship with the risen Lord who first suffered for us. Suffering, indeed, becomes a sign of the glory that is to follow. The Spirit of Christ did not inspire the prophets apart from their own involvement in the message. Their prophecies excited their own hopes; they yearned for fuller and clearer revelation. They sought to interpret the oracles they received, inquiring into the time when Godís great salvation would come. But the full meaning of their prophecies could not appear until Christ appeared. Godís plan was amazing beyond comprehension. The prophets ministered mysteries still hidden from them and their own generation; they ministered those marvels to us, as they spoke of the things of Christ. The cosmic sweep of Godís redemption is all centered in Christ, whom we know and love.

 

The Life of Hope: 1 Peter 1:13.

 

[13]Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.[NASU]

 

The imperatives of Christian living always begin with therefore. Peter does not begin to exhort Christian pilgrims until he has celebrated the wonders of Godís salvation in Jesus Christ. The indicative of what God had done for us (and in us) precedes the imperative of what we are called to do for Him. Our hope is Godís gift, an inheritance created for us by Christís resurrection. Because we have been given hope, we are called to live in it. To fix your hope completely is to believe the gospel. Our faith and hope are in God. We cannot first improve our skill in hoping and then direct our more hopeful attitude toward God. Hope moves the other way. It is our response to Godís work. We look to God, hear His word of promise, see His salvation in Christ, and fix our hope on Him. To fix our hope is to fix our gaze on the coming glory of Christís appearing. The certainty of our hope has a remarkable effect on our lives. Hoping Christians cannot live carelessly, seeking self-indulgence and pleasure.

 

Questions for Discussion:

 

1.††††† Praise is making statements about who someone is and what he has done in order to honor him. List the character traits and actions for which Peter praised God in verses 3-5. How can you †† become better at praising God daily in your life?

 

2.††††† Peter uses three words in 1:4 to contrast our inheritance with all other goals, desires, or treasures. Think about what you desire or treasure. Which of those things will perish and fade away? How should this change the things that you desire or treasure?

 

3.††††† What God-designed role does various trials play in your spiritual life? Think about some challenge you are currently facing. How does verses 6-9 help you through your situation?

 

4.††††† How is it possible to stop conforming to the worldís habits, assumptions, and goals? [13]

 

References:

The Message of 1 Peter, Edmund Clowney, Inter-Varsity Press.

1 Peter, Wayne Grudem, Inter-Varsity Press.

An Obedient & Patient Faith, Robert Leighton, Calvary Press.