I mentioned before in verses 1-2 of 1 Peter 1 that the purpose of this letter is to show how to be secure through suffering in this world as elect exiles of God. The first answer to that question is in verses 1-2, namely know that believers are chosen by the Father, sanctified by the Holy Spirit, and sprinkled with the blood of Christ for obedience. Now we will look at the second answer in verses 3-5, namely know the believer’s living hope.
This is a very rich passage of Scripture. It is one of those passages that is so rich that it would take an eternity to grasp all that is taught therein. So I may not be able to address all that can be talked about in this passage. We will just follow this simple outline to guide us through today.
I. The Source of the Living Hope : The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ(1:3)
II. The What of the Living Hope : The Inheritance(1:4)
III. The Assurance of the Living Hope(1:4-5)
After the salutation Peter immediately erupts in praises to God, for he says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” The predicate nominative adjective eulogētós/εὐλογητός “blessed” is in the emphatic position. Meaning Peter is drawing his reader’s attention to the praiseworthiness of God. Blessed here doesn’t mean that God received something that made him blessed. Rather it means worthy of praise. It speaks of the worth of God. Then he gave the reason why in verses 3-5.
The Basis of New Birth : God’s Great Mercy
The ultimate reason, that is, at the very bottom, the grounds for worship is the great mercy of God. Everything else is flowing from this spring. This is the basis of all of God’s saving work, starting from election in verses 1-2 until future salvation in verse 5 and everything in between. Here, this mercy is basis of new birth. Peter says, “According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again”. We have nothing to do in our new birth. It is by divine fiat we are birthed or to be more literal begotten anew.
Where can find this idea of being born again by God’s sovereign will alone in other places in scriptures?
John 3:3-8 – Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
John 1:12-13 – But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
John 5:1 – Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.
To be sure this happened not apart from the preaching of the word because Peter says in 1 Peter 1:23-25, ..since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.
The Result of New Birth : Living Hope
Now this new birth is a birth to a living hope. What does it mean? What does “to” mean? What does “living” mean? And finally what does “hope” mean?
The preposition “to” seems to mean “with the result of”. Because what comes after the begetting is life. And “living” is modifying the word “hope”, which implies that before the new birth, what you have is a dead hope. So the result of new birth is a living hope. That is both the intended and necessary result of new birth. Now hope is what you have for the future as faith is what you have in the present. Or as Hebrews 11:1 put it, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
This living hope is not a probable hope that it may or may not come to pass, this hope is as true as the present. It is real and not a false hope.
The Means of New Birth to a Living Hope: Resurrection of Jesus
Now, how is new birth into a living hope possible? The answer is, it is possible through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
We usually assign the work of regeneration to the Holy Spirit, but here this new birth, before it even happen to you by the work of the Holy Spirit, it was made possible by the resurrection of Jesus. The Spirit will not birth anyone anew without first the resurrection of Jesus. That’s why Paul can say in 1 Corinthians 15:17, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” That’s the same as saying your hope is dead, and you are still dead in your sins.
So we can see now that ultimately, the source of our living hope is the God the Father, who raised His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead so that in accordance to His mercy He might cause us to be born again to that living hope.
Now the nagging question, isn’t it, is what is the content of that living hope? The answer is in verse 4.
Our living hope is the inheritance that is ours in Christ Jesus. Verse 4 is functioning as an explanation, or is in apposition to the living hope in verse 3. We can rephrase it this way, “according to God’s abundant mercy, he has caused us to be born again with the result of having a living hope, that is born again with the result of having an inheritance.” So what we’re hoping for is the receiving of this inheritance. But what is this inheritance you should ask?
Peter gave us some clues. This inheritance is imperishable, undefiled , and unfading.
Our inheritance is imperishable(aphtharton). The word means that it cannot perish; it does not age, deteriorate, or die; it does not have the seed of corruption within it.
Matthew Henry points out that everything on earth changes from better to worse, but not our inheritance. It is perfect and incorruptible. It never changes, and it shall never cease to be the most perfect inheritance and gift imaginable (Matthew Henry’s Commentary, Vol. 6. Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell, p. 1005).
Our inheritance is undefiled (amianton). The word means that it cannot be polluted or defiled, dirtied or infected. It means that our inheritance will be without any flaw or defect; it will be perfectly free from sickness, disease, infections, accident, pollution, dirt—from any defilement whatsoever. There will never be any tears over what happens to oneself or over the damage or loss of some possession.
Our inheritance does not fade away (amaranton). It will last forever and ever. The splendor and beauty of it all—of life and of all the positions and possessions which God shall give us—none of the splendor and beauty shall fade or diminish whatsoever. Nothing, not even our energy and bodies, shall wear out or waste away.
So what is this inheritance then? The last part of Verse 5 I think tells us most clearly what this inheritance is. It says, “..for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” It is final salvation. That is what we’re hoping for, that is our inheritance that is now invisible to us.
Lastly, what is our assurance that we will receive this inheritance?
Two things must happen if we are to receive this inheritance.
First, we don’t have an inheritance if it was not kept in heaven and can be destroyed or taken away. So our first assurance is the fact that this inheritance is kept in heaven for us. That’s the reason why it is imperishable, undefiled and unfading. That’s why Jesus said if you want to invest in something, invest in the Kingdom of Heaven where there is no moth that destroys treasures.
Second, even if the inheritance is being kept in heaven, if the heir was destroyed, because he was proven to be a fraud, then he will not receive the inheritance. So our second assurance is in verse 5, namely that by God’s power we are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Take note, the means is faith. We are guarded by God through faith. God is the primary agent here, and faith is just an instrument. The proof that you are an heir is the stamp of faith that God provides. Just as God is the source of our living hope, God is also the source of faith. You must have that faith until the last time to prove that you are indeed guarded by God’s power. If you fail to persevere in faith, then it follows that you’re not guarded. And if you’re not guarded, then you’re not a true heir. But if you persevere because of this living hope, even in the most instense suffering as elect exiles in the world, it will be shown that you are guarded by God’s power, then you will receive the salvation that is to be revealed in the last time.
So with Peter, let us proclaim, God be praised for his abounding mercy that caused us to be born again, that we might have the imperishable inheritance, our living hope for future salvation that is to be revealed in the last time. This is our security as elect exile living in world full of suffering.