1 Peter 1:1-12 “A Living Hope”
1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ:
Grace to you and peace be multiplied.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honour, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 8 whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.
10 Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, 11 searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. 12 To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things which angels desire to look into.
When we speak of Peter, we often call him Saint Peter. In fact, if you don’t, sometimes people will correct you. And while it is appropriate to call him a saint, sometimes it makes him irrelevant to us, as if he were some very holy man who walked around with a halo around his head, and dressed in holy clothes, and only said holy words and did holy things. We need to remember that he was a sinner saved by grace, just like you or me. We all remember that he denied Jesus our Saviour as he was about to go to the cross. But, even after this sin and Christ forgiving him, he went on to sin by not eating with gentile Christians [Galatians 2:12]. And before this, perhaps his greatest sin was that he refused to accept the need for Jesus to go to the cross, and even reprimanded Jesus for saying that he needed to die and rise again. His sin is so serious that Jesus calls him “Satan.” [Matthew 16:23] So yes, he is “saint” Peter, but, like us, he is a sinful man, saved by God’s grace, and it is against this background that he writes his epistle.
And yet, it is against this background that he calls himself an apostle of Jesus Christ. For he who denied our Saviour is now called an apostle of Jesus Christ. The word “apostle” means “the one who is sent”. That is, Peter is not acting on his own, as he did before, but now he has been sent forth to act as a representative of Jesus Christ. And so the words we are about to read, while written down by Peter, are not his words, but the words of Jesus Christ. I have seen Bibles where they claim that the words of Jesus Christ are in red, and while I am not saying that this is wrong, truthfully, the entire New Testament should be red words, for the entirety is the words of Jesus Christ. It is as he says in the second epistle, “knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. [2 Peter 1:20-21]
He addresses this letter “To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.” Jewish people had fled the land of Palestine, and had settled in every nation in the Roman Empire. And many commentators talk about these people as if they are the focus of Peter’s letter. But look at it more carefully. He is talking to the pilgrims of the dispersion. He is not just talking to people who are immigrants, but to people who are called pilgrims. This is an odd word in English, and makes most Americans think of Thanksgiving and the Puritans. But all of us who are in Christ Jesus are pilgrims. That is, we are not in our homeland, we are just passing through. I know that many of you are immigrants, and you know how this feels. This land is so different from where you were born, and no matter how hard you try to fit in, it’s very difficult. But for us as believers in Jesus Christ, we are never at home in this world. We follow Jesus Christ, and where he goes, we go. Which means we can never be completely at home here in this land. And it is to people like this that Peter addresses his letter.
And just as an aside, notice that Peter speaks to people from many countries. Too often, when the Gospel of Jesus Christ comes to a nation and a people, and they receive Christ as their Saviour, they begin to think that they alone are the people of God. But we need to remember that God has his people among Jews and Gentiles, men and women, slave and free, Americans and Mexicans and Vietnamese and big noses and Montagnards [Degar, thượng] and whatever.
But then he tells us how we come to Christ Jesus. He says that we are “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” [vs. 2] God, before the creation of the world, chose us in him. Although Peter was a sinner, he was a sinner chosen by God, and so he had now come to faith in Christ. So each of us who come to Christ, though we are sinners, have been chosen by God, have been known by God, before we were even born. This teaches us that in the end, the source and beginning of our salvation is not in us, but in God our Father.
He says that it is “in sanctification of the Spirit.” [vs. 2] That is, we are made holy, we are made complete, not by our own efforts, but by the work of the Spirit of God in our hearts. God knew us beforehand, and now he has entered our lives, and transformed us, not by a physical action, but by a spiritual action. The Spirit of God is the one who made the difference in our lives, as he says in John 1:12-13, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
So he says that God foreknew us, “for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” There are some people who misinterpret the word of God, especially the verse that says that we are not under law but under grace. But such people clearly misinterpret the word, for the God says, “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!” [Romans 6:15] In that same chapter, he says in verse 22 “But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.” God has not saved us to sin, but he has saved us to live a life which is worthy of him, showing Christ Jesus in all of our words and actions.
But, God did not call us to life of self-righteousness, as if by obedience we could deserve his love and salvation. Instead, he says, that God foreknew us for the“sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” God has prepared us to receive the saving work of Jesus Christ, who died to save us from our sins, that we might be, as he says, sprinkled with his blood. Nowadays, if you go to a doctor’s office or a hospital, they are very careful with anything that touches blood, because they have learned that the things contained in blood are very powerful, and can contaminate us. It is the same with the blood of Jesus, except the other way around. What would normally contaminate us, blood, instead had the power to cleanse us from all our sins, and as in baptism, we are sprinkled with the blood of Jesus like a cleansing flood.
The direct result of this is seen in the next line, where he says, “Grace to you and peace be multiplied.” In a sense, it is a blessing, in that he wishes it upon the people that he is writing to, but it also tells us how the Lord blesses us. The blood of Christ Jesus is sprinkled upon us, and the result is that we receive grace and peace. Grace means that God gives to us all the spiritual blessings we need, and not because we deserve it, but as a work of kindness and love. Peace means that the anger of God is no longer against us because our sins have been paid for, and now we have communion with God, and there is no longer a barrier between us and him, so we live a life of peace in our hearts, even when there is war and tribulation in the world.
So now, he explains the result of the work of Christ. He first gives thanks, saying, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” [vs. 3] He is giving thanks, because of the wonder and glory of what God the Father has done in his son. He says, “who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Again, as he has said so many times before, it is because of his “abundant mercy”. No matter how many times we repeat this, there always seem to be people who want to substitute their good works or something in them for the mercy of God. It is as Paul says in the book of Galatians, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another.” [Galatians 1:6-7]
But he says that God has “begotten us again.” I know this is a strange phrase, and some translations try to make it more understandable by saying, “has given us new birth.” (Verse 3, NIV). But, the first translation is correct. God has given birth to us again. We were born once in the flesh, and now, we need a spiritual birth. Many people try to give themselves a new life by their actions or decisions or thoughts, but, it is only God who has the power to give birth to us spiritually.
And to what does he give us new birth? We read that he “has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” [vs. 3] When unbelievers speak of hope, they speak of possibilities, or probabilities. But this is not the kind of hope that we have. We have a “living hope”, one that does not disappoint. That is because it is based upon an accomplished fact—Jesus Christ has risen from the dead, and on the basis, we do not think, or wish, we know that we have a living hope. Just as certainly as Christ Jesus has risen from the dead, so also we too shall rise from the dead. And just as Christ Jesus is alive today, our hope is alive today, and so, a living hope.
So that we might understand the certainty of our hope, he continues in the next verse, “to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.” First, we notice that is called an “inheritance.” An inheritance comes to someone when someone else dies, in this case, Jesus Christ. While it is true that he rose from the dead, he earned an inheritance through his death, which is, the lives all of those for whom he died. On this basis alone we can be assured of the certainty of the living hope that he has promised.
But he goes on to say that this inheritance is incorruptible. In our daily experience, almost everything is corruptible. We build mighty buildings, only to see them crack and fall. We buy brand new video games, the latest thing, only to see them break, or more often, we lose interest in them after a little while. But the living hope that we have in Christ Jesus is not subject to corruption. It lasts forever.
In the same way, it is undefiled, which is to say, unpolluted. It always amazes me when I see people buying bottled water, because I know that the water that comes out of the tap is much purer than the water in bottles or from water machines. But I understand, because in most countries, tap water is polluted. But, even our tap water is only relatively unpolluted because we put stuff like chlorine or other chemicals into it, so it’s not really pure water. Our hope in Christ Jesus is not like that. It is pure, not needing anything to make it complete.
And, finally, he tells us that this hope does not fade away. You know how it is—the first time you try something new and exciting, it’s fun and enjoyable, but then, after a while, even though you like it, it’s not quite the same. I love raspberry sherbet, and every time I taste it, I like it, but, I don’t eat it all the time, because like everything else, you get accustomed to it. Our living hope only increases in joy and expectation as we look forward to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
And so he says that we “are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” [verse 5] Our hope is not something which is dependent upon us, but upon the power of God. I am fascinated by people when I ask them if they are sure that they are going to heaven. Almost always, they say something like “I hope so.” When they say that, what they are saying is that the God that they believe in is a “hope so” God. Oh, maybe he can help them, and maybe they’ll have eternal life, and maybe their sins are forgiven, but, only maybe, because they really think that there is something lacking. What God tells us here is that we are kept not by our power, but by the power of God. Is your God too weak to care for you, to keep you, and to protect you? And indeed, he confirms this by saying that our faith is “for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” It’s not as if God has to do something to get ready for us. He already has prepared our salvation; it’s only waiting to be revealed at the time of the coming of Jesus Christ.
How should we respond to this? Some Christians are very sorrowful and weary, acting as if this life is “sad and weary.” But what does the apostle say? He says, “In this you greatly rejoice.” [vs. 6] It seems odd, but, for us as believers in Christ Jesus, having a living hope in him means that our lives are not dependent on our outward circumstances. Have you ever been in jail? (Don’t raise your hand!) I can’t think of a more difficult place to be, and yet, what did Paul and Silas do when they were in jail? They sang, of course! Praying, that I understand, but singing? [Acts. 16:25] And yet, for us as believers in Christ Jesus, no matter where we are, we can sing, because Christ lives in us. [Col. 3:16]
This is not to say that we do not suffer. On the contrary, we read in the next part of the verse, “though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials.” First of all, we need to recognize that we need to pass through various trials. There are many churches and preaches today who say that if you believe in Jesus, you will not suffer. But he says that you will be “grieved by various trials.” Not just one or two, but various trials will come into your life. At the same time, he says that these trials are only for a little while. At the time, the trials are and seem grievous, but he assures us that they are only for a time. It is as St. Paul says in Romans 8:18 “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Again, St. Paul like St. Peter does not deny the reality of our suffering, but he emphasizes the same point: they are only for a while.
But there is another point here, and that, the words “if need be.” Our sufferings are not the point, that is, we don’t just suffer to suffer, but our sufferings have a greater purpose. So he says in verse 7, “that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honour, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” One of the purposes of our sufferings is to prove our faith, which is to say, to show that it is genuine. Lots of people say lots of things, because it’s real easy just to say something. But when you have to prove what you say, it’s a different thing. So it is with our faith. It’s very easy to say you believe in Jesus. But to show, by the way that you live and act, that you trust in Jesus, is an entirely different thing. He compares it to gold, saying it is more precious than gold that perishes. During the gold rush in California, there were Chinese people who came to dig gold, but they were not welcomed by the Americans (who had stolen the land from the Mexicans). So one of the Chinese men had an idea. He would move into the old cabins of the miners who had already worked out the fields, and taken all the gold they could get. He pretended to look for gold in the mines, but in reality, he dug up the dirt floors of the cabins, and found gold mixed in the dirt. He would filter it with water, and then burn off the impurities, and got lots of gold that way. To the Americans, he was silly, because to them, the dirt was worthless, but the man understood that there was gold hidden in the dirt. Some people think of our faith in Christ is silly or worthless, but, the apostle tells us that it is more precious than gold.
But our faith is like gold in another related way. To purify gold, you need to heat it up, and not just a little. As you heat it, it melts, and you are able to skim the impurities off the top. There are other ways to purify it, for example, with arsenic, but that too is a poison. The point is that our faith is tried, it is heated up, to prove its truthfulness, but this also serves to purify it. You’ve all seen these people who come to your door with their little Watchtower magazine. I’ve often wondered why God permitted these people, with their false teachings, to prosper as they have. And yet, they serve a good purpose, in that they force us who trust in Jesus Christ as Lord to go back to the Bible, and to search the Scriptures to see the truthfulness of the doctrine that Jesus is God. I admit that I used to be defensive when they came to my door, but now, I look forward to it, and can’t wait for them to come to the door, so I can show them what the Lord says in his word. And so it should be with every trial that we go through. The trials that we pass through have a purpose, and we should grow and learn through the difficulties that we pass through.
But, in the end, the purpose of our faith, and the trials that we pass through, is what we read at the end of verse 7, that it “may be found to praise, honour, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” This really brings us back to where we started in this passage. In verse 3 he told us that he “has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” And now, he tells us that the trials of our faith serve to bring “praise, and honour, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” We, as those who trust in Christ Jesus, live in the hope of his coming, and live constantly in his presence. So then, the trials that we go through, and our waiting with this living hope, will all result in praise and honour and glory for our Lord Jesus Christ. I know, at the time we are going through the trial it may not seem so, but no matter how great the trial may be, we live in that constant state of the living hope of his coming. So although we may be disappointed, or weep, or groan, or even faith within our spirits, in the end, all these things will pass away, and all that will be left, will be our relationship with Christ our Lord.
And in a very real sense, this illustrates the nature of our relationship with Jesus Christ. We read in verse 8 about Jesus, “whom having not seen you love.” Until his coming again, our relationship with Jesus Christ is always one of trust, believing that he is, and that he is who God says he is, and believing that through him we have eternal life. And the end result of that is, “Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.” Again, our relationship with Jesus Christ is not a cold and lifeless relationship. Instead, we are filled with joy inexpressible. What Christ Jesus has done for us, in saving us, and giving us eternal life, and calling us his sons and daughters, means that everything else really is of little importance. And so, no matter what our circumstances may be, we are filled with joy inexpressible.
And so he says we will “receive the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.” You know, when people say things nowadays, it’s so hard to believe them. On my telephone, I have the “do not call” service. So, people call me, and tell me they’re from my bank or my mortgage company or my phone company, and I just say to them, “No thank you, I’m not interested.” I’ve learned that no matter what they may say to me, I’m just not interested any more. I think a lot of people nowadays are like me—we just don’t believe anything that people tell us anymore. But when God says, we will “receive the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls,” it really means something. A pastor, a Moc su, like me, can say something, and you can ignore it, and say, well, that’s just Steve (and besides, he’s a big nose!). And you can ignore a Vietnamese pastor too. But you cannot ignore God when he speaks to you. And our hope is just that—that God has spoken to us, and declared to us, as has promised us, that we will “receive the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.” So, why worry, why be afraid? Instead, rejoice in the living hope that we have because Christ Jesus has risen from the dead! Amen.