Meditations in 1 Peter : 3 : A Living Hope
1 Pet 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead
Peter bursts into praise. It is praise to God who is also the Father of Jesus. But Peter doesn’t speak casually about Jesus as he might have done years previously while Jesus walked on the earth and Peter walked alongside him. Then he probably would have referred to ‘the Master’, the rabbi who taught them to become fishers of men. But much has happened since those days. His master had been arrested and crucified and then he had come back from the dead and then he had ascended to heaven. Oh yes, he was no longer merely ‘the Master’ for they now recognised him for who he was – their Lord. We take this word ‘Lord’ for granted when it is used in respect of Jesus but it means he is our ruler, our owner, the one who has rights over us, our king! This is who Peter now knows Jesus to be, but it isn’t Jesus he focuses on, it is God the Father, the Supreme Ruler, the Almighty One, the One who has a plan that He is working out in the earth that involves eternity. All of these descriptions will come out in this letter. This is the One who is worthy of our praise.
When you ‘worship’ someone you bow down before them acknowledging their great superiority over you. When you ‘thank’ someone you express your gratefulness for what they have done for you or given you. When you ‘praise’ someone you extol them for what they have achieved. That brings us to the heart of this verse, Peter’s praise of the Father for what he has achieved. If we are Christians who have known the Lord a long time we may have come to take these things for granted and so we need to ask Him to bring them alive to us again. There are wonderful things being written about here!
Because of the nature or character of God He has done something wonderful. He has given us ‘new birth’, He has given us a new life; He has made us anew. We talk about it and preach about it so easily but it is truly a wonderful thing, that God has come to us and re-energised us by the power of His Holy Spirit and given us the ability to be different people, godly people, people in a living relationship with Him, receiving His guidance and direction and wisdom and enabling to be good!
The concept of being born again was brought to us by the apostle John in his Gospel (Jn 3:3) as he reported the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus. He had already referred to it in his opening chapter: “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God– children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (Jn 1:12,13) but it is clearly a teaching of the early church for Peter is saying the same thing: God has made it possible for us to start life again on a completely different basis and with a completely different power and motivation.
What was so incredible about this was that we didn’t deserve it. In fact there was nothing in us that merited this; it was a pure act of mercy on God’s part. Mercy is kindness or forbearance that is not deserved. Perhaps we’ve never seen it like this but mercy is an expression of love. John tells us that “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8,16). Now love is benevolence or strong benign feelings for another and everything about God is this, we are told. For this reason (which we are unable to explain any further than John says) God expresses mercy to whoever will receive it. It is a benign or benevolent attitude which is expressed in benign or benevolent actions.
Thus God did not condemn us but drew us to Himself and poured out His love on us in the form of forgiveness and adoption and empowering with the Holy Spirit and thus we were ‘born again’. All it required of us was to believe in Jesus, that he is the Son of God who died on the Cross for us, attested to by his resurrection from the dead. That confirmed who he was and what he had done.
But there is yet something more to consider. This new life, having been ‘born again’, is described by Peter as “a living hope.” In the world hope is a very vague thing. “I hope it won’t rain tomorrow.” or “I hope I’ll get a pay rise next month.” Mostly these are vague wishes, things we’d like to happen. However, when we come to Scripture ‘hope’ is a very strong thing, a certainty based upon God’s promises. Hope is always about tomorrow, about what is yet to come. In the Christian walk we have a number of such things. For example whatever goes on in life, God will always be there working to bring good out of it for us (Rom 8:28). We also know that in the walk we have today and tomorrow He will always be with us (Heb 13:5b). Moreover, this walk will not end with death for we have been promised eternal life (Jn 3:15,16), a life that will never end.
In fact as we go through the New Testament we find it is filled with such promises, such declarations from God that say “Tomorrow will be a good day because God has said He will do this and carry on doing it.” This hope is not just academic based on things God has said (although that is true), but it is living in the sense that it is verified by the living presence of God within us, His Holy Spirit. It is an ongoing, daily experience, Him in me, teaching, convicting, correcting, guiding and empowering for change. I know this will be like that tomorrow because it is like it today and it was like it yesterday. Some days we are very much aware of it, others not, but it is true. This is the wonder of the life that God has brought us into! Hallelujah!