Last week we spent our time on verse 2 of 1 Peter 1 where Peter refers to God the Father; and to God the Holy Spirit; and to Jesus Christ who is God the Son. Do you remember? Believers have been chosen according to God the Father’s foreknowledge. So, before the world was made, before we were made, and before we had done anything at all, whether good or bad, God the Father foreknew us which means he set his love on us and he chose us and he therefore elected us for salvation. And believers have been sanctified by the Holy Spirit which means that the Holy Spirit came into our lives and set us apart from those who don’t believe in order to belong to God. And having become members of God’s people, we’re to obey the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son, living our lives for him, and seeking to do his will; but we’re also sprinkled — washed and cleansed — by his blood so that God no longer treats us as our sins deserves, but he pardons us for the sake of Christ who died for us.
And we saw how the things Peter has been saying were ideally suited for his readers who were suffering for their faith. Yes, the world may have hated them; but God the Father has loved them with an everlasting love. Yes, the world may hate them, and they may feel out of place in the world; but they shouldn’t be surprised because they no longer belong to the world, but to God in heaven. And yes, the world may hate them, but as long as they live in the world, they’re to seek to do their Saviour’s will and to live their lives on the earth for him.
And so today, we become to verses 3 to 5 where Peter begins to praise God. And you see, God deserves the praise, because it’s all about him. Just glance at these verses for a moment and you’ll see that they’re all about God and what he has done for us. So, Peter refers to God’s great mercy towards us. He refers to how God has given us new birth. And God gives us a living hope. And God gives us an inheritance. And God shields us by his great power. And God is the one who has got salvation ready for us. It’s all about God and what he has done for us. And therefore he deserves the praise and the glory and the honour. And so, even though the readers to whom Peter was writing were suffering grief in all kinds of trials, though they were suffering in this life, nevertheless they could still praise God. And they could still praise God because of all that God had done for them and was going to do for them.
And so, what has God done for them? Well, Peter tells us in the verses which follow. And there are perhaps four main things to note here. Firstly, he’s given us this new birth. Secondly, the new birth results in a living hope. Thirdly, the new birth also results in an inheritance. And fourthly, God will shield us by his great power until our final salvation is revealed. So, let’s look at those four things now.
So, in verse 3 Peter writes:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth….
Peter praises God for giving us this new birth. Now, notice right away that new birth is something God gives to us; it’s something that he causes to happen to us. In other words, it’s not something we do ourselves; we can’t make ourselves be born again; and we don’t decide that we’re going to be born again. This is not something we produce ourselves; it’s something that God produces in us because he’s the one who gives us the new birth. And since he’s the one who gives us the new birth, then he’s the one who deserves the praise for it. So:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, because in his great mercy he has given us new birth….
But, what does it mean to be born again? Well, it’s all about beginning a new life. It’s about having a new existence. A mother goes into labour and gives birth to a child; and by being born, that child begins his life here on the earth. But then, God looks upon that person with mercy. In other words, God looks upon this person in their sin and misery and in their life without Christ and without hope, and he has mercy on him. And in his mercy, he gives him this new, spiritual birth. In other words, God the Father sends the Holy Spirit into this person’s life and enables him to begin a new life, a new existence.
In the Bible, it’s sometimes characterised as life from the dead. So, Paul writes about being dead in our trespasses and sins, but being made alive with Christ and being raised us up with him. And it’s sometimes characterised as a new creation. So, Paul writes that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone; the new has come. So, it’s about being raised from spiritual death to spiritual life. And it’s about being re-creating or re-made so that our old life without Christ is over and a new life has begun. It’s all about starting a new life, a new existence.
So, one person hears the good news of the gospel, and it leaves him cold; he doesn’t believe; and he’s not interested in the message or affected by it. Well, it’s because he’s dead in his trespasses and sins. And so, he’s unable to believe. But then, there’s someone else who hears the same message; and she’s gripped by the message; and she believes it to be truth; and she’s able for the first time to repent of her sins, which she now hates, and to trust in the Saviour for forgiveness. What happened that she was gripped by the message and able to believe while the other person was left unaffected by the message? Well, it was God who came into her life by his Spirit and gave her this new birth, this new life, so that she was able to believe.
And being born again like this, beginning this new life, this new existence results in a new hope. And that’s the second thing Peter mentions here.
I’m sure I’ve said before that hope in the Bible doesn’t mean wishful thinking. You know, someone asks us if we think our team is going to win the match on Saturday; and we say: Well, I don’t know. But I hope so. Hope in that context means: I’d like them to win. I wish they’d win. I really want them to win. But I don’t know if they will. But hope in the Bible means being certain about something. Being confident. Being assured about something. And therefore being able to rest and to be content and not anxious because of the hope we have. So, imagine someone is seriously ill. But they know that the medicine they’ve been prescribed is guaranteed to be effective. And so they are now hopeful about making a full recovery. How very different they feel now, compared to when they first got ill. When they first got ill, they became hopeless: This is it; this is the end; there’s no hope for me. But then they heard about the medicine; and they got hold of it; and they began to take it; and now they feel completely different. They know it will work. They know they’ll get better. And so they can rest in the knowledge that everything’s okay. They’re hopeful — full of hope — because they’re know that they’ll make a full recovery.
Hope in the Bible is like that. It’s not wishful thinking, hoping for the best. Hope in the Bible is something sure and certain. Or as Peter puts it here: it’s a living hope. It’s a living hope; and not a dead hope. It’s a genuine hope, a real hope; and not something which is empty and uncertain.
What is the content of this hope? What are we hoping for? Well, let’s look to see what Peter goes on to say in verse 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.
By mentioning the Lord’s resurrection, Peter is making clear that the living hope which we receive by being born again is based on and arises from the Lord’s resurrection from the dead. Though he suffered so much under Pontius Pilate and was crucified and died and was buried, nevertheless, he was raised from the dead to live for ever and ever in glory with his Father. The Lord Jesus suffered and died; but he was raised. And the fact that he died and was raised to live for ever in glory gives us hope. And it gives us hope, because we believe that just as he died and was raised, so we too will be raised from the dead to live for ever and ever with God in glory. That’s our living hope: that’s our sure and certain hope: resurrection from the dead.
So, we may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials right now, and we may have to endure all kinds of sorrow and sadness now, and the world may hate us now, and we may feel out of place in the world now, but nevertheless we have this living hope to sustain us and to help us every day: that just as Christ died and was raised, so we too will be raised and we will live with him in the glory to come. So, even as we go through this troubled life, with all its sorrow and sadness, and trials and tribulations, even as we go through these things, we’re looking forward to the resurrection and to everlasting life in the presence of the Lord.
Think of Peter’s readers. They’d suffered so very much. The world was against them. They’d perhaps lost everything they had. Life might have seemed bleak to them and hopeless. What would they do? How could they manage? What does the future hold for them? And so, Peter wrote to remind them of the great hope they possess of the resurrection and everlasting life with God. They might have nothing now in this world, but they were to look beyond this world, and beyond this life, to the life to come in the new heavens and the new earth; and to the time when all the former things — all the sorrow and sadness — have passed away and they’ve come into the perfect peace and rest which God has prepared for his people.
Think of the students who are sitting in their rooms, with their heads down, studying hard. And it’s hard work. And it can be tiresome. And they’d rather give it up and go outside to play. But they press on with it and they endure it and they persevere with it, because they’re looking forward to the time when the revision will be over, and the exams will be over, and they’ve got that place in the college which they want, or they’ve got that job which they want. They endure the revision now because they’re hoping for something better in the future. And that’s the way the believer thinks as well, because we’re always conscious of the living hope which God has given us.
So, Peter praises God for giving us this new birth. And he praises God because the new birth results in a living hope. And another way of looking and thinking of the living hope appears in verse 4, because the new birth results not only in a living hope, but in an inheritance.
Whenever God gives us the new birth, we become members of his family. And so, God the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ becomes our Father; and we become his children. And since we’re members of his family, we’re taught in the Bible to expect from him an inheritance. So, what do we hope to inherit from God our Father? Well, do you remember the rich young ruler who went to see the Lord Jesus? And what did he want to ask him? He said: ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’ The inheritance we receive as members of God’s family is eternal life. You see, God gives to every believer not only the sure and certain hope of the resurrection, but he also gives us the promise of everlasting life in his presence.
And look what Peter says about this inheritance at the end of verse 4: he says it is kept in heaven for you. Now, that’s important. Think of Peter’s readers again. Back in verse 1 he said they had been scattered throughout these different areas of the Roman Empire. And presumably they had been scattered because of persecution. You know, they’d been forced to leave their homes and to flee for their lives. And, having been scattered, they may have lost all their property; they might have had to leave behind the family home or the family farm and all their possessions. Or perhaps, if their family had turned against them because of their new faith, they had lost out on the family inheritance.
So, here’s Peter writing to re-assure them that, even if they have lost out on their family inheritance, there was another inheritance waiting for them. And it’s a better one, because it’s a heavenly one. And it’s kept in heaven for them. So, it’s safe and secure. And look how Peter describes this heavenly inheritance. He says this inheritance from God, which is kept in heaven, can never perish or spoil or fade. So, it won’t wear out like clothes or rust like metal or spoil like food or break down like a machine or lose its value like stocks and shares. It’s utterly imperishable.
And, of course, since it’s kept in heaven, then God is keeping it safe because no one will be able to break into heaven and steal it away, the way someone might break into our homes and steal a family heirloom. No, this heavenly inheritance is kept safe and secure for us and for all of God’s people.
Peter was writing to Christians who had suffered in many ways because of their faith. And so, he wrote to comfort them and to re-assure them and to remind them to turn their thoughts upwards to heaven and to the eternal life which they will inherit from God one day and which is being kept safe for them right now. They might have lost everything in this world, but God their Father had something even better in store for them in the world to come.
And, of course, we can relate this to ourselves. Think of the things people often rely on. For someone, they’re relying on their job: So long as I have my work, I’ll be okay. For another, they’re relying on their family: So long as I have my family, I’ll be okay. For another, they’re relying on their health: So long as I have my health, I’ll be okay. For another, they’re relying on their friends: So long as I have my friends, I’ll be okay. But what happens when these things disappear and we no longer have that job to rely on; we don’t have that family member to rely on; or what happens when our good health leaves us? What happens if our family and friends reject us because we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ? What happens then? We can feel helpless, can’t we? We can feel hopeless. And we can wonder what the future holds for us, now that this thing I was counting on has gone. But here’s the thing to remember and believe: We ought to remember and believe that our Father in heaven has promised us a wonderful and glorious future. We might lose everything we have in this life, but we know that God has promised us eternal life in his presence; and no one will be able to take that away from us. And so, it’s as if Peter is saying to us: If you’re ever tempted to think that you have nothing, then let me tell you what you have: you have the sure and certain hope of the resurrection from the dead and everlasting life in the presence of God. And no one will be able to take that from you.
But Peter is not finished yet. We can imagine someone saying: That’s all very well telling me I’ll be raised from the dead one day and I’ll inherit eternal life in the presence of God one day. But I need help now! Right now my life is hard. Right now my life is unbearable. Right now I’m struggling. Don’t tell me about what’s to come in the future; I need help now. Well, it’s as if Peter thought of that, because he goes on to in verse 5 to refer to what God does for us now, in the present. Not only does he keep our future inheritance safe and secure, but he keeps us safe and secure. Listen again to verse 5:
who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
Peter is teaching us that believers are shielded by God’s power. So, we’re to picture a city which is under siege by an enemy army. The enemy is attacking the city, again and again and again. But the people inside are safe. They’re protected. And they’re safe because there’s an impregnable wall which goes right around the city; and nothing the enemy will do can breech the wall. And so, the people inside the city are perfectly safe and secure, because they’re shielded by this wall.
If you’re a Christian, if you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, then you’re shielded like that by God’s power. And how powerful is God? Well, he’s Almighty God, isn’t he? He’s the all-powerful God. His power is perfect; and with his perfect, almighty power, he’s shielding his people. So, whatever happens to you in life, whatever troubles come your way, whatever the Devil might do to try to crush your faith, and whatever the world might do to oppose you, you can look to your Father in heaven to shield you by his mighty power.
And for how long will he shield us by his mighty power? Look at the end of verse 5:
until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
Peter is referring to our final salvation, when we’re brought — in body and in soul — into the presence of God to be with him for ever and ever in glory. Well, it’s ready for us, says Peter. It’s ready for us because God has done everything necessary to prepare it for us. He’s got it ready for us. Now, we’re just waiting for the time when we will receive it from him. And while we wait for it, while we wait for it, he’s shielding us by his mighty power.
And how does he shield us by his mighty power? Well, Peter again tells us: he shields us through faith. You see, the Devil, by his temptations, wants us to give up our faith in Christ. And when troubles come our way — as they surely will — they can shake our faith. Something happens, and we’re tempted to give up our faith in the Saviour. But then we come to church and we hear again the good news of the gospel of the greatness of God’s love for us, and how Christ the Saviour died for us, and how God has promised us to raise our bodies from the dead and to give us everlasting life in his presence. We come to church and are reminded of these things, and our faith is strengthened. And whereas once we were tempted to give it all up, we now cling on to Christ more tightly than ever before. That’s how God shields us. He shields us by strengthening our faith in the Saviour so that we will not fall away from him and from the great salvation he has prepared for us.
And so, 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; and into an inheritance that is kept in heaven for us; who are being shielded through faith by God’s power until the day comes when we will come into the presence of the Lord to be with him for ever and ever in glory.