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Praise To God For Living Hope  (ch. 1:3 - 12)

 

Verse 3 begins with the word "praise" in the NIV and "blessed" in the KJV.   The Greek word that is translated into English here is "eulogetos."  I'm sure you recognize our English word "eulogy" which is a direct transliteration from the Greek.  "Eulogetos" simply means "to speak well of."  Peter is about to speak very well of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is amazing in the midst of all his troubles and the troubles his readers were going through.  Many of us might well be complaining if we were suffering like those people.  Some of would actually forsake our faith in the midst of such persecution that these people were going through.  I suggest we learn not to complain because some of us, maybe many of us, will be going through similar trials from the anti-Christian culture in which we live.  Complaining will do nothing in our attempt to survive the days ahead of us.  As a matter of fact, it will hinder us from serving Jesus and will eventually harm our witness for Him.       

 

Praise was to be given to "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."  We have seen this phrase many times in Paulís writings.  Did Peter get this thought from Paul?  We donít know for sure, but that doesn't really matter.  This truth was a vital component of first century Christian gospel.  The point to be made is this.  The God that Peter gives praise to is both the God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Peter does not believe in a generic God.  The New Testament does not teach a generic God.  The Bible does not proclaim a one god fits all people as our present western world embraces today.  The God that Peter gives praise to, and we should too, is both the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  This God is different than any other proclaimed god in human history.  He is not the god of Islam or any other religion as the present day Emergent Church teaches.   

 

One problem I see with modern day Christianity is that we speak too much about God and not enough about Jesus.  In this day in age when the belief in a generic god is so prevalent, we need to specify what God we serve.  We serve the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.  If you don't make this clear, the world will think we believe in their generic god, and we certainly don't believe in the god of this world.    

 

When Peter uses the term "God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ," as a Jew, this is very significant.  Jews believed in Yahweh, the God and father of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  In other words, Peter is now adding Jesus to this list.  He is saying that Jesus is Yahweh in human flesh.  This would be very disturbing to non-Christian Jews.  This is what got the disciples in trouble with the Jews.  This is why Jesus found Himself in trouble with the Jewish leadership as well.  From a human standpoint, this is why Jesus was executed.  Of course, from God's view point, Jesus was executed for other reasons.        

 

We also note that Peter calls Jesus "our Lord Jesus Christ."  The pronoun "our" is possessive, meaning; Jesus belongs to us as Christians.  Even more so, Jesus has been given to us.  Isaiah 9:6 states that "to us a child is born and a son is given ÖĒ 

 

We should also note the name Jesus.  The angel told Mary to call her son Jesus prior to His conception.  Jesus means "Yahweh is salvation."  Jesus' very name tells us that He is God, or, to be more specific, Yahweh, in human flesh.  God being Jesus' Father also suggest that Jesus is God in human flesh.     

 

Jesus is both Lord and Christ.  As Lord He is the Almighty God over all there is.  As Christ, He is Saviour for those who give their lives to Him.  This is how the Old Testament understands the words "Lord" and "Christ."      

 

As you study the New Testament you will find certain truths that the early Christians promoted.  At times I feel that we do not promote these truths to the extent that they did.  We tend to promote secondary issues instead.  One of these truths are found here in verse 3.  Peter says that God has "given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus."  Three points should be made here.  One is the idea of the new birth.  John 3:3 to 5 says this very clearly.  When giving our lives to Jesus, we are actually born again by the Holy Spirit.  At initial salvation we receive Godís Spirit into our lives.  This in fact causes us to be born the second time in a spiritual sense.  We have already been born in a physical sense into this world, but at conversion, we are born again spiritually.  There is an old saying that goes like this.  One who is born once dies twice while one who is born twice dies once.  How true that is.     

 

The second point we see here is that we are born into a hope.  A study of other New Testament passages will tell us that the hope of the early Christian was for the return of Jesus that would bring the spiritual Kingdom of God to earth in a material way.   This hope is futuristic.  For those who suggest that thinking and hoping for the return of Jesus is futile, or being as they say, more heavenly minded than of any earthly good, is just not right.  The early Christians thought much of their new life to come with Jesus when He returns to earth, and so should we.  Their existence on earth was full of hardship.  In the midst of their persecution, Peter was simply reminding these people to hang in because they had a great future ahead of them, even if they were killed in this life.   Their lives to come with Jesus were the motivating factor in keeping their faith strong in their present distress. 

 

We should understand that there is nothing wrong with hoping.  Some people today suggest that hope is actually a lack of faith.  That's not the way the Bible views hope.  Of course, Biblical hope isn't the hope seen in the world.  It's not the hope that one hopes to win the lottery.  Biblical hope is a certain assurance that you will receive from God that which He has promised.  Biblical hope is an assurance of God's reliability.   

 

The third point to consider is this.  Our resurrection is based on the resurrection of Jesus.  Peter, like Paul, was very strong on this point.  1 Corinthians 15 is the definitive chapter on the resurrection, of both Jesus and us.  Paul simply says that because Jesus rose from the dead, we will too, and, if Jesus didn't rise from the dead, Christians should be pitied above all men (1 Corinthians 15:19).  Peter believed the same, and you can see this here.  The resurrection, of both Jesus and the Christian, was one of the most talked about and preached subjects by the first century Christians.

 

The gospel we preach must include the resurrection of both Jesus and His followers.  If Jesus did not rise from the dead, neither will we.  If this is the case, then we have no hope of life after death.  All the things we suffer in this life have no meaning.  All that Peter's readers would be suffering would be for nothing.  That is a sad commentary on one's life.  The Apostle Paul put it clearly in 1 Corinthians 15:9 when he said that if there is no resurrection of the dead then Christians, among all men must be greatly pitied.    

 

Note the word "mercy" in verse 3.  It is translated from the Greek word "elios."  Mercy thus means an outward manifestation of pity on someone in need.  The most popular definition of grace is unmerited favour, meaning, the recipient of grace receives the grace, not because he deserves it but because the giver of grace simply wants to give it.  Mercy is not grace.  Mercy is the giving of something based on pity that will provide a need in the recipient.

 

There is one last point before moving on to verse 4.  The term "living hope" suggests that Christians have a better future after Jesus returns to earth than we can imagine.  This hope sustains us through trials and suffering.  This is what Peter is getting at here.  It's not a dead hope or a false hope.  It's a hope that makes a difference in our lives right now, even if we are going through hard times, as those to whom Peter was writing were experiencing.  

 

In verse 4 Peter goes on to elaborate on this living hope.  He says, "and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade Ė kept in heaven for you."  An inheritance is something that is given to someone after the owner of the things to be inherited passes away.  Jesus died, and therefore, has willed something to us.  This inheritance is now in heaven.  It awaits us when we die, but even then, we will have to wait until the time the new heavens and the new earth are revealed for us to inherit all that is ours.  Salvation history, as I call it, is a process.  The process is not complete until all that is predicted in the Bible is fulfilled as seen in the closing chapters of the book of Revelation.    

 

Everything on earth moves towards perishing, spoiling, and fading, but not so with the inheritance God has for us in heaven.  This fading away on earth is called the Second Law of Thermal Dynamics, or, entropy.  Entropy entered creation when Adam ate from the forbidden fruit and remains with us until the day God creates a new earth.     

 

Today's church places way too much importance on material things that perish here on earth.  Much of a churches financial budget is dedicated to such perishing things.   This is misfortunate.  Way too much money and attention is spent on things that detour us from the will of God.  We major on the less important while the important is laid aside.  It's my opinion, in general terms, the western world church majors on the minors.     

 

Peter says a lot in verse 5.   Peter continues with this long sentence.  He says that "who through faith are shielded by Godís power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last times."  First of all, the word "who" refers back to the previous word "you."  Who, therefore, refers to Peter's readers.   

 

By saying "through faith we are shielded," Peter is saying that because his readers have trusted their lives with Jesus, Jesus will protect them through their present suffering.  The words "are shield" (phuroureto in Greek) is a present passive participle.  This word was used often in a military sense in the first century Roman world.  Because this is a participle it speaks to those who trust their lives with Jesus as being "the guarded ones."  Also, because this is also a present passive participle, it means that right now, one's who are the guarded ones are being guarded by an external force, and in context, this is obviously Jesus.         

 

We need to know that many of these believers were killed for their faith in Jesus.  You might think then that the shield did not work as a protective measure in their lives, but this was not so.  As Paul says in Romans 8:28, nothing, not even death, can separate us from the love of God.  It's who we are at our core that is being shielded or protected.  This verse does not imply that which houses our real self will not suffer any kind of hardship, and that includes death.      

 

Peter says that we, the shielded ones, are shielded to the day of coming salvation.  Two points should be noted hear.  One point is that protection does not mean a happy and easy life.  As I've said before, these early Christians were being severely persecuted, even killed for their faith in Jesus as Peter was writing these words.  So, we cannot interpret Peter as saying everything will be nice and easy for the Christian.  It's not get saved and live happily ever after and this planet.    

 

The second point to be made is that Peter speaks of salvation in this verse in future tense.  You might say that salvation should be spoken of in the past tense.  That is to say, you were saved when you handed your life over to Jesus.  That is true, but, Biblical salvation is seen in three verb tenses.  We were saved.  We are in the process of being save, and, we will be saved.  Peter is speaking of this last aspect of salvation.  In the last day, when Jesus returns to earth, we will be completely saved.  Our salvation that is now in the process of being worked within us will be completed on Resurrection Day.

 

The term "last days" is used in two ways in the Bible.  One way is that the last days began at the Day of Pentecost.  If you read Acts 2 you will note that this is how Peter used this term.  The term "last days" is also used in the sense of the very last days, or, the last seven years, that end this age.  The last seven years is commonly known as the Tribulation while the last 3 and a half years are known as the Great Tribulation.     

 

Peter says that we are the shielded ones because of the power of God.  The word "power" is translated from the Greek word "dynamis."  I'm sure you can see that our English word "dynamite" comes from the Greek word.  The word "dynamite" actually is a good description of what "dynamis" means.  God's dynamic power is ready and available to shield us.  It does not matter what we go through in life, God's power is readily available for us.  His divine power can keep our trust in Him intact no matter what happens.  If we fail to trust Jesus in the hard times, it is not because Jesus has failed us.  It's because we have failed to allow His divine power to influence our lives.  This divine power, according to Peter, is through faith.  Simply put, when we trust Jesus in the tough times, His power is seen in our lives.            

 

In verse 6 Peter says that "in this you greatly rejoice."  The word "this" is referring to our future hope of salvation.  Peter is saying that we greatly rejoice, knowing very well that some day all our trials will be over and we will be in a safe place with Jesus, free of suffering, pain, and everything else.  Peter is saying that both he and his readers are rejoicing in this fact.  Again, this rejoicing over a better future is to encourage his readers to persevere during their present distress. 

 

Rejoicing in suffering seems so foreign to our western Christian church these days but it is God's will.  Those in what is known as the Hyper Faith Movement will suggest that if you suffer you are out of God's will.  They say your suffering is due to a lack of faith.  That is just not Biblical and this passage makes that very clear.      

 

Peter's readers are definitely not rejoicing over their present circumstances.  They are rejoicing in spite of their present trials.  This rejoicing is not a flippant type of happiness.  Such happiness could not be found for them.  These Christians weren't happy because they were being persecuted, imprisoned, raped, and murdered for this faith in Jesus.  Some suggest that we should always be jumping for joy even in the face of sickness and death.  Peter is not saying that.  This rejoicing is not that.  It's a deep seated peace and settledness that's found deep within our hearts and souls.  It's a heart felt thankfulness to Jesus for His presence in the midst of suffering and for the future He has provided for us.       

 

Peter says that "though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials."  The words "little while" refers the suffering of this present life, which in compared to eternity, is a little while.  Peter's readers, and us too, could have been suffering for a few years but a few years in light of eternity, well again; it is a little while.    

 

Note also the words "all kinds of trials."  These Christians were living through and experiencing a variety of trials.   The same Greek word that is translated as "all kinds of trials" here is also used in 1 Peter 4:10.  There it's used concerning the many aspects of the grace of God working in our lives in ministry.  For every trial, there is matching grace from God that can be used in ministry.      

 

In verse 7 Peter states the reason for the trials his reader is going through.  These trials were a test of their faith in Jesus.  The trials were meant to prove their faith to be "genuine."  Peter sure sounds like the Apostle James here.  James speaks of false faith.  Here Peter speaks of genuine faith.  If there is such a thing as genuine faith then there must be such a thing as false faith.  I am convinced that not everyone who claims to have genuine faith really has genuine faith.  If they did, as James often pointed out, their lives would prove it.  

 

It is important to understand that faith is trust.  The Greek word "pistis" is translated in the New Testament as faith or trust.  If we have faith in God, that means we trust Him.  We trust in His reliability.        

 

Faith is not some abstract concept.  It is a real concrete act of trusting, which indicates some type of relationship with Jesus.  Faith is more passive than active.  It's resting in the arms of Jesus.  It's a confidence that Jesus will not let you down.  Again, faith is passive, but, sense you have this passive confidence, you are bold to step out and live an active Christian life of obedience to Jesus.  Such passive faith produces active works.    

 

Peter compares our trust in Jesus to gold.  Even though gold may have its importance, and it is important, it is refined by fire and still perishes.  Real faith is more important than gold, and has eternal consequences.  What Peter is teaching these people is that even though you have these trials, and even though you may be experiencing financial hardship, your trust in Jesus is more important than the money you may or may not have.  If your faith is genuine, then these trials will only strengthen and deepen your genuine trust in Jesus.  You will trust Him more than you ever did because you allowed Jesus to help you trust him in the trials of life.  

 

Peter compares faith with gold, or, faith with money.  It's obvious to Peter, and it should be to us, that money is secondary to one's trust in Jesus.  Money does not guarantee your entrance into the next life.  It does not save you.  Faith in Jesus, however, does both.       

 

To conclude verse 7, Peter says that if your faith is real, then this will result in praise, glory and honour to God when Jesus is revealed.  Again, Jesus will be revealed when He returns to earth.  If your faith holds true until then, or until you die, you will be giving much glory to God and to Jesus for the result of our faith. You, in who you are at your core, will be a testimony to the grace and power of God.

 

It appears to me that not all of the results of our tested faith will be revealed in this present life.  Some, if not many, will be revealed at the end of this age when we see Jesus face to face.  This is yet another argument against the Hyper Faith and Prosperity teaching that is prevalent in today's church that says we should have it all right now.  We deserve it because we are "kids of the King."  The Hyper Faith Prosperity Gospel is a very selfish and self serving gospel.  It is not the gospel of Christ.   

 

If you have read any of my writings, you will know that I do not believe in what is commonly called the Prosperity Gospel and Hyper Faith.  Both of these doctrines teach that if you have enough faith, you can do pretty much everything.  Prosperity people say that if you are poor, which most of those to whom Peter was writing were, then you have a lack of faith.  Hyper Faith people say that if you are not healed, you have a lack of faith.  What Peter says here pretty much goes against both of these doctrines.  Peter says that suffering, and it doesn't seem to matter what kind of suffering, is a test of your faith.  So, if you are not rich or if you are not sick, it is actually an acknowledgment that you have little to no faith.  Suffering or sickness is not a proof of little to no faith.  It can well be proof of genuine faith.   

 

In verse 8 Peter acknowledges the fact that his readers "do not see" Jesus at the present time.  That is, they donít see Him with their physical eyes, yet, even though they donít see Him physically, they love Him, and believe or trust Him.  The Greek word translated here as "believe" is the verb form of the Greek word "pistis."  In other words, despite the fact that these people can't see Jesus with their physical eyes, they still trust Him.  We should not put a 21st century meaning to the word "believe" in this verse.  This is not merely a mental belief in the existence of Jesus.  This is a trusting of one's life to Jesus despite you don't see Him who you trust.   

 

These believers don't only believe in Jesus, they actually love Him, even though they don't see the one they love.  This reminds me what Jesus told His followers that if they love Him, they would obey Him. They would keep His commands.  See John 14:23.  The point here is that we often say that we love Jesus, but, we only love Him to the degree that we keep His commands.

 

Peter also says that even though these Christians donít see Jesus in person as yet, they are filled with "inexpressible joy."  Even though these people are going through major trials, and even though they canít see Jesus, they still believe and they still love Jesus, and, they are filled with joy that cannot be expressed.  They may not be bubbly and happy as I've said earlier because this joyfulness is a deep matter of the soul.   It's a deep settledness inside the believer that cannot be expressed in words and in visible form.  It's a joy, a peace that causes them to endure the hard times, which in many cases includes death.  A bubbly flippant expression of joy won't keep you in the face of death.   

 

The fact these people trust Jesus even though they have not seen Jesus physically reminds me also of what Jesus told Thomas in John 20:29.  Thomas believed because he saw the nail prints in Jesus' hands and the sword print in Jesus' side.  Jesus acknowledged that Thomas believed because he saw, but He went on to say, "blessed are those who believe and have not seen."  That would include you and me if we have true faith.

 

The words "you believe" in verse 8 are a Greek present active participle. That means that even though Peter's readers have never seen Jesus, they continue to be believers.  They continue to be trusters. 

 

Verse 9 gives the reason why these people have this inexpressible joy.  It is because they are "receiving the goal of their faith, the salvation of their souls."  As I noted earlier, there are 3 aspects to salvation; you were saved, you are being saved; you will be saved.  Earlier Peter wrote about future salvation and now he is writing about being in the process of being saved.  These people are in the process of being saved, and they have great joy because of it.  The fact of they are in the midst of their salvation outweighs their present suffering.  I wonder how many Christians today have great joy because the small trials they go through.  We better find this joy now because the day is coming when we will suffer, and if we don't possess what these people possessed, we will not endure what is ahead.  

 

The point to be made about being saved is that it salvation is not always an easy process. Some have been known to give up on salvation for this very reason.  Salvation history, as I like to call it, began in Genesis and ends in Revelation.  We don't get all of what salvation offers us in this life.  It's that simple, but many Christian just seem to not get this aspect of salvation.      

 

What are we saved from?  The number one thing that we are saved from is the wrath of God.  Then besides that we are saved from many things.  We are saved from the result of our sin, which includes the Lake of Fire .  We are saved from the bad effects of a fallen world.  We are saved from the bad affects of our sin.  The list can go on, but, we need to realize that the number one thing that we are saved from is God Himself.

 

Verse 10 speaks of the Old Testament prophets who were holy men proclaiming this grace that would come.  Many people view the Old Testament prophets as being very negative.  They prophesied about doom and gloom, something today's Christian is not interested in.  All that being said, they did predict the future days of glory to come.  Isaiah 53 is one prime example how the prophet Isaiah predicted the grace of God that was to be seen in the cross of Christ.

 

Peter said that these men search for this grace.  They would have eagerly anticipated the day when they would see God's grace demonstrated in power.  They never saw it.  It's what Hebrews 11 is all about.  Even though they believed God, they did not see or receive what they believed Him for.         

 

In verse 11 Peter says that these men "searched intently to find out the time and circumstances which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when they predicted the suffering of Christ."  Obviously, these prophets both knew and spoke the Word of the Lord, but they had little clue to when their words would be fulfilled.   This is true with prophecy teachers today.  None of us have the full understanding of Biblical prophecy, even though we like to think we do. 

 

Note that these prophets searched diligently to try to understand when the prophecies they were speaking would be fulfilled.  This tells me that if they could search prophecy with such diligence, so can we.  Some people believe it is a waste of time trying to figure our Biblical prophecy.  That's not my position.      

 

Peter says that the prophets of old had the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, within them.  We often say that New Testament believers have the Holy Spirit living within them but Old Testament believers didn't.  Peter seems to suggest here that some Old Testament believers, namely the prophets, did have the Holy Spirit within them.  Whether the Holy Spirit stayed, or lived, within these men, might actually be a different thing altogether.  

 

The prophets spoke of the sufferings of Christ but Peter also adds another phrase.  They also spoke of the "glories that would follow."  These glories are Godís redeemed people who would be with Jesus forever on the new earth, as seen at the end of the book of Revelation, when the plan of salvation is finally and totally completed.  Note Isaiah 53:11 that says, "after the suffering of his soul Ö my righteous servant will justify many."  So here Peter, along with the prophets of old, show both the suffering of Jesus and the resulting joy that would come from suffering. 

 

In verse 12 Peter also understood that these prophets realized that they werenít really speaking or serving themselves, or their generation.  They were actually serving a future generation, the generation of believers that to whom Peter was writing.  The prophets may not have fully understood to whom they were actually speaking to, but in general terms they knew those people would be in a future generation.  That is the nature of much predictive prophecy.  In some prophecies they were speaking to their generation, but, when it comes to salvation, they were speaking to New Testament Christians, which includes you and I. 

 

Peter adds that those who have preached this gospel have done so "by the Holy Spirit who has come from heaven."  The same Holy Spirit that motivated the prophets of the Old Testament to prophesy also inspired the New Testament apostles to preach the good news.  Peter was one inspired apostle.   

 

Peter concludes this section by saying that "even angels long to look into these things." This gives the picture that even angels in Heaven desire to search out the things pertaining to the gospel.  This tells us a bit about angels.  They don't know the whole story.  They can only see what the Lord is doing at any given time and then anticipate what the Lord will do next. That being said, throughout the Bible you see angels helping God with things on earth.  You might remember the outcry that God heard because of the sin of Sodom .  I believe this outcry came from angels.  It certainly didn't come from the sinners of earth because they were enjoying their sin.  In those days, angels were in deep anguish with what was happening on earth, as they probably are today.  Angels have a real part to play in working out the will of God on earth.  This is why they desire the things Peter is speaking of here.   

 

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