“a living hope”
1 Peter 1:3-4
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,
Picking it up from our last session ….
Peter went on to say that “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ ….. has caused us to be born again to”, or “born again into”. He goes on to mention two things that we are “born again to”, or “born again into”. The first thing that he says we have been “born again to”, or “into”, is described as “a living hope”.
Now, the word “hope” can be used in two senses.
There’s a subjective sense in which it refers to the inward experience of hoping for something. So, you might well say “I hope that Great Britain will top the medals table at the Olympics this summer”. Then there’s an objective sense in which it refers to the object of such hope; it refers to that which is hoped for. So, you could say that topping the medals table at the Olympics this summer is Great Britain’s hope.
In which of those two senses is Peter using the word “hope” here? I suggest that it is in the former sense. I say that partly because he refers to it as “a living hope”. That’s suggestive of something experienced. Also, he’s going to go on to say that we have been “born again to”, or “born again into”, what he describes as “an inheritance”. That surely is the object of our hope. So, when Peter speaks of us being “born again to a living hope” he is speaking of a present hope that we have within us.
Now, in everyday usage, such subjective hope amounts to little more than wishful thinking. When people say “I hope that Great Britain will top the medals table at the Olympics this summer” they mean that that is what they would like to happen. That’s not to say that they have any reason to be confident that it will happen. Such hope is a desire for something that we are uncertain of attaining. That is not the way that Peter, or the other New Testament writers, understand the hope that believers have as a consequence of having been born again. Look at what Peter will go on to say in 1 Peter 1v13: “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ”. This hope isn’t a desire for something that we are uncertain of attaining. It’s a full confidence of receiving what we desire. Why such confidence? It’s because we are promised that it will happen.
We read in Heb 6v11: “And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end”. There’s no uncertainty associated by this hope. It’s characterised by “full assurance”. A little further on, in Heb 6v19, we read that “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain”. So, this hope that is characterised by “full assurance” isn’t just something that’s “nice to have”. It does something for us. It’s good for us. It’s an “anchor of the soul”. Without it we would be floundering. We would be drifting aimlessly. Spiritual shipwreck would be inevitable. The hope that Great Britain will top the medals table is almost certain to lead to disappointment.
Our hope doesn’t let us down because it has a firm foundation.
We’ll see what that foundation is in a moment but, before we do, I want us to see that hope does even more for us than provide an anchor for our souls. Remember that Peter described it as “a living hope”. The opposite of a “living hope” would be a “dead hope,” and that brings to mind James 2v26 where we’re told that “faith apart from works is dead”. A dead faith is an unproductive faith. It bears no fruit. It doesn’t have any effect on us. It doesn’t do anything in us or achieve anything through us. It’s useless. In contrast with that, “living faith” is fruitful and productive. By analogy, “living hope” is fruitful, productive hope. It’s hope that is a living power and it affects our lives here and now.
So, we can say that the “living hope” into which we’ve been born again is a present strong confidence within us which provides us with spiritual stability and transforms our lives. In Ephesians 2v12, Paul describes what we were like before we were born again. He says: “remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world”. You see people in this world have many hopes and dreams but it’s all wishful thinking and amounts to them actually being “no hopers”. We’ve been born again into a hope that is solid and productive and is a present benefit for us. This “living hope” is a present reality. You often hear people dismiss Christianity as just being “pie in the sky when you die”. But, as a brother in Christ said to me recently it’s also “meat on the plate while you wait”! This present, living hope is “meat on the plate.
So, what is the foundation of this present “living hope”?
Why is it so certain and what makes it living and life transforming? Well, Peter goes on to say that this “living hope” is “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”.
“The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” ensures the certainty of our hope because it confirms that the death of Jesus accomplished what it was designed to do. Peter again connects our hope with the fact of Jesus having been raised from the dead in verses 20 and 21 where, speaking of Jesus, we read: “He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God”. Just before that, in verses 17-19, Peter mentioned why Jesus had died. We read: “And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot”.
Messiah Jesus died as a perfect sacrifice to ransom us “from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers”. By shedding His “precious blood” He bore the penalty for our sin and so delivered us from the empty hopes of this world. We now have a sure hope in God because He sent Jesus to die to save us and then raised Him from the dead to prove that the sacrifice had been made, the ransom has been paid and, through Christ’s death we are delivered.
“The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” also ensures that our hope is living and life transforming because it means that Jesus is alive now and at work in us now.
So, having “a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” is a present consequence of being born again. For our next session we will see that being born again leads to: “A future certainty.
Dr. Steve Orr
Dr Orr has served the Body of Christ in the United Kingdom for many years and in various capacities (preaching, teaching, etc.,). Steve is a regular contributor to the pages of Christ My Covenant. His insights into the Word of God will serve you in your personal study of God’s Word. Learn of Christ!