1 Peter 1:13-16
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. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy. ESV
Introduction: Words Matter
What we study every Sunday together is the Word of God. This is a book like no other book because it carries the weight and authority of God Himself. God has spoken. One of the things true Christian communities do is come together to devote themselves to the Word of God, to hear from God together as God’s people. And so the intensity and reverence and interest and attention we bring to this Book ought to surpass the intensity and reverence and interest and attention we bring to any other book or message or media. This is the Word we need.
We spend time walking carefully through each word and phrase and sentence because we want to make sure that we are rightly dividing each Word of truth so that we grasp what God intended by it. These words and phrases and sentences and paragraphs and chapters and whole books communicate to us what God would tell us. How precious this time is together and how imperative that we devote ourselves with passion and awe and enthusiasm and care to the Word of God.
What Is It There For?
Peter begins this verse with the word, ‘Therefore.’
It has been helpfully noted that good readers, when they come upon the word ‘therefore’ should be asking themselves: what is it there for?
In our passage this morning Peter begins connecting what he has said in verse 1-12 to the implications of that in our lives. Peter is about to launch into a series of commands and instructions about the Christian life. He is about to tell the people of God to think and feel and speak and act in specific ways.
But what we need to see this morning (and as we walk through this letter) is that Peter sees what He has said in verse 1-12 as forming a foundation (and it is the only possible foundation). And it is upon this firm foundation that the Christian life is built. Or to use another picture, verses 1-12 are the necessary nutrient-rich soil out of which the Christian life grows. The structure of Peter’s thought here is this: because verses 1-12 are true, Christians should think and feel and speak and act in certain ways. Because verses 1-12 are true, because that foundation is firm, the life of godliness can be built. Out of the soil of verses 1-12 grows the good fruit of verses 13 and following. So let’s make sure we are remembering what Peter has said in verse 1-12.
In verses 1 and 2, recall, Peter is writing to Christians, from the nations. He is writing to those who have believed upon the Lord Jesus Christ and the first thing he tells them is that God has set His love upon even them – even Gentiles, from the nations. If you have come to faith in Christ Jesus, God has chosen you to be His treasured possession, to receive the Work of His Holy Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ, and to receive the cleansing and forgiving benefits of Jesus’ precious blood. God has chosen you – but this means that you are now an exile and a stranger and an alien in this world.
In verses 3 -5, Peter called us to praise God for what He has done for us (in the gospel) and what He has done in us (in granting us spiritual rebirth) and Peter called us to praise God for what He is now doing for us (in keeping our inheritance secure in heaven) and what He is now doing in us (in keeping us secure by faith for that salvation). We are to praise God for His glorious work for us and in us, in the past and in the present.
In verses 6-9, Peter called us to praise God and to count it all joy when we experience various trials in this life, because even those trials, those testings, are from God for our good, as they are refining us like gold in a furnace. The dross of competing joys is being burned away and what is left on the other side is tested genuine faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, which is precious beyond comparison.
Praise God. Praise God.
In verses 10-12, Peter called us to praise God for His ancient provision for our souls in preparing for our faith in Christ Jesus. God did this by revealing before in the Holy Scriptures the Person and work of the Messiah so that when He arrived we might recognize Him and believe upon Him.
Praise God. Praise God. Praise God…
Therefore. We come now to the therefore of verse 13. “Therefore,” that is, in light of all that we have heard about unspeakable kindness that the Father has shown to us in Christ Jesus and by His Holy Spirit and the kindness He is even now showing, for that reason, upon that foundation and out of that rich soil, “…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.”
We need to unpack the main clause here in this sentence. The main idea is this: set your hope fully on future grace.
There are three questions I want us to be able to answer:
1. What does it mean to set our hope fully on something?
2. What is it that we are to set our hope fully on?
3. What does this demand in our lives?
Q1: What does it mean to set our hope fully on something?
We usually use the word hope when we want to say we would really like to see something happen. So, when we’re running late we might say, “I hope I make the train.” Or if someone asks you, “Are you going to keep your new year’s resolution?” You might answer, “I hope so.” In both these cases what we are saying is, it is my desire that I make the train and keep my new year’s resolution, but in using the word hope we are communicating a certain level of doubt. There is no strong confidence that we will. We use the word hope this way, but this is not the way Peter is using the word hope.
Another way we might use the word hope is like this, ‘the team has done pretty poorly so far this season, but there is still hope.” Here, we are saying there is still a real possibility for a good outcome – there is still a reason for believing that they may turn things around. This is getting a little closer to what Peter is saying.
To hope in Peter’s letter here is to be confidently and reasonably expectant of a future event or circumstance. Where we might use the word hope to indicate some level of doubt in the certainty of a good future outcome, Peter uses it here to call us to a confident and reasonable belief and trust and eager expectation that this desired thing will be the case in the future. There is no hint of doubt suggested in this word – quite the opposite. Peter is calling us to a confident and reasonable and expectant trust in something.
Notice that Peter adds the word fully. We must set our hope fully on this future thing. The NRSV says, “Set all your hope on…” The NASB says, “Fix your hope completely on…” Peter is commanding us to place all our confidence and eager longing on one thing. That is – set your heart on this and this alone. Put all your hope and trust and confidence in this one thing.
In the law enforcement world when they are training officers, they talk about adding tools to the officer’s tool belt. As a law enforcement officer you never know what you’ll run into and so you want to be prepared for as many varied situations as possible. If your first plan fails, and in an emergency your first plan always fails, you will need another tool to get the job done. So, you try to add tools to your tool belt.
These include things like a bulletproof vest, handcuffs, baton, side arm, rifle, Taser, pepper spray, cell phone, pen and paper. But it also includes things like learning defensive tactics to protect your self or a third party. You learn distraction technics and pressure points. You learn communication skills. You learn CPR and first aid. You learn to drive at high speed and in slippery conditions. The department may have cruisers, motorcycles, bicycles, off-road vehicles, or even helicopters. All of these things and many more are considered tools in your tool belt, from which the officer can choose, as the circumstance determine.
The law enforcement community is trained not to set their hope on anything fully. In fact they are trained to keep their options open and to keep adding to those options because sometime a tool will work and sometimes it will fail. In fact, it is dangerous if an officer becomes too dependent on any one tool because every tool is likely to fail.
Peter is calling us to exactly the opposite of this. Believers are not like law enforcement officers. We are to set our hope fully on one thing: grace. Christians don’t have contingency plans. We put all our eggs in this one basket. We put all our confidence and trust in future grace which will come at the appearing of Jesus Christ. We are to strip off and disregard all other things. The heart of a Christian eagerly longs for and trusts in one thing and no other.
Q2: What is it that we are to set our hope fully on?
Peter says, “set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” I want to focus on this word grace.
What we are talking about here is God’s undeserved kindness. Grace or χάρις is simply kindness or favor. But as Ephesians 2:8 and 9 says so well, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” God’s kindness toward us is not our doing. It is a gift, not a result of works. God’s grace is undeserved and unmerited. Peter says we must set our confidence and eager longing completely and totally on God’s unearned and undeserved kindness. We are to bank all our hopes only and utterly on grace.
Have you set your hope completely on God’s grace?
Grace Past, Present, and Future
But, Peter directs us very specifically to God’s future grace. He is directing us to be confident in future kindness. Christians are to be people who have confidence and boldness that God, not only is now for them in Christ Jesus, but also will be for them forever. Christians are not to be those who dread the appearing of the King, but who long for it with eager longing. Peter has laid out the past and present grace of God for us in Christ and now he is calling us to bold faith that this past grace toward us means that future grace is secure in Christ Jesus.
Is your hope completely set on God’s future grace in Christ?
Legalists and Libertines
One way we can fail here is to fall into legalism. That is, we can fail to set our hope fully upon future grace and instead set our hope on our own merits and performance. We try to accumulate what we think will increase the likelihood of God’s favor toward us. We strain to conform to what is right and good, hoping in our own record and righteousness. But this is an offense to our Holy God. Our sin is utterly detestable before the Holy Triune God and no amount of scrubbing will remove the stain. All the righteousness we can ever manage to produce is rubbish and refuse. We need new garments. We need the robes of Christ.
It is much easier to fall into legalism than you might think. All that guilt and fear and anxiety that so many are walking around with is a good indication that they have set their hope on something other than future grace in Christ.
Another way we can fail to set our hope fully upon future grace is to be libertines, with hearts hoping in the passing pleasure of sin. If you are not confident in God’s good intentions toward you for the future, you will be desperate to gobble up all the pleasure and happiness and fullness you can find right now however you can get it. Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die. This too is utterly detestable before the Holy Triune God. And no amount of pleasure will satisfy or last. All the passing pleasures of sin will only produce rubbish and refuse and emptiness.
And it is much easier to fall into this than you might think. All that anger and frustration and disappointment and discouragement that so many experience in this life is a good indication that they have set their hope on something other than future grace.
Christians are called to set their hope, not on their own performances or on the passing pleasures of sin, but fully upon the unmerited kind intention of God in Christ Jesus, which will be out poured at the revelation of Jesus Christ. To set our hope on anything else is to belittle the power and wisdom and goodness of God and to outrage the Spirit of grace and trample the Son of God and profane His blood.
Jesus Christ Our Hope for Future Grace
Mark very carefully that Peter connects this future grace to the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no grace apart from Christ. How can God show kindness and favor to undeserving sinners? How can God cleanse us from all unrighteousness? Why can we be confident, bold, and sure that He will show us kindness in the future? The answer is Jesus Christ.
“…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (Romans 3:23-25).
Peter began this letter drawing our eyes up to how God has already demonstrated His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus, in the gospel of grace, and now he says, therefore, in view of what God has done in Christ, set your hope completely upon the grace to be brought to you when Christ appears – bank your life on the future grace of God in Christ.
This means that we do not need to wake up dreading failure, nor do we need to wake up fearing that we will miss out on some experience of pleasure. This means we don’t need to work to get God on our side or fear that He will abandon us when we stumble. This means we don’t need to worry that our lives have not achieved the fame and glory and beauty and ease that we imagined they would.
When we have set our hope fully on the grace to be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ we will be freed from legalism and libertinism. If we grasp this grace we will be freed from fear of God’s wrath and freed from frustration with your futile life, freed from the gnawing anxiety that you are a failure and freed from the foolish notion that God has failed you.
Set your hope for the future on grace – the grace found abundantly in Christ and Christ alone.
I am convinced that the rest of this letter unpacks this verse. What does a person look like who has fixed their hope completely on future grace in Christ? We’re going to explore that in the weeks to come.
Q3: What does this demand in our lives?
Before we finish with this verse notice that Peter gives us two things that must be true of us if we are to set our hope fully on future grace in Christ. He says first, “…prepare your minds for action…” or more literally, “…gird up the loins of your mind…” and second, “…be sober-minded…”
This idea of girding up the loins has to do with gathering up the clothes around your legs and securing them so that you are ready to act or fight or work. And so the ESV tries to bring that out by saying prepare for action. But Peter is not speaking about preparing our bodies for action or fighting or working. He is talking about preparing our minds for acting and fighting and working.
Those who would have firm and confident hope in future grace must fight and work to fix their minds upon Christ. Christians must always work to renew our thinking so that we do not drift into false-hood or be tossed around by every wind and wave of error.
The other phrase here is pretty straightforward: be sober-minded. Peter is saying our minds must be focused and serious and alert, not intoxicated or distracted or filled with frivolity.
Peter is telling us to prepare our minds to cling to future grace – found in Christ alone. Notice that the ESV says, “Set your hope…” NASB says, “Fix your hope…” The translators are trying to bring out the force of this verb. Peter is commanding us to hope in future grace. You must set your hope on it. You must be active in this. It is a command. Fix your confident and reasonable and eager longing on this one thing: the future kindness of God toward you in Christ Jesus. To do this we must have a mind gathered up and ready to engage, a mind sobered and focused on Christ and the gospel.
It is hard to emphasize how important this is. What are you doing with your mind? What are you filling your mind with? What you do with your mind will have a direct effect upon where you will be placing your hope. It will have a direct effect upon whether you will be glorifying God for His grace or belittling God and turning elsewhere for life and joy.
There are plenty of things besides alcohol to intoxicate us – are you flabby and frivolous in your think? What do you watch and listen to and meditate on? What do you study and talk about? Do you engage the Scriptures with intensity and reverence and interest and attention or are you giving your mind and heart to other hopes and dreams?
God has done great things. He has demonstrated His love and kindness decisively in Christ. Christ Jesus came and died and rose and poured out His Spirit and you can be sure He will bring everyone to glory who will trust Him and Him alone, who will bank all their hope on Him. Set your hope fully upon that future grace of God, which will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.