1 Peter 1:3-5
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (NASB)
We have seen that Peter is writing to strengthen and encourage and equip God’s people while we live in difficult and dangerous times eagerly waiting the return of our Savior and King.
I love how Peter started this letter with such a theologically rich introduction of the Father, Spirit, and Son’s work in our salvation and now, as he begins the meat of the letter, he calls us to praise God. Peter begins expressing praise to God!
Oh, how we need to learn how to encourage our own souls and how to encourage each other. As you think about strengthening yourself for life in this world, do you begin by lifting your eyes up and setting your heart and mind on God? Do you begin girding yourself by considering the Lord of life and the mighty deeds which He has done for you?
We will not hide [the things we have heard from our fathers] from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done.
He established a testimony in Jacob
and appointed a law in Israel,
which he commanded our fathers
to teach to their children,
that the next generation might know them,
the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
so that they should set their hope in God
and not forget the works of God.
This is what Peter is doing for us. The only difference being that we have the add testimony and glorious reality of what God has done for us in Christ Jesus our Lord and the New Covenant He has established!
Peter is praising the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. What we need to do is to get our eyes and hearts back upon our God who loved us and gave himself for us. We need to fill our hearts with the one true God. And that is exactly what we will be trying to do as we study this passage.
In 1 Peter 1:3-5 we are given reasons for praising Him. These verses contain the glorious deeds of the Lord and His might and the wonders that he had done for us.
God Has Caused Us To Be Born Again
Why are we to praise God the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ?
First, Peter says it is because He has caused us to be born again. Take note of the fact that this is something that the Father has already done. It is a past action. He has caused us to be born again. But what is this that the Father has done? What does it mean to be born again?
Born from Above
I think it would be good to hear from Jesus on this. You may remember that in John chapter 3 a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus came to Jesus by night – it seems Nicodemus was looking for a private interview with Jesus – and Nicodemus comes to Jesus and in greeting Jesus, Nicodemus affirms that Jesus is a teacher from God and that God is with him. But Jesus responds to Nicodemus in a way that challenges and confounds this teach of Israel.
Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Jesus was telling this teacher in Israel that for a person to be able to see the kingdom of God they must be born again. Nicodemus, befuddled, asks how? Can someone be born from his mother again? What are you talking about Jesus?
Jesus clarifies; unless you are born of water and born of the Spirit you cannot enter the kingdom of God. A spiritual birth must happen if you are to have eyes to see the kingdom of God and if you are to enter it. Jesus was speaking of spiritual things.
Jesus said, as He spoke to Pilot in John 18:36,
My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.
The kingdom of Christ is not of this world – it is seen only with spiritual eyes. Those who are born only of the flesh cannot see it. Those who are born only of the flesh cannot enter it. You must be born again, born of the Spirit of God.
Jesus said in John 6:63
It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all…
You do not enter the kingdom of God because of you are a physical descendant of Abraham. You do not enter the kingdom of God because you said the right words. You do not enter the kingdom of God because you regularly hang out with Christians.
You can only see and enter the kingdom of Christ and God if you are born again. Born of the Spirit. You must have life, Spirit-wrought, Spirit-created life.
I want to make sure we are catching the full implications of this language. Being born is something over which we have no control. You were fashioned by God in your mother’s womb and she labored to bring you into this world. You did not decide to be born nor did you do anything to make it happen. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.
“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all.”
This is what Peter is calling us to praise God for. He, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, has caused us to be born again. If God had not caused us to be born of the Spirit, we would be natural people, of the flesh, blind to the kingdom, barred from the kingdom, and the message of the gospel would be foolishness to us.
As 1 Corinthians 2:14 says,
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
According to Mercy
I hope that your heart rejoices with Peter in praising God for his great mercy. If you have come to see Christ as precious and beautiful and trustworthy and you have come to love the things of God, it was God who caused you to be born of the Spirit, born again, born of God – it was God who gave you eyes to see the kingdom.
1 Peter 1:3 says it was “…according to his great mercy…”
We did not deserve this new birth. Why have I been born again? It is because the Father had mercy upon my soul. What a humble people we ought to be. Every person welcomed into the kingdom of God is only welcomed because of abundant mercy.
Just as we cannot boast that we were born into this world, neither can we boast that we have eyes to see. Ten thousand ages from today all the praise will be due to the God of great mercy.
Born Again to a Living Hope
Look at what it is Peter says we now have because we have been born again. We have been born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Peter is calling us to consider the hope that belongs to those who have been born of the Spirit.
Remember that Peter is writing to Christians who are facing fiery trials. They are walking through persecution. They are suffering in this world. Peter is speaking to people whose lives in this world are filled with suffering, disappointment, and futility. But Peter says, you who have been born again have hope – not a vain and empty hope but a living and powerful hope.
Even though we are born of God and have the very Spirit of God in us we are not instantly whisked away from trouble or instantly healed of all disease or kept from difficult circumstance, rather we have come into a living hope for the future. I believe that Peter is not just emphasizing the sureness of our hope, though that is certainly a part of his emphasis, but given his language of new birth it seems he is point to the Spirit’s vital work in us as the down payment of our inheritance.
I fear that many Christians get discouraged when fiery trials comes because they think that trusting in Jesus will ease their troubles in this world. But Peter says that those who are born again, born of the Spirit, are born again to a living hope. That is we are not born into a present experience of full glory, but into a present experience of Spirit-wrought life, which is a sure indication of full future glory. Yes, we have God’s very Spirit in us, a living hope for future reward.
1 Corinthians 1:22
…and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee [or down payment].
But 1 Corinthians 15:19 says,
“If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
Are you experiencing fiery trials and difficulty? You certainly will in this world, but praise 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!
When we meet with sufferings and trials and persecutions and even death, when all around our soul gives way – what is all our hope and stay? Peter says we have been born again to a living hope through to the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
Peter is calling God’s precious people to lift their eyes up. Get your eyes and hearts and minds fixed upon the person and work of Christ. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is God’s great testimony that Jesus Christ satisfied divine justice and dealt with our sin at the cross. Peter is pointing us back to what God has done to deal with sin and death in the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
No matter what trials we face as Christians, we have a living hope because we have a living Savior who has sent His Spirit into our hearts. Fill your mind and heart with the old, old story. Live upon it. Christ is raised, the Spirit lives in us, and we shall rise!
Born Again to an Inheritance
Peter goes on in verse 4 to clarify this living hope. We have been born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.
If you are in Christ, God has caused you to be born from above, born of spiritual seed, and you are now an heir. You have been born again to an inheritance.
What is this inheritance that Peter is talking about? A major theme in the Old Testament is the inheritance God promised to Abraham and his offspring (Deuteronomy 12:8-11; Joshua 11:23; 21:43-45; Psalm 105:7-11; Acts 7:5). But Peter is not thinking about the land of Canaan and he is not speaking to the nation of Israel.
He says that in Christ you and I are now God’s people (1 Peter 2:10) and you and I have an inheritance to look forward to, kept for us. What I would like to do is to take just a moment to unpack a bit of what this inheritance is.
Consider Ephesians 5:5
For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
I cite this verse simply to show that Paul understood our inheritance as in the kingdom of Christ and God. A he says in Colossians 1:12-13, as he prays that we would be,
…giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.
Our inheritance is the inheritance of the saints in light and it is connected to the kingdom of the beloved Son. When Peter speaks about our inheritance, he is thinking about the kingdom of Christ, the kingdom where righteousness dwells. In fact, Peter is thinking about the new heavens and the new earth.
Peter himself says that this is what we are waiting for in 2 Peter 3:13,
But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
The inheritance that Peter, himself, is looking forward to and which he calls us to look forward to is not a portion of land in the Middle East. Rather, we look forward to a heavenly country (see also Hebrews 11:13-16). The inheritance that the New Testament is taking about and the inheritance that Peter has in mind is the Kingdom of Christ in the new heavens and the new earth in which righteousness dwells and toward which all the saints of God looked forward to as strangers and exiles on the earth. Peter has in mind the heavenly country as he says in verse 4, our inheritance is kept in heaven for us.
This inheritance is imperishable, undefiled and unfading. All the treasures of this earth will fail, fade, rust, and corrode. We ourselves will fail, fade, break down, and die. What Peter is doing is calling us to consider the glorious eternal inheritance promised to everyone in Christ Jesus.
Our Lord said,
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
As you face difficulties, is your heart fixed on the treasures that this world can afford, or is your heart fixed on the secure and certain reward that is kept for all who are in Christ Jesus? This is Peter’s point. God be praised that we have been made alive, given a certain hope of everlasting peace and righteousness in the kingdom of Christ through the life death and resurrection of Christ and God be praised that this inheritance is secure in heaven for us.
God is Keeping You
I love what Peter does here in verse 5. It is not just that the inheritance is secure, kept in heaven, but Peter says that we ourselves are secure, kept by God’s own power.
Look at what he says. This imperishable, undefiled, unfading inheritance is…
“…kept in heaven for you, (now verse 5) who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
We are being guarded by God. This does not mean we are protected from all pain and sorrow. No, Peter’s point, as he speaks to suffering Christians, is to encourage them that even as they experience physical and mental pain they themselves are being preserved, protected, kept for a salvation that is coming.
But, Peter does not simply say we are guarded by God for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. He says we are guarded by God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. The means by which God is keeping us and guarding us for our inheritance is faith.
There has grown up in some Christian circles the idea that simply because someone makes a profession of faith they are saved and secure so that their on-going faith and life don’t matter. You prayed the prayer and are saved. Once saved always saved.
Well, this understanding of salvation is not what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches that when someone is saved they are born again, born of the Spirit. They are granted eyes to see the gospel as the wisdom of God and not as foolishness. Yes, once one is saved they are always saved, but what does that mean? It means they have been born from above and so they believe the promises of God in the gospel. They have faith.
As we will see next week, genuine faith, on-going and true faith, is essential if we are to be saved. But here, Peter is calling us to praise God that He is powerfully active in keeping us, guarding us, preserving us for salvation and He is doing it through faith. It is God who has caused us to be born again and it is God who is keeping us through faith.
As we bring our time to a close this morning I want to make sure we see what Peter is doing in this section. He has written to encourage those who have believed upon the Lord Jesus Christ and who are now faced with pain and persecution in this life. Peter is calling us to lift our eyes up to our God.
Peter is calling us to praise God for what He has done for us in the gospel and in granting us spiritual birth and Peter is calling us to praise God for what He is doing for us in keeping our inheritance secure and in keeping us secure through faith.
The last observation I’d like to point you to is that Peter speaks about a future salvation, a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. We often think about and talk about our salvation in terms of already being saved. We say, “I’m saved.” And this is right. The wrath out poured at Calvary was all the wrath reserved for me. In that sense our judgment day is past in Christ Jesus. There is a sense in which we have already been transferred into the kingdom of Christ. We are citizens of glory.
But may we never belittle or ignore that there is coming a Final Day of judgment and reward when all those in Christ Jesus will receive their inheritance and enter into the everlasting joy of our Master where righteousness will reign forever and ever in a new heavens and a new earth.
Peter is calling us to praise God for granting us spiritual life to see and love and cling to Christ by faith. He is calling us to praise God that this new life in the Spirit is unto an inheritance in the heavens, which will not fade or fail. He is calling us to praise God that we ourselves are being kept by God from falling away into unbelief. And all this is true even as we groan, eagerly waiting for the promised inheritance when Christ appears.
“The veil of tears will not last long… a great reward is laid up for those who are faithful.”
– Schreiner, Thomas R.