Back in the day youth groups sang, “I’m really livin’ since I met my Lord.” Ongoing verses would substitute other words for “livin” (e.g. lovin’, servin’, prayin’, etc.). If sung with smugness it is the height of religious arrogance, but if sung with humility it highlights that the Christian life is life lived at the highest level (see John 10:10). And that living is always “living in hope.”
First Peter was a “general epistle” (not written to a singular church) addressed to Christian exiles dispersed throughout the regions of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia (1:1). Full-scale persecution was limited at this time, but the churches were suffering under verbal threats of bigotry. Peter reminded the believers that they should not be surprised at these trials, that they should be willing to endure them as Christians, and that they should stand fast in God’s grace (4:12; 5:12).
Living Hope Is Generated by God
1 Peter 1:3-5
In an opening burst of praise (to speak well of), Peter acknowledged that God is the one responsible for living hope. This happened in (according to) his great mercy. God gave us new birth (allowed us to be born again, see John 3:3, 5; Titus 3:5). It was given to us by means of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
Once born into God’s family believers share in the inheritance of the God of the universe. In the Old Testament this inheritance was often viewed as the promised land, but it is not so limited in the New Testament. This inheritance goes beyond this world. It is kept in heaven, and it therefore cannot perish (incorruptible), spoil (unpolluted), or fade (like a flower does). These three verbal adjectives indicate that this inheritance is “untouched by death, unstained by evil, and unimpaired by time” (Fritz Rienecker and Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, 744). Faith appropriates this living hope, and when appropriated, believers are shielded (guarded) by God’s power until the time of our ultimate salvation (mentioned three times in our text) in the last time.
Living Hope Is Tested by Fire
1 Peter 1:6-9
A faith that cannot be tested is a faith than cannot be trusted. Peter admitted that the trials were real and came in all kinds of ways. But he also reminded the believers of three great truths to help them when they felt their living hope was about to go on the skids. First, these trials can cause joy. Later in the epistle Peter told the believers that facing these trials joyfully can create a solidarity with Jesus (4:13). Second, these trials are not eternal. They are for a little while. Third, proven faith in these trials results in praise for God. This is not to say that proven faith does not have to be confirmed. It goes through testing like gold going through fire. But when Jesus is revealed (repeated three times in the text) “it will be worth it all.”
The word hope does not appear in verse 8, but the concept is all over the verse. Believers live now as if their hope has already been realized. God’s glorious future has invaded their present. Christians walk by faith in the present since they cannot yet see Christ. But they love and believe in Jesus now (see John 20:29).
Living Hope Is Perfect in Timing
1 Peter 1:10-12
The story of the Bible is said to “progress.” Salvation history unfolds—sometimes slowly. Peter reminded the believers of the great age in which they were living. At times we may think we’d like to trade places with people in the Bible—particularly in the Old Testament. Peter wrote about the opposite. The Old Testament saints would have traded places with New Testament exiles in a heartbeat.
This living hope message of salvation was revealed at the perfect time. Prophets, preachers, and angels all spoke of this living hope from afar. The prophets searched intently (thoroughly inquired) and tried to find out (search out; examine closely; investigate; explore) about the passion and glorification of Jesus. Something unseen was pointing them in a Christ-centered direction.
The Old Testament prophets realized that they were serving others. The New Testament preachers realized they were giving away the gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit. The heavenly angels long to look (lust, covet, desire) into these things. The present joy is rooted in the past revelation. Hope that is not living is just a wish. Living hope ends with the salvation of your souls.
Dr. Mark Scott teaches Preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri.
Lesson study ©2018, Christian Standard Media. Lesson based on The Lookout’s Scope and Sequence ©2018. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.