Our Indestructible Hope
Passage: 1 Peter 1:3-5
It’s generally true that disappointment or defeat builds character, which means that since I’m a Chicago Cubs fan, I have more character than anyone else in this room. That, or I’m just a fool. The Cubs are known for known for having one of the most infamous streaks in all of sports. They have completed 106 seasons without winning the World Series. The last time the Cubs won the World Series was 1908. Teddy Roosevelt was President in 1908, and the Model T was first introduced that year. Most people were still riding horses. This is pretty incredible when you consider that there are only 30 teams in MLB and for many of those 106 years there were far fewer teams. Not only that, the last time they were even in the World Series was 1945; that’s a 69-year streak. Because of these streaks, the Cubs are known as the “lovable losers.” We all want to be loved, but it’s not a good thing to be known as “lovable loser” in professional sports. In light of these streaks, you may wonder why anyone would be a Cubs fan. The simple answer is hope. Cubs’ fans always have hope that this will be the year. For example, more money has been wagered on the Cubs winning the World Series this year than on any other team. Now granted, the Cubs are pretty good this year, but no one would say that they are the favorites to win the World Series, and they haven’t won it for 106 years. But hope keeps Cubs’ fans wagering money and filling Wrigley Field year after year. Hope is a powerful motivator, and we could talk for a long time about all the ways hope inspires us and as well about the devastating effects of hopelessness. The Scriptures are clear that hope is an important aspect of the Christian life as well. We are called to hope in God’s ability to transform us or to help us overcome sin. We are called to hope in God’s ability to save someone we love. We hope in God’s power to build his church, to provide for our needs, and on and on we could go. But the greatest hope for believers is the hope of eternity. One day, we will be with Christ in heaven and receive our full inheritance, and the Scriptures repeatedly call us to let this hope drive our lives. I mentioned last week that hope is an important theme in 1 Peter because life was very difficult for these believers. They didn’t have much hope in this life; therefore, Peter urged them to remain focused on the life to come. He begins this focus immediately in our text through a beautiful statement regarding the various aspects of our indestructible, eternal hope. I trust that as we study this passage together that our hearts will be refreshed and that we will rejoice in what our future holds. This text has a relatively simple structure to follow. It begins by praising God for providing Christians with the new birth, and it follows with three eternal blessings, which we anticipate because of the new birth.
Notice first of all that God has provided us with…
Before Peter gets to the gift of new life, he opens the text with a blessing. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This blessing governs all of vv. 3–12, which is actually one very long sentence in the Greek. In this section, Peter praises God for his future blessings, his present help, and his past revelation. Our text praises God for his future blessings. The idea of blessing God is rooted in the OT. A number of the psalms make statements like, “bless the Lord, o my soul.” What does it mean to bless the Lord? When the Bible talks about God blessing us, it means that he gives gracious gifts, but we obviously can’t give God anything, because he already owns everything. When the Scriptures call on us to bless the Lord, they mean to praise him for his greatness or his good works. Therefore, Peter calls on us to glorify the Father for the blessings he has provided.
The primary blessing he rehearses is that he has…
Begotten Us Again
We don’t use the word “begotten” very often. It’s an older English word that describes a father’s role in having a child. Women bear children, and men beget them. The verb Peter uses emphasizes that he is talking about a second birth, which is why the word “again” is included. The idea is that God gives his children new life. We call this gift regeneration. The Scriptures teach that we are born spiritually dead. We are sinners who cannot obey God’s will and are destined for eternal judgment. We are born in trouble, and there is nothing we can do to change this fact. A dead person can’t make himself alive. But God intervenes when we are born again. The grammar of the statement places the emphasis on the fact that the new birth is God’s work and that we do nothing to contribute to or to merit this gift. God causes us to be born again, and he gives this gift “according to his abundant mercy.” Praise the Lord that we serve a generous God who loves to give good gifts. Sometimes generosity is not very natural to us. If I have an extra $50, I’m naturally more inclined to use it on a steak dinner than to give it to someone in need. If someone sins against me, my natural inclination is to hold it against him or to want revenge. By God’s grace, I should become more generous, but Peter notes that generosity is natural to God. He is full of mercy, and he has proven this through the new birth.
Application: If you have received the new birth, then I want to challenge you to join Peter in blessing the Lord for the incredible mercy you have received. God loved you when you were dead in sin and wanted nothing to do with him. He gave you a second life. He gave you eternal life and the hope of spending eternity with him, and he also gave you spiritual life so that you could obey his will and live above the slavery and deceitfulness of sin. We must never forget who we are apart from grace, and we need to constantly praise God for his grace. Maybe as I’m talking about this new life, you are confused because you’ve never heard of such a thing. Maybe you are trying to earn your way to God, or maybe you’ve always assumed that you just have a relationship with God. But Jesus said in John 3:7 that “You must be born again.” This is because you are a sinner, and there is no way you can earn your way to God or please him. The only way you can have a relationship with God and be in heaven one day is if you receive the life that God gives. You can do so by believing on Christ for salvation. Just a few verses later, John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” I want to urge you to believe on Christ today. You must be born again.
The new birth is the beginning and the foundation of the Christian life. Peter proceeds to praise God for three blessings we enjoy because of the new birth. First, we have…
A Living Hope
It will become clear as we continue into vv. 4–5 that the hope Peter has in mind is the hope of eternity in heaven with Christ. The NT is clear that this hope is foundational to the Christian experience. First Corinthians 15:19 states, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.” We live for Christ, not ultimately for what we get now but for the eternal award that awaits us. It is our hope, and Peter describes this hope as a “living hope.” What does he mean by that? The point is that our eternal hope is not a vain or false hope. People hope in things all of the time that simply are not realistic. When one of my cousins was very young, my mom asked him what he was going to be when he grew up, and he looked her in the eye as if she were clueless and said, “a Denver Bronco.” Unfortunately, that wasn’t a realistic hope. People sometimes bet their futures on an investment or a business venture that they think will make them rich, but it’s nothing more than a dream. But God says that our hope as Christians is not like these dreams. We have a living or sure hope. But why can we be so certain?
The reason is that our hope is not based on a pipe dream or the perfect alignment of a bunch of unusual circumstances. It is based on “the resurrection of Christ from the dead.” For the next year, we are going to be inundated with political ads as we move toward elections. Election seasons are very funny, and it’s incredible how rapidly things can change. You may think you know what is going to happen, but a candidate can ruin his entire campaign with a single foolish statement. An unexpected downturn in the economy or a foreign conflict can dramatically shift voter trends. It’s hard to bank on a candidate. But we don’t have to wonder if God will be able to raise his people from the dead and give us our eternal inheritance. He already proved his power by raising Jesus from the dead and by seating him at his right hand in heaven. And when God raised Christ, he didn’t just raise him, he won the victory for all time over sin and death. We can look back on the resurrection of Christ, and receive confidence that our hope isn’t vain. It is a living hope that is certain to be fulfilled. Again, Peter is calling on us to worship the Lord for his gifts, and we should certainly praise him today that we have a living hope that is sure to be fulfilled.
The second blessing we enjoy because of the new birth is…
An Indestructible Inheritance (v. 4)
Again, in context, the inheritance that Peter has in mind is the blessings God has in store for us in eternity. He makes this clear at the end of the verse when he says this inheritance is “reserved in heaven.” Peter’s use of “inheritance” is rooted in his Jewish background. God promised Abraham that his descendants would inherit the land of Canaan. This land promise was the basis for the Exodus and the Conquest. God had promised Israel an inheritance, and they left Egypt and fought the Canaanites because they believed God. God states that Christians have also been promised an inheritance. Like Israel’s inheritance, it is a physical land. We will inherit the new heavens and the new earth. But there is one significant difference. Israel’s inheritance was conditioned on their obedience, and since they disobeyed God, they lost it when the Assyrians and Babylonians defeated them. Someday, Israel will fully receive their inheritance, but the OT people lost it. However, we don’t need to have those worries with our inheritance.
Peter drives this home with three adjectives that describe the lasting nature of the inheritance.
It is “incorruptible.”
This term means that our inheritance will never decay or age. If you were to inherit a new car or a new boat, it may be wonderful at first, but ultimately it will break down and decay. But that will never happen to our inheritance. It will be as perfect and pristine in a million years as it is right now.
It is “undefiled.”
This term was commonly used in the OT sacrificial system for people or items that became unclean and therefore unfit for God’s approval. To be undefiled means to be morally and spiritually pure, to be unstained by sin. Sin and corruption will never touch our inheritance. It is and will forever be pure and holy. Third, our inheritance “does not fade away.” Verse 24 states that “the grass withers, and its flower falls away.” Everything on this planet grows old. Plants die and shrivel up. People grow old and weak. Your car, clothes, and electronic gadgets all grow old. But our spiritual inheritance will never grow old. As I mentioned already, heaven will be just as perfect and new a million years after we arrive as it was when we first received it. God has prepared a very special inheritance for us. These three adjectives describe how it is eternal and unchanging. This is hard for us to comprehend. I remember as a little kid trying to comprehend eternity, and it scared me because I couldn’t understand something that never ends. Our whole experience is with things that change and decay, but we have an inheritance awaiting us that will not decay or change. It is eternal.
It is "reserved in heaven."
It’s great to have a rich inheritance sitting in the bank, but our experience is that anytime we have something valuable, we are always worried about losing it. If we have a lot of money in the bank, we want to be sure that the bank is secure. If you have investments for retirement, you want to make sure that they are in stocks that won’t bottom out. You probably lock your doors when you leave home so that no one steals your possessions. God has given us a great inheritance, but is it possible that we could lose it or have it stolen? Peter concludes v. 4 by stating that not only is our inheritance great; it is also absolutely certain. He says that it is “reserved in heaven for you.” This verb is what we would call a divine passive. The reservation of our inheritance is in no way dependent on us. We have not stored it away for safekeeping; instead, God is the one who has already made the reservation for believers, and this reservation continues to be safely stored for us. Peter states that the security of our inheritance is not dependent on us but on God. This fact is very reassuring because if the security of my inheritance were up to me, it wouldn’t be very secure. I may make a very grave or foolish decision. I may forget something very important. When I was in upper elementary school and junior high, I really struggled with being certain that I was a child of God. I had believed the gospel, and I was trying to live for Christ. I had no reason to doubt, but I still wondered if I had missed something or if there were some way God may not grant me salvation. I had to grow in my understanding of statements like this. God is faithful to his promise. He has reserved my inheritance in heaven. Praise the Lord that we can rest in his power and in his faithfulness to his promise. There are many things in life that may not be certain, and there are many things about the future that we do not know. But we know that our inheritance is secure and that we will receive it one day.
Verse 5 describes a third blessing of the new birth. We have a…
Future Salvation (v. 5):
The central idea of v. 5 is the blessing of future salvation, which is mentioned at the end of the verse. But before Peter ponders this salvation, he notes one of the means by which God will bring this salvation to fruition.
Kept by the Power of God
Grammatically, this statement is tied to our future salvation, but it also continues the theme of security that concludes v. 4 though it looks at it from a different perspective. Verse 4 states that God keeps our inheritance, and v. 5 states that God keeps us. The verb Peter uses is a often used of a military fortress or guard. As well, it is in the present tense and pictures a continual, constant guarding. Peter pictures God’s power as constantly standing guard over us. But in what sense is he guarding us? The remainder of 1 Peter is clear that God doesn’t always protect us from suffering or trials. From a human standpoint, it didn’t look like Peter’s readers were receiving much protection. The next phrase tells us how God protects. He protects us “through faith.” Peter is referring broadly to our Christian walk. Since he mentions faith, he is thinking especially of our belief in God’s Word and the gospel, but our faith in these things necessarily leads to obedience and godly fruit. The NT teaches that all genuine Christians will continue in the faith and grow in holiness. Hebrews 3:14 states, “we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end.” We must persevere, but doesn’t this contradict what we just read in v. 4 about God protecting our inheritance? How can our inheritance be secure, and we also contingent on us continuing in the faith? The answer is that God protects our faith as v. 5 states. God will not allow his children to walk away from the gospel or obedience to his will. There are some Christian groups that believe that genuine Christians can walk away from their faith and lose their salvation. Catholicism believes it is impossible to know for sure that you will be in heaven someday. But Peter clearly contradicts these theologies. The end of v. 4 and this statement in v. 5 are strong proofs for the doctrine of eternal security or perseverance of the saints. The inheritance of the saints is certain. We can know that we have eternal life; we don’t have to live our lives wondering where we will end up. This would have been especially comforting for Peter’s audience. Nothing about their lives on earth seemed very secure, and in the face of opposition, they may have wondered if their faith could endure such hostility. But Peter assures them that they don’t need to fear. Nothing else in life may have been secure, but their most precious possession was very secure. This fact should also be very reassuring to us. Life is full of ups and downs. We face a variety of fears and concerns. You may not know a lot of things about the future, but you can know for certain that God will protect your faith, and he will bring you to glory. If you are a Christian, but you are struggling to believe this, I want to urge you to believe the promises of God. Rest in God’s power, and his faithfulness to his word. Praise the Lord that we can rest secure in our eternal inheritance.
Verse 5 concludes with a final description of the blessing awaiting us.
Salvation Ready to Be Revealed
Typically, when we talk about salvation, we think of our past experience of conversion, but Peter uses the term here to speak of the future completion of our salvation. We know this because he says this will occur “in the last time.” Peter is talking about our final glorification. When Jesus raptures the church, we will receive our glorified bodies. We will be made fully like our Savior, and we will enjoy our full inheritance with Christ in heaven for all eternity. Peter states that this salvation is completely ready. It is simply waiting to be revealed. God has a great gift ready in heaven, just waiting for the day God has appointed to give it out.
God has a great inheritance awaiting his people, and so my challenge today is that we would do what Peter called on his readers to do. We must praise God for our eternal inheritance. We have much to be thankful for, and it is so important that we keep this hope clearly before us. Life presents us with so many distractions and even temptations. We can easily lose sight of what really matters. We need to work to keep an eternal perspective.
Finally, I again want to make an appeal to anyone who is here who does not know that you have eternal life. This text is clear that you can enjoy a confident relationship with God through the new birth. I want to urge you to accept the gift of salvation. Call on the Lord today and be saved.