The Expression of Our Hope

| 1 Peter 1:13-25

Week of June 14, 2020

The Point:  Our hope in Christ changes how we view the world and live in it.

Called to Be Holy:  1 Peter 1:13-25

[13] 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.” [17] 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, [18] knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, [19] but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. [20] He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you [21] 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. [22] Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, [23] since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; [24] for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, [25] but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you. [ESV]

“Setting One’s Hope on the Inheritance [13-16]. [13] The word therefore reaches back to all of verses 1-12. In the following verses the readers are exhorted to live a godly life. But all these exhortations are grounded in God’s saving work as explained in verses 1-12. Believers are to obey because they are God’s chosen pilgrims, because they have been begotten by the Father, because they have an untouchable inheritance, and because of the greatness of their salvation. God’s commands are always rooted in his grace. Another way of putting this is to say that the indicative (what God has done for us in Christ) is always the basis of the imperative (how we should live our lives). To confuse the order here would be disastrous, and the result would be works righteousness instead of seeing holiness as the result of God’s grace and power, as a response to the love of God in Christ. The main verb in verse 13 is set your hope fully. The other verbal forms are instrumental participles explaining how we are to set our hope fully. First, they are to prepare your minds for action. Hope will not become a reality without disciplined thinking. Thinking in a new way does not happen automatically; it requires effort, concentration, and intentionality. Second, believers set their hope completely on the end by being sober-minded. Peter was not merely saying that believers should refrain from drunkenness. There is a way of living that becomes dull to the reality of God, that is anesthetized by the attractions of this world. When people are lulled into such drowsiness, they lose sight of Christ’s future revelation of himself and concentrate only on fulfilling their earthly desires. [14] The main verb is found in verse 15, where Peter calls on believers to be holy. Setting one’s hope completely on Jesus Christ’s coming [13] means that one lives a holy life now [15]. Peter recognized that the Christian life is not passive. Ungodly desires still beckon believers and tempt them to depart from God. They must refuse such desires and choose what is good. They are to do God’s will just as obedient children obey their parents. Peter did not summon believers to do God’s will in their own strength. They are God’s children, and as His children they are to obey Him. We have already seen in 1:2 that obedience is necessary for conversion and cannot ultimately be separated from faith, though it flows from faith. Peter had no conception of the Christian life in which believers give mere mental assent to doctrines. [15] Instead of capitulating to evil desires, believers are to live holy lives. The pattern for holiness is God Himself, who is unremittingly good. The call to goodness is one of the distinctive emphases in 1 Peter [2:12-15,20,24; 3:6,11,13,17; 4:2,19]. The holiness of their lives is to match that of God, who called them to Himself. ‘Calling’ refers to God’s effectual call in which He infallibly brings people to Himself [1 Peter 2:9,21; 3:9; 5:10]. This definition is borne out by 2:9, where God called people out of darkness into his marvelous light. Calling does not merely mean ‘invite’ but conveys the idea of God’s power in bringing people from darkness to light. Just as God’s call creates light when there was darkness, so He creates life when there was death. The reference to ‘calling’ is important, for again grace precedes demand. Otherwise Peter’s commands could be confused with the idea that human beings attain their own righteousness or that they live morally noble lives in their own strength. All holiness stems from the God who called them into the sphere of the holy. The command to be holy indicates that the pilgrim people of God are to live differently. They are to separate themselves from the evil desires of the world and live in a way that pleases God. The injunction to holiness embraces all of life (in all your conduct). No sphere of life is outside God’s dominion. [16] The summons to holiness is now grounded in verse 16 with a Scripture reference. Discerning exactly where the citation comes from is difficult since a number of verses in Leviticus qualify [Lev. 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7,26]. It is likely that Peter did not intend to refer to any one of these verses in particular but deliberately cited a theme that is suffused throughout all of Leviticus. God’s people are to live holy and pleasing lives because God is holy and good. Verse 16 reiterates the notion that God’s people are to model their lives after God Himself.

A Call to Fear [17-21] [17] The theme of these verses appears in the injunction to live their lives in reverent fear. Because of the inheritance and salvation believers anticipate [1-12], they should set their hope completely on Christ’s coming [13], devote themselves to holiness [15], and live in fear [17]. Did Peter mean that believers should live reverently or in terror? Abject terror certainly does not fit with the joy and boldness of the Christian life. Reverence, however, can be watered down so that it becomes rather insipid. Peter contemplated the final judgment, where believers will be assessed by their works and heaven and hell will be at stake. There is a kind of fear that does not contradict confidence. A genuine fear of judgment hinders believers from giving in to libertinism. Believers are to live in such fear throughout the time of your exile. Certainly believers do not fit into the social order, for their values and behavior contradict the customs of unbelievers. The Petrine believers cut across the grain of the culture in a way that alienates them from the mainstream [Lev. 25:23; 1 Chron. 29:15; Psalm 39:12]. Their social dislocation is rooted, however, in their eschatological inheritance and their new birth. Their heavenly destiny raises a social barrier in the here and now between them and unbelievers. Their experience of alienation in the culture can be traced to their shift in values. The main admonition is to live in fear during one’s earthly sojourn, but now we pick up the conditional clause that introduces the verse. Peter wrote the sentence as a hypothesis to provoke the readers to consider whether they call upon God as their Father, desiring, surely, that they would answer in the affirmative. What is remarkable here is that God’s tenderness and love as Father is mingled with His judgment and the fear that should mark Christians in this world. Apparently Peter did not think that the two themes negated each other but are complementary. The relationship we have with God is both tender and awesome. The motivation for living in fear is explained in the conditional clause. The one believers invoke as Father in prayer is also the one who will judge them impartially on the last day. There is no dichotomy between judgment according to each one’s deeds and God’s grace. Good works are evidence that God has truly begotten a person. The fear of judgment still plays a role in the Christian life. Paul himself realized that he would be damned if he did not live the message proclaimed to others [1 Cor. 9:24-27]. Such a recognition inspires him to live faithfully; it does not paralyze him with fear. Paul himself taught that genuine faith always manifests itself in works [cf. Gal. 5:21; 1 Cor. 6:9-11]. [18] Verses 18-19 together form a negative/positive. Peter contrasted what did not redeem believers with the means by which they were redeemed. The participle knowing gives the reason believers should live in reverent fear. Peter emphasized that believers were not ransomed with silver and gold. The term ransom (or redeem) and the word group recalls Israel’s liberation from Egypt. The term also is applied to the liberation of individuals, and in Isaiah the return from exile is portrayed as a second exodus. In the Greco-Roman world those captured in war could be redeemed, and slaves were often manumitted, meaning that their freedom was purchased. The word redemption signifies liberation, and here Peter spoke of redemption from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers. The futile ways of life is a theme mentioned often in Ecclesiastes. In the Old Testament it is often associated with the idolatry of pagans. Similarly, in the New Testament the word group depicts pre-Christian existence [Acts 14:15; Rom. 1:21; Eph. 4:17]. The life of unbelievers before their conversion is futile, empty, and devoted to false gods. Such a way of life has been handed down from the forefathers, from generation to generation. These futile ways do not lead to faith and trust in the true God; thus the need to be ransomed from them. The reference to silver or gold may be mentioned because of their association with idolatry. They are perishable and do not persist through the ravages of time. They are greatly valued by human beings but end up being vain and useless, even to satisfy in this life. [19] Verse 19 now communicates positively the means by which believers were ransomed. We learned from verse 18 that money was not the means. Instead, believers were purchased and ransomed by the blood of Christ. Peter contrasted here the perishability of money with the preciousness of Christ’s blood. Money is a thing that perishes, but Christians have been redeemed with the blood of a person. The shedding of blood signifies death, the giving up of one’s life. Blood is precious because without it no one can live. The shedding of blood indicates that Christ poured out His life to death for sinners. What Peter teaches is that the blood of Christ is the means by which believers are redeemed. The term blood hearkens back to the sacrifices in the Old Testament, where blood was necessary for atonement. The Old Testament imagery continues when Christ is compared to a lamb without blemish or spot, which was the requirement for sacrificial animals. Without … spot is not found in the Old Testament, but it reinforces the thought that Christ was a perfect sacrifice. Indeed, as the fulfillment He surpasses the type. Animals were without defect physically, but Peter’s point was that Jesus was sinless. He was a perfect sacrifice because of His perfect life. Early Christians saw Passover, the Suffering Servant, and the sacrificial system as fulfilled in the sacrifice of Christ as God’s sinless lamb. [20] With two participial phrases Peter contrasted Christ being foreknown before history began with His manifestation at the climax of salvation history for the sake of the readers. In the Greek text of verse 19 the word Christ appears last, separated from the term blood by five words. The text was likely written in this way so that it would be clear that the Christ was the subject of the participle commencing verse 20. Christ was foreknown before the foundation of the world. To say that something or someone is foreknown does not necessarily imply preexistence, for God foreknows and foreordains all that will occur in history. Nevertheless, to say that the Christ is foreknown probably implies His preexistence. Why did Peter state here that Christ was foreknown? How does it fit into the argument? The main theme of the paragraph is that believers should conduct their lives in fear. They should do so because they have been ransomed with the precious blood of Christ [18-19]. Now the readers are informed that this is no afterthought. God determined before history ever began that the Christ would appear at this particular juncture of history as redeemer. This interpretation is confirmed by the last part of the verse. Christ was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you. The revelation or manifestation of Christ refers to His incarnation. Peter emphasized that believers enjoy the blessing of living at the time when God is fulfilling His saving promises. The last times signals the last days of salvation history, which commenced with the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The stunning privilege of believers is communicated once again because all these things occurred for the sake of you. What a tragedy it would be to throw all these privileges away by ceasing to live in the fear of God. [21] Verse 21 continues from verse 20, noting that believers who live in the days of the fulfillment of God’s promises are believers in God through Christ. They have put their faith in God because of the work of Jesus Christ, whose work is featured in verses 18-19. The God in whom they believed raised Christ from the dead and gave him glory. Christ’s resurrection of the dead is the foundation of the living hope of believers in 1:3, so too here the hope of believers is rooted in the resurrection of Christ. The glorification of Christ after His sufferings is noted in 1:11. The vindication and glorification of Christ after His sufferings is the paradigm for believers as well. As God’s pilgrim people they suffer now, but their future hope is resurrection and glorification. They anticipate the day when sufferings will be no more, and they will experience eschatological salvation. It is likely that faith and hope are practically synonyms here. Verse 21 reminds the readers again that the holy life to which they are called is a life in which they are trusting in God’s promises. Peter was not a moralist who trumpeted virtues for their own sake. A life of holiness is one in which God is prized above all things, in which believers trust and hope in His goodness.

A Call to Love [22-25] [22] The theme of these verses is found in the exhortation to love, and this command is bounded by two perfect participles, both of which give reasons or grounds for the command to love. The first participle uses the language of purification, while the second participle uses the image of begetting and fatherhood. The perfect tense of the first participle (having purified) signifies a past action that has ongoing consequences. This past event is conversion or regeneration and the ongoing consequences would flow out of the ‘new heart’ brought about in the individual believer through regeneration. The phrase by your obedience to the truth probably refers to the truth of the gospel. Often in the New Testament the gospel is designated as the truth.  The goal or purpose of their conversion is a genuine love for fellow believers. Since love is the goal of conversion, the injunction to love from the heart follows naturally. In no way did Peter fall prey to works righteousness since the command to love is rooted in their conversion, in the purification of their hearts that enables love. The characteristic of a Christian community is fervent or constant love for one another. [23] The command to love is rooted in God’s prior saving work. Christians have been begotten by the seed of God’s word. The emphasis is on God as the one who granted them new life. This is particularly evident here since the means by which God begat them was the seed of His word. God begetting His children by the seed of the word is likened to a father begetting a child by the seed of his sperm. The idea of new life is present here as well since those who are begotten are born as a result of the divine begetting. In verses 22-23, then, conversion is described from a twofold perspective – the act of human beings in purifying their lives and God’s action in begetting them to a new life. The means by which God begat His people is imperishable rather than perishable seed. The human sperm of a father is perishable and earthly, and even if it produces children, they too will die eventually. The seed God uses to beget His people, on the other hand, is invincible and incorruptible. The seed is the living and abiding word of God. Through indicates the instrument by which God begat His children. That the spotlight is on God’s word is also conveyed by the last part of verse 25, where the word is identified with the gospel that was preached to you. The means by which God begets His people is the seed of God’s word, the preaching of the gospel. [24] The word for in verse 24 introduces the Old Testament citation [Isa. 40:6-8], though Peter did not give any introductory formula, such as ‘it is written’, but plunged immediately into the Old Testament text. The quotation comes from Isaiah 40, where comfort is proclaimed to Israel because God will work once again and restore them from their exile in Babylon. The good news for Israel is that God fulfills His promises and that the nations of the world that seem strong cannot resist His promised word to deliver them from exile. Such nations are like grass and the flower of the grass, which perish when the Lord’s wind blows upon them. [25] The main point from the Old Testament quotation now emerges in verse 25: the word of the Lord remains forever. Isaiah therefore supports Peter’s argument in verse 23 that the word of God is living and abiding. It is an imperishable seed according to verse 23. Isaiah 40 emphasizes that no nation, regardless of its strength, can thwart His promises. Verse 25 concludes with Peter’s commentary on the Old Testament citation. The word of the Lord in Isaiah, which represents the promise that God will restore His people from exile and fulfill His promises to Abraham [Gen. 12:1-3], is ultimately fulfilled in the gospel proclaimed to the churches in Asia Minor. The new exodus, the return from exile, and the fulfillment of all God’s promises to Israel have become a reality through the gospel. It is this gospel that God has used to beget them to new life, and on the basis of that life they are to love one another fervently and constantly.”  [Schreiner, pp. 77-97].

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What does Peter mean by holiness in 1:14-16? What does living a holy life look like in today’s world?
  2. What does Peter mean by the command conduct yourselves with fear in 1:17? Why does Peter place this command in the context of our relationship with God as our Father? Note how Peter also places the command conduct yourselves with fear in the context of knowing that you were ransomed … with the precious blood of Christ. How does this knowledge of God’s gracious work in us provide the motivation and the strength to obey the command?
  3. Contrast the world’s understanding of love with what Peter writes about love in 1:20-25. Where does the world get its definition of love? Where does Peter get his definition? Why does Peter connect loving one another with a pure heart in 1:22? How do these different definitions affect the expression of love towards others in today’s world?
  4. In these verses Peter gives three commands: to be holy, to fear God, and to love one another earnestly. How do these three commands connect and depend upon one another in our living the Christian life to the glory of God? Seek in the power of God’s grace to obey these commands in your daily walk with Christ.

References:

The Message of 1 Peter, Edmund Clowney, Inter Varsity.

Let’s Study 1 Peter, William Harrell, Banner of Truth.

1 Peter, Karen Jobes, BENT, Baker.

1, 2 Peter, Jude, Thomas Schreiner, NAC, B & H Publishers.

The purpose of this article is to provide additional reference resources for those Sunday School teachers who use Lifeway’s Bible Studies for Life material.