Sermon by Rev. Daniel L. Sonnenberg | July 10, 2011
Blessed be 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 through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Peter and Silas wrote this letter to five scattered groups of Christians in Asia Minor, or what is now modern day Turkey, to encourage them during a time of extended persecution. They had apparently been going through persecution for their faith for some time, and it didn’t look like it was going to let up anytime soon. Thirty years earlier, Jesus had warned his disciples, including Peter, that because they were his followers they would be hated just as he had been hated. In this letter Peter reminds these churches what they must remember and what they must do in order to maintain their faith in Christ in spite of the persecution.
Even today, as followers of Jesus, we too experience persecution of various types and at various times since we are his followers. Last Sunday we discovered from the introduction and the closing paragraph of First Peter that though we are like strangers in a strange land, because God has made us family and faithful, we should persevere in persecution trusting that God will renew us daily and reward us one day in heaven.
Today we’re looking at the next few verses in which we are reminded of some basic Christian teachings that will sustain us through times of persecution or trials: by looking back – to see what God has done for us in the past, looking forward – to see what God is preparing to do for us in the future, and looking to the present – to see what God is doing for us right now.
This passage reminds us that in persecution or trials, because of Christ’s Work of Salvation, we can find hope by looking to our past in the NEW BIRTH, find hope by looking to our future in the NEW INHERITANCE, and find hope by looking to our present in a SECURE SALVATION.
The Past: A New Birth
This passage tells us first, that in persecutions or trials we should Find hope by looking to our PAST in the NEW BIRTH. V3 says, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, … The idea here is that of rebirth. It is the New Testament’s way of describing the radical change that takes place in a person when one becomes a Christian. The original word means “to beget again” or to give birth again. It’s the same root word as when Jesus told Nicodemus he must be born from above. The theological term for this is re-generation. Regeneration is defined by Grudem as “a secret act of God in which he imparts new spiritual life to us.” Berkhof adds that there are two aspects to regeneration. First, “generation implants the principle of the new life in the soul, and (second) the new birth causes this principle to begin to assert itself into action.” In other words, the new birth is like a seed. First it is planted, second it grows to become a full fruit-bearing plant.
This verse tells us four things about the new birth. First, it tells us the PROPER RESPONSE to the new birth is THANKSGIVING TO GOD. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! To bless means to congratulate or thank. We should thank, not ourselves, not any god, but the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Second, it tells us The SOURCE of rebirth is the great MERCY OF GOD. …According to his great mercy… The mercy of God is like the headwaters or source of a river. The source of a river is the place it begins. Mercy is sometimes defined as “not getting what we deserve.” Because of Adam’s sin, all mankind has come under the condemnation of God. But God, as we saw in verse 1, has chosen or elected some people to whom he will show his great mercy by not giving us what we deserve. As Paul’s letter to Titus says, Tit. 3:5 (NLT) he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. third, it tells us the GOAL of rebirth is to give us HOPE FOR THE FUTURE. …to a living hope… A living hope is “hope for living.” It is what gets us out of bed in the morning. It is what keeps us going when the going gets tough. It is essential to continuing life. It prevents us from giving up. Living hope is like the mouth of a river. It is the end or goal of a river – the delivery of its contents into a lake or ocean or other body of water. The goal or end of the new birth is to deliver the contents of hope to us. Fourth, it tells us the MEANS of rebirth is the RESURRECTION OF CHRIST. …through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, … The resurrection of Christ is like a riverbed. The means or delivery system of the river is the riverbed, the channel through which the river runs. The means of the rebirth is the resurrection of Christ. It is the channel through which the mercy of God flows to those who are committed to him so they can fully share in this in the future. Eph 2:4-5 But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, 5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. Rom. 6:4-5 For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. 1Cor 15: 20, 22 But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died… 22 Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life.
The Future: A New Inheritance
II. Not only should we find hope by looking to our PAST in the NEW BIRTH, but second, we should Find Hope by looking to our FUTURE in a NEW INHERITANCE. (Glorification). 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. “Hope for living” is found by looking to our future in a new inheritance. The theological term for this inheritance is glorification. Grudem defines glorification as, “…the final step in the application of redemption. It will happen when Christ returns and raises from the dead the bodies of all believers for all time who have died, and reunites them with their souls, and changes the bodies of all believers who remain alive, therby giving all believers at the same time perfect resurrection bodies like his own.” According to Peter Davids, for Abraham, the inheritance was land: Gen 12:1 The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. And this was an important idea in OT theology: Gen. 50:24 “Soon I will die,” Joseph told his brothers, “but God will surely come to help you and lead you out of this land of Egypt. He will bring you back to the land he solemnly promised to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” Deut. 34:4 (NLT) Then the LORD said to Moses, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have now allowed you to see it with your own eyes, but you will not enter the land.” In the later OT, the inheritance took the form of the reward of the godly on judgment day: (Isa. 57:6 Your gods are the smooth stones in the valleys. You worship them with liquid offerings and grain offerings. They, not I, are your inheritance. Do you think all this makes me happy? Dan. 12:13 “As for you, go your way until the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days, you will rise again to receive the inheritance set aside for you.” This was picked up by NT writers: Mk. 10:17 As Jesus was starting out on his way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 1 Co. 6:9 Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality. Eph. 5:5 You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. 1 Pet. 3:9 Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it. If “hope for living” or the new inheritance is like the mouth of the river delivering its contents into another body of water, let’s look at the contents of that river, at what “hope for living” consists or is made up. A river has waters with many qualities – some clean, some dirty, some cool, some warm, and so on.
Our new inheritance has four qualities according to verse 4. Our new inheritance is Imperishable – will not rot or decay as things on earth. 1 Co. 9:25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 1 Co. 15:52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. Our new inhertitance is Undefiled – morally and religiously pure. Heb. 7:26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. Heb. 13:4 Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Jas. 1:27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. Our new inhertitance is Unfading – this unique to Peter in the NT – unlike flowers that wither and are tossed, inheritance is eternal and will never wither; it is better than an earthly reward. Our new inhertitance is Invulnerable or Impenetrable. It is “guarded or kept in heaven for you.” It is totally secure, like the treasure in Matt. 6:20 Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. The concept of divinely protected reward is widespread in the NT: Matt. 5:12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Col. 1:5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven… 2 Tim. 4:8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. Adversaries may destroy all we have in the world but they can’t touch our heavenly reward.
The Present: A Secure Salvation
We should find hope not only by looking to the our past in the new birth and our future in a new inheritance, but we should also Find Hope by looking to our PRESENT in a SECURE SALVATION. (Perseverance of the Saints). 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. This is what is the the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints: Perseverance of the Saints is defined as “all those who are truly born again will be kept by God’s power and will [remain] as Christians until the end of their lives, and that only those who persevere until the end have been truly born again” (Grudem).
This verse tells us first that The RECIPIENTS of this security is YOU. “…you, who…are being guarded…” The tense here is second person plural, meaning “all of you,” referring back to the believers in verse 3 – “he has caused us (first person plural) to be born again…” This verse refers not to the inheritance, but to the inheritors or the heirs of the inheritance, “you who are being guarded.” It’s not enough just for God to ensure that our inheritance will not perish or fade away. He must also ensure that the inheritors – the heirs – will survive long enough to receive the inheritance. You will survive to receive the inheritance! Second, this verse tells us The TIME of this security is PRESENT. “…are being guarded…” This verb is in the present tense in the accusative case. You are (presently) being guarded. The accusative case is referring to a noun that is having something done to it. Something is being done to you. You are being guarded. Third, this verse tells us The NATURE of this security is GUARDING or KEEPING. “we are being guarded… or kept…” Peter Davids gives two illustrations of this verb: We see a picture of a fortress or military camp. The people are within, the enemy is without assaulting them. On the perimeter is the overwhelming force “the power of God.” Another image is that of God protecting them not like a guard watching prisoners to be condemned but like a soldier guiding and protecting people as they move thru hostile territory toward the freedom of friendly lines. Whether we’re stationary or moving, God surrounds and protects us from the assaults of our enemies and guides us toward friendly territory. Third, this verse tells us The SOURCE of this security is THE POWER OF GOD. “by the power of God…” The previous verb (“are being guarded”) is also passive, meaning that we are the recipients of the action. We are being guarded by someone else. That someone else is the power of God. The power of God is like the headwaters or source of the river of security that flows to us. Fourth, this verse tells us The MEANS of this security is FAITH. “…through faith…” Even though the verb is passive, we are participating “through faith.” This is the means God uses in us. By trusting in Christ’s work on our behalf, we receive this security. Faith is like the channel of the river or the river bed through which our security flows. Yet even this faith that we exercise is not something that comes from us. It is a gift of God. Eph 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Fifth, this verse tells us The GOAL of this security is SALVATION. “…for a salvation…” Salvation is like the mouth or end of the river where it delivers its contents into another body of water. The goal of security is to deliver the contents of salvation to us. God gives us perseverance so that we can ultimately receive salvation. Salvation is the intervention of God to deliver his people. Believers in the OT looked back to the exodus from Egypt as an example of God’s deliverance. In the NT, believers look forward to it as the certain goal of history: Rom. 13:11 Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. Sixth, this verse tells us The STAGE of this salvation is READY. “for a salvation…ready to be revealed…” As in “ready, set, go.” As in the parable of the young women at the wedding feast in Matt 22.8 – all is prepared – the invited guests are waiting for the bridegroom to appear at any moment. Or to use a theatrical illustration, as in…the stage is set, we’re ready for the signal to raise the curtain. Or to use an illustration from entertaining in the home, as in… the food is ready, the table is set, we’re just waiting for the guests to arrive. Seventh, this verse tells us The CLIMAX of this salvation is at THE RETURN OF CHRIST. “for a salvation ready to be revealed…in the last time…” “The last time” is well-known concept in NT, generally referred to as that time, the last days, the day of judgment, or that day. It is in the period of the closing of the age. The focus of this verse is not on the whole period or even its closing stages, but on the final scene when Christ returns to judge the godless and resurrect and reward those who believe. Jn. 6:40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
This passage reminds us that in persecution or trials, because of Christ’s Work of Salvation, we can find hope by looking to our past in the NEW BIRTH, to our future in the NEW INHERITANCE, and to our present in a SECURE SALVATION.