2017-1-22 A Living Hope

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          January 22, 2017

“A Living Hope”
Text: 1 Peter 1:3-5

We continue this week in this excellent correspondence from God to us—the Apostle Peter’s first general letter to the Church.  It is a letter highly relevant in any time and, in God’s good providence, particularly well-timed for our time.

As we noted last week, we who are redeemed in Christ Jesus have, in effect, a citizenship transfer.  We were citizens of this world—and, thus, we were under the dominion of the prince of this world (John 16:11).  Now our citizenship is in Heaven (Philippians 3:20), and we live our earthly sojourn under the glad dominion of the triune God.  Yet we continue to live in this world: as strangers, aliens, exiles, ambassadors, and the like.  This letter helps us greatly in our journey Home.  Let’s hear, then, what God will say to us this week in His Word.

(HERE READ THE TEXT)

Peter, led by the Spirit, exclaims, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!”  This praise unto God is both the controlling thought to verse twelve (and well may occupy us for three or four sermons) and the frame that bounds the commands later to come in this letter.  The word blessed, applied from the creature God-ward, means something akin to praised be.[1]  We cannot bless God in the sense of supplying something He lacks—for, of course, He lacks nothing—but we can render Him such adoration as it right for us to give.  God is worthy of praise for Who He is, to be sure, but He also stands worthy of praise for what He does—as much of the balance of this sermon shall show.

God is to be praised by His redeemed in Christ for a living hope.  This hope, this expectation that God will give good and beneficial things, is not a dead hope.  Nor is it either a vain hope or an obsolete hope.  It is a living hope.  It has its ground in Him Who both endured physical death for our sakes and is raised by the power of the Father—never to taste of death again.  Let’s look closer, then, at this living hope.

First, how comes this living hope to us?  We may consider this in three senses—all of which rise from today’s text.  First, this living hope comes to us according to God’s great mercy.  When we were dead in sins and trespasses, God, being rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ (cf. Ephesians 2:1, 4-5).  We do not earn this mercy from God—indeed, we cannot—but God, showing infinite kindness to our desperately needy souls, gives us this living hope.  Second, living hope comes to us because God causes us to be born again.  Just as Jesus taught Nicodemus that, without the new birth, he should not see the Kingdom of God (John 3:3), similarly we shall not see that Kingdom apart from new birth in Jesus Christ.  Moreover, we cannot effect our new birth; only God can cause it—but, in His sovereign mercy and great love, He does.  Third, this living hope comes through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  If Christ has not been raised from the dead, we of all men are most to be pitied (1 Corinthians 15:19).  Yet Christ is read from the dead, the first-fruits of all who fall asleep (ibid, 15:20).  He Who has risen triumphant over the grave certainly has the power to engender and to effect this bright, shining, living hope in us.

Now, second, let us ask another question, namely, “What is this living hope?”  Our text defines this living hope as the inheritance that God bestows upon us in Christ Jesus, to wit, all that God is and has for us in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit (cf. Ephesians 1:11-14), Who Himself is the earnest, or down-payment, in this life of our eternal inheritance.  Our living hope is imperishable; that is, it is not subject to death and decay—as virtually everything in creation is.  It cannot die, because its Guarantor cannot.  Our living hope is undefiled.  It knows nothing of sin’s taint.  It is as pure as God Himself.  Moreover, our living hope is unfading.  It abides eternally without fading, vanishing, or weakening.  It remains beautiful, wonderful, pristine, and the like.  Furthermore, God keeps our living hope in Heaven for us.  This introduces a necessary tension, if you will, in the Christian life between the already and the not yet.  As noted earlier, the Holy Spirit vouchsafes all that shall ever be ours in Jesus at our regeneration.  Yet we do not possess all of it until Jesus returns in the new heavens and the new earth (Revelation 21:1 ff.).  We have the earnest now, we shall have much more at our departure from earth unto Heaven, and we shall have it to the full at the inauguration of the new heavens and the new earth—to be enjoyed eternally thereafter.

Third, to whom comes this living hope?  Simply, it comes to us, the redeemed in Christ Jesus through faith in Him.  We, therefore, enjoy by God’s power being guarded by faith in His Son.  We are protected both from wandering from the fold of God and from any diabolical being who would aim to pluck us from His hand.  Furthermore, we are protected thus for a salvation—and that experience both now, in part, and later, to the full.  This salvation is ready to be revealed in the last time—not only to our souls one by one who trust in Christ, but also—at just the right time—to those above the earth, and on the earth, and under the earth at His coming.  This salvation stands closer now than when we first believed (Romans 13:11).

All of the foregoing is excellent news, O believer in Christ Jesus.  As we tread this world, let us rejoice in this living hope.  May this hope bring us abiding joy no matter our temporary circumstance.  Let us also cling to the Author of this living hope, knowing that He will never let us go (John 10:28-30, et al.).  Let us go on from these to draw strength from the content and certainty of this living hope as we fulfill our callings in this world.

O, dear one currently outside Christ’s salvation, I pray the Holy Spirit has given you the blessing of esteeming this message as good news for your soul.  I pray also that He has given you a hunger for Jesus Christ as remedy for your soul’s fundamental need—relief from sin and consequent estrangement from God.  If these be true, I urge you to receive Him this hour, without delay, and to be eternally glad.  May God Himself, both to us each and to us all, deepen your grasp and appreciation of this living hope.

AMEN.

[1] For insight into the precise meaning of several underlying Greek words in today’s text, I am indebted to Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, eds., Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1989).

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