Rev. Kortering is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Grandville, Michigan.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
A living hope—that’s even better!
Without it, we sink into the horrible depths of doubt and depression.
Peter knew something of that as well. Having experienced personally the mighty work of God in Jesus, he had all sorts of hope. His own mother-in-law was healed of a fatal fever. He participated in the mighty catch of fish when Jesus said, “Cast the net on the other side of the boat.” He walked on the water to Jesus. He saw the glory of Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. He himself had confessed, “Thou art the Christ the Son of the Living God.” But then things turned around. At the Passover, Jesus spoke of the shepherd being taken and the sheep scattered. With firm resolve, Peter committed himself to following Jesus. Jesus poured out His soul to the Father, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me, nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.” The soldiers came, and, faithful to his commitment, Peter swung the sword and cut off the ear of Malchus. But Jesus reprimanded him: “Put up thy sword. He that uses the sword shall perish with the sword,” Peter followed, and soon we hear him say, “THAT MAN I know not.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
The saints to whom Peter wrote these words knew something of this dark night. They were scattered throughout Asia Minor at the time of the Babylonian captivity. Others were Christians who fled the persecution at the time when James was beheaded in Jerusalem. For some it meant separation from family, giving up good means of income, not finding their way in a foreign land, the fear of imprisonment. There are times when the night can become very dark.
What about you? Do you know what it is to cry in the night for sins committed and for the consequences they bear? How many of God’s saints carry the burdens of afflictions, loneliness, sorrow, pain, and suffering. There are those who suffer separation because of war and the horrible consequences of battle and bloodshed. Many suffer for Jesus’ sake. They do good, but suffer evil, even at the hands of unfaithful spouses, parents, or children.
The sunshine that dispels the darkness is nothing less than hope.
Hope is something good, something very precious which we desire very much. As we look to the future, we gaze upon that for which we hope. We do not have it as yet. It is the nature of hope that we look ahead (Rom. 8:24, 25). As we look ahead, we are sure that we will receive it. There is no doubt about it. Hence we long for it, we openly and unashamedly think about the future when we shall obtain that for which we long.
A living hope (“lively,” in the Authorized Version) indicates to us what the content of this hope is, what it is that we treasure for the future. The answer is, life itself. It is nothing else than covenant fellowship with the ever blessed God. As we sing, “to live apart from God is death,” so life is “dwelling with God forever.” In the context here, Peter describes it as an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, which does not fade away, reserved in heaven.
Our lively hope is to see Jesus, and see in Him a fuller revelation of the glory of God, and then to praise God forever. Imagine, that we can do that without any distraction of sin, suffering, or sorrow. Our hope is unmixed pleasure in God.
To that hope, we are begotten.
Literally, that word means “to be born again.” Looking at Peter, that was exactly what it took for him to get hope after the terrible denial of Jesus. Almost immediately God worked in his troubled soul. Even the bitter weeping must be viewed in stark contrast to Judas, who went out and hanged himself. Jesus did not forget Peter the morning of the resurrection: “Go tell my disciples, and Peter!” And witness the breakfast of fish. To whom does Jesus turn, but to Peter. Simon, son of Jonas, lovest me more than these? Three times Peter is forced to examine himself in the presence of Jesus and the other disciples, and each time he says, humbly, “I like thee” (friendship love). He could not say, “I love thee” (divine love). What encouragement: “Feed my sheep!” He was publicly restored to the office of apostle.
This begetting, being born again, is the process of conversion. It begins in the wonderful work of regeneration and extends all through the lifetime of each saint. It is God’s work of renewal. He causes our hearts to reach up for God and for the desired fellowship that follows. He opens our eyes to enjoy meaningful purpose in this world, to enjoy serving God in all areas of our lives. He gives to us the vision of the future, a blessed hope that one day we will be perfect in heaven, the salvation ready to be revealed.
Just as important, however, is the phrase, “kept by the power of God through faith.” Our future hope is rooted in God’s divine beginning, but it also includes God’s careful preservation. This was equally important to Peter, to the scattered saints, and to us. There are so many forces of evil that would take this hope away from us. Satan is cunningly devising ways to sow seeds of doubt and temptation. Evil men abound, only too willing to have us join their convivial company, or, if we turn from that, to stab us in the back and work intently to destroy us. Oh, what relief, we are kept by the power of God. The grace of the Holy Spirit is the source of our strength in dealing with all such opposition. The wonder of it is that it is through faith. Our faith is what needs strengthening. The bond that unites us to Jesus must be made stronger and stronger, for it is our lifeline to all the blessings of salvation. The power of God’s grace, administered through the Holy Spirit, preserves that union.
No wonder, then, that our hope is sure and steadfast, incorruptible (cannot be contaminated from without), undefiled (cannot be contaminated from within), and cannot fade away (cannot be lost forever).
We ask, why does God do this? What does He find in us that draws the cords of His love to our hearts so as to give us hope in a world of hopelessness?
The answer is, our Lord Jesus Christ!
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He hath begotten us according to His abundant mercy by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
The resurrection of Jesus left an indelible mark on the soul of Peter. He was one of the first to run to the tomb, to see and believe. He received a personal visit of Jesus the first resurrection Sunday (I Cor. 15:5). Yes, it took the Holy Spirit of Pentecost to put it all together for Peter: “Ye have taken Jesus and with wicked hands have crucified and slain him, but God raised him from the dead!” (Acts 2:23-32).
Two things make it plain why the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the key to our future hope.
First, the resurrection is the divine certification that the work of Jesus on the cross was acceptable to God. True, with triumphant voice Jesus shouted from the cross, “It is finished. Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” The earth shook, the rocks were rent, the veil of the temple was torn from top to bottom. Yes, God answered the word of the cross. The centurion could rightly say in response to the event, “Surely, this is the Son of God!” Yet, nothing speaks so eloquently of divine approval as does the resurrection. “Who was delivered for our offenses and raised again for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). Jesus paid it all. There is reason for hope. Our sins are forgiven in the blood of Jesus.
Second, who can better keep us in the direction of heaven, our eternal hope, than our Living Lord? We rejoice as Christians, that the One in whom we place our trust for time and eternity is not one who was alive and is now dead. We have more than a memory, we have a Living Lord. He said, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:20). He is the One who is at the Father’s right hand and carries out the details of His eternal good pleasure. He is the One through whom the Father controls the king’s heart, and turns it as a river of water, whithersoever He will. In the midst of all our needs of life, our trials and cares, He both controls the forces that seem to hurt us and nurtures us that we may be able to endure unto the end.
Blessed be the God and Father of Jesus!
He is the ultimate source for our hope.
He is the One who has begotten us unto this hope. He is the One who has raised Jesus from the dead. He is the One who keeps us by His power through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed.
This is a doxology, a statement of praise that we lift heavenward. The Greek word is, literally, to eulogize, to speak well to our Heavenly Father. Shall we do that?
There is hope, no matter how dark the moment may appear. While our souls sink into the dark depths of despair, look to Jesus. God raised Him from the dead. No matter how horrible our sins, no matter what punishment they deserve, God forgives us when we come to Him in true repentance.
Are you struggling with the power of sin? Are you addicted to another power that seems to have you under its control: drugs, drinking, smoking, eating too much or not enough, spending money foolishly, illicit sex, political power, or a drive for business success? Look to Jesus. There is hope. It is the power of God, the grace of the Holy Spirit, that is able to deliver us and keep us from such destruction.
Are you afraid, lonely, hurting with your pains or difficulties? Does heaven seem a long way away, and you wonder whether you will ever have the strength to attain?
We are begotten and kept unto a living hope by so great a God.
Blessed be God, now and forever.