by Roger McCay
1 December 2019
Sermon Passage: 1 Peter 1:3-5
Link to Audio Version
It is told of a teacher assigned to visit children in a large city hospital, who received a routine call requesting that she visit a particular child. She took the boy’s name and room number and was told by the teacher on the other end of the line, “We’re studying nouns and adverbs in his class now. I’d be grateful if you could help him with his homework so he doesn’t fall behind the others.” It wasn’t until the visiting teacher got outside the boy’s room that she realized it was located in the hospital’s burn unit. No one had prepared her to find a young boy horribly burned and in great pain. She felt that she couldn’t just turn and walk out, so she awkwardly stammered, “I’m the hospital teacher, and your teacher sent me to help you with nouns and adverbs.” The next morning a nurse on the burn unit asked her, “What did you do to that boy?” Before she could finish a profusion of apologies, the nurse interrupted her: “You don’t understand. We’ve been very worried about him, but ever since you were here yesterday, his whole attitude has changed. He’s fighting back, responding to treatment. … It’s as though he’s decided to live.” The boy later explained that he had completely given up hope until he saw that teacher. It all changed when he came to a simple realization. With joyful tears he expressed it this way: “They wouldn’t send a teacher to work on nouns and adverbs with a dying boy, would they?”
There are different kinds of hopes. There is the faint hope, like the 80-yard hail-Mary in a football game with your team down by four with one second on the clock. Then there is hope like that of the boy in the burn unit, a hope of the middling variety, yet a hope powerful enough for the boy to have a complete turn-around in his treatment, even restoring his life. Thirdly, there is the hope grounded in the character of a person.
Now, putting our hope in a person can carry with it all sorts of doubts. This is because we know people. Such hope is necessarily limited by the person’s character, power, reliability, and work.
So it is that Christians can sometimes be insecure in their hope. They wonder if they really are saved. They wonder if when they die they will find themselves in hell; or whether they really will see Jesus; or if heaven will be long and boring; or if they will get a mansion; or if there will just be nothing, as they would just be dead. This insecure hope is due to the focus of one’s hope. If our hope is based on our own character, power, reliability, and work (and I’d include a misunderstanding of the nature of faith in the category of work), then this hope is no hope at all due to our sin, not even a faint hope. In fact, that hope, which is no hope, is the base of all other religions, and has nothing to do with Christ. That hope is a dead hope.
In utter contrast to such a false, dead hope, Christians rightly base our hope on God’s qualities. Hence, in the Lord, we have a living hope, finding ourselves utterly secure. In 1 Peter 1:1-2, Peter has already shown how our hope is based on the Lord’s election and foreknowledge, irrevocably grounding our identity in God. “The Lord is our God, and we are his people.”
Peter now elaborates on our salvation, this living hope, praising the Lord who has secured our immortality and the bountiful inheritance we will enjoy for all eternity. Peter begins with a praise, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” He proceeds to then glorify the Lord due to three aspects of hope: our future hope, which we’ll look at today; then our present hope, and finally our promised hope (which we’ll examine later).
What we see is that our future hope is secured in the Father’s character, his great mercy. This attribute of God is nothing new, and is expounded upon throughout the Scriptures. In the OT, the word for mercy is often translated as lovingkindness, or steadfast love. It is tied in with the Lord’s very name and covenant making deeds. Thus, in Ex. 20:6 and Deut. 5:10, the Lord is identified as the God “who shows mercy to thousands who love him, and keep his commandments.” Then in Ex. 34:6, the Lord identifies himself to Moses on Mt. Sinai as “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”
It is according to this attribute, the mercy of God, his very nature, that the Father acted and “caused us to be born again.” We have nothing to do with this. Our faith doesn’t cause us to be born again. Our will does not cause us to be born again. God the Father caused us to be born again. The Father is the first cause; the Son, in obedience to the Father, through his work makes it possible; and the Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son makes it happen (John 3:1-21).
So, why did Father do this? In verse 3 we see that the Father caused us to be regenerated so that, in his love, he might give us, his children, a wonderful gift. He wants to give us a gift that is worthy of a Father such as he. His gift to us is a living hope and inheritance secured in his power. His gift is salvation, not only from our sins, but from the sin and pain of the world, which will be made complete when Jesus returns in glory.
The Father secured our hope “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” And it is in Jesus’ resurrection that we find our resurrection to eternal life. As Paul says in Romans 6:5, “we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” Any obstacle to our resurrection was cleared and paved over by Christ. God has the power to fulfill his promise to resurrect us. And, it is a promise secured by his very nature (2 Tim. 2:13).
Perhaps you have had doubts. Whatever those doubts may be, take courage. There is no reason to be insecure in your hope, if you are hoping in the Lord. If you are a disciple of Christ, because it is God himself who secures eternal life for all his people, you can rest in your hope in Jesus.
Peter goes on in v. 4, and tells us that it is also according to God’s great mercy that he caused us to be born again, “to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.” The Scriptures tell us a lot about inheritance, going all the way back to Abraham. It’s all wrapped up in God’s covenant.
The Jews were given an inheritance by God: a land. However, that inheritance of land became defiled—by drought, the devastation of war, foreign domination, and consistently and ultimately by sin. In contrast to that temporal, tiny, vulnerable inheritance, Peter explains that, in Christ, we have a living hope in an eternal inheritance that won’t ever tarnish or perish. It’s along the lines of what Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-20,
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
Peter is saying that your inheritance is more than even that. This is not a treasure you lay up. It is an inheritance that God gives and keeps in heaven for you.
As to its substance, well, from the Scriptures we see that we inherit God. We inherit the earth. We inherit all the spiritual blessings in Christ. We inherit perfect, immortal bodies; perfect joy, perfect contentment; and righteousness immune to sin.
I mean, think about it, Romans 8:17 tells us we are joint heirs with Christ. He is the king of heaven and earth. We share in his inheritance. At the consummation of his Kingdom, he will bring the new heavens and new earth that will be beyond the corruption of sin. Only God’s people will inherit this. There will be peace and prosperity to such an extent to be beyond our imagination. Such is the substance of the living hope for which we yearn. Come Lord Jesus, come!
This inheritance is totally secure. Who can un-elect you from being one of Gods people? Who can take away a salvation that is a gift of God? Who can go to heaven and snatch your inheritance away? We call this Perseverance of the Saints. The Scriptures are clear on this matter. Not one of God’s elect, his saints, can lose his or her salvation. This is an absolute. There is nothing we nor anyone else can do to cause God’s elect to become damned (Rom 8:38-39). It is as Jesus said in John 10:28, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”
If you are a disciple of Christ, you are united in Christ. You are, in some way, even now, in heaven, in Christ, awaiting the Lord’s return. Phil. 3:20:
20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
You are utterly secure in your hope, your inheritance, and your salvation. God, in his power guards it through faith, which, as we looked at last week, is itself a gift from God. In our faith we trust in God’s power, and by grace we have been saved through faith. We are saved even now; it is a salvation that is ready. And although it is now, it is also not yet.
God, in his time will consummate our salvation on that last day. When Jesus returns come Judgment Day, the children of God will be revealed. We will be acknowledged as his, and we will be saved from the wrath of God (Rom. 8:19).
If you are a disciple of Christ, you can utterly count on this truth, this reality. It is so secure as to be already done, for God himself secures the inheritance of all his people.
So, what does this mean for you?
First of all, praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!
And if you are feeling insecure in your hope, for some reason. Do a self-assessment. Where does your hope lie? Are you relying on being good enough? Are you relying on church attendance? Are you relying on the strength of your faith?
Put your hope where it properly belongs. Put your hope square on the shoulders of the Lord. And then, and only then, can you rest in Christ, secure in your living hope of eternal life, eternal inheritance, and salvation in Christ.
Considering these things, the words of Edward Mote’s wonderful song come to mind:
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand.
Since God secures the salvation of all Christians, we should rest in our hope in Jesus Christ.
 James S. Hewett, ed., Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale, 1988), 292-293.
 Edward Mote, “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less,” Trinity Hymnal (Suwanee, GA: Great Commission Publications, 2006), 521.