Second Sunday of Easter April 16, 2023
1 Peter 1:3-16
1 John 5:4-10
198, 196, 207, 189
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Sermon Audio: https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/ministrybymail
+ Alleluia! Christ is Risen! He is Risen, Indeed! +
Prayer of the Day: Almighty God, by the glorious resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ, You destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light. Grant that we who have been raised with Him may abide in His presence and rejoice in the hope of eternal glory; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.
Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things which angels desire to look into.
Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” (NKJV)
Dearly Beloved Fellow Believers,
The apostle Peter opens his First Epistle with a grand hymn of praise to God for the new life that is ours because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. By this great act God the Father “has begotten us again to a living hope,” he exclaims. In Christ’s resurrection God hasn’t just given us hope, but a living, ever-enduring hope.
Hope is vital for human happiness and contentment. We need to have something to look forward to. The hard times in life are bearable if we have hope for better days. We can better endure the pain and suffering of an illness or injury if we have hope for recovery, or even only for temporary relief. When we experience disappointments or setbacks, we can more easily bear them if we believe that these things are only temporary and that there is hope for better things on the horizon. A prisoner can better endure his period of confinement if he has hope for release, even if it is quite a ways down the road.
However, these examples of hope that we have just mentioned we would not describe in the way the apostle here describes our Christian hope. The hopes we have for this life are not what we would call “living hopes.” Rather they are conditional hopes; they are hopes that are dependent on conditions and circumstances that are far from certain. We hope for many things in this life, but we may or may not get them; our hopes may be fulfilled, or they may be dashed.
What Peter is talking about here is a hope that is completely different from any other hopes that we may have. It is the hope of eternal life. This, he says, is a living hope, an ever-living hope: those who have it and cling to it will not be disappointed, for it will not fail.
Since this is so, it makes sense that we should put this hope at the center of our life. As we continue to rejoice in the resurrection of Christ, let’s listen as the apostle lays out for us the living hope that we have in Christ.
Peter speaks of our hope in terms of an inheritance. An inheritance is a common source of hope. Those who know that they are remembered in someone’s will, look forward to receiving the money or property that has been promised to them. They may even make their plans with that future inheritance in mind.
But not everyone is in line to receive a substantial inheritance. Many of us may never receive an inheritance, or, if we do receive one, it may be only a small one. But Peter here tells us who believe in Jesus Christ that we are all in line for an inheritance. And what an inheritance it is: he uses three words to describe it for us, so that we will value it, earnestly desire it, and look forward to receiving it.
It is “incorruptible,” that is, it cannot be destroyed. The things of this world, material things, are universally subject to corruption, in one way or another. Jesus spoke of moth and rust as things that corrupt the things that we put away and store. You think that you’ve got something put aside, only to find it eaten up when you go to retrieve it. Our inheritance from Christ isn’t subject to corruption.
Peter also says that our inheritance is “undefiled,” that is, unstained. It doesn’t have any drawbacks to it. Inheritances of money and property always have drawbacks, though we don’t always see what they are. Inherited property may require a lot of time and work, may bring you headaches. Inheritances often cause division and strife in families. Our inheritance of eternal life has no downside.
Peter also calls our inheritance unfading. That surely sets it apart from earthly inheritances. They inevitably fade, in various ways. Money that we inherit may be spent, sometimes squandered. Things we inherit may diminish in value. Or our initial delight in them will fade, as we realize that the inheritance hasn’t really changed our life in any positive way or solved our problems. But our inheritance in Christ is eternal life, a life with joy and glory that will never diminish, because it is a life in the presence of the eternal God and the living Christ.
Our inheritance in Christ is real, and the apostle’s intent here is to get us to see it as such. It is “reserved in heaven” for us. It is an inheritance that already exists and has been set aside for us. Jesus won it for us when He arose from the dead after offering Himself as sacrifice for our sins. This is what Jesus said when He assured His disciples, “I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2,3)
But couldn’t we lose our inheritance by falling away from Christ? Yes, for the Bible warns us to be on our guard against this very thing. If we are concerned about our salvation Peter here assures us that we are “kept by the power of God through faith.” God who chose us and called us by the gospel has every intention of bringing us safely to eternal life.
The apostle here wants to make our inheritance real to us because we don’t yet see it. We have it; it is ours, reserved in heaven for us. Yet we don’t have the full enjoyment of it. And we don’t yet see Jesus. But even though we haven’t seen Him we love Him, as Peter confidently says of his readers. We haven’t seen Jesus, but we most certainly do know Him. We have come to know Him in the Scriptures; the Holy Spirit has made Him known to us, to our very hearts. We know His love for us in the great sacrifice that He made for us. That love sustains us through the trials of life. It does even more than that: it assures us that our trials serve the purpose of refining our faith by teaching us to trust in God.
The apostle has surely shown us that our hope in Christ is a living hope, yet he isn’t finished assuring us about it. He next reminds us that our hope has its basis in the Word of God, both in the Old Testament as well as the New. Peter reminds us that Christ didn’t come out of nowhere; He didn’t appear without any advance notice. He wasn’t a self-appointed or self-styled prophet, like so many others. His coming was foretold by the prophets. They wrote of Him and His work, and their prophecies over time drew an unmistakable portrait of Him. The prophets wrote of actual events in Christ’s life. The apostle says that the Holy Spirit—here called the Spirit of Christ—was in them when they wrote; in their writing “He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.”
All of this is important for us to bear in mind. It shows the strength of what we believe. It shows that the eternal God Himself is behind what we believe. This is why our Christian hope is a living hope.
Now that Peter has assured us about our Christian hope, he goes on to teach us that this has consequences for our daily living. A living hope such as ours cannot but shape our whole life. Our hope in Christ is so great, so powerful, that we should never lose sight of it. No major decision in our life should be made without reference to it. Our way of life should be ordered according to it. This starts with the life of the mind, our thoughts: “Gird up the loins of your mind, be sober,” Peter says. Direct your thoughts to God by reading and hearing His word. Think about what is pleasing to Him, rather than about what pleases the sinful nature. Think of the holiness of our God. If we do that, we will repent of our sins instead of going on heedlessly in them. The apostle exhorts us to live “as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance.” Therefore, let’s not let our thinking, our attitudes, our habits be formed by the unbelieving world, by those who are ignorant of God. Let’s not allow worldly trends and fashions determine the kind of language we use, the way we dress, the entertainment that we watch. Instead, as Peter exhorts us here, let’s “rest our hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” We have a living hope, the sure inheritance of eternal life. Nothing can compare with it. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.