In his greeting, (1:1-2), Peter reminds his readers of who they are. To the world they’re exiles, but to God, they’re his chosen, covenant people. Next, in the opening section of his letter (1:3-12), Peter reminds them of what God has done for them.
When any Christ-follower begins to encounter trials, this the first thing they need to remember: In Christ, God has given us everything that truly matters. He’s given us a hope that the world can’t take away.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1:3, CSB).
You receive a new identity when you put your faith in Christ. This comes from what Jesus himself taught — “No one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again” (John 3:3-8). James also mentions how God gives his people a spiritual rebirth through the gospel (James 1:18), and Paul likewise speaks of “the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5-6).
Hope begins with the fact that God gives believers a fresh start. Once someone puts their faith in Christ, they are not the person they once were. They now have a new identity — and with that new identity comes a new destiny. If you are in Christ, you have a hope that the unbelieving world doesn’t have. Neither your past failures nor your present circumstances have the final word.
Peter is going to come back to this theme of hope over and over again throughout his letter:
- In 1:13, the first command Peter gives is to set our hopes fully on the grace that is coming to us when Christ comes again.
- In 1:21 it says that one of the reasons Jesus died for us is so that we would fully put our trust and hope in God.
- In 3:5, Peter tells us to look at Old Testament saints as examples of people who didn’t lose hope in God, even in less-than-ideal circumstances.
- And in 3:15, he says that the one thing that will most set us apart from non-believers, the one thing that will get their attention and make the gospel attractive to them, is our hope.
Not only is hope one of the biggest benefits we get from the gospel; it’s also one of our strongest weapons against evil.
At the time Peter was writing this, the Roman Empire was a place where hope was hard to come by. Life expectancy was short and wars were constantly breaking out. There were multitudes of gods and goddesses being prayed to, but no one really knew if any of them were going to come through, since the Roman gods were just as petty as the people who worshiped them.
It’s not much different today. There is such a prevalent spirit of skepticism, cynicism, and questioning of truth that people don’t really know if there’s anything they can put their hope in. As a result, mental health issues are rampant and suicide rates are at a drastic high. People are increasingly more divided and angry and insecure. They need to see that it’s possible to have real, tangible hope in Christ.
Christians should be people of hope. If there’s one thing people today desperately need, it’s the kind of hope Peter speaks about — the hope that comes from the gospel.
Peter speaks of it as a “living” hope — in other words, it is valid, active, real. It is not merely wishful thinking or “pie in the sky” talk, for it is grounded in the historical reality of Jesus’ resurrection. That is the concrete evidence we have that we can trust God. Jesus did exactly what he said he was going to do.
Whenever you doubt that the Christian hope is real and alive, remember that Jesus’ tomb is empty.
As Peter conveys the counsel of the Holy Spirit to Christ-followers in the midst of persecution, he doesn’t just say, “Oh, just think about how happy you’ll be in heaven and you can get through your suffering!” No, he’s going to say much more than that throughout this letter. There is a great deal of practical instruction to come.
As Joel Green points out in his commentary, Peter doesn’t dismiss or minimize the struggles his readers are going through, but he does put them in perspective (1 Peter, THNTC, 204). Our present and temporary trials will soon give way to eternal glory.
In the meantime, we are people of hope.