Our Living Hope in Christ
1 Peter 1:3-9
R. C. Sproul remembered during his lifetime some words he heard while attending his first lecture in the Netherlands at the Free University of Amsterdam. Professor G. C. Berkouwer began: “Gentlemen, all sound theology must begin and end with doxology.” Reflecting later in life upon that life-altering statement, R. C. commented, “When theology does not begin and end with doxology, it becomes merely an abstract intellectual exercise in which the heart is not engaged and the soul is not properly moved.”
The Apostle Paul, in the middle of his teaching of the weightiest theological matters, breaks spontaneously into doxology: “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33).
Peter, at the beginning of this letter, starts with a doxology: “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” (v3). A doxology is a hymn of praise. The word comes from the Greek, doxa, which refers to glory that is ascribed to God, because it belongs eternally and intrinsically to Him. The concept of glory in the Bible refers to the weightiness of God, the depth of His character.
At Redeemer, we sing the doxology at the conclusion of our service as an act of offering all of our worship to God. Singing praise to God is a central significance of worship; the primary dimension of godly worship is not the offering of our money, time, or body but the sacrifice of praise. Doxology is at the very heart of true worship, and this is how Peter begins.
The verses of our passage depict the heart of Peter, as a theologian and a pastor. Peter began theologically with praising God for His great benefits of salvation, but then pauses pastorally to show that the Christians in Asia Minor can be exceedingly glad about the final day of salvation even though they are presently enduring various kinds of trials. They can be glad because they will survive this trial and find themselves in the glorious situation of salvation.
Indeed, a central theme of this letter is the suffering and affliction that the Christians of the Diaspora were enduring at that time. The letter is a word of consolation and comfort, reminding them of the future hope that awaits them. In this text we see a marvelous reaffirmation of the doctrine of the providence of God.
The classic teaching of divine providence is found at the end of the book of Genesis. Joseph, who had been viciously betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery, was held in prison for many years and separated from his family and homeland. He endured great suffering at the hands of his brothers. When Joseph was reunited with his brothers years later, they were terrified that he would exact revenge against them. Instead, Joseph said, “As for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Gen. 50:20). Their intentions were wicked, and they were responsible for that, but over and above their actions, God intended good. “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose,” Paul wrote (Rom. 8:28). God’s hand is in earthly trials that are unjustly foisted upon us by wicked people. The hand of God trumps the evil intent of those who wound us, and He uses, in His gracious providence, those various experiences of affliction and pain for His glory and for our ultimate edification.
In chapter 5 of the Westminster Confession of Faith, we have one of the most precise definitions of providence in the history of the church:
God the great Creator of all things doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy providence, according to his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will, to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy. (WCF 5.1)
Peter writes to encourage our hearts, and this coming Lord’s Day we will hear a sermon doing just that. In the midst of all the trials we face, we have a hope in Christ that is certain. Join us this week as we learn how God uses the joys and tribulations of our lives for his glory and our good.
For His Glory,