The Obedience of Hope
In 1588, the Spanish Armada, with 130 ships, sailed toward England, bent on depositing over fifty thousand Spanish soldiers on English soil and deposing Queen Elizabeth. But before the troops could go ashore, Spanish ships had to get past the English navy. The Spanish warships were larger and had bigger guns, but the English ships had superior commanders and greater speed and maneuverability. The Spaniards knew all this when they set sail. How, then, could they hope to succeed in battle if their guns could not attain a firing position? The Spaniards believed that God was on their side. Therefore, they hoped the English would expose themselves to their heavy guns. They hoped the English would engage them ship to ship in hand-fighting, so that the many soldiers aboard them would win the day. But as we say, ‘hope is not a plan.’ The British kept their distance and shot the Spanish ships to pieces. The Spanish paid dearly for a vain hope. (As told by Dan Doriani in the Reformed Expository Commentary, 1 Peter [New Jersey: P & R Publishing, 2014], 36.)
‘Misplaced hope is worthless, but well-founded hope is potent,’ notes Doriani. First Peter 1:13-21 begins and ends with such hope. Peter first commands his readers to “set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed” (v13). As he closes, he tells his people that Christ, the Lamb of God, ransomed them from a futile life. “Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God” (v21).
Between verses 13 and 21, Peter describes what happens when we hope in the grace of Jesus. We no longer conform to evil desires (14). We exercise self-control rather than indulging every urge. Further, because ‘he who called you is holy,’ we are holy (15).
Because of their confidence in the physical return of Jesus Christ, believers have the motivation to live upright lives while they wait. These beleaguered Christians are not to focus on their opposition or their particular trials; rather, they are to focus on living lives of devotion to Jesus Christ. In order to behave in a godly fashion, believers must first be thinking in a godly fashion; right behavior follows right thinking. The ‘therefore’ of v13 signals a transition from Peter’s declaration of God’s blessing of salvation to a string of imperatives (commands), which focus on some practical dimensions of the Christian’s hope.
Peter’s central concern for his readers at this point in his letter is that they have a lifestyle characterized by holiness. Holy living is the appropriate response of believers who have received a new birth (1:3), a living hope (1:3), joy (1:8), and salvation (1:9). The standard for the believer’s holiness is God’s holiness – a defining characteristic of God. It is the bodily return of Jesus Christ that musters hope, which in turn provides motivation for a life of holiness. As people who live in visible contrast to the broader society, believers have an intimate relationship with God: he is Father to his people. This relationship is possible because of the redeeming work of Christ, whose sacrificial death, resurrection, and glorification engender faith and hope in God.
Jesus will return one day, but in the meantime we are to live with hopeful expectation. While waiting for Jesus to return, God’s people learn – by God’s grace – to reject sinfulness and to live upright lives. Hope is what sustains Christians in the here and now while we await our inheritance at the end of time. Hope is confidence rooted in something concrete, and for Peter the substance of the believer’s hope is the ‘grace to be brought to you.’ Certainly, these believers had already come to know God’s grace (see 1:10), but the coming of Jesus Christ will bring a fuller, climactic experience. Although Christians may speak of being ‘saved’ in the present, ultimate salvation is yet to happen.
For Peter this is not a new hope, per se, but a renewed vigor to keep on hoping. After all, these readers have already had hope since they first became believers (1:21), a ‘living hope’ (1:3) that must now be nurtured through deliberate action. We are called to the obedience of hope. Hope is our response to God’s work, and this hope is marked by readiness and holiness.
Yes, our hope is God’s gift, an inheritance created for us by Christ’s resurrection. And because we have been given hope, we are called to live in it. Are you living as a person of well-founded hope? In what or whom do you place your hope? Is your hope marked by an urgent readiness and a necessary holiness? Join us this coming Lord’s Day as we continue our study in 1 Peter 1:13-21. I trust that you can join us in person. If you are not able to be with us, then plan to watch our live stream. Remember to pray for one another during these days. While you are praying for others, would you take a moment to call or text someone and check on them? I am eagerly anticipating being with you this Lord’s Day.
Grace to you,