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  • Writer's pictureWayne Shelton

Uncomfortable Grace

Updated: Jan 23, 2021

In his play, No Exit, Jean-Paul Sartre gives his own vision of hell. Two women and a man, doomed to perdition, enter a room that seems to threaten no torment. But they are sentenced to remain together in that same room for ever – without sleep and without eyelids. All three enter with pretensions about their past. The man pretends that he was a hero of the revolution. In reality, he was killed in a train wreck when he tried to escape after betraying his comrades. The women have even more sordid lives. In the forced intimacy of the room their guilty secrets are all wrung out. Nothing can be hidden, and nothing can be changed. Sartre’s imagination has well prepared us for his famous line, ‘Hell is other people.’ But the moral of the play is the line of doom to which the drama moves: ‘You are – your life, and nothing else.’ (Jean-Paul Sartre, No Exit and Three Other Plays, tr. S. Gilbert (Vintage, 1946), p. 45, in Edmund Clowney, The Message of 1 Peter in The Bible Study Commentary.)

‘Sartre rejected Christianity, but his play invites heart-searching,’ notes Clowney. Who wants to say that he is what he has been rather than what he meant to be, or what he hopes to be? Sartre implies that hell begins when hope ends. Sartre’s image of hell certainly falls far short of the reality of hell, for God’s judgment exposes sinners not simply to the lidless eyes of other sinners, but to the all-seeing gaze of the thrice holy God himself. Yet Sartre reminds us of how desperately we need hope. While there is life, there is hope, we say. But if hope dies, what life can remain?

Peter writes a letter of hope. Clowney writes:

“The hope he proclaims is not what we call a ‘fond hope.’ We cherish fond hopes because they are so fragile. We ‘hope against hope’ because we do not really expect what we hope for. But Peter writes of a sure hope, a hope that holds the future in the present because it is anchored in the past. Peter hopes for God’s salvation, God’s deliverance from sin and death. His hope is sure, because God has already accomplished his salvation in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

The resurrection of Jesus was a life-changing reality for Peter. When Jesus died on the cross, it was the end of all Peter’s hopes. He knew only bitter sorrow for his own denials. The dawn could not bring hope; with the crowing of the cock, he heard the echo of his curses.

But Jesus did not stay dead. On that Easter morning Peter learned from the women of the empty tomb and the message of the angels. He went running to the tomb and saw its evidence. He left in wonder, but Jesus remembered Peter and appeared to him even before he came to eat with the disciples in the upper room. Hope was reborn in Peter’s heart with the sight of his living Lord. Now Peter writes to praise God for that living hope.

The resurrection did much more than restore his Master to him. The resurrection crowned the victory of Christ, his victory for Peter, and for those to whom he writes. The resurrection shows that God has made the Crucified both Lord and Christ (see Peter’s Pentecost sermon in Acts 2). At the right hand of the Father Jesus rules until the day that he will come to restore and renew all things. With the resurrection of Jesus and his entrance into glory, a new age has begun. Peter now waits for the day when Jesus will be revealed from heaven. Peter’s living hope is Jesus. There is more to come, for Christ is to come, but our living hope is real in our living Lord.

Christ’s resurrection spells hope for us not just because he lives, but because, by God’s mercy, we live (1:3). By the resurrection of Christ, God has given life, not only to him, but to us. We are given new birth by God; he fathers us by the resurrection of his Son. In Christ’s triumph God makes all things new, beginning with us. The resurrection carried Christ not only out of the grave but to his Father’s throne. The great day of the renewal of all things had already begun.

“Though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials” (1:6). ‘Dramatically, Peter moves from ecstasy to agony,’ writes Clowney. Peter is now dealing with the heart of his concern in writing this letter. He wants to assure Christians of their hope as they face trials. And in the following verses (vv7-12) he gives several reasons why we can not only endure trials, but we can rejoice in hope in the midst of trials.

Do you know this living hope? Join us this Lord’s Day as we learn some reasons from 1 Peter 1:3-12 why we can rejoice in hope even in various trials. As you prepare your heart for the worship of the living God this Lord’s Day, would you take some time and pray for your church? Would you pray for specific persons that the Lord places on your heart? We stand in need of your prayer, dear friend. Will you join me in praying? I hope to see you Sunday.

In His Strength,


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