“Our Risen Savior Gives Us a Living Hope”
(1 Peter 1:3-9 – Easter 3 – May 1, 2022)
1 Peter 1:3-9 – 3Blessed 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, 4to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7that 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, 8whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9receiving the end of your faith – the salvation of your souls.
Dear Redeemed in our risen Savior,
Martin Luther said: “Everything that is done in the world is done by hope. No farmer would sow one grain of corn if he did not hope it would grow up and become seed; … no merchant or tradesman would see himself work if he did not hope to reap benefit thereby.” We live and act as we do because we have hope that it will bring good results. Even when life gets difficult and things may be described as “hopeless” people still move forward in hope of some good to come.
In our text, we see that despite the worst life may throw at us, yes even in the face of death, “Our Risen Savior Gives Us a Living Hope.” For Jesus is risen from the dead. Today we see how 1) He turns death into life and 2) He turns grief into glory.
1) He turns death into life
It goes without saying that not everything a person may put his hope in is a true and living hope. A drowning man may grab desperately at a twig floating in the water as his last hope. But that twig will not save him, no matter much he hopes. What happens to the twig happens to the man. As the twig sinks with him into the depths of the water, his hope sinks with it.
What do we put our faith and hope in when facing death? As Christians, we are joined with our Savior by faith in Him. All our weight rests on Him, so to speak. What happens to Jesus happens to us. Thanks be to God, this is not a dead hope but a living hope! For Jesus lives! And He says: “Because I live, you will live also” (John 14:19). He turns death into life.
The apostle Peter begins with a doxology of confidence in this hope: “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” (vs. 3).
Many religions hold out some form of hope to their followers – hope of blessings already in this life, and hope of something good even after this life. But invariably, getting these blessings depends on whether an individual has earned them or not by obedience to religious laws, doing more good than bad in life, building up good karma, earning favor with God, and so on.
If that were the basis of our faith, what hope would it actually give us? As sinners, do we not see day by day how we fail to live the kind of life the Law of God requires, loving Him above all and loving our neighbor as ourselves? To one man who thought he had kept that Law in such a way as to earn eternal life, Jesus said: “Do this and you will live” (Luke 10:28). But just because the Law says, “Do this,” have I? Have I loved God and obeyed all that His Word says, putting His will before my own in everything, crucifying my sinful flesh with its desires, living to God alone? Have I shown the love I owe to those around me… or have I put my own interests before theirs? Have I loved even that person who is difficult to get along with, praying for them, reaching out to be reconciled… or have I harbored grudges and unloving thoughts?
If our hope of earning eternal life rested on our works before God, our doing all this to live, it would be like that drowning man grasping at twigs. As hard as he tries, as much as he hopes to float by these, they will not keep him from sinking. Who of us by our works could keep our heads above the water of the Law that says: “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4)? Who of us could keep from sinking into that dark abyss of sin, death, and hell?
But our hope does not rest on our strength and merit, or what we do to live with God. Our hope rests on the strength and merit of His Son, and all He did under the Law so we could live forever. Jesus’ sinless life counts for our righteousness. His perfect love and obedience to the will of His Father; His perfect love for every neighbor, even His enemies – that is the life God counts to us for our righteousness. And Jesus’ innocent death counts for our sins. On the cross, He suffered once for all that we have done wrong, and for all that we have not done right – Jesus took all that away from us and from the sight of God. Now, having done all so that we might live, Jesus’ resurrection proves that we have forgiveness, peace and life with God.
Now God Himself “has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (vs. 3). Our new birth happens by Baptism into Christ and faith given by the Spirit. We were drowning under the weight of sin and sinking in the depths of hopelessness. But in Baptism, Jesus washed our sins away releasing us from their burden. In Baptism we died with Christ to sin; and in the power of His resurrection He lifted us out of the depths of spiritual and eternal death, and raised us up in a new spiritual and eternal life with Him (Romans 6:3-5).
So our life, our entire hope, is joined to the life of Jesus. Where His life is, there is our life. This means that, even though we are surrounded by death and the perishing hopes of this world, yet we rejoice in our risen Savior. In Him we have: “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” (vs. 4-5). One day as Jesus promised, He will bring our souls to live with Him in heaven. And on the Last Day, He will join our resurrected bodies with our souls to live forever in perfect health and joy. We have a living hope, because Jesus turns death into eternal life!
2) He turns grief into glory
Therefore the apostle Peter goes on to say: “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” (vs. 6-7). Our risen Savior gives us living hope, for He turns grief into glory.
The believers to whom Peter wrote were no strangers to griefs and trials. They lived in a society hostile to God’s truth. Persecution was spreading against believers from the Roman government. So today, the unbelieving world will cause grief to those who are in Christ. Many do not take kindly to the message of the cross and our stand on God’s truth. The apostles could attest by their painful memories and scars that sharing the Gospel can bring disgrace, pain, and even death in this world. But by their living hope in Christ, they rejoiced to be counted worthy of suffering disgrace for His name, and never stopped proclaiming His truth (Acts 5:40-42).
Behind the face of a hostile world stands our true enemy, the devil, along with all his hosts of wickedness in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12). Satan will not rest his attacks against believers until he is thrown into the fiery abyss on the Last Day. Until then, he will try to shake our faith by all kinds of griefs and trials. But through our living hope in Christ, we “are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (vs. 5).
Do you have times when troubles seem to cascade down upon you? Sickness or injury seems to jolt life to a standstill. The death of a loved one fills our hearts with sorrow. Suddenly life becomes frustrating in ways we cannot explain. We ask, “Why is all this happening to me?”
When all might seem hopeless, when we are grieved by various trials, God steps into the picture and tells us these have come for a purpose: “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” (vs. 7).
How valuable is the proof of a genuine faith! Here it is compared to the test of fire, by which gold is smelted and proven pure and genuine. But to God, our faith and eternal life are worth far more than perishable gold. He has redeemed us by the precious blood of His Son (1 Peter 1:18-19)! God wants to prove our faith that we may stand firm in Christ. Through our fiery trials when faith is tested, He points us to our risen Savior and reveals how He turns grief into glory.
How valuable was that proof of a genuine faith in the case of Job. Satan was allowed to afflict that godly man, taking away his family and his livelihood. Job was wracked with debilitating pains of body and depression of mind and spirit. Yet Job declared: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27). Strengthened by God’s Word of promise in the coming Redeemer, Job came through his fiery trial with faith pure as gold. He knew the living hope of his living Savior, who will ultimately turn all grief into glory.
How valuable was that proof of a genuine faith in the case of Stephen, when the world rejected him for Jesus’ sake. Stephen had preached repentance and salvation in the name of the crucified and living Christ. And for his faithful witness, he was stoned to death. Yet as the stones began to fly, Stephen looked to heaven and by the Holy Spirit saw his living Savior. He prayed: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” He also prayed in behalf of his murderers: “Lord, do not charge them with this sin” (Acts 7:55-60). Strengthened by God’s promise in Christ, Stephen came through his fiery trial with faith pure as gold. He knew the living hope of his living Savior, who will ultimately turn all grief into glory. It was a faith he wanted to share to his last breath, as he forgave even his enemies and desired that they know their living Savior.
When we pass through fiery trials, who but God alone can give us such a faith that comes forth pure as gold? God strengthens us and keeps us firm in faith the same way He has done for Job and Stephen and all His own through the ages. In His Word, God points us to Christ our Redeemer, who not only died for our sins but also rose for our justification and eternal life.
When we suffer sickness and injury, depression and pain, persecution and injustice, loss and death, yet in our grief God turns us to His all-sufficient grace and saving strength in Christ. God assures us that, having uniting us with His Son in Baptism and faith, already He has brought healing and eternal life to our souls. Day by day, He is working His eternally wise and loving plan in our lives. We have God’s promise that nothing can separate us from His love in Christ – no grievous trials whether in life or death, no enemies whether human or satanic. Based on this living hope, He strengthens us to turn and share His forgiveness and love in Christ with others, even our enemies; for we pray that all will come to know this living hope in our living Savior.
And at last, our risen Savior will turn all our grief into glory. When He brings us into the “inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (vs. 4), what joy shall fill our hearts! When He shall bring us out of the great tribulation with faith pure as gold, our robes washed white by the blood of the Lamb – then all the grief we have endured for His name, all the grief of sickness and death, all the unexplainable grief of daily life, all that will turn to “praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (vs. 7).
It is true: “Everything that is done in the world is done by hope.” Thanks be to God! Our risen Savior gives us a living hope even beyond this world. He turns death into eternal life. He turns grief into eternal glory. Therefore as we look to our beloved Savior, Peter concludes: “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” (vs. 8-9).
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.