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1 Peter 1:3-9

1 Peter 1:3-5​

Peter begins his first epistle with a brief identification of himself and his audience, showing that it is a general letter addressed to those “chosen” of God but focusing on an audience in Asia Minor (now Turkey, vv 1-2). After those formal introductory pieces, Peter immediately breaks out into a doxology, an offering of praise to God “who rebirthed us into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from out of the dead.” For Peter, this is the gospel, the “good news,” and it is a cause for rejoicing. By giving new life to Jesus in raising him from the dead, God has also given new life to us. Because we haven’t died (yet), this new life manifests itself more as a “rebirth,” a getting-to-start-all-over-again kind of new beginning. Peter uses a clever ambiguity in his original language, and that means this “rebirth” can also be translated as a “birth from above,” since the kind of life we live in light of Christ’s resurrection is one that is attuned to heavenly and eternal realities and not just temporary, earthly ones. Moreover, this rebirth-from-above is oriented toward a “living hope,” a hope that is alive and active and not just a pie-in-the-sky, by-and-by far-off dream. People in Peter’s day could have described the water of streams and rivers as “living water” because it flowed and did not stagnate or dry up. Peter uses the same kind of idea to talk about this hope into which we have been born. A “living hope” is one that keeps moving and keeps us moving toward the future that God has envisioned for us (harkening back to the “foreknowledge” Peter mentioned in v. 2).

Peter continues to talk about the nature of this hope in verse four. Being rebirthed into a living hope is also being rebirthed into something Peter calls an inheritance. An inheritance normally consists of familial wealth that is passed down to children or relatives upon the older generation’s death. Because the benefits God gives us are linked with Jesus’s death, Peter can talk about them as if they are an inheritance. Earthly wealth, however—especially the agricultural wealth that most people would be familiar with—eventually dies and falls apart. That is not the case with our “living hope.” Our inheritance is “undying, unpolluted and unfading.” All of the things that can go wrong with earthly wealth cannot touch the inheritance that God has been keeping in heaven on our behalf. This is because, as we will see by the time we get to verse 9, that our inheritance isn’t a thing but rather the full restoration of who we are—the salvation of our souls.

In verse five, Peter shifts his focus back to his readers / hearers, the ones who are going to receive this living-hope-rebirth inheritance. They (We!) are being protected by God’s power, and Peter uses a word for protect which reflects the idea of “foreseeing,” as if God is looking into the future and keeping us safe now in light of what God sees. We are connected to that farseeing / foreseeing protection by our faith, and it is leading us toward a salvation that God is preparing to reveal to us in the last days. We can’t see this salvation now, of course, but we hope for it and live toward it and trust that God is guiding us toward it and guarding us on the journey.

1 Peter 1:6-7

In verse six, Peter turns his attention to the way in which these truths shape the way his hearers/readers live their life now. What captures his attention is that hope gives us the capacity to rejoice even in the midst of trials because we know that they are only temporary. “Even if you are now bound to be distressed by many trials,” Peter tells his readers, “you are rejoicing in this,” this hope and the knowledge that God is keeping you as you move toward it. However, one could also translate Peter’s statement as a command, “Rejoice in this [hope]! Even if you have to be sad for a little in the midst of many trials.” Either way, hope gives us the capacity for joy even if our circumstances do not.