13 Therefore, gird your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Perhaps you have seen “The Dead Poet’s Society,” a movie my wife and I saw some time ago. As I recall, a translated Latin phrase, “Seize the moment!” became the philosophy of a group of college students. “Seize the moment!” aptly characterizes the spirit of our age; it also betrays the absence of the most vital element of hope. Sadly, our “now generation” has become the “hopeless generation.”
If ever there was an age without hope, it is our own—nuclear war, environmental pollution, racism, drugs, crime, corruption, AIDS. No wonder children live as though there were no tomorrow, and some even choose suicide to avoid facing today. If Hebrews is the book of faith, and 1 Corinthians or 1 John the books of love, 1 Peter is the book of hope. While suffering is the dominant theme of this epistle, hope is the prominent emphasis. Hope gives the Christian encouragement in the midst of the trials and tribulations of this life because it focuses our affection on the blessings which await us for all eternity.
Like faith, hope is a response to the goodness and grace of God. But we shall see in our text that hope is also a responsibility we have toward God’s grace. For the first time in his epistle, Peter issues a command which we must carefully consider, so that, by God’s grace and for His glory, we might be obedient to it.
Verse 13 begins with a very significant “therefore.” In the New Testament, “therefore” often introduces Christian obligations and responsibilities just as it often follows a doctrinal foundation the author has laid beforehand. The “therefore” of our text does exactly this.
Verses 1 and 2 of this chapter are introductory, identifying the author and the recipients of the epistle. Peter’s argument begins at verse 3. Verses 3-12 form the first major segment of Peter’s argument. This section lays the foundation for the instructions which follow in verses 13 and following.
Verses 3-12 are about the future or the Christian’s hope. Notice the emphasis Peter places on the future dimension of our salvation expressed by Peter as praise (“blessed be” verse 2). This is the basis for our hope and good reason for rejoicing:
(1) God’s great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope (verse 3).
(2) We have been born again to obtain an inheritance … reserved in heaven for us (verse 4).
(3) We are being protected … for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (verse 5).
(4) We presently suffer trials and testings so that our faith may be tested and proven, to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (verse 7).
(5) We are obtaining as the outcome of our faith the salvation of our souls (verse 9).
Verses 10-12 point not to the future but to the past—to the ministry of the Old Testament prophets. But even here the future aspects of our salvation are the focus. Peter argues that the Old Testament prophets ministered in the past, but they foretold a future salvation, the salvation presently being proclaimed among men. Like us, they learned they must live their lives (which included much suffering) in light of the final outcome of their faith—the salvation God would bring about in Christ. This salvation is so wonderful that even the angels are fascinated as they observe with keen interest and even awe, waiting to see this salvation come to pass.
Verse 13 serves as the transition verse. Building upon the splendor and the security of the salvation yet to be revealed, Peter will call upon us to think and to conduct ourselves in a way that befits our calling. First Peter 1:14—2:10 spells out the impact our future hope should have on our conduct, specifically, our relationships:
(1) Our relationship to our culture: Holiness—1:14-16
(2) Our relationship to our heavenly Father: Fear—1:17-21
(3) Our relationship to the Word and to one another: Love—1:22–2:3
(4) Our relationship to Jesus Christ, the Rock—2:4-10
In verse 11 of chapter 2, Peter begins the next section of his argument. He describes in much greater detail our relationship to our culture and our responsibility to submit to human authorities (2:11-3:7).
Before moving on to the three imperatives of verse 13, let us pause to reflect on the significance of the “therefore” which introduces our text. This term reminds us that in the New Testament, imperatives always follow instruction.
“The imperatives of Christian living always begin with ‘therefore.’ Peter does not begin to exhort Christian pilgrims until he has celebrated the wonders of God’s salvation in Jesus Christ.”11
In the New Testament, doctrine and practice are inseparably intertwined. The following statements sum up the essence of this relationship:
(1) the standard for our conduct
(2) the means of our conduct
(3) the outcome of our conduct
(4) the basis for our conduct
(5) and the motivation for our conduct.
How encouraging is this “therefore” in 1 Peter 1:13 in light of our Lord’s words to His disciples:
“No longer do I call you slaves; for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15).
The fact that Christian conduct is called for only after Christian doctrine has been taught reminds us we are “friends” of our Lord and not just slaves. Christian doctrine tells us what God is doing and explains why we should follow the divine imperatives for our conduct.
In virtually any translation of verse 13, the verse can be broken down into three commands:
(1) Gird up the loins of your mind.
(2) Keep sober.
(3) Fix your hope.
One would normally suppose these three commands are of equal importance with none subordinate to another. But this is not the case.
I normally am most reluctant to make statements about the subtleties of the Greek language for several reasons. First, very few scholars are really qualified to make such statements dogmatically. Second, most often these subtleties do not significantly add anything to the meaning found in a good English translation. And third, non-scholars may wrongly conclude they are not competent to study the Word of God for themselves. But, keeping these factors in mind, I do want to call your attention to a subtlety not reflected in the English translations but recognized by a number of scholars.
Very often, probably most often, commands are conveyed in the Bible through the use of the imperative mood. The form of the verb, if it is imperative, indicates we are commanded to act. But quite often a participle may also be used with imperatival force. When several commands are given at one time, the difference between a participle and an imperative may be significant. Those actions called for, or commanded, by a participle may be represented as subordinate to that conveyed through an imperative.
Allow me to illustrate by turning to a text with which you may be familiar:
19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
At first, there seems to be four imperatives of equal force:
(2) Make disciples.
The translation of “baptizing” and “teaching” reveals that these are participles and not imperatives. Only the command, “Make disciples” is an imperative, and so we might best gain the force of our Lord’s commands by viewing them in this fashion:
(1) Make disciples:
(2) As you go
(3) And baptize
(4) And teach.
This is the same situation we find here in 1 Peter 1:13. Though there are three commands indicated in the English translations of the text, there is but one imperative while there are two participles. The sense of these three commands should be understood in this fashion:
Fix your hope completely on the grace that is to be brought …
(1) Having girded up the loins of your mind
(2) And having come to a sober spirit.
The primary thrust of verse 13 then is a command for Christians to fix their hope completely on the grace to be brought to us at the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.12 With this in mind, let us consider each command separately.
The imagery of girding up one’s loins is unfamiliar to our culture, but it would be readily understood by those whose culture parallels the Old Testament saint:
“In Israel an ordinary person wore as the basic garment a long, sleeveless shirt of linen or wool that reached to the knees or ankles. Over this a mantle something like a poncho might be worn, although the mantle was laid aside for work. The shirt was worn long for ceremonial occasions or when at relative rest, such as talking in the market, but for active service, such as work or war, it was tucked up into a belt at the waist to leave the legs free (1 Kings 18:46; Jer. 1:17; Luke 17:8; John 21:18; Acts 12:8). Thus Peter’s allusion pictures a mind prepared for active work.”13
The expression first occurs just prior to the exodus of Israel from the land of Egypt:
“‘Now you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste—it is the LORD’s Passover’” (Exodus 12:11).
Nine plagues have already come upon the Egyptians because of the hardness of Pharaoh’s heart. The tenth and final plague will be the smiting of every firstborn in Egypt. The Israelites were to prepare for this final plague and the resulting exodus by eating the first Passover meal. This meal must be eaten in a very unusual way to emphasize that God’s people were about to leave the land of their bondage.
Normally, the meal would be eaten in a leisurely manner. I can imagine one’s sandals would have been left at the door as is often so until this day. Surely one’s staff would be left there as well. But this meal was to be eaten hastily with sandals on their feet and staff in hand. In addition, their garments were to be tucked into their girdle or belt so their feet would be exposed. All of this was to remind and assure the people of God that they were soon to depart. They were to be mentally and physically ready to move out.
The idea of readiness for action is seen in virtually every other instance of the expression. Elijah girded up his loins and outran Ahab to Jezreel (1 Kings 18:46). Gehazi was told by Elisha to gird up his loins, take Elisha’s staff and hurry to the Shunammite’s son who had died (2 Kings 4:29).
Jeremiah was commanded to gird up his loins and to prophesy:
“Now, gird up your loins, and arise, and speak to them all which I commanded you. Do not be dismayed before them, lest I dismay you before them” (Jeremiah 1:17).
Here, girding the loins seems to have the added dimension of courage or resolve, for the task he was called to do was not a pleasant one and could very well bring about persecution.
Twice in the Book of Job God challenges Job to gird up his loins. This appears to be related to his mental outlook and not to his physical clothing. We can see that these two occurrences in Job come close to the meaning we find in 1 Peter:
“Now gird up your loins like a man; I will ask you, and you instruct Me” (Job 38:3; 40:7).
And so we see that girding up one’s loins is that preparatory action which makes a person ready to take action and move about freely without hindrance. To fail to do so is to invite trouble. My friend Beth Cunningham told me of a missionary in Africa who set out in a long dress to turn on the generator on the mission compound. When she reached out to start the generator, her dress became entangled in the machinery and was immediately torn from her, causing a hasty and embarrassing dash for home.
Peter tells us we are to gird up the loins of our mind. We are to have our thinking in order with no entangling doubts, fears, or reservations. Our mind should be prepared to act without hesitation. We see this mindset characterized in the fireman who is well prepared to respond immediately when a call comes.
I recently watched an illustration of the opposite of the mental readiness we should have when my kind elderly neighbor came by our house on his daily walk with his dog “Belle.” Belle is even older and more feeble than her master, and in years gone by, Belle always trotted alongside him, sometimes even running ahead. But things have changed. Now Belle straggles behind, reluctant to move even one more step. Indeed, it often appears Belle is heading back home, very slowly. She is no longer ready. Her loins are not girded.
Peter’s exhortation may well have come from our Lord’s words recorded in Luke 12:
35 “Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps alight. 36 And be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those slaves whom the master shall find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at table, and will come up and wait on them. 38 Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. 39 And be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into. 40 You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect” (Luke 12:35-40).
To keep focused on the hope of our Lord’s return requires a sense of expectancy and readiness so that day does not catch us unaware:
1 Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. 2 For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. 3 While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief; 5 for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; 6 so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. 7 For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. 8 But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation (1 Thessalonians 5:1-8; see also Matthew 24:32–25:13).
Soberness has two major meanings, the first a literal meaning and the second metaphorical. Literally, to “keep sober” is to “stay sober,” that is, to not become drunk. Metaphorically, being sober means to keep a clear head, to be clear minded and straight thinking. If girding one’s loins is the state of mind which causes one to be ready to act, keeping sober is the mental condition which enables one to act prudently and with a clear head. Peter later exhorts his readers to be clear-headed so they can pray effectively (4:7) and be able to stand against the wiles of the devil who is out to destroy us (5:8).
Paul writes to Timothy to encourage him to be sober minded. In the context, he seems to be contrasting sober-mindedness with the muddled thinking of those who reject sound doctrine for teachings which justify an ungodly lifestyle:
1 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths. 5 But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry (2 Timothy 4:1-5).
When the two expressions “gird up the loins of your mind” and “keep sober” are taken together, we see Peter dealing with two opposite extremes concerning the hope of the kingdom of God. Girding up the loins of the mind corrects a too casual attitude toward the return of our Lord and prevents us from being caught unaware and unprepared at the Lord’s second coming. The second instruction—”keep sober”—prevents the kind of mindless enthusiasm which has characterized too many professing saints over the years. Just a couple of months ago an angry group of professing saints began to beat some of their pastors. The pastors had convinced them the Lord would return on a certain day, and they had sold their possessions and given the money to their leaders. This kind of thoughtless zeal should not characterize our awaiting the coming of our Lord.
Fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
We have finally come to the third and primary command of this verse, even perhaps the foremost command of this epistle: “fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” We must first understand the unique dimensions of hope, especially in relation to “faith” and “love.”
“Faith,” “hope,” and “love” are often found closely linked to each other (see Romans 5:1-5; 1 Corinthians 13:13; Galatians 5:5-6; Ephesians 1:15-21; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 5:8; 1 Timothy 6:11, 17). At numerous other times, two of the three terms are found together (see 2 Corinthians 8:7; Ephesians 3:14-19; 6:23; Colossians 1:23; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Timothy 1:5, 14; 2:15; 4:12; 2 Timothy 2:22; 3;10; Titus 2:2; 3;15; Philemon 1:5; Hebrews 11:1; Revelation 21:9).
These three terms are interrelated. Paul tells us that love “hopes” (1 Corinthians 13:7). Elsewhere we learn that faith fixes its attention on that for which it hopes (Hebrews 11:1; Galatians 5:5). It seems safe to say that faith, hope, and love are all motivations which lead to further action. God is the source of all three: faith (Hebrews 12:2), hope (2 Thessalonians 2:16; Romans 15:4, 13), and love (1 John 4:10-11, 19).
But how does hope differ from faith and love? How is it unique; what is its distinctive identity and role? Faith is the source or means, hope is the goal, and love is the manifestation of our relationship with God in Christ. With respect to our salvation, we are saved by faith (Ephesians 2:8), unto a living hope (1 Peter 1:3), manifested by love (John 13:35; Galatians 5:22; 1 Peter 1:22).
Hope is what we want but cannot see and what we will not have until sometime in the future. One of my daughters wants me to build her a “hope chest,” a term not commonly used today as it once was. But it certainly illustrates what hope is. A “hope chest” is a physical evidence of my daughter’s desire to be married. She does not yet know who that man will be, and yet she is preparing for the time when they will become husband and wife.
Though hope is what we desire but do not have, yet we trust, by faith, that we shall have it in the future. Love is the evidence of our faith and hope. Indeed, our hope includes those whom we love:
19 For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? It is not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? 20 For you are our glory and joy (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20).
What then does Peter mean when he instructs us to “fix our hope … ?” I believe he means we are to fix our affection and desire on heavenly things as opposed to earthly things. This is what Jesus taught His disciples:
19 Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. 33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you (Matthew 6:19-21, 33).
When our affection is fixed upon heavenly things, we will gladly endure the trials and difficulties of this life:
10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are you when men revile you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. 12 Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matthew 5:10-12).
16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
When Peter resisted our Lord’s teaching on His coming suffering, our Lord dealt with “heavenly desires” versus “human desires” in Peter’s life:
21 From that time Jesus Christ began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. 22 And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” 23 But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s. 24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If any one wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 25 For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it. 26 For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and WILL THEN RECOMPENSE EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS. 28 Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom” (Matthew 16:21-28).
It is especially interesting to note our Lord’s analysis of why Peter was so wrong that He could refer to him as “Satan:”
“For you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s” (Matthew 16:23b).
I prefer the translation found in the King James Version:
“For thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.”
The word “savourest” conveys the idea of “appetite” or “desire.” Peter wanted what natural men want, not the things of God. Peter had the wrong hope, for his hope was fixed on the things of this world and not the things of God’s kingdom to be brought to him at the second coming.
This same verb is employed elsewhere by Paul in Romans 8:
5 For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, 7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God (Romans 8:5-8, emphasis mine).
Paul teaches in this chapter that the Holy Spirit not only gives a believer the power to live a godly life in an ungodly world, but His Spirit also gives us the desire for spiritual things as opposed to carnal things:
For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15).
In the verses which follow, Paul even more clearly describes the ministry of the Holy Spirit in terms of the desire, or longing, He instills in the saint to create a hunger for heaven:
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. 24 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it (Romans 8:18-25).
The entire creation now groans due to the fallen condition of the universe, longing for the day of its redemption (verses 19-22). We too suffer and groan in this life, but we gladly endure life’s difficulties because we long for, and look forward to, the coming day of redemption—the things for which we hope.
Paul’s expression “to set your mind on” parallels Peter’s term “to fix your hope.” This seems clear in Romans 8 and even more so in Colossians 3. Consider first the New American Standard Bible and then the King James Version:
1 If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory (Colossians 3:1-4 NASB).
1 If then ye be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. 2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory (Colossians 3:1-4 KJV).
Peter’s command to “fix our hope,” and the expression of our Lord and Paul often inadequately rendered “to set your mind,” are synonymous. Look at this passage in Philippians where the same term (“set your mind”) is rendered “to feel” in the NASB:14
7 For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. 8 For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:7-8).
Paul has his “mind set on” the Philippian saints, to use the most common rendering of this verb in the NASB. More precisely, and even as the translators now see it, Paul “feels” affectionately toward the Philippians, longing for them with great desire. Thus, when we see the expression in the New Testament “to set one’s mind,” we must understand it in terms of setting one’s affections. To set our hope is to fix our affections, our desires, on the things which are coming in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ at His return to the earth. This attitude, or mindset, precisely characterized our Lord Himself, prompting Him to lay down His life for our salvation (Philippians 2:5).15
The fixation of our desire must be total, complete, and undivided. The term “completely” is usually rendered “perfect.” Peter wants us to understand that our devotion and desire for heavenly things must not be diluted with desires for earthly things. Jesus put it this way:
19 Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. 22 The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! 24 No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (Matthew 6:19-24).
Peter uses the word “grace” to sum up that on which we are to set our affections. We are commanded to “fix our hope completely on the grace to be brought to us.” Peter is talking about the kingdom of God, or heaven, the word most often used. He is talking about the benefits and blessings for which we wait, a “living hope” (1:3), an imperishable inheritance (1:4) reserved in heaven (1:4) for those of us who are kept by the power of God (1:5) until the revelation of Jesus Christ (1:7), when we obtain the salvation of our souls (1:9).
Why does Peter use the term “grace?” Why not salvation, or inheritance, or blessing, or glory? Because for the believer, grace is the sum total of all the blessings of God. Every single blessing is a gift of God’s grace. None of heaven’s benefits are earned or deserved; all are a gift of His grace. Few words are sweeter to the believer’s ear than this word “grace.”
This grace is being brought to us, to be delivered in full when our Lord Jesus Christ is revealed from heaven. But there is a sense in which this grace is already on its way, which is why Peter uses a present and not a future tense for this process. D. Edmond Hiebert cites Henry Alford (p. 339) who renders it, “… which is even now bearing down on you … ”16
When our Lord returns, He will bring blessing, and glory, and honor, and power with Him. While it is true that our Lord is the source of all blessings, there is another sense in which He is the blessing. The great joy and blessing of heaven is that we are with Him. The great agony of hell is that sinners spend eternity without Him.
6 For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire; 8 dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus 9 And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed—for our testimony to you was believed (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10).
1 “Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also (John 14:1-3).
1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them (Revelation 21:1-3).
How often we are exhorted (and rightly so!) to exercise faith, particularly trusting in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ and in His Word. Surely Peter sees faith as absolutely vital. So far, however, Peter has looked upon faith as something which began with God (1:1-3) and which is being proven and promoted by the trials and tests God sovereignly brings our way (1:6-9).
The focus of Peter’s epistle is on suffering; the “hope of glory” is the sustaining reality which enables suffering saints to rejoice with “joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1:8). Those whose faith would be proven and prompted by suffering and trials are those who have fixed their hope completely on the grace to be brought by our Lord Jesus Christ at His second coming. If we have fixed our hope on the grace to come, then our present sufferings pale in light of the glory yet to come:
17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).
If we find in our Lord and His salvation the “pearl of great price,” the suffering which comes our way as a part of the process by which we will dwell in His presence is a price gladly paid:
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field. 45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, 46 and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had, and bought it (Matthew 13:44-46).
If we are obedient to Peter’s command(s), we will be able to say a hearty “Amen!” to the words written by the apostle Paul:
1 Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we exult in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Romans 5:1-5).
The comfort we gain in the midst of our trials enables us to minister that comfort to others who suffer:
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; 4 who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. 6 But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; 7 and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3-7).
More than this, the manifestation of hope in the life of the Christian, even in the midst of suffering and persecution, provides an occasion for us to bear witness of our faith:
14 But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED, 15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence (1 Peter 3:14-15).
As I read these words of Peter, I better understand some of the “hard sayings” of our Lord. When He required the rich young ruler to sell his possessions and give the proceeds to the poor, He was not trying to cause this young man agony; He was prescribing the way for him to refocus from earthly to heavenly affections (see Matthew 19:16-30; compare 1 Timothy 6:17-19). Only when our affections are focused on the Savior and the kingdom He brings will we find joy in suffering for His sake.
Whatever draws our desires and affections away from Christ and His kingdom must be set aside so that our devotion is undivided and undiminished. The cares of this world compete strongly for our heavenly hope (see Matthew 13:1-23, especially verses 21-22). If giving our money to further His kingdom inclines our hearts toward heaven, it is a wise and eternal investment. If debt weighs heavy on our hearts and keeps our focus on earthly things, we have acted unwisely; we must refocus our hearts and minds. Let us use our money, and all that we have, in ways that focus our hearts heavenward.
The “health and wealth gospel” of prosperity has no ring of truth when set alongside Peter’s teaching here. We dare not expect or demand prosperity here and now when Peter clearly tells us suffering must come before glory. We must gird up the loins of our minds and keep sober, fixing our hope on the grace to be brought to us when our Lord returns.
I dare not close without reminding you that hope can only be found in the person of Jesus Christ. Without Him, we are without hope. For those who have placed their trust in Him, our hope remains certain and secure:
11 Therefore remember, that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands—12 remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the common-wealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:11-13).
Once we have experienced hope in Christ, that hope should continue to grow as we consider the riches which are ours in Christ Jesus:
1 For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you, and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might 20 which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come (Ephesians 1:15-21).
(1) Deliverance from death—Psalm 16:9; 33:18
(2) Deliverance from enemies—Psalm 71:4, 5, 14
(3) For eternal life—Titus 1:2; 3:7
(4) For freedom from oppression—Job 5:15
(6) For God’s abiding presence—Psalm 42:1-11
(7) For God’s unfailing love—Psalm 33:22; 147:11
(8) For the grace to be given—1 Peter 1:13
(9) For the redemption of our bodies—Romans 8:23
(11) For the return of Christ—Titus 2:13
(12) For righteousness—Galatians 5:5
(13) For security—Job 11:13-17
(14) For the sharing of God’s glory—Romans 5:1-2
(2) Hope equips us for spiritual warfare—1 Thessalonians 5:8
(4) Hope invokes divine help—Psalm 146:5-10
(5) Hope is alive—1 Peter 1:3-5
(7) Hope leads to rejoicing—Romans 5:1; 12:12
(8) Hope produces boldness—2 Corinthians 3:12
12 “The original makes hope the central and leading thought of the verse. Two participles precede the controlling imperative and designate the activities that support hope. Those participles are grammatically related to the subject of the imperative and thereby receive an imperatival coloring. But to translate them as imperatives obscures the way they function to support Peter’s remarks about hope.” D. Edmond Hiebert, First Peter (Chicago: Moody Press), 1984, p. 78.
14 Ironically, the King James Version suddenly changes places with the NASB, rendering the term “to think:” “Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart . . . ” (emphasis mine).