Sermon Text: 1 Peter 1:3–5
Preacher: Pastor Brian Sauvé
There are some sections of Scripture where the right thing to do is to get way up in the air and look down over the broad panorama as a surveyor would, sketching out the landscape.
There are definitely things that you can only be seen from that surveyor’s prospective. It’s hard to plot the course of a river through a great mountain range from the riverbank. But there are things you just can’t see from that height. There are sections of Scripture that demand the archaeologist’s approach.
I used to work with a woman who actually went on to become an archaeologist in the Middle East. She might spend three days with a paintbrush dusting away a few millimeters of dirt at a time to reveal a few pottery shards from people who left them 3,500 years prior. No handful of dirt goes on examined. The team she works with sifts the dirt from a site through screens of increasing fineness until they’re sure they’re not throwing away any artifact with the dirt.
In working through the Bible, both approaches are helpful and necessary—the surveyor and the archaeologist, the wide angle lens to see mountain ranges and the microscope to see the minutia. But some texts just beg not to be passed over too quickly. Some texts beg that we would take up every verb and adjective and noun and participle in hand with the attention and care of the archaeologist.
The next handful of verses in this letter of Peter’s are like that. There are densely packed layers of grace and hope that we shouldn’t fly through. So this morning, we will sift through 1 Peter 1:3–5 like an archaeologist.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
-1 Peter 1:3–5
Blessing The Father?
Peter begins this section with a phrase that maybe strikes your ear as strange. He says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This may strike you as strange, because we typically talk about God blessing people, not people blessing God. But in the Bible, the language of blessing is far more often directed from people and to God than from people to God.
One of the reasons I think this strikes us as odd is that we maybe think that people blessing God is doing the same thing as God blessing people. That’s not the case at all—God blesses as the very source of all good things. We bless God as receivers, not givers. When God blesses people, it is God filling up some kind of lack in us. When people bless God, it is recognizing that he has no lack.
So it’s good and right and biblical to bless God, but we always do so as an act of recognition—recognition that he is the God from whom all blessings flow.
So, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” is a way of saying, “God has blessed us, and we respond with worshipful thanksgiving!” Even here in this section, opening by blessing God, Peter has put himself and us in a position of receiving—receiving from God and to God’s glory.
This is immediately apparent, because Peter turns directly in the text from this declaration of blessing towards God into a weighty list of reasons for which it is right to bless the Father.
Reasons to Bless the Father
We’ll take up and examine five of those reasons from this short section, five reasons it is right to bless the Father.
1. Bless the Father because he is a Father of endless mercy.
Peter begins with the words, “According to his great mercy…” Every glorious thing that pours out in the sentences after that phrase—new birth, living hope, imperishable inheritance—every instance of the Father’s goodness to us is like spring water flowing out of the unquenchable spring of the Father’s mercy.
All of his glories to us are mercies. If the Father is to do any good for us, it must begin with mercy. What that means is that all of the Christian life is a life lived on mercy, a life lived responding to the mercy of a Father.
So here comes the part that our hearts strain against: God doesn’t owe you anything. Not a thing. If you drill into the core of most of mankind’s rejection of God, you’ll find the idea that God owes us. Most of the ways people reject God somewhere along the line include the idea that God owes me.
Because sin has made us proud, human beings are hardwired to despise mercy and instead trade on earning and wages and what-I-deserve. Look at the way that advertisers lure us in! One of the background messages of most advertising is that you deserve something you don’t have, and so you should go get it, get what you deserve.
“Girl, you are *worth it.* You deserve a lotion that will meet all of your beauty needs. Our patented triple-emollient, nutriderm, sub-cutaneous, essential-oil-infused, emu butter hand cream will give you the healthy glow your skin deserves.”
We love to earn. We despise mercy. Mercy assaults our pride. But what you find is that the God of the Universe, the God of the Bible, is so completely holy, so powerfully good, that we can’t even begin to approach him on the basis of anything else.
We should be terrified to approach the Father and say, “Give me what I have earned.” No, we only ever say, “Please God, whatever you do, don’t ever give me what I’ve earned. Please only give me what Jesus earned. Please only ever give me mercy.”
Now, what is the first thing that Peter would have us consider that God did in his mercy to us? Which mercy would he have us take up before any other? The mercy of New Birth. #2…
2. Bless the Father because he has caused us to be born again.
“According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again.” The first thing Peter places on the other side of the Father’s great mercy to us is new birth.
In John 3, Jesus told Nicodemus that unless a man be born again, he couldn’t even see the Kingdom of God. Which means that no matter what else you accomplish, what else you do, how nice you think you are, how good you think you are compared to other people—unless you are born again, you can’t even walk through the door of God’s Kingdom.
What is new birth? What does it mean for the Father to cause us to be born again? The language is like this: Every human being is born physically alive, but spiritually stillborn. We are born into Adam, into death, into sin.
And the Father strides into the sepulchre, into the mausoleum where we were laying dead, and he raises us with Christ. That’s why Peter says that he caused us to be born again “…through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” When Christ rose, all of the people of God from Genesis to Revelation rose with him.
This new birth is the birth of a new creature, a new humanity, a new everything. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5, “…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself.” He tells us that God made him who knew no sin to be sin that we might become the righteousness of God in him.
Or in Ezekiel 36:26–27, the Lord promises, “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”
The new birth is a radical, soul-reorienting renewal of a human being through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. And if this is true…
It means that what we need is new birth, not new information.
What we need is new birth, not different circumstances.
What we need is new birth, not more self-esteem.
What we need is new birth, not self-care.
What we need is new birth, not more money.
What we need is new birth, not a better wife, better kids, or more time to ourselves.
The only answer to everything wrong with us is this new birth in Christ.
New birth is the only hope for our opioid addicted neighbors. New birth is the only hope for a humanity satisfied with a little sex and some money in the bank and Netflix account. New birth is the only answer to racial vainglory and animosity. New birth is the only answer to generational folly and alcoholism and fatherlessness and child abuse and adultery.
New birth is the only answer to a country so anesthetized to evil that it can sacrifice 3,000 unborn babies to the gods of free sex and autonomous individualism without a twinge of conscience.
New birth is what the murderer and the gossip need. New birth is what the spiritually numb 45-year-old, content with career and family and 401k needs. New birth is what Democrats and Republicans need. It’s what Libertarians and Independents need. New birth is the only solution to human sin.
The durable, strong resurrecting grace of Jesus Christ is the only thing that can send you home clean from your sin—and it can do so today.
And this new birth isn’t a stationary thing. It’s not sitting still; it’s taking us somewhere.
3. Bless the Father because he has given us a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
This new birth is to a living hope—it is a new birth that brings us and is bringing us somewhere, namely, to resurrection glory with our resurrected Lord.
Human beings run on hope like a toddler runs on mischief. Every single person you’ve ever laid eyes on is a creature of hope, meaning nearly everything we do is motivated by some hope somewhere down the line.
We have big, enormous hopes and small, insignificant hopes. We hope that we will be successful in our careers and we hope that the preacher doesn’t go too long. We hope that our kids will be successful and we hope that dinner will turn out ok tonight. Hope touches almost every area of what it means to be human.
Try to find a single thing people do that’s not motivated by some sort of hope. Why do we go to college, go to work in the morning, go on a date, or go to the fridge one last time at 11:30 at night? Because we hope that these things will make us happy. Because we hope that these things, big and small, will propel us into a glorious future.
But nothing that we can do can give us anything like a living hope. Every one of the things we could reach out and grab onto in hope with our own two hands are things that are subject to death and failure and sin and frustration. Every single thing.
Hope in marriage? He could be unfaithful. She could get cancer. Divorce might intrude. And even if you have 50 years of marriage bliss, one of you is going to bury the other.
Hope in children? Infertility. Prodigal children. Division. And at the end of the day, you and they will still die.
Hope in money? Stock market crash. Layoffs. Business failure. Housing market bubble breaks. Or you stash away your millions and still find out that money can only do so much.
There is only one hope that can truly be said to be a living hope—meaning a hope that was alive when Peter put these sentences on paper and still living when Charlemagne signed the Magna Carta. Meaning a hope that was alive when your great-great-great grandfather came to America and when you were born and when your great-great-great grandchildren are just graduating college.
This one hope is a hope that lives independently of anything that can happen to yours physical body or your bank account or your personal reputation or success or failure. This is a hope that lives independently of corruption in congressional hearings or countries failing or empires falling.
Hope, immortal. There’s only one hope like that. It’s “…a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” If you have been raised with Christ, your life, hope, future, and joy is all hidden there, protected from all letdowns. Christian, yours is a hope that can only die if the resurrected Jesus does. Bless the Father, because he is the author of immortal hope.
4. Bless the Father because we are born again to an immeasurable inheritance.
“According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again… to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.” Inheritance is the language of wise and strong Fatherhood.
In Proverbs 13:22, Solomon tells us that a good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children. Why is that? Why is it that good fatherhood is marked by inheritance? Because that’s what the Fatherhood of God is like, and all earthly fatherhood is just a tiny shadow of the eternal Fatherhood that reigns over all creation.
Good earthly fathers leave perishable, inheritances of houses and businesses and money in the bank. But this Father gives his sons a spectacular, cosmic inheritance that is impossibly beyond human reckoning. Peter uses 3 adjectives to describe this inheritance:
It is imperishable, meaning that it can’t die. It’s a living inheritance just as our hope is a living hope. It won’t spoil, rot, or rust. It is not vulnerable to the corruption of moth or thieves or death or suffering.
It is undefiled, meaning that there is nothing in this inheritance that is touched by sin. What other inheritance could that be true of? Every inheritance an earthly father leaves his sons is in some way and to some degree a defiled inheritance. We might give our kids a fat bank account and a nice house when we go, only to see it lead to grief and pain. But the inheritance the Father has given us through Christ isn’t like that. It only redeems and glorifies; it never corrupts or destroys.
It is unfading, meaning it is not subject to the law of diminishing returns, but that the enjoyment of it increases into eternity and up to infinity. It’s not like that second doughnut. It’s not like how you feel on January 13th about the Christmas gift you got on December 25th. No, it’s unfading. It’s the kind of inheritance that you can go further up and further into forever. Nothing else is like that.
Do you know what all this inheritance talk also means for us, Refuge? It means we are sons. It means were are family. It means that the Father is our Father. We inherit this inheritance because it is the inheritance of Jesus, God the Son, whose perfect name we are named with and by whose blood we are adopted.
5. Bless the Father because he is guarding us through faith for glorious revealing.
This inheritance is kept for us in heaven, “…who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” Meaning that God doesn’t give new birth and living hope and unfading inheritance reversibly. He gives it permanently and irreversibly. And yet he gives it through faith.
There’s a needle we need to thread here to really understand the grace that is being held out by Peter. There is a tension between two truths that are plainly upheld in Scripture, and both of them show up here in verse 5.
First Truth: Every single saint who comes to authentic faith will be saved. So many passages of Scripture make this clear. Paul says to the Philippians, “…I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
Or Jesus in John 6:37–40,
“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
I mean, just consider the language of salvation: New Creation, New Birth, New Heart, Resurrection, Redemption… these aren’t reversible terms! And yet the second truth is no less true and clear in Scripture.
Second Truth: Only those who persevere in faith to the end will be finally saved. Let me just show you one place this is clear, Colossians 1:21–23,
“And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.”
How do we reconcile these two? The first thing we absolutely must do is resist the urge to flatten out, to declaw, hogtie, or otherwise explain away either truth. You must persevere in faith to be saved. And yet, if you have authentic faith, you will be saved. Both are true, precious, glorious, and good news for us.
So how do we reconcile the two? 1 Peter 1:5 is how. “According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again… who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
By God’s power. Guarded. Kept. Preserved. The perseverance of the saints in faith is guaranteed, because of the preservation of that faith by the guarding and keeping power of the Father. What we find out if a person seems to be a Christian and yet finally walks away from the faith is that they weren’t really one of us.
That’s exactly how John puts it in 1 John 2:19, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.”
If you are in Christ, you are being guarded by God’s power, even through faith, for this salvation. Our Father is a Father worthy of blessing because he accomplishes in us what he requires in us.
The Father’s Steady Hands
Listen: The Father’s steady hands are the hands that are guarding you through faith for this salvation.
Did you hear that? He is guarding you through faith. Do you know what faith is? Do you know what faith does? Faith isn’t a mysterious spiritual force that we conjure up with incantations or religious ceremonies. No, faith is simply believing that something is true, or that something is a certain way.
What do we believe, then, by faith? That Jesus is good, that he is for us, and that he proved it on the cross. That our hope isn’t in our works, but in grace. That the Father has steady hands, hands that are slowly-yet-surely marching all of creation—every atom and person and place—towards a glorious end.
Faith that nothing can stop it. No circumstance of your life today, no opposition of the enemy, no sin in you—nothing can stop him from bringing you there. Faith isn’t a strong or a weak thing—it depends on a strong or a weak thing. So is the Father strong? Is Jesus Christ reliable? Will he do what he says? Yes! And more than we can possibly know.