STUDIES IN FIRST PETER
"3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." (1 Peter 1:3)
The reading of the Epistles, letters written to believers in Christ, will confirm the presence of a remarkable consistency. In all of them, the Spirit strongly avouches the standing of the people of God-who they are, and what they have received in Christ Jesus. While duties and responsibilities are covered, the accent is always on what we have experienced in Christ Jesus. The knowledge of these realities forms a spiritual environment in which the will of God can be joyfully pursued by the believer. Life in Christ Jesus cannot be lived without the awareness of what has occurred to us in salvation. We have not simply had our sins forgiven, but have come into the newness of life as well. In the beginning verses of this Epistle, the Holy Spirit moves upon Peter to state our present status, as well as what is to come, with unusual power. In both cases, the expressions are brief, yet pregnant with life-giving truth. In this particular text, a snapshot of the whole of salvation is given. It begins with our new birth, adding what is occurring now, and what we are destined to obtain. Who but God could speak in such a concise yet powerful way!
BEGOTTEN ACCORDING TO ABUNDANT MERCY
"3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . ."NKJV The phrase "Blessed be the God," or "Blessed be God" is mentioned at least six times in Scripture (Dan 3:28; Eph 1:3; 1 Pet 1:3; Psa 66:20; 68:35; 2 Cor 1:3), while "Blessed be the Lord" is used no less than 29 times. The phrase literally means (from a language point of view) that God is worthy of praise or blessing (as in, "Bless the Lord, O my soul"-Psa 103:1-2). In my judgment, however, that does not satisfy the intent of the text. The emphasis here is that God IS blessed by the salvation accomplished by Christ Jesus. That is why the Gospel is called, "the glorious Gospel of the BLESSED God" (1 Tim 1:11). It is also the ONLY reason we can bless the Lord. God saw the travail of Christ's soul, and was "satisfied" (Isa 53:11). He was "well pleased" with His Son at the threshold of His ministry (Matt 3:17), and at the peak of His earthly ministry (Matt 17:5).
In raising Jesus from the dead, the Father confirmed that His sacrifice had fully satisfied His requirements, taking away the sin of the world, and crushing the head of the serpent. He then "highly exalted His Son," giving Him a name that is "above every name," and charging Him to bring "many sons to glory" (Phil 2:9-10; Heb 2:10). Thus, in redemption, we are brought to a pleased and joyful God. This is a most unique situation. Under the Law, Israel was given a Law that required THEY please the Lord in a foundational way. The whole of their religion is captured in this statement: "You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the LORD" (Lev 18:5). The phrase "he shall live by them" means that in perfectly obeying the commands of God, He would be well pleased, thus conferring life upon the doer of the Law. The outcome of this arrangement was not good, for the Law "was weak through the flesh" (Rom 8:3), thus making it impossible for God to be pleased with men.
How different it is in Christ Jesus! Now, God is already pleased, blessed, and joyful. It only remains to "receive the atonement" (reconciliation) that has pleased God (Rom 5:11). In fact, it is only when we are found in Christ Jesus that we are capable of blessing the Lord. Now, when we come to the Father, we come through the One who has brought Him great gladness-His only begotten Son. It is "for Christ's sake" that He has forgiven us (Eph 4:32), and it is because of Christ that God has received us. When we recognize that reality, and come to Him in thanksgiving for His great salvation, we bless Him, and He is greatly pleased with us. That circumstance is what brings power into our lives.
"The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." Here is a view of God that is central in the New Covenant. Repeatedly the Father is associated with our Savior in this manner (Rom 15:6; 2 Cor 1:3; 11:31; Eph 1:3; 3:14; Col 1:13). This is a redemptive view of God, and differs significantly from the view entertained by those under the Old Covenant. To the Jews, God presented Himself as "the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" (Ex 3:6; 4:5; 1 Kgs 18:36). By this, the Lord signified that the ancient people were being blessed because of the association God had with their "fathers," not because of their own persons. It is as though He said, If it were not for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, I could not receive you. Even though Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had faith, and were precious in God's sight, yet the basis upon which He blessed Israel through them was the promise made to them (Gen 12:3; 26:4; 28:14). That blessing is fully realized in Christ Jesus (Acts 13:22).
In salvation, the basic relationship is between the Father and the Son. He is primarily "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." The New Covenant, for example, is mainly between the Father and the Son, who is "the Seed" (Gal 3:16). Our own relation to God as "the sons of God" (1 John 3:1-2) is by virtue of our identity with Jesus. As elementary as that may appear, Satan has been remarkably successful in diverting the attention of believers from the Lord Jesus Christ to other things. Peter, as directed by the Holy spirit, brings our thinking back to the foundation of our faith. Our Father is chiefly the "God and Father of our lord Jesus Christ." Our salvation is an expression of that relationship. We are never closer to God than when we recognize and confess this to be the case.
" . . . who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again." NKJV It is the manner of the Holy Spirit to continually remind us that we have been born again- begotten of God. This is particularly precious when we recognize the necessity of the new birth to either see or enter the Kingdom of God (John 3:3-6). Thus, we are said to have been raised from death in trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1), become a new creation (2 Cor 5:17), and are "created in Christ Jesus" (Eph 2:10). The Spirit makes reference to "the washing of regeneration" (Tit 3:5), the putting on of "the new man" (Col 3:10), and being made "free from the law of sin and death" (Rom 8:2). James reminds us that God, "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures" (James 1:18). Later, Peter will affirm we have been "born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever" (1:23). The people of God Are a new "generation" of people-a "chosen generation and a royal priesthood" (1 Pet 2:9). Much should be made of this blessing!
God Himself has "begotten" us. He has done so because of our acceptance of the Son. As it is written, "Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God" (1 John 5:1). John also writes, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:12-13). Many believers are scarcely aware of the blessedness of their state-that they have actually been born again. Rarely are they reminded of this blessedness from religious leaders. In my judgment, much of the deficiency found in believers is directly owing to this circumstance. We cannot expect believers to live righteously if they lack the understanding of who they are in Christ Jesus. Your study of the Scriptures will confirm the Spirit always takes care to apprize the children of God of who they are, where they have come, and what is reserved for them.
Observe the striking manner in which our new birth is identified: "according to His abundant mercy." This expression not only accentuates the character of God, but the depths to which sin had taken us. In redemption, God has provided a means through which He can be "Just and the Justifier of him that believeth in Jesus" (Rom 3:26). Even so, His justness by no means eliminates His mercy. Herein is a great mystery. In the world, it is either justice OR mercy. It cannot be both. The existence of mercy presumes that justice was abandoned in favor of clemency. On the other hand, the imposition of justice presumes there is no need for mercy. However, in considering the rescue of men from the guilt and ravages of sin, such simplistic views have no place. Salvation, by necessity, involves both Divine justice and Divine mercy! Our rebirth is just, or right, because it is based upon the merit of Jesus and the acceptance of His work. It is merciful because our basic condition had to be changed, else God could not receive us.
The mercy required to regenerate us is "abundant," liberal and copious. Our salvation requires that it be so, because the remnants of sin remain in us. In attributing our salvation to God, the Spirit says, "But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ" (Eph 2:4-5). Elsewhere it is written, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life" (Tit 3:5-7). Even after we have been justified, we are urged to "come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb 4:16).
However far we may feel that we have advanced, faith will never take us beyond the perimeter of Divine mercy. From time to time, we become acutely aware of our need of it. It is then that we may rejoice in its abundance. The same God who begat us through His abundant mercy will also keep us through the same means.
WHY WE HAVE BEEN BEGOTTEN OF GOD
" . . . to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead."NKJV Why is it that God has begotten us in the first place? Was it simply to cover our past? Perhaps it was to be of lasting benefit to our own generation? Or, that we might save others. All of these things are surely involved, but none of them are the foundational reason for regeneration. God Himself has birthed us "to (or, in order to) a living hope." The NIV reads, "He has given us new birth into a living hope." By this, the Spirit separates life in Christ from all lifeless routine and futility. The Old Covenant, it is written, was "concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation"NKJV (Heb 9:10). But a blessed new day has dawned upon those who are in Christ Jesus! They are associated with life. They have been begotten again by the "living Word" (1:23), have come to a "living Stone" (2:4), and are themselves "living stones" (2:5). Death, or a lack of activity and response, have no part in the New Covenant.
By saying we have been begotten "to a living hope," at least two things are emphasized. First, we have been brought into a life of joyful expectancy. Second, we have been born again in order to obtain something that cannot be fully possessed while we remain in this world. You will at once notice that both of these are most unusual in many religious circles. Their absence, however, is by no means normal. In fact, it is unacceptable.
A "living hope" is a dominating one, and is never in the background. It is an appointed means through which we work out our own salvation "with fear and trembling" (Phil 2:13). As it is written, "For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?" (Rom 8:24). The anticipation of the future is a powerful incentive that enables us to live triumphantly in the midst of fierce conflict. The grace of God clarifies this hope for us, shining it, as it were, into our hearts. As it is written, "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ"NKJV (Tit 2:11-13). Where this hope is lacking, the objective of the new birth, if it has been experienced at all, is not being realized.
The fact that we have been begotten in order to a "living hope" confirms that we have "not yet apprehended" that for which we "have been apprehended" (Phil 3:13). With a "living hope," this world cannot be the center of our attention. The very prominence of hope declares that we see the future as more promising than the present, and are willing to forsake all to obtain it. In fact, believers "rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (Rom 5:2).
"Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." It is challenging to consider what is required for us to be born again. God could not simply speak us into that condition. The impact of sin upon us forbade that type of creation. We were "begotten again" by means of "the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." That is, His resurrection life is given to us in the new birth. That is what it means to be "raised" to walk "in newness of life" (Rom 6:4). It is not simply that we are raised from union with Christ's death to adopt a different life style. That is not what is meant by "newness of life." Being raised with Christ, we actually participate in the very resurrection life of Jesus. It is not that we emulate the kind of life He lived during His sojourn in the world. The life He now possesses at the right hand of God-His resurrection life-has become ours. That is what Paul meant when he wrote, "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me" (Gal 2:20a). Now Christ is actually "formed" in the believer (Gal 4:19).
This truth is wonderfully announced in the first and second chapters of Ephesians. There it is affirmed that God has raised us up together with Christ, seating us in the heavenly realms in Him (1:20-2:1). Our elevation to "heavenly places" is very real, as well as the "spiritual blessings" that are resident there (1:3; 2:6). All of this is true because the very life of the risen Christ has been given to us. The conferment of that gift is what constitutes the new birth. How marvelous to consider these realities.