Summary: Explores Peter's doxology regarding the salvation we have in Christ.
In the first chapter, I noted that the New Testament epistles follow the basic form of letter writing of that day. There is nothing significant about the form. What is significant is how the NT writers make use of the form to express their Christian content.
What is the form? There are basically six parts:
1. Identifying the writer: Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ
2. Identifying the recipient: To God’s elect, strangers in the world…
3. Greeting: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
4. Expression of well wish or thanksgiving
6. Final greeting and farewell: 5:12f
This morning we will look at the first portion of Peter’s thanksgiving, or rather, doxology to God.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Why doesn’t he simply say “Praise be God”? Because what he is praising God for is the work done by and through Jesus Christ. Furthermore, he is inferring something significant with the term “Father.” We will see what it is.
Out of God’s great mercy that he has done something wonderful for us. What is it? He has given us new birth, caused us to be born again. He has regenerated us. This is the same thing Jesus taught Nicodemus in John 3:3: I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.
What are we being taught? One, God the Father is our father. That is the relationship we now have with God. Two, God has done this work of rebirth. Peter does not say, “Praise be to God, we have made a great change in our lives.” No, God has given us new birth, and he did this not because we deserved it or earned it or showed good potential, but out of his mercy.
Now, what is new birth? That is an important question. Quite often we misunderstand it. We’ve heard the expression, “believe in Christ and you will be born again.” Paul told the Philippian jailer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31), but not “you will be born again.” The reason is that one cannot believe – cannot be saved – until he is born again, i.e. until the Spirit has done the work of regenerating his dead spirit.
Paul expressed the matter this way to the Ephesians: As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient (2:1,2). Those who are without the gospel are not a dying people; they are a dead people. People are not resistant to the gospel because some part of them is resisting; they are dead, and they will not respond until new life is given to them. Thus Paul goes on to say, But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions…(4,5).
God does some supernatural work within us to make us alive to spiritual truth, so that when we hear the gospel we respond and are converted. Do you catch the distinction I am making? We are often taught that if we will make changes in our lives, God will respond to us. If we receive Jesus into our hearts, God will cause us to be born again. If we would show faith, then the Holy Spirit could work in us. But God works in us before we work towards him.
What’s the point? God is not rendered powerless by us. He is not wishing we would make use of his mercy. When God decides out of his mercy that he will save us, he will do just that. Because we are dead, salvation can only take place when we are born again, and that new birth can only take place by the supernatural act of God. And Peter is saying to his people, “It happened!” It’s not hopefully going to happen; it’s not happening gradually as we make changes in our lives; it has happened as the free gift of God.
Now what has the new birth resulted in? What has it gotten us? A living hope. Before I get into what that hope entails, first let’s note the characteristic of this hope and how it springs up.
That the hope is living builds off the term new birth. We who are now alive in Jesus Christ possess a hope that fills us with purpose and joy. It vitalizes us. This is not the hope of wistful feelings: “I hope things will get better;” “I hope so”… This is hope that sustains us, gives us confidence, fills us with peace and joy. Indeed, it so much fills us, that we have to be ready to give an account for it (3:15).