(I Peter 1:3-5)
God’s Work of Regeneration Precedes Our Repentance and Faith
Let us now retrace our steps, going over again the ground we have covered, but in the inverse order. Not until a soul has been begotten of God can we have any spiritual apprehension of the Divine mercy. Before that miracle of grace takes place he is possessed more or less of a pharisaical spirit. To sincerely bless the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for His abundant mercy is the heartfelt acknowledgment of one who has turned away with loathing from the filthy rags of his own righteousness (Isa. 64:6) and who places no confidence in the flesh (Phil. 3:3). Equally true is it that no unregenerate person ever has his conscience sprinkled with the peace-producing blood of Christ, for until spiritual life is imparted evangelical repentance and saving faith are morally impossible. Therefore, there can be no realization of our desperate need of a Savior or any actual trusting in Him until we are quickened (made alive) by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:1), that is, born again (John 3:3). Still more evident is it that so long as a person remains dead in sin, with his mind set at enmity against God (Rom. 8:7), there can be no acceptable obedience to Him; for He will neither be imposed upon nor bribed by rebels. And certain it is that none who are in love with this world’s painted baubles will conduct themselves as “strangers and pilgrims on the earth”; for they are perfectly at home here.
Regeneration Produces a Living Hope
“Begotten us again unto a lively hope.” This is the immediate effect and fruit of the new birth, and is one of the characteristic marks that distinguishes the regenerate from the unregenerate. Hope always has respect to something in the future (Rom. 8:24, 25), being an eager expectation of something desirable, an anticipation of a promised good, whether real or imaginary. The heart of the natural man is largely buoyed up, and his spirits maintained, by contemplations of some improvement in his lot that will increase his happiness in this world. But in the majority of instances the things dreamed of never materialize, and even when they do the result is always disappointing. For no real satisfaction of soul is to be found in anything under the sun. If such disillusioned souls have come under the influence of man-made religion, then they will seek to persuade themselves of, and look forward to, something far better for themselves in the hereafter. But such expectations will prove equally vain, for they are but the fleshly imaginings of carnal men. The false hope of the hypocrite (Job 8:13), the presumptuous hope of those who neither revere God’s holiness nor fear His wrath but who count upon His mercy, and the dead hope of the graceless professor will but mock their subjects.
The Christian’s Hope Is Both Living and Lively
In contradistinction to the delusive expectations cherished by the unregenerate, God’s elect are begotten again to a real and substantial hope. This hope, which fills their minds and acts upon their wills and affections (thus radically altering the orientation of their thoughts, words, and deeds) is based upon the objective promises of God’s Word (which are summarized in v. 4). In most of its occurrences, the Greek adjectival participle from #333; (to live; no. 2198 in Strong’s Greek Dictionary) is translated living, though in Acts 7:38 (as here in 1 Peter 1:3) it is rendered lively. Both meanings are accurate and appropriate in this context. The Christian’s hope is a sure and steadfast one (Heb. 6:19) because it rests upon the word and oath of Him that cannot lie. It is the gift of Divine grace (2 Thess. 2:16), a fruit of the Spirit (Rom. 5:1-5), inseparably connected with faith and love (1 Cor. 13:13). It is a living hope because it is exerted by a quickened soul, being an exercise of the new nature or principle of grace received at regeneration. It is a living hope because it has eternal life for its object (Titus 1:2). What a glorious change has taken place, for before we were begotten of God many of us were captivated by “a certain fearful looking for of judgment” (Heb. 10:27), and through fear of death were “all their [our] lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb. 2:15, brackets mine). It is also termed “a living hope” because it is imperishable, one that looks and lasts beyond the grave. Should death overtake its possessor, far from frustration, hope then enters into its fruition.
This inward hope of the believer is not only a living but a lively one, for it is—like faith and love—an active principle in his soul, animating him to patience, steadfastness, and perseverance in the path of duty. Therein it differs radically from the dead hope of religious formalists and empty professors, for theirs never stirs them to spiritual activity or produces anything to distinguish them from respectable worldlings who make no profession at all. It is the possession and exercise of this lively hope that affords demonstration that we have been “begotten… again.” by Divine begetting a spiritual life is communicated, and that life manifests itself by desires after spiritual things, by a seeking of satisfaction in spiritual objects, and by a cheerful performance of spiritual duties. The genuineness and reality of this “lively hope” is, in turn, evidenced by its producing a readiness to the denying of self and to the enduring of afflictions, thus acting as “an anchor of the soul” (Heb. 6:19) amid the storms of life. This hope further distinguishes itself by purging its possessor. “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1 John 3:3). It is also a “lively hope” in that it cheers and enlivens its possessor; for as he views the blissful goal courage is imparted and inspiration afforded, enabling him to endure to the end of his trials.
The Saving Virtue of Christ’s Resurrection
Sixthly, let us consider the acknowledgment of this prayer, namely, “the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” From the position occupied by these words, it is plain that they are related to and govern the preceding words as well as the verse that follows. Equally obvious it is that the resurrection of Christ implies His previous life and death, though each possesses its own distinctive value and virtue. The connection between the resurrection of Christ and the exercise of the abundant mercy of God the Father in His bringing us from death to life, His putting into our hearts a living hope, and His bringing us into a glorious inheritance is a very real and intimate one. As such it calls for our devout attention. The Savior’s rising again from the dead was the climacteric proof of the Divine origin of His mission and thus a ratification of His Gospel. It was the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies concerning Him, and thus proved Him to be the promised Messiah. It was the accomplishment of His own predictions, and thus certified Him to be a true prophet. It determined the context between Him and the Jewish leaders. They condemned Him to death as an impostor, but by restoring the temple of His body in three days He demonstrated that they were liars. It witnessed to the Father’s acceptance of His redemptive work.
There is, however, a much closer connection between the resurrection of Christ from the dead and the hope of eternal life that is set before His people. His emerging in triumph from the tomb furnished indubitable proof of the efficacy of His propitiatory sacrifice, by which He had put away the sins of those for whom it was offered. This being accomplished, by His resurrection Christ brought in an everlasting righteousness (Dan. 9:24), thus securing for His people the eternal reward due Him by His fulfillment of God’s Law by His own perfect obedience. He who was delivered up to death for our offenses was raised again for our justification (Rom. 4:25). Attend to the words of John Brown (to whose commentary on 1 Peter I am greatly indebted):
When God “brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the everlasting covenant,” He manifested Himself to be “the God of peace,” the pacified Divinity. He “raised him from the dead, and gave him glory, that our faith and hope might be in himself” [1 Peter 1:2 1]. Had Jesus not risen, “our faith had been in vain; we should have been still in our sins” [1 Cor. 15:17], and without hope. But now that He is risen,
Our Surety freed, declares us free,
For whose offences He was seized;
In His release our own we see,
And joy to view Jehovah pleased.
But even this is not all. Our Lord’s resurrection is to be viewed not only in connection with His death, but with the following glory. Raised from the dead, He has received “all power in heaven and on earth, that he may give eternal life to as many as the Father had given him.” How this is calculated to encourage hope, may be readily apprehended. “Because he lives, we shall live also.” Having the keys of death and the unseen world, He can and will raise us from the dead, and give us eternal life. He sits at the right hand of God. “Our life is hid with him in God; and when he who is our life shall appear, we shall also appear with him in glory.” We are not yet in possession of the inheritance; but He, our Head and Representative, is. “We see not yet all things put under us; but we see him,” the Captain of our salvation, “for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour.” The resurrection of Christ, when considered in reference to the death which preceded and the glory which followed it, is the grand means of producing and strengthening the hope of eternal life.
by faith we now behold Christ seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high, from whence He is administering all the outworking of that redemption which He has accomplished. “Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to [the spiritual] Israel, and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31, brackets mine).
More specifically, not only is the resurrection of Christ the legal basis upon which God the Father imputes the righteousness of Christ to the accounts of believing sinners, but it is also the legal warrant upon which the Holy Spirit proceeds to regenerate those sinners in order that they might initially believe on Christ, turn from their sins, and be saved. Unfortunately, like so many other fine points of Gospel doctrine, this is little understood today. The spirit of a man must be brought forth from its death in sin before his body will be subject to being raised in glory at the last day. And while the Holy Spirit is the One who spiritually quickens God’s elect, it must be remembered that He is sent forth, to do His saving work, by the kingly power of the risen Christ, to whom that authority was given as the reward of His finished work (Matt. 28:18; Acts 2:33; Rev. 3:1). In James 1:18, the new birth is traced back to the sovereign will of the Father. In Ephesians 1:19 and following, the new birth and its gracious consequences are attributed to the gracious operation of the Spirit. Here in our text, while issuing from the abundant mercy of the Father, it is ascribed to the virtue of Christ’s triumph over death. It is to be observed that Christ’s own resurrection is termed a begetting of Him (Ps. 2:7; cf. Acts 13:33), while our spiritual resurrection is designated a regeneration (Titus 3:5). Christ is expressly called “the first begotten of the dead” (Rev. 1:5). This He is called because His resurrection marked a new beginning both for Him and for His people.