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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Thinking about Our Hope (1 Peter 1:13)

Peter wants Christians to focus their minds on their hope. The meaning of ‘hope’ is expectation of a guaranteed experience. Grammatically the verb translated as ‘to set your hope’ is the main verb in the verse, but Peter’s words indicate that we cannot set our hope until we gird up our minds and think in a sober, balanced manner.

Peter mentions hope five times in his letter. In addition to his reference in 1:13, he has already said that his readers were born again to a living hope (1:3); in 1:21, he states that their hope was in God; in 3:5 he mentions hope as a distinguishing feature of the spiritual outlook of Old Testament women; and in 3:15 he urges his readers to be always ready to explain what their hope is.

As we think, about what he says about hope in 1:13, several aspects of it will come to mind, and here are three of its features. This hope should be a communal one because it belongs to all Christians. It is also a certain one because God has promised it (Peter does not use the word with the meaning of wishful thinking, which is how it is often used in everyday speech). Further it is a comforting one because it will bring aspects of God’s grace to them that they did not experience before.

Peter exhorts his readers to set their hope fully on this future experience of divine grace. Perhaps one reason he stressed the need for placing our hope fully on that future day is because we are liable to imagine that something else may arise that will satisfy the needs of our souls. That ‘something’ may be good (revival) or it may be neutral (developments in technology) or it may be bad (worldly success). Of course, we want spiritual growth and for the church to be revived, but we should not want it at the expense of desiring the second coming. Technology has enabled the contemporary church to do things that our predecessors could not have imagined, but these benefits should not reduce our desire for what we will experience when Jesus comes back. Our longing should be for perfection, perfection in the wide meaning of that word from a Christian perspective.

So our hope is expectant, exclusive and enthusiastic. It is expectant because it is based on divine promises, it is exclusive in that we are sure that only God can bring it to pass, and it is enthusiastic because we believe he will bring it to pass. Often in society, people don’t have these features because they cannot trust the promises made by their leaders, they are not sure that their leaders can achieve what they plan, and their enthusiasm diminishes the longer they have to wait. In contrast, Christians have a certain hope, and their hope should arouse the curiosity of others to the extent that they will ask questions about it.

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