Elect Exiles?: A Living Hope

The Christian life is one full of hope. But it’s not like that hope I had as a little kid around Christmas time. It wasn’t the kind of hope that really wished Santa would bring you the new Star Trek action figures (yup, I was that kid). That was a kind of wishful thinking rooted in childhood ignorance and fantasy. The Christian life is different in that the hope we posses as believers in Christ is called, in Scripture, a “living hope.” 1 Peter 1 helps us understand what exactly that “living hope” is. To start with, this hope goes beyond circumstances.

It is curious that the apostle associates any kind of hope with a group of “exiles.” They have been driven from their homes and their communities, their backpacks and carts could hardly be said to be full of hope. And yet, we have already observed that they are not simply exiles, but rather “elect” exiles. Those chosen by God, loved by God, and appointed by God to suffer. Their hope must obviously go beyond their circumstances. They have a deeper, more abiding, hope in the sovereign God who orchestrates even their exile.

Peter readily acknowledges this distinction when he writes to the exiles saying:

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,  4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,  5 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)

After all this talk about an exilic existence, Peter is still able to begin “Blessed be.” And that is because beyond the immediate circumstances this God has caused all believers to be “born again” and this he has done “According to his great mercy.” Peter is acknowledging here that believers have been given what they did not deserve. They were already exiles from God of their own volition, and yet God has loved them and called them back to himself. They are exiled in the world, but at home with Christ. Peter says it this way: Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (1 Peter 2:10). The concept of mercy sets the tone for understanding their “living hope.”

They have already been given more than they deserve, Peter would point out. It’s true of all believers. Your circumstances don’t determine your hope, not if you’re a believer. You have a hope in the God of the universe who has loved you and gave himself up to redeem you from your despair, from your estrangement from him. And really it is the root source of this “living hope” that makes it so unique.

For we have been given access to this “living hope” by means of one man’s death. We were “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” It’s poetic theology. Not only are we made alive by means of his death (Eph. 2:5), but “hope” is made alive by means of his death. Without the death of Christ we are exiles, apart from God, and living without hope (Eph. 2:12), but when we put our faith in the death and resurrection of the Son of God our hope is made alive. We can trust that our circumstances do not dictate our state. We have, Peter says here, a “living hope” set on an inheritance that is not bound to the circumstances of this life. It is an inheritance “that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4). The death of Jesus transforms all of this for us. We can trust him because he has demonstrated his love, power, goodness, and faithfulness by means of the death of Jesus. As Paul writes:

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32)

The question is rhetorical with an implied “he will.” God will give us all we need, and our circumstances can’t rule our hope, because the death and resurrection of Christ has give us a “living hope.” A hope beyond the reaches of this life’s changing circumstances.

If you are a Christian, friend, then you have this “living hope” too. The question you must wrestle with, the question I must wrestle with daily, is whether or not we are living in this hope now. It’s a question Peter wants to help us answer too.

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