Christ Appeared That We Might Hope in God
He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for your sake, 21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
Our focus today is on verses 20 and 21. But there are very close connections to what goes before. So let me begin by pointing out one of these. Then I will end by pointing out another.
Conduct Yourselves in Fear
First, verses 20 and 21 are really a continuation of the sentence in verses 17-19. Remember the point in verse 17b, namely, the command that we should conduct ourselves in fear during the time of our stay on earth? Then verses 18 and 19 gave a strange reason as to why we should fear, namely, that we have been ransomed from our futile way of life by the infinitely precious blood of Christ (v. 19).
The way we explained it last week was to say that the more precious the price paid to rescue you from a life of sin, the more horrible and fearful it is to take that price and make it a permission for sinning.
It would be like a girl who is kidnapped from her wealthy father. The kidnappers demand a huge ransom and the father liquidates all his assets, selling his house and his possessions right down to his wife's wedding ring. He brings all that he has to the appointed place and sets the ransom down in a field and walks away. Soon the daughter walks out and gets the ransom and takes it back to the kidnappers. Then she puts her arm around one of them and as she walks away looks over her shoulder to her father laughing and hollers, "Sucker!"
We would all say that the girl committed a fearful and treacherous act.
Peter is warning us against the horrible danger of trying to do that with the ransom of God. He knows that there are people who try take the ransom of God from sin—the blood of Jesus—and turn it into a means of sinning. The very ransom that verse 18 says was paid to free us from a futile way of life some people try to use to fund that very life of sin.
The reason I say "try" to use it that way, is that God will not allow it. That's why verse 17 says, "Conduct yourselves in fear" of such a thing. Fear trying to use the ransom of God to subsidize sinning.
And the beautiful thing about verses 18 and 19—the unexpected and amazing thing—is that the reason given for why we should fear is the greatness of God's mercy; that such an awesome price was paid for our deliverance from futile, sinful living, namely, the blood and death of the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
Six Things to Increase Our Hope in God and Our Hate for Sin
Now here is where verses 20 and 21 come in. Verse 19 ends with the word "Christ" (in Greek and NASB, not NIV or RSV), and verse 20 picks up without any break and tells us things about Christ that will raise our hope even higher than the ransom did in verses 18-19.
Peter tells us six things in verses 20 and 21 that increase the preciousness of Christ. And therefore he simultaneously does two things: he gives us even more reason to hope in God, and he makes hoping in the way of sin for happiness even more appalling and fearful. In other words the more God does to make us hope in him, the more fearful it is to hope in sin.
Let's look at these six things that Peter tells us about Christ to increase our hope in God and break the power of sin.
1. Christ was foreknown before the foundation of the world.
First, he says in verse 20 that Christ "was foreknown before the foundation of the world. " God the Father knew and loved God the Son, the Christ, before the universe was created. In other words the one who shed his blood to pay the ransom for our rescue from futile living was no ordinary man and the plan to pay the ransom was no afterthought to creation. God knew Christ and God knew his plan and Christ's role in it from eternity.
When you think about hoping for happiness in sin, think about this: the ransom paid to rescue you from that futility was planned before the universe was created.
2. He has appeared in these last times.
Second, Peter says in the middle of verse 20 that Christ "has appeared in these last times." In other words he existed before creation in relationship with his Father and has been invisible to human beings; but now in these last times—the times of the Messiah—he has appeared. This is Christmas. The eternal Christ took on flesh and blood so that God could be seen: "If you have seen me," he said, "you have seen the Father" (John 14:9).
There could have been no precious blood ransom if Christ had not appeared in human flesh and blood. He was born to die. And he died to ransom us from a futile life of sin.
3. He appeared for our sake.
Third, Peter says at the end of verse 20 that the reason Christ appeared was "for the sake of you." This should blow us away. We are talking here about the infinitely powerful and wise and holy God of the universe and his one and only divine Son. And we are talking about their purpose from the untraceable distance of infinity and eternity to plan an unthinkable penetration into creation. Why? For our sake, that we might be ransomed from a futile manner of life. If that doesn't prove that God takes your behavior and your future seriously, what can?
4. God raised him from the dead.
Fourth, in the middle of verse 21 Peter says, that God "raised him from the dead." He probably doesn't mention the death of Jesus because that was the focus already in verse 19 (blood).
Here Peter says that the one who gave his life blood did not stay dead. God raised him from the dead. God vindicated the worth of the ransom by giving the Son back his life. What this says to us is not only that the ransom is all-satisfying to God, but also that death is defeated.
Often sin comes to us saying, "My way is more hopeful than God's; indulge yourself, eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you die." To that you can reply, "Yes, but what about the day after tomorrow? If I put my hope in Jesus and not in you I will live again and be happy forever! Be gone, futile way of sin!" That's the meaning of Christ's resurrection for daily life.
5. God gave him glory.
Fifth, Peter says next in verse 21 that God "gave him glory." In other words he didn't raise him from the dead to be a mere mortal, to suffer and die again. He brought him into heaven and set him at his right hand as Lord of the universe with all the glory that he had from eternity with the Father.
What this implies for our fight with the futile way of sin is that the way of Christ leads to glory. The way he walked led to glory for himself. And he lives with glorious power to make sure that our following him will lead us to glory too. Therefore, we have every reason to hope in what God promises and not in what sin promises.
6. Through Christ we are believers in God.
Sixth, we go back to the beginning of verse 21 where Peter says that "through [Christ you] are believers in God." In other words Christ has done the necessary work to connect us with God in faith. He was eternally foreknown, he was manifested in human form, he shed his precious blood, God raised him from the dead, God gave him glory and through all of this we come to hope in God.
So Peter makes that explicit at the end of verse 21—all of this, "so that your faith and hope are in God."
I said when I began that there were some close connections between verses 20 and 21 and what went before. We've been building on the connection between the command to conduct ourselves in fear in verse 17 and the glory of Christ in verses 20 and 21. Let me mention one more as we close.
Hope in God
This paragraph ends in verse 21 where it began in verse 13, namely, with hoping in God. Verse 13 began the paragraph by commanding, "Fix your hope completely on the grace being brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." In other words, "Hope fully in the grace of God!" Verse 21 ends the paragraph by saying that God has done everything through Christ so that his people might put their faith and hope in God.
He knew and chose his Son, he sent his Son, he put his Son to death, he raised his Son from death, he gave his Son glory—Why? For this reason: so that you would hope in God and not sin. So that you would trust what God can do for you rather than what you can do for yourself.
I call you to wake up to the fearfulness and folly of hoping in sin over God. The wages of sin is death, the free gift of God is eternal life. If you put your hope for happiness in sin, you die. If you put your hope for happiness in God, you live.
The call of God to you this Christmas is this: stop trying to satisfy your heart's desire with this world and all its God-belittling ways. And turn to Christ. Focus all your mind's attention and your heart's affection on him who was chosen from eternity, manifested in time, crucified for sinners, raised from the dead, glorified at the right hand of God—all for your sake—all that you might be satisfied in God and not sin.
The Spirit and the church say, "Come"! Let the one who is thirsty come. Let everyone who wishes come and take the water of life—the all-satisfying water of life—without cost.
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