Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part column.
The Apostle Peter used the word “ἐλπίς” about Christ. The word is translated as “hope.”
Thayer’s Greek Definitions defines the word as, “1) expectation of evil, fear; 2) expectation of good, hope; 2a) in the Christian sense; 2a1) joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation; 3) on hope, in hope, having hope; 3a) the author of hope, or he who is its foundation; 3b) the thing hoped for.
In the text under consideration, the word is in specific reference to the resurrection of Christ (Kittle and Bromiley. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament; p. 518).
Peter himself as well as other disciples had hoped in Christ as he taught them daily. Their confidence in him is seen many times in the New Testament until the cross.
It was here their faith was really put to the test. Peter himself had told the Lord that he would die for him (Matt. 26:35). At the arrest of Jesus, Peter showed his faith by striking out with a sword (John 18:10).
Yet hours later when his faith is challenged again, he denies the Lord three times (Matt. 26:69-75), as the Lord had told him earlier (Matt. 26:75).
Now with his faith weak, he watches as the “hope” he trusted in is beaten and then led away to be crucified at Calvary (Matt. 27:26-50).
The “hope” first placed in Jesus was not the “hope” of the resurrection. It was the hope that he and the other disciples had in Jesus ridding Israel of the Romans and returning the Jewish state to power, with Jesus being on the throne ruling (Acts 1:6).
When Jesus was arrested and crucified, Peter’s hope and the hope of other disciples was lost.
This is seen in the conversation of the men whom Jesus walked with on the road to Emmaus: “But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, today is the third day since these things were done” (Luke 24:21).
Hope seemed to be lost. Peter was ready to go back to his fishing. Paul wrote of what it was like not to have hope in his letter to the Corinthian brethren, he said those without hope “are of all men most pitiable” (1 Cor. 15:12-19).
When Peter writes in his epistle, he states that God by his mercy begat them again. Guy N. Wood in his commentary on First Peter points out that in verse three the emphasis is on the word “again.”
God had given them another opportunity to renew their faith in Jesus. Just as a campfire, left throughout the night and only has embers barely glowing, can be rekindled to a roaring fire, his faith had been rekindled to the point of his undying devotion to Christ the Lord.
This faith brought back his hope and he is reminding the Christians to whom he is writing (1 Peter 1:1), of this great hope. It is a hope that is living, and one capable of sustaining them in the persecutions they were suffering and were going to suffer.
It is the hope in Christ that sustains Christians in good times and in bad times. Each person needs to build up their faith by studying God’s word and obeying it every day.