The Source of the Believer’s Inheritance
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, (1:3a)
Peter assumes it is necessary for believers to bless God. The intention is so implicit that the Greek text omits the word be, which the translators added. (In the original, the sentence literally begins, “Blessed the God,” which conveys Peter’s expectation that his audience “bless God” as the source of all spiritual inheritance.) The apostle adores God and implores others to do the same.
Peter further calls Him the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, a phrase that identified God in a distinctly Christian way. Historically the Jews had blessed God as their creator and redeemer from Egypt. His creation emphasized His sovereign power at work and His redemption of Israel from Egypt His saving power at work. But those who became Christians were to bless God as the Father of their Lord Jesus Christ.
With one exception (when the Father forsook Him on the cross, Matthew 27:46), every time the Gospels record that Jesus addressed God, He called Him “Father” or “My Father.” In so doing, Jesus was breaking with the Jewish tradition that seldom called God Father, and always in a collective rather than personal sense (e.g., Deut. 32:6; Isa. 63:16; 64:8; Jer. 3:19; 31:9; Mal. 1:6; 2:10). Furthermore, in calling God His Father, Jesus was claiming to share His nature. While speaking with the Jews at an observance of the Feast of the Dedication, Christ declared, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). Later, in response to Philip’s request that He reveal the Father, Jesus said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9; cf. vv. 8, 10–13). Jesus affirmed that He and the Father possess the same divine nature—that He is fully God (cf. John 17:1, 5). The Father and the Son mutually share the same life—one is intimately and eternally equal to the other—and no one can truly know one without truly knowing the other (cf. Matt. 11:27; Luke 10:22). No person can claim to know God unless he knows Him as the One revealed in Jesus Christ, His Son. Jesus Himself said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him” (John 14:6–7).
In his writings, the apostle Paul also declared the Father and the Son to be of the same essence: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 1:3; cf. Eph. 1:3, 17). Likewise, John wrote in his second epistle: “Grace, mercy and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love” (2 John 3). Whenever the New Testament calls God Father, it primarily denotes that He is the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 7:21; 10:32; 11:25–27; 16:27; 25:34; 26:39; Mark 14:36; Luke 10:21–22; 22:29; 23:34; John 3:35; 5:17–23; 6:32, 37, 44; 8:54; 10:36; 12:28; 15:9; 17:1; Rom. 15:6; 2 Cor. 11:31; cf. John 14:23; 15:16; 16:23; 1 John 4:14; Rev. 1:6). God is also the Father of all believers (Matt. 5:16, 45, 48; 6:1, 9; 10:20; 13:43; 23:9; Mark 11:25; Luke 12:30, 32; John 20:17; Rom. 1:7; 8:15; Gal. 4:6; Eph. 2:18; 4:6; Phil. 4:20; Heb. 12:9; James 1:27; 1 John 2:13; 3:1).
One commentator calls Peter’s use in verse 3 of Christ’s full redemptive name “a concentrated confession.” All that the Bible reveals about the Savior appears in that title: Lord identifies Him as sovereign Ruler; Jesus as incarnate Son; and Christ as anointed Messiah-King. The apostle personalizes that magnificent title with the simple inclusion of the pronoun our. The divine Lord of the universe belongs to all believers, as does the Jesus who lived, died, and rose again for them, and as does the Christ, the Messiah whom God anointed to be their eternal King who will grant them their glorious inheritance.
The Motive for the Believer’s Inheritance
who according to His great mercy (1:3b)
His great mercy was the motive behind God’s granting believers eternal life—sharing the very life of the Father, Son, and Spirit. Ephesians 2:4–5 also expresses this divine generosity, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (cf. Titus 3:5). Both here and in Ephesians, the apostolic writer added an enlarging adjective (great and “rich”).
Mercy focuses on the sinner’s miserable, pitiful condition. The gospel is prompted by God’s compassion toward those who were dead in their trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1–3). All believers were once in that wretched, helpless condition, compounded by a deceitful heart (Gen. 6:5; 8:21; Eccl. 9:3; Jer. 17:9; Mark 7:21–23), corrupt mind (Rom. 8:7–8; 1 Cor. 2:14), and wicked desires (Eph. 4:17–19; 5:8; Titus 1:15) that made them slaves to sin, headed for just punishment in hell. Therefore they needed God, in mercy, to show compassion toward their desperate, lost condition and remedy it (cf. Isa. 63:9; Hab. 3:2; Matt. 9:27; Mark 5:19; Luke 1:78; Rom. 9:15–16, 18; 11:30–32; 1 Tim. 1:13; 1 Peter 2:10).
Mercy is not the same as grace. Mercy concerns an individual’s miserable condition, whereas grace concerns his guilt, which caused that condition. Divine mercy takes the sinner from misery to glory (a change of condition), and divine grace takes him from guilt to acquittal (a change of position; see Rom. 3:24; Eph. 1:7). The Lord grieves over the unredeemed sinner’s condition of gloom and despair (Ezek. 18:23, 32; Matt. 23:37–39). That is manifest clearly during His incarnation as Jesus healed people’s diseases (Matt. 4:23–24; 14:14; 15:30; Mark 1:34; Luke 6:17–19). He could have demonstrated His deity in many other ways, but He chose healings because they best illustrated the compassionate, merciful heart of God toward sinners suffering the temporal misery of their fallen condition (cf. Matt. 9:5–13; Mark 2:3–12). Jesus’ healing miracles, which nearly banished illness from Israel, were proof that what the Old Testament said about God the Father being merciful (Ex. 34:6; Ps. 108:4; Lam. 3:22; Mic. 7:18) was true.
Apart from even the possibility of any merit or worthiness on the sinner’s part, God grants mercy to whomever He will: “For He [God] says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy” (Rom. 9:15–16). Out of His infinite compassion and free, abundant, and limitless mercy, He chose to grant eternal life—it was not because of anything sinners could do or deserve (Ex. 33:19; Rom. 9:11–13; 10:20; 2 Tim. 1:9). It is completely understandable that Paul called God “the Father of mercies” (2 Cor. 1:3).
The Appropriation of the Believer’s Inheritance
has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (1:3c)
The prophet Jeremiah once asked the rhetorical question, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots?” (Jer. 13:23). His graphic analogy implied a negative answer to the question of whether or not sinners could change their natures (cf. 17:9). Humanity’s sinful nature needs changing (Mark 1:14–15; John 3:7, 17–21, 36; cf. Gen. 6:5; Jer. 2:22; 17:9–10; Rom. 1:18–2:2; 3:10–18), but only God, working through His Holy Spirit, can transform the sinful human heart (Jer. 31:31–34; John 3:5–6, 8; Acts 2:38–39; cf. Ezek. 37:14; Acts 15:8; Rom. 8:11; 1 John 5:4). In order for sinners to receive an eternal inheritance from God, they must experience His means of spiritual transformation, the new birth. Peter affirms that truth in this last portion of verse 3, when he says God has caused believers to be born again (see discussion on 1:23–25 in chapter 7 of this volume; cf. 2 Cor. 5:17).
Jesus effectively explained the necessity of regeneration—the new birth—to Nicodemus, a prominent Jewish teacher.
Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony. If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. (John 3:1–15)
To illustrate the means of the new birth, Jesus referred to the episode of the bronze serpent (Num. 21:4–9), an Old Testament narrative Nicodemus would have known well. When the snake-bitten Israelites in the wilderness acknowledged their sin and God’s judgment on them for it and looked to the means He provided to deliver them (a bronze snake on a pole), they received physical healing from their poisonous bites. By analogy, if sinners would experience spiritual deliverance, they must recognize their spiritual condition as poisoned by their sin and experience salvation from spiritual and eternal death by looking to the Son of God and trusting in Him as their Savior. Jesus cut to the core of Nicodemus’s self-righteousness and told him what all sinners need to hear, that they are spiritually regenerated only by faith in Jesus Christ (cf. John 1:12–13; Titus 3:5; James 1:18).
Peter goes on to declare that regeneration results in believers receiving a living hope. The unbelieving world knows only dying hopes (Job 8:13; Prov. 10:28; Eph. 2:12), but believers have a living, undying hope (Pss. 33:18; 39:7; Rom. 5:5; Eph. 4:4; Titus 2:13; Heb. 6:19) that will come to a complete, final, and glorious fulfillment (Rom. 5:2; Col. 1:27). It is a hope that Peter later described when he wrote, “according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13). This hope is what prompted Paul to tell the Philippians, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). At death believers’ hope becomes reality as they enter the glorious presence of God and the full, unhindered, joyous fellowship with the Trinity, the angels, and other saints (Rom. 5:1–2; Gal. 5:5).
The means of Christians’ appropriating this living hope and eternal inheritance is spiritual birth, and the power for that appropriation was demonstrated by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Jesus told Martha, just prior to the raising of her brother Lazarus from the grave, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die” (John 11:25–26; cf. 14:19). Paul instructed the Corinthians concerning the vital ramifications of the resurrection, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17). Even if one hoped in Christ in this life, but not beyond it, he would be lost (v. 19). However, Christ rose from the dead, forever securing the believer’s living hope in heaven by finally conquering death (vv. 20–28, 47–49, 54–57).
3 The parallels between the early Christian emphasis on “new birth” and that contained in mystery religions are fascinating, especially given the fact that 1 Peter is addressed to Christians scattered throughout Asia Minor, where mystery cults proliferated. Moreover, the verb ἐποπτεύω, epopteuō (GK 2227, “to be a witness”), and its nominal form ἐπόπτης, epoptēs (GK 2228), appearing in the NT only in Petrine literature (1 Pe 2:12; 3:2; 2 Pe 1:16), are employed in a technical sense to describe those individuals who have been initiated into the mystery rituals (TDNT 5:374). Nevertheless, resemblances in 1 Peter remain at the level of speculation.
3 Peter begins his letter with the customary thanks to God (which in pagan letters would be thanks to the gods) for the well-being of the recipients, but, like that of Paul, who uses the identical wording in 2 Cor. 1:3 and Eph. 1:3, his content is distinctively Jewish and Christian. Blessing God is well known from the OT (Gen. 9:26; Ps. 67:20; cf. Luke 1:68), and this form of praise was taken over into the Christian liturgical tradition. The One who is blessed, however, is not simply “God,” but that God who revealed himself distinctively as the “Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Since “Jesus is Lord” was the central confession of the early church (e.g., Acts 2:36; Rom. 10:9–10; cf. 1 Cor. 16:22), this expression encapsulates the core of Christian theology.
The specific act for which Peter blesses God is regeneration, which is not something deserved or produced by human beings, but a free act of God because of his character as a God of mercy or covenant-faithfulness (e.g., Exod. 20:6; 34:7, where the Hebrew term ḥesed, translated “lovingkindness” in the ASV and “love” in the NIV, is translated by the Greek term for mercy in the LXX). Regeneration, or being born again, is not an OT idea, although the Jews at times came close to it. The terminology, however, was “in the air” of the Greek-speaking world in both secular and religious uses, and so it was natural for Christians to use it to explain what God had done for them. They used it to designate the radical change of conversion, which was like receiving a whole new life, life that was life indeed (e.g., Jas. 1:18; 1 John 1:13). It was often connected with baptism as the point of the new birth (see John 3:5, 7; Tit. 3:5, where a similar combination of mercy, regeneration, and future hope appears), and this connection would be stressed in the later church fathers, often without the caution that Peter will insert in 3:21. Regeneration itself was not a technical term but an idea that appealed particularly to the writers of the Catholic Epistles and the Johannine literature, for a variety of Greek words are used for it in the NT; in fact, Peter is the only one to use the term he uses here, anagennaō, and he uses it twice, here and in 1:23. But then in 2:2 he can refer to the same idea with different terminology.
Peter does not focus on the past, the new birth itself, but on the future, for the goal of this regeneration is “a living hope”; that is, it points to a bright future ahead, which will be discussed in the next verse. This fits the birth analogy in that birth, while wonderful, does not exist for itself but rather to start a child on its way to maturity and adult life. Pastorally this future orientation is important for our author, for a suffering people who may see only more pain and deprivation ahead need to be able to pierce the dark clouds and fasten on a vision of hope if they are to stay on track. This hope is not a desperate holding-on to a faded dream, a dead hope, but a living one, founded on reality, for it is grounded in “the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” As Paul had argued, because Jesus really did shatter the gates of death and exists now as our living Lord, those who have committed themselves to him share in his new life and can expect to participate fully in it in the future (Rom. 6:4–5; 1 Cor. 15). It is this reality which will enable the readers to face even death without fear, for death is not an end for the Christian, but a beginning.
1:3 / Peter at once launches into praise of God for planning so magnificent a salvation. The Israelites of old praised God as the creator of the world (2 Chron. 2:12) and as their redeemer from Egyptian slavery (Deut. 4:20). Peter develops the characteristic Jewish approach by adopting an explicitly Christian stance. He praises God as the Father of his unique Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and as the One who raised this Jesus from the dead. As a Christian, Peter blesses God for the new creation, as expressed in the new birth of believers, and for divine provision for them of “an inheritance” of a promised land “in heaven,” safe beyond the slavery of sin or the frenzy of foes.
The experiences of new birth and of a living hope are beyond human procurement. They are God’s gracious gift and are bestowed solely on account of his great mercy, for there is no way in which they can ever be deserved or earned. They come to us through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, that is, as the direct consequence of his total triumph over the worst that the powers of evil can achieve; namely, death itself.
The concept of new birth is based on the teaching of Jesus (John 3:3–8). It speaks of the gift of spiritual life on a plane previously unknown in an individual’s experience. It can no more be acquired by self-effort than a babe can bring about its own physical birth.
The first result of this new birth, and the first characteristic of the new pilgrim life of the believer, is hope (anchor for the soul, firm and secure: Heb. 6:19). Hope is living (cf. 1:23; 2:4–5), not merely because it is active (Heb. 4:12), or is simply an improved version of the Jewish hope (Heb. 7:19). Nor are we to misunderstand the translation “have been born anew to a living hope” (rsv) to mean “hope has been restored.” Peter is referring to something of a different order: a sure and confident outlook which has a divine, not a human, source. That new quality of hope is generated in the believer by the new spiritual life brought about by the new birth. Peter is writing to encourage readers who face an uncertain future threatened by persecution of one degree or another. This living hope highlights the fact that the present life is by no means the limit of the believer’s expectation. As the word is used in everyday parlance, “hope” can prove a delusion (Job 7:6; Eph. 2:12; cf. Col. 1:5). The living hope in the newborn Christian has a vigor, a patient endurance, and an assurance beyond any human power: such hope can no more fail than the living God who bestows it. Peter elaborates the nature and the content of living hope in the following two verses.
A Living Hope
Throughout his epistle, Peter encourages his readers to hope. Hope is based on a living faith in Jesus Christ. It characterizes the believer who patiently waits for the salvation God has promised to his people. “Hoping is disciplined waiting.”
- Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
Filled to overflowing with spiritual blessings which he wants to convey to his readers, Peter writes one long sentence in Greek (vv. 3–9). In our modern versions, translators have divided this lengthy sentence. Nevertheless, the sentence itself reveals the intensity of the writer and the fullness of his message. In the introductory part of this sentence we observe the following points:
- “Praise.” This word is actually the first word in a doxology, for instance, at the conclusion of many books of the Psalms: “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting” (Ps. 41:13; and with variations 72:18; 89:52; 106:48). The word praise is common in the New Testament, too. Zechariah begins his song with an exuberant burst of praise: “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people” (Luke 1:68; also see Rom. 1:25b; 9:5).
- “God and Father.” Within the early church, Jewish Christians adapted the benedictions of their forefathers to include Jesus Christ. Note that the doxology in verse 3, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” is identical to the wording of 2 Corinthians 1:3 and Ephesians 1:3 (compare also 2 Cor. 11:31).
God has revealed himself in his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Through Jesus, all the elect share in his sonship. Through him they call God their Father, for they are his children. With the church universal, the believer confesses the words of the Apostles’ Creed:
I believe in God the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth.
Because of Jesus Christ, we call his Father our Father and his God our God (John 20:17). Fatherhood is one of the essential characteristics of God’s being; it is part of his deity. God is first Father of Jesus, and then because of Christ he is Father of the believer.
Peter indicates our relationship to the Father and the Son when he uses the personal pronoun our (“God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”). Also, in the next sentence, Peter discloses that God is our Father because God “has given us new birth.” That is, the Father has begotten us again in giving us spiritual rebirth. The Father has given us rebirth because of our Lord Jesus Christ.
- “Lord.” Verse 3 is the only text in this epistle in which Peter writes the title and names our Lord Jesus Christ. With the pronoun our, Peter includes himself among the believers who confess the lordship of Jesus Christ. “To call Jesus Lord is to declare that he is God.” Moreover, in the early church Christians confessed their faith in the brief statement Jesus is Lord (1 Cor. 12:3). The name Jesus encompasses the earthly ministry of the Son of God, and the name Christ refers to his messianic calling. Four times in three verses (vv. 1–3) Peter employs the name Jesus Christ.
- “Mercy.” Peter describes our relationship to God the Father by saying, “In his great mercy he has given us new birth.” We read almost the same wording in one of Paul’s epistles (“God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ” [Eph. 2:4–5]). Apparently Peter was acquainted with Paul’s epistles (see 2 Peter 3:15–16). Together with the other apostles, Peter presents Christian doctrine on regeneration (e.g., see John 3:3, 5).
- “Birth.” Notice that we receive a new spiritual birth from God the Father. Peter writes that God “has given us new birth” (v. 3), and later he continues, “For you have been born again” (v. 23). Just as we are passive in natural birth, so we are in spiritual birth. That is, God is active in the process of begetting us, for he causes us to be born again. With the words new and again in these two verses, Peter shows the difference between our natural birth and our spiritual birth.
Peter speaks from personal experience, for he remembers when he fell into the sin of denying Jesus. Later, when Jesus restored him to apostleship, he became the recipient of God’s great mercy and received new life through restoration. Therefore, he includes himself when he writes, “He has given us new birth” (italics added). Incidentally, the passages in which Peter uses the personal pronouns our or us are few (1:3; 2:24; 4:17). First Peter is an epistle in which the author addresses his readers as “you.” The infrequent use of the first person, singular (2:11; 5:1, 12) or plural, is therefore much more significant.
- “Hope.” What is hope? It is something that is personal, living, active, and part of us. In verse 3, it is not something that pertains to the future (compare Col. 1:5; Titus 2:13). Instead, it brings life to God’s elect who are waiting with patient discipline for God’s revelation in Jesus Christ.
- “Resurrection.” What is the basis for our new life? Peter tells us that “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” God has made us alive and has given us living hope. Without the resurrection of Christ, our rebirth would be impossible and our hope would be meaningless. By rising from the dead, Jesus Christ has given us the assurance that we, too, shall rise with him (see Rom. 6:4). Why? As Peter preached on Pentecost, “God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him” (Acts 2:24). Jesus is the first one to break the bonds of death, so that through him we have our rebirth, and in him we have eternal life (1 John 5:12).
Peter speaks as an eyewitness, for he had the unique experience of meeting Jesus after he rose from the grave. Peter ate and drank with Jesus and became a witness of Jesus’ resurrection (refer to Acts 10:41).
Doctrinal Considerations in 1:3
Twice in this short epistle Peter introduces teaching on the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1:3; 3:21). This teaching, to be sure, is central to the Christian religion. When the eleven apostles came together after Jesus’ ascension and prior to Pentecost, they chose a successor to Judas Iscariot. Peter, as spokesman, declared that this person had to be a follower of Jesus from the day of his baptism to the time of his ascension, and that he had to be a witness of Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 1:22).
As an eyewitness to the resurrection of Jesus, Peter proclaimed this truth in his sermon to the multitude gathered in Jerusalem on Pentecost (Acts 2:31). When he preached to the crowd at Solomon’s porch, he said that God raised Jesus from the dead (Acts 3:15; compare 4:2, 33). And last, when Peter spoke in the home of Cornelius at Caesarea, he taught the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 10:40). Peter testified to this truth throughout his ministry of preaching and writing.
 Charles, D. J. (2006). 1 Peter. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, pp. 301–302). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and the Epistle of Jude (Vol. 16, pp. 39–42). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.