Resurrection Power: past, present, future

1 Peter 1:3-5

12 April 2009

Woodley Baptist Church

Evening service

[Read 1 Peter 1:3-9]


The English language is immensely rich, but it does lack one dimension that many other languages have. In English, we don't really distinguish between the singular "you", and the plural "you". Whether I'm talking to you individually (yes, you David), or all together as a group (you lot), I use the same word, "you".

Well, this evening, I'm going to say the word "you" quite a lot as we look together at the power of the resurrection. But I don't want it to be a general, all-inclusive, keep-it-at arms length "you" that you hear. I want you to consider it a personal, singular "you". I want you to take these truths personally. I want these truths to encourage you this Easter, I don't want them simply to bounce off.

But it may be that as you listen, you will begin to think to yourself something like, Well, I'm not sure that this does apply to me. This might be true for them, but it isn't part of my experience. In that case, the perfect response would be prayer. As ever the prayer ministry team will be at the front after the service. Please don't leave this evening with any puzzles unresolved.

So, on this Easter evening, what we are going to be looking at is the power of the resurrection in the life of the Christian: in your past, in your present, in your future. I'm going to focus on verses 3 to 5 of the passage First Peter chapter 1.

God's Resurrection power in the Christian's Past

In verse 3, Peter starts with something that is in our past. In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the deadref.

In the past experience of every Christian is an event called "new birth" or "regeneration".

And Peter links this event to another event: the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead: he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead

The apostle Paul makes this link as well. He says, you were buried with [Jesus] in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. When you were dead in your sins... God made you alive with Christ.ref

We shouldn't think of this as merely symbolic language. When we talk about experiencing "new birth", or new life, we don't simply mean turning over a new leaf, or having a change of heart, or gaining a new perspective. The new birth in a Christian's life is an event just as real, just as objective, just as dramatic, as the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

If you are a Christian, you have experienced this new birth. You have been "born again". God has moved you from death to life by exerting in you the same power that he used to bring Jesus back from the dead. A real change has taken place. You have a new heart and a new nature: a heart that is now alive to God; a nature that now wants to please him.

Everything that went before, whatever you are most ashamed of, whatever blasphemies against God you committed, whatever hurts you inflicted on others or yourself — in your new birth the resurrection power has condemned all those things to death. They are gone; they are no longer part of your life.

This is God's mercy, Peter says. You haven't done anything to deserve it.

Because of this new birth, instead of an expectation of God's wrath, Peter says that you can now look forward to an inheritance from him. When you were born again, you were born into God's family, and you become his heir: since you are now his child, you have a share in the family fortune. But, unlike an earthly inheritance, you don't receive it at his death, but at your death.

Peter says in verse 4 that this inheritance can never perish, spoil or fade, [it is] kept in heaven for youref. It's good to know in these uncertain times that our riches are not kept in the bank or invested in the stock-market. Nothing can devalue this precious inheritance. However fragile our earthly banks are, the Bank of Heaven remains secure.

And so you have new hope. You have moved from having no hope (only the prospect of death and judgement ahead) to being a person with a living hope: a hope that encourages and sustains and upholds you.

If you are a Christian, then this has already happened in your life: In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade — kept in heaven for you.

If you are a Christian you will be wanting to live out this new life that God has given you. You will want to fight sin every day, because sin belongs to your old life. You will want to love God and please him. You will love to read your Bible, because it feeds your hope. And you will want to pray to your new Father, because you have a living hope, a relational hope, a living friendship with him.

God's resurrection power has acted in the past of every Christian to give us new birth into a living hope.

God's Resurrection power in the Christian's Present

Next, Peter moves on to the present experience of God's resurrection power in the life of the Christian. In verse 5 he describes his readers as those who through faith are shielded by God's powerref.

Now, Peter is writing to encourage Christians who are facing trouble and persecution. In the next verse, he says that they have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.ref

Peter's encouragement to these believers is that, whatever their circumstances look like, they are being shielded by God's power. Evidently, God has not taken them out of suffering. But he assures them that they are kept and guarded through it.

When the Christian is faced with trouble or sickness or hardship or persecution, he or she reasons like this: God's power raised Jesus from the dead; so surely he is powerful over this as well. And this is what Peter assures us: your suffering, your trials, your grief are not out of God's control; they are part of God's plan. He is preserving you, refining you, fitting you to know him.

This is a deep truth, but it is a truth founded on the resurrection of Jesus. God was sovereign over the suffering and death of Jesus: he demonstrated that with power by raising him from the dead. That same God is shielding you by that same power.

In chapter 3 of this letter, Peter tells us that since Jesus was put to death in the body and made alive by the Spirit at his resurrection, he has now gone into heaven and is at God's right hand: with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

If the resurrection places Jesus at the right hand of God, then nothing is outside his power, is it? It is this risen Jesus who is shielding us from the evil and darkness around.

So, if you are a Christian, you will see all that happens to you as ways that God is working in your life to strip away your worldliness, to strip away your pride, to strip away your self-reliance. You will look for the ways he is testing and building your faith through it. This is how he is guarding you and fitting you for a future with him.

If the resurrection of Jesus had not happened, you would have no grounds for believing this: all your pain would be meaningless. But because of the resurrection, you can be confident of his sovereignty over all of your life. This is faith: to continue to trust that God is shielding you whatever your circumstances.

If you are a Christian, you will think, whatever horrible situation you face: God's power raised Jesus from the dead; God's power will guard me now.

If you are a Christian, your life is not filled with worry or fear or anger. Your confidence in the resurrection of Jesus gives you the gift of verse 8, Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joyref.

God's resurrection power acts in the present of every Christian to shield us from lasting harm.

God's Resurrection power in the Christian's Future

So we've seen God's resurrection power at work in the past of the Christian, and at work in the present of the Christian. But the climax of the working of God's resurrection power is still in the future.

The Christian has been saved from the penalty of sin. The Christian is being saved from the power of sin. And one day the Christian will be saved from the presence of sin.

This is what Peter is talking about in verse 5: the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.ref This is what God is guarding you for.

However good it is to know God in this life, you look forward to a better life to come, where you will enjoy the infinite pleasure of his presence for ever. However hard and pain-filled your life is now, you look forward to a life to come in which there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

Does this sound too good to be true? Does it sound like wishful thinking? Does it sound like "pie in the sky when you die"?

Well, once again, it is the resurrection of Jesus Christ that guarantees your future salvation. Jesus was raised to life, and he still lives, and he will come back to finish his work in us. The apostle Paul says By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.ref

The Christian lives in anticipation of this day, the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.ref

If you are a Christian, the certainty that you have a guaranteed eternity of joy ahead of you shapes everything you do today. You don't invest your time and effort in all the things of this world that is only temporary: you invest your life in knowing and serving him whom you will be with forever.

You don't put all of your effort into your job; you don't spend all your money on your house; you don't waste your life in front of the television. All that is destined for the dustbin. You invest your time in loving and serving others, in building up the church, in preparing to be with God. You don't invest in trash; you invest in glory.

Another thing: if you are a Christian, you do not fear death. For you, bodily death is merely the doorway to life. It's the resurrection again. 2 Corinthians chapter 4, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence.ref The only thing death can do to you is to fulfil your longing to be in the presence of Jesus.

God's resurrection power acts in the future of every Christian to reveal the salvation for which we long.


So we find in these three verses a glorious condensed portrait of the power of the resurrection at work throughout the Christian life: what God has done in the past in giving us new birth; what God is doing right now in shielding our faith; and what God will do in the future in giving us life after life.

No wonder Peter begins his letter with this explosion of praise: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!ref

Imagine being Peter on Good Friday afternoon. Imagine being Peter on that long Passover Saturday. Everything he'd put his hope in in the past had been nailed to the cross. Even his pride was stripped away: he had denied his friend as he was led to death. How bleak was his present: numbness, bewilderment, grief, emptiness? What lay ahead in the future? Back to the fishing boat it seems. It's a far cry from the glorious kingdom he'd pinned his hopes on. What a pathetic dream that had been. He was left without hope: totally hopeless.

Imagine being Peter on Sunday morning, when he heard the unbelievable news from the women, and ran breathlessly to the tomb to see for himself. Now, perhaps, his past made sense! Now he had a reason to live! Now he had hope for the future! Jesus was raised to life, and his resurrection power was to transform Peter's life. No wonder he exclaims Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!ref

If you are a Christian, this same resurrection power is at work in you as well. Yes, you; "you" singular. In your past: Jesus behind you. In your present: Jesus beside you. In your future: Jesus before you.

Let's pray...