In his first letter the apostle Peter writes these words: But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that we have. (1 Peter 3:15). Over the years I’ve pondered that verse and its implications, and I’ve come to realise what Peter meant about “the hope that we have”. At the same time, I have wondered about the best way to remember the reason for the hope that we have, and how I can help other Christians understand and remember it also.
“Listen to the sermon as you read it below.
It’s only 25 mins long
Reason for the Hope that We Have – a sermon to remember
When I was in Primary School we had to learn the twelve times table because we were told that when you know this maths will become easy. So we started out with learning and memorising the 2 times table. Two ones are two, two twos are four, two threes are six, two fours are eight etc. etc. Then came the three times table, followed by four, and five, and six, and seven all the way up to the twelve times table. And the reason that I can recite the twelve times table today, almost sixty years after I learned it was because it was committed to memory. There are other things in life that we memorise too. Things like telephone numbers – I’d suspect that each of us here today would know our phone number or those of family and friends.
What about the reason for the hope that we have?
How do we remember the reason for the hope, and be ready to give an account of that hope that we have? I suggest that we should memorise it, just as we memorised the times tables. A good place to start is with those marvellous gospel facts that we find in the sermon that this very same Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost, which is what I call ‘a sermon to remember’. It’s found in Acts 2:22-41. As we look at this sermon we see that Peter begins by asking the people, men of Israel he calls them, to listen.
We need first of all to listen because that’s how God relays his message to us. Someone has suggested that preaching is really a supernatural act, in that it is the transmission of a person (Jesus Christ) through a person (the preacher) to a group of persons (the hearers) by means of a person (the Holy Spirit).
So Peter is about to transmit the person of Jesus Christ through his words to the men of Israel by the power of the Holy Spirit. Let’s look closely at what he transmits because in it we see that Jesus is the reason for the hope that we have. As we work our way through this passage of Scripture we discover how Peter transmits Jesus. He transmits him as having been endorsed by God and as the reason for the hope that we have.
God endorsed Jesus by Working Miracles Through Him
‘Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know’ (v22). What Peter wanted his hearers to hear and what I want us to hear today is that God is the one who is at work in the miracles of Jesus. Jesus did only what the Father asked him to do.
In this verse, we see two things. We see firstly that Jesus was accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs. These miracles and wonders and signs were God’s certification of Jesus. They were, so to speak, God’s vote, God’s testimony to the fact that Jesus was His man, His beloved Son. When Jesus did a miracle, it was both God’s action, and His endorsement. He is saying the same things to all who witness any miracle as He said to the apostles on the Mount of Transfiguration: ‘This is my Son whom I have chosen, listen to him’. (Luke 9:35).
Imagine voters in an election – they cast their vote and in the end, we say that the votes cast endorse the winning candidate. Or it’s like the Heart Foundation tick of Approval on a food product – they are saying that we endorse this particular product. That’s what God is saying – I endorse and work through Jesus, which you can see because of the miracles.
So, secondly, Peter tells us that the miracles and signs and wonders were those which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. Take particular notice of that; it reinforces God’s accreditation of Jesus because it tells us that God himself did the miracles through Jesus. It was God’s power at work. That means that God was in Christ to heal the sick and still the storm and cast out demons and raise the dead. While he was on the earth, God gave Jesus the fullest endorsement any human ever had by giving him the Spirit without limit. (John 3:34). So when we talk about the hope that we have we can say it is hope in Jesus whom God endorsed through miracles.
God Endorsed Jesus by Planning His Death for the Sins of His People
‘This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men put him to death by nailing him to the cross.’ (v23)
I imagine that there would have been people in Peter’s audience that day who cynically sneered and said. ‘Well, what kind of endorsement is that? If God planned to hand over Jesus to be killed, then all he did was link arms with lawless men and help them put Jesus to death! That’s not much of an endorsement.’ And that is the attitude of many people in our day. I’ve heard people say that God is not a God of love if he not only allowed but actually set up the death of his son on the cross. But, that’s a superficial response made without thinking it through fully. It’s a superficial response because it ignores everything else the Bible has to say about why God planned the death of Jesus.
Listen to what Jesus himself said at the end of Luke’s gospel about why God planned his death. This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations beginning in Jerusalem. (Luke 24:46) In other words, God planned the suffering and death of Jesus with a fixed purpose, so that forgiveness of sins could be preached to all the nations (cf. Isaiah 53). The difference between God’s plan to crucify Jesus, and Pilate’s plan to crucify Jesus, was that Pilate was rejecting Jesus as mere pretender while God was honouring Jesus as the Servant of the Lord and the Saviour of the world.
God planned the death of Jesus not to disown him or dishonour him or reject him, but to glorify him as the perfect, flawless Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. God’s plan for Jesus to die was not an indictment like the plan of the Jews, but an endorsement of his infinite worth so that he could save both the Jews and the Gentiles. So the hope that we have is a full and confirmed hope in Jesus Christ whom God endorsed by miracles and in whom is found forgiveness of sin. But that’s not all!
God Endorsed Jesus by Raising Him from the Dead
Remember how v23 ended: ‘and you, with the help of wicked men put him to death by nailing him to the cross’. If that was the end, then there really is no hope and there is no reason for the hope that we have within us. But that’s not the case and in the very next verse, Peter gives us God’s response to that dreadful act: ‘but 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’ (v24). What Peter is saying to the people of his day is that you voted ‘No’ against Jesus, but God voted ‘Yes’ for Jesus. You may have denounced him, but God has endorsed him. You killed him, but God has raised him up.
Even more, Peter doesn’t just leave it there. He goes on to show in v25–31 that the resurrection of Jesus fits with Old Testament prophecy and that it means that Jesus is the son of David (v30). And that he’s the Messiah (v31). So his message was that they killed the Messiah himself. But God raised him up.
Peter wants the people to see the starkness of the conflict between them and God. They rejected Jesus – God accepted him. They defamed Jesus – God affirmed him. What he is saying is that what matters here ultimately is not that they killed a man, but that they had set themselves against God. Now to say that was an extremely shocking thing because, after all, Peter is talking to very religious people. These are moral people. These are worshipping people. These are people who know much of the Old Testament off by heart. And yet Peter is telling them that their minds are totally at odds with God. They claim to know God. They claim to love God and worship God and follow God. And yet Peter says that they are diametrically opposed to God. In fact, the implication is that they are anti-God!
The test of whether we are anti-God or not is not whether we say we believe in God, or whether we say we know God, or love God, or serve God. The test is whether we embrace God’s endorsement of Jesus. If we say we know God but reject God’s endorsement of Jesus as the worker of miracles; if we say that we know God but reject God’s endorsement of Jesus as the predestined Passover sacrifice that takes away sin; if we say we know God and reject God’s endorsement of Jesus by raising Him from the dead, then we don’t really know God at all. In fact we are against God. We are anti-God. Jesus is the test of all true knowledge of God. That’s why the Christian faith is so distinct from other systems that are called faiths: For example, Islam says that Jesus never died and so was never raised from the dead. As such, its followers do not know God. But, for that matter, there are also many people in churches on the Sabbath, who say they believe in God, but do not believe in the one whom God endorsed and who do not follow his commandments.
Remember: the hope that we have is a real hope in the Lord Jesus Christ whom God endorsed by miracles and in whom is found forgiveness of sin, and whom God raised from the dead. But even that’s not all.
God Endorsed Jesus by Exalting Him and Making All Enemies Subject to Him
Jesus was ‘exalted to the right hand of God’ says Peter (v33). He goes on to show the significance of this exaltation by quoting from one of the Psalms that his hearers probably knew off by heart. For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, ‘The Lord said to my Lord: Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’ (v34-35). In other words, David already foresaw that God would exalt the risen Messiah to his right hand and give him a place of rule and supremacy over every other person and power in the universe.
This endorsement of Jesus exposes the ultimate horror of rejecting him. In rejecting Jesus not only have they rejected the one God declared to be Messiah by raising him from the dead (v30–31), they have also rejected the one whom God declared to be the Lord of the universe by exalting him to his right hand. And Peter doesn’t miss a beat as he ploughs on with this sermon to remember. He says: Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ (v36). Peter is telling the people that God endorsed that same Jesus as the Christ—the Messiah—by raising him from the dead. God endorsed him as the Lord by exalting him all the way to the highest place in the universe, and making him supreme over all his enemies. So we can see that one of the crucial issues in this sermon of Peter’s is not just about the killing of a good man, but the repudiation of GOD who endorsed him!
God endorsed Jesus as the worker of miracles on the earth. God endorsed Jesus as the perfect sacrifice for sins. God endorsed Jesus as the risen Messiah. God endorsed Jesus by exalting him to be Lord of the universe. To reject Jesus is to repudiate GOD! To vote no on Jesus is to oppose GOD. That’s the real and terrifying issue. And that, really, is what cut them to the heart (v37).
We can go further in defining the hope that we have. The hope that we have is hope in Jesus Christ whom God endorsed by miracles and in whom is found forgiveness of sin and whom God raised from the dead and whom God has made Lord of all. But even that’s not all. There is one more endorsement of Jesus that God gives in this sermon. I save it for last because it is the final piece of the reason for the hope that we have within us.
God Endorsed Jesus by Making Him Worthy to Receive and Pour Out the Spirit
Look what Peter says: ‘who, having been exalted to the right hand of God, has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear’ (v33). And for Peter’s original audience what they had seen and heard was the praise and the prophecy and the languages of Pentecost. This was God’s final endorsement of Jesus. He has given into the hands of Jesus – the Lord and the Messiah – the privilege of pouring out the Holy Spirit, the unique privilege of baptizing with the Spirit (Acts 1:5), and filling with the Spirit (Acts 2:4) and clothing his people with the Spirit’s power from on high (Luke 24:49). Only Jesus can do that because he is the only one endorsed by God for that task. This is what brings the hope that we have, the hope in Jesus, into the very depth of our hearts.
Can a pastor baptise with the Holy Spirit? Can a pastor fill people with the Holy Spirit? Can a pastor clothe the people in his congregation with the Holy Spirit? No. The only way to be filled with the Spirit of God is through the Lord Jesus Christ. So if there is a desire to get closer to God, to know the fullness of His Spirit, and to share in the Christian hope that we have, then the thing to do is to begin obeying Christ and what he commands and the rest will follow.
Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost is a sermon to remember because it shows us where lies the hope that we have. It lies in Jesus Christ, our Lord, who was endorsed by God by miracles, and in whom is found forgiveness of sin, and whom God raised from the dead and made Lord of all, and whom God made worthy to pour out the Holy Spirit.
So, ultimately the hope that we have is in God ‘who loved the world so much that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life’ (John 3:16). And so it was on that Pentecost day 3000 of those listening to Peter preach that sermon were saved to eternal life. To get that, they were first cut to the heart, and in the midst of that desperate shame they showed their repentance and humility, simply asking Peter, ‘men and brethren, what shall we do?’. Peter told them plainly to repent, to be baptised in the name of Jesus and to receive forgiveness for sins, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. They did that, and became members of the kingdom of God that very day, for they had found the new hope in Jesus.
Edward Mote was a pastor and hymn writer. He was born in London on 21 January 1797 and died on 13th November 1874. His best-known hymn contains these words:
My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.
The hope that we have in Jesus, is truly ‘rock solid’! Hallelujah!
Where is your hope today?
Is the hope that you have based on the sinking sand of the world’s systems, or on the solid rock of the Lord Jesus Christ, the One who was completely and publicly accredited by God? You can choose, right now – pray!
Grahame Daniel May 2020
Original title: A sermon to remember – Psalm 16:1-11; Acts 2:22-41