1 Peter 1:13-16
Why gird up the loins of your mind, be sober…
As we read this Epistle and drink in its spirit we become aware of something that lifts and enkindles; it is as if we were inhaling sea air, were basking in the glow of a genial warmth. The Peter of the Gospels was of an eager, sanguine disposition, and his hopefulness, while it was yet unchastened, repeatedly outran his real strength. The Pentecostal fire descends upon him, and he continues to be the same man, with the same basis and structure of character; but there has passed over him a refining and invigorating touch. He has become more truly a Peter; he has drawn strength from the Rock of Ages. He is "the apostle of hope." To speak of hope at all is to speak of what we instinctively recognise as a condition of fruitful effort, of anything like success or satisfaction, even in the affairs of ordinary life. To take hope from a man is to paralyse him morally; if he lives on in so dreary a condition we think of him as surviving himself. The teaching of Scripture may help us to distinguish and appreciate three characteristics of that hope which apostles would recognise as true.
1. First, then, Christian hope, as St. Peter tells us, is seated "in God"; it is, as it has been called, one of the triad of virtues specially "theological"; it takes its stand on Divine revelation, it looks on to the attainment of Divine promises. It draws its life-blood from no mere surmise as to what is possible for humanity, in the race at large or in the individual, but from the manifestation of Divine truth and goodness in the Incarnate, whom St. Paul calls "our hope" (1 Timothy 1:1), because our hope is grounded on Him and centred in Him. St. Paul, indeed, cannot think of hope without thinking of Christ; it is characteristic of him that the object of his "earnest expectation and hope" should be the glorification of Christ in his body, whether by life or by death. So he elsewhere speaks of Christians as having been "called in one hope" which grows out "of their calling," which derives all its force and charm from the act of grace that brought them into that sacred and supernatural fellowship. Christian hope, being rooted in faith, is, like faith, vivid, positive, and definite; it is, as St. Peter calls it, "living," because it is a fruit of the resurrection life of Jesus; it gazes with calm, trustful eyes, onward and still onward, into a future literally boundless, as illuminated by the person and the work of the one everlasting Redeemer; it is a "hope of eternal life," as based on Him.
2. A hope which is thus essentially religious, thus Christian from the root upwards, and impossible except on the terms of Christian belief, is strong enough to face all facts, even such as are unwelcome or austere. Certainly there will be temptations to unhopefulness; there must be the discipline of hopes deferred, of success marred, of apparent defeats and disappointments, of much that might tempt impatience to despair. A hope thus trained, while resting on august realities, is strong because it is not fanciful; it has realised the conditions of Christian life as an uphill march; it can afford to take full account of the gravest requirements of His service, who bids no one follow save where He Himself has trod; it does not dream of being exempt from anxieties, but it "casts" the whole weight of them on "the strong hand" of that good Father who has proved so well how much He "careth for us."
3. True hope is a great instrument of moral and spiritual discipline. When St. Peter is about to say, "make your hope perfect," he prefaces it with a call to sustained effort; we are to "gird up the loins of our mind." It is remarkable also that St. Paul does not merely exhort us to cherish hope, but to see that our hope is of the right kind, that it is such as is secured through endurance, and endurance as fortified by the encouragement, the quickening impulse to Christian exertion, which the pages of Scripture will supply (Romans 15:4). It is as if he had said, "The further you advance in the spiritual life, the more will you need of strength to resist temptation, or to bear outward trials bravely, brightly, and patiently; and the more you can do this, the more of true hope will you acquire." Thus we see that the hope which maketh not ashamed is always humble and always active.
(W. Bright, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;