Praise the God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ, who, from out of His abundant mercy has brought us to a new birth, to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance which shall sustain its value, its integrity and its perpetual brilliance, especially ear-marked in the heavens for you, as those who are being kept, through your faith, under surveillance by the power of God, to [participate in] a complete rescue plan that is set, ready to be shown at the completion of days.
How are we to read these opening sentences? Would anyone these days introduce their letter with such a paean? If we are older this kind of statement might remind us of a liturgical introit, the kind of faith-statement with which a public ceremony or service of worship commences. The exuberant exclamation is one feature we shouldn't ignore as we read on. Another is Peter's up-front style - he writes plainly, without talking up, or talking down, to his readers. But we notice immediately that, alongside this initial exaltation, the writer has obviously assumed that they are as capable of understanding what he writes as he is of penning it. There's a strong sense, then, that he is writing within the framework of shared social conventions.
Peter writes so that together they shall live in thankful praise! This sustained exclamation of praise and thanks to God shows us that Peter is, as we might say, "full of it". He writes about his consuming passion, not simply to show his piety. He writes in this way in order that they may show their solidarity as those "brought to a new birth", members of God's own family.
And it is not as if this is "the praise bit" so that having got it out of the way he can then go onto the "encouragement" section of his communiqué. It simply isn't formed like that, going from one kind of thing to another to another; it all comes together, overflowing in a sustained out-pouring of love and amazement.
So with this letter, it isn't as if Peter has to sit there and say, "Well that's pretty good, now what am I going to say next?" No, as I have said, the writer is full of it. We might say that he has discovered something so amazing, so all-embracing. In fact it might be better to say that these opening lines indicate that this amazing truth, this Person no less, has actually discovered Peter. This amazing truth has brought Peter to a new birth. It is what has brought his readers to the same living hope. Peter therefore writes so that those who receive this won't be able to ask why he has bothered to pen it. There is no question about it. He is obviously overwhelmed by the power of this message because he has been overwhelmed by this Person. But even so, the letter did not write itself. Peter was eager to tell the letter's recipients that they live in terms of the same fulness, the same abundant mercy which captured him.
The Lord God, through Jesus Christ, has started again with us, bringing all who follow in His path to this new birth. His abundant mercy will not be thwarted - with the resurrection of the Lord, an inheritance has become available which is nothing other than the fulfillment of the Lord's own eternal purposes. This inheritance will not lose its value; it will not be compromised; it will maintain its glory and brilliance.
Peter is addressing his readers as immigrants and sojourners embedded with created solidarity with all their neighbours, the people's who have spread out over God's earth, in a situation that was significantly changing for them in personal terms; now, like Abraham and Sarah long ago, they needed the reassurance of knowing that they are specially chosen and kept under the watchful eye of the Almighty in order that His blessings may, in time, be conveyed to all these peoples of the world, with whom they sojourn. Peter reminds his readers that they are the adopted heirs of an inheritance guaranteed by God's own choice and promise. And in the meantime their lives are simply the eager expectation of the complete rescue plan that will eventually be rung in for the entire creation. From now until the Kingdom comes in its fulness, the identity, inheritance and purpose of these followers of Jesus Christ is all subject to the faithfulness of the Lord God to do what He has promised. Their future is as His children. As such, they not only have a guaranteed inheritance. Their life in the meantime is fully safeguarded.