A Blaze of Diamonds!
Archibald Brown, East London Tabernacle
"But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while — will Himself perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen." 1 Peter 5:10-11
Our first experience in reading this verse is amazement that borders on bewilderment. The whole is a perfect blaze of diamonds, and the very brightness serves to shroud the glory. There is such a combination of splendors here that the mental eye is almost dazed at the first reading, so that one cannot immediately distinguish the actual teaching. You have such marvelous words coming one upon another, each word so full, so bright, so splendid — that you are well near lost in the whirl.
Keep your eyes upon the verse, and see what words we have: 'God', 'all grace', 'called', 'eternal glory', 'Christ Jesus', 'dominion forever'. And, as if these were not enough, we find also perfection thrown in as well: 'make you perfect'.
And these marvelous words, each bright with all the splendor of deity, daze us all the more because of their contrast to that which has gone before in the previous verses; for, read a few lines back, and what are the words that meet you in those verses from the 7th to the 9th? 'Your adversary, the devil', 'a roaring lion', 'seeking whom he may devour', 'whom resist'. And then we find 'sufferings' added. Put the two groupings of words side by side. Can you imagine anything more startling in the way of contrast? 'The devil', 'a roaring lion', 'suffering', 'adversary' — 'God', 'grace', 'eternal glory', 'perfection'. Yes, it is on black velvet, that this diamond pendant hangs, and the diamonds flash all the more brightly because of the exceeding darkness of the background.
But now, having taken a glance at it, our eyes are more accustomed to the brilliance, so we will try to place the words. Up to this moment, perhaps, this text has been to some of you, as it was to me in studying it — a perfect shower of meteors — a cluster of bright flashing words. Now we will seek to put the words in order, and link them together.
And observe here that, though this text reads as a prayer — it is really a promise, and so it appears in the Revised Version. Instead of the first word being 'but', it should be 'and'. 'And may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while' — now read — 'shall himself perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.' It is not something that Peter asks for, but which, perhaps, may be denied — but it is the solemn promise of the Holy Spirit given through Peter that, though I have to meet the roaring devil, though I have daily to combat the power of Hell that would devour and swallow me up — yet the God of all grace shall himself perfect, strengthen, and establish me.
In the previous verses the Holy Spirit has been telling us what we have to do. Now he tells us what God has promised to do, and, oh, brothers and sisters, what a marvelous difference this makes! We must never separate the things that God has joined together. If God says in one line, 'Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling', he says in the next, 'for it is God who works in you'. And so, if here I am told that I am to be sober and vigilant, and that I am to stand foot to foot with the adversary and resist a roaring devil. And I say, 'How can it be? It is more than I can do'. He who bids me do it tells me what he will do: 'And he himself shall perfect, strengthen, and establish you.' The words, you see, are beginning to fall into order. We are now getting the outline of this diamond pendant.
But there is one important point which I question whether many of you have seen, because in nine cases out of ten that sentence, 'after you have suffered a while', is linked with the last clause of the verse, whereas it belongs to the first; and if you look you will see what a difference it makes. People generally pause at the word 'Christ Jesus', and then they read, 'after you have suffered a while make you perfect, establish, strengthen you'. Indeed, then that last clause tells us, does it, of Heaven's work, that after my sufferings are over, the Lord is going to perfect me, and that it is in Heaven that he is going to establish and strengthen me. But, the moment that you put that little middle clause, 'after that you have suffered a while', in its right place, the diamond pendant is seen clearly in all its exquisite symmetry and beauty. It is this: the God of all grace who has called us, after that we have suffered a while, to his eternal glory, will himself, while we are suffering — during this little interval that lies between the grace and the glory — so sanctify the suffering, that it shall perfect, establish, strengthen, settle us.
The sufferings come between the grace and the glory. One hardly likes to use such a homely illustration — but I might almost call it 'Heaven's sandwich'. There is grace — then there is a thin slice of suffering — then there is glory on the top of it. The God of all grace has called us to eternal glory — but between the call and the eternal glory there is just a little while of suffering; but during that little while of suffering the saint is not to be a loser, for the God of all grace shall perfect, establish, strengthen, settle him.
Though, when we commenced, we were almost blinded by the brilliancy of the text, I think that now we can make out clearly its outline and its setting. Let us go into the subject a little.
First of all we have to meditate on the God of grace.
And, when we have done that, we must go a step further, and observe that he is a God who calls unto his eternal glory.
And, when we have reached that point, we shall have to note, in conclusion, that this God of grace allows a little interval of suffering before the glory, and that this little interval, though full of painfulness, is also full of blessedness — for it leads to perfecting, establishing, and strengthening.
I.Who shall rise to the height of this first expression, 'The God of All Grace'? What is intended by it? Something far more than a gracious God. It does not mean that God is gracious in his tendency, or simply gracious by his nature — but that he himself is the reservoir, the home, the source, the supply — of grace in all its manifestations. 'All grace'; that is all the grace that I need between these two points, the point where God finds me steeped in sin and dead in iniquity — and that point of eternal glory that he has sworn by himself he will bring me to.
How much grace I need between these two! He is the God of all the grace that I need, from Hell's mouth up to Heaven's throne! The streams of grace are many: the fountain-head is one. He is 'the God of all grace'. Every sparkling rivulet, every flowing tributary, of grace — springs from him.
Need I recapitulate them to you?
Divine election with all its inscrutable mysteries.
Redemption accomplished at Calvary's hill on a blood-stained cross by a dying Christ.
Justification also in all its wondrous harmony between mercy and perfect justice.
And regeneration too with its heaven-born purity, and its new-created tendencies within the soul.
All these are covered by the word 'grace'. These things are only different manifestations of one and the same sublime attribute.
But, when I mention these, I have only just touched the spray of the wave. There are deeps that lie beneath in this expression, 'the God of all grace', for it contains all the graces which the soul must possess before it can enter eternal glory.
I think that any child here could mention most of those graces that are absolutely requisite for entrance into the eternal glory.
Most certainly there must be the grace of repentance. How can a man who truly repents, not be saved? But God is the God of all grace. My sob for Christ comes from God himself. The very tear for sin, is not an earth-born thing. It is Heaven's own pearl that is strung upon the human eyelash. The cry of 'God be merciful to me' is a cry that comes down from Heaven before ever it can break from my lip. 'The God of all grace.'
But repentance must ever be followed by faith. I do not weep myself to Christ. I appropriate Christ by faith. But whence this grace of faith? It is the gift of God.
Then there are other graces yet to be manifested. 'Faith works by love.' But love is born of God, for God is love, and if I love him — it is because he first loved me. He is the God of all my graces.
But no man can see the Lord apart from holiness. Without holiness shall no man enter into the glory. How am I to be holy? How can this poor, sin-stained, sin-ingrained man become holy? And the answer is that it is the Spirit of the Lord that works holiness; and so, while he is the God of all manifestations of grace — he is the God of all the graces that I possess.
But I have hardly begun yet with this enumeration. This text covers much more, for it includes all the supplies of grace that are needed along the road.
It is a weary road — I need refreshing grace.
It is a sorrowing path, because it is a sinful one — I need comforting grace.
As a wandering sheep prone to go astray — I need restoring grace.
Being weak as a babe — I need upholding grace.
What do I not need? And yet, precious thought, everything that I, as a saint, can need from the moment of my new birth to that ecstatic instant when I stand before his eternal glory, without spot or wrinkle — lies centered in God. He is 'the God of all grace'.
Do you not see, therefore, that God does not send his people unarmed into the battle? The word of command is not 'Go and fight the roaring devil, and get on as best you can.' If God tells me to fight the devil, he says, 'I will find all grace for you to do it.' If he says to me, 'Go meet an adversary that could devour you in a moment, and would', he also says, 'But I am able to perfect you, strengthen you, establish you. I am the God of all grace.'
II.I think that we may now leave this first point, although we have only just skimmed its surface. This God of all grace calls us to Eternal Glory. Let us read the sentence slowly, that we may understand it: 'Who has called us' — (it should be 'who has called you') — 'unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus', or, as it should be rendered, 'in Christ'.
Let us begin at the beginning. He has called you. Need I say that the call here is not the call that is ringing from this platform this morning? It is not intended to describe the call that comes from any preacher's lips. It is not the call of God's world-wide mercy to a fallen race. The call that is intended here is, as Robert Leighton beautifully puts it, that call which goes deeper than the ear, touches the heart within, throws open the door, and effectually draws to Christ! And consequently you will find that the word 'called' becomes the title of the true Christian. Look at the references on this subject at your leisure. If you turn to the 1st chapter of Romans, you will find the saints there described as 'called of Christ Jesus'. In Romans 8:28, we read, 'All things work together for good to those who love God.' Who are they? 'The called according to his purpose.' Called is a Scripture name for the saint. A man of God is one who has been called.
But how is he called? It is 'unto his eternal glory in Christ'; not simply, mark you, for Christ's sake. That is true — but it is not the truth here taught. He has called us to eternal glory in Christ. He called Christ into glory, and, when he called Christ into glory, he called me, because I am in Christ. The call that I receive is a call that sounds in the Son's ear. It is a call 'to his glory'. Jesus looked up and said, 'Father, I will that those whom you have given me be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory.' Where God calls the head, he calls all the members. And the call to eternal glory is the call that comes to us by virtue of our oneness with the Lord Jesus Christ. We share his blessedness.
For a moment pause here. Do you see what this teaches? There is no getting to eternal glory apart from Christ. God does not call anyone to eternal glory except 'in Christ'. If any of you are hoping to enter into eternal glory by virtue of the 'universal fatherhood of God', you will find that it will drop you into perdition. The only call unto eternal glory, is in Christ. It is as a member of his body that I share his glory. Heaven is his. I have no merits — but he deserves all. He deserves everything that the eternal Father can give him. And so Christ says, 'I will that my redeemed share with me that glory which is mine.' It is 'the called in Christ Jesus'.
And what is the call TO? To glory! I must confess that I looked at that word until I could not see it for the tears that came into my eyes. 'Called unto glory.' Glory? What have I to do with glory? I seem altogether out of court for glory. Glory? Glory for me? You might as well speak about putting a king's crown on a chimney-sweep's head. What connection can there be between me and glory? But, my brethren, because it seems too good for us to receive we must not think that it is too good for God to give. The call is to glory, and to nothing short of it.
I know not whether I am speaking this morning to some dear Arminian friends who rather delight in the thought that you may start on the road to glory, and then be left in the middle of it to perish. Do you see that this call is not a call merely to start for glory? It is a call to glory. It is not a call to two-thirds of the road. It is a call to eternal glory.
Thirty odd years ago I heard the call of God, and, oh, it called me into such sorrow for sin; but I found that the call did not end there, for when I had reached conviction of sin, I found that God was still calling me. The call came from further away, and I went on, until I came to 'a place called Calvary', and I thought, 'Surely, the call has come from here.' But after I had looked and gazed upon Christ and entered into peace with God, I found that the call still sounded far ahead. It had brought me to Calvary — but it came from beyond there. It came from the throne in the glory. And then I found that when God called me as a sinner he did not call me simply to repent or to believe. He called me unto his eternal glory, and that is the purpose of his call.
Are you downcast this morning? Are you depressed in spirit? Why, God is calling you unto his eternal glory. Shame on us that we are ever anything else than rejoicing. We have a call to eternal glory, and nothing less.
Yes — but hitherto we have only been fluttering round this word 'glory'. What do you understand by it? Does he say, 'He has called us unto glory'? No, it does not say that. It says, 'He has called us unto HIS glory.'
What is his glory? Moses said, 'Show me your glory', and Jehovah said, 'I will cause my goodness to pass before you.' Then, do you not see, God's glory is his holiness; and if I am called unto his glory I am — amazing thought — called unto infinite and perfect holiness. Oh, Heaven would not be Heaven, if there were a stain of sin upon one of the golden pavements! Heaven would not be Heaven, if there were a thought of sin passing through one mind. Heaven would not be Heaven, if there were a moment of defilement there. He has called us unto HIS glory, the glory of his perfect holiness, that glory which overwhelms archangels as they sing, 'Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty.'
But God's glory is himself. There is nothing more glorious about his glory, than himself. The only way in which God can glorify himself, is to reveal himself. He is his own glory, and when the Shekinah light burned of old in the tabernacle, the glory of the Lord appeared. It was the out-flashing of God. And so, when God calls you to his glory — he calls you to himself. He says, 'Come up, poor weary blood-washed sinner. Come up into my embrace; come and live in my bosom. Let the everlasting burnings of Jehovah be your couch. Come cleanse your spirit in the eternal blaze of deity. Come, be at home with me.'
It is a call unto his glory. It is a call to dwell in his immediate presence. It is a call to pass into his light, for God is light.
But can you tell me all that the word 'glory' covers? In the ordinary acceptance of the word you say of a departed saint, 'Ah, he has gone to glory', and what does 'glory' mean? That one word 'glory' includes all the angels, cherubim and seraphim; it includes all the harps of Heaven; it covers all joy, all blessing, all bliss. God has called us unto his eternal glory.
But this is only the beginning of the theme. We have left untouched one infinite word. He says that he has called us unto his eternal glory. You have to put the word eternal into the scale. It is not a call for an age or for a millennium. It is his eternal glory.
Oh, fools that we are, to weep our eyes out over earth's sorrows, and to grumble our spirits into wretchedness, because of a passing moment of care! It is eternal glory. The spirit sinks before the very word. When myriads upon myriads of ages have passed, we shall be only in the infancy of glory then; and when a myriad myriad ages more have gone, we shall be no further advanced. It is simply endless. This is what God means to do for you. He means to bring you into his own eternal glory.
III.And now our third point is that he allows A LITTLE INTERVAL OF SUFFERING which is itself full of blessing. Ah, we too often want to leave that bit out, 'after that you have suffered a while'. The call comes — but the glory does not come immediately after the call.
I remember that, when I found peace with God some thirty odd years ago, I wished that the Lord would take me to glory then and there. Yes, the birds of Paradise all want to fly off at once into their nests. But God says, 'No, I have called you unto my eternal glory.' The glory is quite safe. You shall have it — but it shall come to you 'after that you have suffered a while'.
Then, brothers and sisters, carry away this thought, that the suffering is part of the call, as well as the glory. The suffering is not a haphazard thing that comes in. It is all part of the plan. When God calls you to glory, he calls you to come to glory through a little while of suffering. How this takes away all the bitterness and acidity of one's sorrows! Does it not? I know that some of you are weighted with care. Humanly speaking it would be far easier to weep than to sing; but how this transforms all grief. It is no chance work. Suffering is part of the road to the eternal glory. It is just as much included in the plan as all the rest.
And then, you see, it says that it is only a little while. 'After that you have suffered a little.' So it is in the Revised Version. Really the word 'while' is not there. It is 'after you have suffered a little'; and you can choose, if you like, whether it means degree or duration. 'After you have suffered a little.' Why, the heaviest sorrow is but little, if you compare it with the weight of glory. Or, if you take it to mean duration, what a little while the suffering lasts — if you put it alongside of his eternal glory!
You say, 'But why can I not go to Heaven at once? Why should there be this interlude of suffering between the grace and the glory?' The answer is found in the last line of our text. 'He himself will make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you'. He will do it through this little interval of suffering. He will perfect you. Now, do not run away with the idea that I am preaching 'perfection'; and yet I am. But what sort of perfection? You have to understand the word. People often take a word and run away with it, just as a trout catches hold of a fly and gets hooked, and is not very much advantaged thereby. You may snap hold of this word 'perfect', and run away, and say, 'Ah, then I may expect to be perfect while I am on earth.' Of course you may; only the word here translated 'perfect' means 'to repair'. It is precisely the same word that you find when you read that the disciples were mending their nets, and it means to finish, or to put into repair. You will find that when Paul writes to the Thessalonians he says, 'That I may perfect that which is lacking in your faith.' There is a little bit of a rent in it and I just want to come and mend that little hole.
Ah, there is nothing about us that is not imperfect. There are many little rents in us, and the Lord allows us to go through this little while of suffering so that he may repair the imperfections. As bad as you are, brother, you would be worse if you had less trouble. There is not here, today, a child of God who is not the richer and the holier for the little while of suffering. God passes his children through the interlude of suffering to repair the imperfect.
The next word is 'establish', and that implies fixity. Oh, we are very prone to fluctuation. I know that some of you shift like a weathercock from one doctrine to another. There are some of you here who have at present so little stability that you come and hear the Word of God expounded here in the morning, and then run away to hear something quite the opposite in the evening — and manage somehow to enjoy them both! Well, God loves his children a great deal too well, to allow them always to remain shifty and unstable; and so he passes them through this little while of suffering, and they gradually get more and more established and fixed in faith and holy resolve.
Trouble weights men in a very blessed sense. I know that it grievously weights the heart. But sometimes nothing but a heavy heart will give weight to a character, and so God says, 'I cannot let that vain and frivolous child remain like a piece of thistledown floating at the dictation of every breath of air. I must pass him through a little while of suffering.' That is establishing.
The word 'settle' does not appear in the Revised. The last word there is 'strengthen', and the meaning of the word is 'made powerful to resist attack'.
There is the devil. He is roaring. More than that: he has mighty paws and terrible claws. And who among us can enter into the fray against him? You fight the devil, man? Do not ever make a joke about the devil. The man that jokes about the devil, has the devil nearer to him than he imagines. Do you think you can resist the great adversary? Never! But the Lord steps in, and says, 'If I bid you meet the roaring lion, I will pass you through a little season of suffering which shall repair and establish you, and put spiritual thews and sinews into you, so that in my strength you may overcome.'
Brethren, what then is left for us to do other than to say with Peter, 'To him be glory and dominion forever!' Where else can we place the glory? It is cut completely from under our feet, for God is the God of all the grace that we possess. He calls us to his own eternal glory. Then if I am saved from sin and called to eternal bliss — all that I can do during 'the little while' is to look up and say, 'Unto him be all the praise and dominion, age upon age, throughout all eternity. Amen and amen!'