Handfuls on Purpose
by James Smith, 1943
This letter was written by the Apostle Peter towards the close of his life (A.D. 60), while staying at Babylon (v. 13), where a Christian Church had been established. It was intended principally, though not exclusively, for Hebrew Christians. Observe— "Jews" (1:1, R.V.); "Gentiles" (2:9, 10). It was written for two purposes. First, to show that Peter agreed with Paul's teaching. Second, to strengthen and comfort God's people passing through fiery trials. It is a Book of Comfort.
LIVING AS FOREIGNERS. 1 Peter 1:1
I. Introduction. The writer of this Epistle needs no introduction. In fulfillment of our Savior's exhortation and commission: "When you have once turned again strengthen your brethren" (Luke 22:32, R.V.), Peter wrote this Epistle to comfort and strengthen his Christian brethren passing through a time of sore trial and bitter persecution. So richly is it stored with counsel, warning, and consolation, that Luther, the reformer, greatly prized it. The depth of doctrinal insight surprises us. "Whence has this man this wisdom?" Most assuredly from God the Holy Spirit. Nowhere else in Scripture do we find fuller teaching on the Trinity. You will specially note how Peter seeks to comfort sufferers, by filling their minds with great thoughts of God and His salvation. Would you be skilled in comfort's are? Then take notice of this fact. Place before sufferers great and deep thoughts of God, His salvation and truth.
II. Strangers. There are various opinions held concerning the folk Peter meant when he addressed his letter to "strangers." Some think he simply meant Jews who were scattered in Asia. Yet Paul in Ephesians speaks of the Gentile Christians as "strangers" (Ephesians 2:11, 12). Pray note:
1. Our time here is a sojourning (1 Peter 1:17).
2. Once we were strangers to grace and God (Ephesians 2:14).
3. We are now in these matters "no more strangers" (Ephesians 2:19).
4. But so far as the world is concerned, we are "strangers and pilgrims," that is, pilgrims because strangers (1 Peter 2:11).
III. Foreigners. Weymouth gives "foreigners," and Moffatt "exiles" for "strangers." What is the duty of a foreigner? A foreigner's—
1. Absentmindedness. He ever thinks of his native land. Let us "Set our affections on things above." Thus we shall have an absent heart and mind.
2. Separation. A foreigner differs in dress, appearance, and palate, from those among whom he is living. As foreigners, we must live the separated life, being molded not by the world's maxims and laws, and enjoying new food.
3. Detachment. Does not take "root" in a foreign soil. Ever remains detached.
4. Loyalty. Seeks, in a foreign land, to maintain the honor, and advance the interests of his own country. This is an important thought.
5. Literature. An exile loves to browse on literature from his own native land, and to satisfy that craving, makes arrangements with publishing houses in the land of his birth. If we are truly living as foreigners here in this world, we will love to read and study the literature of the Better Land, which we have already provided for us in the Bible.
6. Fellowship. An exile loves to meet for fellowship with fellow-exiles, and will go to no end of trouble to thus meet them. Spiritual foreigners love to have fellowship with kindred spirits.
ELECTION. 1 Peter 1:2
Due to wordy battles of the past, many of the Lord's people are frightened of the words "elect" and "election." Yet they are Bible words and Bible truths. "Chosen" is the word Weymouth gives. Election in Scripture is employed for three purposes: 1st, Describes an election to, or being chosen for, an office (John 15:16). 2nd, Appointed to certain privileges (Psalm 135:4). 3rd, To salvation. These scattered Christians are called the elect of God. What an honorable title!
I. The Origin of Election. Not sanctification, as some think—that is our sanctification, though in one sense we may say that this election was made possible by Christ's sanctification to the work of salvation and His obedience unto death, for that really and truly was its purpose. The true origin of election is the grace of "God the Father." It is comforting to find that Peter associates (as some consider), the harsh doctrine of election with the softening and comforting doctrine of the Fatherhood of God. The one delightfully blends with the other. Election is the electing love of the Father.
II. The Possibility of Election. Observe here in verse 2, also verse 20, and also Acts 2:23; Romans 8:29; Romans 11:2; and 2 Timothy 2:19, the association of God's foreknowledge with God's election. In these verses we are permitted to enter the council chamber of the Most High, and to listen to the Eternal Counsels. This association of foreknowledge with election has been of great assistance to the puny minds of earthly mortals when grappling with this deep, deep truth.
III. The Proof of Election. The infallible proof of our election is of a twofold character.
1. Internal. To feel and constantly foster within us the sanctification of the Holy Spirit.
2. External. To render swift obedience, and to live as exiles, as foreigners in this world.
IV. The Purpose of Election. "Is given that you may learn obedience, and may be sprinkled by blood," is 20th C. rendering. Thus two things are in the purpose of election.
1. "With a view to their obedience," is W. Our obedience.
2. And that we might enjoy the sprinkling of blood.
V. The Privilege of Election.
1. That the Elect should be constantly Sprinkled by the Blood of Christ.
2. Grace and Peace Multiplied. This means more than given. They had been given and received, now they are to be multiplied. These blessings travel hand in hand. First, Grace, that is, God's unmerited favor which is ours through Christ. Grace is also a name for blessings that are ours in Christ. These are to be multiplied, now that they have been received.
Peace—peace with God, through our Lord Jesus, and peace of God. Someone has remarked that "grace is the nurture of the Christian life; peace is its character."
Note the phrase, "Sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience." Learn from this that—
a. True sanctification is of and by the Holy Spirit.
b. The purpose and result of sanctification is a life of obedience, not merely our happiness and comfort. God thinks more of our holiness than of our happiness, though He is not forgetful of that mercy.
THE BIRTH OF A DOXOLOGY. 1 Peter 1:3-5
Probably you have noticed in the New Testament writings the frequency of Doxologies. It is both interesting and profitable to study it, seeking to track it to its source. Here we are able to do that. This Te Deum is sung at the remembrance of redeeming grace in regeneration. How easily these early Christians burst forth into Doxologies. Why? How is it that we are so far behind them in this practice? Has not the Lord done as much for us as He did for them? Is not the reservoir of grace still as full as ever? Yes! Surely the reason is the poverty of our individual Christian experience. The rush of daily life leaves little time for reflection on the wonders and marvels of grace; and so few believers appropriate, as they ought, the riches that are their own in Christ Jesus.
I. The Doxology.
1. A New Theme. "Blessed be the God," etc. The word rendered "Blessed" here has not the same significance as the word used in the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount. Here it is blessing on account of something inherent in the person, whereas in the latter it describes blessing received. "Blessing God," literally means, "Speaking well of Him." It is good when a father blesses his child; it is touching when the child blesses the father. Here we find a child blessing his Heavenly Father.
2. A New Relationship. "Blessed be the God and Father." This is a new relationship. This relationship in the New Testament sense, is unknown in the Old Testament. Note, "God and Father." Note John 20:17. Not "Our Father," but "My Father and your Father." Also, "My God and your God," not "our God."
II. Its Origin.
1. A New Birth. "Has begotten again." This is one of the unique phrases of the Christian vocabulary, not found in other religious systems. Other systems emphasize culture, training, discipline, education, evolution.
2. A New Life. "Has given us a new life," is the 20th Century New Testament rendering.
3. A New Hope. "A new life of undying hope" (20th C). Before regeneration, there was nothing to which to look forward. Note the connection of hope here with the Resurrection of Christ. Certainly if He had not risen from the dead, then our hope would never have been born. The Christians' hope is a Living, or as we have it here, "a Lively Hope," because Christ is living. The grave is no longer a terminus, but a thoroughfare.
4. A New Inheritance. "To an inheritance" (4). We are born again to an estate. As sons of Adam we have a dread inheritance—heirs of a fallen nature and of the wrath of God. Now, through grace, heirs of "an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fades not away."
5. A New Security. "Who are kept" (5). The R.V. substitutes "guarded" for "kept," thus retaining the military metaphor which is in the text. Guarded by God's power—Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:24), and "in God's power." The inheritance is preserved for the heirs, and the heirs for the inheritance.
6. A New Salvation. Salvation is a big word, including not only what God has already done for us or is doing for, or in us, but which He will yet do for us—"a salvation which even now stands ready for unveiling."
THE BIRTH OF A PARADOX. 1 Peter 1:6, 7
In our last study we were tracking a doxology to its source; in this we are to watch the birth of a paradox. In 2 Corinthians 6:9, 10, we have a cluster of paradoxes. Here is Peter's paradox: "Leaping for joy," and yet "in heaviness."
I. The Paradox.
1. An Exuberant Joy. "Wherein you greatly rejoice." "Wherein, you leap for joy" is another rendering. The one thing that amazed the heathen world of that time was the joy the believers enjoyed and exhibited in the midst of suffering.
Our Christian faith enables us to face trials with un-diminished and undimmed serenity and cheerfulness. Our salvation is one that leads to great gladness.
2. A Depressing Sadness. But the joy mentioned here is gladness plus sadness. "Though now for a season ("for the passing moment," M.), if need be, you are in heaviness ("you are put to grief," R.)." "Though for the passing moment you may need to suffer various trials; that is only to prove your faith is sterling".
How can an exultant joy and a depressing sadness exist together in our experience. That we have "heaviness" is beyond question—on account of personal trials, and outside pressure; that we "greatly rejoice" is also beyond question.
II. The Explanation. There is a great difference between always and only rejoicing. The joy and the sadness do co-exist. The joy does not deprive the heaviness of all its weight, nor the sorrow of all its sting. There is no artificial stoicism about the Christian faith; nor any attempt to explain things away.
III. The Possibility. What is necessary to make this paradox possible?
1. Contemplation of our Glorious Privileges. That little word "wherein" connects what has gone before with this statement. We are not asked to manufacture spiritual emotion. We are urged to determine what to think about most, and what to look at most. The possibility of this paradox depends on the object of our contemplation. Are we dwelling on the truths proclaimed in verses 3 to 5? Then this paradox is possible.
2. The Remembrance of the Transience of Sorrow. "For a season if need be," is the A.V., or, as M., "For the passing moment." How quickly will this moment pass.
3. Recognition of the Purpose and Results of the Trial. "If need be." There is therefore a needs be. Faith is very precious. As a man's faith is, so is the man. Fire tries and refines. The word "prove" in the R.V. means more than test. It really means to reveal, strengthen, confirm.
4. A Remembrance of the Great Reward. "Might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ." When suffering, keep your eye on the Coming of the Lord. Keep in mind the joy of hearing His "Well done, good and faithful servant."
NOT SEEN, YET TRUSTED AND LOVED. 1 Peter 1:8
Not Seen. Remember Peter is speaking and writing. He had seen the Lord. There seems to be a kind of tender pity in the words. "Whom having not seen." Twice over he repeats the statement that they had not seen Him. "You have never seen Him, and yet you love Him. And though you do not even now see Him, yet you believe in Him, and exult with a triumphant happiness too great for words" (20th Century). "You never knew Him but you love Him; for the moment you do not see Him, but you believe in Him" (M.).
Believe. Surely here we find Peter re-echoing the words of His beloved Master as we have them recorded in John 20:29.
Love at Sight. "Love at first sight" is a well-known phrase. Most human love follows the sight of the eyes. But the love Peter refers to is not love at eye-sight, but love at heart-sight. (For they had never seen the Lord with the eyes of flesh.)
Proof of Love. Do we love Him? How easily one can be mistaken in imagining admiration to be love, which it is not. Here are the proofs of real love.
I. Attachment. Love unites two into one. In "marriages made in Heaven," the marriage ceremony in Church, indispensable according to the law of God, is, after all, only an outward recognition of a union that has already taken place, the union of hearts and minds, of affections and ideals, of purposes and plans. Love, real love, unites two into one.
II. Obedience. Love delights to meet the wishes, and to obey the slightest commands of the loved one. That is pre-eminently true in each individual experience if we really love the Lord. Love will obey His commands (John 14:15), and impel to deeds of sacrifice (2 Corinthians 5:14) in service.
III. Separation. Love will separate us from all other likes and admirations, and unite us in lonely and glorious devotion to the person and interests of the one loved; and 1 John 2:15 is the verse we have in mind in this connection.
IV. Consecration. Love leads us to strip ourselves of our treasures and place them at the disposal of the loved one, becoming utterly devoted to their interests. This we see in the love Jonathan had for David (1 Samuel 18:1-4). If our love to the Lord Jesus has not led us to bow low before the Lord whom we love, and strip ourselves of all we have, and are, and hope for, in the words of the well-known hymn, then our love is lacking in its essential quality.
"Take my life, and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee;
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.
"Take my hands, and let them move
At the impulse of Your love;
Take my feet, and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee.
"Take my voice, and let me sing
Always, only, for my King;
Take my lips, and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee.
"Take my silver and my gold;
Not a mite would I withhold;
Take my intellect and use
Every power as You shall choose;
"Take my will, and make it Thine;
It shall be no longer mine:
Take my heart—it is Your own.
It shall be Your royal throne.
"Take my love: my Lord I pour
At Your feet its treasure-store;
Take myself, and I will be
Ever, only all for Thee."
V. Anticipation. Love lives in anticipation of more blessed fellowship. Love renders each other essential to life. Lovers find a difficulty to live their separate lives, and longingly anticipate the time when they can live under one roof, and never be absent the one from the other only when compulsory for the purpose of earning a living. If we really love the Lord we will ardently look forward to being with Him in the glory, when we shall see Him face to face and be known even as we are known.
THREE UNSPEAKABLE BLESSINGS. 1 Peter 1:8, with 2 Corinthians 9:15; 12:4
Introduction. George Eliot, in her "Scenes in Clerical Life," speaks of the possibility and danger of having a good religious vocabulary without a corresponding religious experience. A real peril lurks here. It is possible to have a tolerably good grasp of religious truth, to be able to define Christian doctrine, and to express our views in clear language, and yet to be without the experience of those truths. The fact that one can talk fluently on Divine themes is no proof of the possession of a real and vital experience.
There is another peril, that of possessing a religious experience that can be reduced into, and expressed by, a vocabulary. That such an experience is rather common must be admitted. A weak, sickly spiritual life can easily be described. Such has but few if any thrilling experiences. Quite easily words can be found whereby it can be described. Shame on us if this is true concerning us.
Cowper calls speech a "Sacred interpreter of human thought." And what a wonderful interpreter it is to be sure. Yet it is possible for the most skilled interpreter to come prematurely to the end of his resources. We have witnessed the inability of a splendid interpreter to translate some florid phrases. That sacred interpreter of human thought cannot but fail to translate some experience into words. That is true regarding even earthly things. All the deepest and richest things in everyday life are unspeakable. "A mother's love! Who has discovered a symbol by which to express it? It is unspeakable. A profound grief! Where is the speech in which it can be enshrined? It is unspeakable." A glorious sunrise or sunset—who can find words to fully and adequately describe them? The majesty of the mountains, the beauty and fragrance of the lily, and other flowers— where is the language that can tell all?
If that is true regarding earthly things, what about the heavenly? If a mother's love is unspeakable, what shall we say concerning Divine love?
"But what to those who find? Ah! this.
Nor tongue nor pen can show:
The Love of Jesus, what it is.
None but His loved, ones know."
Even inspired apostles found now and again the inadequacy of human language. They then press into service the word "unspeakable," which occurs three times in Holy Writ, and each we shall now notice.
I. Unspeakable Gift. "Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift" (2 Corinthians 9:15), or, as Weymouth renders it, His "Unspeakably precious gift," or as another rendering, "Thank God for His unexpected bounty." This is one of Paul's doxologies. With most of them there appears to be no connection between the subject he is dealing with and the doxology. Often, right in the midst of a profound argument, he has to pause for worship. But there happens to be a connection here. The Apostle has been referring to the generous gifts of the Macedonian Christians, holding them up as an example worthy of copying by the Corinthians, when the thought of the wonderful grace and goodness of God overwhelmed him, and he found relief in this outburst of adoring love and worship.
There is something wrong with us if, now and again, we, too, are not similarly affected. One infallible test of a real growth in grace is a growing appreciation of the love of God in Christ, and of His substitutionary death on the Cross. For God's gift cannot be overestimated, cannot be over-valued. His riches are unsearchable, and His love passes knowledge. God's gift is a Person. And such a wondrous Being. Have you thanked God today for His unspeakable Gift? Is that Gift unspeakably precious to you?
II. Unspeakable Words. "How that he was caught up into Paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful or possible for a man to utter" (2 Corinthians 12:1-4). It is Paul speaking. He is here disclosing a personal secret he had kept for fourteen years. Just at that time Paul was stoned outside Lystra (Acts 14). No one could be stoned and live. Undoubtedly he was killed, and while his poor battered body lay still, he himself went up to Paradise, but as his work was not yet finished, God performed a miracle, and he and his body were re-united. While in Paradise he heard words he could not possibly find human words to describe.
Incidentally this is important, as showing the effect of Christ's death and resurrection on Paradise. Before the Cross, Paradise was beneath (Luke 16:19-31), in the heart of the earth (Matthew 12:40), to which Christ went at His death. When He rose from the dead, He transferred Paradise to the third Heaven, the immediate presence of God (2 Corinthians 12:2, 4; Ephesians 4:8-10), though leaving the place of the departed ungodly just as before.
What rapturous words are these! And they are applicable to us in this life. Is not this true of prayer and communion with God? Living in communion with Him we shall hear unspeakable words, as the hymn, "In the secret of His Presence" expresses it:
"If I tried, I could not utter
What He says when thus we meet."
Our Paradise now is to have beneath us the Everlasting Arms, and hear His words of love; our Paradise by and by will be the immediate presence of the Lord.
III. Unspeakable Joy. "You rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory" (1 Peter 1:8), or as another version has it, "You exult with a triumphant happiness, too great for words!" There are joys that weaken and impair the soul. Not so this—it is crowned with glory. Who were these happy folk to whom Peter addressed himself? A poor, despised, persecuted folk, many of whom had been robbed of their property for the sake of the Name. They were believers in the Lord Jesus. Joy, therefore, depends not upon what we have, but what we are; not on circumstances, but on Communion with Christ.
Observe, this is not an exhortation, but a statement of fact. He was not urging them to rejoice, but simply stating what had already taken place in their own experience. Evidently this was their normal experience. How far short believers of today seem to come of an experience of this sort!
Now pray note the order of these three "Unspeakables." Unspeakable Gift first, then Words, and finally Joy. Before the experience must come the reception of the gift. The first act of importance is the reception of that gift. Then it is our privilege to commence to walk and talk with God in holy blessed Communion. That will mean the possession of a joy that cannot be described.
THE GLORY AND GREATNESS OF OUR SALVATION. 1 Peter 1:9-12
Salvation. It is quite evident that Peter loved to repeat the word "salvation." See how it slips off his pen in verses 5,9, and 10. Apparently he never thought of it without a thrill. This is brought out in the Moffatt rendering: "And you will thrill with unspeakable and glorious joy to obtain the outcome of your faith in the salvation of your souls." That is to say, the thought of the glory and greatness of our salvation thrilled him with joy, as it most certainly will do so in our experience.
Thrill. Have you ever been thrilled as you have thought of your own personal salvation? Some do not value a thing until they discover others greatly value it. In this study we are to see that our salvation has been, and indeed is, the wonderment of the prophets of the past, and of angels in the past and present.
I. The Description of Salvation. Note the remarkable variety of words and phrases employed here to describe one thing—salvation.
1. Salvation. A great word, pregnant with meaning.
2. Grace. It comes in grace, and it is grace.
3. Glory. What a description of the fruit of grace.
4. Gospel. Great word.
II. The Basis of Salvation. Peter stresses here that the sufferings of Christ form the base or foundation of our salvation. This is the fundamental fact of Christianity. Here you observe that Peter never speaks of the sufferings of Jesus, or of Jesus Christ, but of Christ! He prefers to dwell upon the passion of Christ in its official aspect, and not in its personal sense. Examine the first Epistle and you will be impressed by this fact. He refers to "Jesus Christ" in 1:2,3,7,13;2:5, and so on. In the following Scriptures he refers to Jesus simply as the Christ: 1:11, 19; 2:21; 3:18; 4:1, 13, 14; 5:1. Peter never forgot that the very day he confessed Jesus as Christ, he took His Lord to task for speaking of His suffering and death (Matthew 16:22,23).
The Gospel is not that Jesus died, but that "Christ" died for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3). "Christ" is Jesus' official title, thus the use of that draws attention to the official aspect of His death. He died, not a martyr's death, but the death of a sacrifice. Observe the Gospel is—
1. Not a speculation.
2. Not a mere theology.
3. Not a morality.
4. Not a declaration of principles.
It is a history of fact, of things done on this earth of ours.
III. The Prophecy of Salvation. It was foretold by the prophets (Luke 1:69, 70). Our salvation was the substance of prophecy.
The unity of salvation is disclosed in, the fact that the things which the prophets foretold are spoken of as the same as those "which are now reported unto you by them" (verse 12).
Some of the people to whom Peter wrote this Epistle— particularly the Jews—had a great veneration for the prophets, and would be tremendously impressed by the fact he emphasizes, that they foretold this wondrous salvation now ours. He is great on the theme, as Acts 3:18 proves. Paul also stressed this fact (Acts 26:22, 23). Also note John 8:5,6.
The Gospel unlocks the treasures of the Old Testament. The Old Testament creates an attitude of expectancy, pointing onward, with ever increasing distinctness, to Christ. So much was this so, that the pious souls stood, as it were, on the tip-toe of expectancy when the "fullness of the time had come."
IV. The Investigation of Salvation.
1. The Persons who searched. "The prophets."
2. The Object of their search. "Time," "Salvation."
3. The Manner of their search. "Inquired and searched diligently."
4. The Success of their search. What a sublime disappointment was theirs, as is shown in verse 12. Read Hebrews 11:40.
V. The Angelic Study of Salvation. "Which things the angels desire to look into" (verse 12). "Bend aside to see." This is the literal rendering, indicative of a strained attention to something which has caught your eye, something out of your usual line of sight.
Scripture. 1 Corinthians 4:9; Ephesians 3:10; 1 Timothy 3:16.
Ruskin wrote: "There is a mean curiosity, as of a child opening a forbidden door, or a servant prying into his master's business; and a noble curiosity, questioning, in the front of danger, the source of the great river; a nobler curiosity still, which questions the source of the River of Life, and of the space of the Continent of Heaven, things which the angels desire to look into."
1. The idea in the word, "Look into," is that of eager desire and fixed attention.
2. The outspread wings and bended heads of the brooding Cherubim which sat above the Mercy-seat, gazing down upon the miracle of love that was manifested beneath them there, is here suggested.
Poets. This reference to angelic curiosity has seized the fancy of poets. C. Wesley:
"Ask the Father's Wisdom how
Him that did the means ordain;
Angels round our Altars bow,
To search it out in vain.
"Angels in fixed amazement
Around our Altars hover,
With eager gaze adore the grace
Of our Eternal Lover."
1. "Has the grace come unto you?" (10).
2. Does "the Spirit of Christ" in you "point unto anything?" (11).
3. Do you know the "testifying" of the Holy Spirit" (12).
Subject of Inspiration. The present passage is one of the most striking in the whole of the New Testament regarding the subject of inspiration.
1. Are the prophetic writings, which we now possess, the result of that inquiry?
a. Was their knowledge gained as a result of personal effort? If so, how this rebukes the sluggishness and slothfulness of many. Yet this is not so.
b. Rather, the prophetic writings were the subject of their inquiry, then God gave the knowledge they possessed.
c. They knew they were speaking concerning a salvation but they knew nothing about details.
2. How far were their utterances their own, and how far suggested to them from on High?
The prophets found themselves impelled to say and write words which they were conscious of choosing, and using, but which they felt to have a deeper meaning than they themselves were conscious of intending. This is a notable fact.
GIRDING THE MIND. 1 Peter 1:13-16
Introduction. The modern emphasis on the mind, upon the importance of the thoughts in the realm of good living, is thought to be a new psychological discovery. As a matter of fact it is no new thing at all, so far as the Bible is concerned. For proofs of this note, Genesis 6:5; 8:21; Proverbs 23:7; Philippians 4:8. Here in Peter we are to note the close connection there is between the girding mind and a holy life.
"Wherefore." This wee word at once connects this and our last lesson. The last meditation was on the intense and reverent curiosity of the prophets of old, and even of the angels, too, in the wonderfully devised scheme of redemption. The word "wherefore" gathers up all the wealthy results of the previous study. What effect should the result of our previous study have upon us? A girded mind leading to a holy life.
I. The Girded Mind. "Gird up." Is this an echo of John 21:18? It seems likely. The figure of the passage is taken from the flowing garments of the oriental dress. The flapping robes caught the wind and wrapping about the legs, become serious hindrances to easy and progressive movement. The wearer, therefore, lays hold of the hindering garments, tucking them into a belt which discharges the ministry of a belt.
"A similar disorder may prevail in the realm of thought and affection. Our life may be characterized by mental slovenliness. Our thoughts may trail in loose disorder. How much loose thinking there is concerning Divine things."
Now loose thinking is dangerous. Like the trailing garments, it may trip us up; it might lead us to careless and inconsistent living.
"Brace up" is the 20th Century rendering. The navvy or coal worker tightens the belt to brace himself up for some particular laborious task. So we must "gird up our minds," or "brace up our minds" for the great task before us.
II. The Cool Mind. "Be sober." This is more than an injunction against intemperance. It is a call to serious thought. This is a frivolous, butterfly kind of age. Yet do not confuse gravity with gloom. We have to be grave, yet not sullen. Moffatt's rendering is, "Keep cool." Let sufferers keep their heads when a blow falls, and not make any railing accusation against the Lord. "Let them keep cool." A fevered condition is dangerous.
III. The Controlled Mind. "Exercise the strictest self-control," is the 20th Century rendering. That is really one fruit of girding.
IV. The Obedient Mind. "As obedient children." Obedience in relation, and as one condition, to holiness. We shall return to this subject.
V. The Optimistic Mind. "And hope to the end," or, "Hope perfectly," as in the margin of the R.V. The reference here is not to duration, but to the quality of the Christian hope. Observe:
1. The Object of the Christian Hope. "And hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." "Is being brought" (R.V., margin) ,that is, is already on its way. It is very remarkable language. The light from fixed stars may take centuries to reach us, but is speeding through space all the while. So the grace that is to be revealed when the Lord comes in on its way.
2. The Quality of the Christian Hope. "Hope perfectly" is the margin. Then there are degrees in hope. Hope may be weak at first, but should develop and strengthen by use.
HOLINESS. 1 Peter 1:14-16
Undoubtedly the Apostle Peter had Leviticus 11:44 in mind in speaking as he does on holiness. Yet there is a difference. Guided by the Holy Spirit, he changed the imperative command ("You shall be holy") into a loving appealing exhortation ("Be you holy").
I. The Dislike of Holiness. Dr. Stuart Held writes: "I remember a man who spoke to me, finding fault with something that had been said from the platform because he disagreed with it. He said, 'I do not believe in all this teaching about holiness and Christ conformity. I am quite content to know that I am saved and on my way to Heaven;' and I had to say to him, 'My friend, that is hardly the proper criterion of judgment. You are satisfied to know that you are saved and going to Heaven. But is God satisfied? Is that what Christ died for?' And the man was silent."
Bishop Moule declared: "The fully pardoned must long to be fully holy."
II. The Need of Holiness. Said one concerning a woman for whom he had an admiration, though imperfect knowledge, "She is the salt of the earth!" "Yes," replied one who knew her much better, "Salt! Why, she is mustard and pepper, and the whole cruet!" That is the sad meaning of unlovely goodness. A friend called such folk, "The Lord's acid drops." They have their niche in life, but they are at times a sore trial to others.
III. The Definition of Holiness. In one sense it is undefinable. George Goodman remarks: "No words can describe holiness, for it is known only to those who yield themselves to God." It is well to remember this, and to note that the best definition may be faulty and imperfect. What is holiness? "It is just complete conformity in all things great and small alike, to the Holy Will of God; being at one mind with God in all the judgments of the mind, in all the feelings of the heart, and in all the outgoings of the life, agreeing with God's estimate of things."
Thomas Carlyle stated that "holy," in the German language heilig, also means healthy; our English word "whole," all of one piece, without any hole in it, is the same word. You could not get any better definition of what holy really is than healthy, completely healthy.
"Holiness," says George Goodman, "is to have a conscience clean through the Blood, and a life guided by the Spirit through the Word. It is to have the power of Christ resting upon you, and to be glad in the freedom He gives."
IV. The Condition of Holiness. This is pointed out in 1 Peter 1:14 as obedience—obedience to all known commands and desires of our Lord. Obedience to Him always leads to the Blood (1 John 1:7).
V. The Pattern of Holiness. "As He" (1 Peter 1:15). Our Gracious God, and our Lord Jesus Christ, are our true Pattern.
VI. The Imperative of Holiness. "You shall be" (Leviticus 11:44). Law, in his "Serious Call," says, "We may choose a married life or a single life, but it is not left to our choice whether we will make either a state of holiness, humility, devotion, and all other duties of the Christian life. It is our duty to devote ourselves to God in these states."
VII. The Field of Holiness. Holiness in "conversation" (1 Peter 1:15); or conduct (M); or behavior (R.); holiness even in trifles. One has said: "Whoever has not a Christianity that sanctifies the trifles, has a Christianity that will not sanctify the crises of life."
VIII. The Possibility of Holiness. The very fact that God here in His Holy Word, urges us to Holiness should be quite sufficient to settle the possibility of holiness. Yet, for your help, note that holiness is wrapped up in Christ. "Christ for us is all our peace before a Holy God; and Christ in us is all our strength in an unholy world." "Holiness is both a gift and a process." It is a good gift from God in Christ; it is also a process to be worked out in daily life.
"PASS YOUR TIME IN REVERENCE." 1 Peter 1:17-21
This is one of several surprising statements in this section. Further, there are in these verses several extraordinary conjunctions of terms. Fear! I thought the believer was delivered through grace from fear.
But what is meant by fear? It does not mean terror or dread. We are not to pass the time of our mortality in paralyzing dread, or to go through life cringing like slaves. Both Rotherham and 20th Century New Testament give "reverence" for "fear." "Fear" here really means a wholesome awe, a fear which grows out of love, a fear lest we should grieve One so abundant in mercy.
There is a lamentable lack of reverence among the Lord's people. There is a call for more reverence in thought, prayer, and walk. We should cultivate a reverential fear. How? Well, the rest of the verses will show. It all lies in remembrance. We are to remind ourselves of three facts.
I. The Character of the Author of Redemption. "If you call on Him as Father," is the R.V. "Call," let that word arrest you. It means more than sending a wireless telegram to the Most High, brief, though commendably to the point. It means a long telephone call; yes, more, it surely is a long personal interview face to face, though at present we see Him not. He is always "At Home." "Call" means to wait on Him. Remember He "called" upon you first. Return that "call."
Another point. "Father," "Judge." What a surprising conjunction of opposites. Is God both? Truly. But what an amazing union of opposites. "Instead of the friendliness of the fireside, we have the awfulness of the throne; instead of the hearthstone, we have the Great White Throne." Some think all of the Father and forget the Judge; and some conceive of Him only as Judge and forget He is Father also. Do not let filial confidence drive out legitimate fear. Holy sovereignty must be an element in our conception of the Fatherhood of God.
Yet, let us ever keep in mind that our loving Heavenly Father is also the august Judge of all the earth, that His Throne is not only of grace, but of impartial justice. "Who without respect of persons judges." Such remembrance will generate reverence and annihilate undue and unfitting familiarity. Yes, the Author of Redemption is the Father-Judge. Never for one moment forget this.
II. The Cost of Redemption. "Forasmuch as you know" (1:18). Know what? Why, that we have no cheap redemption. It cost all that God had—His Beloved Son. Oh, let us ever move with breathless steps amidst the mysteries of redemption. Have you ever been gripped by that verse in Psalm 130: "There is forgiveness with You that You may be feared." Feared? Should it not be loved? Ah, no. When we realize the awful cost of redemption we fear Him with a fear that fears to sin against Him. A cheap redemption might have made us easy, but it would never have made us good. A cheap forgiveness would only have confirmed the sin it forgave. When we fully realize the cost of redemption we will seek to have done with sin.
III. The Purpose of Redemption. It is helpful to note the various renderings which bring out the purpose of redemption here disclosed.
1. "From your vain conversation" (A.V.).
2. "From your aimless life in which you were brought up" (20th C).
3. "From your frivolous habits of life" (W.).
4. "From your vain behavior" (R.).
PURITY. 1 Peter 1:22
What fullness of teaching and of truth we have in this first chapter of Peter. Consequently, in our study we are making slow but steady progress. There are two subjects before us in this verse: Purity and Love. We deal with purity in this study. The key words are "in," "through."
I. The Need of Purity. This is purity of the soul and of life that Peter recommends, actual and not merely ceremonial purity. It is personal purity.
II. The Means of Purity. "In" obeying the Truth. Moffat spells truth with a capital "T.," thus suggesting that He who is the Truth is meant here. Certainly in obeying His Word we are obeying Him.
III. The Bestower of Purity. "Through the Spirit." The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Purity, and the source of Purity.
IV. The Issue of Purity. "Unto sincere love of the brethren."
LOVE OF THE BRETHREN. 1 Peter 1:22
There are eleven Commandments—the ten given by God through Moses, and the eleventh, the New Commandment given by the Lord Jesus: "That you love one another as I have loved you." We love the Lord Whom we have not seen (1:8); we must love our brethren whom we have seen and do see. The latter is indeed the test of the former (1 John 4:20).
I. Its Nature. Now love is more than courtesy, attachment, or affability. It means self-denial, self-giving; it means that we shall check the hasty word, the unkind speech, the damaging criticism. It is a fair and exquisite flower. The flower of love Peter has in mind is a tender exotic. There is a coarser kind more easily grown, common to all, irrespective of creed or belief. But this is a tender plant, yet, oh, so much needed in this weary world!
II. Its Reason. "Being born again." Love possessed, enjoyed, and lived out, is an evidence of the New Birth and a result of the New Birth.
III. Its Soul and Atmosphere. Purity of heart and life is here pointed out as the soul and atmosphere of true love. There is such a thing as impure love. Moffatt renders it "purified your souls for a brotherly love." "From a pure heart fervently" is R.V. and W. "For cherishing sincere brotherly love."
IV. Its Cultivation. "See to it that you love one another," etc. The mode of its growth is the Word of God loved and indwelling. Love is knowledge of the Word set on fire. The cause of its growth—the maintenance of purity within.
V. Its Guardianship. "See that you love," etc. We are in charge of that tender exotic. We are its guardians.
VI. Its Quality.
1. Brotherly Love. "Love of the brethren" (22).
2. Sincere Love. That is to say, no mere pretense at loving. Often we are tempted to profess more than we feel.
3. Steady Love. Moffatt's rendering: "Love one another heartily and steadily." A love that is steady, whatever its testing or trial.
4. Fervent Love. Not a cold love. "Heartily and fervently" is the W. version.
THE WORD OF GOD. 1 Peter 1:23-25; 2:1,2
Why we Should Love. The Apostle Peter introduces the subject of the New Birth as an additional reason why we should love one another. Through the New Birth we have become members of a new family, sharing one life, and for this reason we ought to love.
The New Birth. In referring to the New Birth he made two great statements. The first is, how this great change called the New Birth was brought about. In so doing he magnifies the Word of God. That is the principal theme in these verses. Yet we must look at the subject of the New Birth in passing.
Is it God or the Word that Lives and Abides forever? The A.V. states that it is the Word. The R.V. and R. teach it is God. The Word of God Who lives, etc., is R.V. margin. "Through means of the Word of a living and abiding God," is R., Moffatt reads, "By the living, lasting Word of God."
The fact is, you cannot divide the two without great loss. What can we know of God but for His Word? God speaks to us through His Word. Neglect the Bible and your spiritual life will suffer. Note:
1. "All flesh is as grass." Men and women pass away as the successive crops in the meadows.
2. "The glory of man." The very elite, like the flowers of the earth, share the fate of the humble blades of grass.
I. Its Might Like a Hammer (Jeremiah 23:29).
1. The Might of the Word of God. Smashing hard hearts.
2. The Usefulness of the Word of God. How useful in daily life is a hammer.
II. Its Usefulness and Warmth like a Fire. This simile is also found in Jeremiah 23:29, and conveys three thoughts:
1. Its Destructiveness. Fire destroys the consumable and inflammable. The Word of God as fire burns up our tinsel and dross—the wood, hay, and stubble in our lives.
2. Its Warmth. What a comfort is a fire on a cold stormy night. What a comfort is the Word of God when conscious of the coldness of the world, and in times of sorrow and darkness.
3. Its Protection. In wild regions travelers find a fire at night a wonderful protection from the wild and ravenous beasts.
III. Its Fruitfulness likened to Seed.
1. Verse 23 answers the question: How to be born anew. It was through the Word of God there was given to us the seed of a regenerated life.
2. The best seed that the world knows of is corruptible, but this is incorruptible.
3. "Through the Word of God" is R.V.
4. Here we have the fruitfulness the Word of God brings into barren and unfruitful lives.
IV. Its Sustenance likened to Milk.
1. Here we are told how to grow (2:1,2).
2. "So off with all malice" is M. rendering. For "deceit," F.F. gives "deceit;" and for "malice," F.F. gives "vice."
3. "As new born babes." The metaphor is a very touching one. The world is but the nursery in which the heirs of God are spending the first lisping years of their existence.
4. "As new born babes desire," or as R.V., "long," or M. "thirst."
CHRIST, THE LIVING STONE. 1 Peter 2:4-8
Was Peter, when he wrote these words, thinking of what the Lord Jesus said to him, long, long ago, up there at Caesarea Philippi? (Matthew 16:17, 18; John 1:42). It seems likely. Peter is an old man now. He vividly remembers the past, and here is one echo of his thoughts.
Jacob was the first to think of the Lord as a Stone (Genesis 49:24), to be followed by Moses, David, and others
Peter piles up his metaphors in rich profusion—babes, stones, priests, etc. In the Old Testament the Lord is likened to a Stone, or a Rock. But the New Testament goes further—a Living Stone. Though in nature a living stone is unknown, in the spiritual world it is a fact.
Christ, the Living Stone—
I. In His Essential Characteristics.
1. Everlastingness. Rock of Ages—exactly. Rocks and stones seem everlasting. He is the everlasting One.
2. Invincible Strength. How strong stones seem.
3. Ability to Uphold. He upholds the whole weight of the glory of God. The salvation of His people rests upon Him and is safe, solid, and enduring. He is also the foundation stone on which we build.
4. Combination of Opposites. Two ideas, opposite in themselves, are joined in this title "Living Stone," showing how wonderfully all combine in the Lord Jesus.
a. Life and death.
b. Warmth and immobility.
c. Sternness and gentleness.
d. Meekness and anger.
II. In God's Estimation and Man's. There is a tradition that during the erection of Solomon's Temple, a stone was brought up by the straining oxen which refused to fit into any of the rising walls. It was cast aside, soon forgotten, and covered by weeds. At last, as the building neared completion, it was found that a stone of special form would be required to knit the walls and fill a particular corner. The need suggested the forgotten and rejected bit of masonry, which fitted perfectly. Does not this remind us of Psalm 118:22, quoted by our Lord Himself?
Note the rendering:
1. "Rejected indeed by men as worthless" (W.).
2. "But chosen of God and precious" (A.V.), or as F.F., "Distinguished in the Presence of God."
Man's unbelief and lack of appreciation does not depreciate His value (verse 7).
III. In His Blessed Ministry to Man.
1. Draws Us by His Love. In the old mythological fancy the stones of Thebes were drawn by the Lyre of Amphion. We do know that the living stones now being built into a spiritual temple—redeemed men and women— have been drawn to the Lord Jesus by the attractive force and power of His love. This Precious Stone attracts men and women to Himself.
2. Communicates His Own Marvelous Characteristics. Coming to Him, we become what He is Himself. A combination of opposites, in blessed harmony. We, who spiritually are as dead as stones, become living stories.
3. Unites the Separate Units into One House or Dwelling for God. He is the "Comer Stone" binding the separate units into one. What wonderful unity among people is the result of union with Christ!
4. Provides Essentials:
a. A place of safety in danger.
b. A sure foundation for building character and hopes.
c. A safe foothold for wrestling with the powers of evil. For, as Psalm 40 shows, He not only lifts us out of the pit, but "sets my feet upon a rock."
A PECULIAR PEOPLE. 1 Peter 2:9-12
"But." Peter turns from a contemplation of the fate of rejecters of Christ with evident relief to a happier and more pleasant subject. He contrasts the blessed position of the Lord's people with the sad position of the worldly and unsaved people. Yes, more, he contrasts the Church's present glory with the forfeited glory of Israel.
"You." The pronoun "you" is very emphatic. He is drawing a contrast between the disobedient and unbelieving, Jews and Christian people.
I. Our Past. What we Once Were (10).
1. "Not a people."
2. "Had not obtained mercy." "Unpitied" in M.
II. Our Present. What we Are (9).
1. Elect Race (R.V.). "Select Race" (F.F.). The Jews certainly were God's elect nation. During the present period of their rejection, the Christian Church has been summoned to the glorious work of becoming the channel for the Divine blessing to mankind. They have become a "chosen generation."
2. A Royal Priesthood. "A spiritual house" (5) were they. Those who were once but as the rubble on the hill sides, are not only constituted part of the spiritual fabric, but by a rapid change in the thought, they are represented as performing priestly functions, "a holy priesthood." The reference is undoubtedly to Exodus 19:6 (when the Chaldee renders "kings, priests"), a character and an office one of the Jewish commentators says will return to the Jews in time to come. In the meantime, it has come to the Church.
"A Royal Priesthood," with the
a. "Power of kings," over sin and Satan.
b. "Riches of kings." "Unsearchable riches of Christ."
c. Apparel of kings. The Robe of Christ.
d. Fare of kings. Sitting at the King's table, feeding on royal dainties.
e. Retinue of kings. Angels being our servants and life-guard.
A priestly people, with direct access to God, and also representing God to man. These two offices were jealously kept apart in Israel. In Christ they blend (Zechariah 6:13).
3. A Holy Nation.
4. A Peculiar People. This word rendered "peculiar" is a difficult word to translate. Authorities say that it was a word in ancient time for the slaves who were allowed to earn and retain their earnings. There are great differences in the Lord's people to people of the world. For "peculiar," M. gives, "the people who belong to Him." Surely in this word we have an echo of Exodus 19:5. Our gracious God bears towards His people—
a. A peculiar love. Bestowed.
b. Peculiar blessing. Takes.
c. Peculiar care of them; and makes them
d. His peculiar treasure. The Hebrew word rendered "jewels" in Malachi 3:17, has the same significance as the Greek word rendered "peculiar." The Lord's people are the Lord's "jewels," the Lord's treasure.
III. Our Duty. What we Should Be (11,12).
1. An affectionate title: "Dearly beloved."
2. And an affectionate entreaty: "I beseech you."
3. Note the suggestive title: Pilgrims. Observe the order: not pilgrims and strangers, but "strangers and pilgrims." That is to say, pilgrims because, through grace, we have become strangers to the world and worldly things.
4. "Which war against the soul," or, "which take the field against the soul."
IV. Our Mission. What we should Do (9).
1. Instead of "a peculiar people," F.F. gives "A people for action." Here we have a hint as to service.
2. Our mission is to show forth His praises. How may we show forth His praises?
a. By Proclamation. "That you may proclaim the wondrous deeds" is M. rendering of verse 9. We must publish abroad His praises.
b. By Testimony. "Show forth His praises." We must testify to His wondrous grace.
c. By Life. Showing forth in our lives His virtues, or His excellencies.
THE MINISTRY OF SEEMLY BEHAVIOR. 1 Peter 2:11-25
Introduction. The late Dr. Jowett saw in these verses "an appeal for the evangelizing influences of a chaste and winsome character. A glorification of the silent witness of saintliness."
We may not all be called to the ministry of the pulpit or platform, yet we may all exercise the ministry of seemly behavior. "Every man may be an ambassador of life discharging his office through the medium of holiness."
It is instructive to note how literally these precepts were obeyed. Tertullian contrasts the behavior of the early Christians with the heathen. It was then stated that the holy example of the primitive Churches was one of the principal causes of the conversion to Christianity of the old pagan Roman Empire.
Peter points out that Christ's death was more than an example. Verse 24 was written as well as verse 21. Why did He die?
1. That we might live? Yes.
2. That we might be healed? Yes.
3. That we might break with sin? Verses 22 and 24. "By His stripes." "By His weals." Slaves then knew the meaning, by bitter experience, of stripes and weals. He bore the cruel punishment in our stead. Those stripes were both the price of our redemption, the evidence of our purchase, and the sign-manual of pardon.
Peter and Paul on Death of Christ. Have you ever noticed that, while Peter and Paul both make the Cross of Christ the center of their teaching, Paul speaks more about His death, while Peter speaks more of His sufferings. The reason is that in Peter we have the eye-witness of a loving Friend's sufferings, which led him to dwell upon the accompaniments of His death. (Study this in connection, 1:2, 19; 1:11; 2:21; 3:18; 4:1, 13; 5:1.)
I. Our Duty as Individuals (11, 12).
"Abstain." A new kind of abstinence to that which we are usually familiar.
"As." Confess that you are pilgrims by and in your life as well as by speech.
"Having your Conversation." A perfect man is one who offends not in tongue.
II. Our Duty to the State (13-17). It was a favorite charge against the early Christians that they were plotting the overthrow of the Empire, and the dethronement of Caesar, in favor of "One, Jesus." Their private meetings were supposed to be convened for unlawful political purposes.
It was, therefore, necessary that men's minds should be disabused of the impression that any violence was contemplated. Peter, therefore, exhorts them to conform, as far as they were able, to the demands and usages of the people among whom they sojourned. For the Christian man is one who recognizes the necessity of social order. Note how wise were the words of exhortation given by the Apostle.
1. "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man"— "any human authority" (M.), "every authority set up by man" (W.), "for the Lord's sake."
2. Here is "the will of God" revealed. "Put to silence" is literally, "muzzled as a dog."
a. All men to be honored. How many are obedient to this command? Are not our eyes too often upon the dress or incidental trappings rather than upon the man himself?
b. The Christian brotherhood to be loved. Love is not sentiment, but self-sacrifice.
c. God to be reverenced. (See M.).
d. The earthly king to be honored and respected.
III. Our Duty to our Employers (18-25). Remembering that "servants" meant mostly "slaves," the exhortation is most touching and forceful. "This is thankworthy" (19), is in 20th Century. "This is a beautiful thing." "Live like free men" is M. for "as free" (16). "The froward," mentioned in verse 18 describes, as otherwise rendered, "surly," "unreasonable" (W.), "unfair" (20th C.), or "perverse" (F.F.) masters. "With all fear" (18) is in M. "with perfect respect."
THE IDEAL WIFE AND HUSBAND. 1 Peter 3:1-13
In the passage before us the Apostle delineates some of the characteristics of the ideal wife and husband. As Christians we not only have to show our Christian faith by Christian actions toward king, country, and neighbors, but in our own homes. In speaking to wives and husbands Peter was qualified by experience. Remember the problems then confronting them because of—
1. Woman's emancipation through the Gospel.
2. The common human tendency to rush to extremes.
3. Many of the wives who had become followers of the Lord Jesus wondered if they ought not to leave their heathen husbands. Observe, "That your prayers be not hindered" (verse 7).
I. Concerning Wives (1-6). Elements in true feminine adornment—
1. Loyalty to "own husbands" (1). The emphasis on "own husbands" is impressive.
2. Subjection (1). "Be in subjection." A wise woman knows her rightful place.
3. Robe of Purity in conversation and behavior (2). "When they see how chaste and reverent you are," is M. rendering of verse 2.
4. "Hidden Character Right" (R.) (4). "The hidden man" means the hidden character.
5. Gentle. "With the immortal beauty of a gentle and modest spirit" is M. rendering of verse 4.
6. Modest. As M.
7. Respectful (5, 6).
8. Fearlessness (6). "Are not afraid with any amazement" is in M. "Yield to no passion," or as R.V., "Not put in fear by any terror."
The rendering of verse 3 in the 20th C. New Testament is very fine. "A woman's attractions should not depend upon such external things as the arrangement of her hair, the jewelry she wears, or the style of her dress; but upon the inner life—the imperishable beauty of a quiet and gentle spirit, for this is very precious in God's sight." This, certainly, was how the holy women of old made themselves attractive.
II. Concerning Husbands (7). Husbands are to be—
1. Considerate. "You husbands must be considerate" is M.
2. Intelligent. "According to knowledge." Suggests the need of intelligence, of being well-informed.
3. Respectful. "Give honor unto the wife," or paying homage, that is, bowing down in the spirit in the posture of serious and religious regard. Why? For two reasons:
1st. They are the weaker vessels.
2nd. We are "heirs together."
III. Concerning Each Other (8-13).
1. To Fellow-Christians there should be
a. Oneness of mind (8).
b. Compassion (8).
c. Love (8).
2. To the Weak and Erring. "Be pitiful," that is, tenderhearted (8).
3. To Equals. Be courteous (8, 9).
4. To Enemies. Do not retaliate (13).
THE BEHAVIOR OF THE PERSECUTED. 1 Peter 3:13-17
Verse 15 is a quotation from the Prophet Isaiah (8:13), with some very significant variations. Isaiah was in danger through faithful preaching, whereupon the Lord sends, or rather gives him, a reassuring message. This Peter quotes, substituting, without any explanation or vindication as if it was a matter of course, the name of Christ in place of Jehovah of the Old Testament. Remembering the reverence the Jews had for the Scriptures, their intense monotheism and dread of putting any creature in place of God, something of the significance of this act will grip you.
Another difference. The Lord is the Sanctuary in Isaiah, whereas in Peter we are the sanctuaries. These are important points.
The Persecuted. Peter is still concerned over the persecuted ones. Persecution brings suffering. In all Paul's Epistles the word "Suffer" occurs but seven times, and never twice in the same Epistle, whereas it comes twelve times in one short letter of the Apostle Peter. Don't forget to connect verse 12 with verse 13. The lesson is: If God's eye is upon you, who shall harm you?
The Safety of Zeal (13). It may seem a strange sentence, yet it is most certainly true, that our safety depends upon ourselves, as well as upon the Lord. Note the importance of the little word "if." "And who is he who will harm you if"- "if" what? "If you be zealous of that which is good" (R.V. and R.). Moffatt reads, "All who will wrong you if you have a passion for goodness." It could be rendered, "If you make yourselves zealous." Our Lord Jesus was clad with zeal as with a cloak (Isaiah 59:17). And so should His followers be donned. The idea of zeal as a cloak is suggestive. A cloak is (1) a protection from the weather, so we are partly secure in our own enthusiasm. (2) a cloak is seemly and becoming. Not to be zealous for the Lord and His cause is very unseemly and unfitting of us.
SANCTIFYING THE LORD. 1 Peter 3:11-17
A Heart Religion. Note the emphasis here upon a heart religion. This is something that has to take place in the hearts of God's people. "Reverence Christ as Lord in your own hearts" (M.). "In your hearts consecrate Christ as Lord" (W.). "But love the Lord Christ in your hearts" (F.F.).
Man a Shrine. The heart of a Christian man or woman is a shrine. It is a place of worship. There is a large congregation there, consisting of wishes, motives, ambitions, desires, likes, unlikes, passions, wishes, longings. And Christ also is there. He ought to be chief, the One in command. He first comes as Guest, but ought to become supreme Master—Lord, in every sense of that word. This should be our deliberate act—place the Guest on the throne of our being, ask the Passenger to mount the bridge and take command of the vessel. Ask our Companion to take supreme command
I. What it Means to Sanctify Christ.
1. Set Him Apart from the Common and Ordinary to Special Use. To sanctify in the Bible means to "set apart," and in consequence to view in a different light, ceasing to use or treat as formerly. What is the common use made of our Lord? A Fire Escape. We first begin to think of Him as Savior from sin and the wrath to come. He is a Fire Escape. But He is much more. He should become everything to us. Thank God that He has saved you from Hell, but also find out what He has saved you to! If a believer, He is already in your heart as Christ. Now make Him your Lord, Master, Sovereign.
2. Worship. To sanctify the Christ in your heart as Lord means that you do set Him on the pedestal and pinnacle of your being, and that you bow down before Him with adoring love and wonder, and with reverence and submission, worshiping Him.
3. Hallow. Sanctify is the same word in the Lord's Prayer rendered "hallowed be Your Name." We sanctify or hallow One who is holy already, when we recognize that holiness, and honor in speech, thought and act, what we recognize. It means to hallow Him by lip, thought, and service.
II. What will be the Result of such an Act on our Part?
1. A Good Conscience (16). What a blessing. A conscience void of offence toward God and man.
2. Purity (16). Purity of heart and thought and life, so patent to our persecutors, "they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation (or life) in Christ."
3. Fearlessness and Calmness (14). "Be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled." When Christ is Master within our hearts, He calms and steadies, and gives us calmness and courage.
4. Mental Alertness (15). "And be ready" of the A.V. is in R.V. "Being ready," that is to say, mental alertness follows the setting apart of Christ as Lord. Mental sloth and inability to grasp spiritual things is a malady only too prevalent, and one which would largely disappear if Christ was made Lord of our being.
5. Gentleness. Being ready always to "answer gently and with reverence" is the M. rendering. Another wonderful and impressive result of sanctifying Christ as Lord.
THE SPIRITS IN PRISON. 1 Peter 3:18-22
What a problem this section is! Regarding it, the late Dr. Jowett wrote: "The concluding passage of this great chapter is like a landscape in the uncertain light of the early mom. Here and there the black shadows still linger and prolong the night. The hollows are filled with mist. A prevailing dimness possesses the scene. From only a few things has the veil dropped, and their lineaments are seen in suggestive outline. On the whole, we are dealing with obscure hints, with partial unveilings, which awaken wonder rather than convey enlightenment." Three separate views of this subject of preaching to the spirits in prison are held, two of which we reject.
I. A Probation After Death. After His death our Lord descended into Hell to preach the Gospel. Some think this probation is only for those who have never heard the Gospel of Christ. Oh, the folly of building such an idea and hope on one solitary vague Scripture. This Scripture does not say there is a probation after death. Our probationary period is now, in life.
II. Jesus Went to the Angels, the Fallen Angels, in prison, to proclaim His triumph on the Cross. There is more in these verses to support this view than the first idea we have noticed. For the word rendered "spirits" by itself, without any qualifying description, is used always of supernatural beings, higher than man, and yet lower than God.
By comparing certain passages, such as 2 Peter 2:4-9; 1 Timothy 3:16; Jude, verses 6 and 7, we learn that prior to the Flood, certain angelic beings sinned. But note this, the word translated "preached" is never used in connection with the preaching of the Gospel. R. renders it "proclaim" or "herald." If we accept this view, then what the passage simply states is that the triumphant completion of Christ's death on the Cross was made known to Hell as well as Heaven. We are not told that any repented, or even could repent.
III. A Preaching which Took Place in the Days of Noah, by Noah Himself. The late Dr. Pierson, who was very level-headed, declared: "These Scriptures do not refer at all to His (Our Lord Jesus) own preaching to them after His death, but in the person of Noah by the Holy Spirit who guided Noah as a preacher of Christ." Noah was a preacher. He preached, for the Lord, by the aid of the Holy Spirit. "By which (Spirit) He went and preached (through Noah) to the spirits (now) in prison" (C.H.M.).
Do not let this problem of the "spirits in prison" crowd out the main idea of the verses. Peter is comparing the sufferings of our Lord with the sufferings of His persecuted followers. Are you suffering? Take heart, you are not exceptional. Even our Master was not exempt from suffering, and suffering need not hinder our usefulness.
1. "Once suffered" (18). This overthrows the idea behind the sacrifice of the Mass, of repeated sacrifices.
2. "For." That preposition contains a whole volume of theology. It announces the substitutionary aspect of the death of Christ.
3. "Bring us to God." "Introduces us to God" is the R. rendering.
ARMED. 1 Peter 4:1-6
Armed with a mighty thought in order that the life might be dominated by the Will of the Spirit of God.
Introduction. There are several arresting phrases in this section.
1. "Arm yourselves" (4:1). "Nerve you" (M.). This is a picturesque metaphor. Life is a battle, a campaign. We must arm ourselves! What with? A thought! And a thought about the death of Christ and its implications and applications.
2. "Cease from Sin" (4:1). "Gets quit of sin" (M.). "Ceased unto sins" (R.V., margin). "Is at rest from sin" (W., margin). What a glorious message we have here!
3. Note the Two Wills. The Will of God (4:2) versus the Will of the Gentiles (4:3).
4. Note the Two "Think it Strange" (4:4, 12). They were not only astonished, but also persecuted.
I. Reign of the Flesh. "Appetites " (3).
1. There is no harm in any natural appetite, considered in itself. Appetites have been given for the preservation of the race, and for our physical well-being.
2. But our appetites have been spoiled by the Fall. They have been disturbed by sin, so that they do not work as God intended. As the late Dr. F. B. Meyer wrote: "When man fell, appetite broke from the grasp of the will, and began to seek often its own gratification, irrespective of those necessary uses and legitimate bonds which had been assigned by God's love and wisdom."
3. These appetites, these habits, have been strengthened by generations of evil living.
4. Now, here is the problem: These appetites must not be eradicated. This must not be, else the race would perish. Instead, they must be cleansed, sanctified, controlled. Is this possible?
5. The sins in the appalling list given in verses 3 are, most closely connected with the flesh, literal flesh.
II. The Reign of the Spirit. How is verse 2 possible? This is the very purpose of the Gospel (6). And how can this be brought about? Arm yourselves with a thought. Thus we see the effect of mind upon character.
Someone has remarked: "Christian morality brought two new things into the world—a new type of life in sharp contrast with the sensuality rife on every side, and a new set of motives, powerfully aiding in its realization. Both these novelties are presented in this passage."
What Thought? We are to arm ourselves with a thought. What thought? 1st, That suffering in the flesh is not, as the world counts it, an unmixed evil, but often a deep blessing. 2nd, That Christ's sufferings during life were because of the fact that "His life was dominated by a supreme thought; it was controlled by an all-commanding purpose. He rejected the sovereignty of the flesh; He subordinated the temporal! He uncrowned the body, making it a common subject, and compelling it to obeisance to high commands." 3rd, The thought of the Cross of Christ. Drink in the meaning of Christ's death. "The pious contemplation of His death will most powerfully kill the love of sin in the soul, and kindle an ardent hatred of it." 4th, The thought of my death in Christ, of my identification with His death. Drink in the spirit of Christ's death until it be repeated in you. Dead men do not sin. We are viewed in the Mind and Purpose of God as having died with Christ in His death, and raised in His resurrection. We must regard ourselves as having passed out of this life in which flesh and sense reign supreme.
HELPS TO THE PRAYER LIFE. 1 Peter 4:7
Introduction. To those who read the signs of the times, two movements are noticed with delight. First, a general expectancy of the Lord's Coming. Second, a general revival of prayer. Is there any connection between the two? Yes. The latter is the result of the former. Read 1 Peter 4:7.
The subject of prayer is one of great importance. Prayer is the first evidence of the new life; (Behold he prays, Acts 9:11) an elementary condition of the fullness of the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:21-22). One of the first conditions for the hearing of God's Voice is shutting the door (Matthew 6:6 exemplified in John 20:19-23), and for success in Christian work, see what followed Elisha's shutting of the door (2 Kings 4:33, etc.).
Of course we must work as well as pray.
1. A ship was overtaken by a storm. The tumult of the wind and the waves was rendered more fearful by the flashes of lightning and the roar of thunder. The captain issued orders, and all but one man ran to their several posts of duty. This one, overcome with terror, fell upon his knees" on the deck, and prayed for mercy and deliverance. Seeing the man on his knees, he ran at him, shook him by the collar, crying, "Say your prayers in fair weather."
I. Self-Control. "Exercise self-restraint and watchfulness, to help you to pray" (20th C). "Therefore, sober-minded and temperate, so that you may give yourselves to prayer" (W.). Let there be a noble self-restraint in respect to every lawful appetite.
II. Sobriety of Thought. "Steady then, keep cool and pray," is the Moffatt rendering of verse 7. The thought of the nearness of the Lord's Coming should not lead to excitement and neglect of common duties, but to sobriety of thought.
R. gives "of sound mind" instead of sober. This is suggestive of health—a healthy mind. Life is to be chastened by reasonableness and sanity. We must avoid panic and giddiness.
III. Alertness. "Watch unto prayer." Note the association elsewhere of alertness and Lord's Coming (Matthew 24:44; 25:13), and also prayer (Matthew 26:41; Ephesians 6:18; Colossians 4:2).
LOVE. 1 Peter 4:8-11
Peter's Lesson. We are not surprised to find the Apostle Peter insisting so strenuously on love. Could he ever forget the interview the Lord had with him when the Master thrice reminded him that the supreme qualification for ministry was love.
The agreement of the Three. In giving pre-eminence to love as the greatest of Christian virtues, Peter is in perfect harmony with both Paul and John. It is of special interest in this connection to remember the different natures of these three men, and to observe their agreement in this emphasis. Paul was a theologian; Peter a zealot; John the mystic. Yet all are agreed, as is evident by their writings, that love is the distinguishing virtue of Christianity.
The Quality of Love.
1. Peter assumes that the charity is there, but insists on the quality.
2. It must be fervent:
a. At boiling point.
b. A love that is warm, ardent.
c. "He did not so much suggest a love that is ardent as a love that is tense. The very word tense is almost the original word" (Jowett).
3. A love that will show itself in many practical ways.
I. Love Covers. "Love throws a veil over a multitude of faults" (W., 8).
1. This is a quotation from Proverbs 10:12.
2. Have you ever connected Proverbs 28:13 with this statement in Peter?
3. There is a covering of sin which is allowable, if the sin be another's, and not my own.
4. Love forgets as well as forgives.
5. Love does not keep hinting at past failures and past revolts. Love is willing to hide them in a nameless grave.
6. Few of us are without faults.
II. Love Gives (9).
What? Many things, but hospitality is here referred to. How? Without "grudging" or "murmuring" (R.V.).
1. Most of the early Christians were very poor, and living in what we would call hovels. Yet they were exhorted to be hospitable.
2. The need then of hospitality is clearly seen.
a. Those who had lost homes for Christ's sake.
b. Those who were pilgrim preachers away from their own homes.
III. Love Ministers (10).
1. For "gift" M. gives "talent."
2. "Manifold." "Many colored" was Sir Arthur Blackwood's translation.
a. He did not merely mean by manifold, "many."
b. "Varied" (M.). Variegated, many colored, Not a question of quantity, but quality.
3. "Let every man bring his color, and let all the world see how variegated in charm and love is the total grace or gift of God."
4. "Every man holds his own color of grace as a steward."
5. Shades of color only look well in the whole.
6. Other variegated mercies are as follows:
a. Wisdom (Ephesians 3:10).
b. Mercies (Nehemiah 9:19, 20).
c. Works (Psalm 104:24). d. Grace (Ephesians 3:7).
e. Talents (1 Peter 4:10).
7. "Received." Then we must not take any credit.
IV. Love Dogmatizes (11). "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God." Or, as M., "preach as one who utters the Words of God;" or W., "as uttering God's truth."
Love speaks with no uncertain sound. For love speaks with authority. There is also in this phrase the thought of speaking in the Holy Spirit as the oracles of God were written.
V. Love Glorifies. The master-passion of love is that the loved one—the Lord—should be glorified. "That God in all things may be glorified."
INSTRUCTIONS FOR SUFFERING ONES. 1 Peter 4:12-19
The Great Salvation.
As already pointed out, Peter wrote his Epistle particularly to comfort sufferers. This is a precious section. Let us summarize. His advice to suffering saints is—
I. Don't be Surprised (12). Note the depth of his sympathy as expressed in "Beloved." "Do not be surprised at the ordeal that has come to test you, as though some foreign experience befall you. You are sharing what Christ suffered" (M.). Once Peter thought differently. (Study Matthew 16:21-23). Now he thinks it strange that he or anyone could have imagined anything else.
To save you from thinking "it strange" that you should be called to pass through fiery trials, remember:
1. What you are. You are a child of God at enmity with Satan and opposed to the world.
2. Where you are. You are passing through enemy territory. You are traveling through what rightly could be called "Emmanuel's Land," but the enemy has invaded and captured it, and has become "the God of this World."
3. Your Destiny. You are marching through enemy territory to "fairer worlds on high." No wonder you are assailed and persecuted.
Observe, "Fiery trial." W. renders it "The scorching flame of persecution." Fire:
a. Tests character.
b. Purifies lives.
c. Unites believers.
d. Introduces to a holy and blessed companionship (See Daniel 3:25).
II. Be Sure and Rejoice (13). Why? You are sharing suffering with the Lord. He suffers with you. You will, in consequence, share in His triumph. "You may be glad also with triumphant gladness" (W.).
III. You are to be Envied (14). "If you be reproached for the Name of Christ you are to be envied." (W.). Why? Several reasons may be given, but Peter gives one—a special gift of the Holy Spirit is bestowed upon sufferers. "Spirit of God Himself rests upon you" (M.).
IV. Yet be on your Guard (15, 16). Take great care that you yourself, by misconduct, do not bring suffering down on your head.
V. Be Assured that He will Avenge You (17, 18). Does not He say elsewhere, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord?"
VI. Let there be a Definite Commitment on your Part (19). "According to the will of God" is in 20th C. "Because God wills it, commit your lives."
Commit! Had Peter Jesus' dying commitment in mind? (Luke 23:46). It seems likely. The Lord Jesus did this in the hour of His greatest suffering.
"Saved with Difficulty" is 20th C. rendering for "scarcely be saved."
QUALIFICATIONS FOR SERVICE. 1 Peter 5:1-7
Verses 5 to 7 form a suggestive grouping of helpful and important thoughts on Christian Service. Observe some interesting facts:
1. The simplicity of the constitution of the primitive Church showed in the simile "Flock of God."
2. Word "Feed." "Tend" in the R.V. means more than caring. It means defend, govern, restrain.
3. Was Peter thinking of John 21:16 when he wrote these verses? He certainly was put in charge of the Lord's lambs and sheep. But that is not a Petrine prerogative: it is a duty that devolves upon others.
I. A Witness (1). "A witness of the sufferings of Christ." This is the one qualification for tending the flock of God: beholding, each for himself, the sufferings of Christ with the eye of the soul. This seeing is also a qualification for sharing the glory.
II. A Willingness. "Not by constraint" (2). "Not reluctantly," but eagerly, according "with the will of God," is W. rendering.
III. A Call. "But willingly, according unto God" is R.V. Does this mean a call to the work itself, or as to how to do the work?
IV. Eagerness. "Not reluctantly, but eagerly" is W. This suggests eagerness for service as a fourth essential.
V. Affection. "Not for filthy lucre," but for love's sake.
VI. Cheerfulness. "Of a ready mind" is in W. "Of a cheerful mind."
VII. Humility (3-6). "As lords" or "lording it." For "God's heritage," R. V. gives "allotted portion;" not merely God's portion, but the portion He entrusts to you. Instead of "clothed" with humility, M. reads "aprons of humility," that is, put on the slave's apron. Dr. Maclaren has a nice word on this: "The Apostle used here an expression of a remarkable kind, and which never occurs again in Scripture. The word rendered in the A.V. "be clothed," or better in the R.V. as "gird yourselves with," really implies a little more than either of these renderings suggests. It describes a kind of garment as well as the act of putting it on, and the sort of garment which it describes was a remarkable one. It was a part of a slave's uniform. Some scholars think that it was a white apron or overall, or something of that sort; others think that it was simply a scarf or belt; but at all events, it was a distinguishing mark of a slave, and he put it on when he meant to work, and, says Peter: "Do you strap round you the slave's apron, and do it for the same reason—to serve."
When Peter wrote this sentence, was he thinking of his Master's act, as recorded in John 13:4-5?
VIII. Trustfulness (7). What a grand verse! "Let all your anxieties fall upon Him, for His interest is in you" (M.). "Throw all your anxieties upon Him, for He makes you His care" (20th C). "Banish care and welcome glee" is a good motto.
When Florence Nightingale had reached the age of ninety, and could no longer follow sustained reading, she still liked to hear familiar hymns. Her biographer says: "A favorite, if one may judge by the frequency with which verses from it appear in her latest written meditation was:
"O, Lord, how happy should we be,
If we could cast our care on Thee,
If we from self could rest."
Once the expression of an aspiration; now, perhaps of attainment.
SOBRIETY. 1 Peter 5:7, 8
Frequently we find in the New Testament exhortations to sobriety, and this means much more than abstinence from intoxicating drink. We can be intoxicated by pride, self-esteem.
I. Commended. Here it is commended in our Scripture.
II. Definitions. Sober has been rendered:
1. Be Watchful.
2. Be Vigilant.
3. Be Sound.
4. Be Moderate. "Curb every passion" (W.).
5. Be Prudent.
6. Be Dignified in Restraint. "Exercise self-control," is 20th C. rendering, instead of sober.
III. An Extra.
1. Add to Holiness (1 Timothy 2:15). With moderation and prudence.
2. Add to Acceptance of Second Advent Truth (1 Peter 1:13).
3. Add to Prayer (1 Peter 4:7-8).
IV. Sober in What?
1. Thoughts (Romans 12). Sound mind.
2. Words (Acts 26:25). Prudence and moderation.
3. Life (Titus 2:12). Temperately and prudently
4. Mind (2 Corinthians 5:13). Sound and prudent. A mind evenly and well balanced (1 Thessalonians 5:6, 8., that is, Let us be mentally alert or watchful).
V. Why? We are of the day (1 Thessalonians 5:8). Therefore be watchful and alert.
1. Bishops (Titus 1:8; 1 Timothy 3:2). Be vigilant.
2. Wives (1 Timothy 3:11). Be vigilant.
3. Aged Men (Titus 2:2). Sound-minded.
4. Young Women (Titus 2:4).
5. Young Men (Titus 2:6).
6. Women (1 Timothy 2:9).
THE ENEMY. 1 Peter 5:8-14
Introduction. Is there a personal Devil? Of course there is. "A gang of thieves is never so dangerous as when they have it widely rumored that they have left the neighborhood" (Meyer).
I. Our Adversary (8).
1. His Identity. Here we are told he is the Devil.
2. His Guises. He has a fairly extensive wardrobe. He is a quick-change artist. He has three common and familiar guises. He assails us more frequently in either of these three guises than any other. Let us take them in their Biblical order:
a. Serpent (Rev. 12:9; Genesis 3:14).
(i.) As a Serpent he is more dangerous than a Roaring Lion.
(ii.) This name suggests that he beguiles our senses, perverts our judgments, enchants our imagination.
b. Angel of Light (2 Corinthians 11:14).
(i.) Deceiving with false views of spiritual things.
(ii.) As thus, he poses as an evangelist and teacher, all the while undermining the faith he is professing to teach.
(iii.) "If the evil that assails us were as frightful in its aspect as it is in its essence, we could run little danger from its assaults, but often it besets us in fair forms and is dazzlingly colored, and here lies its peril."
c. Roaring Lion (1 Peter 5:8).
(i.) Terror in his threatenings.
(ii.) Exhibited in threatenings and persecutions.
(iii.) In blows and blasphemies of the roaring multitude.
(iv.) Strength—bearing us down.
(v.) Seeking to destroy us by violent oppositions.
II. Our Duty (8, 9).
1. Keep Cool (M.).
2. Keep Awake (M.).
3. Resist. Also give no place (Ephesians 4:27). Stand against (Ephesians 6:11).
4. "Curb every Passion" (W.). Exercise self-control (20th C.) 8.
III. Our Safety (9).
1. "Keep your foothold in the faith" (M.).
a. Have you planted your foot upon the faith?
b. It provides a firm foothold.
2. Remember your testing is a common experience.
IV. Our Enabling (10, 11). "But. . .God."
1. Are you fearful at the thought of your adversary?
2. "But God."
3. Beautiful Title: "of all grace."
4. "Himself shall" (R.).
5. Architectural Metaphors.
a. Perfect. "Repair" (M.). Put you in joint.
b. Establish. Established.
c. Strength. "Firm" (W.).
d. Settle. Settling on its foundation.