Meditations on First Peter Chapter One

by J. C. Philpot, 1869

Part V.

There is a day of which all the inspired prophets of the Old Testament, from Enoch to Malachi, and all the inspired evangelists and apostles of the New, from Matthew to John, have alike testified as the greatest of all days. Thus the very first note which was struck on the golden harp of prophecy and the very last were one and the same, that is, to sound forth the coming of the Lord in power and glory to the joy and salvation of his saints, and to the confusion and destruction of his enemies. The first recorded prophecy is that of Enoch, which belongs virtually to the Old Testament though preserved to us in the New. "And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him." (Jude 14, 15.)

And as the coming of the Lord with his saints, and to execute judgment upon the ungodly was the grand theme and subject of the first prophecy, so it is of the last, both in the Old Testament and the New. The last prophecy of the Old Testament is, "The Lord Almighty says, "The day of judgment is coming, burning like a furnace. The arrogant and the wicked will be burned up like straw on that day. They will be consumed like a tree—roots and all. "But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture." (Malachi 4:1-2) And the last promise and prophecy of the New Testament is, "And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be." (Rev. 22:12.)

As then between these two covers, so to speak, of the word of God lie all the promises and threatenings from the mouth of the Almighty, with the eternal destinies of all the children of men, so will this day, this great and terrible day of the Lord, be God's final decision and determination of the great controversy between good and evil, the vindication of all his ways, the fulfillment of all his counsels, the avenging and glorification of all his saints, and the banishing from his presence of all impenitent and unbelieving sinners. This day is spoken of by Peter in the chapter now before us as "the appearing," or as the word literally means, "the revelation" of Jesus Christ—"that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 1:7.)

The trial of faith, though exceedingly precious in the sight of God, has no praise, honor, or glory now. The work of faith with power in a believer's heart, the various ways in which his faith is tried as with fire in the furnace of affliction and temptation, and yet shines all the brighter as the dross and tin of creature strength and wisdom are purged away, the deep and painful exercises which are carried on in secret between God and his soul, in which his faith often seems at the last gasp and yet is continually revived from its lowest sinkings and is strengthened once more to look and live—all these more or less daily fightings and fears, defeats and victories, ruin and destruction of self, and yet being held up in life by the power of the Lord, as they are little understood and less experienced by a generation settled on its lees and at ease in Zion, meet with little praise and honor from men. Those who are thus exercised and who are weaned and separated thereby from the careless, the indifferent, the slothful, the contentious, the erroneous, the proud, the covetous, and the worldly-minded professors of the day are considered bigoted, bitter-spirited, and narrow-minded, and are more hated and despised than the very ungodly.

But a time is coming when the trial of their faith will be found unto praise and honor and glory. At the appearing of Jesus Christ, the righteous Judge, the faith of those who have glorified him in the fires, cleaved to him with purpose of heart in the furnace of temptation, looked to him and to him alone, and been determined to know nothing but Jesus Christ, and him crucified, will receive his solemn approbation. It was his own work, and he will praise it, and smile upon it, and crown it also with honor and glory. When all whom and all what man has praised, honored, and glorified will sink and perish under the frowns of the Almighty, when shame and everlasting contempt (Dan. 12:2) will be the portion of the great ones of the earth, who have boasted themselves in the abundance of their riches and honors, titles and distinctions, and walked in pride and self-indulgence, the Lord will crown with praise, honor, and glory his poor, despised people. The trial of their faith will then be seen to have been more precious than of gold that perishes, for it will be found unto praise and honor and glory.

And this will be true in two senses. This once tried and tempted but now glorified people will praise him, and he will praise not them; but his own work in them; they will give him all the honor due unto his name, and he will put honor on his own grace, and crown the faith of his own giving and maintaining with eternal glory. And thus the trial of their faith will be found to praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ. Will not this be a sweet reward for all the troubles and trials of the way; and should not the hope of this expected end, which shall not be cut off, animate and encourage every tried and tempted saint to hope to the end for the grace which is to be brought unto him at the revelation of Jesus Christ?

This we believe is the primary meaning of the words before us, the chief mind of the Spirit in them. But, as the scriptures from their fullness often admit of more than one signification, we may allow a secondary meaning of the expression "the appearing or revelation of Jesus Christ" as indicating his appearing and revealing himself in grace here, as well as in glory hereafter. Thus, whenever the Lord appears in and for the soul, revealing himself to the heart in and after seasons of affliction and temptation, the trial of faith is found to praise and honor and glory; for praise is given to his name, honor put on his brow, and glory ascribed to him with the whole heart and soul.

But we pass on to the words so full of sweetness and power which immediately follow—"Whom having not seen you love; in whom, though now you see him not, yet believing, you rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory; receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls." (1 Peter 1:8, 9.) What a note is here struck by the hand of the Apostle which finds at once an echo in every believing heart! "Whom having not seen you love." Peter had seen him both before and after his resurrection—and indeed the last was necessary to qualify him to be an apostle. (Acts 1:22.) Peter had been with him in the holy mount, had seen him transfigured, when his face shined as the sun, and his clothing was white as the light, and heard the voice from the excellent glory which so testified of and ratified his divine Sonship, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." (2 Peter 1:17.) Peter had been with him in Gethsemane, and seen him condemned by the Jewish council, but saw him not on the cross, for he had basely denied him, and as all the disciples forsook him and fled, it would seem that none but John witnessed his crucifixion. But Peter saw him after the resurrection, when he was sweetly restored from his backsliding, and witnessed his glorious ascension.

But those to whom Peter wrote had never thus seen Jesus in the flesh, and yet they loved him as much as if they had actually beheld his bodily shape and heard his natural voice. But how could this be? How could they love one whom they had never seen? Is not sight necessary to love? O but they had seen him—but not by the eye of flesh and sense. Thousands saw him with the natural eye who saw no beauty in him that they would desire him. To them he was "without form or loveliness," and "his visage was more marred than any man;" no, what was worse, they hated him for what they saw in him, according to his own words—"But now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father." (John 15:24.) Hundreds saw him hanging on the cross who only reviled and derided him. Why then would these elect strangers love him whom others hated, and love him too though they had never seen his face or heard his voice? Because they had seen him by faith. "In whom, though now you see him not, yet believing, you rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory."

But how this speaks to our hearts; and cannot some, if not many of us say too, "Whom, not having seen, we love?" Do we not love him, dear readers? Is not his name precious to us as the ointment poured forth? But we have not seen him. No, not by the eye of sense and nature; but we have seen him by the eye of faith; for he has manifested himself to us, or to some of us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. It is, then, by faith that we see Jesus. We read of Moses that, "by faith, he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible." (Heb. 11:27.) So by faith we see Jesus who is invisible; for as faith is "the substance of things hoped for," so is it "the evidence of things not seen." When our gracious Lord was leaving the world, he said to his disciples, "Yet a little while and the world sees me no more; but you see me. Because I live, you shall live also." (John 14:19.)

But how could they see him when he was gone away from them? He himself shall answer the question—"I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you." (John 14:18.) "He who has my commandments, and keeps them, he it is that loves me; and he who loves me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him." (John 14:21.) Thus we see that it is by Jesus coming to the soul and manifesting himself unto it that we see him. And as he always comes with his love, and in manifesting himself manifests himself in his love, that manifested love kindles, raises, and draws up a corresponding love in the believer's heart.

It is the express, the special work of the Holy Spirit to testify of Christ (John 15:26), to glorify him, to receive of the things which are Christ's, and to show them unto the soul (John 16:14); and thus in the light of Christ's own manifestations of himself, and the blessed Spirit's work and witness of him, what faith believes of the Person and work of Christ, love embraces and enjoys. We find, therefore, the Apostle speaking in the words before us—"In whom, though now you see him not, yet believing, you rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory." Here we have linked together faith, love, joy, and glory. The word translated "rejoice" means a high degree of joy, and signifies, literally, to leap with joy. It is, therefore, rendered by our translators, "be exceeding glad" (Matt. 5:12), and in the epistle before us, "greatly rejoice" (1 Peter 1:6), and "exceeding joy." (1 Peter 4:13.) Spiritual joy, holy joy, is therefore distinguished from earthly joy, natural joy, not only in nature, but in degree. Natural joy can never rise very high, nor last very long. It is of the earth earthy, and therefore can never rise high nor long endure. It is always marred by some check, damp or disappointment; and as in the bitterest cup of the righteous "there's something secret sweetens all," so in the sweetest cup of the ungodly there is something secret embitters all. All their mirth is madness (Eccles. 2:1); for even "in laughter the heart is sorrowful, and the end of that mirth is heaviness." (Prov. 14:13.) God frowns upon all the worldling's pleasure, conscience condemns it, and the weary heart is often sick of it, even unto death. It cannot bear inspection or reflection, has perpetual disappointment stamped upon it here—and eternal sorrow hereafter.

But how different is the joy of faith and love. It is unspeakable, for it is one of the things which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man; and therefore human language, which can only express human thoughts and feelings, has no words for this. Those who have experienced it understand it when spoken of by others, but not from the words themselves, but because those words are as if broken hints, dim and feeble shadows, imperfect and insufficient utterances, but interpreted by their own experience.

"And full of glory." It is literally "glorified," that is, the joy is a joy which God especially honors by stamping upon it a divine glory. Our blessed Lord said of his disciples, "And the glory which you have given me, I have given them." This he had done by giving them of his grace, of which it has been well said that it is "glory begun, as glory is grace perfected." So we read, "And whom he called, those he also justified, and whom he justified, those he also glorified" as if even now, when they were still in the flesh, God had already glorified them by the pledges and foretastes of glory which he had given them in and by his grace.

The sight of Christ by faith, and beholding his glory, has a transforming efficacy, as the Apostle beautifully speaks—"But we all, with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." (2 Cor. 3:18.) This glass is the glass of the gospel, the word of grace and truth which came by Jesus Christ; and thus as the Person and work, beauty and blessedness, love and blood, grace and glory, condescension, suitability, pity and compassion, infinite loveliness and desirableness of the Son of God are viewed therein by faith, the sight has a transforming power and efficacy, so that the soul is changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. It is, therefore, a blessed preparation for, and foretaste of the glory that shall be revealed.

Now compare with this all earthly, carnal joy. It is in its highest and best form but a sowing to the flesh, and it therefore can only reap corruption. Take the highest success in life, the crowning of every ambitious wish, the full swing of every earthly pleasure, the utmost gratification of everything which health and strength, wife and family, house and home can give; add to it all that money can buy, rank command, love supply, or heart enjoy—a lot which has never been any man's, and not likely even in part to be yours; and yet how soon old age or sickness may mar, and death put an end to all. How blessed, then, it is to have a joy which death will not put an end to—but rather consummate, by liberating the soul from the present bondage of corruption, to enjoy forever the glorious liberty of the children of God.

Peter therefore adds, "Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls." What a blessed, what a glorious end is this; what a prize to win, what a victory to gain, what a crowning consummation of all that faith has believed, hope expected, or love embraced! Whatever doubts and fears may have harassed the mind, whatever sore temptations may have distressed the soul, whatever deep afflictions, painful trials, heavy guilt and hard bondage may have sunk it low, so low sometimes, as if it never would get over them or rise out of them, still that faith, which is God's gift and work, lives through all, and there is a blessed end in store for it—the salvation of the soul.

And O, what does this not comprehend and imply? Think of what salvation is from—think of what salvation is unto. Neither the one nor the other can be fully known on this side of eternity. You may have had some glimpses of hell—you may have had some glances of heaven; some taste of the wrath to come—some taste of the glory that shall be revealed. But you have had only a small taste of either. The wrath of God—the horrors of a guilty conscience—the terrors of despair—the falling into his hands who is a consuming fire—you man have, in some small measure, felt or feared; but you have never known, for nature could not bear it—the full and terrible extent of those dreadful realities. And so you may have had glimpses and glances, pledges and foretastes of the glory that shall be revealed; but you have never enjoyed, for nature could not bear it, what saints enjoy in the immediate presence of God. But if you have seen, tasted, handled, felt, and enjoyed a little of what you are saved from, and a little of what you are saved unto, it will make you bless God for having given you even a grain of that true and living faith, the end of which will be the salvation of your soul.

But here we must pause for the present.