HOPE is a blessed grace of the Spirit, and stands in firm and lasting union with faith and love. Its main blessedness consists in the support which it gives to the soul in seasons of trouble, and specially in enabling it to look beyond the present trial and affliction, whatever it may be, and to anticipate a deliverance from it, and a future time of rest and peace. It is, therefore, compared in Scripture to "an anchor" (Heb. 6:19), which holds the ship in the storm, and preserves it instrumentally from falling upon the rocks on which it might otherwise be dashed to pieces, enabling also and encouraging the mariners quietly and confidently to wait in expectation of a change of weather, and of obtaining a prosperous voyage to their desired haven. It is also compared to "a helmet" (1 Thess. 5:8), which guards the head, that vital part, from killing strokes in the day of battle, and as a necessary piece of defensive armor, brings the warrior safe off the field. (Eph. 6:17.) We are, therefore, said to be "saved" by it (Rom. 8:24); that is, not saved by it as regards eternal salvation, which is only through the blood and righteousness of the Son of God, but saved by it as regards present salvation, inasmuch as it preserves us from being carried away by despair, the assaults of Satan, and the overwhelming power of temptation, in the same way as the ship is saved by its anchor in the storm from falling on the rocks, and the soldier by his helmet in the battle from death-dealing blows.
We find, therefore, the Apostle in the chapter before us, the exposition of which we now resume at this point, exhorting the saints of God "to hope to the end." "Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 1:13.)
He knew well what difficulties they would have to encounter, and that their faith would be tried as with fire. He, therefore, would encourage them, whatever storms of temptation they might have to endure, never to give up their hope; for if that were abandoned, it would be like the sailor throwing overboard his anchor in the face of a storm, and the soldier casting aside his helmet just before he went into battle.
But there are two things which he specially says of this hope—1. He bids them hope "to the end;" and 2, to wait "for the grace that was to be brought unto them at the revelation of Jesus Christ."
Both those expressions will demand some little explanation.
1. "Hope to the end." This is what hope chiefly regards—the end; for that is "better than the beginning," the crowning consummation of all that faith believes, hope expects, and love enjoys. But through what dark and gloomy seasons has hope often to look before this end comes, being sometimes sunk so low as almost to despair even of life! How it has in these low spots to muster all its evidences, look back to this and that Ebenezer, this and that hill Mizar, this and that deliverance, manifestation, and blessing; how it has to hang upon the word of promise, cry out for help, and that mightily, as if at its last breath, and hope against hope in the very face of unbelief, infidelity, and despair.
An end must come to all our struggles, trials, exercises, afflictions, and conflicts. We shall not be always struggling and fighting with a body of sin and death. We shall not be always exposed to snares and temptations spread in our path by sin and Satan, so as hardly to escape falling by them as if by the very skin of our teeth. Every day reminds us with warning voice that an end must come. But now comes the question, and often a very anxious question it is, What will that end be? Here hope comes in to sustain and support the soul, enabling it to look forward, that it may prove to be a hope that makes not ashamed, a good hope through grace, and not the hope of the hypocrite that shall perish. It is also rendered in the margin "perfectly," by which we may understand that it would be a hope of such a complete and enduring nature that the end may prove it was a grace of the Holy Spirit, and as such, stamped with his own perfecting power.
2. The Apostle therefore adds, "for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ."
There is a little difficulty here which we shall, however, do our best to explain. The interpretation of the words chiefly depends on the meaning which we attach to the expression, "the revelation of Jesus Christ." Does it mean his future revelation from heaven when "he shall come a second time without sin unto salvation," "to be glorified in his saints and to be admired in all those who believe?" (Heb. 9:28; 2 Thess. 1:10.) Or does it mean his present revelation in the manifestations of himself to the soul? (John 14:21; Gal. 1:16.) According to our view, it is more in harmony with the general drift and bearing of the Scripture, and especially of the Epistles of Peter, to explain it of the former; but we see no reason why we should not extend its meaning so as to include the latter also.
We shall examine both of these interpretations, commencing with the former.
Nothing is more evident from the Scriptures of the New Testament than that the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is there set forth not only as a revelation of him from heaven, but is continually held up as a special object of faith and hope to the saints of God. For proof of this see 1 Thess. 1:10, 2:19, 3:13, 4:16-18, 5:23; 2 Thess. 1:7-10; 1 Cor. 1:7 (margin); Phil. 3:20; Col. 3:4; 1 Tim. 6:14, 15; 2 Tim. 4:8; Titus 2:13. In all these passages the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is not only clearly set forth, but is dwelt upon as a special topic of hope and comfort for the afflicted saints. In a similar way, in the epistle now before us, Peter dwells often upon the same blessed truth. Observe, for instance, the following testimonies—"That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold which 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 word rendered "appearing" here is the same as is translated (ver. 13) "revelation." So again, "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you; but rejoice, inasmuch as you are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, you may be glad also with exceeding joy." (1 Peter 4:12, 13.) Is not the revelation of Christ in future glory here held forth as a topic of support and of joy?
So also in his second epistle he devotes the whole of the last chapter to the same subject, reproving the infidel scorn of the scoffers and encouraging the family of God to look forward to "the day of the Lord" in faith and hope.
With all these testimonies in its favor we cannot well hesitate to interpret the revelation of Jesus Christ in the passage now before us of his future revelation from heaven in glory.
But there is an objection to this interpretation which, as faithful expositors of Scripture, we feel bound to mention. The objection to the interpretation which explains "the revelation of Jesus Christ" as his future revelation at the last day in glory is the expression, "grace to be brought unto you," for it is argued that it will not be grace then which is brought, but glory." This, however, we do not consider an objection of any great force, as the word "grace" means literally "favor," and is frequently so rendered in our translation, as Luke 1:30, 2:52; Acts 2:47, 7:10, 46. We may therefore render the expression, "the favor which is to be brought unto you." And what favor is to be compared to the manifestation of God's eternal favor to his chosen and redeemed saints which will be openly manifested at the last great day, when Jesus shall be revealed from heaven and shall come in all his glory? Will not this be the crowning favor of all favors, when the Lord shall say to his redeemed, "Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world?" Besides which, as grace is the beginning of glory, so glory is but the consummation and crown of grace. We see, therefore, no real difficulty in the word "grace" as applied to the last and greatest and crowning manifestation of it at the Lord's coming—certainly no difficulty so great as to make us reject that interpretation.
But, as a further confirmation of this view, besides the testimonies from Scripture, which we have already brought forward, observe how the general drift and tenor of the New Testament favor this interpretation. Hope especially looks to the end, as the Apostle bids us do; but this end is not a present blessing by the way, but the grand consummation of every desire in a full participation of the glory of Christ. We therefore read, "In hope of eternal life" (Tit. 1:2); and again, "Looking for that blessed hope, and glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior (or, as it might be rendered, "our great God and Savior") Jesus Christ." (Tit. 2:13.) "And rejoice in hope of the glory of God." (Rom. 5:2.) To the same point tends also the whole argument of the Apostle (Rom. 8:18-25), where "the earnest expectation of the creature" is represented as "waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God," and "waiting for the redemption of the body," which will only be accomplished when it shall rise in glory at the second coming of Christ. Aided, then, by the light of all these testimonies, we cannot well hesitate in believing that the revelation of Jesus Christ in the glory of his second appearing is the primary meaning of the passage, and most in harmony with the general drift of the Scriptures, the analogy of faith, and Peter's own express declarations.
2. But we freely allow that it will admit of another interpretation, as referring to the present revelation of Christ to the soul; for in the same way as present grace is the pledge of a participation of future glory, so a present revelation of Christ is a pledge and earnest of an interest in that future revelation of him, when he shall come in the clouds of heaven. In this point of view we shall now, therefore, consider it.
Those who feelingly know the plague of their heart will confess that their daily experience is often one of great darkness of soul, and a sensible lack of that grace which we well know can alone make us fruitful in every good word and work. But what is to work that blessed change in us? How are we to be brought out of this miserable state of barrenness and death? Grace, and grace alone, can do it. But how is this grace to come? Now, as we well know from past experience that a sweet revelation of Christ to the heart brings grace with it, and that so sunk are we in carnality and death that nothing short of his own manifestations can move and melt a hard heart, give faith to an unbelieving heart, quicken and revive a dead heart, water and make fruitful a dry and thirsty heart, and that when Christ comes, every grace of the Spirit comes with him, it makes the poor, needy, naked, barren soul long for his appearing.
Everything else has been tried and found lacking. Praying, and preaching, and reading, and meditating may have brought at times a little change, a little relief, a little reviving in the hard bondage, which, so far as they go, are highly prized; but the soul feels that it must be a sweet and blessed revelation of Christ himself, which alone can make the desert rejoice and blossom as the rose. It sensibly feels that he alone can, by his presence and power, make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.
We often think that we must repent, we must believe, we must be spiritually minded, we must love, we must spend our days in prayer and meditation, hang over our Bibles night and day, never give way to slothfulness, hardness, carelessness, and indifference, but be in the sensible fear of the Lord, so as never to lose his presence and power. And then, we think, if we are all this, and if we do all this, we shall have clear evidences of our saving interest in the blood of the Lamb, and have a right religion. Let us not say a word to encourage carelessness, or damp diligence; but is it not often too true that with all this looking to SELF we are too apt to forget that it is only the Lord's presence and power in the gracious revelations of himself which can produce that repentance, that faith, that love, that spirituality of mind, and, in a word, all that blessed state of soul in which we feel so sensibly deficient?
Now Peter, according to the interpretation of the words that we are now adopting, bids us hope to the end for the grace which is to be brought us at the revelation of Jesus Christ, that we are not to look at and into our miserable selves to produce that grace there of which we feel so sadly deficient, but to hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought us, not produced by us, nor maintained by us, but to be brought by the Lord himself in his own blessed revelations of his Person, his blood, his righteousness, his dying love, his faithfulness, his tenderness, piteous compassion, and unfailing mercy and goodness.
Now it certainly is most blessedly true that as we hope for this grace, and that to the end (or completely, as the word might be rendered), this very hoping for grace to be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ, this logging and looking out for it, this waiting for and expecting it, will sustain and support the soul as an anchor in a storm, and protect our head as a helmet from the killing strokes of despair. It was in this way that David encouraged his soul to hope and wait for the Lord's appearing—"I wait for the Lord; my soul waits, and in his word do I hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning; I say, more than those who watch for the morning." (Psalm 130:5, 6.) And again—"Why are you cast down, O my soul? and why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God." (Psalm 42:11.)
But why should we hope for it? What ground of encouragement have we to expect it will ever come? Because we have had it; in some measure at least, before, and found that when Christ was revealed to our heart he brought grace with him—grace to repent of our sins with godly sorrow, evangelical, not legal repentance, grace to believe in the Son of God with a living faith, grace to love him with a pure heart fervently, grace to walk in his fear, and live to his praise. "Therefore," says the Apostle, "hope, keep on hoping, and that to the end, that he who revealed himself once will reveal himself again, for his reward will ever be with him, as his work was before him."
But we must pass on to the practical exhortations which immediately follow—"As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance; but as he who has called you is holy, so you be holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be you holy; for I am holy." (1 Peter 1:14-16.)
Grace lays us under the greatest of all obligations to its free and bountiful Giver, and especially to render a believing obedience to his revealed will and word. It is his free, sovereign, and distinguishing grace alone which makes and manifests us to be his children, and therefore it demands of us, as a feeble and most insufficient tribute of grateful praise, that we should walk worthy of the vocation with which we are called, and glorify him in our body and spirit which are his. He who has never known and felt this knows nothing of the riches of God's grace in the manifestation of mercy and love to his soul. Such a one knows, that do what he can, he can never do enough to show forth the praises of him who has called him out of darkness into his marvelous light; and his grief and burden ever are that, through the power of indwelling sin, he cannot do the things that he would, but is always falling short, always sinning against bleeding, dying love. To such a one, therefore, the precepts of the gospel are as dear as the promises, and he sees that they are set in the word of truth as "a lamp to his feet and a light to his path," a guiding rule by which, if he could but direct his steps, he would glorify God, walk in peace and love with his people, preserve a good conscience, and adorn the doctrine which he professes in all things. Obedience, therefore, to him is a sweet word, and is viewed by him as a precious portion of that free and everlasting gospel which, in restoring fallen man to God's favor, restores him also to an obedience acceptable in his sight.
The expression "as obedient children" will, however, require a little explanation. It is literally "children of obedience,"—it being a Hebrew idiom to express a certain quality or condition. Thus we read in the Old Testament of "children of transgression," that is, transgressors (Isa. 57:4); "children of iniquity" (Hos. 10:9), that is, so given up to iniquity, as if iniquity itself were their father; and in the New Testament of "children of disobedience" (Eph. 2:2; 5:6; Col. 3:6); "children of wrath" (Eph. 2:3); "children of light" (Eph. 5:8); "cursed children," literally, "children of the curse" (2 Peter 2:14), all which expressions imply a kind of heirship in the things of which they are said to be children, and that they are ruled and governed by them as a child by his father. By "obedient children," therefore, we may understand such obedient believers in and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, as if obedience herself were their parent and were so training them up in all her blessed ways that as her loving and dutiful children they would not soon or easily depart from her careful nurture and gracious instructions.
The foundation of this obedience is laid in love. It is not a legal duty, or forced, unwilling, compulsory service, but a willing, grateful, unreserved obedience of the heart, under the constraining influence of the love of Christ (John 14:15; 2 Cor. 5:14); a knowledge of redemption by his atoning blood (1 Cor. 6:20; Heb. 9:14); and a deliverance by grace from the curse and bondage of the law, the service of Satan, and the dominion of sin. (Gal. 3:13; 1 John 3:8; Rom. 6:14.) The law works wrath, bondage, and death, stirs up and puts life into sin (Rom. 4:15; 7:7, 8; 2 Cor. 3:7; Gal. 4:24); but gives no deliverance from it, either as regards its guilt or its dominion. It curses and condemns for disobedience, but there it leaves the guilty sinner, and can neither justify nor sanctify him.
But now here comes in the precious gospel of the Son of God, which, proclaiming pardon and peace through the blood of the Lamb and as made the power of God unto salvation, giving what it proclaims, lays the soul under the sweetest constraints and most grateful obligations to obey his precepts, keep his word, seek his glory, and live to his praise. This is the only obedience acceptable to God as the fruit of his Spirit and the operations of his grace.
But as the proof and effect of this obedience there will be a thorough change both of heart and life. The Apostle, therefore, adds, "Not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance."
Sins of ignorance widely differ from sins against light and knowledge. Paul, speaking of his experience of pardoning mercy, says, "Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious; but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief." (1 Tim. 1:13.) Had he committed the same sins of blasphemy and persecution against light and knowledge they would have been, we dare not say wholly unpardonable, but generally speaking they are only committed by those who are given up to fill the measure of their iniquities and are the last sins of apostates. The Apostle, therefore, bids us "not to fashion ourselves according to the former lusts in our ignorance." The word "fashioning" yourselves is the same as rendered (Rom. 12:2) "conformed," and means literally taking the shape of, or adapting oneself to the outward visible form of anything, as if it were a model in likeness of which we are to be framed and molded. He warns us, therefore, against yielding ourselves to the power and practice of any of those lusts which had dominion over us in the days of our ignorance, such as the base and sensual lusts of the flesh, or the more refined lusts of money, power, pleasure, fashion, pride, worldliness, and fleshly ease—those, as it were, more fashionable sins in which a man may live and walk and yet preserve his character and good name.
Let the children of disobedience follow after and be conformed to all these worldly lusts; but let the children of obedience shun and abhor them as hateful to God, deceitful and dangerous to themselves, and contrary to a holy, godly profession.
But for the present we must lay down our pen.