Adam Clarke Commentary
1 Peter 1
Of the persons to whom this epistle was directed, and their spiritual state, 1 Peter 1:1, 1 Peter 1:2. He describes their privileges, and thanks God for the grace by which they were preserved faithful in trials and difficulties, 1 Peter 1:3-5. The spiritual benefit they were to receive out of their afflictions, 1 Peter 1:6, 1 Peter 1:7. Their love to Christ, 1 Peter 1:8. And the salvation they received through believing, 1 Peter 1:9. This salvation was predicted by the prophets, who only saw it afar off and had only a foretaste of it, 1 Peter 1:10-12. They should take encouragement, and be obedient and holy, 1 Peter 1:13-16. Thy should pray, and deeply consider the price at which they were purchased, that their faith and hope might be in God, 1 Peter 1:17-21. As their souls had been purified by obeying the truth through the Spirit, they should love each other with a pure and fervent love, 1 Peter 1:22, 1 Peter 1:23. The frailty of man, and the unchangeableness of God, 1 Peter 1:24, 1 Peter 1:25.
Peter, an apostle - Simon Peter, called also Kephas: he was a fisherman, son of Jonah, brother of Andrew, and born at Bethsaida; and one of the first disciples of our Lord. See the preface.
The strangers scattered throughout - Jews first, who had believed the Gospel in the different countries here specified; and converted Gentiles also. Though the word strangers may refer to all truly religious people, see Genesis 47:9; Psalm 39:12, in the Septuagint, and Hebrews 11:13, yet the inscription may have a special reference to those who were driven by persecution to seek refuge in those heathen provinces to which the influence of their persecuting brethren did not extend.
Pontus - An ancient kingdom of Asia Minor, originally a part of Cappadocia; bounded on the east by Colchis, on the west by the river Halys, on the north by the Euxine Sea, and on the south by Armenia Minor. This country probably derived its name from the Pontus Euxinus, on which it was partly situated. In the time of the Roman emperors it was divided into three parts:
2.Pontus Galaticus; and,
The first extended from the Pontus Polemoniacus to Colchis, having Armenia Minor and the upper stream of the Euphrates for its southern boundary. The second extended from the river Halys to the river Thermodon. The third extended from the river Thermodon to the borders of the Pontus Cappadocius.
Galatia - The ancient name of a province of Asia Minor, now called Amasia. It was called also Gallograecia, and Gallia Parva. It was bounded on the east by Cappadocia, on the south by Pamphylia, on the north by the Euxine Sea, and on the west by Bithynia. See the preface to the Epistle to the Galatians.
Cappadocia - An ancient kingdom of Asia, comprehending all the country lying between Mount Taurus and the Euxine Sea.
Asia - This word is taken in different senses: It signifies,
1.One of the three general divisions of our continent, and one of the four of the whole earth. It is separated from Europe by the Mediterranean Sea, the Archipelago, the Black Sea, the Palus Maeolis, the rivers Don and Dwina; and from Africa by the Arabic Gulf, or Red Sea: it is everywhere else surrounded by water. It is situated between latitude 2and 77N., and between longitude 26E. and 170W.; and is about 7, 583 miles in length, and 5, 200 miles in breadth.
2.Asia Minor, that part of Turkey in Asia, now called Natolia, which comprehends a great number of province situated between the Euxine, Mediterranean, and Archipelago.
3.That province of Asia Minor of which Ephesus was the capital. It appears, says Calmet, that it is in this latter sense that it is used here by St. Peter, because Pontus, Galatia, and Bithynia, are comprised in the provinces of Asia Minor. See Calmet.
Bithynia - An ancient kingdom of Asia, formerly called Mysia, Mygdonia, Bebrycia, and Bithonia. It was bounded on the west by the Bosphorus, Thracius, and part of the Propontis, on the south by the river Rhyndacus, and Mount Olympus, on the north by the Euxine Sea, and on the east by the river Parthenius. This place is in some sort rendered infamous by the conduct of Prusias, one of its kings, who delivered up Hannibal, who had fled to him for protection, into the hands of the Romans. Nicomedes IV. bequeathed it to the Romans; and it is now in the hands of the Turks.
Elect according to the foreknowledge of God - If the apostle had directed his letter to persons elected to eternal life, no one, as Drs. Lardner and Macknight properly argue, could have received such a letter, because no one could have been sure of his election in this way till he had arrived in heaven. But the persons to whom the apostle wrote were all, with propriety, said to be elect according to the foreknowledge of God; because, agreeably to the original purpose of God, discovered in the prophetical writings, Jews and Gentiles, indiscriminately, were called to be the visible Church, and entitled to all the privileges of the people of God, on their believing the Gospel. In this sense the word elected is used in other places of Scripture; see 1 Thessalonians 1:4, and the note there.
1.He that believeth shall be saved from the guilt and power of sin.
2.He that endureth to the end shall be saved eternally.
3.They who receive the precious gift of faith thereby become the sons of God; and, being sons, they shall receive the Spirit of holiness, to walk as Christ also walked.
Throughout every part of this appointment of God, promise and duty go hand in hand. All is free gift; and yet, such is the gift, that it depends in the final issue on our future obedience to the heavenly call. But other predestination than this, either to life or death eternal, the Scripture knows not of: moreover,
1.It is cruel respect of persons; an unjust regard of one, and an unjust disregard of another: it is mere creature partiality, and not infinite justice.
2.It is not plain Scripture doctrine, (if true), but rather inconsistent with the express written word that speaks of God‘s universal offers of grace; his invitations, promises, threatenings, being all general.
5.It is of fatal consequence; all men being ready, on very slight grounds, to fancy themselves of the elect number.
But the doctrine of predestination is entirely changed from what it formerly was: now it implies neither faith, peace, nor purity; it is something that will do without them all. Faith is no longer, according to the modern predestination scheme, a Divine evidence of things not seen wrought in the soul by the immediate power of the Holy Ghost; not an evidence at all, but a mere notion: neither is faith made any longer a means of holiness, but something that will do without it. Christ is no more a Savior from sin, but a defense and a countenancer of it. He is no more a fountain of spiritual life in the souls of believers, but leaves his elect inwardly dry, and outwardly unfruitful; and is made little more than a refuge from the image of the heavenly, even from righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.”
Blessed be the God and Father - Ευλογητος ὁ Θεος και Πατηρ· Blessed be God even the Father, or blessed be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The και , and, is omitted by the Syriac, Erpen‘s Arabic, and the Ethiopic. But if we translate και , even, a meaning which it frequently has in the New Testament, then we have a very good sense: Let that God have praise who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and who deserves the praise of every human being for his infinite mercy to the world, in its redemption by Christ Jesus.
Begotten us again unto a lively hope - I think the apostle has a reference here to his own case, and that of his fellow apostles, at the time that Christ was taken by the Jews and put to death. Previously to this time they had strong confidence that he was the Messiah, and that it was he who should redeem Israel; but when they found that he actually expired upon the cross, and was buried, they appear to have lost all hope of the great things which before they had in prospect. This is feelingly expressed by the two disciples whom our Lord, after his resurrection, overtook on the road going to Emmaus, see Luke 24:13-24. And the hope, that with them, died with their Master, and seemed to be buried in his grave, was restored by the certainty of his resurrection. From Christ‘s preaching, miracles, etc., they had a hope of eternal life, and all other blessings promised by him; by his death and burial this hope became nearly, if not altogether, extinct; but by his resurrection the hope was revived. This is very properly expressed here by being begotten again to a living hope, εις ελπιδα ζωσαν· , as some MSS. and versions have it, εις ελπιδα ζωης , to the hope of life; which one copy of the Itala, with Augustine, Gildas, Vigilius of Tapsum, and Cassiodorus, have considered as meaning eternal life, agreeably to the context; and therefore they read vitae aeternae.
To an inheritance - Called an inheritance because it belongs to the children of God. Eternal life cannot be a gift to any but these; for, even in heaven, the lot is dealt out according to law: if children, then heirs; if not children, then not heirs.
Incorruptible - Αφθαρτον· It has no principles of dissolution or decay in it; and, therefore, must be totally different from this earth.
Undefiled - Αμιαντον· Nothing impure can enter it; it not only has no principles or seeds of dissolution in itself, but it can never admit any; therefore its deterioration is impossible.
Fadeth not away - Αμαρνατον· It cannot wither, it is always in bloom; a metaphor taken from those flowers that never lose their hue nor their fragrance. From the Greek αμαραντος we have our flowers called amaranths, because they preserve their hue and odour for a long time.
Reserved in heaven - Such a place as that described above is not to be expected on earth; it is that which was typified by the earthly Canaan, and in reference to which the patriarchs endured all trials and difficulties in this life, as seeing Him who is invisible.
Who are kept - Φρουρουμενους· Who are defended as in a fortress or castle. There is a remarkable correspondence between the two verbs used in this sentence: the verb τηρεω , signifies to keep, watch, guard; and τηρησις , is a place of custody or prison. And φρουρεω , from φρουρος , a sentinel, signifies to keep as under a military guard. See on Galatians 3:22, Galatians 3:23. The true disciples of Christ are under the continual watchful care of God, and the inheritance is guarded for them. In some countries military posts are constantly kept on the confines, in order to prevent irruptions from a neighboring people; and, in many cases, heirs, while in their minority, are kept in fortified places under military guards.
By the power of God - Εν δυναμει Θεου· By the mighty and miracle-working power of God; for nothing less is necessary to keep and preserve, in this state of continual trial, a soul from the contagion that is in the world. But this power of God is interested in the behalf of the soul by faith; to believe is our work, the exertion of the almighty power is of God. No persevering without the power, and no power without faith.
Ready to be revealed - Or rather, Prepared to be revealed. The inheritance is prepared for you; but its glories will not be revealed till the last time - till ye have done with life, and passed through your probation, having held fast faith and a good conscience. Some by salvation understand the deliverance of the Christians from the sackage of Jerusalem, the end of the Jewish polity being called the last time; others suppose it to refer to the day of judgment, and the glorification of the body and soul in heaven.
Wherein ye greatly rejoice - Some refer wherein, εν ᾡ , to the salvation mentioned above; others, to the last time, καιρῳ εσχατῳ , in 1 Peter 1:5; others think that it applies to the being kept by the power of God through faith; and others, that it refers to all the preceding advantages and privileges. It was in the present salvation of God that they rejoiced or gloried, though not without having an eye to the great recompense of reward.
Though now for a season - Ολιγον αρτι· A little while yet - during your pilgrimage here below, which is but a point when compared with eternity.
If need be - Ει δεον εστι· If it be necessary - if your situation and circumstances be such that you are exposed to trials and persecutions which you cannot avoid, unless God were to work a miracle for your deliverance, which would not be for your ultimate good, as he purposes to turn all your trials and difficulties to your advantage.
That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold - As by the action of fire gold is separated from all alloy and heterogeneous mixtures, and is proved to be gold by its enduring the action of the fire without losing any thing of its nature, weight, color, or any other property, so genuine faith is proved by adversities, especially such as the primitive Christians were obliged to pass through. For the word was then, “Renounce Jesus and live,” “Cleave to him and die;” for every Christian was in continual danger of losing his life. He then who preferred Christianity to his life gave full proof, not only of his own sincerity, but also of the excellency of the principle by which he was influenced; as his religion put him in possession of greater blessings, and more solid comforts, than any thing the earth could afford.
Though it be tried with fire - That is: Though gold will bear the action of the fire for any given time, even millions of years, were they possible, without losing the smallest particle of weight or value, yet even gold, in process of time, will wear away by continual use; and the earth, and all its works, will be burnt up by that supernatural fire whose action nothing can resist. But on that day the faith of Christ‘s followers will be found brighter, and more glorious. The earth, and universal nature, shall be dissolved; but he who doeth the will of God shall abide for ever, and his faith shall then be found to the praise of God‘s grace, the honor of Christ, and the glory or glorification of his own soul throughout eternity. God himself will praise such faith, angels and men will hold it in honor, and Christ will crown it with glory. For some remarks on the nature and properties of gold see at the end of the chapter.
Whom having not seen, ye love - Those to whom the apostle wrote had never seen Christ in the flesh; and yet, such is the realizing nature of faith, they loved him as strongly as any of his disciples could, to whom he was personally known. For faith in the Lord Jesus brings him into the heart; and by his indwelling all his virtues are proved, and an excellence discovered beyond even that which his disciples beheld, when conversant with him upon earth. In short, there is an equality between believers in the present time, and those who lived in the time of the incarnation; for Christ, to a believing soul, is the same to-day that he was yesterday and will be for ever.
Ye rejoice with joy unspeakable - Ye have unutterable happiness through believing; and ye have the fullest, clearest, strongest evidence of eternal glory. Though they did not see him on earth, and men could not see him in glory, yet by that faith which is the evidence of things not seen, and the subsistence of things hoped for, they had the very highest persuasion of their acceptance with God, their relation to him as their Father, and their sonship with Christ Jesus.
Receiving the end of your faith - Ye are put in possession of the salvation of your souls, which was the thing presented to your faith, when ye were called by the Gospel of Christ. Your faith has had a proper issue, and has been crowned with a proper recompense. The word τελος , end, is often used so as to imply the issue or reward of any labor or action.
Salvation of your souls - The object of the Jewish expectations in their Messiah was the salvation or deliverance of their bodies from a foreign yoke; but the true Messiah came to save the soul from the yoke of the devil and sin. This glorious salvation these believers had already received.
Of which salvation the prophets have inquired - The incarnation and suffering of Jesus Christ, and the redemption procured by him for mankind, were made known, in a general way, by the prophets; but they themselves did not know the time when these things were to take place, nor the people among and by whom he was to suffer, etc.; they therefore inquired accurately or earnestly, εξεζητησαν , and searched diligently, εξηρευνησαν , inquiring of others who were then under the same inspiration, and carefully searching the writings of those who had, before their time, spoken of these things. The prophets plainly saw that the grace which was to come under the Messiah‘s kingdom was vastly superior to any thing that had ever been exhibited under the law; and in consequence they made all possible inquiry, and searched as after grains of gold, hidden among sand or compacted with ore, (for such is the meaning of the original word), in order to ascertain the time, and the signs of that time, in which this wondrous display of God‘s love and mercy to man was to take place; but all that God thought fit to instruct them in was what is mentioned 1 Peter 1:12.
The glory that should follow - Not only the glory of his resurrection, ascension, exaltation, and the effusion of his Spirit; but that grand manifestation of God‘s infinite love to the world in causing the Gospel of his Son to be everywhere preached, and the glorious moral changes which should take place in the world under that preaching, and the final glorification of all them who had here received the report, and continued faithful unto death. And we may add to this the ineffable glorification of the human nature of Jesus Christ, which, throughout eternity, will be the glorious Head of his glorified body, the Church.
Unto whom it was revealed - We may presume that, in a great variety of cases, the prophets did not understand the meaning of their own predictions. They had a general view of God‘s designs; but of particular circumstances, connected with those great events, they seem to have known nothing, God reserving the explanation of all particulars to the time of the issue of such prophecies. When they wished to find out the times, the seasons, and the circumstances, God gave them to understand that it was not for themselves, but for us, that they did minister the things which are now reported unto us by the preaching of the Gospel. This was all the satisfaction they received in consequence of their earnest searching; and this was sufficient to repress all needless curiosity, and to induce them to rest satisfied that the Judge of all the earth would do right. If all succeeding interpreters of the prophecies had been contented with the same information relative to the predictions still unaccomplished, we should have had fewer books, and more wisdom.
Angels desire to took into - Παρακυψαι· To stoop down to; the posture of those who are earnestly intent on finding out a thing, especially a writing difficult to be read; they bring it to the light, place it so that the rays may fall on it as collectively as possible, and then stoop down in order to examine all the parts, that they may be able to make out the whole. There is evidently an allusion here to the attitude of the cherubim who stood at the ends of the ark of the covenant, in the inner tabernacle, with their eyes turned towards the mercy-seat or propitiatory in a bending posture, as if looking attentively, or, as we term it, poring upon it. Even the holy angels are struck with astonishment at the plan of human redemption, and justly wonder at the incarnation of that infinite object of their adoration. If then these things be objects of deep consideration to the angels of God, how much more so should they be to us; in them angels can have no such interest as human beings have.
Gird up the loins of your mind - Take courage from this display of God‘s love now made known to you; and though you must expect trials, yet fortify your minds with the consideration that he who has given you his Son Jesus will withhold from you no manner of thing that is good. The allusion here is to the long robes of the Asiatics, which, when they were about to perform any active service, they tucked in their girdles: this they did also when they waited on their superiors at meals.
Hope to the end for the grace - Continue to expect all that God has promised, and particularly that utmost salvation, that glorification of body and soul, which ye shall obtain at the revelation of Christ, when he shall come to judge the world.
Not fashioning yourselves - As the offices of certain persons are known by the garb or livery they wear, so are transgressors: where we see the world‘s livery we see the world‘s servants; they fashion or habit themselves according to their lusts, and we may guess that they have a worldly mind by their conformity to worldly fashions.
But as he which hath called you - Heathenism scarcely produced a god whose example was not the most abominable; their greatest gods, especially, were paragons of impurity; none of their philosophers could propose the objects of their adoration as objects of imitation. Here Christianity has an infinite advantage over heathenism. God is holy, and he calls upon all who believe in him to imitate his holiness; and the reason why they should be holy is, that God who has called them is holy, 1 Peter 1:15.
And if ye call on the Father - Seeing ye invoke the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and your Father through Christ, and profess to be obedient children, and sojourners here below for a short time only, see that ye maintain a godly reverence for this Father, walking in all his testimonies blameless.
Who without respect of persons - God is said to be no respecter of persons for this reason among many others, that, being infinitely righteous, he must be infinitely impartial. He cannot prefer one to another, because he has nothing to hope or fear from any of his creatures. All partialities among men spring from one or other of these two principles, hope or fear; God can feel neither of them, and therefore God can be no respecter of persons. He approves or disapproves of men according to their moral character. He pities all, and provides salvation for all, but he loves those who resemble him in his holiness; and he loves them in proportion to that resemblance, i.e. the more of his image he sees in any, the more he loves him; and e contra. And every man‘s work will be the evidence of his conformity or nonconformity to God, and according to this evidence will God judge him. Here, then, is no respect of persons; God‘s judgment will be according to a man‘s work, and a man‘s work or conduct will be according to the moral state of his mind. No favouritism can prevail in the day of judgment; nothing will pass there but holiness of heart and life. A righteousness imputed, and not possessed and practiced, will not avail where God judgeth according to every man‘s work. It would be well if those sinners and spurious believers who fancy themselves safe and complete in the righteousness of Christ, while impure and unholy in themselves, would think of this testimony of the apostle.
Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things - To redeem, λυτροω , signifies to procure life for a captive or liberty for a slave by paying a price, and the precious blood of Christ is here stated to be the price at which the souls of both Jews and Gentiles were redeemed; is was a price paid down, and a price which God‘s righteousness required.
Vain conversation - Empty, foolish, and unprofitable conduct, full of vain hopes, vain fears, and vain wishes.
Received by tradition from your fathers - The Jews had innumerable burdens of empty ceremonies and useless ordinances, which they received by tradition from their fathers, rabbins, or doctors. The Gentiles were not less encumbered with such than the Jews; all were wedded to their vanities, because they received them from their forefathers, as they had done from theirs. And this antiquity and tradition have been the ground work of many a vain ceremony and idle pilgrimage, and of numerous doctrines which have nothing to plead in their behalf but this mere antiquity. But such persons seem not to consider that error and sin are nearly coeval with the world itself.
The precious blood of Christ - Τιμιῳ αἱματι· The valuable blood; how valuable neither is nor could be stated.
As of a lamb - Such as was required for a sin-offering to God; and The Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.
Without blemish - In himself, and without spot from the world; being perfectly pure in his soul, and righteous in his life.
Who verily was foreordained - Προεγνωσμενου· Foreknown; appointed in the Divine purpose to be sent into the world, because infinitely approved by the Divine justice.
Before the foundation of the world - Before the law was given, or any sacrifice prescribed by it. Its whole sacrificial system was appointed in reference to this foreappointed Lamb, and consequently from him derived all its significance and virtue. The phrase καταβολη κοσμου , foundation of the world, occurs often in the New Testament, and is supposed by some learned men and good critics to signify the commencement of the Jewish state. Perhaps it may have this meaning in Matthew 13:35; Luke 11:50; Ephesians 1:4; Hebrews 4:3; Hebrews 9:26. But if we take it here in its common signification, the creation of universal nature, then it shows that God, foreseeing the fall and ruin of man, appointed the remedy that was to cure the disease. It may here have a reference to the opinion of the Jewish doctors, who maintain that seven things existed before the creation of the world, one of which was the Messiah.
Last times - The Gospel dispensation, called the last times, as we have often seen, because never to be succeeded by any other.
Who by him do believe in God - This is supposed to refer to the Gentiles, who never knew the true God till they heard the preaching of the Gospel: the Jews had known him long before, but the Gentiles had every thing to learn when the first preachers of the Gospel arrived amongst them.
Gave him glory - Raised him to his right hand, where, as a Prince and a Savior, he gives repentance and remission of sins.
That your faith - In the fulfillment of all his promises, and your hope of eternal glory, might be in God, who is unchangeable in his counsels, and infinite in his mercies.
Seeing ye have purified your souls - Having purified your souls, in obeying the truth - by believing in Christ Jesus, through the influence and teaching of the Spirit; and giving full proof of it by unfeigned love to the brethren; ye love one another, or ye will love each other, with a pure heart fervently. These persons,
First, heard the truth, that is, the Gospel; thus called in a great variety of places in the New Testament, because it contains The truth without mixture of error, and is the truth and substance of all the preceding dispensations by which it was typified.
Being born again - For being born of Abraham‘s seed will not avail to the entering of the kingdom of heaven.
Not of corruptible seed - By no human generation, or earthly means; but of incorruptible - a Divine and heavenly principle which is not liable to decay, nor to be affected by the changes and chances to which all sublunary things are exposed.
By the word of God - Δια λογου ζωντος Θεου· By the doctrine of the living God, which remaineth for ever; which doctrine shall never change, any more than the source shall whence it proceeds.
For all flesh is as grass - Earthly seeds, earthly productions, and earthly generations, shall fail and perish like as the grass and flowers of the field; for the grass withereth, and the flower falleth off, though, in the ensuing spring and summer, they may put forth new verdure and bloom.
But the word of the Lord - The doctrine delivered by God concerning Christ endureth for ever, having, at all times and in all seasons, the same excellence and the same efficacy.
And this is the word - Το ῥημα , What is spoken, by the Gospel preached unto you. “This is a quotation from Isaiah 40:6-8, where the preaching of the Gospel is foretold; and recommended from the consideration that every thing which is merely human, and, among the rest, the noblest races of mankind, with all their glory and grandeur, their honor, riches, beauty, strength, and eloquence, as also the arts which men have invented, and the works they have executed, shall decay as the flowers of the field. But the Gospel, called by the prophet the word of the Lord, shall be preached while the world standeth.” - Macknight. All human schemes of salvation, and plans for the melioration of the moral state of man, shall come to naught; and the doctrine of Christ crucified, though a stumbling block to the Jews, and foolishness to the Gentiles, shall be alone the power of God for salvation to every soul that believeth.
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