William Barclay's Daily Study Bible
1 Peter 1
THE GREAT INHERITANCE (1 Peter 1:1-2)
1:1-2 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to God's Chosen People, who are scattered as exiles throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia. I am an apostle, and you are chosen, according to the fore-knowledge of God, through the consecration of the Spirit, for obedience and to be sprinkled by the blood of Jesus Christ. May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
It happens again and again in the New Testament that the true greatness of a passage lies not only on the surface and in what is actually said, but in the ideas and the convictions which lie behind it. That is particularly so here.
It is clear that this letter was written to people who were Gentiles. They have been released from the futile way of life which they had learned from their fathers (1 Peter 1:18). Those who were once not a people had become nothing less than the people of God (1 Peter 2:10). In previous times they had walked after the will and the lusts of the Gentiles (1 Peter 4:3). But the outstanding thing about this passage is that it takes words and conceptions which had originally applied only to the Jews, the Chosen Nation, and applies them to the Gentiles, who had once been believed to be outside the mercy of God. Once it had been said that "God created the Gentiles to be fuel for the fires of Hell." Once it had been said that, just as the best of the snakes must be crushed, so even the best of the Gentiles must be destroyed. Once it had been said that God loved only Israel of all nations upon the earth. But now the mercy, the privileges, and the grace of God have gone out to all the earth and to all men, even to those who could never have expected them.
(i) Peter calls the people to whom he writes the elect, God's Chosen People, Once that had been a title which belonged to Israel alone: "You are a people holy to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his own possession, out of all the peoples that are on the face of the earth" (Deuteronomy 7:6; compare Deuteronomy 14:2). The prophet speaks of "Israel, my chosen" (Isaiah 45:4). The Psalmist speaks of "the sons of Jacob, his chosen ones" (Psalms 105:6; Psalms 105:43).
But the nation of Israel failed in the purposes of God, for, when he sent his Son into the world, they rejected and crucified him. When Jesus spoke the Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen, he said that the inheritance of Israel was to be taken from them and given to others (Matthew 21:41; Mark 12:9; Luke 20:16). That is the basis of the great New Testament conception of the Christian Church as the true Israel, the new Israel, the Israel of God (compare Galatians 6:16). All the privileges which had once belonged to Israel now belonged to the Christian Church. The mercy of God has gone out to the ends of the earth, and all nations have seen the glory and experienced the grace of God.
(ii) There is another word here which once belonged exclusively to Israel. The address literally reads: "To the elect strangers of the Diaspora throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia." Diaspora (Greek #1290), literally the dispersion, was the technical name for the Jews scattered in exile in all the countries outside the bounds of Palestine. Sometimes in their troubled history the Jews had been forcibly deported from their native land; sometimes they had gone of their own free will to work, and often to prosper, in other lands. Those exiled Jews were called the Diaspora (Greek #1290). But now the real Diaspora is not the Jewish nation; it is the Christian Church scattered abroad throughout the provinces of the Roman Empire and the nations of the world. Once the people who had been different from others were the Jews; now the people who are different are the Christians. They are the people whose King is God, whose home is eternity, and who are exiles in the world.
THE CHOSEN OF GOD AND THE EXILES OF ETERNITY (1 Peter 1:1-2 continued)
What we have just been saying means that the two great titles of which we have been thinking belong to us who are Christians.
(i) We are the Chosen People of God. There is uplift here. Surely there can be no greater compliment and privilege in all the world than to be chosen by God. The word eklektos (Greek #1588) can describe anything that is specially chosen; it can describe specially chosen fruit, articles specially chosen because they are so outstandingly well made, picked troops specially chosen for some great exploit. We have the honour of being specially chosen by God. But there is also challenge and responsibility here. God always chooses for service. The honour which he gives a man is that of being used for his purposes. It was precisely there that the Jews failed, and we have to see to it that the tragedy of a like failure does not mark our lives.
(ii) We are the exiles of eternity. This is never to say that we must withdraw from the world, but that in the realest sense we must be at the same time both in the world and not of it. It has been wisely said that the Christian must be apart from the world but never aloof from it. Wherever the exiled Jew settled, his eyes were towards Jerusalem. In foreign countries his synagogues were so built that, when the worshipper entered, he was facing towards Jerusalem. However useful a citizen of his adopted country the Jew was, his greatest loyalty was to Jerusalem.
The Greek word for such a sojourner in a strange land is paroikos (Greek #3941). A paroikos was a man who was in a strange land and whose thoughts ever turned home. Such a sojourning was called a paroikia (Greek #3940); and paroikia is the direct derivation of the English word parish. The Christians in any place are a group of people whose eyes are turned to God and whose loyalty is beyond. "Here," said the writer to the Hebrews, "we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come" (Hebrews 13:14).
We must repeat that this does not mean withdrawal from the world; but it does mean that the Christian sees all things in the light of eternity and life as a journey towards God. It is this which decides the importance which he attaches to anything; it is this which dictates his conduct. It is the touchstone and the dynamic of his life.
There is a famous unwritten saying of Jesus: "The world is a bridge. The wise man will pass over it, but he will not build his house upon it." This is the thought which is behind the famous passage in The Epistle to Diognetus, one of the best-known works of the post-apostolic age: "Christians are not marked out from the rest of mankind by their country or their speech or their customs.... They dwell in cities both Greek and barbarian, each as his lot is cast, following the customs of the region in clothing and in food and in the outward things of life generally; yet they manifest the wonderful and openly paradoxical character of their own state. They inhabit the lands of their birth, but as temporary residents thereof; they take their share of all responsibilities as citizens, and endure all disabilities as aliens. Every foreign land is their native land, and every native land a foreign land.... They pass their days upon earth, but their citizenship is in heaven."
It would be wrong to think that this makes the Christian a bad citizen of the land in which he lives. It is because he sees all things in the light of eternity that he is the best of all citizens, for it is only in the light of eternity that the true values of things can be seen.
We, as Christians, are the Chosen People of God; we are the exiles of eternity. Therein lie both our priceless privilege and our inescapable responsibility.
THE THREE GREAT FACTS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE (1 Peter 1:1-2 continued)
In 1 Peter 1:2 we are confronted with the three great facts of the Christian life.
(i) The Christian is chosen according to the foreknowledge of God. C. E. B. Cranfield has a fine comment on this phrase: "If all our attention is concentrated on the hostility or indifference of the world or the exiguousness of our own progress in the Christian life, we may well be discouraged. At such times we need to be reminded that our election is according to the,foreknowledge of God the Father. The Church is not just a human organization--though, of course, it is that. Its origin lies, not in the will of the flesh, in the idealism of men, in human aspirations and plans, but in the eternal purpose of God." When we are discouraged we may well remind ourselves that the Christian Church came into being according to the purpose and plan of God and, if it is true to him, it can never ultimately fail.
(ii) The Christian is chosen to be consecrated by the Spirit. Luther said: "I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to him." For the Christian the Holy Spirit is essential to every part of the Christian life and every step in it. It is the Holy Spirit who awakens within us the first faint longings for God and goodness. It is the Holy Spirit who convicts us of our sin and leads us to the Cross where that sin is forgiven. It is the Holy Spirit who enables us to be freed from the sins which have us in their grip and to gain the virtues which are the fruit of the Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who gives us the assurance that our sins are forgiven and that Jesus Christ is Lord. The beginning, the middle and the end of the Christian life are the work of the Holy Spirit.
(iii) The Christian is chosen for obedience and for sprinkling by the blood of Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament there are three occasions when sprinkling with blood is mentioned. It may well be that all three were present in Peter's mind and that all three have something to contribute to the thought behind these words.
(a) When a leper had been healed, he was sprinkled with the blood of a bird (Leviticus 14:1-7). Sprinkling with blood is, therefore, the symbol of cleansing. By the sacrifice of Christ, the Christian is cleansed from sin.
(b) Sprinkling with blood was part of the ritual of the setting apart of Aaron and the priests (Exodus 29:20-21; Leviticus 8:30). It was the sign of setting apart for the service of God. The Christian is specially set apart for the service of God, not only within the Temple, but also within the world.
(c) The great picture of the sprinkling comes from the covenant relationship between Israel and God. In the covenant, God, of his own gracious will, approached Israel that they might be his people and that he might be their God. But that relationship depended on the Israelites accepting the conditions of the covenant and obeying the law. Obedience was a necessary condition of the covenant, and failure in obedience meant failure of the covenant relationship between God and Israel. So the book of the covenant was read to Israel and the people pledged themselves: "All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do." As a token of this relationship of obedience between the people and God, Moses took half the blood of the sacrifice and sprinkled it on the altar, and half the blood of the sacrifice and sprinkled it on the people (Exodus 24:1-8). Sprinkling was for obedience.
Through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ the Christian is called into a new relationship with God, in which the sins of the past are forgiven and he is pledged to obedience in the time to come.
It is in the purpose of God that the Christian is called. It is by the work of the Holy Spirit that his life is hallowed towards God. It is by the sprinkling of the blood of Christ that he is cleansed from past sin and dedicated to future obedience to God.
THE REBIRTH OF THE CHRISTIAN (1 Peter 1:3-5)
1:3-5 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to his great mercy, has brought about in us that rebirth which leads to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, an inheritance imperishable, undefilable, and unfading, kept safe in heaven for us, who are protected by the power of God through faith, until there comes that deliverance which is ready to be revealed at the last time.
It will take us a long time to appropriate the riches of this passage, for there are few passages in the New Testament where more of the great fundamental Christian ideas come together.
It begins with a doxology to God--but a doxology with a difference. For a Jew the commonest of all beginnings to prayer was, "Blessed art thou, O God." The Christian takes over that prayer--but with a difference. His prayer begins, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." He is not praying to a distant, unknown God; he is praying to the God who is like Jesus and to whom, through Jesus Christ, he may come with childlike confidence.
This passage begins with the idea of rebirth; the Christian is a man who has been reborn; begotten again by God to a new kind of life. Whatever else this means, it means that, when a man becomes a Christian, there comes into his life a change so radical that the only thing that can be said is that life has begun all over again for him. This idea of rebirth runs all through the New Testament. Let us try to collect what it says about it.
(i) The Christian rebirth happens by the will and by the act of God (John 1:13; James 1:18). It is not something which a man achieves any more than he achieves his physical birth.
(ii) Another way to put that is to say that this rebirth is the work of the Spirit (John 3:1-15). It happens to a man, not by his own effort, but when he yields himself to be possessed and re-created by the Spirit within him.
(iii) It happens by the word of truth (James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23). In the beginning it was the word of God which created heaven and earth and all that is in them. God spoke and the chaos became a world, and the world was equipped with and for life. It is the creative word of God in Jesus Christ which brings about this rebirth in a man's life.
(iv) The result of this rebirth is that the man who is reborn becomes the first fruits of a new creation (James 1:18). It lifts him out of this world of space and time, of change and decay, of sin and defeat, and brings him here and now into touch with eternity and eternal life.
(v) When a man is reborn, it is to a living hope (1 Peter 1:3). Paul describes the heathen world as being without hope (Ephesians 2:12). Sophocles wrote: "Not to be born at all--that is by far the best fortune; the second best is as soon as one is born with all speed to return thither whence one has come." To the heathen the world was a place where all things faded and decayed; it might be pleasant enough in itself but it was leading out into nothing but an endless dark. To the ancient world the Christian characteristic was hope. That hope came from two things. (a) The Christian felt that he had been born, not of corruptible, but of incorruptible seed (1 Peter 1:23). He had something of the very seed of God in him and, therefore, had in him a life which neither time nor eternity could destroy. (b) It came from the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:3). The Christian had for ever beside him--even more, was one with--this Jesus Christ who had conquered even death and, therefore, there was nothing of which he need be afraid.
(vi) The rebirth of the Christian is a rebirth to righteousness (1 John 2:29; 1 John 3:9; 1 John 5:18). In this rebirth he is cleansed from himself, the sins which shackle him and the habits which bind him; and he is given a power which enables him to walk in righteousness. That is not to say that the man who is reborn will never sin; but it is to say that every time he falls he will be given the power and the grace to rise again.
(vii) The rebirth of the Christian is a rebirth to love (1 John 4:7). Because the life of God is in him, he is cleansed from the essential unforgiving bitterness of the self-centred life and there is in him something of the forgiving and sacrificial love of God.
(viii) Finally, the rebirth of the Christian is rebirth to victory (1 John 5:4). Life ceases to be defeat and begins to be victory, over self and sin and circumstances. Because the life of God is in him, the Christian has learned the secret of victorious living.
THE GREAT INHERITANCE (1 Peter 1:3-5 continued)
Further, the Christian has entered into a great inheritance (kleronomia, Greek #2817). Here is a word with a great history; for it is the word which is regularly used in the Greek Old Testament for the inheritance of Canaan, the Promised Land. Again and again the Old Testament speaks of the land which God had given his people for an inheritance to possess (Deuteronomy 15:4; Deuteronomy 19:10). To us inheritance tends to mean something which in the future we shall possess; as the Bible uses the word, it rather means a secure possession. To the Jew the great settled possession was the Promised Land.
But the Christian inheritance is even greater. Peter uses three words with three great pictures behind them to describe it. It is imperishable (aphthartos, Greek #862). The word does mean imperishable but it can also mean unravaged by any invading army. Many and many a time Palestine had been ravaged by the armies of the aliens; it had been fought over and blasted and destroyed. But the Christian possesses a peace and a joy, which no invading army can ravage and destroy. It is undefilable. The word is amiantos (Greek #283), and the verb miainein (Greek #3392), from which this adjective comes, means to pollute with impious impurity. Many and many a time Palestine had been rendered impure by false worship of false gods (Jeremiah 2:7; Jeremiah 2:23; Jeremiah 3:2; Ezekiel 20:43). The defiling things had often left their touch even on the Promised Land; but the Christian has a purity which the sin of the world cannot infect. It is unfading (amarantos, Greek #263). In the Promised Land, as in any land, even the loveliest flower fades and the loveliest blossom dies. But the Christian is lifted into a world where there is no change and decay and where his peace and joy are untouched by the chances and the changes of life.
What, then, is this wonderful inheritance which the reborn Christian possesses? There may be many secondary answers to that question but there is only one primary answer--the inheritance of the Christian is God himself. The Psalmist said, "The Lord is my chosen portion... I have a goodly heritage" (Psalms 16:5). God is his portion for ever (Psalms 73:23-26). "The Lord," said the prophet, "is my portion; therefore I will hope in him" (Lamentations 3:24).
It is because the Christian possesses God and is possessed by God that he has the inheritance which is imperishable, undefilable and which can never fade away.
PROTECTED IN TIME AND SAFE IN ETERNITY (1 Peter 1:3-5 continued)
The inheritance of the Christian, the full joy of God, is waiting for him in heaven; and of that Peter has two great things to say.
(i) On our journey through this world to eternity we are protected by the power of God through faith. The word which Peter uses for protect (phrourein, Greek #5432) is a military word. It means that our life is garrisoned by God and that he stands sentinel over us all our days. The man who has faith never doubts, even when he cannot see him, that God is standing within the shadows keeping watch upon his own. It is not that God saves us from the troubles and the sorrows and the problems of life; but he enables us to conquer them and march on.
(ii) The final salvation will be revealed at the last time. Here we have two conceptions which are at the very basis of New Testament thought.
The New Testament frequently speaks of the last day or days, or the last time. At the back of this is the way the Jews divided all time into two ages--the present age, which is wholly under the domination of evil and the age to come, which will be the golden age of God. In between came the day of the Lord during which the world would be destroyed and remade and judgment would come. It is this in between time which is the last days or the last time, that time when the world as we know it will come to an end.
It is not given to us to know when that time will come nor what will happen then. But we can gather together what the New Testament says about these last days.
(i) The Christians believed that they were already living in the last days. "It is the last hour," says John to his people (1 John 2:18). The writer to the Hebrews speaks of the fullness of the revelation which has come to men in Christ in these last days (Hebrews 1:2). As the first Christians saw it, God had already invaded time and the end was hastening on.
(ii) The last times were to be times of the pouring out of God's Spirit upon men (Acts 2:17). The early Christians saw that being fulfilled in Pentecost and in the Spirit-filled Church.
(iii) It was the regular conviction of the early Christians that before the end the powers of evil would make a final assault and that all kinds of false teachers would arise (2 Timothy 3:1; 1 John 2:18; Jd 18 ).
(iv) The dead would be resurrected. It is Jesus' promise that at the last time he will raise up his own (John 6:39-40; John 6:44; John 6:54; John 11:24).
(v) Inevitably it would be a time of judgment when God's justice would be exercised and his enemies find their just condemnation and punishment (John 12:48; James 5:3).
Such are the ideas which are in the minds of the New Testament writers when they use this phrase the last times or the last days.
Clearly for many a man such a time will be a time of terror; but for the Christian there is, not terror, but deliverance. The word sozein (Greek #4982) means to save in far more than a theological sense. It is the regular word for to rescue from danger and to heal in sickness. Charles Bigg in his commentary points out that in the New Testament sozein (Greek #4982), to save, and soteria (Greek #4991), salvation, have four different, but closely related, spheres of meaning. (a) They describe deliverance from danger (Matthew 8:25). (b) They describe deliverance from disease (Matthew 9:21). (c) They describe deliverance from the condemnation of God (Matthew 10:22; Matthew 24:13). (d) They describe deliverance from the disease and power of sin (Matthew 1:21). Salvation is a many-sided thing. In it there is deliverance from danger, deliverance from disease, deliverance from condemnation and deliverance from sin. And it is that, and nothing less than that, to which the Christian can look forward at the end.
THE SECRET OF ENDURANCE (1 Peter 1:6-7)
1:6-7 Herein you rejoice, even if it is at present necessary that for a brief time you should be grieved by all kinds of trials, for the object of these trials is that your tried and tested faith, more precious than gold which perishes though it is tested by the fire, may win praise and glory and honour when Jesus Christ shall appear.
Peter comes to the actual situation in life in which his readers found themselves. Their Christianity had always made them unpopular, but now they were facing almost certain persecution. Soon the storm was going to break and life was going to be an agonizing thing. In face of that threatening situation Peter in effect reminds them of three reasons why they can stand anything that may come upon them.
(i) They can stand anything because of what they are able to look forward to. At the end there is for them the magnificent inheritance, life with God. In fact this is how Westcott understands the phrase, "in the last time" (en (Greek #1722) kairo (Greek #2540) eschato, Greek #2078). We have taken it to mean in the time when the world as we know it will come to an end; but the Greek can mean when the worst comes to the worst. It is then, says Westcott, when things have reached their limit, that the saving power of Christ will be displayed.
In any event, the ultimate meaning is the same. For the Christian persecution and trouble are not the end; beyond lies the glory; and in the hope of that glory he can endure anything that life brings to him. It sometimes happens that a man has to undergo a painful operation or course of treatment; but he gladly accepts the pain and the discomfort because of the renewed health and strength which lie beyond. It is one of the basic facts of life that a man can endure anything so long as he has something to look forward to--and the Christian can look forward to the ultimate joy.
(ii) They can stand anything that comes if they remember that every trial is, in fact, a test. Before gold is pure it has to be tested in the fire. The trials which come to a man test his faith and out of them that faith can emerge stronger than ever it was before. The rigours which the athlete has to undergo are not meant to make him collapse but to make him able to develop more strength and staying-power. In this world trials are not meant to take the strength out of us, but to put the strength into us.
In this connection there is something most suggestive in the language Peter uses. He says that the Christian for the moment may well have to undergo various trials. The Greek is poikilos (Greek #4164), which literally means many-coloured. Peter uses that word only one other time and it is to describe the grace of God (1 Peter 4:10). Our troubles may be many-coloured, but so is the grace of God; there is no colour in the human situation which that grace cannot match. There is a grace to match every trial and there is no trial without its grace.
(iii) They can stand anything, because at the end of it, when Jesus Christ appears, they will receive from him praise and glory and honour. Again and again in this life we make our biggest efforts and do our best work, not for pay or profit, but in order to see the light in someone's eyes and to hear his word of praise. These things mean more than anything else in the world. The Christian knows that, if he endures, he will in the end hear the Master's "Well done!"
Here is the recipe for endurance when life is hard and faith is difficult. We can stand up to things because of the greatness to which we can look forward, because every trial is another test to strengthen and to purify our faith, and because at the end of it Jesus Christ is waiting to say, "Well done!" to all his faithful servants.
UNSEEN BUT NOT UNKNOWN (1 Peter 1:8-9)
1:8-9 Although you never knew him, you love him; although you do not see him, you believe in him. And you rejoice with unspeakable and glorious joy because you are receiving that which faith must end in--the salvation of your souls.
Peter is drawing an implicit contrast between himself and his readers. It was his great privilege to have known Jesus in the days of his flesh. His readers had not had that joy; but, although they never knew Jesus in the flesh, they love him; and although they do not see him with the bodily eye, they believe. And that belief brings to them a joy beyond speech and clad with glory, for even here and now it makes them certain of the ultimate welfare of their souls.
E. G. Selwyn in his commentary distinguishes four stages in man's apprehension of Christ.
(i) The first is the stage of hope and desire, the stage of those who throughout the ages dreamed of the coming of the King. As Jesus himself said to his disciples, "Many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it" (Luke 10:23-24). There were the days of longings and expectations which were never fully realized.
(ii) The second stage came to those who knew Christ in the flesh. That is what Peter is thinking about here. That is what he was thinking about when he said to Cornelius, "We are witnesses to all that he did, both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem" (Acts 10:39). There were those who walked with Jesus and on whose witness our knowledge of his life and the words depends.
(iii) There are those in every nation and time who see Jesus with the eye of faith. Jesus said to Thomas, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe" (John 20:29). This way of seeing Jesus is possible only because he is not someone who lived and died and exists now only as a figure in a book but someone who lived and died and is alive for evermore. It has been said that "no apostle ever remembered Jesus." That is to say, Jesus is not only a memory; he is a person whom we can meet.
(iv) There is the beatific vision. It was John's confidence that we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:2). "Now," said Paul, "we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face" (1 Corinthians 13:12). If the eye of faith endures, the day will come when it will be the eye of sight, and we shall see face to face and know even as we are known.
Jesus, these eyes have never seen
That radiant form of thine;
The veil of sense hangs dark between
Thy blessed face and mine.
I see thee not, I hear thee not,
Yet art thou oft with me;
And earth hath ne'er so dear a spot
As where I meet with thee.
Yet, though I have not seen, and still
Must rest in faith alone,
I love thee, dearest Lord, and will,
Unseen but not unknown.
When death these mortal eyes shall seal,
And still this throbbing heart,
The rending veil shall thee reveal
All glorious as thou art.
THE FORETELLING OF THE GLORY (1 Peter 1:10-12)
1:10-12 Prophets, who prophesied about the grace which was to come to you, enquired and searched concerning that salvation, seeking to find out when and how the Spirit of Christ within them, testifying in advance to the sufferings destined for Christ and to the glories which must follow them, was telling them that it would come. It was revealed to them that the ministry which they were exercising in these things was not for themselves but for you, things which have now been proclaimed to you through those who preached the gospel to you through the power of the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven, things of which the angels long to catch a glimpse.
Here again we have a rich passage. The wonder of the salvation which was to come to men in Christ was such that the prophets searched and enquired about it; and even the angels were eager to catch a glimpse of it. Few passages have more to tell us about how the prophets wrote and about how they were inspired.
(i) We are told two things about the prophets. First, they searched and enquired about the salvation which was to come. Second, the Spirit of Christ told them about Christ. Here we have the great truth that inspiration depends on two things--the searching mind of man and the revealing Spirit of God. It used sometimes to be said that the men who wrote Scripture were pens in the hands of God or flutes into which his Spirit breathed or lyres across which his Spirit moved. That is to say, they were held to be nothing more than almost unconscious instruments in God's hands. But this passage tells us that God's truth comes only to the man who searches for it. In inspiration there is an element which is human and an element which is divine; it is the product at one and the same time of the search of man's mind and the revelation of God's Spirit.
Further, this passage tells us that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, was always operative in this world. Wherever men have glimpsed beauty, wherever they have laid hold on truth, wherever they have had longings for God, the Spirit of Christ was there. Never has there been any time in any nation when the Spirit of Christ was not moving men to seek God and guiding them to find him. Sometimes they have been blind and deaf, sometimes they have misinterpreted that guidance, sometimes they have grasped but fragments of it, but always that revealing Spirit has been there to guide the searching mind.
(ii) This passage tells us that the prophets spoke of the sufferings and the glory of Christ. Such passages as Psalms 22:1-31 and Isaiah 52:13-15; Isaiah 53:1-12 found their consummation and fulfilment in the sufferings of Christ. Such passages as Psalms 2:1-12 , Psalms 16:8-11, Psalms 110:1-7 , found their fulfilment in the glory and the triumph of Christ. We need not think that the prophets foresaw the actual man Jesus. What they did foresee was that one would come some day in whom their dreams and visions would all be fulfilled.
(iii) This passage tells us for whom the prophets spoke. It was the message of the glorious deliverance of God that they brought to men. That was a deliverance which they themselves never experienced. Sometimes God gives a man a vision, but says to the man himself, "Not yet!" He took Moses to Pisgah and showed him the Promised Land and said to him, "I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there" (Deut 34:14). Someone tells of watching one night at dusk a blind lamplighter lighting the lamps. He tapped his way from lamp-post to lamp-post bringing to others a light which he himself would never see. As the prophets knew, it is a great gift to receive the vision, even if the consummation of the vision is for others still to come.
THE MESSAGE OF THE PREACHER (1 Peter 1:10-12 continued)
This passage tells us not only of the visions of the prophets but also of the message of the preacher. It was the preachers who brought the message of salvation to the readers of Peter's letter.
(i) It tells us that preaching is the announcement of salvation. Preaching may at different times have many notes and many aspects, but fundamentally it is the proclamation of the gospel, the good news. The preacher may at times have to warn, threaten and condemn; he may have to remind men of the judgment and the wrath of God; but basically, beyond all else, his message is the announcement of salvation.
(ii) It tells us that preaching is through the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven. The preacher's message is not his own; it is given to him. He brings, not his own opinions and even prejudices; he brings the truth as given him by the Holy Spirit. Like the prophet he will have to search and enquire; he will have to study and to learn; but he must then wait for the guidance of the Spirit to come to him.
(iii) It tells us that the preacher's message is of things of which the angels long to catch a glimpse. There is no excuse for triviality in preaching. There is no excuse for an earthbound and unlovely message without interest or thrill. The salvation of God is a tremendous thing.
It is with the message of salvation and the inspiration of the Spirit of Christ that the preacher must ever appear before men.
THE NECESSARY VIRILITY OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH (1 Peter 1:13)
1:13 So, then, gird up the loins of your mind; be sober; come to a final decision to place your hope on the grace which is going to be brought to you at the revealing of Jesus Christ.
Peter has been talking about the greatness and the glory to which the Christian may look forward; but the Christian can never be lost in dreams of the future; he must always be virile in the battle of the present. So Peter sends out three challenges to his people.
(i) He tells them to gird up the loins of their mind This is a deliberately vivid phrase. In the east men wore long flowing robes which hindered fast progress or strenuous action. Round the waist they wore a broad belt or girdle; and when strenuous action was necessary they shortened the long robe by pulling it up within the belt in order to give them freedom of movement. The English equivalent of the phrase would be to roll up one's sleeves or to take off one's jacket. Peter is telling his people that they must be ready for the most strenuous mental endeavour. They must never be content with a flabby and unexamined faith; they must set to and think things out and think them through. It may be that they will have to discard some things. It may be that they will make mistakes. But what they are left with will be theirs in such a way that nothing and nobody can ever take it away from them.
(ii) He tells them to be sober. The Greek word, like the English, can have two meanings. It can mean that they must refrain from drunkenness in the literal sense of the term; and it can also mean that they must be steady in their minds. They must become intoxicated neither with intoxicating liquor nor with intoxicating thoughts; they must preserve a balanced judgment. It is easy for the Christian to be carried away with this, that, or the next sudden enthusiasm and to become readily intoxicated with the latest fashion and the newest craze. Peter is appealing to them to maintain the essential steadiness of the man who knows what he believes.
(iii) He tells them to set their hope on the grace which is going to be given to them when Jesus Christ comes. It is the great characteristic of the Christian that he lives in hope; and because he lives in hope he can endure the trials of the present. Any man can endure struggle and effort and toil, if he is certain that it is all leading somewhere. That is why the athlete accepts his training and the student his study. For the Christian the best is always still to come. He can live with gratitude for all the mercies of the past, with resolution to meet the challenge of the present and with the certain hope that in Christ the best is yet to be.
THE CHRISTLESS LIFE AND THE CHRIST-FILLED LIFE (1 Peter 1:14-25)
1:14-25 Be obedient children. Do not continue to live a life which matches the desires of the days of your former ignorance, but show yourselves holy in all your conduct of life as he who called you is holy, because it stands written: "You must be holy, because I am holy." If you address as Father him who judges each man according to his work with complete impartiality, conduct yourselves with reverence throughout the time of your sojourn in this world; for you know that it was not by perishable things, by silver or gold, that you were rescued from the futile way of life which you learned from your fathers, but it was by the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. It was before the creation of the world that he was predestined to his work; it is at the end of the ages that he has appeared, for the sake of you who through him believe in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope might be in God. Now that you have purified your souls by obedience to the truth--a purification that must issue in a brotherly love that is sincere--love each other heartily and steadfastly, for you have been reborn, not of mortal but of immortal seed, through the living and abiding word of God, for, "All flesh is grass, and its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever." And that is the word, the good news of which was brought to you.
There are three great lines of approach in this passage and we look at them one by one.
(1) Jesus Christ Redeemer And Lord
It has great things to say about Jesus Christ as Redeemer and Lord.
(i) Jesus Christ is the emancipator, through whom men are delivered from the bondage of sin and death; he is the lamb without blemish and without spot (1 Peter 1:19). When Peter spoke like that of Jesus, his mind was going back to two Old Testament pictures--to Isaiah 53:1-12 , with its picture of the Suffering Servant, through whose suffering the people were saved and healed and above all to the picture of the Passover Lamb (Exodus 12:5). On that memorable night when they left the slavery of Egypt, the children of Israel were bidden to take a lamb and slay it and mark their doorposts with its blood; and, when the angel of death went through the land slaying the first-born sons of the Egyptians, he passed over every house so marked. In that picture of the Passover Lamb there are the twin thoughts of emancipation from slavery and deliverance from death. No matter how we interpret it, it cost the life and death of Jesus Christ to liberate men from their bondage to sin and to death.
(ii) Jesus Christ is the eternal purpose of God. It was before the creation of the world that he was predestined for the work which was given him to do (1 Peter 1:20). Here is a great thought. Sometimes we tend to think of God as first Creator and then Redeemer, as having created the world and then, when things went wrong, finding a way to rescue it through Jesus Christ. But here we have the vision of a God who was Redeemer before he was Creator. His redeeming purpose was not an emergency measure to which he was compelled when things went wrong. It goes back before creation.
(iii) Peter has a connection of thought which is universal in the New Testament. Jesus Christ is not only the lamb who was slain; he is the resurrected and triumphant one to whom God gave glory. The New Testament thinkers seldom separate the Cross and the Resurrection; they seldom think of the sacrifice of Christ without thinking of his triumph. Edward Rogers, in That they might have Life, tells us that on one occasion he went carefully through the whole story of the Passion and the Resurrection in order to find a way to represent it dramatically, and goes on, "I began to feel that there was something subtly and tragically wrong in any emphasis on the agony of the Cross which dimmed the brightness of the Resurrection, any suggestion that it was endured pain rather than overcoming love which secured man's salvation." He asks where the eyes of the Christian turn at the beginning of Lent. What do we dominantly see? "Is it the darkness that covered the earth at noon, swirling round the pain and anguish of the Cross? Or is it the dazzling, mysterious early-morning brightness that shone from an empty tomb?" He continues, "There are forms of most earnest and devoted evangelical preaching and theological writing which convey the impression that somehow the Crucifixion has overshadowed the Resurrection and that the whole purpose of God in Christ was completed on Calvary. The truth, which is obscured only at grave spiritual peril, is that the Crucifixion cannot be interpreted and understood save in the light of the Resurrection."
Through his death Jesus emancipated men from their bondage to slavery and death; but through his Resurrection he gives them a life which is as glorious and indestructible as his own. Through this triumphant Resurrection we have faith and hope in God (1 Peter 1:21).
In this passage we see Jesus the great emancipator at the cost of Calvary; We see Jesus the eternal redeeming purpose of God; We see Jesus the triumphant victor over death and the glorious Lord of life, the giver of life which death cannot touch and the bringer of hope which nothing can take away.
(2) The Christless Life
Peter picks out three characteristics of the Christless life.
(i) It is the life of ignorance (1 Peter 1:14). The pagan world was always haunted by the unknowability of God; at best men could but grope after his mystery. "It is hard," said Plato, "to investigate and to find the framer and the father of the universe; and, if one did find him, it would be impossible to express him in terms which all could understand." Even for the philosopher, to find God is difficult; and for the ordinary man, to understand him is impossible. Aristotle spoke of God as the supreme cause, by all men dreamed of and by no man known. The ancient world did not doubt that there was a God or gods but it believed that such gods as there were were quite unknowable and totally uninterested in men and the universe. In a world without Christ God was mystery and power but never love; there was no one to whom men could raise their hands for help or their eyes for hope.
(ii) It is the life dominated by desire (1 Peter 1:14). As we read the records of that world into which Christianity came we cannot but be appalled at the sheer fleshliness of life within it. There was desperate poverty at the lower end of the social scale; but at the top we read of banquets which cost thousands of pounds, where peacocks' brains and nightingales' tongues were served and where the Emperor Vitellius set on the table at one banquet two thousand fish and seven thousand birds. Chastity was forgotten. Martial speaks of a woman who had reached her tenth husband; Juvenal of a woman who had eight husbands in five years; and Jerome tells us that in Rome there was one woman who was married to her twenty-third husband, she herself being his twenty-first wife. Both in Greece and in Rome homosexual practices were so common that they had come to be looked on as natural. It was a world mastered by desire, whose aim was to find newer and wilder ways of gratifying its lusts.
(iii) It was a life characterized by futility. Its basic trouble was that it was not going anywhere. Catullus writes to his Lesbia pleading for the delights of love. He pleads with her to seize the moment with its fleeting joys. "Suns can rise and set again; but once our brief light is dead, there is nothing left but one long night from which we never shall awake." If a man was to die like a dog, why should he not live like a dog? Life was a futile business with a few brief years in the light of the sun and then an eternal nothingness. There was nothing for which to live and nothing for which to die. Life must always be futile when there is nothing on the other side of death.
(3) The Christ-filled Life
Peter finds three characteristics of the Christ-filled life and for each he finds compelling reasons.
(i) The Christ-filled life is the life of obedience and of holiness (1 Peter 1:14-16). To be chosen by God is to enter, not only into great privilege, but also into great responsibility. Peter remembers the ancient command at the very heart of all Hebrew religion. It was God's insistence to his people that they must be holy because he was holy (Leviticus 11:44; Leviticus 19:2; Leviticus 20:7; Leviticus 20:26). The word for holy is hagios (Greek #40) whose root meaning is different. The Temple is hagios (Greek #40) because it is different from other buildings; the Sabbath is hagios (Greek #40) because it is different from other days; the Christian is hagios (Greek #40) because he is different from other men. The Christian is God's man by God's choice. He is chosen for a task in the world and for a destiny in eternity. He is chosen to live for God in time and with him in eternity. In the world he must obey his law and reproduce his life. There is laid on the Christian the task of being different.
(ii) The Christ-filled life is the life of reverence (1 Peter 1:17-21). Reverence is the attitude of mind of the man who is always aware that he is in the presence of God. In these five verses Peter picks out three reasons for this Christian reverence. (a) The Christian is a sojourner in this world. Life for him is lived in the shadow of eternity; he thinks all the time, not only of where he is but also of where he is going. (b) He is going to God; true, he can call God Father, but that very God whom he calls Father is also he who judges every man with strict impartiality. The Christian is a man for whom there is a day of reckoning. He is a man with a destiny to win or to lose. Life in this world becomes of tremendous importance because it is leading to the life beyond. (c) The Christian must live life in reverence, because it cost so much, nothing less than the life and death of Jesus Christ. Since, then, life is of such surpassing value, it cannot be wasted or thrown away. No honourable man squanders what is of infinite human worth.
(iii) The Christ-filled life is the life of brotherly love. It must issue in a love for the brethren which is sincere and hearty and steadfast. The Christian is a man who is reborn, not of mortal, but of immortal seed. That may mean either of two things. It may mean that the remaking of the Christian is due to no human agency but to the agency of God, another way of saying what John said when he spoke of those "who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:13). More probably it means that the Christian is remade by the entry into him of the seed of the word; and the picture is that of the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-9). The quotation which Peter makes is from Isaiah 40:6-8 and the second interpretation fits that better. However we take it, the meaning is that the Christian is remade. Because he is reborn, the life of God is in him. The great characteristic of the life of God is love, and so the Christian must show that divine love for men.
The Christian is the man who lives the Christ-filled life, the life that is different, never forgets the infinity of its obligation, and is made beautiful by the love of the God who gave it birth.
-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)
Sunday, March 9th, 2014
the First Sunday of Lent
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