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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary
1 Peter 3

 

 

Verse 4

THE TRUE WOMAN

‘The ornament of a meek and quiet spirit.’

1 Peter 3:4

I want to try and put before you, keeping clear as far as may be of political considerations, the end which, according to God’s Holy Word, a Christian woman should strive after, for this is the highest object of ambition, and this is the true woman’s right.

Now, what shall we say as to the true place and perfection of a Christian woman? What is to be her model? What is she to aim at? In a word, what is the highest life to which she can aspire? Well, to most, there will occur the previous difficulty. Is it better to be a matron or a maid? Which is the higher life? And to this question you will get answers wide as the poles asunder. But the special advantages and disadvantages of the two states do not strictly come within the limits of our subject, for I want to speak not of what constitutes a good matron or a good maid, but what are the characteristics of a good woman.

I. What are the natural characteristics of women?

(a) They are physically weaker than men, and on this sense of weakness is based their feeling of dependency. I know, alas! (to the shame of men be it spoken) that men have used this, their physical superiority, for cruelty and tyranny—have used, did I say?—do use it in our Christian land, aye, here at our very doors; but they are more like brutes than men who do it, and, thank God, these are exceptions in Christian England; but in no wise does this shameful fact of cruelty on the one side touch the fact of the inferiority of women in mere physical strength.

(b) They are weaker in reasoning and scientific processes. When she advances in scientific power she loses in womanly tact. Men’s reasoning, of which we boast, continually leads us wrong, but the instinct of a woman seldom errs. Poets and satirists constantly talk about women as beings that no one can comprehend, and this is put down to the fact that they are so illogical, or so wayward and capricious. But there is another explanation. It is this: man is very weak in that power of perception, that capacity for instinctively grasping a character which a woman’s nature gives her. Few men understand women. Few men are not easily seen through by women. People would be shocked if we said that instinct is higher than reason, but it very often is—certainly it is more infallible—and God, in dividing to every one as He would, has given men more of the power of reasoning, and women more of insight and tact.

(c) It follows from this very inferiority in head and superiority in heart that women are more religious than men. We say they ‘jump at conclusions,’ but if the conclusions are right, it is better to reach them anyhow than to lose oneself half-way in vague and unproductive questionings. Men often do this; scientific men, logically minded men, men who at starting admit that they are investigating only secondary causes, of which God is the first cause, sometimes get lost among these second causes, and begin to wonder whether there is a God at all. Women rarely do this. They jump at the conclusion of the reasoning, which is also the beginning of all things on which we reason, God the Creator of the world. It is an instinctive but a true process, and one which they would be indeed unwise to exchange for another method, which may be learned, but is not natural to them. I think this is why an irreligious woman or an unbelieving woman shocks our feelings so much more than a sceptical man.

(d) They are essentially made forhome.’ Made to be the centre, far more than the man is, of moral and religious family life. About the true woman there is something of retiredness, something of quiet, something which shows that without being selfish she is self-contained. This does not mean—God forbid—that she is not to be educated, that we should endorse the opinions of those who think her capable of nothing but needlework and cooking, or the still more foolish view of later times that the only thing she is fit for is the fancy work which may kill time, work that can by no conceivable possibility be useful to herself or others. A woman, whether married or single, has it always in her power to take part in the Divine work of teaching others, and no means which will fit her for this work will she be wise to neglect. I say the ‘Divine work,’ for I can conceive of no human labour more Divine than nursing children for God, and directing the fresh, pure souls of infants to their Father in heaven. Those who have given their hearts to such work are often surprised how everything seems to help them—their secular studies, the culture of eye and ear, and even the less intellectual but not less womanly occupations of the house. Yes, thank God! women must work, and women must be taught; and yet with all their work, and all their learning, and all their anxiety to do what they can for others, there will still be a retiredness about the true woman. I believe our instinctive judgments in this matter are right. The woman who is always anxious to be in the front is no true woman; the woman who likes to enter the lists with men is not a true woman; the woman who is so busy running hither and thither that she has no care for the quiet retiredness of home duties is no true woman; the woman whose one thought in her dress is to wear something striking, something that will catch the eye of the other sex, or stir up the envy of her own, is no true woman. Even ‘society,’ as it is called, unchristian as it is in many things, admits this, that the perfection of a woman’s dress is that it should call for no remark. It is a part of woman’s modesty that she should shrink from public gaze, at least that she could not court it; and if in her special work for God she be called to take what some would call a prominent part, the innate womanliness of her bearing will show even there the ‘ornament of a meek and quiet spirit,’ which in the sight of God, aye, and in the sight of men too, is of great price. These are the characteristics which we naturally look for in women, and admire when we see them: dependence on a stronger arm, the instinctive power of a loving nature, a religious and reverent disposition, and a love of retiredness and home. Can we change any of these without loss? I think not.

II. Now turn to what is enjoined by the Word of God.—I must sum up these duties very shortly.

(a) The first is ‘obedience’; obedience of the child to the father, and the wife to the husband. Children, obey your parents in all things; likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands. Here is the dependency which we have noticed as a fact appearing under the form of a duty. ‘Obey: be subject.’ It is, of course, easy to quote these commands, and say it means slavery, an old-world view of the relation of the sexes. But it is not true. The obedience and subjection of child or wife has its root in love, and where love reigns, obedience is easy. When a girl chafes at the restrictions of home, it is a sad omen for her married life; but the good daughter passes almost naturally into the good wife. It is one of Lord Bacon’s sayings that ‘a good wife commands by obeying’; which means, I think, not that she gets her own way by pretending to let her husband have his, but that the husband who finds his wife ready and willing to carry out his wishes, ready to obey, will, if he is a man at all, be all the more kind and courteous; less, not more, exacting, and least inclined to tyranny; more ready, if he has wandered from it, to be won back to the Faith by the gentle influence, the conversation of the wife.

(b) And the second duty which stands out prominently in the Bible is sobriety and retiredness. Listen to St. Peter’s words, spoken indeed primarily to wives, but bringing out clearly the true perfections of womanhood: ‘Whose adorning … is in the sight of God of great price.’

Illustrations

(1) ‘I think if English women sometimes set definitely before them the lives of the holy women as their pattern, and turned to their Bibles to see what is told us, it would be a real help. For instance, suppose an Englishwoman tries to find out what there is told us about her who was chosen to be the mother of Jesus, the first thing she would notice would be how very little is told us about her. The Roman Catholic has filled up the gap with many an apocryphal story, but surely the lesson is an easy one to read, that the true woman loves to be unknown, wrapped in the sacred privacy of home life, from which only the calls of affection or the duties of religion draw her. As the unknown life of Jesus of Nazareth teaches us the need of seclusion and quiet for those who are preparing for a great purpose, so the little known life of the holy mother hints to us the need of retiredness in the true woman.’

(2) ‘Culture, civilisation, laws, all have failed to teach the double truth of the equality of the sexes before God, and their different yet equally noble spheres in the family on earth. The educated Hindoo, no less than the savage South Sea Islander, has failed to realise these truths, and it is only by spreading far and wide the knowledge of God’s love in Christ for every creature He has made, only by teaching the dignity of that nature which the Eternal Son has taken into God, that we can effectually aid the heathen daughters of the One Father. But on the other hand, here in England, and in other Christian countries, there is danger of a very different degradation, for I call that a degradation which draws away any being from its proper objects of ambition, and makes it aim at a place in God’s world which neither nature nor revelation have allotted to it.’


Verse 8-9

THE CHRISTIAN SPIRIT

‘Finally be ye all of one mind … that ye should inherit a blessing.’

1 Peter 3:8-9

There are certain duties peculiar to certain positions and relations of human life. These the Apostle has treated of in previous verses. And now he enjoins those virtues which are binding upon all who profess and call themselves Christians. The class of graces which he here presents for their cultivation is that which is peculiarly Christian. In this, as in other places, it is taken for granted that moral qualities, the excellence of which was admitted by heathen philosophers, will be held in esteem; and special attention is given to such as were commonly overlooked, such as in an especial manner flow from the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ as their true source.

I. The central duty and virtue enjoined is brotherly love.—This was the Master’s new commandment. And to this Christianity supplies the highest and most powerful motives, in its revelation of the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Christ. Dispositions which men cannot be expected to cultivate from motives of human expediency, or under the sanction of human authority, become possible when they are based upon a Divine revelation, and are enforced by a Divine motive.

II. From this central duty and virtue radiate a variety of holy and beneficent dispositions and moral habits.—Of these the Apostle here enumerates:—

(a) Unity in thought; by which is meant, not identity of opinion; but a common agreement to accept the Divine revelation, and a unity of feeling and spirit.

(b) Sympathy, or fellowship in feeling; the readiness to rejoice with those who rejoice, and to weep with those who weep.

(c) Compassion, especially towards the weak, the suffering, and the needy.

(d) Humbleness of mind; which is the opposite of pride, arrogance, and self-conceit, and involves modesty, and readiness to condescend to men of low estate.

(e) Abstinence from revenge and retaliation, and the formation of the habit of benediction. Evil-doing and evil-speaking are uncongenial to the Christian spirit, which finds expression in words of benediction and of intercession.

III. Such duty and virtue shall meet with an abundant reward from Heaven.—The promise alike of the Old Covenant and the New is, that they who confer blessing upon others shall, by God’s grace, inherit blessing themselves.

Illustrations

(1) ‘Henry the Fourth, of France, being once taken to task for returning the salute of a poor man as he was passing through a village, said, “Would you have your king exceeded in politeness by one of his meanest subjects?”’

(2) ‘When Sir William Johnson returned the salute of a negro who had bowed to him, he was reminded that he had done what was very unfashionable. “Perhaps so,” said Sir William, “but I would not be outdone in good manners by a negro.”’


Verse 10

IS LIFE WORTH LIVING?

‘He that will love life.’

1 Peter 3:10

The spirit of the age analyses human life remorselessly. It sets down the good which it presents in one column—the good it takes away, and the evil it inflicts, in another. Its conclusion is—Life is a fatal gift, life is not worth living. Let us, then, address ourselves to the question now so often asked, ‘Is life worth living?’

I. What is really meant by life?—There are two words in the New Testament which, from the necessities of our language, are alike rendered ‘life.’ One of these words signifies the principle of animal life, the things by which it is preserved or gladdened, and its span. The other word belongs to a higher sphere. It is the new life given in germ at Baptism, which may be stunted or strengthened, as grace is used or abused; and which, after the Resurrection, is to be suitably clothed upon. Thus, the first refers to man’s natural existence as one of the animal creation; the second to man’s supernatural existence as a son of God. Christ was incarnate to impart this. ‘The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening (life-creating) spirit’ (1 Corinthians 15:45). ‘I am come,’ said Christ, ‘that they might have life.’ The question, then, for Christians really is not whether life, the higher, future existence, is worth living; but whether existence under mere animal or external conditions is worth living?

II. On the question, Is existence, elevated into the higher and supernatural life, worth living? we Christians can have no doubt.

(a) Present acceptance makes life worth living. Finished final salvation is not offered in the twinkling of an eye. But present acceptance is promised to all who come to God through Christ. This makes any existence tolerable. ‘A tranquil God tranquillises all things, and to see His peacefulness is to be at peace.’ Suppose one living in this spirit, day by day—

That with the world, myself, and Thee,

I, ere I sleep, at peace may be—

must not such a life be worth living?

(b) There are times of exquisite pleasure in communion with God. These compensate for the languor of old age and for the slow ‘martyrdom of life.’ They support the believer under the cross: he began by carrying it: it ends by carrying him.

(c) There is the truest pleasure in work for God. The study of His Word is a perpetual delight. The Church’s sacramental life is full of joy. The teaching of the young, the ministry to the sick, the rescue of the fallen, the quickening and elevation of Service and Worship—these have pleasures of their own which give animation and variety to life. But how about that sorrow which is inseparable from religion—the sorrow of Repentance? A great theologian has said that ‘that kind of sorrow is its own consolation’; ‘He hath given a new kind of tears upon earth, which make those happy who shed them.’ ‘Oh, that we could understand that the mystery of grace gives blessedness with tears!’

(d) That life is worth living is proved by the view which Jesus took of it. ‘My delights were with the sons of men’ (Proverbs 8:31). Christ was no pessimist about human life. He saw of what man was capable—what holiness and victory, as well as what sin and defeat. He yearned, from the cradle to the grave, for the Holy Week and Easter, that He might bear the sweetness of the burden.

No doubt human life is tragic and pathetic; yet there is a magic smile on the face of the drama, after all. In the midst of life’s most poignant sorrows riven hearts are alone with God, and white lips say, ‘Thy will be done.’ For they know that after a while the point of view will change. The life of them that sleep in Jesus will stand out as a beautiful whole. Precious words will remain. Wherever they lie all is well. ‘Them that sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.’

—Archbishop Alexander.

Illustrations

(1) ‘This is a melancholy age, notwithstanding its external merriment, pomp, and glitter. Outside of physical considerations, different causes may be assigned for our widespread melancholy. The decline of an instinctive unquestioning faith darkens the present as well as the future. The pressure of life, the struggle for existence, stuns and wearies all but the few thousands “who toil not, neither do they spin.” But whatever be the explanation of the melancholy, the fact of its existence seems to be certain. The records of medical “case-books” are ransacked, and give up their secrets. The brilliant talker is haunted by the croaking raven at home. The popular preacher, who preaches comfort to the mourners, is followed by his own doubts and depressions. The physician, who ministers so wisely to minds diseased, hears in his lonely hours the taunting proverb: “Physician, heal thyself.”’

(2) ‘One young spirit, who passed by the terrible gate of suicide into the other world, wrote: “The good things come off so seldom.” Of all forms of madness, “seeing things exactly as they are” seemed to Voltaire the most appalling and hopeless. Very much may, of course, be said in mitigation of this pessimism. “Life rightly used has happiness for each of its stages.” The sweetness of domestic love; the pleasures of society and friendship; the preponderance of health over sickness and pain; the activities, the pleasing surprises that often come to the weariest lot; the beauties of Nature which exhilarate the body, and interest the mind of man.’


Verse 11

THE BLESSINGS OF PEACE

‘Seek peace, and ensue it.’

1 Peter 3:11

Peace is spoken of in three different respects. There is the peace of the great world of nations and of history. There is the peace with the persons that we live with, the little world of our daily companions and acquaintance. There is the peace within—i.e. peace in the inner world of our own hearts and feelings. All these we are bidden to seek and pray for.

I. Christians are bound to be examples of peaceful living among their neighbours.—This is our first point. A quarrelsome Christian is a contradiction in terms. You may as well talk of cold fire, or of burning ice, as of a quarrelsome Christian. If brothers quarrel the spirit of brotherhood is gone out of them, and they had better not have been brothers. So if a Christian is quarrelsome, the spirit of Christianity is gone out of him, and if he does not leave off being quarrelsome, it would be better for him in the day of judgment if he had never heard of Christ. The man who has let quarrelsomeness get the mastery over him in this life can never enter heaven in the next. The very first word in the chant by which the angels declared that Christ was come from heaven into this world was ‘peace.’ ‘Peace on earth’ was the beginning of their song. Christ came to bring peace. He is the Prince of Peace. And if when Christ came from heaven it was peace coming into the earth, so if we are to go to heaven we must be filled with peace. There is no breaking through this rule.

II. We must seek peace, also, in our own hearts and feelings, even under the most adverse circumstances. Even when we suffer for righteousness’ sake we are to count ourselves happy. Now, no man can count himself happy unless he feels happy. And happiness of heart and peace are one and the same thing. We are to seek peace in our own inner hearts. What do we mean by peace in the heart? We cannot now stop to go over the whole subject of this peace of heart, where it comes from, how it is to be attained, and the like. We can only say a few words about it. And what has to be said about it now is this, that it is a man’s duty to keep his thoughts and his inward temper calm and quiet and peaceful. For if not, in the first place we are actually sinning against God by the thoughts we indulge in; and, in the second place, we are preparing ourselves to fall into almost whatever outward sin of word or deed the devil chooses to tempt us to.

III. What is true of ourselves as individuals in our own private life is true also of God’s Church as a whole. We need quiet and peace in order to serve God. Times of tumult are times of evil and of wickedness. In times of tumult and confusion, bad men are unrestrained, wickedness abounds, and the work of God’s Church is checked. No doubt, in times of confusion and suffering, the very good shine out in their brightest holiness. Suffering and trouble bring to light the good that is in them, just as the darkness of the night makes us see the stars which we do not see by day. But, for all that, the work of the Church at large is hindered; just as no one finds it easier to see his way at night, even though its darkness renders the stars visible, which you could not see in the daytime. And, therefore, just as we pray God to give us His peace in our own hearts, so also we pray that the world around us may be at peace in order that the Church may be free to serve God, and do His work in the world for the extension of the truth and the salvation of souls. In our quiet times we do not think so much as we ought of the great blessing God gives us in the peace and quietness we have enjoyed so long.

Illustration

‘Think for one moment what would become of all our Church work, our schools, our parish charities, our Church building and Church extension, if we were to have only one year of war in our own land; of war, destroying our resources, our harvests, our trade, ruining and burning our towns, and throwing everybody into misery and starvation. Think of the confusion and overthrow that it would bring upon us if it only lasted a short time, and then consider how we ought to thank God that He does answer our prayers for peace, “that His Church may serve Him in all godly quietness.” It was not always so. Time was when war and trouble were common. Time was when peace was rare, and when men longed and prayed for it as being the one great earthly gift they longed for from God. And just because it is so necessary, therefore is it that in in all our Church prayers, whether the Morning or the Evening Prayers, or the Litany, or the Communion Service, we never omit praying that God will give us peace.’

(SECOND OUTLINE)

SEARCHING FOR PEACE

How is this difficult quest of ‘peace’—more difficult every day as the subjects of thought grow larger and deeper, and the divergence of mind becomes wider and wider, as it will do, more and more every day—how, how is it to be carried out?

I. Recognise it as an act of Omnipotence, an attribute of God only. ‘He maketh men to be of one mind in a house.’ ‘I create the fruit of the lips. Peace, peace, to him that is near, and to him that is afar off.’ ‘He maketh peace in His high places.’ You will fail if you do not at once bring in the great power of God to a work which is far too high for you!

II. Then travel to it by the right and only road, adjust your own relations to God. Be at peace yourselves. This done, you will be able to understand and remember at what pains—how patiently, how persistently, how stoopingly, and at what a cost, God made your ‘peace.’ And then you can go and copy ‘God’s peace’—that great Peace-maker with us all!

III. Specially, you will have learned how ‘humility’ is the mother of ‘peace’; how it is the pride which makes all the quarrels; and how it only needs to go low enough, and to put self into the dust enough, to be able to bear any wrong, or any insult—to forgive everybody and everything. You will always find that ‘peace’ sheds its fragrance when it is planted in the shade.

IV. Further, you must never forget that a ‘pursuit’ is not one single act, but a long series of little efforts. You will very seldom catch ‘peace’ at a leap, or by a short run. You will try for it a long time; then you will think you have got it; but it will elude your grasp and you will have to ‘search’ for it again. And this will have to be repeated many, many times. It may be a lifelong work, and you may have to forgive almost ‘seventy times seven’ every day. But you will gain tact and wisdom as you go on. There will be a sweetness and blessing in the very trying. And every kind act, and word, and look—though it fail of its immediate object—will revert to your own hearts.

—Rev. James Vaughan.

Illustration

‘Do all you can to bridge over the divisions of the Church and to knit again its oft unknit unity! Do not lend yourself to party. Do not use party names and party words. Do not give way to the temptation of religious controversy. Very, very seldom—(should I be far wrong if I said never?) never does religious controversy, in common conversation, do any good to anybody! Get above it. Get up into a higher atmosphere. Speak of the things—not in which you differ—but in which you are in union; and they are a hundred to one compared with the points of difference. And all the grandnesses of truth are in the things in which you agree.’


Verse 14

SUFFERING, YET HAPPY

‘If ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye.’

1 Peter 3:14

The early Christians needed all the encouragements and promises which were uttered by our Lord and His apostles. They gave up worldly advantages, and suffered hardships, privations, and persecution. Yet St. Peter pronounces them happy even in the midst of their afflictions.

I. The character of these sufferings.

(a) They consisted partly in unjust and injurious words spoken against them.

(b) They consisted partly in actual persecution.

II. The ground of their sufferings.—Not for wrong-doing, but for righteousness’ sake.

III. The recompense of their sufferings.—The persecuted Christians are pronounced happy, blessed, because—

(a) They are enduring what is permitted by the will of God.

(b) They have the assurance that none can really harm them.

(c) They have fellowship with Christ, bear His cross, and with Him are crucified to the world.

(d) They are witnesses to the world of the truth of revelation and of the power of true religion.

(e) They have the prospect of immortal blessedness; for, after they have suffered a while, they shall be received to the rest and recompense of heaven.


Verse 15

THE LORD AND THE HEART

‘Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts.’

1 Peter 3:15

In the days of Isaiah, the people of Israel were in imminent peril among many foes, and the prophet would have them to look exclusively to the Lord, and calmly and trustfully await the issue of the crisis as their forefathers did at the Red Sea. Hence he says to them—‘Sanctify the Lord of Hosts Himself, and let Him be your fear and your dread.’ The mantle of the prophet fell upon the shoulders of the Apostle, so the one felt with the other; and as the professors of Christianity were every moment liable to be dragged by their adversaries before the magistrates to answer both for their creed and their conduct, St. Peter, in accord with the sentiment of Isaiah, advises them to imitate the Israel of God by hallowing Him in their hearts.

I. Its meaning.—Not to make the Lord holy; for He is ever holy, absolutely holy, independent of all our thought and feeling toward Him, so that we can neither change His nature nor His character.

(a) He is to be esteemed by us as holy. And that, too, under all circumstances. When providential dispensations are seemingly against us, and countless foes surround us, we must not allow our hearts to indulge disappointment and distrust, nor our tongues to utter complaints of injustice and partiality, but believe that all things are working together for our best interests; as ‘He is too wise to err, and too good to be unkind.’

(b) We are to desire that others should esteem Him as we do. We always wish that due regard be paid to the friend we love, and we are sensitive anent this exactly as we regard him ourselves. So of our Divine Friend: we breathe the prayer Jesus taught us through His disciples—‘Hallowed be Thy name,’ and would accordingly have His very appellation consecrated by every lip in every place.

II. Its observance.

(a) Not by a mere intellectual assent. The proposition that He is holy and worthy of trust is far from being all. Hosts of men think of Him as such: it is an article of their creed; but thousands regard Him as one-sided and cruel. They are sadly wrong in their heart. Not so must it be with us.

(b) Not by a mere formal devotion. This, though having the semblance of reality, may lack the feeling which should ever be associated with it, and indeed form the very life of it. The words of an adulator may be never so meet and eloquent; but what are they worth when false and hollow? The form is there, the spirit is absent. We sanctify the Lord in our hearts when we unfeignedly ascribe holiness to Him in all our praises and all our prayers.

(c) This devout homage must be rendered with befitting emotion. Isaiah specifies ‘dread’ and ‘fear’; St. Peter speaks of ‘meekness and fear.’ Not the overwhelming dread felt by the desert people when Sinai rocked with thunder and burned with fire, but the loving fear which he has who finds his chief happiness on earth in doing the will of his Father in heaven. This fear renders all other impossible; for love never dreads a friend, but delights in the mere thought of him. Fearing God, we have really nothing else to fear (Daniel 3:16-18; Romans 8:31).


Verse 22

THE ASCENDED LORD

‘Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God.’

1 Peter 3:22

Let us revisit the Ascension hill. Again we will climb to the crown of Olivet, and walk over field and knoll towards that summit above Bethany; or we will take the high road from Jerusalem, and pass to the same point round the shoulder of the mount. We go out to meditate. And we need not fear disturbance. The city is near at hand; half an hour’s walking will easily take us back to the walls. But this hill-top is quite apart and unfrequented; we can think, and pray, and believe, and be alone, looking up to the quiet heavens, and resting amidst the starry flowers.

For us He has gone into heaven. What do we know in any detail, from the Word which cannot lie, about the works and purposes of His exaltation?

I. Head over all things.—‘God hath set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places … and given Him to be Head over all things to the Church, which is His body’ (Ephesians 1:20; Ephesians 1:22-23). That wonderful Headship is here connected expressly with the historical Ascension. True, there is a sense in which the Lord is eternally all that He is; He rises above time in the virtues of His work. He is ‘the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,’ as to the purpose and as to the merit of His blessed historical atonement. But none the less the historical cross and passion were awfully necessary in order to the realisation of the eternal purpose in time at all. Just so, in the covenant of blessing, the Lord has been for ever the life and Head of His saints; but His actual exaltation after death was required that it might be so; and that exaltation, further, was the glorious signal of a manifestation of His headship so great that it ‘made’ Him Head as coronation ‘makes’ a king. This at least we know, that He is set before us now as our Head expressly in the light of His victory and majesty. It is expressly as the ascended and enthroned Christ Jesus that He is what He is to His happy ‘limbs.’ The life He pours into them, the life which He is for them (Colossians 3:4), is life as He lives it ‘at the right hand of God.’ ‘The Lord’ to Whom every member ‘is joined’ (1 Corinthians 6:17) is the glorified, triumphant, infinitely exalted Jesus. His contact with us, His government of us, our union with one another in Him our Head—all these things are steeped in the splendour of the Ascension. Such is He to us in His glory, such are we to Him in our humiliation, that we are said to be ‘seated together [with Him] in the heavenly places in Him’; with Him as His companions, in Him as His members, in the bright world of His victorious joy. From other and only too obvious points of sight we are, indeed, not there yet. But all the more deliberately and often let us take our view of things from this point. As regards our reunion and communion with Him on Whom we have believed, as regards that oneness of the Head and members which allows St. Paul to say of Him and us, ‘So also is Christ’ (1 Corinthians 12:12); not only is He where we are, but we are where He is.

II. The Mediator of the New Covenant.—‘He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us’ (Hebrews 9:12). And now, having ‘obtained it,’ He is there to administer it. He is, in his ascended glory, ‘the Mediator of the New Covenant’ (Hebrews 9:15). He has ‘obtained’ for you all its blessings by His finished work on that green hill on the other side of Olivet. He has ascended from this green hill to be the faithful Trustee and the ever-willing Giver-out of all those blessings to you His disciple. Your Mediator stands in medio—one with the Father, one with you. All the gifts of the everlasting Love lie in His possession, on purpose for you: the abundant pardon, the eternal Spirit, the transfiguring power, the keeping presence, and, in due time, the glory that is to be revealed. He has undertaken all your responsibilities that he may invest you with all His death-won possessions. And He has invested you with them, on the delightful condition that they shall be always inseparable from Himself. You are never to find them anywhere out of Him. In Him, possessing Him in the free grace of Himself to you, you possess them now, you possess them here, you possess them all.

III. The Enthroned Intercessor.—‘Who also maketh intercession for us’ (Romans 8:34). He is doing it at this moment, and He is doing it as the enthroned Intercessor; as the Priest upon His throne. He is speaking for you. He is your Advocate. He is showering blessing on you as Mediator; He is presenting your name before His Father as Intercessor; as the Lord’s supreme Remembrancer (Isaiah 62:6), perpetually making mention of His unworthy members before the everlasting Love. Nay, let us correct the expression, and say not ‘before’ that Love, but ‘beside’ it. For where and how is He interceding? Do not think of Him, or speak or sing of Him, as if He were before the Throne. Do not dream of Him as if he were standing priest-like at an altar, pleading a propitiation, while He looks upward to the Power Who is to forgive. Such pictures of our Intercessor are not revelation; they are imagination. He is indeed our Priest, our great and glorious High Priest in heaven. But He is the Priest Who has for ever and ever done the altar-work of the Atonement-day. He has passed now through the veils of Holy and of Holiest, leaving them rent that we may follow in with Him. And behold, he has ascended the very Ark itself; He sits enthroned upon the Mercy-seat; He is crowned with many crowns; His hands have done with their victim-sufferings for ever, and are at work for blessing only. His intercession is carried on by the Father’s side and in the glory of the Father.

IV. King for ever.—Once more let us look up, and lift up our heads, to that deep heaven of air which is God’s own symbol of ‘the presence of His glory.’ Christian, the ascended Saviour of your soul, the Head, the Mediator, the Intercessor, the Priest upon His throne—He is there as ‘King for ever.’ Let us kneel upon the place of the Ascension, and own this again, as if we had never done so before. ‘Thou art the King of Glory, O Christ.’ ‘My Lord, O King, I am thine, and all that I have.’ And as Thou art my King, in all the claims of Thy most sacred and righteous and beatifying autocracy, reigning over my heart and over my life, so Thou art King and Lord of earth and of heaven; Thy Father hath set His King upon His everlasting Zion; all power is Thine. Thou dost reign; Thou ‘must reign,’ in the predestination of infinite righteousness and love, ‘till He hath put all enemies under Thy feet.’ And then, for ever, in the holy City, ‘the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it’; ‘of His kingdom shall be no end.’

—Bishop H. C. G. Moule.

Illustration

‘Six hundred years before Christ came Ezekiel saw his grandest vision, “the likeness as the appearance of a Man above” the sapphire-like throne (Ezekiel 1:26). The prophet saw heaven opened, but the strange vision had to wait long for its full interpretation. The first Christmas Day came, and the first Easter; at last on the first Ascension Day Ezekiel’s vision became a fact, and the Second Man, the Divine and human Saviour, sat down on the throne of the universe (Ephesians 4:10). Turn to the fifth chapter of the Revelation and you will see the vision of Ezekiel fulfilled to the letter. “Lo, in the midst of the throne … stood a Lamb as it had been slain.” Heaven places Him “in the midst of the throne.” Earth crowned Him with thorns and placed Him in the midst among the malefactors. Heaven crowns Him with many diadems, and places Him in the midst upon the throne. Facts are the foundation-stones of the Gospel. Every doctrine is based on a fact. Herein lies its charm. Few men can reason, or understand a system of philosophy. But a fact, something that took place, or was done, or suffered, can be understood by all ages and capabilities. There is many a dry page in theological books. But there are no dry pages in the New Testament. Why not? Because the crucified and living Christ is ever pictured forth before our eyes. It is not Christianity. It is Christ.’

 


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Bibliography Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cpc/1-peter-3.html. 1876.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, October 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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