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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
1 Peter 1

 

 

Verses 1-25


Greeting in the Name of the Holy Trinity. Encouragement to Hope in Faith and Obedience

1, 2. To the strangers scattered throughout.. elect] RV 'to the elect who are sojourners of the Dispersion in,' etc. The RV order shows that the present circumstances of his readers, as well as their election and his own apostleship, are all according to the foreknowledge of God. Elect] i.e. chosen. Christians, like Israel of old, are God's chosen people. The 'Dispersion' was a term used to describe the Jews who had been scattered among the nations since the time of the captivity: cp. Isaiah 11:12; Zephaniah 3:10; John 7:35; James 1:1. Pontus, Galatia, etc.] These names include the whole of what we call Asia Minor, N. and W. of the Taurus range. The order is natural if we suppose St. Peter's messenger carried the letter from Rome to a port of Pontus, then made a circuit with it, and returned to the same port. St. Paul had preached in part of this country: cp. Acts 16:6; There were men from Cappadocia, Pontus, and Asia at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:9).

2. The foreknowledge of God] cp. 1 Peter 1:20 RV. The whole course of events which are gradually revealed to man is known to God from everlasting: cp. Romans 4:17 and Romans 8:29; Hebrews 11:40; (RM) Revelation 4:11; (RV). Through sanctification] RV 'in sanctification.' God's chosen people are surrounded by the influences of the Holy Spirit. By these they are brought to consecration and guided afterwards to more and more perfect obedience.

Sprinkling of the blood] Sacrificial sprinkling is meant: cp. Hebrews 9:13, Hebrews 9:19, Hebrews 9:21; Hebrews 10:22; Hebrews 12:24. The expression is peculiar to these two Epistles, and the reference in both is to the sacrifices at the giving of the Law at Sinai (Exodus 24:3-8), where sprinkling with the blood of slain victims was the means of purifying and consecrating the people for entering on the divine covenant, in which they were, on the one hand, accepted as Jehovah's people, on the other, obliged to obedience. So God's foreknowledge, working in the Spirit's sanctification, has chosen a people to be consecrated to fellowship and obedience in the new covenant. But the sprinkling with this Blood is no mere symbol; the blood is the life which has been made perfect by death (cp. Leviticus 17:11), and when the Christian is sprinkled with Christ's Blood, he is made to share His life, and, at the same time, consecrated to an obedience which may have to be unto death. Grace.. and peace] An apostolic salutation, perhaps suggested by the priestly blessing in Numbers 6:22-27. In the word 'grace' is gathered up 'all that may be supposed to be expressed in the smile of a heavenly King looking down upon His people' (Hort).

In this greeting we have, as it were, the ends of the threads which are presently interwoven to make the texture of the Epistle. 'Elect who are sojourners' sums up in an epigram the contrast between the outward uncertainty which was the occasion, and the inward assurance of peace and duty which is the teaching of the whole Epistle. Thus the doctrine of the Holy Trinity on which the greeting is based, becomes the text of the Apostle's exhortations. From 1 Peter 1:3 to 1 Peter 2:10 the sanctification of the Spirit issuing in the Christian life of faith and obedience is the main theme. From 1 Peter 2:11 to 1 Peter 4:11 the sufferings of Christ are presented as the example and purification of those whose ordinary lot is to suffer. From 1 Peter 4:12 to 1 Peter 5:11 the special and fiercer trial which is about to begin is shown to be part of the foreknowledge and counsel of God.

1 Peter 1:3 to 1 Peter 2:10. The first division of the letter:

A (i), 1 Peter 1:3-9, the faith of Christians, (ii), 1 Peter 1:10-12, its connexion with the faith of ancient Israel; B (i), 1 Peter 1:13-21, the life of obedience to which their faith devotes them is (ii), 1 Peter 1:22-25, a new life, (iii), 1 Peter 2:1-10, which is nevertheless the fulfilment of the ideal of the Jewish Church.

A (i). 1 Peter 1:3-9. 'Blessed be God who has begotten us to a living hope through the Resurrection. Laying hold of this hope by faith, you know that you are being kept safe, though trials beset you. These trials but purify your faith, enriching it with joyful love for Jesus Christ, the earnest of the perfect salvation, which shall be revealed when He is revealed.'

3. Hath begotten] RV 'begat': the RV rendering brings the moment of begetting before us. The Resurrection must have been to all the Eleven, and to St. Peter especially, such a change from despair to hope as could. only be expressed as a beginning of new life: cp. Romans 6:4; Ephesians 2:5; Philippians 3:10.

4. Inheritance] The land of promise (Hebrews 11:9) was the inheritance of Israel. During all their wanderings this was reserved for them, but they were taught in many ways that it was a type of a better inheritance. This inheritance is reserved for the true Israel in heaven. It cannot be corrupted, as the earth was in the days of Noah (Genesis 6:11), or defiled as Canaan was by abominations (Leviticus 18:27; Deuteronomy 21:23; Jeremiah 2:7), and the Temple by the heathen (Psalms 79:1), nor do its flowers or fruits fade away (Isaiah 32:15; Isaiah 60:13, Isaiah 61:11): cp. 2 Peter 3:13.

5. Kept] RV 'guarded': cp. Galatians 3:23; Philippians 4:7. Salvation] RV 'a salvation.' The Gk. means 'safety,' 'health,' and is so used in Acts 27:34; Hebrews 11:7. It must have had to all early Christians some of the freshness of a metaphor (cp. The Order of the Visitation of the Sick: 'in whom, and through whom, thou mayest receive health and salvation'), and here, as in Acts 4:12, St. Peter seems to pass from the simple to the deeper significance. In the last time] The Gk. might be rendered, 'in a time of extremity,' i.e. when things are at the worst: cp. Daniel 12:1.

6. Ye greatly rejoice] as the Lord bade His disciples to do in tribulation (John 16:33 cp. John 15:11; John 16:24). Joyfulness characterised the earliest disciples. Temptations] RM 'trials.'

7. The trial of your faith] RV 'The proof of your faith.' St. Peter means it is worth while to purify even perishable gold, much more your faith (cp. Job 23:10; Psalms 66:10; Proverbs 17:3; Zechariah 13:9, and especially Isaiah 48:10; Sirach 2:5); but he expresses it a little inaccurately, as though the proof, not the thing proved, were precious: cp. James 1:2. It is St. Peter's habit to speak somewhat scornfully of gold: cp. 1 Peter 1:18; 1 Peter 3:3; 1 Peter 5:2; Acts 3:6.

8. A generous touch. The Apostle who has seen admires the love and joy of believers who have not seen the Lord; cp. John 20:29. Full of glory] in which God dwells: cp. Exodus 34:29. 1 Timothy 6:16. Faith leads into the presence of God, and adds to joy something which is unspeakable and divine: cp. Philippians 4:7.

9. The end of your faith] i.e. the final result of it, which they are already in process of receiving, though it is not yet fully theirs. The salvation of your souls] There is no word for 'your' in the Gk. St. Peter directs the thoughts of his readers beyond their own small circle: cp. 1 Peter 5:9; 2 Peter 1:7; (RV). Throughout this Epistle, except perhaps in the quotation 1 Peter 3:20, 'soul' means the true life, the very self: cp. 1 Peter 1:22; 1 Peter 2:11, 1 Peter 2:25; 1 Peter 4:19; 2 Peter 2:8, 2 Peter 2:14.

A (ii). 1 Peter 1:10-12. This salvation is no new thing. The prophets knew something of it, and sought to learn more. In them, as in kings and priests, and to some extent in the whole nation, there was the Messianic Spirit, and they understood that sufferings and glories were destined for the Messiah. The exact time when these should be fulfilled they could not tell, but so much at least was revealed to them—that they were serving God for generations yet to come. What the Spirit in them dimly showed, those who have preached to you by the same Spirit have plainly announced; what is still to follow, angels are looking forth from heaven to see.

10. Searched diligently] studying the sacred writings that already existed, observing the signs of the times, meditating on the spiritual significance of worship, and trying to discern God's true will in the inward impulses by which they were themselves moved: cp. Jeremiah 15:19. Thus they 'tested things not seen' (Hebrews 11:1; RM),

11. What, or what manner of time] the second expression corrects the first. The prophets learnt not to expect too definite a message. The sufferings of Christ] RM 'unto Christ,' i.e. that should come unto Christ.

12. From heaven] as in 1 Peter 1:4, represented as a place. The visible heavens are a symbol of the spiritual heaven, which, without such a symbol, we can hardly think of at all; but our Lord's words in Luke 17:21 warn us not to press human language too far: cp. 1 Peter 3:19, 1 Peter 3:22. To look into] The Gk. word means 'to look as out of a window.' The angels from the heights of heaven, if we may thus carry on the symbolic language, have a wider view than ours, and watch the results of Christ's redeeming work coming one after another into view.

B (i). 1 Peter 1:13-22. 'Such faith and hope belong to your life of sanctification; but so does obedience. Sanctification indeed means a holy life. Christ's redemption has allowed you to call the Judge of all men Father; but you may not therefore fear Him less; indeed, life becomes more awful when you think of the price and mystery of that redemption, which has been designed from eternity to direct your faith and. hope to God Himself.'

13. Gird up the loins of your mind] in preparation for the strenuous life of obedience: cp. Deuteronomy 10:16; 1 Kings 18:46. Be sober] cp. 1 Kings 4:7; 1 Kings 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:6, 1 Thessalonians 5:8. Christians among heathen must be self-restrained, like sober men among drunkards.

To the end] or, as AV mg. and RV, 'perfectly.'

14. Obedient children] RV 'children of obedience,' a Hebrew mode of expression (cp. Ephesians 2:2; Ephesians 5:6), which implies that obedience was the ruling passion of their lives.

15. Conversation] RV 'manner of life': cp. 1 Peter 1:18; 1 Peter 2:12; 1 Peter 3:1.; 1 Peter 3:16.

16. Because it is written] It was a habit of St. Peter to clench his words in this way. From the sacred writings he recognised no appeal: cp. 1 Peter 1:24; 1 Peter 2:6; 1 Peter 3:5, 1 Peter 3:10; 1 Peter 4:8, 1 Peter 4:17; 1 Peter 5:5; Acts 1:20; Acts 2:17, Acts 2:26; Acts 3:22-24; Acts 10:43 cp. 2 Peter 3:2. The words quoted occur several times in Leviticus (Leviticus 11:44; Leviticus 19:2; Leviticus 20:26). The latter half of the quotation shows that the Law was intended to produce something much deeper than mere ceremonial holiness. The Christian must live as the Jew was meant to live, a consecrated life.

17. Call on the Father] RV 'call on him as Father': cp. Jeremiah 3:19 and Matthew 6:9, which is the fulfilment of the prophetic promise.

Without respect of persons] cp. Romans 2:10. and St. Peter's speech at Cæsarea, Acts 10:34 also James 2:1. But the expression comes from the OT., Deuteronomy 10:17. Judgeth] a real present. God is judging men according to their works every day: cp. Psalms 7:11; John 12:31. There is a sense in which men shall be judged according to their works at the last day: see Matthew 16:27; Romans 2:6; Romans 14:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 2:23; Revelation 20:12; Revelation 22:12. Of this continuous judgment we have present experience, of the last judgment Holy Scripture gives us a dim outline. Sometimes God is spoken of as the judge, sometimes Christ; e.g. Matthew 16:27; Acts 10:42; Acts 17:31; 2 Corinthians 5:10 cp. John 5:22-27. The phrase 'according to their works' is probably derived from OT. (cp. Psalms 62:12), but that very passage shows that it does not exclude God's mercy through Christ: cp. Acts 10:43. What is meant is what St. Peter says here, and St. James insists on in his Epistle—God is no respecter of persons; a mere profession of faith will assure no man of salvation. The very idea that it would, becomes impossible, as soon as we combine what is said in Holy Scripture about the continuous present judgment with the other passages in which a future judgment is spoken of. A man who has been untrue to his Christian profession knows that he is being judged; he knows also, however, that he may again pass 'out of death into life,' and so not 'come into judgment,' John 5:24. God's judgment is not a legal process. Whenever the heart is wrong judgment must ensue. It is to be noticed that, except in Mark 16:16, it is never written in NT. that man shall be condemned by God, though it appears otherwise in AV.

18. Cp. 1 Peter 1:15. Vain] i.e. empty, purposeless: cp. 1 Peter 4:2. Ephesians 4:17. Received by tradition] Heathen as well as Jews would have many traditions to break with when they became 'obedient': cp. 1 Peter 4:4.

19. The.. blood of Christ] is here regarded as a precious price paid for His redeemed.

20. In these last times] RV 'at the end of the times.' Christ came at the end of the old, His death and Resurrection began the new, era: cp. Hebrews 1:2; Hebrews 2:5.

B (ii). 1 Peter 1:22-25. 'Having entered on the sanctified life of obedience, you have entered a brotherhood which is bound together by a more mysterious and eternal relationship than can come through natural generation. Such brothers must indeed love one another sincerely. Their life is the lovely and eternal life which God promises through the prophet to the restored Israel.'

22. Truth is the substance of the gospel (Galatians 2:5, Galatians 2:14; Colossians 1:5 cp. 2 Peter 1:12), for Christ is the Truth (John 14:6), and sanctified Himself that His people might be 'sanctified in truth' (John 17:19).

23. Being born again] RV 'having been begotten again': cp. 1 Peter 1:3. Not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible] cp. John 1:12. 1 John 3:9. By the word] We need not discuss whether 'the word' means Christ, or the word of the gospel preached or written; or, again, the word that is heard in each man's conscience. All forms of God's speech are summed up in Christ, who is the Truth: cp. Hebrews 1:2. The word of God, which liveth] RM 'or, God who liveth': cp. Daniel 6:26.

24. For] Once more St. Peter clenches his argument by the authority of Scripture. The quotation is taken from Isaiah 40:6, where the section of the book of Isaiah begins, in which the new life of the forgiven and restored nation is proclaimed.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on 1 Peter 1:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/1-peter-1.html. 1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, September 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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