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Bible Commentaries

The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
1 Peter 1

 

 

Verses 1-25

The Precious Blood of Christ

1 Peter 1:19

My heart"s desire has ever been to make known to men that there is no salvation but by blood, and not by blood only, but by the particular blood named in the text—even the precious blood of Christ. I am afraid that in these latter days some of us have tried to find out some other word to use instead of this word blood. We shrink from it. A dainty piety has forced upon us a dainty vocabulary. As the intensity of our love has gone down, the intensity of our speech has gone down along with it. We speak of the life of Christ and the love of Christ, but we too seldom speak of the precious blood of Christ; that would seem to our frigid piety to be an exaggeration, and our frigid piety is encouraged by our deceitful fancy, that tells us that love is a larger term than blood, and should always be used instead of it. Beware of the temptations of a worldly fancy. If your piety becomes the creature or the plaything of your imagination, you will commit the keeping of your soul to the most capricious and the most irresponsible of all powers. We need some term that lies away, infinitely beyond the airy and cloudy region of fancy; a broad and emphatic word—a word that carries its own single and definite meaning so plainly that mistake is impossible, and that sacred and inviolable term is blood. The world over, that word has but one meaning. Even the word love may be tortured into ambiguity by men skilful in definition, but the word blood is too simple, too energetic, too solemn, to take upon it the faintest gloss of the most reluctant expositor. It is blood; it is precious blood; it is the blood of Christ; it is the blood that cleanseth from all sin; and to attemper its passion by the use of supposed equivalents, is to trifle with the supreme purpose of God in seeking the salvation of mankind. In a case like this, even reverent paraphase is in danger of becoming almost profane. What other word can take the place of the word blood? Even love itself is a word with many aliases, or a word which admits of many changes and partial substitutes: it is regard, it is affection, it is sympathy, it is forbearance, it is friendship, it is trust—but how will you replace the word blood? It stands alone. It will not clothe itself in the disguises of various terms. Its unquenchable ardour burns through the snow which you scatter upon its summit. No winter can loiter upon those ardent slopes. If you mean to tax your fancy for the production of equal terms you must go elsewhere, for the term "blood" can accept no humiliation and pander to no disguise.

We are sometimes asked to admit that it cannot be what is called real, literal, or merely physical blood. Why should it not be real blood, the actual blood of the actual body? Let us take care lest our vulgar conceptions deprive us of gracious meanings and privileges. It may be our notion that is at fault, and not the word of God. The reference is unquestionably to the real blood of Jesus Christ, "who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree." Who shall say that his bodily blood was limited, and could therefore have but limited application? Verily herein we are straitened, not in Christ, but in ourselves; yes, even in the very imagination which is supposed to create for itself such wide liberty! If the people could find no limit in the handful of bread with which Christ satisfied the throng, as the poor woman could find no limit to the oil blessed by the prophet, who shall take upon him to say that it was a shallow and measurable stream that flowed from the heart of Christ? Did he not work miracles upon his own body? Did he not conceal it? Did he not cause it to pass untouched and unhurt through the angry host upon the hill? Did he not keep it from sinking in the sea? And can he not crown these wonders by giving us his blood to drink? "How can this man give us his blood to drink?" We never could tell how Christ did his mighty works, but, praised be his sweet and tender name, dear Jesus, Heart of God, he did them, and therein is our joy satisfied! To me the controversy is mean which contends that Christ does not give us his flesh to eat and his blood to drink, in the sacred ordinance of the Supper. He who maintains the contrary can make the vulgar stare by his tricks in the use of words, and can impale on harmless horns the argument which he opposes, but he has never plumbed the depths of Christ"s power, he has never known what alone can appease the heart"s violence of grief, nor has he entered into the holiest of all, wherein the corruptible letter clothes itself with the incorruptible spirit. When my heart is stung to death by its own remorse on account of sin, when hell is moved from beneath to receive me as fit only for its devouring flames, I am in no mood to be satisfied with types and symbols; a real want demands a real remedy, a real sinner calls for a real Saviour, and real sin can be met only by real blood: in that infinite distress you must not meet me with etymologies and verbal dexterities, you must let the tormented soul have free access to the precious blood of Christ. I know well that the literalist can vex me with truisms, and confound my poor learning by his brilliant ignorance; he can tauntingly ask me, How can this man give you his blood to drink? and I have no answer in words; he entangles me in the thicket of his alphabet and holds me as his prey, but deep down in the contrite heart, in the solemn sanctuaries never defiled by common speech, I know that Christ"s word is better than man"s when he says, "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Prayer of Manasseh , and drink his blood, ye have no life in you." If you ask me whether a morsel of sacramental bread is the actual body of Christ, my senses combine in a unanimous protest against an absurdity so manifest; but in this holy exercise I do not walk by sight, but by faith; my senses have slain me aforetime, so that I cannot allow them to usurp a function they have so disastrously abused; I will not allow them to speak in this sanctuary; they can but degrade its sacredness: they have been liars from the beginning, and in all heavenly mysteries they are liars still; I will listen only to the voice of the dying, mighty, holy, infinite Saviour—"Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; for my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed; he that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me and I in him."

By no priestly incantation is common bread transformed into the body of Christ. I know nothing of sacerdotal magic. My soul resents with horror too solemn to be merely contemptuous the suggestion that priestly wizardry is needful to my participation in the blood of Christ. But this is my faith, the faith that brings things of heaven near, the faith that consecrates the very dust of earth, that if, in the burning agony of my contrition, shame, and helplessness, I put forth a trembling hand, and seize the common bread which makes the body live, and eat it for love of Christ, it will be to me the very flesh of the Son of God, a real appropriation, a holy sacrament; foolishness, to the cold, low world, but wisdom divine and comfort infinite to the hungering and dying heart. I shall then know, not by some intellectual feat, the deep meaning of Christ"s words: "This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof and not die. I am the living bread which cometh down from heaven; if a man eat of this bread he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."

We need what is truly called a realising faith as well as a spiritualising power. We are sometimes under the spell of two voices and hardly know to which to yield. The one voice says, Spirtualise everything; clothe the stones of the field with mystic meanings; fill the winds with voices from worlds unknown; and turn the stars into eyes of holy watchers not yet named of Prayer of Manasseh -The other voice says, Beware of making the simple mysterious; avoid the attenuation which destroys solid meanings; take the very first signification that occurs to the earnest mind, and suspect all explanations that are far to seek. These contrary voices make themselves distinctly heard in the interpretation of this text; the one voice exhorts us to escape the narrowness of a literal meaning, and the other exhorts us not to lose the real and the true in some vain search for the speculative and the doubtful. A realising faith does not make things less, it makes them more vivid, it sets them before the eyes with true naturalness, and constrains their hidden meaning into bold and noble expression. I would, then, pray to have a realising faith when I think of the blood of Christ; the life-blood; the blood that cleanses from all sin; the blood of sprinkling; the blood of atonement; the blood of the everlasting covenant I would see it as blood. The grossness is not in the blood, it is in myself. The blood is holy. Is there aught in the great universe so holy as the blood of Christ? But we cannot realise the blood until we have realised the sin. Where there is no conviction of sin—conviction amounting to the very anguish of the lost in hell—there can be no felt need of so extreme a remedy as is offered by the outpouring of the blood of Christ. A self-palliating iniquity may be cleansed by water. The light dust which bespots the outer garment may be removed by gentle means. When a man feels that he has not sinned deeply he is in no mood to receive what he considers the tragic appeals of the gospel; they exceed the case; they destroy themselves by exaggeration; they speak with self-defeating violence. But let another kind of action be set up in the heart; let the man be brought to talk thus with himself—"I have sinned until my very soul is thrust down into hell; my sins have clouded out the mercy of God, so that I see it no longer; I have wounded the Almighty, I have cut myself off from the fountain of life, I have blown out every light that was meant to help me upward; I am undone, lost, damned," and then he needs no painted Cross, no typical sacrament, no ceremonial attitude, no priestly enchantment, he can be met by nothing but the sacrificial blood, the personal blood, the living blood, the precious blood of Christ.

How far it is possible to sustain in constant experience those keen and vivid realisations of the blood of Christ is known to us all. Considering the infirmities of the flesh, the deceitfulness of the world, the subtle and persistent temptations of the enemy, the continual vexations, anxieties, frets, and chafings of a life that is one daily struggle, it is not too much to say that we could not bear the incessant realisation of all that is suggested by the expression, "the blood of Christ." But if this is our weakness, and it surely Isaiah , what shall we say of the strengthening might that is stored up for us in Christ? We can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth us! For observe that, though the painful sacrifice of Christ makes an unendurable strain upon our feelings at one period of our spiritual history, it becomes to us the tenderest solace, the richest grace, the sweetest reflection, and the serenest rest, as we advance in our holy course. No longer are our sensibilities torn by it. No more do we see the wild but passing cruelty of man; the crucifixion becomes an atonement, and then on the Divine side we see the pity, the righteousness, the Wisdom of Solomon , and the love of God.

The practical effects of realising all that is meant by "the blood of Christ" are most useful. The text ceases to be a mere expression, and becomes a most solemn and all-determining fact. It becomes indeed the regulative power of our whole life. See, for example, how it reduces us to a state of most utter and abject helplessness in the matter of self-salvation! If we could be saved by the shedding of blood only, how could we save ourselves? If Christ had saved us by some lower method, we might have been tempted to think that our redemption lay within our own power. But when it required the outpouring of every drop of blood that was in the fountain of his great heart, either he made a fatal mistake in his method, or we make a fatal mistake in supposing that we could have redeemed ourselves. Immediately following this reflection is the thought that, if so much was done for us, what is there that we can do in return? "How much owest thou my Lord?"


Verse 19

The Precious Blood of Christ

1 Peter 1:19

My heart"s desire, ever since I became a preacher of the Holy Word, has been to make known to men that there is no salvation but by blood, and not by blood only, but by the particular blood named in the text—even the precious blood of Christ. I am afraid that in these latter days some of us have tried to find out some other word to use instead of this word blood. We shrink from it. A dainty piety has forced upon us a dainty vocabulary. As the intensity of our love has gone down, the intensity of our speech has gone down along with it. We speak of the life of Christ and the love of Christ, but we too seldom speak of the precious blood of Christ; that would seem to our frigid piety to be an exaggeration, and our frigid piety is encouraged by our deceitful fancy, that tells us that love is a larger term than blood, and should always be used instead of it. Beware of the temptations of a worldly fancy. If your piety become the creature or the plaything of your imagination, you will commit the keeping of your soul to the most capricious and the most irresponsible of all powers. We need some term that lies away infinitely beyond the airy and cloudy region of fancy; a broad and emphatic word—a word that carries its own single and definite meaning so plainly that mistake is impossible, and that sacred and inviolable term is blood. The world over, that word has but one meaning. Even the word love may be tortured into ambiguity by men skilful in definition, but the word blood is too simple, too energetic, too solemn, to take upon it the faintest gloss of the most reluctant expositor. It is blood; it is precious blood; it is the blood of Christ; it is the blood that cleanseth from all sin; and to attemper its passion by the use of supposed equivalents, is to trifle with the supreme purpose of God in seeking the salvation of mankind. In a case like this, even reverent paraphrase is in danger of becoming almost profane. What other word can take the place of the word blood? Even love itself is a word with many aliases, or a word which admits of many changes and partial substitutes: it is regard, it is affection, it is sympathy, it is forbearance, it friendship, it is trust—but how will you replace the word blood? It stands alone. It will not clothe itself in the disguises of various terms. Its unquenchable ardour burns through the snow which you scatter upon its summit. No winter can loiter upon those ardent slopes. If you mean to tax your fancy for the production of equal terms, you must go elsewhere, for the term blood can accept no humiliation and pander to no disguise.

1. We are sometimes asked to admit that it cannot be what is called real, literal, or merely physical blood. Why should it not be real blood, the actual blood of the actual body? Let us take care lest our vulgar conceptions deprive us of gracious meanings and privileges. It may be our notion that is at fault, and not the Word of God. The reference is unquestionably to the real blood of Jesus Christ, "who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree." Who shall say that his bodily blood was limited, and could therefore have but limited application? Verily herein we are straitened, not in Christ, but in ourselves; yes, even in the very imagination which is supposed to create for itself such wide liberty! If the people could find no limit in the handful of bread with which Christ satisfied the throng, as the poor woman could find no limit to the oil blessed by the prophet, who shall take upon him to say that it was a shallow and measurable stream that flowed from the heart of Christ? Did he not work miracles upon his own body? Did he not conceal it? Did he not cause it to pass untouched and unhurt through the angry host upon the hill? Did he not keep it from sinking in the sea? And can he not crown these wonders by giving us his blood to drink? "How can this man give us his blood to drink?" We never could tell how Christ did his mighty works, but, praised be his sweet and tender name, dear Jesus, Heart of God, he did them, and therein is our joy satisfied! Oh, my brethren, to me the controversy is mean which contends that Christ does not give us his flesh to eat and his blood to drink, in the sacred ordinance of the Supper. He who maintains the contrary can make the vulgar stare by his tricks in the use of words, and can impale on harmless horns the argument which he opposes, but he has never plumbed the depths of Christ"s power, he has never known what alone can appease the heart"s violence of grief, nor has he entered into the holiest of all, wherein the corruptible letter clothes itself with the incorruptible spirit. When my heart is stung to death by its own remorse on account of sin, when hell is moved from beneath to receive me as fit only for its devouring flames, I am in no mood to be satisfied with types and symbols; a real want demands a real remedy, a real sinner calls for a real Saviour, and real sin can be met only by real blood: in that infinite distress you must not meet me with etymologies and verbal dexterities, you must let the tormented soul have free access to the precious blood of Christ. I know well that the literalist can vex me with truisms, and confound my poof learning by his brilliant ignorance; he can tauntingly ask me, How can this man give you his blood to drink? and I have no answer in words; he entangles me in the thicket of his alphabet and holds me as his prey, but deep down in the contrite heart, in the solemn sanctuaries never defiled by common speech, I know that Christ"s word is better than man"s, when he says, "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Prayer of Manasseh , and drink his blood, ye have no life in you." If you ask me whether a morsel of sacramental bread is the actual body of Christ, my senses combine in a unanimous protest against an absurdity so manifest; but in this holy exercise I do not walk by sight, but by faith; my senses have slain me aforetime, so that I cannot allow them to usurp a function they have so disastrously abused; I will not allow them to speak in this sanctuary; they can but degrade its sacredness; they have been liars from the beginning, and in all heavenly mysteries they are liars still,—I will listen only to the voice of the dying, mighty, holy, infinite Saviour—"Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; for my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed; he that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me and I in him."

By no priestly incantation is common bread transformed into the body of Christ. I know nothing of sacerdotal magic. My soul resents with horror too solemn to be merely contemptuous the suggestion that priestly wizardry is needful to my participation in the blood of Christ. But this is my faith, the faith that brings things of heaven near, the faith that consecrates the very dust of earth, that if in the burning agony of my contrition, shame, and helplessness I put forth a trembling hand, and seize the common bread which makes the body live, and eat it for love of Christ, it will be to me the very flesh of the Son of God, a real appropriation, a holy sacrament, foolishness to the cold low world, but wisdom divine and comfort infinite to the hungering and dying heart. I will then know, not by some intellectual feat, the deep meaning of Christ"s words: "This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof and not die. I am the living bread which cometh down from heaven; if a man eat of this bread he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."

2. We need what is truly called a realising faith as well as a spiritualising power. We are sometimes under the spell of two voices, and hardly know to which to yield. The one voice says, Spiritualise everything; clothe the stones of the field with mystic meanings; fill the winds with voices from worlds unknown; and turn the stars into eyes of holy watchers not yet named of man. The other voice says, Beware of making the simple mysterious; avoid the attenuation which destroys solid meanings; take the very first signification that occurs to the earnest mind, and suspect all explanations that are far to seek. These contrary voices make themselves distinctly heard in the interpretation of this text: the one voice exhorts us to escape the narrowness of a literal meaning, and the other exhorts us not to lose the real and the true in some vain search for the speculative and the doubtful. A realising faith does not make things less, it makes them more vivid, it sets them before the eyes with true naturalness, and constrains their hidden meaning into bold and noble expression. I would, then, pray to have a realising faith when I think of the blood of Christ; the life-blood; the blood that cleanses from all sin; the blood of sprinkling; the blood of atonement; the blood of the everlasting covenant. I would see it as blood. The grossness is not in the blood, it is in myself. The blood is holy. Is there aught in the great universe so holy as the blood of Christ? But we cannot realise the blood until we have realised the sin. Where there is no conviction of sin—conviction amounting to the very anguish of the lost in hell—there can be no felt need of so extreme a remedy as is offered by the outpouring of the blood of Christ. A self-palliating iniquity may be cleansed by water. The light dust which bespots the outer garment may be removed by gentle means. When a man feels that he has not sinned deeply he is in no mood to receive what he considers the tragic appeals of the gospel; they exceed the case; they destroy themselves by exaggeration; they speak with self-defeating violence. But let another kind of action be set up in the heart; let the man be brought to talk thus with himself—"I have sinned until my very soul is thrust down into hell; my sins have clouded out the mercy of God, so that I see it no longer; I have wounded the Almighty, I have cut myself off from the fountain of life, I have blown out every light that was meant to help me upward, I am undone, lost, damned,"—and then, he needs no painted cross, no typical sacrament, no ceremonial attitude, no priestly enchantment, he can be met by nothing but the sacrificial blood, the personal blood, the living blood, the precious blood of Christ.

How far it is possible to sustain in constant experience those keen and vivid realisations of the blood of Christ is known to us all. Considering the infirmities of the flesh, the deceitfulness of the world, the subtle and persistent temptations of the enemy, the continual vexations, anxieties, frets, and chafings of a life that is one daily struggle, it is not too much to say that we could not bear the incessant realisation of all that is suggested by the expression "the blood of Christ." But if this is our weakness, and it surely Isaiah , what shall we say of the strengthening might that is stored up for us in Christ? We can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth us! For observe, that though the painful sacrifice of Christ makes an unendurable strain upon our feelings at one period of our spiritual history, it becomes to us the tenderest solace, the richest grace, the sweetest reflection, and the serenest rest, as we advance in our holy course. No longer are our sensibilities torn by it. No more do we see the wild but passing cruelty of man; the crucifixion becomes an Atonement, and then on the divine side we see the pity, the righteousness, the Wisdom of Solomon , and the love of God, and then can we say—

3. The practical effects of realising all that is meant by "the blood of Christ" are most useful. The text ceases to be a mere expression, and becomes a most solemn and all-determining fact. It becomes indeed the regulative power of our whole life. See, for example, how it reduces us to a state of most utter and abject helplessness in the matter of self-salvation! If we could be saved by the shedding of blood only, how could we save ourselves? If Christ had saved us by some lower method, we might have been tempted to think that our redemption lay within our own power. But when it required the outpouring of every drop of blood that was in the fountain of his great heart, either he made a fatal mistake in his method or we make a fatal mistake in supposing that we could have redeemed ourselves. Immediately following this reflection is the thought that if so much was done for us, what is there that we can do in return? "How much owest thou my Lord?"

Mighty Saviour! repeat all thy miracles by taking away the guilt and torment of my infinite sin!

 


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Bibliography Information
Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Peter 1:4". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jpb/1-peter-1.html. 1885-95.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, September 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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