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Bible Commentaries

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament
1 Peter 1

 

 

Verse 1-2

The writer opens with a greeting which is equally remarkable for its wealth of idea and for its admirable reflection of the combined gravity, tenderness, and animation of the body of the Epistle. In form it reminds us more of the Pauline type of inscription than is the case with any of the Catholic Epistles, excepting 2d Peter and Jude. It seems cast in the mould of Pauline doctrine, and adopts some of the familiar Pauline phrases. It has, at the same time, an unmistakeable character of its own. Like Paul, Peter refers at once to his apostleship. He dwells less on that, however, than on the standing of his readers. And the terms in which he describes them and their election are chosen so as to suggest thoughts of the believer’s dignity and security. Thus with its immediate outset the letter begins to fulfill its high design of comforting and strengthening those tried and threatened Christians.

In 1 Peter 1:1 we have designations of the author and the recipients of the Epistle. The former of these is given in utmost brevity; the latter, as the thing of superior interest, is carried on into the next verse and unfolded in the details of grace. Each of these designations has its peculiar point and intention. The description of the writer, Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, is noticeable for its simplicity and reticence. For his personal identification he uses nothing beyond the new name, the name of grace, Peter, which his Lord had put upon him (Matthew 16:8; John 1:42). He adopts the title apostle of Jesus Christ; and of all the Catholic Epistles, Peter’s alone thus commend the writer to the readers’ attention by putting forward his apostleship in the proem. But he appends to this official title no further title, such as the ‘servant’ which Paul adds. Neither does he introduce any explanation of the way in which he came to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, such as is conveyed by the Pauline formula, ‘by the will of God.’ This latter would be superfluous in the case of one known to have been of the original twelve, one of the eye-witnesses chosen by Christ to be His ‘messengers,’ and commissioned by Him to go ‘into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature’ (Mark 16:15). The style of introduction differs, therefore, at once from Paul’s and from that of James, John, and Jude, the writers of the other Catholic Epistles. This is not without its reason. Addressing churches with which he had no intimate connection, which were probably unknown to him, and which (as the localities show) were distinctively Pauline, Peter naturally appeals to his apostolic position in explanation of his writing them, as his warrant for taking the place of their founder, Paul, and in order to bespeak their attention. By limiting himself, however, to the one title, ‘apostle,’ he also indicates that his claims upon their regard were not personal, but those general, official claims which were common to him with others. It is somewhat different in the Second Epistle. There he can write as one who has come into closer terms of connection with his readers; hence there he prefaces the name of grace, Peter, by the old name of nature, Symeon or Simon, and adds to the official ‘apostle’ the wider title ‘servant’ (Schott). Here nothing personal to the individual Peter is allowed to come into view.—As this description of the writer implies the justification which exists on his own side for addressing these Christians, the designation next applied to his readers suggests circumstances on their side which make his call to communicate with them. They are elect sojourners of the dispersion—on which difficult expression, see also the Introduction. The term elect corresponds to an O. T. title of Jehovah’s people (Isaiah 65:9; Isaiah 65:15; Isaiah 65:22; Psalms 105:43), and occurs in the N. T. in a variety of connections (Matthew 20:16; Matthew 22:14; Luke 18:7; Romans 8:33; Mark 13:27; Revelation 17:14; 2 Timothy 2:10; 1 Peter 2:9). It is not to be restricted to Jews or Jewish Christians, neither does it apply to the Church only, and not to the individual. Nor, again, does it necessarily refer to what passes in the Divine mind. Taken by itself it may express the gracious standing of those addressed, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether Church or individual, and that standing as the result of an act of God which had grasped them as they were in the world and brought them into a new relation with Him. It may refer to ‘the selecting them out of the world and giving them to the fellowship of the people of God’ (Leighton). It is therefore a note of comfort. If evil impended over the readers, they were at least chosen by God out of the world of heathen ignorance and hopelessness, and set by God’s own act in a new position which made an abiding standing in grace. The second term, strangers or sojourners, is one used of those who are denizens of a place and not citizens; neither natives nor permanent inhabitants, but temporary residents in a land that is strange to them. It describes the readers as having their true city and centre elsewhere than where they were. It is a natural adjunct, therefore, to the term elect. If they were chosen by God’s act out of the world, they cannot have their final home here. The third phrase, of the dispersion, is the familiar term descriptive of Jews outside the Holy Land, the whole body of Jews whose lot was cast among the heathen since the Assyrian and Babylonian deportations, remote from their own political and religious centre. In its literal sense here it would describe Peter’s readers as belonging to, or having their residence among, the Israel that dwelt in the bosom of Asiatic heathenism. In its secondary application it may describe them as belonging to the community of the true dispersion under the N. T., the community of Christians who have to live scattered among the heathen. The parties in Peter’s view, however, are more particularly defined as those of the dispersion settled within certain geographical limits, viz. those of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. The localities are enumerated from north-east by west and south-east to west and north. This fits in well enough, therefore, with the position of one writing from the distant east, although it would not be safe to make much of that.

Pontus, the extensive territory stretching along the south coast of the Euxine, connected in classical lore with the story of the Amazons and the legend of the Argonauts in quest of the Golden Fleece, is memorable in ancient history for the brilliant reign of the great Mithridates, and in Christian history as the native country of Aquila (Acts 18:2).

Galatia, the country seized by the Gaulish invaders between B.C. 279 and 230, and reduced to a Roman province (apparently with the inclusion of Lycaonia, Isauria, the S.E. of Phrygia and part of Pisidia) by Augustus (B.C. 25), was occupied by a mixed population, mainly Gauls and Phrygians, but with considerable infusions of Greeks and Jews. It was visited twice by Paul (Acts xvi 6; Galatians 4:13), and also by Crescens (2 Timothy 4:10).

Cappadocia, a rich pastoral district of Asia Minor, watered by the Halys, and notable in Church history for the three great Cappadocians, Gregory of Nyssa, Basil of Caesarea, and Gregory of Nazianzus, became a Roman province on the death of Archelaus, its last king, A.D. 17.

Asia, here, as generally in the N. T., not Asia Minor, but Proconsular Asia, the territory including Mysia, Lydia, Caria, and most of Phrygia, and having for its metropolis the great city of Ephesus, which was the scene of a three years’ ministry of Paul (Acts 20:31), as well as of the preaching of Apollos (Acts 18:24). It embraced many churches known to us from Acts and the Pauline Epistles.

Bithynia, the fertile country stretching along the S.W. coast of the Euxine, bequeathed to the Romans B.C. 74, and constituted a proconsular province by Augustus, contained no churches known to us from Scripture. By the beginning of the second century, however, the Christian population must have been considerable. Pliny’s letter to the Emperor Trajan (about A.D. 110) graphically describes the multitudes of converts, the deserted temples, and the unsaleable victims.—The list of territories shows that the churches addressed by Peter were for the most part, if not entirely, churches planted and cared for by Paul. It shows further that they were churches which did not occupy, in the circumstances of their formation, any peculiarly close relation to the mother church of Jerusalem. It also reveals the fact that there must have been a greater extent of evangelistic effort than we should gather from Acts. We know how the Gospel was carried into Galatia, namely, by Paul and Silas (Acts 16:6; Acts 19:10), and into Asia by Paul without Silas (Acts 18:23; Acts 19:1). But we know not how it was introduced into Pontus, Cappadocia, and Bithynia. Some suppose that Luke may have evangelized both Pontus and Bithynia from Troas (Acts 16:8). All that we learn from Acts is that there were men from Cappadocia and Pontus among the devout Jews who were at Jerusalem on the occasion of the Pentecostal descent (Acts 2:9), and that Paul had thought of going into Bithynia in the course of his second missionary journey, but ‘the Spirit suffered them not’ (Acts 16:7).


Verse 2

1 Peter 1:2. The following words are connected not with the title apostle of Jesus Christ, but with the designation elect sojourners. They are not a vindication of the writer’s claim to be an apostle, such as Paul offers (1 Corinthians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1, etc.), but a definition of the position of the readers. The definition is given with a detail which shows the security for their assured standing in grace to be nothing less than God Himself in the fulness of that Trinitarian relation wherein His love reveals itself.

According to the foreknowledge of God the Father. Their election is in virtue of this, in pursuance of this (Alford), or has this for its norm. The term foreknowledge (which is never used of the lost) is distinct at once from allied terms expressing the idea of predestinating or fore-ordaining (Romans 8:29; 1 Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 1:5; Ephesians 1:11; Acts 4:28), and from those expressing the purpose, good pleasure, or counsel of God. It is coupled with, but distinguished from, the latter by Peter in Acts 2:23. It is more, however, than mere foresight. It is not the Divine prescience of the reception to be given to the decree of salvation, as distinguished from that decree itself. Neither does it imply that the Divine election or purpose of grace proceeds upon the ground of the Divine anticipation of character. It is knowledge, as distinguishable from decree. But as, both in the Old Testament (Psalms 1:6; Psalms 36:10, etc.) and in the New (John 10:14-15; Galatians 4:9; 2 Timothy 2:19, etc.), the terms for knowledge occur with the intense sense of a cognizance which claims its objects as its own and deals with them as such, it is a recognition which, resting eternally on its objects, embraces them as its own and cares for them as such. It is a foreknowledge, therefore, which comes near the ideas of predestination and creative or appropriating love, and which makes it certain that its objects shall be in the relation which God purposes for them. In God Himself, as the New Testament teaches, is the cause of the election. The name Father here added to the word God implies further, that this relation of theirs to which God’s foreknowledge looks is the expression of a new relation which He bears to them. As elect, therefore, they are the objects not only of a historical act of grace which took them out of the world of heathenism, but also of an eternal recognition of God, in virtue of which their election has its roots in the Divine Mind, and is assured not by any single act of God’s love, but by a permanent relation of that love, namely, His Fatherhood.

In sanctification of the Spirit. This points to the means by which, or rather to the sphere within which, the election is made good. The term here used for sanctification is a peculiarly Pauline term, being found eight times in Paul’s Epistles, and elsewhere only in Hebrews 12:14, and this one passage in Peter. It is also a distinctively scriptural and ecclesiastical term, there being no certain occurrence of it in heathen writers. It is generally, if not invariably, found with the neuter sense, not with the active (Romans 6:19; Romans 6:22; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 1 Timothy 2:15; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4; 1 Thessalonians 4:7; Hebrews 12:14; Hebrews 12:22; less certainly 2 Thessalonians 2:13). Here, therefore, it expresses neither the act nor the process of sanctifying (Luther, Huther, and most), nor yet the ethical quality of holiness, but that state of separation or consecration into which God’s Spirit brings God’s elect. If their election has its ground and norm in the foreknowledge of the Father, it realizes itself now within the sphere or condition of a patent separation from the world, which is effected by the Spirit.

Unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. These words mark the twofold end contemplated in their election. Some place the phrase of Jesus Christ under the regimen of the obedience as well as of the sprinkling of the blood. If it were possible to take the latter as a single idea, that connection would be intelligible. It might then be = unto the obedience and the blood-sprinkling, which are both effected in us by Jesus Christ. But as this is uncertain, while it is also awkward to attach two different senses to the same case in one clause (some making it obedience to Christ and sprinkling of the blood of Christ), it is best to take the obedience here independently. It will then have not the more limited sense of faith, but the larger sense in which the idea occurs again at 1 Peter 1:14, in which Paul also uses it in Romans 6:16, and which is expressed more specifically in such phrases as obedience to the faith (Romans 1:5), the obedience of faith (Romans 16:26), the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), obeying the truth (R. V. obedience to the truth, 1 Peter 1:22). The second term is not one of those terms which are common to Peter and Paul. It is peculiar in the New Testament to Peter and the Epistle to the Hebrews. The noun occurs only here and in Hebrews 12:24, in which latter passage it is used in reference to the Sinaitic covenant. The verb occurs only in Hebrews (Hebrews 9:13; Hebrews 9:19; Hebrews 9:21, Hebrews 10:22). It is to be explained neither by the Levitical purification of the Israelite who had become defiled by touching a dead body (for the sprinkling there was with water, Numbers 19:13), nor by the ceremonial of the paschal lamb, nor yet by that of the great Day of Atonement (for in these cases objects were sprinkled, not persons), but by the ratification of the covenant recorded in Exodus 24. As ancient Israel was introduced into a peculiar relation to God at Sinai, which was ratified by the sprinkling of the blood of a sacrifice upon the people themselves, so the New Testament Israel occupy a new relation to God through application of the virtue of Christ’s death. And the election, which is rooted in the eternal purpose of God, works historically to this twofold goal—the subjective result of an attitude of filial obedience, and the objective result of a permanent covenant relation assured to its objects. Thus the note of comfort, struck at once in recalling the fact that the readers were elect, is prolonged by this statement of all that there is in the nature of that election to lift them above the disquietudes of time.

Grace to you, and peace be multiplied. The greeting embraces the familiar Pauline terms, grace and peace, but differs from the Pauline form in the use of the peculiar term multiplied, which occurs again in 2 Peter 1:2 and Jude 1:2, and in the salutations of no other New Testament Epistle. It is found, however, in the Greek version of Daniel 4:1 (LXX., Daniel 3:31) and Daniel 6:25. If the Babylon, therefore, from which Peter writes can be taken to be the literal Babylon, it might be interesting to recall (as Wordsworth suggests) the Epistles, introduced by salutations so similar to Peter’s, which were written from the same capital by two kings, Nebuchadnezzar and Darius, of two great dynasties, and addressed to all their provinces. The grace is the richer Christian rendering of the hail! or greeting! with which Greek letter-writers addressed their correspondents. The peace is the Christian adaptation of the solemn Hebrew salutation. Those great gifts of God’s love which Peter knew his readers to possess already in part he wishes them to have in their affluence. It is also John’s wish, following his Master’s word (John 15:11), that the joy of those to whom he wrote ‘may be full’ (1 John 1:4). As the Father, the Spirit, and Jesus Christ have been just named, Peter omits mention of the sources whence these gifts come.


Verse 3

1 Peter 1:3. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The gifts of God’s grace to the believer, and the believer’s relation to God, depend upon the prior relation between God and Christ. Hence it is as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and neither as the God of Israel, nor yet merely as our God and Father, that the Giver of all grace is praised. The term used here for blessed, or praised, which is so frequent also in the Old Testament, and in the New is applied only to God, occurs repeatedly as an affirmative—e.g., who is blessed (Romans 1:25; Romans 9:5; 2 Corinthians 11:31). Standing here not in a relative clause, but at the opening of a section, it is rather an ascription, Blessed be the God, etc. It is another form of the same verb that is applied to Mary (Luke 1:28; Luke 1:42). A totally different word is used in the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5), where the idea expressed is that of happiness merely. It is possible that in this doxological outburst Peter is simply adapting to Christian use an old liturgical formula of the Jewish Church, or repeating one already familiar to the Christian Church (Weiss). The similarity of phrase, however, between Peter here and Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:3, Ephesians 1:3, is striking, and suggests to many that the former framed his ascription on the model of that of the latter. In Ephesians, as here, the doxology introduces an exhortation which reproduces its contents, although there the exhortation does not come to expression till chap. 1 Peter 4:1, while here it follows almost immediately (1 Peter 1:13).

which according to his much mercy begat us again unto a living hope. The particular grace for the bestowal of which God receives this ascription is hope. And that hope is described in respect at once of its origin and of its quality. It is due to God’s regenerating grace. We have it only because He begat us again, a phrase used in the New Testament only by Peter, and by him only here and in 1 Peter 1:23, embodying, however, the same truth as is conveyed in somewhat different terms by Paul (Titus 3:5; Galatians 6:15), James (1 Peter 1:18), and John (1 John 3:9; 1 John 5:1), and reflecting the Master’s own instructions to Nicodemus (John 3:3, etc.). It is to be taken, therefore, in the full sense of the new birth or begetting, and not to be diluted into the idea of rousing out of hopelessness. The direct past (begat, not hath begotten) is used, because the change from death to life in the individual is regarded as a definite, historical act, once for all accomplished, or perhaps because the regeneration of all is regarded as virtually effected in the historical act of Christ’s resurrection. In the latter case Peter would be again in affinity with Paul, whose habit is to speak of all as dying in Christ’s death and rising in Christ’s resurrection (Romans 7:4; 2 Corinthians 5:14, etc.). This historical act of regeneration had its motive or standard in God’s mercy, His love being defined as mercy in reference to the natural misery of its objects, and that mercy being further described, in reference to what it had to meet and what it bestowed, as much or great. Compare the Pauline idea of God’s riches (Ephesians 2:4; Philippians 4:19). The hope which originated thus in God’s act is living. With the birth comes the quality of life which distinguishes the believer’s hope from all other hopes. These are at the best dim, uncertain longings, dead or dying surmises—

‘Beads of morning

Strung on slender blades of grass,

Or a spider’s web adorning

In a strait and treacherous pass.’

‘They die often before us and we live to bury them, and see our own folly and infelicity in trusting to them; but at the utmost they die with us when we die, and can accompany us no farther. But this hope answers expectation to the full, and much beyond it, and deceives no way but in that happy way of far exceeding it’ (Leighton). Peter’s fondness for these two ideas, the hope and the living (see the adjective again applied to the Word of God, 1 Peter 1:23, to Christ, and to believers, 1 Peter 2:4), has been often noticed. It is for bringing us into a region of this kind that he here praises God. The ‘unto’ here does not express the end or aim of God’s act (= begat us in order that we might have a living hope), but has rather the simple local sense. When we come into the new life we come into a condition or atmosphere of hope, into a ‘region bright with hope, a hope which, like the morning, spreads itself over earth and heaven’ (Lillie).

Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. This admits of being connected immediately either with the begat us again—the idea then being that the regeneration takes effect only through Christ’s resurrection—or with the preceding clause as a whole, in which case Christ’s resurrection becomes the event by means of which we are brought by God’s begetting into this new life of hope (so Calvin, Weiss, Huther, Alford, etc., substantially). Or, as the position of the adjective perhaps indicates, it may be connected with the term living (so Luther, Bengel, de Wette, Hofmann, etc.), the sense then being that the hope gets its quality of life through Christ’s resurrection—because He lives it cannot but survive and assert itself as a living and enlivening principle.


Verses 3-5

Peter lifts his readers’ eyes at once to the future. He speaks first of their hope, their inheritance, their final salvation, before he alludes to the burdens and fears of the present. There was that in Peter himself which leapt up in natural response to the new hope which came by the Gospel, and we can see from the Acts how he turned with constant expectancy to the future. If he seems, however, to give exceptional prominence to the element of hope, it is not as if he read the Gospel differently from Paul or John, or placed the grace of hope where they put that of faith, or that of love. The circumstances of his readers made it seasonable to present primarily to their view the worth and radiance of a grace which had at the same time so deep a hold upon himself.


Verse 4

1 Peter 1:4. Unto an inheritance. Some connect this closely with the hope, as a definition of that to which it points—a living hope looking to the inheritance. Most connect it with the begat, the two clauses introduced by ‘unto’ being regarded as dependent on the same verb, and the latter clause defining the former more nearly. When we are begotten, that is to say, into the hope, we are begotten into the inheritance. To have the one is to have the other. So perfect is God’s act, so secure against failure the hope which comes by that act. In relation to His begetting us, the future is as the present, the possession is as the expectation. The term inheritance, another characteristically Pauline term, and used by Peter only here (although in 1 Peter 3:9; 1 Peter 5:3, we have cognate words), is the familiar O. T. phrase for Israel’s possession in the Land of Promise. It is used sometimes of Canaan as a whole, sometimes of the particular lots of the several tribes, and, with few exceptions, in the sense of a portion assigned. The idea of a portion coming by heirship to Israel has as little prominence as the idea of Israel as God’s son. In the N. T. it occurs both in the sense of the portion assigned (Acts 7:5; Hebrews 11:8) and in that of the inheritance proper (Matthew 21:38; Mark 12:7, etc.). It is used, specially by Paul, to express the believer’s possession in the future. But while Paul regards the believer as an heir because he is a son (Romans 8:17, etc., he does not appear to connect the idea of possession by way of heirship with his use of the particular word inheritance, probably (so Huther) on account of the O. T. sense being so deeply impressed upon the term. He uses it, indeed, where the notion of heirship is inapplicable, e.g. of God’s inheritance in the saints (Ephesians 1:18). It is doubtful, therefore, whether Peter has in view an inheritance which comes in virtue of sonship, although the ruling idea of our being begotten favours that. He uses the word in the large sense, inclusive of all that the kingdom of God has in store for the believer in the consummation.

incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away. This inheritance he describes first negatively and, as suits his character and style, by a number of adjectives, as incorruptible, subject to no dissolution or decay, undefiled (a term applied also to our High Priest, Hebrews 7:26), neither tainted nor tarnished, and unfading or unwithering (a word used only here, and in a slightly different form in 1 Peter 5:4). There is perhaps a climax in these negatives, from what has in itself no seeds of decay, to what is proof against external touch of pollution, and from that to what is superior even to the law of changing seasons and bloom succeeded by blight; or, as Leighton conceives it, the gradation may be from the perpetuity to the purity, and from that to the immutability of the inheritance. The sad realities of Israel’s heritage in the Land of Promise may be in the background. It is too much, however, to find in these epithets (as Weiss does) allusions to the pollutions which defiled the land, or to the simoom which scorched it. The inheritance is further described positively (in terms much used by many of the Fathers as an argument against the Millenarian doctrine) as reserved in heaven (or, in the heavens) for you. The participle, which is in the perfect tense (has been reserved), points to the inheritance as one which has been prepared from the beginning, and the sphere within which it has been laid up in reserve is the heavens, where God Himself dwells. It is thereby made doubly safe, ‘laid up and kept,’ and that ‘among God’s own treasures, under His own eye, and within the shelter of His omnipotence’ (Lilley), although it is yet a thing of the future. Thus is it secured, too, in the possession of the qualities ascribed to it; for into heaven nothing can intrude that corrupts, defiles, or makes to fade. Similar is our Lord’s teaching on the treasure and the reward in heaven (Matthew 6:20; Matthew 19:21; Matthew 5:12), and Paul’s conception of the hope which has been laid up or deposited in heaven (Colossians 1:5). With finest feeling, too, for his readers, Peter puts this as all in reserve precisely for them. No longer using ‘us,’ as before, he now says ‘for you’—for you, sojourners in a land that is not your own, an inheritance is in waiting, which is strange to peril from the ‘worm at the root of all our enjoyments here’ (Leighton), from the foul hand that mars them, from the doom that makes nothing here abide ‘of one stay.’


Verse 5

1 Peter 1:5. Who in God’s power are being guarded through faith. A still better reason why they should lift a thankfully confident eye to the heavenly inheritance. The possession might be reserved for them, and the reservation be to no purpose, if they themselves were left to the risks of earth and their own weakness. All the more insecure of it might they seem in their present circumstances of danger and temptation. But if the inheritance is kept for the people, the people are also kept for the inheritance. The word indicates a different kind of keeping from that expressed by the reserved. It is the military term used both literally (of the keeping of a city as with a garrison, 2 Corinthians 11:32) and figuratively (of the keeping of the heart, Philippians 4:7, and of the keeping of the Israelite in ward under the law, Galatians 3:23). The perfect tense used of the reserving of the inheritance (where a past act abiding in its effect was in view) changes now into the present, as only a continuous process of protection can make the people safe against themselves. The efficient cause (so Huther, Gerhard, etc.) of this sustained protection, or, as the preposition may be more strictly taken, the sphere within which it moves, the force behind which they are shielded as by a garrison, is nothing weaker than God’s power,—a phrase to be understood here in the ordinary sense, and not as a title of the Holy Spirit (as Weiss, de Wette, etc., suppose on the false analogy of Luke 1:35). The instrumental cause of this protection, or the means through which the force works to guard us, is faith,—not to be taken in any limited sense (such, e.g., as faith in the future, or a general reliance upon God, with Hofmann, Weiss, etc.), but in the specific Christian sense, the faith which grasps God’s power, and which, while itself God’s gift, is the subjective response to what is objectively offered. Thus, with the Lord Himself encompassing them as the ‘mountains are round about Jerusalem,’ and with the hand of faith clinging to the shelter of His power, the people on earth are secure as is the inheritance in heaven.

unto salvation. This is dependent neither upon the immediately preceding term faith (as if the secret of their security was a faith which had this salvation as its specific object), nor with the remote begat us again (so Calvin, Steiger, etc.; as if the hope, the inheritance, and the salvation were three co-ordinate states into which God’s regenerating act brought us), but with the guarded, our salvation being the object which all this protection has in view. This great word salvation, so often upon Peter’s lips, and occurring thrice within half-a-dozen verses here, seems used by him preferentially in the eschatological sense. Occasionally in the N. T. it has the simple sense of deliverance from enemies (Luke 1:71; Acts 7:25), or preservation of life (Acts 27:34; Hebrews 11:7), but it occurs for the most part as the technical term for spiritual salvation, or the Messianic salvation (John 4:22; Acts 4:12; Romans 11:11, etc.), now in the limited sense of the opposite of perdition (Philippians 1:28), and again in the general sense of eternal salvation; now in the sense of a present salvation (Philippians 1:19; 2 Corinthians 1:6), again in that of a progressive salvation (1 Peter 2:2), and yet again in that of the completed salvation, which is to enter with Christ’s return (Romans 13:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:8-9; Hebrews 9:28, etc.). Here it is the future salvation, and that not as mere exemption from the fate of the lost, but (as the underlying idea of the present distresses and fears of the readers indicates) in the widest sense, somewhat parallel to that of the inheritance, but with a more direct reference to the state of trial, of final relief from the world of evil, and completed possession of all Messianic blessing.

ready to be revealed. The expression points to the certainty of the advent of this salvation (in the term ready, stronger than the usual about to be, or destined to be, and indicating a state of waiting in preparedness), and perhaps also (in the tense of the verb) to the ‘rapid completion of the act’ of its revelation in contrast with the long process of the guarding of its subjects (Alford). The word revealed has here the familiar sense of bringing to light something already existent, but unknown or unseen.

in the last time: that is, the time closing the present order of things, and heralding Christ’s return. The N. T. writers, following an O. T. conception, regard all history as having two great divisions, one covering the whole space prior to Messiah’s times, the other including all from these times. The former period began to fade to its extinction with Messiah’s First Advent. The second period would enter conclusively with Messiah’s Second Advent. The former was known as ‘this age,’ to which, although Christ had once appeared, the apostle’s own time was spoken of as belonging. The latter was called ‘the age to come,’ the final reality of which (although in principle it began with Messiah’s first appearing) was as near as was Messiah’s glorious return. This Second Advent, therefore, was the crisis once for all separating the two, and the time which marked the end of the one period and ushered in the other was ‘the last day’ (John 6:39; John 11:24; John 12:48), ‘the last time,’ etc. The salvation needs but the lifting of the veil at God’s set time, and that time is on the wing. Christ’s return will announce the close of the ‘last time’ of the old order, and in a moment uncover what God has prepared in secret. Peter does not measure the interval, or give a chronology of Messiah’s comings. Yet if we compare this statement with others (1 Peter 4:5; 1 Peter 4:7) touching on Christ’s return, we may say with Huther that ‘his whole manner of expression indicated that in hope it floated before his vision as one near at hand.’


Verse 6

1 Peter 1:6. Wherein ye greatly rejoice. As the parallel in 1 Peter 4:4 shows, the wherein may be taken to summarize the ideas previously expressed, whether in the immediately preceding sentence, or in the preceding paragraph as a whole. Some (Gerhard and Leighton) carry its reference, therefore, as far back as 1 Peter 1:3, so that the connection becomes this,—‘in all which blessings into which God begat you, ye rejoice.’ Others (Calvin and Grotius, followed by de Wette, Schott, Fronmüller, etc.) refer it more particularly to the idea of 1 Peter 1:4-5,—‘in which inheritance, hoped for and so secured, ye have the object of your joy.’ In the present series of verses, however (although it is too much to say that this is his habit), Peter connects one section with another by carrying over the closing word or idea (compare 1 Peter 1:5; 1 Peter 1:8; 1 Peter 1:10). It is more in harmony with this, there fore, to regard the wherein as referring to the immediate antecedent, viz. the ‘last time.’ In this case it may have the strictly temporal sense (so Wiesinger, Hofmann, Huther, Alford, etc.), the idea then being, ‘in which last time, when it comes, you will have your time of rejoicing.’ Or it may express the ground or object of joy,—‘at which ye rejoice,’ i.e ‘which last time is the object of your joy.’ This last is to be preferred, as most consistent both with the tense of the verb and with the usage of the Hebrew term which the Greek verb here represents. This particular term for joy, aptly rendered ‘greatly rejoice,’ is one which occurs very rarely outside the Septuagint, the N. T., and ecclesiastical literature. It is probably a Greek reproduction (see Buttmann’s Greek Grammar by Thayer, p. 5) of a familiar Hebrew verb often used in the poetical and prophetical books (Psalms 2:11; Psalms 9:15; Job 3:22; Isaiah 49:13; Isaiah 65:18, etc.). Like the Hebrew original (which means to ‘leap for joy,’ or ‘rejoice to exultation’), it denotes a strong, a lively joy, intenser than is expressed by the ordinary term, with which also it is often coupled. Peter has in view, therefore, the kind of joy which is affirmed of Christ Himself (Luke 10:21), which He too expressly enjoins on persecuted disciples (Matthew 5:12, where the stronger term is added to the weaker), and which breaks forth in the Magnificat (Luke 1:47).

though for a little now, if need be, grieved in manifold temptations. The ‘temptations’ (a term wide enough to cover anything by which character is put to the proof) will refer here, whatever else may be included, to the threatenings and slanders which, as we gather from the Epistle itself (1 Peter 2:12; 1 Peter 2:15, 1 Peter 3:14-17, 1 Peter 4:4; 1 Peter 4:12-19), these Christians had to endure from heathen neighbours. Their lot was cast in them. An adjective is attached to these temptations, which is used in the Classics, to describe the many-coloured leopard or peacock, the colour-changing Proteus, the richly-wrought robe or carpet, the changeful months, the intricate oracles. What a picture does this epithet ‘manifold,’ which is applied by Peter also to the grace of God (1 Peter 4:1), by James again to temptation (1 Peter 1:2), and elsewhere to such things as the divers diseases healed by Christ (Matthew 4:24), present of the number, the diversity, and the changefulness of these trials! Yet the terror of the fact is at once relieved by a double qualification, first by the words (each of which has here a temporal force), which limit these temptations to the present, and exhibit them as enduring only for a little space; and then by the clause ‘if need be,’ or ‘if it must be so.’ This latter (which has the strict hypothetical sense, and not some kind of affirmative sense, with Bengel, etc.; nor yet the subjective sense supposed by Schott, as if=‘if indeed there was reason why you should feel grieved in temptation’) means that temptations come only where there is a call for them, and suggests that they may not, therefore, burden even the present continually.—The great difficulty in this verse is how to deal with the times indicated by the several terms, the ‘rejoice’ being in form a present tense, the ‘grieved’ a distinct past, and the word ‘now,’ with which the latter is connected, again pointing to present time. Some solve this difficulty (Augustine, Burton, etc.) by taking the ‘rejoice’ as an imperative. But Peter does not appear to begin exhortation till 1 Peter 1:13, and the peculiar tense of the ‘grieved’ would thus be still unaccounted for. Others (Luther, Huther, Wiesinger, Alford, Hofmann, etc.) suppose that the present ‘rejoice’ has here the future sense, expressing the certainty of the joy which they are yet to have; and the peculiar tense of the other verb (‘ye were grieved’) is then explained as due to the writer speaking for the moment from the standpoint of the ‘last time,’ and looking back upon the troubles of his own time as then in the past. This is supported by the Syriac and the Clementine Vulgate, and is adopted by Tyndale. But, while the present occurs often enough as a quasi-future, that is the case with particular verbs (such as ‘cometh’) and in particular connections which naturally suggest the time, and which have no real parallel here. Others (Schott, e.g.) rightly retain the present sense in the ‘rejoice,’ but regard the ‘grieved’ as a sharp and definite past meant to exhibit the temptations of the believer’s day as transitory, even momentary, in contrast with the deep permanence of his joy. This, however, is to ascribe a refinement of idea to the aorist which it does not express unaided. The explanation seems to be that the ‘grieved’ has the proleptic force here, which both the perfect (1 Corinthians 13:1; Romans 4:14; Romans 14:23; 2 Peter 2:10) and the aorist (John 15:6; 1 Corinthians 7:28; Revelation 10:7) have in connection with conditional presents. In this case the natural sense of the several terms is preserved, and the meaning becomes simply this: ‘ye have a present joy, notwithstanding that, if such proves needful, you are made the subjects of some short-lived trouble now.’ The certainties of the future make the present a time of joy too deep to be more than dashed by the pain of manifold temptations.


Verses 6-9

Only now does Peter introduce the sufferings of his readers. Before naming these, he has made the bright realities of their privilege pass in rapid vision before their troubled eye. He has led them to look at the hope which is in them, and the future which is before them. And when he comes now to speak or the ills they had to face, he has more to say of their feelings than of their temptations. With quick and tender touch he handles their afflictions, softening their sharpness by disclosing their object. Wisely and with delicate skill he so shapes his statement as to bring the light of the future in upon the darkness of the present, and to make the burdens of the time an argument for joy. Leighton has caught correctly, if not completely, the intention of the paragraph, expressing it also with his own devout simplicity. ‘The tame motives,’ he says, ‘cannot beget contrary passions in the soul, therefore the apostle reduces the mixture of sorrowing and rejoicing that is usual in the heart of a Christian to the different causes of both, and shows which of the two hath the stronger cause, and therefore is always predominant. His scope is to stir up and strengthen spiritual joy in his afflicted brethren; and therefore, having set the matter of it before them in the preceding verses, he now applies it, and expressly opposes it to their distresses.’


Verse 7

1 Peter 1:7. that the proof of your faith, etc. The statement now introduced connects itself closely with the conditional notice of suffering. It points them at once to the ultimate object of their possible subjection to many painful things now. If this subjection is only as God deems needful, it also looks to an end gracious enough to cast the light of comfort back into the dark and grievous present. In regard, however, both to the sense of particular words and to the mutual relations of the clauses, the verse is one of some difficulty. The term rendered ‘trial’ in the A. V. is found nowhere else in the N. T. except in James 1:3. A cognate form, however, occurs more frequently, sometimes with a present reference and sometimes with a past (see Cremer, sub voce), so that it means both actively the process of putting to the proof (2 Corinthians 8:2), and passively the proof, the evidence itself (2 Corinthians 13:3), or the attestation, the approvedness resulting from the process (Romans 5:3-4; 2 Corinthians 2:9; 2 Corinthians 9:13; Philippians 2:22). If the present term, therefore, were strictly parallel to that, it might mean either the act of testing, as many take it to be in James 1:3; the medium of testing, as in the Classics (Plato, e.g., using it of the touchstone), and at least once in the Sept. (Proverbs 27:21); or the result of testing. Of these three senses the first would be analogous to what is expressed by another cognate term in Hebrews 3:9. It is inapposite here, however, because the act or process of testing cannot well be the thing that is to be to their praise at the last. The second, which is adopted by Steinmeyer, etc., would make the temptations themselves, as the criteria of faith, the thing that shall be to their praise. The third, therefore, is the natural sense here, the approvedness (Huther) of your faith. The idea is thus much the same as your proved faith, your faith as attested by probation. Mr. Hort, however, holds that the term can mean nothing else than the instrument of trial, and supposes that an early confusion may have crept into the text between this word and a very similar form, the neuter of an adjective, meaning ‘that which is approved,’ which is supported by two of the better cursives.

more precious as surely it is than gold which perisheth, and yet is tried by fire. With the best editors the simple ‘more precious’ is to be read for the ‘much more precious’ of the A. V. Some make the clause dependent on the subsequent verb (so Steiger, de Wette, Huther, etc.). Thus it would form a part of the predicate, and the sense would be = that the approvedness of your faith may be found more precious than that of gold which perisheth and yet is tried by fire, unto your praise, etc. It is more consistent, however, with the position of the clause, the qualifying idea expressed by it, and the point of the comparison with gold, to take it as in apposition to the terms, ‘the approvedness of your faith.’ The ‘of’ inserted by the A. V. before ‘gold’ must be omitted. What the original sets over against the proof of faith, or the approved faith, is the gold itself, and not its proof. The particle translated ‘though’ by the A. V. means ‘but,’ or ‘yet,’ and expresses something which takes place in spite of something else. The participles rendered ‘which perisheth’ and ‘is tried’ are in the present tense, as denoting facts which hold good now and at any time, the sense being that it is of the nature of gold to perish, and it is the fact nevertheless that it is tested by fire. The comparison between the probation of character and the testing of metals, which occurs so often elsewhere (cf. Job 23:10; Proverbs 17:3; Proverbs 27:21; Psalms 66:10; Zechariah 13:9; Malachi 3:2-3; 1 Corinthians 3:13, etc.), has a limited application here. No direct comparison is instituted between the proving of faith and that of gold, nor between the worth of proved faith and the worth of proved gold. There is an indirect comparison between the perishable nature of gold and the opposite nature of faith, and the idea is that, if the former is proved by fire, although itself and the benefits of the process pass speedily away according to their kind, the latter, which, as tested, is seen to be a possession superior to the risks of decay and loss, and more precious than the most valued treasure, may well be subjected to similar action. The sentence, therefore, is introduced in order to remove the apparent strangeness, and to suggest the purifying intention, of the suffering which faith has to endure.

might be found unto praise and honour and glory. With the best editors (Lachmann, Tischendorf, Tregelles, Westcott, and Hort) the order runs rather praise, and glory, and honour. This is the only instance in the N. T. in which the three terms come together, although the conjunction of honour and glory is common enough (Romans 2:7; Romans 2:10; 1 Timothy 1:17, etc.). Distinctions are drawn between the terms, and it is attempted to exhibit a climax in the order of the A. V., e.g., from judicial approval to the moral esteem following on that, and then to the reward or form of glory (Schott, etc.); or from the language of praise to the rank of honour and the feeling of admiration (Mason); or from the commendation of the Judge to the personal dignity of the subject, and thence to his admission to the Lord’s own glory. But the descriptions are cumulative rather than ascensive, word being added to word in order to convey some faint conception of the gracious reward which is to be found (a strong term indicating the open discovery of something, the proving of an object to be something after scrutiny) at last to have been the end in view.

in the revelation of Jesus Christ; that is, in the time of His unveiling, the time of His return, when the hidden Christ, the righteous judgment of God (Romans 2:5), and the sons of God (Romans 8:19), shall all appear finally as they are.


Verse 8

1 Peter 1:8. Whom having not seen, ye love. With some good MSS. Scrivener reads known here instead of seen. The latter, however, is the better supported reading. The verse has a historical interest, being quoted (from the second clause onward) in the Epistle addressed to the Philippians (chap. 1) by Polycarp, the martyr bishop of Smyrna and the disciple of John, of whom also Irenaeus (Adv. Har. iii. 3), his own disciple, tells us that ‘he was instructed by the apostles, and brought into connection with many who had seen Christ.’ From the brief vision of the future honour of believers, Peter turns again to their present position, and to that as one with the springs of gladness in it. He takes up the joy already referred to (1 Peter 1:6), and, having indicated how the end of their trials should make the burdened present a life of joy, he next suggests how much there is to help them to the same in what they had in Christ now. In presenting the ascended Christ first as the object of love, he uses the term expressive of the kind of love which rises on the basis of a recognition of the dignity of the Person loved—a term which he had hesitated to adopt from the Risen Christ’s lips in the scene by the Sea of Galilee (John 21:15-17).

on whom, though for the present not seeing him, yet indeed believing. The relative is connected not with the ‘rejoice,’ but with the ‘believing.’ It is as they believe on Him that they rejoice. The faith already noticed as the means through which they are ‘kept’ is reintroduced as a belief in the unseen Saviour which carries unspeakable joy in it. Neither the writer himself, who once had seen Christ in the flesh, nor the readers who had not had that privilege, could now see Him, of whom it is said that ‘then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord’ (John 20:20). Yet they had Him as the object of their love and faith, and in that they had enough to make their clouded life bright. Their present might seem grievous in comparison with that future of which Peter had given them a glimpse. But if it denied them Christ in the possession of sight, it admitted the deeper possession of faith. And to have that is to have joy. For joy is the reflex of love and trust. So joy stands next to love in Paul’s description of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). So Peter, perhaps with the Lord’s words to Thomas in his mind (John 20:29), lets them into the secret of the blessedness of those who have not seen and yet have believed. ‘It is commonly true, the eye is the ordinary door by which love enters into the soul, and it is true in this love; though it is denied to the eye of sense, yet you see it is ascribed to the eye of faith. . . . Faith, indeed, is distinguished from that vision that is in glory; but it is the vision of the kingdom of grace, it is the eye of the new creature, that quick-sighted eye, that pierces all the visible heavens, and sees above them’ (Leighton). Faith and love are associated as working together for a gladness of heart which rises to exultation. Their gracious inherence in each other is indicated. ‘There is an inseparable intermixture of love with belief,’ says Leighton again, ‘and a pious affection, receiving Divine truth; so that, in effect, as we distinguish them, they are mutually strengthened, the one by the other, and so, though it seem a circle, it is a Divine one, and falls not under the censure of the School’s pedantry. If you ask, How shall I do to love? I answer, Believe. It you ask, How shall I believe? I answer, Love.’

ye rejoice greatly (or, exult). The verb is taken here again (so Huther, Wiesinger, Hofmann, etc.) to be future in sense, though present in form. This chiefly on the ground that the adjectives descriptive of the joy are too strong for the experience of the present. But its association here with the strict presents ‘ye love’ and ‘believing,’ stamps the verb as a present in sense as well as in form. The point, therefore, is not merely that over against the tossings of the present and the disadvantage of an absent Lord, there is a glorious future in which they shall yet certainly rejoice, but that in Christ believed on, though not seen, they have now a joy deeper than time’s storms can reach. The quality of this joy is expressed both by the repetition of the verb already used to express exultant joy (1 Peter 1:6), and by the addition of two remarkable adjectives. The former of these, which is found in no other passage of the N. T., and is of very rare occurrence elsewhere, conveys a different idea from the ‘unspeakable’ in 2 Corinthians 12:4, and is more analogous to the ‘which cannot be uttered’ of Romans 8:26. It means, ‘too deep for expression,’ and that in the sense of ‘not capable of being told adequately out in words,’ rather than in the sense of not capable of being fitted to language at all. The latter adjective means more than ‘full of glory.’ It designates the joy as one already irradiated with glory, superior to the poverty and ingloriousness of earthly joy, flushed with the colours of the heaven of the future. Compare the proleptic ‘glorified’ of Romans 8:30, and better, the ‘spirit of glory’ in 1 Peter 4:14.

receiving the end of your faith, salvation of souls. If the ‘rejoice’ is taken as a quasi-future, the participle must now be rendered, ‘receiving as ye then shall.’ As a strict present, which it rather is, it may express the time of the ‘rejoicing’ as coincident with the time of the ‘receiving,’ or (so Huther, etc.) it may introduce the latter as a reason for the former: ye can cherish this joy now inasmuch as ye are now receiving the end of your faith. This term ‘receiving’ occurs not un-frequently of judicial reward, specially that of the last day (1 Peter 5:4; 2 Peter 2:13; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Ephesians 6:8; Colossians 3:25). It may denote the getting of wages, the securing of a reward, the carrying off of a trophy, etc., and is used also in the more general sense of obtaining (Hebrews 10:36; Hebrews 11:39). The word ‘end.’ again, means goal, that which faith has in view, or in which it is to issue. The idea, therefore, is more than that of securing reward. It is rather that they are even now in the process of reaching the goal of their faith, in the way to make finally their own that to which their faith looks, and therefore they may well find deep and constant joy even in the broken present. The mark which their faith is meant to reach is described as a salvation of souls, not because salvation is a spiritual thing, nor because it is the soul that is the chief subject of salvation, and the body only a future participant (so Bengel), nor because there is anything like a trichotomy or triple division of human nature in view (Brown, etc.), but simply because in the flexible psychology of the N. T. the term soul denotes the living self (cf. 1 Peter 3:20; James 1:21; James 5:20).


Verse 10

1 Peter 1:10. With regard to which salvation. The salvation here in view is the salvation already introduced first as ‘ready to be revealed in the last time,’ and then as a ‘salvation of souls.’ It is not to be limited either to the completed salvation of the future, or to the partial salvation of the present, but is God’s salvation generally. This is indicated by the method of connection with 1 Peter 1:9. The relative attaches 1 Peter 1:10 closely to the preceding ‘salvation of souls,’ while the introduction of the noun after the relative shows, perhaps, that it is not so closely attached to the immediate antecedent as to make the subject of the one in all respects co-extensive with that of the other (Schott). The prophets referred to are obviously the O. T. prophets, as almost all interpreters hold. The supposition is advanced, however, that they are mainly the prophets of the Apostolic Church, with some of whom the Book of Acts mentions Peter himself to have been brought into personal contact, e.g. with Barnabas (Acts 4:36), Agabus (Acts 11:28; Acts 21:10), Judas and Silas (Acts 15:36). This view is supported by appeal to the prominent position occupied by these N. T. prophets (Ephesians 2:20; Ephesians 3:5; Ephesians 4:11; 2 Peter 3:2), to Peter’s statement about the prophetic word (2 Peter 1:19), and to such phrases as ‘the Spirit of Christ which was in them,’ which are held to apply rather to Christian than to Israelite prophets (so Plumptre). But, difficult as the paragraph in any case is, some of its clauses become doubly so on this supposition. Neither does the term ‘prophets’ here stand connected with the term ‘apostles,’ or with anything else naturally defining it as = those of the N. T. Church.

earnestly sought and searched. Both verbs have an intense force. The first is used, e.g., of Esau’s careful seeking of a place of repentance (Hebrews 12:17). The second, though it occurs nowhere else in the N. T., is used by the LXX., e.g., of Saul’s resolve to get at David’s lurking-places, and ‘search him out throughout all the thousands of Judah’ (1 Samuel 23:23). They depict, therefore, the strength and earnestness of the interest with which the prophets gave their minds to the hidden things of this salvation.

who prophesied of the grace destined for you. The term ‘grace’ here is not to be distinguished (with Huther) from the ‘salvation,’ as if the latter denoted only the future salvation, and the former covered both the present and the future. It is simply another expression for the salvation dealt with all along, designating it now under the particular aspect of a free gift from God. The phrase ‘the grace unto you’ (as it literally is) means the grace destined or reserved for you, not (as Wiesinger, Schott, etc.) the grace which has come to you, or which ye have actually got. For this ‘grace’ is contemplated not from the viewpoint of the apostles, but from that of the prophets. The subjects of this grace are also emphasized her by the pointed ‘unto you,’ as the very parties now addressed by Peter, and therefore (if it is a reasonable supposition that the Epistle is directed to Pauline, and consequently mainly Gentile, Churches) to heirs of God’s grace who were in the mass Gentiles. The entire clause is usually taken to characterize the O. T. prophets according to a function common to them as a whole (Schott, Huther, and most). It would thus have no more point than a general description of the prophets as men who, as a body, spoke of a grace which was meant for others than themselves. But the fact that, while the noun ‘prophets’ is without the article, the participle rendered ‘who prophesied’ has it, rather suggests that Peter has a certain class of prophets in view (Hofmann), as the associated terms suggest that he has a particular part of the prophetic communications in mind. Those particularly referred to, therefore, are prophets like Isaiah and others, who spoke of what was the great mystery to Israel—the interest which the Gentile world was to have in the salvation which was ‘of the Jews.’


Verses 10-12

The paragraph which now follows deals with the relation of the prophets to the salvation of which they prophesied. The salvation itself, however, continues to be the foremost thing. The notice of the prophetic ministry is not introduced with the view of indicating the essential identity of the offer of grace in the N. T. with that in the O. T., or the witness to the truth of the apostolic proclamation of grace which may be drawn from its harmony with the prophetical (so Gerhard, etc.). Neither is its object to recall the fact that, if they suffered, these Christians had only to face what the prophets had faced before them, while in respect of privilege they had the immense superiority of resting on a salvation accomplished, where these others had to rest on its promise (Schott). In this last case, the section would, indeed, furnish another reason why they should live a hopeful life. But it says nothing itself of the prophets as sufferers. It comes in, therefore, with the simpler object of exhibiting the grandeur of this salvation in the light of its interest to prophets and even to angels. (So Calvin, and after him the best interpreters.) What can be deduced from it on the subject of prophecy, therefore, is limited by this object.


Verse 11

1 Peter 1:11. Searching what, or what manner of time, or better, searching with reference to what (season), or what kind of season. This participial clause, introduced by the simple form of the in-tenser compound verb ‘earnestly searched,’ takes up the prophetic study and specifies the particular point to which it was directed. It was the question of the era at which this grace was to come. Both pronouns refer to the word season. They are not to be dealt with separately, as if the ‘what’ meant ‘which person,’ and the ‘what manner of’ pointed to the time (so Peile, Mason, etc.). In that case the man in whom their expected Messiah was to appear would, as well as the date of his coming, be what they wish to ascertain. But the object of the prophetic reflection is here defined simply as the time itself, or the kind of time—a phrase meaning not (as Steinmeyer) ‘the time or rather the kind of time,’ but, in a descending climax, ‘the time, or, failing that, the kind of time.’ By diligent reflection these prophets sought to discover the precise period (whether soon or late), or, if that were denied them, at least the signs of the times—the kind of era (whether, e.g., one of peace or one of war) at which the revelation given them of the destined admission of the Gentile world into Israel’s grace was to be made good.

the spirit of Christ fit them. This denotes the source of the communications which formed the subject of the study. So far, therefore, it also explains the impulse under which they both studied and declared them. They rose on the minds of the prophets in virtue of a power which, though in them, was not that of their own intelligence. The men were conscious that those future things of grace which they saw inwardly came to them not as the forecastings of their own sagacity, but as the communications of a revealing Agent. Hence they both ‘searched’ them for themselves, and ‘prophesied’ of them to others. The revealing Power in them is designated ‘the Spirit of Christ,’ not in the sense of the Spirit that speaks of Christ (Augustine, Bengel, etc.), but in the sense of the Spirit that belongs to Christ, or possibly the Spirit that is identical with Christ. The designation is to be taken in the breadth which naturally belongs to it (cf. Romans 8:9, etc.). It is not to be reduced, contrary to the analogy of the Epistles, to anything so subjective as ‘the Messiah-Spirit,’ or ‘the Messianic Spirit’ (Mason), nor, on the other hand, is it used here with a view to the ‘procession’ of the Third Person of the Trinity (Cook). Its point is caught rather in the well-known sentence of the Epistle of Barnabas (chap. 5)—‘the prophets having the gift from (Christ) Himself prophesied in reference to Him.’ Peter does not draw any distinction here between the ‘Spirit of Christ’ as a purely official title, and the ‘Spirit of Jesus,’ or the ‘Spirit of Jesus Christ’ as the personal title, so that the designation should mean nothing more than that the Spirit of the Messiah (unidentified with the Christ of history) was in the prophets. He indicates rather that the Revealing Agent who gave the prophets their insight into a grace to come was Christ Himself—the very Christ now known to the Church as the subject of O. T. prophecy and the finisher of salvation. This is in accordance with analogous modes of statement in Peter (1 Peter 3:20) and Paul (1 Corinthians 10:4; 1 Corinthians 10:9), as well as with the doctrine of the Reformed Church that the same Being has been, in all ages, the Revealer of God and the Minister of light and grace to the Church—the Word of God, the Logos, pre-incarnate, incarnate, or risen. It is admitted, therefore, by cautious exegetes like Huther, that the great majority of interpreters are right in recognising here a witness to the pre-existence of Christ, and to His pre-incarnate activity in the Church. Other expositions which deal with the term ‘Spirit of Christ,’ as if it were identical simply with ‘Spirit of God,’ come short of Peter’s intention here. More is expressed than the general identity of the work of grace in the O. T. with that in the N. T., or the identity of the Spirit of God in the former with the Spirit of Christ in the latter (de Wette), or the idea that the Spirit, who worked in the prophets, was the same Spirit of God that Jesus received at His baptism, and since then has possessed (Schmid, Weiss, etc.).

was declaring. The action of the Spirit in the prophets is described first by a verb which, though used often in a less definite sense, has here probably the force which it has in 1 Corinthians 3:13 (of the day that shall declare every man’s work), and in 2 Peter 1:14 (of Christ showing Peter that he must shortly put off this tabernacle). This operation of the Spirit is further explained by the phrase

when it testified beforehand, or rather attesting beforehand. The verb is one of extremest rarity, scarcely known indeed elsewhere, whether in the N. T., in Ecclesiastical Greek, or in the Classics. It appears to have a definite and solemn force, explaining the inward declaration of the Spirit of Christ in the prophets to have taken a form which their consciousness could neither mistake nor withstand, the decided form of an attestation of certain facts of the future. It says nothing beyond this, however, and does not necessarily imply (as is supposed by Schott, etc.) that, in Peter’s view, speech and not inward vision was the medium by which the Spirit’s communications were conveyed to the prophets’ minds. The future things thus attested are described as the sufferings unto Christ (i.e destined, or in store, for Christ), and the glories after these. But whose sufferings and glories? Some take them to be those of believers, and translate the clause, the sufferings (borne by Christians) in reference to Christ. Calvin (as also Luther so far, Wiesinger, and originally Huther) hold them to be those of the Church as the mystical Christ, or rather those of Christ and the Church as mystically one. An analogy is then sought in Paul’s statement about filling up ‘that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ’ (Colossians 1:24). The use of the official mediatorial name, Christ, both there and here (instead of the personal Jesus Christ), is also supposed to intimate that the Subject in view is not the Christ of history, but the Mediator in His official capacity, so that the phrase suggests the mystical application to Christ’s spiritual body. Others (e.g. Plumptre) point to the different form of expression used by Peter when he speaks of Christ’s individual sufferings (1 Peter 4:13; 1 Peter 5:1), and regard the present sentence as the converse of Paul’s, ‘as the sufferings of Christ abound in us,’ etc. (2 Corinthians 1:5), what believers endure for Christ’s sake being viewed here as shared by Christ Himself. So Plumptre would translate it, the sufferings passing on to, or flowing over to, Christ. All this, however, brings in ideas foreign to the context, which speaks of those things as already reported to the readers, obviously as the burden of the preaching which made them Christians. It is not necessitated by the use of the distinctive name Christ. It does not suit the statement that the thing which the prophets searched into was the time of these sufferings. For the Church was always more or less a suffering Church, though the sufferings of Messiah were both future to the prophets and a perplexity to Israel. It is also inconsistent with the analogy of the cognate phrase in 1 Peter 1:10, ‘the grace unto you.’ Hence most interpreters are right in understanding the sufferings to be those of Christ Himself. The glories, therefore, will also be those which were destined by God to come to Christ, in the train and as the reward of those sufferings. The reward of Christ is regularly expressed by the singular, ‘glory.’ The unusual plural, ‘glories,’ is chosen here, either in reference to the several steps of His glorification, in His resurrection, ascension, session at God’s right hand, and Second Advent (so Weiss, Schott, etc.), or simply as a balance to the other half of the clause, the standing phrase for what Christ had to endure being the plural form, ‘sufferings.’ The communications, therefore, unmistakeably attested by the Spirit of Christ to the minds of the prophets, concerned a Messiah who was destined to obtain glory only through suffering. A suffering Messiah was in any case a conception alien to the Israelite mind. A Messiah who, by His suffering, was to bring grace to the world outside Israel was still more so, and what the prophets strove to apprehend by diligent reflection on the revelations made to them was not the fact itself (which was too clearly borne in by the Spirit upon their consciousness to admit of doubt), but the period at which it should come to pass. The communications particularly in view, therefore, are probably those made to prophets like Isaiah, who, in his great Passional (Isaiah 52:13 to Isaiah 53:12), speaks of the sprinkling of the nations.


Verse 12

1 Peter 1:12. To whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but (rather) unto you they were ministering those things. The better accredited reading here is ‘unto you’ (not unto us). Peter, therefore, still looks specially to the interest which Gentile Christians, like those here addressed, had in the ministry referred to. He says nothing, however, to imply either that the prophets themselves had no personal interest in their communications, or that these communications did not bear upon their own times. He speaks simply of certain things in these communications, which the prophets understood to be for other times, and of the ministry which they discharged in relation to those things as a ministry in which they recognised others than themselves to have the main interest. The ministry in view is expressed by a term applicable to any kind of service, official or non-official. It is the word used by Paul when he speaks of the Corinthians as ‘manifestly declared to be the Epistle of Christ ministered by us’ (2 Corinthians 3:3). Here it refers evidently to the service of announcing to others what the Spirit had conveyed to their own minds. The entire sentence is connected closely with the preceding by the simple relative. The question, therefore, is: What is the relation thus intended between the searching of 1 Peter 1:10-11, and the revelation spoken of now? Many interpreters regard the latter as the result or reward of the former. And this is put in two different ways, either that the prophets searched, and therefore revelations were given them, because they were ministering for others; or, that they searched, and their search was answered by its being revealed to them that they were ministering for others. But to make their receipt of revelations (whether in the wide sense of revelations generally, or in the narrower sense of the revelation of the one fact that in some things they were speaking to a later age) dependent so far upon their own previous diligence in inquiry, is strangely out of harmony with the initiating and impelling activity ascribed here, and again in 2 Peter 1:21, to the Spirit. The connection, therefore, is to be taken either thus: ‘they searched, and to them, too, it was revealed;’ or (with Huther, etc.), ‘they searched inasmuch as it was revealed to them.’ The revelation in view occasioned and incited their inquiry. It was discovered to them that in regard to certain things which the Spirit communicated they were dealing with things meant for others, and this fact (pointing, as it did, to the mystery of a place for the Gentile world sooner or later in Israel’s grace) stimulated their inquiry. How this fact was discovered, or ‘revealed,’ to them, whether by a special intimation of the Spirit, or simply by the unmistakeable import of the communication itself regarding the future grace, is left unexplained.

which (things) were now reported to you by means of those who made the glad tidings (the Gospel) known to you. The relation of the ‘which’ here to the previous ‘those things’ is not exactly the close relation between relative and antecedent, but rather that between two distinct statements of which the latter is an extension of the former. The things referred to, therefore, are not merely the ‘sufferings’ and ‘glories’ of Christ, but also the ‘grace destined for you,’ all those things, in short, already said to have been prophesied and searched by the prophets. The things which thus were the subject of prophetic interest and inquiry, are now referred to as having also formed the burden of the preaching of those who carried the Gospel into those Gentile territories, Pontus, Galatia, etc. Peter gives us no hint as to who these were. The form of the statement, however, rather implies that he did not rank himself among them. But if the men themselves are left unnamed, the power that made them what they were as preachers is noted. These preachers evangelized them by the Holy Ghost sent from heaven. The better reading here is not ‘in,’ but ‘by the Holy Ghost, the Spirit being represented simply as the instrument in whose might they effected what they did. As the prophets had their revelations only by the action of the Spirit, the preachers of the Gospel had their power to preach only by the Holy Ghost. But while the Spirit who gifted the prophets is described as the Spirit of Christ in them, the Spirit who gifted the preachers is described as the Holy Ghost sent from heaven—a designation pointing to the Pentecostal descent of the Spirit, and, therefore, to the superior privilege of the preachers. So the statement regarding the prophets ends, as it began, with facts enforcing the magnitude of the salvation or grace of which the readers had been made heirs. The verbs are given in the simple historical past, were reported (in spite of the ‘now’), preached (not have preached), sent, as Peter carries his readers back from their present standing in grace to the definite acts and events which prepared that standing for them once for all.—It is necessary to add that while the generally-accepted construction of this verse has been followed, it leaves something to be desired. Another method of relating the several clauses, which has to a certain extent the sanction of Luther’s name, has been worked out by Hofmann, and accepted by some others. According to this, the verse would run thus, with a parenthesis in the heart of it: ‘To whom were revealed those things (for they ministered not for themselves, but rather for others), which were now reported unto you,’ etc. This establishes an apt contrast between the inward revelation in the one case and the public reporting in the other. It gets rid of the awkwardness of making the mere fact that the prophets ministered certain things for others than themselves the subject of a revelation, and has other recommendations to balance the disadvantage of introducing a parenthesis immediately after the leading verb.—The grandeur of this salvation or grace is illustrated by one thing else which, as being itself so peculiar, gets a peculiar place and expression here

which things angels desire to look into. By the ‘which things’ we are to understand neither ‘the whole contents of the message of salvation’ (so Huther, Brückner), nor the mystery of the spiritual change effected by the gospel (Schott), but simply the things already dealt with in the section. Those things, the grace ordained for the Gentiles, and the sufferings and glories of Christ in relation thereto, which were prophesied of and searched by prophets, and reported in these last days by Christ’s preachers, were also an object of interest to the angelic world. The intensity of this interest is expressed by the strong term desire, or longthe word used by Christ Himself in view of His hastening passion, ‘With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer’ (Luke 22:15). Its continuance is indicated by the present tense. Its nature is described by the graphic term which is poorly represented by the ‘look into’ of the A. V., and is difficult in any case adequately to render. Though perhaps sometimes used of a passing glance at an object, it has usually the idea of intent study, and a study which involves a stooping, bending posture on the part of the student. It is applied to the man who ‘looketh into the perfect law of liberty’ (James 1:25) as if he were putting himself into the posture of one who gazes into a mirror. It is also applied by Luke (Luke 24:12) to Peter himself ‘stooping down’ when he peered into the tomb (which passage, however, is somewhat doubtfully accredited); and, again, by John (John 20:5; John 20:11) both to Peter and to Mary as they ‘stooped down’ and looked into the sepulchre. It is more than doubtful whether Peter had in view here either the two angels whom Mary Magdalene saw in the Lord’s tomb, as Canon Cook supposes, or the cherubim overshadowing the ark, as Grotius, Beza, and others imagine. But as the term expresses a change of position in order to view something, it may point at once to the straining interest with which the angelic world as such (the noun is without the article, and denotes angels generally) contemplates the salvation of which even outcast Gentiles are participants, and the fact that, as they stand outside that salvation, their interest in it is that of spectators who recognise the glory and ponder the mystery of the grace which effects a change of which they have themselves no personal knowledge—the change from sin to holiness (cf. also Hebrews 2:16; Ephesians 3:10).


Verse 13

1 Peter 1:13. Wherefore: the exhortation is thus made immediately dependent on the previous statement of grace. The duty is born of the privilege. The ‘wherefore,’ however, points back to the idea which called forth the ascription of praise with which the introduction opened, and not merely to the thought of the necessity of trial (de Wette), the grandeur of the grace (Calvin), the destination of the salvation from of old for these very readers (CEc.), or anything else which comes in only in the train of the leading idea. The connection, therefore, is not of the indeterminate form, ‘Seeing this salvation was designed for you, and is so studied even by angels, be not ye unregardful of it’ (so substantially Alford, etc.). It is far more pointed than that, and amounts to this,—‘God, then, by so marvellous a provision of His mercy, having begotten you unto a living hope, see that you make that hope your own, and live wholly up to it.’

having girt up the loins of your mind. The first exhortation is not to watchfulness and endurance in hope (Alford), but to hope specifically. The three verbs do not enjoin each a distinct duty, but the first two (‘gird up’ and ‘be sober’) express conditions which are necessary to the discharge of one great duty of hope which is denoted by the third. The act of tucking up the loose Eastern tunic in preparation for travelling or running, for work or conflict, or for any kind of exertion (cf. Israel’s preparation for the flight from Egypt, Exodus 12:11; Elijah’s for running before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel, 1 Kings 18:46; and David’s for the battle, Psalms 18:32; Psalms 18:39), is the natural figure of a certain mental preparedness. There is an evident fitness in applying the figure to men in the pilgrim state described in 1 Peter 1:1 and 1 Peter 2:11, and it is possible that Christ’s own injunction (Luke 12:35) may have given form to Peter’s phrase. The tense indicates that the attitude of mind here in view must first be taken up definitely and once for all before the kind of hopefulness which is charged on these sojourners can be made good. The term used here for ‘mind’ is admirably in point. It is the term which denotes the understanding in its practical issues, and in its intercourse with the outer world, the higher intellectual nature specially in its dealings with things without, the power of thought ‘as a process of close and thorough scrutiny of outer objects, and as a special outward attitude of the soul’ (Beck, Biblical Psychology, p. 71). The clause, therefore, expresses the necessity of a certain mental concentration, the putting a check upon the ‘dissipation of thought’ on the interests or trials of the present. The man who will live up to the hope into which God begat him must begin by reining in the tendency of his thoughts to wander everywhere, and by turning his mind, in its habitual outward attitude, to the great vision of the future.

being sober, a second condition necessary to the hopefulness which should characterize the Christian pilgrim. The sobriety in view here, as often elsewhere, involves much more than moderation in regard to appetite. It means the settled self-control, the elevated equanimity which should make the Christian superior to the distractions of the present, and save him equally from undue elation in the pleasures of time, and from excess of sorrow in its pains. This, as a disposition to be continuously maintained, is expressed in the present tense, ‘practising sobriety,’ where the former condition was in the past.

hope perfectly: the former things have defined the kind of hopefulness which is urged. This is usually taken to be still more distinctly described by the addition of the term which is rendered ‘to the end’ by the A. V. It is doubtful, however, to which of the two clauses this adverb (which is found nowhere else in the New Testament, and which has the larger sense of ‘completely,’ ‘so as to leave nothing lacking,’ rather than the temporal force ‘to the end ‘) is to be attached. It may qualify the sobriety (‘practising a perfect sobriety’)—a connection entirely in point, and saving one of these related phrases from being left in an unqualified independence unlike the other two. If it is attached to the ‘hope’ (as most interpreters attach it), it defines it as one that will rise to the full idea of a regenerate hope, and leave nothing to desire. Once let a guard be established against the natural waywardness of thought, and let the self-collectedness be sustained which looks with a calm eye upon earth’s joys and sorrows, and they will be able to lead a life of hopeful expectation worthy of that act of God’s grace by which they were begotten into hope.

for the grace. It is questioned whether we should translate ‘for the grace’ or ‘on the grace.’ The construction is peculiar, and found exactly, indeed, nowhere else, in the New Testament, except in 1 Timothy 5:5 (in 1 Peter 3:5 also, according to the received text, but not according to the best editors). It is not uncommon, however, in the Greek Version of the Old Testament. Some take the sense to be—make the grace the strength or foundation of your hope. So Huther considers grace to be presented here simply as that ‘from which the fulfilment of hope is expected,’ and others (e.g. Mason) hold it introduced as that in the strength of which we are confidently to look for glory. The truth which is struck, however, is deeper. Grace is exhibited here as the object of our hope, and the shade of meaning suggested by the uncommon construction is simply that our hope is to be turned fully and confidently toward it. What is otherwise called glory or salvation is here called grace, the believer’s present being seminally the believer’s future, and glory being the blossom of which grace is the bud.

which is being brought unto you: not ‘which is to be brought,’ as if the object of hope were remote, and wholly of the future; but ‘which is a-bringing,’ already on the wing, and bearing ever nearer.

in the revelation of Jesus Christ, that is, at His final advent. Both the currency of the phrase itself and the close connection instituted by the opening ‘wherefore’ between the ideas of this section and those of the Preface forbid us to understand it of the present revelation of Christ in the Gospel.


Verses 13-16

The rapid outline of the magnificence of the salvation prepares the way for what is to be urged in the form of duty. The Preface, which has so much of the Pauline style both in idea and in conciliatory intention, has closed by adding to the prophets and evangelists, who are named as ministers of that salvation, angels at rapt students of the same. From this Peter passes at once to the main burden of his Epistle, and begins by giving a series of counsels which extend into the second chapter. These counsels deal successively with hope, holiness, godly fear, brotherliness, and increase in grace. They are all coloured by the light of consolation. They are all practical unfoldings and personal applications of what has been already instanced in the Preface. They are enforced by considerations drawn from the realities of the spiritual calling. A reason for each is found in the grace which is possessed. Here, as everywhere, the ethical precepts of the Gospel are rooted in the facts and truths of Revelation, and receive their moral momentum from the prior gift of grace.


Verse 14

1 Peter 1:14. As children of obedience: a second counsel is thus introduced, dealing with a holiness which is to be not less complete than the hope. The one rises naturally out of the other. Hope is a sanctifying principle, promoting holiness, while it is itself also brightened and strengthened by it. It is in the character of ‘children of obedience’ that they are charged to aim at a perfect holiness. It is as becomes those with whom obedience (here again in the largest and most inclusive sense) has become a new nature. The familiar Hebrew figure for permanence of quality represents them as drawing the inspiration of their life from obedience, as related to it like children to a mother.

not fashioning yourselves in conformity with your former lusts in your ignorance: in the character of the obedient, and in order to holiness, they must renounce a certain fashion of life. The verb occurs only once elsewhere in the New Testament (Romans 12:2). In the heart of it is the term which is applied to the world in its aspect of transience, ‘the fashion of this world passeth away’ (1 Corinthians 7:31), and which is used of Christ in the great Christological statement in Philippians 2:7—‘found in fashion as a man.’ The term refers to the externals of an object, all that wherein an object appears, rather than to what is intrinsic. It carries with it, therefore, the idea of the changeable and illusory. This unstable, deceptive form of life which they are not to assume is the old life of heathen lust, the life in which they ignorantly followed ‘the capricious guidance of the passions.’ (See Lightfoot on Philippians, p. 128.) Ignorance (in the ethical sense of heathen ignorance of God and the things of God, as also in Ephesians 4:18; Acts 17:30) is represented as the stage of their career (‘the time of your ignorance’) when passion was their life (so the Revised Version, Calvin, etc.), or rather as the element in which the passion was bred which gave the stamp to their life. Probably Peter has in view those grosser immoralities which are invariably associated with idolatry, and which Paul (Romans 1:18, etc.) traces back to ignorance of God. The word used for ‘lusts,’ however, covers not only sensual passions, but all those unregulated desires which are summarily comprehended under ‘the lust of the eye,’ as well as ‘the lust of the flesh’ (1 John 2:16).


Verse 15

1 Peter 1:15. But according to the Holy One who called you, prove ye yourselves also holy. Instead of letting their life revert to the type of those renounced impurities, they must show it conformed to no lower standard than that of God. The A. V. misses the point here. What it rendered ‘as’ means ‘after the pattern,’ or ‘after the measure of’ (as in 1 Peter 4:6; Romans 15:5; Ephesians 2:2, etc.), and what it gives as a mere adjective ‘holy’ is a personal name God obtains here a twofold designation appropriate to the precept, and furnishing motives for its observance. He is ‘the Holy One,’—in the Old Testament the great theocratic title, expressing on the one hand the ethical separateness of God, His incomparable elevation above other gods, and above everything creaturely; and on the other hand, His approach to the creature in the selection of a separated people ‘Holiness would not be holiness, but exclusiveness, if it did not presuppose God’s entrance into multifarious relations, and thereby revelation and communication’ (Schmieder, cf. Oehler’s Theology of the Old Testament, i. § 44). And He is the One ‘who called’ them,—here (as in 2 Peter 1:3; Galatians 1:6; Romans 8:30, etc., where we have the same tense) of the act of grace which took them effectually out of their old world, and brought them into their new relation. The act of the ‘call’ (which is one of Peter’s most familiar thoughts, occupying a larger space with him than even with Paul in proportion to the extent of his writings) corresponds, therefore, with the character of God as the Holy One, as the latter title implies His assuming men into near relation with Himself.

in your every walk. A holiness after God’s pattern, and befitting children of obedience, must needs be a separateness from the world complete enough to show itself in all and every part of their behaviour. The word rendered ‘conversation’ in the A. V. (cf. Shakespeare’s ‘Octavia is of holy, cold, and still conversation,’ Ant. and Cleo. 1 Peter 2:6; 1 Peter 2:13), but denoting the whole course of life, is another of Peter’s recurrent terms. It is rendered by the Revised Version ‘manner of life’ in 1 Peter 1:18; 1 Peter 2:16, and in all the Pauline occurrences (Galatians 1:13; Ephesians 4:22; 1 Timothy 4:12), but variously elsewhere, as ‘manner of living’ here, ‘behaviour’ in 1 Peter 2:12; 1 Peter 3:1-2; ‘life’ in 2 Peter 2:7, Hebrews 13:7, James 3:13; and ‘living,’ in 2 Peter 3:11.


Verse 16

1 Peter 1:16. Because it is written, Ye shall be holy; for I am holy. The future, ‘ye shall be,’ is better supported than the imperative, ‘be ye.’ The sense, however, remains .substantially the same. Peter appends a reason for his counsel, and this he expresses in words which he takes from God’s charge to Israel. They occur repeatedly in the Pentateuch (e.g. Leviticus 11:44; Leviticus 19:2; Leviticus 20:7; Leviticus 20:26), but they apply with even greater force to the subject of God’s wider choice in the New Testament Israel. They are used by Peter because they mean that the relation which results from God’s call, being a covenant relation, conveys obligations on two sides.


Verse 17

1 Peter 1:17. And if ye call on him as Father, who without respect of persona judgeth according to each man’s work. The A. V. misses the point by failing to notice that there are two distinct predications, namely, that He whom all believers invoke in prayer is Father indeed, but also and none the less Judge. If it is right to discover, as most do, a reference in this to the Lord’s Prayer, Peter would seem to remind them that the God whom Christ had taught them to look to as Father is One in whom there is no breach between parental love and judicial rectitude, and with whom there is none of that partiality on which it is natural to presume in the case of earthly fathers. The verb, meaning (as the A. V. correctly translates it) to ‘call on,’ or invoke, and not merely to name, suits in any case the idea of prayer. The ‘judgeth’ is in the present tense, not as predicating a Divine judgment which goes on now in distinction from the judgment of the future, but simply as denoting the prerogative or function of judgment which belongs naturally to this Father. The qualifying term, ‘without respect of persons,’ occurs nowhere else in this particular form, although similar forms are used in reference to God by Peter himself in the discourse following the visit of Cornelius (Acts 10:34), as well as by Paul (Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 3:25), and, in reference to men, by James (1 Peter 2:1; 1 Peter 2:9). The Old Testament formula,’ to accept the countenance of any one,’ on which they found, is used indeed both in the good sense of being well inclined to one, and in the bad sense of showing a partial favour. But in the N. T. it has only the bad sense. The standard of this judgment, which is oftener said to be our works, is here described as each man’s work, the singular ‘work’ pointing to the unity which each man’s life with all its particular acts presents to God, while the significant ‘each’ indicates that this impartial judgment of God takes men not in the mass, but individually, and every man for himself, whether son or not.

in fear pass the time of your sojourning (or, more simply, and with obvious reference to the ‘walk’ of 1 Peter 1:15, walk during the time of your sojourning). The fear (in the original set emphatically first in the clause) which is so characteristic a note of Old Testament piety, occupies also no small place in the N. T. It appears there both in the large sense of reverence, or the feeling which makes it a pain to the child to dishonour or grieve the Father, in the general sense of the feeling which a man has who is on his guard, knowing that he may err (which Schott thinks is the point here), and in the more specific sense of the feeling which the Judge inspires, and which, as Calvin observes, is here opposed to the sense of security. Thus motives to a walk of serious circumspection are drawn from these various considerations—that to God belongs of necessity the attribute of judgment, which reflects itself on every man individually and without exception, that He sees men’s scattered acts in the unity which is given them by their determining principle, and judges each man’s life, therefore, as one work which must stand as a whole on one side or other, and that He judgeth impartial judgment which can extend no exemption and indulge no favouritism towards the sons whose privilege it is to appeal confidently to Him as Father. The character of the time, too, should itself be a motive to the same—a time of sojourning, of separation from the true home, and therefore a time when there is about us, both in pleasure and in persecution, so much to tempt us to forget the Father’s house and resign ourselves to the walk of the children of this world.


Verses 17-21

The exhortation to a walk in holiness is followed immediately by an exhortation to a walk in godly fear. The way in which this section is connected with the preceding shows that the latter charge is given in intimate kinship with the former, as the former rises naturally out of the exhortation to hope which forms the basis of the series of counsels. ‘Fear’ is presented here very much as it is in Paul’s ‘perfecting holiness in the fear of God’ (2 Corinthians 7:1). It is obviously the fear which is born of grace, in contrast with the fear which ‘hath torment’ (1 John 4:18) as born of nature, and the fear which goes with the spirit of bondage born of the law (Romans 8:15). It stands in the nearest relation, therefore, to holiness, serving as its safeguard, acting as its incentive, encompassing it as the atmosphere in which it lives. It is enforced in the following paragraph by two large considerations, the impartial righteousness of God (1 Peter 1:17), and the price which it cost Him to redeem their life from its vanity (1 Peter 1:18-21). The ‘fear’ which is thus recommended is shown thereby all the more clearly to be not only consistent with the filial freedom of the believer, but essential to a walk worthy of his calling, elevating where fear usually degrades, and helping to nearness and likeness to God where fear tends naturally to distance. The connection of the several clauses, however, and the precise succession of ideas are by no means easy to determine. Most interpreters regard the 18th verse as simply supplementary to the 17th, and as pointing the injunction to a walk in godly fear more strongly. Some (e.g. Hofmann), on the other hand, take the thought of 1 Peter 1:17 to be complete within itself. In that case the statement of the price of redemption would be introductory to the subsequent exhortation to brotherly love. Others (e.g. Schott) think that the 18th verse is intended to explain the connection between the two parts of the 17th, the price, which it has cost God to bring in a redemption that has opened so glorious a future, making the judgment which must precede that future all the more solemn, and serving, therefore, to exhibit all the more seriously the need of a walk in godly fear.


Verse 18

1 Peter 1:18. Knowing that not with corruptible things, silver or gold, were ye redeemed. The injunction to a walk in godly fear, which is sustained by motives of this strength and variety, was implicitly enforced (as Huther rightly notices) by the relation which the cognate terms of 1 Peter 1:15; 1 Peter 1:17 indicate between the God who calls them and the elect who respond by ‘calling on’ Him. It is now more explicitly enforced by a positive statement, the terms of which are difficult to construe, but the scope of which is that the thought of what it cost to help them to break with the old walk of heathenism should be argument enough for cultivating now a walk of gravity and circumspection. A redemption is in view which is expressed by a verb that is found in the N. T. only in other two passages (Titus 2:14; Luke 24:21), although several terms connected with it occur not unfrequently. It has radically the sense of redeeming by payment of a ransom price. Of the three New Testament occurrences one has the political or theocratic sense of delivering the kingdom of Israel, and the specific idea of price recedes into the background (Luke 24:21). The other two keep the idea of the ransom price in the foreground. In the Old Testament, the term and its cognates are used in a variety of cases, e.g. of recovering something which has been devoted by substituting an equivalent in its place (Leviticus 27:27), of buying back something that has been sold (Leviticus 25:25), of ransoming souls by a money payment to the Lord when Israel was numbered (Exodus 30:12-16), of redeeming the first-born by a price paid to Aaron (Numbers 3:44-51). The terms apply in the New Testament to ransoming from the bondage of evil (Titus 2:14), as well as from the penalty of evil. Here the ransom price is stated first negatively as not ‘corruptible’ (or ‘perishable’) things, not even the most valuable of these, such as silver or gold. The form of the words here used for silver and gold is that used generally, though not invariably, for the coined metals, pieces of money; hence some think that the writer has in mind here the sacred money paid for the redemption of the first-born or as the expiation-money for those who were enrolled by being numbered. But the contrast with the ‘precious blood’ makes such a limitation inept. The A. V. here gives ‘and’ for ‘or,’ which is the case also in one or two other passages (Mark 6:11; 1 Corinthians 11:27), and is due (as is suggested by Lillie) probably to following the Genevan and Bishops’ Bibles.

from your vain walk handed down by your fathers. What they were ransomed from is a particular manner of life which formed a bondage too strong to be broken by any ordinary ransom. This manner of life is described as ‘vain,’ the adjective here selected as the note of ‘vanity’ implying not so much the hollowness of the life as its futility and resultlessness—the fact that it missed its aim, and that nothing of real worth issued from it. It is further described by a term meaning ‘ancestral,’ ‘hereditary,’ or ‘traditional,’ which indicates how mighty a spell it must have wielded over them. It was a life ‘fortified and almost consecrated to their hearts by the venerableness of age and ancestral authority’ (Lillie), and thereby entrenched the more strongly in its vanity. Both these terms suit Gentile life. The ‘vain’ expresses what a life is which has no relation to God. It rules the other phrase ‘ancestral,’ or ‘handed down from your fathers,’ and makes it descriptive of a Gentile life rather than a Jewish (see also the Introduction). What could set them free from the despotism of a life, poor as the life might be, which not only ran the course of natural inclination, but laid upon them those strong bonds of birth, respect for the past, relationship, habit, example? Nothing but a new moral power, Peter reminds them, which it cost something incalculably more precious than silver or gold to bring in, namely, the sinless life of the Messiah.


Verse 19

1 Peter 1:19. but with precious blood, as of a lamb blameless and spotless, to wit Christ’s. The construction here is doubtful and difficult, owing to the term ‘Christ’s’ being thrown to the end. The view which is adopted of the peculiar arrangement of the words in the original affects our understanding, not indeed of the main idea, but of the exact relation which the two terms ‘lamb’ and ‘Christ’ are intended to occupy to each other, and the precise force of the ‘as’ by which they are connected. The clause may be construed (so Steiger, etc.) thus—‘with precious blood, as if with the blood of a lamb ... to wit, Christ;’ or (so Lillie, etc.), with the precious blood, as of a lamb ... of Christ;’ or, ‘with precious blood, as of a lamb ... the blood of Christ’ (so Beza, Alford, etc., and substantially Wiesinger, Huther, and the R. V.). The first of these explanations gives greater importance to the idea of the ‘lamb’ than to the mention of ‘Christ.’ The second is urged on the ground that blood is not of itself a true contrast to ‘corruptible things,’ and that neither blood of itself nor the blood of a sacrificial animal, but only Christ’s blood, has value in redemption. The third is both simpler and more in harmony with Peter’s style, as this is not the only instance of terms introduced in antecedent opposition (cf. 1 Peter 2:7). Hence we have the cost of redemption defined here first as ‘precious blood,’ and not any ‘corruptible thing’ (the Old Testament view of the life in the blood giving reality to the contrast), then as Christ’s blood, and further as blood with the ethical value of blood shed by One in the character of spotlessness and blamelessness. The ‘as,’ therefore, is not a mere note of comparison, but an index to the quality of the subject, and to the worth of the life surrendered. The point of the statement is not to institute a direct comparison between Christ and a lamb, nor to represent the means by which the redemption was effected as comparable in value to the blood of a stainless lamb (Schott, etc.), nor to explain why the blood of Christ is precious beyond the preciousness of all corruptible things, namely, in so far as it is the blood of the Christ who is distinguished as the perfect Lamb (Steiger, etc.), but to exhibit the cost of the redemption from the heathen life of sin as nothing less than the surrender of a life of sinless perfection. A death was endured by Christ which had in it the ethical qualities figured by lamb-like blamelessness and spotlessness, and only such a ransom could bring in a new constraining power sufficient to break the thraldom of the vain hereditary manner of life to which these Gentiles had been helpless slaves. The reference to a lamb in this connection has an obvious fitness on Peter’s lips. It was in the character of the Lamb, as that name was proclaimed by the Baptist, that Simon, by his brother Andrew’s intervention, first recognised Jesus to be the Messiah (John 1:35-42), and the impression of that first recognition of the Christ could never be effaced. The terms ‘blameless’ and ‘spotless,’ too, are terms applicable to the lambs of the Old Testament system, with which every Israelite was so familiar. The former represents the usual Old Testament phrase for the freedom from all physical defects which was required in the sacrificial victims (Exodus 12:5; Leviticus 22:20, and cf. Hebrews 9:14). The latter, though not found in the New Testament, except in a moral sense (2 Peter 3:14; 1 Timothy 6:14; James 1:27), and applied properly only to persons (except perhaps 1 Timothy 6:14), expresses summarily other ceremonial perfections which were necessary in the offerings (Leviticus 22:18-25). The lamb particularly in Peter’s view here, is variously identified, as e.g. with the Paschal Lamb (Wiesinger, Hofmann, Alford, etc.), with the lamb of Isaiah 53 (Schott, Huther, etc.), or with the general idea signified by the various lambs of the Old Testament service and realized in Christ. The dispute is of small importance, as it is not probable that these different lambs would be sharply distinguished in the consciousness of the Israelite. The fact that Peter is dealing here with the question of a ransom from a certain bondage makes it reasonable to suppose him to have before his eye some lamb that occupied a well-understood place in God’s service under the old economy, and points, therefore, to the Paschal Lamb, which was associated with the release from the bondage of Egypt, and was also the only animal that could be used for the service to which it was dedicated. On the other hand, it may be urged in favour of the lamb of Isaiah 53:7, that Peter elsewhere seems to have that section of prophecy in view, that the Old Testament itself (in the Greek Version) employs a different term for the Paschal Lamb in capital sections, and that the New employs statedly another word than the one used by Peter for the Paschal Lamb. In either case the lamb is introduced here not with immediate reference to its sacrificial character, but in respect of those ethical qualities which are expressed by the adjectives. The expiatory or sacrificial value of Christ’s death is no doubt at the basis of the statement, and the idea of ransom from sin as a power is not disconnected from the idea of a ransom from sin as a penalty. But the redemption which Peter deals with here, being a redemption from the spell and thraldom of a vain mode of living, is an ethical redemption, and Christ’s death is presented immediately here as a spiritual power breaking a certain despotism. How Christ’s death carries this weight with it is not explained, except in so far as the whole statement suggests qualities in it which made it a new and supreme constraining power.


Verse 20

1 Peter 1:20. Who was foreknown indeed before the foundation of the world. The cost of this redemption is still in view, and is presented in a yet stronger light by a statement bearing at once on the dignity of the Efficient Agent, the date of the Divine purpose, and the character of the subjects for whom it was destined. Peter reverts to the idea of 1 Peter 1:2, and represents the Efficient Agent of the redemption as appearing indeed in time, but provided and kept in view before all time. The phrase, ‘before the foundation of the world,’ used by Paul (Ephesians 1:4), and by Christ Himself in reference to His own pre-incarnate life (John 17:24), and occurring also repeatedly in the form ‘from the foundation of the world’ (Matthew 13:35; Matthew 25:34; Luke 11:50; Hebrews 4:3; Hebrews 9:26; Revelation 13:8; Revelation 17:8), carries us above all time into an eternity out of which time and history issued, and in which God’s purpose was formed. In this pre-mundane eternity Christ was contemplated and recognised as that which He was shown to be in time. The E. V. here departs from the literal translation, which it retains in the other six places in which the verb or its noun occurs, and substitutes ‘foreordained’ for ‘foreknown.’ The foreknowledge no doubt here, as in 1 Peter 1:2, means not mere prescience, but recognition, and lies near the idea of providing or determining. But while knowledge and will may be identical or coincident in the Divine mind, they are distinct things in our minds. The revelation of God, adapting itself to the modes of our thoughts, distinguishes between these two things, prescience and foreordination, and Peter himself indeed mentions them as distinct (Acts 2:23). It is right, therefore, to keep the literal sense ‘foreknown,’ the idea being simply this—that Christ was eternally in God’s view and before God’s mind as the Agent of this redemption. It is not necessary, therefore, to suppose (with Hofmann, Alford, etc.) that there is a comparison here between the lamb that was singled out of the flock and marked out for the Passover sacrifice some days before the occasion (Exodus 12:3-6), and Christ predestined in eternity for a service in time.

but was manifested: the tense changes here. The ‘foreknown’ is expressed by the perfect; literally, ‘has been foreknown,’ in reference to the place held and continuing to be held by Christ in the Divine mind. The ‘manifested’ is in the past, since what is in view is the historical manifestation once for all accomplished. The verb, which in 1 Peter 1:4 is used of the future advent of Christ, is to be understood here neither of the continuous manifestation of Christ by the preaching of the Gospel, nor of His coming forth from the secret counsel of God, but simply of His first advent. And as the verb describes the revelation of a ‘previously hidden existence’ (Fronmüller), the best exegetes agree in regarding the statement as inconsistent with the theory of a merely ideal existence of Christ before His appearance in history, and as a clear witness to Peter’s belief in His real pre-incarnate existence. The A. V., unlike almost all other Versions, curiously renders the participle ‘manifested’ here by the adjective ‘manifest.’

at the end of the times. So we should read, with the best authorities, instead of ‘in these last times.’ The present time, the interval between Christ’s two comings, is the end of the times as being the period beyond which there is to be no new revelation of grace. It is Christ’s first advent that has made the present time the last.

on account of you. The preciousness of the redemption has been carefully set forth by four different definitions of its cost which have risen in a climax from the simple notice of blood, to that of blood with all the value arising from the ethical quality of Him who shed it, to that of Christ’s blood, and finally to that of the blood of the Christ who was eternally in God’s view as the Ransom. A fresh wonder is added to it now by these words, which bring it home personally to the readers, and show the interest of degraded Gentiles, such as they, to have been contemplated by it all.


Verse 21

1 Peter 1:21. Who through him have faith toward God. The better accredited reading replaces the participle which the A. V. renders ‘who believe’ by the adjective ‘believing,’ or ‘faithful,’ which is elsewhere used of having faith in the promises of God (Galatians 3:9), in Jesus as the Messiah and Author of salvation (Acts 16:1; 2 Corinthians 6:15; 1 Timothy 5:16), and in the fact of His resurrection (John 20:27). The object of the belief is elsewhere expressed by the simple dative (Acts 16:15, etc.), or by the preposition ‘in’ (Ephesians 1:1), but here by the preposition ‘toward.’ This more forcible phrase, therefore, exhibits the readers not merely as believing, but as raised to the condition of a settled and loyal faith, and as having God Himself, and nothing lower, for the object of this new conviction. And it is ‘through Him,’ as Peter emphatically reminds them, that they have this new faith. Christ, and only Christ, by all that He had taught and all that He had been on earth, was the means of leading them to this knowledge of God and trust in God. The description loses most of its point and pertinency if Gentiles are not allowed to be in view here. It might be said of Jews, indeed, that they were brought by Christ to a better faith in God, but only of Gentiles, that they owed it to Him that they had ever come to take God as the object of their trust. Thus, too, the connection between this sentence and the preceding becomes natural and weighty. The fact that these Gentiles, once ‘without God and without hope in the world,’ had been brought through Christ to know God, and rest their faith in Him, is a witness to the truth of Peter’s statement that even they were in God’s view when the Christ, who had been eternally before His mind as Ransom, was manifested in time.

who raised him from the dead: Peter repeats here what he had urged with such emphasis so soon after Christ’s departure (Acts 2:24; Acts 3:15; Acts 3:26), and had proclaimed as the fulfilment of prophecy (Acts 2:31-36). Compare also Paul’s repeated ascription of Christ’s resurrection to God’s act (Ephesians 1:20; Galatians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 4:14; Romans 4:24; Romans 8:11, etc.).

and gave him glory. The consistency of this with Peter’s own earliest teaching (Acts 2:36) is apparent. Its consistency with Paul’s view of the ‘name which is above every name’ as a gift from God (Philippians 2:9), and with Christ’s own prayer for a glorification at His Father’s hand, puts it out of the question to suppose (as some argue) that Peter’s view of the Person of his Lord was less exalted than Paul’s, or that he thought of any other subordination of Christ to God than the voluntary subordination, compatible with equality, which the Son assumed, and for which He received reward from the Father, as the apostles consistently teach, and as Christ Himself taught them when He spoke of the Father as giving Him all judgment (John 5:22), giving His work and His words (John 17:4; John 17:8), His glory and even His life (John 17:22; John 5:26). It is not without reason that the new Centre now found for the faith which had been wasted, ere they knew Christ, on the things of a life of vanity, is designated here, not merely as ‘God,’ nor even as ‘the true God,’ but as the God who raised and glorified Christ Himself. That reason, however, lies neither in the idea that it was not the visibly Incarnate Christ (whom these Gentiles had not seen indeed), but only the exalted Christ that could work this faith in them, nor in the idea that faith is not Christian faith unless it embraces this belief in God’s having raised and glorified the Crucified (so Huther), but in what is next to be said of a hope to which this new faith rises.

so that your faith should also be hope toward God. The point of the statement which is placed so forcibly at the end of the section is apt to be missed. To render it, ‘that your faith and hope might be in God’ (so Luther, Calvin, Beza, etc., and among Versions the Syriac, Vulgate, A. V., and R. V.), or ‘so that your faith and hope are directed toward God’ (so many interpreters), is to bring the ‘hope’ in as little more than a rhetorical appendix to the ‘faith,’ and to make Peter close so rich a paragraph with a bald repetition of what has been already stated in the clause, ‘who through Him have faith toward God.’ It overlooks also the peculiar arrangement of the Greek words, and strips the definition of God as the God who raised and glorified Christ of its pertinency. The sentence becomes a still balder repetition of what has been already stated, if (which both the A. V. and R. V. avoid, but most interpreters adhere to) the rendering, ‘so that . . . are in God,’ is followed. It is doubtful, however, whether the Greek phrase so rendered ever loses the idea of purpose, even where it may seem to deal with result. Taking the ‘hope,’ therefore, to be predicate to the ‘faith,’ we should translate ‘that your faith should also be (as indeed it is) hope toward God.’ We have thus a new idea added to the previous train, and see how each of the prior clauses makes its own distinct contribution. Christ’s death delivered them from the slavery of their vain life. Christ’s manifestation was the means of lifting them to a faith of which God Himself, whom otherwise they would not have known, became the Object. Christ’s resurrection opened the gates of the future, and gave them a new hope, which also had God for its Object. And in raising Christ from the dead, and giving Him glory, God had it in view to make them what they now are, children of hope as well as faith, and to raise them not merely to faith, but to a faith rich in hope, to a faith which should now be hope in Himself. What this God whom they now believed in had done in Christ’s case woke in them the certain hope of a future in which He would give them joy over the ‘heaviness’ and ‘manifold temptations’ of the present. And this, too, was a reason why they should live their present life in holy fear, lest they might come short of what God intended for them!


Verse 22

1 Peter 1:22. Having purified your souls. The verb translated ‘purified’ is one which occurs only seven times in the New Testament. It is of frequent occurrence, however, in the Old, being the technical term used by the Greek Version for the ceremonial purification of the priests in preparation for Divine service, and applied also to the ceremonial ‘sanctification’ of the people (Joshua 3:5, etc.), to the ‘separation’ from wine and strong drink which the Nazarite vow involved (Numbers 6:2-6), etc. In four out of the seven New Testament occurrences (John 11:55; Acts 21:24; Acts 21:26; Acts 24:18), it has the religious or ceremonial sense which it invariably has in the Old Testament. In the present passage, as well as in James 4:8, and 1 John 3:3, it has the ethical sense (expressed also by another verb, e.g. in Acts 15:9), although the original idea of a religious consecration or separation also adheres to it. What it implies, therefore, is a moral purification from everything inconsistent with a religious destination. And the subject of this is ‘your souls,’ the word ‘soul’ having here the sense of the ‘region of the feelings, affections, and impulses, of all that peculiarly individualizes and personifies’ (Ellicott). The purification is to go, therefore, to the very ‘centre of the personal life,’ and to purge out there the selfishness that is inconsistent with their Divine destination. And this is represented as the moral condition on which the fulfilling of the precept necessarily depends. This seems to be the point of the participle which, being in the perfect, exhibits the purification neither under the aspect of a process which must be continually sustained (so Calvin, the Vulgate, etc., deal with it as if it were a present), nor under that of a thing made good once for all at the crisis of conversion and now taken as the ground for the exhortation (so Bengel, Wiesinger, the ‘seeing that’ of the E. V., etc., as if the tense had been the simple narrative past). It is intimately connected with the following imperative. Yet neither so as to become itself an imperative co-ordinate with that (Luther, etc.), nor as denoting what must always be attended to whenever effect is to be given to the charge (Schott, Huther, etc.), but either as pointing to the fact that ‘faith even in its first actings had purified, and in its continuous exercise was still purifying their souls’ (Lillie), or as simply indicating a mental preparation which they are instructed to attend to as the sine quâ non to their observance of the charge. This last brings out best the marked difference between the tense of the participle and the tense of the imperative, and gives the pertinent idea, that in order to exhibit the acts of love of the kind here enjoined on all the particular occasions which may arise for them, they must first see to have the disposition of love—the disposition of souls cleansed of selfishness.—in the obedience of the truth. The same term (a peculiarly New Testament term, unknown to classical Greek, and occurring only once in the Greek Version of the Old Testament) for ‘obedience’ is used here as in 1 Peter 1:2; 1 Peter 1:14, and is not to be identified with faith, but taken in the sense of obedience to God’s will, and specially to that will as revealed in Christ. ‘Truth,’ too, has here the objective sense of the contents of the Christian revelation, or the Christian salvation itself; ‘so far as being an unique and eternal reality, it has become manifest, and is set forth as the object of knowledge or faith’ (Cremer). Subjection, therefore, to the permanent realities of grace, or to the saving will of God as revealed in Christ, is here the sphere or element in which alone this purified disposition at the very centre of the personal life can be attained. The best authorities are at one in regarding the clause, ‘through the Spirit,’ which the E. V. inserts, as no part of the original text.

unto brotherly love unfeigned. The ‘unto’ may express either the end or object which the purification aims at, or the result it actually reaches. The latter is more appropriate here, the idea being that if they have been so purified, they cannot fail to have the disposition here in view. The purification implies, the creation of a disposition which is alien to all love that is unreal or selfish. The term for ‘brotherly love’ is of less frequent occurrence in the New Testament than might be expected, being confined to the writings of Peter (here and in 2 Peter 1:7) and Paul (Romans 12:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:9), and the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 13:1). Under various forms of expression, however, a large place is given by the New Testament writers, on the basis of Christ’s own teaching (John 13:31), to the peculiar love which Christians are to cherish to each other. While Peter and Paul, however, exhibit it in its more general aspects, as an active grace taking shape in deeds of self-sacrifice, and as in some respects secondary to the wider grace of charity, it is John who specially unfolds it in the grandeur and newness which the new motive drawn from Christ’s love, and the new standard presented in Christ’s example, give to brotherly love. It is here described as ‘unfeigned,’ not hypocritical or wearing a mask, as the term implies. For, as Leighton puts it, ‘men are subject to much hypocrisy this way, and deceive themselves; if they find themselves diligent in religious exercises, they scarce once ask their hearts how they stand affected this way, namely, in love to their brethren.’

from the heart love one another intensely. That is, see that ye have the purified personality which comes by receiving what God has revealed in Jesus Christ; and having the disposition of unfeigned brotherly love which that purification creates, let it display itself heartily, and without hesitation or hindrance, in acts of love to your fellow-believers. The phrase ‘from the heart’ (the adjective ‘pure,’ inserted by the E. V., is better omitted, the sentence being on the whole adverse to its genuineness) is to be attached not to the previous clause, but to the ‘love one another,’ and expresses one quality of the affection, its spontaneousness (Romans 6:17) and sincerity; ‘let the clearness of the stream that brightens and gladdens the scenes of your daily intercourse attest the purity of the fountain whence it flows’ (Lillie). The adverb ‘fervently’ (an adverb of degree, not of time, meaning, therefore, more than merely ‘continuously’) adds the note that it is to be with strained energies, as Huther, etc. put it; or ‘unfalteringly,’ as Humphrey suggests. Here, therefore, as elsewhere, Peter speaks of the degree of grace (cf. 2 Peter 3:18). But while he limits himself here to the measure which brotherly love should itself attain, the Second Epistle (1 Peter 1:7) represents brotherly love as rather a step in a gradation of which charity is the height. So Paul (1 Thessalonians 3:12) urges an increase and abounding in love, not merely in the form of brotherly love, but as if the one, so far from arresting, promoted the other, in the larger form of a love embracing all men.


Verses 22-25

The exhortation to brotherly love, which is next introduced, is not without a living connection with the preceding. The circumspect walk which has been enjoined is a walk such as befits those who are travelling toward a home which it would be misery to miss, and are conscious of what it cost to redeem them. But a walk so recommended leads naturally to brotherly love. If they are sojourners together in an alien community, all the less should they think of falling out by the way. If they are redeemed together by the same great price, all the more should they take a common interest in the household of faith. The terms in which this counsel is given contain nothing to warrant the supposition that Peter had to deal with dissensions which had burst out between Jew and Gentile in these scattered churches. The trying circumstances of the churches may have been sufficient occasion for the counsel. Times of fear and threatening develop latent selfishness, and provoke hardness of feeling toward others. The injunction, however, is not merely to brotherly love, but, as if that might be taken for granted as existent, to a brotherly love of a particular kind and measure. As he has already urged those who were born anew into hope to set their hope intensely on its proper object (1 Peter 1:13), so now he urges those whom grace inspired with the new spirit of brotherly love to let it be earnest and unreserved. And this duty, like the previous duties, is shown to rise naturally out of the prior gift of God, His gift of a new life through the great deed of regeneration.


Verse 23

1 Peter 1:23. Being born again, or rather, having been begotten again. On this see also 1 Peter 1:3. The tense denotes a subsisting state due to an act in the past, and, therefore, here a new life in which they stand in virtue of a decisive change equivalent to a new birth. If the three verses which follow are regarded, as they are by almost all interpreters, as making one paragraph with the preceding verse, they must be understood to enforce the exhortation to a sincere and intense brotherly love. There is some difficulty, however, in establishing a sufficient connection, specially in view of the fact that there is no reference to community of life as the consequence of regeneration, but only a reference to the nature of the life which comes from an incorruptible source, through a Word which has the qualities of life and permanence. This being the case, and the injunction to brotherly love, as given in 1 Peter 1:22, being complete within itself, it is suggested to connect 1 Peter 1:23-25 with 1 Peter 2:1-3. We should then have an exhortation (in 1 Peter 2:1-3) to a right use of God’s Word, based here on the consideration (thrown forward, as is the case with so many of Peter’s counsels, before the charge itself) that it is to that Word that we owe our new life. The run of thought then would be clear and simple—ye are possessors now of a new life which, in contrast with the transitoriness of the natural life and its glory, is an incorruptible, permanent life; but this you owe to the power of God’s living and abiding Word; therefore use that Word well, feed on it, nourish your life by it. Following the usual connection, we shall have to regard the previous exhortation to a brotherly love of a pure and whole-hearted order as now supported by the consideration that, in virtue of God’s act of regeneration, ‘there is the same blood running in their veins’ (Leighton, and virtually Schott), or that the regeneration, which alone makes this kind of love a possibility, also makes it an obligation (Huther, etc.). Or better (with Weiss and, so far, Alford), we shall have to suppose that Peter now finds a further reason for holding themselves pledged to a life of love of this tenor, in a fact of grace of earlier date than even the purification of soul already instanced, namely, the decisive deed of God’s grace in bringing them first into the new life by the instrumentality of His Word. The special qualities of the instrument of their regeneration, namely those of ‘living’ and ‘abiding,’ are then named as arguments for rising to that high strain of persevering, undecaying love which befits a life which itself is lifted above the inconsistency, fitfulness, and perishableness of the natural life.

not of (or, from) corruptible seed, but incorruptible. The preposition denotes the source or origin of the life, and declares it to be in that respect unlike the natural life. The latter originates in what is perishable, and is itself, therefore, transitory and changeful. The former originates in what is incorruptible, and therefore is itself unsusceptible of failure or decadence. The word here translated ‘seed’ occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It is taken in that sense by almost all commentators, and this seems to be favoured by the qualifying adjective attached to it. Neither is that a sense absolutely strange. It is found, though with extreme rarity, both in the classics and elsewhere (2 Kings 19:29; 1Ma_10:30). The word, however, would mean naturally ‘sowing,’ which sense (along with the secondary meanings of ‘seed-time and ‘offspring’) it has in the Classics. Here, therefore, it refers to the Divine act, described as a begetting, which is the point of origin for the new life.

through God’s living and abiding Word. There is a change in the preposition now, of which some strange explanations are given. It is not because Peter now passes from the figure to a literal designation of the medium of regeneration (Schott, Weiss, etc.), nor because the Word of God is now to be distinguished as a regenerating instrument from the Spirit of God implied in the foregoing ‘seed’ as the regenerating power in the Word (de Wette, Brückner), nor is it even to mark out two different aspects of the same Word, namely the Word as external instrumentality in the production of the new life, and the Word (in the character of ‘seed’) as internal principle of the new life (Huther). It is due simply to the fact, that having named the act of God, which is the originating power, Peter now names the medium through which that takes effect (cf. James 1:18). The Logos or ‘Word’ by which God begets us is neither the Personal Word, Christ, by whom God has spoken finally, nor the written Word, the ‘Scripture,’ with which Paul opens his quotations, but, as in Hebrews 4:12, Revelation, or the declared will of God, and here that will as declared specially in the Gospel. Though the Word of God does not assume in Peter the form to which John carries it, it may yet be fairly said that it is ‘more here than any written book, more than any oral teaching of the Gospel, however mighty that teaching might be in its effects’ (Plumptre). The context shows Peter to be viewing it as a voice which penetrates man’s nature like a quickening principle, ‘a Divine, eternal, creative power, working in and on the soul of man’ (Plumptre), and nearly identified with God Himself, just as in Hebrews 4 there is an immediate transition from the Word (1 Peter 1:12) to God Himself (1 Peter 1:13). It is not quite clear which of the two subjects, God or the Word, is qualified by the adjectives ‘living’ and ‘abiding.’ The order in the Greek is peculiar, the noun ‘God’s’ being thrust in between the two adjectives. Most interpreters agree with the E. V. in taking the Word to be the subject described here as ‘living’ and ‘abiding,’ in favour of which it is strongly urged that the passage which follows from the Old Testament deals not with God’s own nature, but with that of His Word. The peculiar order of the Greek is then explained as due to the quality ‘living’ being thrown forward for the sake of emphasis. On this view the thing most decidedly asserted is the life which inheres in the Word, and the subsequent citation from Isaiah would be introduced to express the contrast between the Word of God in this respect and the best of all natural things. The arrangement of the terms points, however, more naturally to God as the subject described by the epithets, and in support of this, Daniel 6:26 is appealed to, where God is similarly described, and, indeed, according to one of the ancient Greek translators, in precisely the same terms. Calvin, therefore, supported by the Vulgate, and followed by some good exegetes, prefers the view that these epithets ‘living’ and ‘abiding’ are given here to God Himself, with reference to His Word, as that in which ‘His own perpetuity is reflected as in a living mirror.’ In this case we should have the same kind of connection between God and His Word as we have also in Hebrews 2:12-13, where the conception of the former as having all things naked and opened to Him, and that of the latter as quick, powerful, and piercing, lie so near each other; and the following citation would have the more distinct design of affirming the Word to be partaker of the very life and perpetuity which inhere in God Himself. In either case the quality of ‘abiding’ is not a mere superaddition (as Huther, etc., make it), but rather so weighty an inference from the ‘living’ that it alone is expounded in what follows. For the dominant idea is still the kind of love which believers should exhibit toward each other, namely, persevering, lasting love, and the general intention of the closing verses is to show that while to the unregenerate all that is possible may be a love changeful and transient like the nature of which it is born, the regenerate are made capable of, and thereby pledged to, a love of the enduring quality of that new life which, like God Himself and God’s Word, lives and therefore abides. The words ‘for ever’ are omitted by the best authors.


Verse 24

1 Peter 1:24. For all flesh is as grass. Peter breaks off into the rapid, vivid terms in which the prophet of Isaiah 40 speaks of his commission. ‘The air is full of inspiration, of Divine calls and prophetic voices’ (M. Arnold). The prophet hears a voice say to him, Cry; he asks what he shall cry, and the voice gives him as his cry this ‘antithesis between the decay—it may be the premature decay (for the breath of Jehovah “bloweth” when “it listeth")—to which even the brightest and best of earthly things are liable, and the necessary permanence of Jehovah and His revelation’ (Cheyne). The particular revelation or ‘word’ there affirmed to stand infallibly for ever is God’s promise regarding Israel. Here that is identified with the word now preached through the Gospel. The phrase ‘all flesh’ (which in the Old Testament is characteristic of certain books only, occurring, e.g., repeatedly in the Pentateuch and the second half (never in the first) of Isaiah, four times in Jeremiah, three times in Ezekiel, once in Zechariah) embraces man and all that is of man as he is by nature.

and all its glory as flower of grass. The reading followed by the E. V., ‘the glory of man,’ must yield to the better reading, ‘its glory.’ If the ‘flesh,’ therefore, is compared to grass (a familiar biblical figure of transient human life, cf. Psalms 90:5-6; Psalms 103:15-16; Job 8:12; Job 14:2; Isaiah 37:27; Isaiah 1:12; Jas. 7:10, 11), and one to which the rapidity of growth and decay in Eastern climates gives additional force, the ‘glory’ of the flesh, by which is meant its goodliest outcome, ‘the most splendid manifestations of man’s life,’ is compared to the still more tender bloom that brightens on the flower only to fall oft ‘There are no fields of amaranth on this side of the grave; there are no voices, O Rhodopè, that are not soon mute, however tuneful; there is no name, with whatever emphasis of passionate love repeated, of which the echo is not faint at last’ (Landor).

withered was the grass, and the flower (the word ‘thereof is not sustained by the best authorities) fell off. A lifelike picture of the actual occurrence, the tenses used being those of direct narration (aptly given by Wycliffe

dried up. . . . fell down), which may be rendered, as in the E. V., by our English present, as expressing what takes place habitually, but which rather represent the tiling as witnessed by the eye of the reporter.

But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. Having the Gospel immediately in view, Peter substitutes ‘the word of the Lord’ here for ‘the word of our God,’ which is the phrase in Isaiah 40:8, in both the Hebrew text and the Greek. Other departures from the Old Testament passage, as we have it, also appear, some of which are of minor interest, others of a remarkable kind. Not only is the qualifying ‘as’ introduced before the ‘grass,’ the stronger term ‘glory’ given for ‘goodliness,’ the phrase ‘flower of grass’ substituted for ‘flower of the field,’ and ‘fadeth’ displaced by ‘fell off,’ but the important section of the Hebrew text which ascribes the decadence of grass and flower to the Spirit of the Lord blowing upon them (1 Peter 1:7) is entirely omitted. In these particulars, Peter follows the text of the ancient Greek translation. On the other hand, he departs from the Greek text, and returns to the Hebrew, in adopting ‘all its glory’ instead of ‘all the glory of man. It appears, therefore, that Peter makes a very free quotation, or rather, that he does not bring in this passage as a formal quotation sustaining his statement by an appeal to Scripture, but simply expresses in Old Testament words which come easily to his lips a reason for the incorruptibility which he attributes to the new life, namely, that it is due to the action of a power which endures like God Himself. This is supported by the fact that the passage is introduced not by the ordinary conjunction ‘for,’ but by a different term, used also in 1 Peter 1:16, meaning rather ‘because.’

And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you, or rather, and the word of the gospel which was preached unto you was this. The sentence is not parallel, as it is taken by many, to Romans 10:5-13, where the nearness or accessibility of the Word is in view. What is affirmed is not that this Word, of which things so glorious are said, is yet so near them as to be at their hand in the Gospel, but that the good tidings which were brought to these Asiatic Christians by Paul and his comrades were nothing else than that Word of the Lord of which the prophet spake, and nothing less enduring than the Voice of the desert had proclaimed that Word to be. So Peter identifies the revelation in the form of the ancient word of promise with the revelation in the form of the recent word of preaching; which he says, also, was not merely to them, or for their benefit, but unto them, addressed to them personally and borne in among them. He gives implicit witness at the same time to the fact that what he himself had now to teach them was nothing but the same grace which Paul and others had proclaimed. Hence the past tense, ‘was preached,’ as referring to their first acquaintance with the Gospel, when others than he who wrote to them had been the means of conveying to them the Lord’s enduring Word, and thus creating in them a life capable of a stedfast and undecaying love. The term used for the ‘Word’ in 1 Peter 1:23 (Logos) gives place now to a different term (rhema), which is supposed to express only the word as uttered (while the other denotes the word whether uttered or unuttered), and to give a more concrete view of it. How far the distinction can be carried out, however, is doubtful. And it is more than doubtful whether in the present instance the change is due to aught else than the fact that the Greek translation which Peter seems to follow uses the latter word in the passage cited.

 


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Bibliography Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on 1 Peter 1:4". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/1-peter-1.html. 1879-90.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, October 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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