Commencing then our reading of the Epistle, we find the opening
address in verses 1 and 2. To whom does he write? To "strangers
scattered" or "sojourners of the dispersion," to people who were a
standing witness to the fact that the Jew had forfeited his ancient
privileges, to folk who had lost all the earthly foothold they ever
had, though it was a big foothold as originally granted. Yet the
sojourners he addressed were not by any means all the scattered Jews of
those provinces, but such of them only as were "elect," or chosen of
Three things are mentioned as to God's choice of them, connected
respectively with the Father, the Spirit and Jesus Christ. Note the
"According to," indicating
"Through," indicating the
"Unto," indicating the
end in view.
God's choice of them-and of us, for both Jew and Gentile come into
the same Christian blessings on the same ground, as Paul's epistles
show-was characterized by His foreknowledge as Father. What a comfort
this is! How far removed it is from the blind fate which is supposed by
some to preside over human destiny. God's election is never capricious
and the idea of a sinner earnestly desiring salvation, and yet
prevented by an adverse decree, is a nightmare of human reason and not
Scripture. God chooses, knowing the end from the beginning, and
therefore His choice is always right and justifies itself in its
His choice is made effectual "through sanctification of the Spirit."
The root idea of "sanctification" is "setting apart for God" and the
Holy Spirit is He who, by His inward life-giving work, sets apart the
one who is the subject of it.
The end in view is that the one so set apart should be marked by the
obedience of Christ-that is, obey even as He obeyed-and also come under
the efficacy of His blood to this end. The words "of Jesus Christ"
refer to both the obedience and the sprinkling of blood, but why, we
may ask, is this order observed; why not the reversed order, for do we
not need the cleansing of His blood before we can obey at all? The
answer is, because of the reference there is to Old Testament Scripture.
They belonged racially to the people who were God's elect nation,
chosen in Abraham, and sanctified, that is, set apart, as Exodus 13: 2
testifies. Now read Exodus 24: 3-8, and you will observe there the
first the obedience promised which the law demanded,
sprinkling of the blood of the sacrifice in ratification. Peter,
addressing believers who were very familiar with this, carefully
observes this order, only showing that we Christians have these things
on a far higher plane in a vital and spiritual way, and the blood of
Jesus Christ instead of being like that of the sacrifices of Exodus 24:
8, which had a
penal force (that is, it indicated that death was the penalty attached to disobedience to the law's righteous demands) is wholly
the righteous basis of all our standing and relations with God.
Sanctified by the Spirit and sprinkled by the blood of Christ we are
committed to a life of obedience after the very pattern of Christ. With
so exalted a course set before us we certainly need the multiplication
of both grace and peace!
Verse 3 opens the apostle's message in striking a note of praise to
God, now revealed as the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, since
He has begotten us again to a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus
Christ. As belonging to the commonwealth of Israel they had formerly
had national hopes which centred in a Messiah upon earth, but the light
of those hopes was quenched in their hearts when He died rejected,
crucified between two thieves. The story of the two going to Emmaus, as
told in Luke 24, is a telling illustration of this; but, when those two
had their eyes opened and beheld Him risen, a new hope dawned in their
hearts which nothing on earth could quench. It was a living hope
because centred in a Saviour living beyond the power of death. How
aptly the very words of verse 3 would have sprung from their lips as
they entered the upper room in Jerusalem to tell the news to the rest
after their return journey of three-score furlongs! They were like men
who had been born again into a new world of hope and expectation, in
the great mercy of God.
Israel's hopes, when brought out of Egypt, centred in the land that
was to be given to them as their inheritance. The Christian's hope also
has an inheritance connected with it, as verse 4 shows, but what a
contrast is here! Palestine as an inheritance proved a sad
disappointment. The land itself was all that a land should be, still it
was capable of being corrupted, and consequently it was speedily
defiled by those who inherited it, since they were left to their own
responsibility. Thus, bit by bit it was forfeited and it faded away.
Our inheritance is reserved in the heavens and consequently it is
beyond the possibility of corruption, undefiled and unfading; and we,
for whom it is reserved, are being kept by the power of God for it.
There shall, therefore, be no slip betwixt the cup of the inheritance
and our lips!
The power of God keeps us and not our fidelity, yet God's power
works through faith. Faith is our side of the matter. God is sovereign
in exercising His power, and we are responsible as to the exercise of
faith. Many are puzzled as to how to put these two things, God's
sovereignty and man's responsibility together, and regard them as quite
incompatible and irreconcilable. Yet here, in this fifth verse, they
are found going hand in hand, preserving the believer to the salvation
that awaits him in the last time. The salvation mentioned here is
future. It is the final deliverance that awaits the believer at the
coming of the Lord. That final deliverance is a certainty before us;
yet we cannot await it with self-confidence, for nothing short of the
power of God is needed to keep us, nor can we await it with
carelessness, for God's power is effective through faith, on our side.
How then do we await it? Why, with exultation, yet tempered with the
heaviness of many trials, as verse 6 declares. The coming glory shone
brightly before the faith of these early Christians and filled them
with great rejoicing, so that they were like ships with sails set and
filled with heaven's breezes. On the other hand they had plenty of
ballast in the shape of heavy trials. These trials are permitted in
love, for they only come
"if need be." In one way or another
we all do need them. If we try to rejoice in the world and its
pleasures we need trials to dislodge us from the world by stirring up
the comfortable nest we would fain build below. If we are exulting in
the coming glory we need them as sobering and steadying ballast, lest
our exulting should overbalance us.
The heavy trials, however, are
"now, for a season," even as
the "pleasures of sin," which charm the poor worldling are "for a
season" (Heb. 11: 25). Soon the worldling will say good-bye to his
pleasures, and the Christian to his trials.
Moreover, the very trials themselves are profitable as working in
us-in our character and lives-the qualities that glorify God. Hence
verse 7 declares that faith (which is much more precious than gold)
being tested by the fire of persecution, will come out to the praise
and honour and glory of God when Christ appears. Many a bold confessor,
suffering fiery trial-even to death perhaps-may have been tempted to
think that, their light being extinguished, all was
lost. The apostle tells them that, on the contrary, all would
be found in that day. Christ being revealed in His glory, everything to His praise and honour will come into the light and be displayed.
Then Christ will appear, or be unveiled, as the word is. At the
present time He is unseen. These dispersed exiles had never seen Jesus
in the days of His flesh for they had been driven far outside the land
of Promise, nor were they then looking on Him. Yet they loved Him, and
He was the Object of their faith and this caused them to exult with a
joy beyond words and full of glory.
We, like them, have never yet seen the Lord, but is faith as active
with us? Faith, remember, is the telescope of the soul, bringing into
the field of our spiritual vision what is unseen to mortal eyes. Then
we see Jesus as a living, bright Reality, and our joy is filled with
the glory of what He is and the hope of what He is going to be, which
is beyond all human language. Believing we
rejoice, and believing we
receive the salvation of our souls, for soul-salvation is the end, or result, of faith in the risen Saviour.
Love, faith, joy and hope are all found in verse 8, though the last
is inferred and not explicitly named. How excellent must be the
spiritual state marked by these things! Yet all produced not by being
occupied with one's spiritual state, but by Christ Himself being the
loved Object of faith's vision.
Those to whom Peter wrote were quite familiar with the idea of a
salvation which consisted of temporal deliverance, such as the
deliverance of their fathers from Egypt, and they had expected a
supreme salvation of that kind at the advent of their Messiah, as
promised through the prophets; but by faith in the risen Christ (verse
3) a salvation of a spiritual sort affecting their souls had reached
them, though they were externally still under the iron heel of Rome. Of
this salvation the prophets had also spoken, for the theme of their
testimony was twofold-first, the sufferings of the Christ, and second,
the glories that were to follow. As the immediate result of His first
advent to suffer there is a soul-salvation for those who believe. As
the direct result of His second advent to reign in glory the bodies of
the saints will be saved from the power of death and public and
universal salvation will be established for those who enter His kingdom.
Three very important things should be noted in verses 10 to 12.
(1). The reality of
inspiration, and its remarkable
character. The prophets ministered, but the source of their prophecies,
whether oral or written, was the Spirit. The Spirit
in them testified
and He was so really the source of their utterances that they had to
search diligently their own words and inquire as to their real force,
only to discover that their full meaning was beyond the apprehension of
the age in which they lived, and that they were really writing for the
instruction of saints in a coming age-even for us.
(2). Though in the bygone age Christ had not been manifested, yet
the Spirit in the prophets and speaking through them, could be spoken
of as "the Spirit of Christ." Christ was accordingly the Speaker by His
Spirit even in Old Testament days. We shall see the bearing of this
when we consider 1 Peter 3: 18-20.
(3). The strong difference drawn between the age before and the age
after Christ. The soul-deliverance, which is the common possession of
believers today, was for even the prophets of the bygone age a subject
of enquiry; it is spoken of as "the grace that should come unto you,"
was not come in the previous age. Further, the things now reported to
us by the apostles and others who have preached the Gospel by the Holy
Ghost sent down from heaven are the things which were only prophesied
predicted by the Spirit; now
the Spirit. Then the Spirit was in the prophets for the purpose of
inspiration, but now the Spirit is sent down from heaven. The present
age is marked by the sufferings of Christ having been accomplished and
consequently by grace having come, soul-salvation being realized,
things that angels desire to look into being reported, and the Holy
Ghost having been sent down from heaven.
Having unfolded these great and blessed facts, the apostle turns
aside to exhortation in verses 13 to 17. The great advance which marks
Christianity as compared with Judaism entails a corresponding advance
in the character of Christian life and behaviour. We are now children
and call upon God as our Father, but we are to be obedient. On the one
hand, we are to be braced up mentally, marked by sobriety and confident
hope; on the other hand, we are to avoid the old desires which mastered
us when we were in ignorance of God, and to be holy in all our conduct
as God Himself is holy. What God has revealed Himself to be sets the
standard for all our conduct. Moreover, the One whom we call Father is
the impartial Judge of the work of each, hence, reverential fear
becomes us. He is Judge, but He is our Father, and we are before Him,
therefore, in filial fear.
These exhortations, which spring out of the truth unfolded in verses
1 to 12 (notice the word "wherefore," commencing verse 13), are
reinforced by the further details of truth expounded from verse 18
onwards to 1 Peter 2: 10, as witness the word "Forasmuch" with which
verse 18 starts.
They knew, and so do we, that we are redeemed with the precious
blood of Christ. Their fathers had been redeemed with silver and gold-a
typical redemption carried out under Jewish law. Sometimes actual money
was given as in Exodus 30: 11-16; Numbers 3: 44-51. Sometimes it was by
sacrifice, as in Exodus 13: 13-15; still, even then, silver and gold
were involved, since they were needed to purchase the animal used for
sacrifice. Silver and gold are the least corruptible of metals, yet
they are corruptible. The price of our redemption was incorruptible and
The Jewish manner of life had degenerated into a matter of mere
tradition received from their fathers. This was quite manifest in
Isaiah's day (Isa. 29: 13), and the Lord Jesus charged it home upon
them, quoting Isaiah's words, in Mark 7: 6-13. Even the right things
they did, they did not because they were enjoined of God, but because
ordered by tradition. Thus their manner of life had become corrupt and
most offensive to God. Our Gentile manner of life was pure darkness and
lawlessness, and equally corrupt. Whether, however, it were we or they,
we have been redeemed out of our old manner of life by the precious
blood of the One who was typified as the unblemished and spotless lamb
of Exodus 12: 3-6; only He was ordained not a mere matter of four days
before sacrifice, but from before the foundation of the world. Our
redemption, therefore, was according to the eternal counsels of God.
The Lamb of God was ordained in eternity, but manifested in time. He
appeared "in these last times"-the "end of the world," or the
"consummation of the ages" of Hebrews 9: 26-and that not only as the
Redeemer but as the
Revealer. God was perfectly revealed in Him so that it is
by Him that
we believe in God. We do not believe in God by the wonders of creation,
nor by the law as given through Moses, nor by visions of angels, but by
Christ, once dead but now risen and in glory. Our faith and hope repose
in God who is known to us as He who raised Christ up from the dead and
gave Him glory. How wonderfully this fits in with Paul's testimony in
Romans 4: 23-25, and Romans 10: 9.
From this it is clear that if we desire to win the faith of men for
God we must present Christ to them-Christ once dead; Christ as risen;
Christ now in glory. Every other theme is useless. We may possibly find
subsidiary matter elsewhere. Useful illustrations may abound in the
fields of creation and providence. They may be furnished sometimes by
the facts, or even the speculations of science-though as to the latter,
the greatest caution must be exercised as they are mostly
wrong, as witnessed by the ease with which the oncoming generations of speculators dispose of the hypotheses (or,
their predecessors. Still, the fact remains that if men really believe
in God it is by Christ that they believe in Him. Let us therefore
preach CHRIST, whether by life or lips or pen.
Redemption is, of course, a work accomplished for us. We need also a work wrought
in us. Of this the apostle proceeds to write.
The truth of the Gospel had brought their souls into subjection and
obedience in the energy of the Spirit. This had wrought a mighty work
of purification. The purifications of the law had consisted in "divers
washings" of water (Heb. 9: 10), purely external. This was a
soul-purification, a moral renovation with love as the outcome, for
love is as native to the new nature as hatred is to the old.
If verse 22 presents the work wrought in them and us as it might be
observed and described by man, verse 23 lets us into the real secret of
it all, from a point of view impossible to man and only to be known
because revealed by God. We are born again.
The necessity of this new birth for Israel was alluded to, though in
veiled terms, in Ezekiel 36: 25-27. The Lord Jesus yet more strongly
enforced its necessity when speaking to Nicodemus in John 3. Nicodemus
should have known the passage in Ezekiel, hence the Lord's words, "Art
thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?" The teaching of
the Lord is based upon Ezekiel's words, though He greatly expands and
clarifies them. Even so, the Lord did not drop all figurative language
and still spoke of "water." In the main, however, He stressed the
Spirit's sovereign action in new birth. "That which is born of the
Spirit is spirit."
Peter's epistle was written in the full light of Christianity. It
was not now the Lord Jesus on earth speaking to a Nicodemus, but the
same Jesus, risen and glorified after the accomplishment of redemption,
speaking through His inspired apostle to Christians. Hence, figures are
dropped and the matter stands out with full clearness. Here the energy
of the Spirit is only alluded to in verse 22 and the main stress is
laid on what we are born of and by.
The life of Adam's race, to which we belong, whether Jews or
Gentiles, is utterly corrupted; its nature wholly evil. We must be not
only redeemed, but purified. The Spirit of God works to this end and we
obey the truth. The real inwardness of the matter, however, is that the
Spirit uses the Word of God in such a way that we are born again of
incorruptible seed. Consequently, we possess a new nature, springing
from a divine source and beyond the taint of corruption. Here, then, is
a purification of a most profound and fundamental sort brought about
through the Spirit of God by the agency of the Word of God-the "water"
of John 3 and Ezekiel 36. It is not difficult to see how apt a figure
You will find it helpful to glance at 1 John 3: 9, which carries the matter a step further. The expression "born
of God" emphasizes
the divine source whence we spring. The seed of God remains in us and
is incorruptible, as Peter has told us. This is the essential character
of our new nature, as will be plainly manifested when the last trace of
the old nature is eliminated from us at the coming of the Lord.
Returning to our passage we note that the Word of God by which we
are born again is living and it abides for ever, and in this it is
directly in contrast with ourselves as the children of Adam. All flesh
is as grass which grows up and speedily withers. All man's glory is as
the flower of grass, which falls away and disappears even more rapidly
than grass itself. Man's glory speedily fades, and man himself passes
away into death. The Word of the Lord lives and abides for ever, and by
it we are born again.
How wonderful this is! That which is born partakes of the nature and
character of that which gives its birth. "That which is born of the
Spirit is spirit." It is equally true that that which is born of
incorruptible seed is incorruptible, and that which is born by the
living and abiding Word of God is living and abiding. And that enduring
Word of the Lord has reached us in the gospel message that we have
believed. We shall not be surprised therefore when in the next chapter
we find ourselves spoken of as "living stones" and as connected with a
"house" which is incorruptible and abiding.