Peter addresses the saints as “strangers scattered.” Paul’s word is “no more strangers” (Eph. 2:19.) Up there in heaven, we are at home; down here, “strangers,” no longer at home in the world. Every true Christian knows this, and the more he is in the Spirit, and living in the presence of God, the more shall he feel this stranger-ship. “Scattered,” or more exactly rendered—“strangers of the dispersion”—the same as in James 1:1—which shows that this Epistle was primarily written to believing Jews. But its teaching is just as applicable to us now treading the wilderness; a scattered people, a few here, a few there, yet all known perfectly to the Lord. Soon we shall be all gathered around Him, for—“Unto Him shall the gathering of the people be” (Gen. 49:10, with John 11:50-52). Like the morning dew; a moment here on the grass, the next moment gone to form a rainbow in the skies.
Verse 2.—“Elect according to the fore-knowledge of God.” There is a difference between election and predestination. The former looks at the place from which we are taken, the latter at the place to which we are going. “Election” is the word here, for the saints are seen as chosen “out of” the world; “not of” the world, even as Christ is not of it (John 17:16).
“The fore-knowledge of God.” The same word is used in verse 20, concerning Christ, the Lamb of God, “Who verily was fore-ordained before the foundation of the world.” God had found a Christ for His people, and a people for His Christ, before the world was. He set His love on Him, and on us, and “made us accepted”—literally, took us into favour—”in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:6). He puts Christ and His people together thus in 1 Cor. 1:30—”Of Him (God) are ye in Christ Jesus.” Of the wicked He says—” I never knew you:” of His people—”I knew you before the world was.” It is very grand to see these things, and to have them dwell in power in our souls. O to think that God thought about us, loved us, and planned about our blessing, long before we had a being, and before He founded the world.
Verse 2.—The next word is “Through sanctification of the Spirit.” That is separation when we were born again; the setting apart of the Spirit when He made us to live This looks at the earliest of God’s operations in our souls. The first thing He does is to quicken us, to give us a new life. When first begotten, this life may be very small in its measure, but it is “the life of God,” proceeding from a living Christ upon the throne, and it utterly dissociates us from all around. Who does not know that Christ when here, was separate from all the evil that surrounded Him, because He was the Son of God. So are we, as possessed of His life, and one with Him. As the apostle John says, “Which thing is true in Him, and in you” (1 John 2:8.)
Sanctification is separation—separation from evil, and separation to God (see also 2 Thess. 2:13.) The practical question, therefore, is—Am I a separate man, or do I love the world, and abide in it?
“Unto obedience.” This is always what the Spirit aims at. If God has called us to be His chosen, the first thing is to learn to obey Him. And see what sort of obedience ours is to be. “Of Jesus Christ.” Not a half-and-half thing, but a simple, hearty, thorough and constant obedience, of which “Jesus Christ” is the pattern. He was the obedient One. He could say “The Lord God hath opened mine ear, and 1 was not rebellious “(Isa. 1:5.) He became “obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross” (Phil, 2:8.) This is to be our standard, a much higher one than law, and we have the same “Spirit of life” (Rom. 8:2) in us which was in Him, though in smaller measure. We have the same power, but with this important distinction, that we have an evil and fleshly nature in us, to oppose and fight against the Spirit, which He had not.
“Sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” The Spirit quickens us to shelter under the blood. The work of the Spirit always makes us prize the blood of Christ. No man by nature prizes it. If I begin to trust in it as my only plea, my only title, that shews the Spirit is at work in me, leading me away from self-confidence and from self-religiousness. Nothing is to be added to that precious blood as a plea, or a resting-place before God. It is alone in its perfection. But although the blood alone is our plea before God, it is only by the Spirit we begin to enjoy the nearness into which it brings us. Our competency for the enjoyment of God is the new birth, the new nature, and the indwelling of the Spirit. He gives the capacity to “joy in God.” What then is the profession of a valuing of the blood of Jesus, if held apart from separation and obedience? The three must always go together.
“Grace unto you and peace, be multiplied.” The Epistle is addressed to believing Jews who had been under law, which leads to bondage and dread of God. “The grace of God” (Titus 2:11) had brought salvation to them; now they are to have grace “multiplied,” to have their hearts “established with grace,” as we have it in Heb. 13:9. Is God contented with what grace you have? No. He wants to give you more, to “multiply” it to you, to have “grace and peace” flowing into your heart like a river.
Verse 3.—“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He begins with a hymn of praise. O, how can we but praise God for what He has done? The wonder is we ever cease. “Who, according to His abundant mercy, hath begotten us.” Most appropriately does Peter thus begin His Epistle, which views us as God’s people passing through the wilderness, by telling us that God had “begotten us again.” This is what makes us strangers here. Christ was a stranger here, because He was the Son of God from Heaven, and so are we, for His life is in us. What a real thing this makes regeneration. Not merely a doctrine, but a fact: the very life and nature of God communicated to us—“born out of God” (John 1:13, Greek). Let us remember our spiritual birthday; it is the most important era of our life. Begotten unto two things: (1) “A living hope;” (2) “An inheritance.” What is the hope? The coming again of the Lord Jesus. The unconverted dare not look on to the future: the believer is to be sustained and carried through by the power of “the hope.” To him the future has already begun to be a source of joy.
“A living hope, by the resurrection of Christ Jesus out of the dead ones.” Here again we are reminded that our life is identical with Christ’s. In Scripture there are the two expressions; “Resurrection of the dead,” and “Resurrection from the dead”—literally—“out of the dead ones”— leaving the dead behind. The latter was that of Christ, and is ours. We have been quickened, and raised up out from the spiritually dead already. We are associated with Christ risen: one with Him up there before God. Not before He died—He was then alone—God’s only begotten Son (John 1:18; 3:16): but in resurrection, He is the first-born among many brethren (Rom. 8:29). We are reproductions of Christ: the actual life of Christ in resurrection has flowed down into us, and we ourselves are so many proofs that Christ is risen.
“To an inheritance.” The hope is present: the inheritance future. What a hope, and what an inheritance! Already we have the Holy Ghost, “the earnest of our inheritance” (Eph. 1:14); and we joy in God, although sometimes our hearts are depressed by reason of the way. Thus by redemption, regeneration, and resurrection, God has made believers His real children, His begotten ones. They have the same life, the same nature, and the same place as the First-born. “Begotten unto an inheritance.” Only the few on earth have an inheritance: the bulk are born to poverty. But all the children of God are heirs of an inheritance. “If children then heirs, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17.) There is no law of primogeniture in heaven, save that in all things Christ shall have the pre-eminence. His inheritance is ours. In the Epistles specially written to believing Jews, the inheritance is said to be a kingdom—“heirs of the kingdom” (Jas. 2:5), while in the Pauline Epistles it is something beyond the kingdom—“heirs of God.” Beyond that we cannot get; to be sharers with God is our highest bliss. Had Israel been obedient, they would have been the first of the Nations, and through them all the world would have been blessed; but by their disobedience and rejection of Christ, the kingdom in its earthly form has been postponed. Now, by the obedience of One many have been made righteous, and raised to share in heavenly blessing, where with Christ they shall rule creation, but beyond this they shall enjoy God, for “God Himself shall be with them, and be their God.” A man is an heir before he gets possession of his inheritance. He may get part before the time for full possession comes. We have received “the earnest of our inheritance” (Eph. 1:14): “the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts” (2 Cor. 1: 22) already, and when the Lord comes, we shall get the rest. There is what men call “the pleasure of anticipation” and this the Spirit gives, by revealing to us even now such things as eye hath not seen, nor ear heard. It is part of His work in us to bring some of heaven’s joys into our souls here, and to lift us up into the enjoyment of them. The Holy Ghost is in God and in us; He searches the deep things of God, and reveals them to our souls. And thus we anticipate the joys and pleasures that await us there at God’s right hand for evermore. If we only walk in the ungrieved communion of the Holy Ghost, how bright and full of heaven He will make our lives to be! Then until we get full possession of the inheritance, we have the hope. It buoys us up and makes us rejoice, even though the way may be rough. Yonder at the end, is the inheritance all secure for us, and it is to be ours for ever. Surely then we may sing—
“We expect a bright to-morrow,
All must be well.”
“Incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away.” This is all the description God has given us of it, just enough to whet our appetite, to make us long and sigh to be there. Everything around us here is full of corruption and defilement, and the grandest things in the world are fading away. We are to have incorruptible bodies, free from defilement and fitted for the glory—“fashioned like unto the body of His glory” (Phil. 3:21). O, what a grand future awaits us! The Holy Ghost brings it near to us, and gives us a taste of it. This is His way to make us let go the present world, and long to be there.
“Reserved in heaven for you.” In 1 Peter, heaven is reserved for the saints, and the saints are kept for heaven: and equally so in 2 Peter, hell is reserved for the wicked (2 Pet. 2:17), and the wicked for hell (2 Pet. 2:9).
Verse5.—“Who are kept by the power of God.” This hints how strong our enemies are, and what assaults are made upon us. The allusion is to God’s triumphant deliverance of Israel from Egypt, and His escorting of them to Canaan. The sprinkling of the blood and the inheritance are first mentioned: then the power that kept them and led them in the wilderness. When Jehovah sent down the pillar of cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night, it was more than He promised, for He never just keeps His promise, but delights to exceed it. How soon we would miss our way, and be overcome by our enemies, if it were not for the power of God being continually engaged to defend us. The Lord Jesus said, “While I was with them in the world I kept them in Thy Name” (John 17:12), and then He prayed, “Holy Father, keep through Thine own Name, those whom Thou hast given Me” (verse 11). This grand statement, “Who are kept by the power of God,” is the answer to that prayer. We read of “the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe “(Eph. 1:19), and of “the power that worketh in us” (Eph. 3:20). God will not leave us nor forsake us, until He has brought us home; until He rest in His love and joy over us with singing. So long as Israel trod the wilderness, Jehovah dwelt in a tent and a tabernacle, a pilgrim God, in the midst of His pilgrim people—“Their Guide, their Glory, their Defence.”
And see too how He keeps: “through faith unto salvation.” He keeps us by strengthening our faith, and making us cling to Him. There is much said about faith in this chapter: the exercise of faith, the trial of faith, the end of faith, Faith appropriates what God gives: it feeds on what God reveals. The manna was sent from heaven day by day, but Israel had to gather it; so faith gathers what God gives for its sustenance day by day. Yesterday’s manna will not suffice for to-day, nor will what came from the Word with power to our souls in time past, sustain our faith in God for the present. The Lord preserve us from an inoperative faith, but as the plant puts forth its “feelers “into the soil from which it is nourished, so may our faith feed on the Word of God and be sustained thereby.
“Unto salvation, ready to be revealed.” God does not tell us what He is going to do, save through the Word. But all is ready: there is nothing awanting on His part. He is ready to bring us into the inheritance: what if His people are not ready to enter? God is waiting till every one of His elect has been converted, till every saint has been severed and separated from evil: till Christ has been implored to come again. O how He longs to hear the yearning cry—“The Spirit and the Bride, say, Come.”
Verse 6.—“Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season if need be, ye are in heaviness.” What a singular combination! “Ye greatly rejoice,” yet “are in heaviness.” As Paul says “Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Cor. 6:10). Mark, it is not “in heaviness” at one time, and “rejoicing” the next, but both blended together. We have much to mourn over, yet much to rejoice in. There is joy underneath our tears, and our sorrows are mingled with singing. This Epistle contemplates the saints as passing through the wilderness, and describes their actual experiences there. He does not describe the saints as if they were seraphs, but as they truly are, often a riddle to themselves.
“For a season, if need be”—if you need them. By God’s grace there is a qualifying clause. They are only for a season, but you need them. The joy will wax greater till it ends in everlasting joy: the heaviness is only “for a season,” it will have an end.
“Manifold temptations”—trials of various kinds, mental and spiritual. God does not take them away, nor always deliver us from them: His way is to give “manifold grace” (chap. 5:10) to bear them, and to so uphold and sustain His people’s faith that they may endure them with joy.
Verse 7.—“The trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold.” Precious things are seven things mentioned in Peter’s Epistles. Faith, the trial of faith, precious blood, precious promises, the precious stone, twice, and “He is precious.” Of these seven, the trial of faith gets the first place. It is compared to gold tried in the fire, which only makes it the brighter, and the purer. Faith tried in the fire becomes stronger, and such trials bring the soul into a closer acquaintance with God. Thus God allows His people to be brought into all sorts of circumstances in order to try their metal. Nothing so acquaints us experimentally with God as trials. We get to know God intelligently through the Word, but we become acquainted with Him experimentally by means of trial. To be a Christian is a very real thing, a hard thing to the flesh, but a blessed reality to faith. A genuine Christian is a man who exercises his conscience before God as to what will please Him, and as to the path he has to tread. He is thus distinguished from the sham professor, who is like a balloon without ballast. The path marked out by God for His people is a path of trial, yet full of blessing, in proving His timely aid. When did the Lord Jesus use the words “Abba, Father?” Only in the garden of Gethsemane! In the hour of His exceeding sorrow, when all had forsaken Him. Ah! well may we know that the path of sorrow is the path of safety, for it is the path along which God leads His children safely home. It is a precious thing in God’s estimation to be trusted and confided in; clung to in a world where His Son was rejected, and where He is disowned. How it must have pleased Him to hear Job say “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”
This is the time, then, of the fiery trial of faith: there will yet be a trial of works by fire (1 Cor. 3:13: 1 Cor. 4:5) when Jesus comes, but that will be by the Lord Himself. Now He allows our faith to be tested, and when in the midst of the trials we can trust Him and say, “Father, I know that Thou lovest me,” He will make us even now to feel that He is pleased. And often He causes us to joy in His presence, just before some sharp and heavy trial, for He would not have us to be mere lip-worshippers, but experimentally acquainted with Himself, and in heart cleaving to Him.
“Praise and honour and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” What a grand day that will be for His tried and suffering people! How it tells how God will make up all that they have lost by their faithfulness to Him, and His Word. Three things are here named: praise, honour, and glory. The first itself should be enough to nerve us to be faithful. Think of the Lord Jesus calling a poor, despised, and lowly servant of His, who had borne reproach, and shame for His sake, and suffered because of faithfulness to His truth, and publicly praising Him before all. That is what will be done. He will say, “Well”—there is no word for “done”—”Bravo, good and faithful servant.” Mark, it is not successful—but faithful servant. The world will praise what it calls success, but it takes no account of faithfulness to Christ. But He does, and will not one word from these lips of His, make ample amends for a whole life-time of reproach? O let us hold tight to His commandments. Faithfulness to His Word is what will be owned and praised in that day.
Honour comes next. This may refer to the crowns He will bestow. Not only will He praise in words, but in action. He will reward all that has been well pleasing to Him. This invests the present life with grave responsibility. Every one will see by the crown He gives, how I had acquitted myself on earth, and how much of my life had the approval of the Lord Jesus. The crowns He gives are eternal. Such will be the honour put by Him on those who make it their aim to please Him here. Alas! how much is sacrificed to earn the praise of men! But as a rule, the praise of men is exactly the opposite of the praise of God. In Luke 16:15, we read, “That which is highly esteemed among men, is an abomination in the sight of God.” And that word “abomination” is a strong word: it is used to describe idolatry in the Old Testament (see Ezek. 8:9-13.) Yet how many seem to live for the applause of men! How much grander will it be to know the fulfilment of the word—“Then shall every man have praise from God” (1 Cor. 4:5.)
Glory, comes last. “If so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be glorified together” (Rom. 8:17). What glories await the Son of God, the full recompense of His Cross and shame! Would you share the praise, the honour, and the glory that He will then bestow? The clue to the whole is identification with Him now. And be it remembered that all these are eternal, not for a brief period like the honours of earth. The Queen may raise her faithful servants to rank and honour for a few years, then their honours perish; but our Lord and Master has eternal honours, and eternal glory at His disposal. How intensely real this makes the present life to be. We are writing our lives as in a book, and shall hear it read to us bye and by. Not one day we live now, but will affect us then: our course of action here will intensely colour our existence there. And some will suffer loss (1 Cor. 3:14, 15), while others who have gone on whole-heartedly to the end, will have “a full reward” (2 John 8).
“At the appearing of Jesus Christ:” that is at the revelation, or unveiling of Jesus Christ. When the believer’s standing in grace, and his place in Christ, are under review, it is the coming of the Lord to the air for His church that is spoken of as “the hope:” but when it is a question of how we have lived and what we have been doing here for Him, it is the appearing that is to the front, for then those who have suffered loss for Christ because of their identification with Him, and faithfulness to Him, will appear with Him in glory (Col. 3:4), wearing the rewards He has bestowed upon them. The appearing will be stage after stage: first with the saints, then gradually unfolded more and more, judging one class after another, and the more that glory is unveiled, the brighter will the rewards of Christ’s faithful followers appear. All will not share alike, the reward will be according to the measure of faithfulness here. Of two brothers both in Christ, one may suffer loss, the other have a full reward, and as the glory is unveiled, the difference between them will be perpetuated. And these rewards will endure, for the abundant entrance is into “the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Saviour” (2 Peter 1:11).
Verse 8.—“Whom having not seen, ye love.” This refers to love in action, love in practice. Love when it stands the test under fire; love in the heart first no doubt, but seen in the ways of those who dare to do for His sake what He bade them. The proof of such love is, that it stands fast to the cross, and bears the trial at some cost to itself. When tempted to avoid suffering, love remains firm and unmoved, cleaving to the truth. Oftentimes the Lord brings His people into circumstances where their love is tested. Some temptation arises, some bait is offered. Do you love Christ? Then you will say— “No, I love my Lord,” and for One you have never seen, but on whom your heart is fixed, you stand the fire, you endure. It is concerning this that the passage in James 1:12 speaks—“Blessed is the man that endureth temptation, for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to them that love Him.” The force of “love” here is love in action: love that endures. People talk a lot about love, but the true test of love to God and Christ is, that in the trial it says—“I would not lose the favour and smile of God, so will rather suffer than grieve Him.” Love will be content with a crust and the smile of God, rather than a better position and the popularity of the world without it. Such tests must come to all the true children of God; they winnow the chaff from the wheat. The gold comes out from the fire tried, and purified from its dross.
Abraham’s day of trial came when he was asked to give up Isaac. And his prompt response, when he arose early and took the knife and the fire to Moriah with his son, and stretched for his hand to slay him, shewed that he loved God more than to withhold from Him his only son. And the answer from heaven was—“Now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son” (Gen. 22:12.)
“Believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory” —or glorified. When our joy becomes very intense, we are on the very edge of glory, at the very threshold of heaven. Glory is ever closely connected with joy—“In Thy presence there is fulness of glory, at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” We could not in our present condition stand the full blaze of glory, but when our joy in the Lord is very full, it is glory diluted, a scintillation of the eternal glory in which we are to dwell.
Verse 9.—“Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.” It is thus acknowledged by God to be faith indeed. If I believe in Christ, I become a heavenly man, with a new life: if not, it is implied my faith is not real. There is a salvation present, which God gives to all who have faith (see Acts 16:31: Eph. 2:8), and there is a salvation yet to come unto which we are kept through faith (v. 4), and which is nearer now than when we first believed (Rom. 13:11).
Verses 10-12. —“Of which salvation the prophets have diligently enquired”— “Which things the angels desire to look into.” Prophets wrote by the inspiration of the Spirit, but they did not understand all they wrote. They knew that their writings contained deep purposes of God, but they were not fully unfolded to them. “Not unto themselves but to us they did minister.” The fulness of God’s grace could not appear till Christ came. God could and did save sinners and take them to heaven as He did Enoch before, but union with Christ and all that such union implies, could not be until Christ died and rose again. O how God delights to heap honour upon His Son ! And how very grand God makes the position of those who in this age believe on His Son, who was rejected here. The prophets “enquired and searched diligently.” They studied their own writings to get glimpses of the grace that was to come to us. How this should rebuke us! Do we search the Word with such diligence? Do we explore the Word on bended knee and with critical heart, as they did, to learn more of Christ. Think of David pondering his twenty-second Psalm, and Isaiah his fifty-third chapter, to find out the fulness of their meaning! And we pass them bye as a tale ofttimes told. “Angels desire to look into” them. Some have thought that this refers to the cherubim bending over the mercy-seat, but it seems rather to call to mind those angels who gazed with wonder into the empty tomb, where Christ had been laid, and out from which God had raised him. That sight excited their wonder, that God should so love guilty hell-deserving men as to give His Son. God is thus teaching angels and saints His character; angels objectively, by seeing His love expended on us: saints, by knowing and enjoying it (Rom, 5:4.) “That in the ages to come, He might shew the exceeding riches of His grace, in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7.) The kindness is to us, while others look on. And thus the “principalities and powers” learn through the church “the manifold wisdom of God” (Eph. 3:10.)
“The sufferings of Christ and the glories that should follow”—glories, not glory. These were the subjects of the prophets. Prophecy speaks of the sufferings and the glories as if they were together, yet nearly two thousand years have come between. Two mountains viewed from a distance might appear to touch each other, yet as you approach them, you find that they are separated by a deep, wide valley between! In that gap comes in the present dispensation: we stand between the cross and the glory. And this is what accounts for the riches of the inheritance, into which grace is now calling us. God is telling out the matchless worth of His Son, whom men rejected, on whose Name worms of the dust heaped dishonour, but who has been glorified in the highest heaven. The parenthesis between the sufferings and the manifested glories is filled up with the gathering out of the Church by the Holy Ghost, by associating those who now believe, with His Son in resurrection glory. This is how God is filling up the gap between the “sufferings” and the “glories.” The same parenthesis may be seen in other Scriptures, as for example, Matth. 3:11, where the baptism of the Holy Ghost is present, the baptism of fire future: and in Psalm 2:7, where the Son is seen in resurrection, while verse 8, looks on to judgment. Then He will ask for vengeance on His foes; now He is asking that those whom the Father has given Him may be with Him where He is, to behold His glory (John 17:23.)
In these three verses, there are three stages of His glory unfolded.
1. The Spirit in the prophets spake of Christ rejected and glorified.
2. The Holy Ghost is come down to tell believers of His glory up there, still hid from mortal sight.
3. The revelation of Jesus Christ Himself, the crown of all our blessing, the unveiling of His glory when all shall see it.
“The Spirit of Christ which was in them.” He was in the prophets, but only as the Spirit of prophecy. He dwells in all believers now, as their Guide, their Comforter, and Teacher, proceeding from a glorified Christ; in us to give the actual enjoyment of the present grace of Godand pre-libations and foretastes of the coming glory. Yes, the Holy Spirit is in us to give the enjoyment of these heavenly things here on earth, before we actually dwell amid them there. Hence we at no time should reckon that we have got our portion, unless the Spirit of God has made our hearts to glow with the enjoyment of them. If we are content with the mere knowledge of these things, we are like one in possession of a water-pipe, without the water that flows through it.
“Reported unto you by them that have preached the Gospel unto you, with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven.” Were it not for the presence of the Holy Ghost here, what is preached would be a mere “report,” but God would not have it thus. The Holy Ghost has been sent, literally, been “sent away from heaven.” His mission is to take of the things of Christ and shew them to us, to bring them near and make them real. Thus, when the Word is preached “with the Holy Ghost,” it is not a mere report, but a message full of living power which makes its way to the heart. The only Person who could tell us about the glories of the risen Christ is the Holy Ghost. He knows them; He sees and hears what is up there, and delights to communicate the whole to us, so that our hearts may be swayed and glow with the enjoyment of Christ and heavenly things.
Strictly speaking, the Holy Ghost is in heaven, for He is God, but in a special and peculiar sense He is here upon earth during this present age, in the believer and in the Church, escorting the Bride of Christ through the wilderness. Where is the Church? Not in heaven yet, but in the world. Although there are thousands more of saints in heaven than upon earth, yet the Church with the Holy Ghost in it, is regarded as being dispensationally here, until the Lord comes.
Verse 13.—“Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind.” Here is the practical side of the truth. The power of the things we have heard acting upon us in daily life. The power of the glory is to make us “gird up:” not having a bit of our mind set on heavenly things, and a bit on things below. In Ephesians 6:14, we read, “Having your loins girt about with truth:” whatever is not according to the truth, not in the Word, do not love it; cut it off, give it up. The Holy Ghost has made you taste the glory, as Israel did that beautiful bunch of grapes from Eschol; “wherefore” rein in your desires, and be very careful not to soil your garments in the scene through which you are passing. “Gird up.”
The next word is “Be sober”—or, clear. In chapter 4:7, we read—“Be ye therefore sober and watch unto prayer.” “Be sober,” means to shut your eyes to all that dazzles or enchants down here. “Watch” means to keep your eye on the future. If a Christian gets his ideas of the future from the world’s newspapers, he is not sober. Hence the word is—“Be sober,”—clear, unmuddled You are a heavenly man, do not let earth’s cares, or opinions, or judgments warp your mind. Get all your thoughts from God’s Word, no matter what men may say or think to the contrary. Thus will your mind be sober, and you will not be saying the world is getting better, and such like, when God says the opposite. “Hope to the end”—that is, “Hope perfectly.” He has waited for more than eighteen hundred years, but hope still, hope perseveringly, hope perfectly. Do not allow the world’s notions of the future to dim your hope, or rob you of it.
“Grace to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ,” At His unveiling, He will bring us what will compensate for all the world’s jeers. All believers love the Lord’s coming, but to “love His appearing “(2 Tim. 4:8) we must be in the path and doing the work that He would have us.
Verses 14-17.—“As obedient children,”—or, children of obedience. In Eph. 2:2, the unregenerate are called “Children of disobedience.” Sin is lawlessness, wilfulness, acting apart from God. Now, begotten of God, we have His nature, and the desire of our hearts should be to obey Him. How wonderfully these verses are linked together. What God looks for in His children is obedience, and at the unveiling, the measure of that obedience will be seen and owned. What God values most in His children is subjection: He does not own the kind of love that does not obey. “If a man love Me he will keep My words, and My Father will love Him” (John 14:23). This is what He values. Nothing else. You send your child to post a letter; he does not do it, but returns bringing you an orange. Would you be pleased? “Not fashioning yourselves according to your former lusts”—or, desires—“in your ignorance.” To yield to sin, is to learn to love it, and to be moulded by it. Before we knew God, no wonder we wanted other things, and ran to cisterns which could hold no water. Now the desire of the new nature is after God, and the indulgence of the flesh in a saint is sin. In the days of “our ignorance” of God we might have said—“I cannot help it,” but now God has called us, and the power of practical holiness is in His call, and that call is always associated with holiness, We are saints by His call, “called saints” (Rom. 1:7)—and called to holiness (1 Thess. 4:7). Holiness is separation, and separation has two sides: from that which is evil, unto that which is of God. Both are referred to here.
Verse 15.—“As He which hath called you is holy, so be ye—or become ye—holy”—“for I am holy.” There is a striking variation of the words here. God is holy, absolutely so: He dwells in light. To us He says, “Become ye holy.” It is implied that He intends us for association with Himself, to be in His presence as His companions. But before we can be holy in practice, we must be so in principle: ere we can have communion with God we must have His nature. He cannot come down to our level, but He can raise us up to His. He cannot accommodate Himself to the evil propensities of my flesh, but He can give me a nature to enjoy Him, and set me in the light where He is. And this is what God has done. In one sense the believer is perfectly sanctified already (1 Cor. 1:2: Heb. 10:10): Christ is his sanctification (1 Cor. 1:30) as well as his righteousness: in another sense it is progressive (see 1 Thess. 5:22.) “Become ye holy, for I am holy.” It is important to notice the word “become,” because it shews there is a growth in Divine life. He has given us His nature, lifted us up into His light—the very light in which He dwells, to live there under His smile, to dwell in His love, and thus to assimilate and become like Him. The blood of Jesus Christ is our title to be there: the Holy Ghost is our qualification, and there is no necessity for walking in darkness.
Thus, there are three reasons why saints should be holy—
1. The Father who hath called us is holy.
2. The Son whose blood has redeemed us is God’s holy Son.
3. The Spirit who indwells is holy.
“So become ye holy in all manner of conversation.” In proportion as the saint lives in the light of God, feeds on Christ who is the source of holiness, and walks in the ungrieved power of the Holy Ghost, will it come out in his daily life and behaviour.
Verse 17.—“If we call on the Father.” It is a Father you invoke. Who would not try to please a Father, who has so loved you and cared for you? Here He is presented in His Fatherly character as Judge. “Who judgeth according to every man’s work.” This is not the judgment-seat of Christ, that is future: this is present. He is looking on, taking notice of all, whether there is integrity of purpose, intelligence of mind, and desire of heart to please Him. He marks each real endeavour to walk uprightly; others may misunderstand it, He cannot.
“Pass the time of your sojourning here in fear.” We are in an enemy’s country, passing through; blessed be God we will not be here for long, it is not our home. Pass the time like a man on guard, “in fear “lest you should sleep, or be overcome by the enemy, or tripped up. Yonder is our home in the glory, there shall we be perfectly at ease, at full liberty; no watchfulness required, because no foe lurks there. “In the liberty of the glory” we shall breathe freely, for there will be nothing to disturb or distract, to mar our full enjoyment of the love of God.
Verses 18-21.—“Forasmuch as ye know.” Not like the popular religion of the present day which says “We doubt.” God’s Word is a Book of certainties, and His people are believers in—not doubters of Christ. “Redeemed… with the precious blood of Christ.” What an appeal for holy living: the most cogent of all! Think of what it cost God to get you: He had to give up His own Son to the death. “The precious blood:” one of the seven things in this Epistle called “precious” by God. How different from the world’s estimate, is God’s! That precious blood is the blood of the uncreated Son of God. This is what gives it value: faith gets all its preciousness from that blood, and the trial of faith is precious because it tests the reality of our faith in that precious blood. In heaven they ascribe everything to the blood: “Thou art worthy… for Thou wast slain” (Rev. 5:9.) Surely we down here, may well recognise its worth, by yielding ourselves up to God, whose we are, and owning ourselves redeemed and set apart from all our former manner of life to become His. “Without blemish and without spot,” tells of His fitness to be our Redeemer. Had He been otherwise, there would have been no redemption, no salvation. Thus we have three strong inducements to holiness. May they be continually speaking to our hearts.
Then follows a digression, in which some beautiful things are said about the Lord Jesus. First: He was “foreordained before the foundation of the world:” “foreordained,” or “fore-known,” as the word is, the same as in verse 2. How sweet it is to see that God had thus provided a people for His Son, and found in His Son a Redeemer for that people. The allusion here is to the paschal lamb in Exodus 12, which was set apart before it was slain (see verses 5-6.) So God’s Lamb was fore-appointed. Man’s sin and ruin did not take God by surprise. Grieved He was by man’s fall, but not surprised; He was prepared with the remedy. Not that we would extenuate sin, but admire and praise the grace of our Saviour—God, who was able to point Adam and Eve to the sacrifice, which had been fore-appointed by Him. And so when Isaac asked of Abraham, his father, on Moriah— “Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” He was able to reply—“My son, God will provide for Himself a lamb.” No doubt Christ was then in the thoughts of God as the Lamb fore-known. There are two expressions used in connection with the election of the heavenly and earthly saints, which are often confused and misunderstood. Of the heavenly saints, the Church, we read—“Chosen in Him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4), and of “the grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (2 Tim. 1:9); while of His earthly people it is said they were written in the book of life of the slain Lamb, from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8, with Matth. 25:34.) “But was manifest in these last times.” At last in God’s good time, the Being became visible whom God had provided to be the Sacrifice for sin, and the Foundation Stone of a new creation which is to stand for ever. The word here rendered “manifested” is in Hebrews 9:26, “appeared.” “Now, once in the end of the world hath He appeared to put sin away.” He has come into sight, and as we gaze upon the Cross, we learn how God’s Lamb secured redemption, and laid the foundation of a new creation, in which already we share (2 Cor. 5:17), by having a new life, and a new nature, both derived from Christ risen from the dead.
“In these last times”—or “the last of these times,” as in Heb. 1:2. The thought is, that at the Cross of Christ the world’s moral history was closed. If God should allow it to go on for two thousand years, there would be nothing new: it has shown itself fully, and got to its end before God. He has by the resurrection begun afresh, and will from Christ as His new Centre, cause blessing to flow far and wide. The first to share it is “the church of the first-born, whose names are written in heaven.”
“For you, who by Him do believe in God.” There is a limitation and a definiteness in the work of the Cross, which are sometimes lost sight of. True as it is that Christ gave Himself a ransom for all; that His blood was shed as a propitiation for “the whole world,” in order that the Gospel might be preached to “every creature,” yet there is a special sense in which He died for “you who believe.” He gave His life for the sheep (John 10:11): for a chosen band, that little flock which “He purchased with His own blood.” There is great force in the word “who by (or through) Him do believe in God.” It is a latent thought not always perceived, that it is through the Lord Jesus that we are brought to believe in God, and He is, as it were, under obligation to Him to receive all who do thus believe. So conversely, Christ receives, and will not cast out those whom the Father has given Him, when they come to Him (John 6:37).
“Raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, that your faith and hope might be in God.” “Faith” eyes the resurrection: “hope” the glory. That sight of Christ on the throne is to teach us, among other things, the way to trust God. He trusted God, even in the hour of death, yet His sorrow was beyond measure. He had to say “I cry in the daytime and Thou hearest not” (Psa. 22:2): yea, some of His sorrows were on God’s account, as He says “For Thy sake I have borne reproach” (Psa. 69:7). Suffering, sorrow, and shame gathered around His path, because He stood up for God in a world where He was dishonoured: yet God allowed Him to suffer. He allowed Him to go to the Cross, and sink into the grave as if He was taking no cognizance of His trust. Then in the darkest hour, God shone out from His glory in heaven, and raised Him up from the dead. O, let us learn to have faith in God, and wait His time. It is a life-long lesson, not learned in a day.
Verse 22.—“Seeing ye have purified your souls (yourselves) in obeying the truth through the Spirit.” A believer is a purified man, and he is therefore to purify himself (see chap. 2:1.): the one is his position, the other his practice. This double aspect of truth is the invariable way in which the Spirit teaches. We are “inside the veil” positionally: “let us draw near”—experimentally (Heb. 10:19-22). The death of Christ has put us “outside the camp”: “let us go forth “(Heb. 13:n-13). What is meant by “the truth” here, and what is “obeying” it? In Eph. 1:13, the truth is spoken of as the Gospel, as also in Col. 1:5. Obeying is said to be believing (see Rom. 1:5, 16:26: 2 Thess. 2:13). Truth is the manifestation of God: Christ is therefore the Truth, because He tells of Him. In John 14:6, He says— “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life;” while in 1 John 5:6, we are told—“The Spirit is Truth.” Thus the Son tells us of God plainly, manifests Him: the Spirit reveals Him to the heart. He has poured the love of God into all (Rom. 5:5) who believe: faith takes it in, hugs it to the heart, and there it purifies us. “Love to all saints,” is the love of God bursting out to those who are loved by Him: it is something higher than mere natural affection.
Verses 23-26.—“Being born again.” Here it is the beginning of a new life, the operation of God: I am passive. Begotten of God: His love has got into our hearts, His nature been imparted to us. The Word of God is the seed of this new life; through the Word it is implanted in the soul. Blessed be God: if, by our first birth, we inherited death and corruption, so in this new birth we get life and incorruption. Then we learn how this is done. The Spirit breathes upon the flesh, and it withers as grass (Isa. 40:5-8). The Spirit breathes upon the dead and they live (Ezek. 37:1-7). Here we learn the way of God. As long as there is natural activity, fleshly goodness and strength, the Spirit can but blow upon it and wither it up; but when we take the place of death, and let God’s voice be heard, then life is begotten through the Word. By comparing verse 23 with verse 25 we learn, that as the Word is eternal, so is the life that is begotten by it. And this life and love of God now being in us, we love one another with pure hearts fervently.