Our Pilgrimage, Priesthood, And Suffering

1 Peter 2

Peter looks on the Christian as one redeemed and set out on his pilgrimage on his way to the inheritance. Having redemption, the forgiveness of sins, knowing they are not redeemed with corruptible things as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, they were reminded that there was an inheritance kept for them, ready to be revealed, and they set out on the journey as pilgrims and strangers here. This is very precious, especially when we see Christ before us in it. None was so thoroughly a pilgrim and stranger as Christ, and He says of the disciples, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” His life becomes our example. This path to glory, following in His footsteps, is founded on redemption being fully accomplished. This is very different from the truth, brought out in another place, of our being “seated in heavenly places in Christ.” This we have in Ephesians.

In the beginning of chapter 2 there are some things I desire to notice. Chapter 1:17 speaks of passing the time of your sojourning here in fear. This is not heaven; there is no fear in heaven: but when I talk of sojourning here, I have cause to fear. The saints know at what a price they have been redeemed out of the world. Then go and act as those redeemed.

Verse 21. “Who by him do believe in God.” Many souls believe in Christ, but hardly know what it is to believe in God by Him: it is to get a knowledge of what God Himself is in Christ. It is not any knowledge of salvation through interest in Christ’s blood, but to know God’s thoughts in connection with His Son. There is not only His goodness, but great depth in it: for He thought of me before I thought of Him. He takes every-day interest in me; He is going to conform me to the image of His Son, the Firstborn among many brethren. The soul confides in God: “that your faith and hope may be in God” (not in Christ, which is true too). But I believe in God by means of Christ. I do not think of Him as a Judge, but as a Saviour God. I have come in spirit to God and would walk with Him: as of Israel, God says, He brought them on eagles’ wings to Himself. Thus we are put into relationship with God, who has begotten us again in Christ raised up from the dead out of the whole scene. Flesh is all gone: “the grass withereth and the flower thereof fadeth away” (v. 24)—the people as well as the nations. Take any— all—flesh: it is entirely worthless. It seems hard to say it is gone when we pass through all the bustle and vanity of the world; but to faith it is done with already. New life is received through the incorruptible seed of the word. We are set in a new place—going through a world we do not belong to, as pilgrims and strangers. Christ is our pattern.

In chapter 2 we first find what we are as priests in a double way.

Verse 4. Christ came down from God, and He must be disallowed of men. Everything seen in Christ was the perfect reflexion of God; and we who are now seen before God in Christ have therefore all Christ’s perfectness in His eyes. We are “living stones,” having the very same nature and life within: here is the first thing noticed. We are built up “a spiritual house, an holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices.” Our function is to be constantly worshipping God. “Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.” We are before God in the holy place— “a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices.” Aaron’s priesthood shews it in a figure. None but a priest had a right to go before God at all. We are a consecrated people—yea, a priesthood—having “hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Hebrews 10 alludes to this consecration of the priests, sprinkled with blood. Offering up “spiritual sacrifices” is our service (I speak not now of intercession for others), the consequence of being born of God and consecrated to Him. We are spiritual and not mere carnal priests, and have something spiritual to offer up. It is an immense and very distinct privilege of all Christians, and this now. God owns no other priests, but all saints are priests—it extends to every believer in the world. There is no true priesthood distinct from this, save that of Christ for us. The priest is one brought nigh by sacrifice, bringing that which brings nigh.

“Behold I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious,” etc. Unto you therefore which believe He is precious [or, is the preciousness]. This is sometimes looked at as an experience of feeling; but what is here meant shews the contrast between a believer and an unbeliever. Though “precious” to the believer, He is a “stone of stumbling” to the “disobedient,” appointed not to disobey, but, being disobedient, to stumble at the word.

Verse 9 calls “that ye should shew forth the praises [virtues, excellencies] of him,” etc. This is not offering sacrifices; it is rather the Melchizedec pattern than the Aaronic. When Christ takes His place as Melchizedec, He will lead the praises of the people, and it will be the manifestation of His excellence and the praise will be made good by what He is. Here, if all the saints were what they should be, His praise would be manifested. When we see Him, we shall be like Him, and His praise will be shewn. There is the priesthood of worship, as being brought nigh; there is the shewing forth of His worth as a kingly priesthood: this is the kingly part. In Revelation 4 the twenty-four elders, referring to the full courses of priests, shew forth His praises in glory. There is displayed glory in them, a wonderful testimony to the efficacy of the work of Christ. There is the throne of judgment set, and the twenty-four crowned elders sitting in peace, associated with Him in the judgment. Their position shews the completeness of the work that has set us to shew forth His praises. Then they prostrate themselves before God, and that is worship. In the judgments they are associated with Him; when His praise is sounded, they worship. Worship is the highest display of what God has done and is, shewn out. It goes out to God and owns what He is. There is this double blessing come with a royal priesthood.

Shewing forth the praises of Him thus does not mean preaching the gospel. Peter speaks of what they were as a royal priesthood, and going in as a holy priesthood. Shewing forth His praises is down here, and does not carry with it so much the stamp of thanksgiving, gratitude, but it equally takes in the thought of redemption. We are brought into “marvellous light” to shew forth that light. While Christ was in the world, He was the light of the world. Now we have to shew forth His light. We have an interested heart in it—the interest of those who have been and are the objects of His love. “Return to thine own house and shew how great things God hath done for thee.” Called out of darkness into His marvellous light, we stand before the world as witnesses for God. In the first, the priest belongs to the holy place, as going in to worship God. In the second, on the other hand, he is called to shew forth His praises to the world. A priest is consecrated as well as redeemed. So we now worship, and have to shew forth Him who has called us. We know Him by what He has been to us and done for us. We “are not of the world.” Looking at Christ as specially gone in and as coming out, we follow Him in spirit going in, and anticipate His coming forth by now shewing forth His praises. He sets the saints to do first what He will do Himself perfectly. The church has failed. He set it to shew forth His praise. What has broken down He, however, will accomplish Himself in power, when He comes forth in glory. This gives a peculiarly distinct character to our call. He said, “I have sent them into the world.” Were they not in the world? Not in the fullest, truest sense, for they were by grace taken out of the world. They were a peculiar people “that they should shew forth.” Of Israel God said, “This people have I formed for myself”— a peculiar people to Himself; they for earth and we for heaven. This gives a distinct character to the walk, which should speak of Him who has set them so to live. Why can we do this and that? Because He has done this and that for us. Our position and ways should speak for Him.

The “marvellous light” goes with sin all put away, and not a spot left on us. Our whole business in the world (in going through labour and toil, it may be), the one thing to do is to shew forth the praises of Him who has called us thus. The blind man thought it wonderful; if they could not see, yet He had opened his eyes. It gives us a deep responsibility to be put in such a place. Begotten again by Christ’s resurrection, we are not men in the world; as redeemed persons we are, of course, born again, but to be a holy priesthood near Him, so as to worship Him, and a royal priesthood to shew forth His praises. There are also the joys and privileges of the heart right with God through Christ and His work.

But what have they to do in the world? “I have given them thy word, and the world hateth them.” That is a part of Christ too. Now we see what it is to be a witness for Christ—the world hates them.

Verse 20. “If ye do well and suffer for it and take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.” What would the world say to this? What! let every one trample on you? The world trampled on Christ. I am not speaking of this country or any other in particular, but, in the world all over, oppression, misery, discontent, are going on. I am not of the world, though I may mourn over it. To see men devouring widows’ houses is a terrible thing, especially under religious pretexts: but we have not to set things to rights. We have a peculiar place as Christians. We have immense privileges and consequent position in the world. “If ye do well, and suffer for it, and take it patiently,” etc. This is Christ reproduced in His members. These are the praises of God shewn forth by them, not lights in the world. One may as a Christian go through the world very quietly in a general way; but if there is the contrary, and one takes from me my coat, shall I not give him my cloak also? If I have lost my coat and kept Christ’s character, I see nothing to regret. The effect of being put into the world as a peculiar people, begotten again, redeemed, priests holy and royal, is to present His character in the world; and the measure is according to our faith. The sufferings of Christ went much farther than any little we may suffer. “When he was reviled, he reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not.” These sufferings of Christ give another character to all I may have to go through. When Christ is before me, I have another object, another motive. The early Christians took joyfully the spoiling of their goods. Why? Because it was for Christ’s sake. We have very little of this in England, more in some other countries. Christ being stamped upon all characterises our shewing forth what He is. We have a natural sense of righteousness, quite contrary to the spirit shewn in Christ which we have to follow.

There are two very distinct kinds of suffering that Christ endured. In redemption Christ suffered. See chap. 3:9. If you suffer, let it not be for sins. Christ has done that for you. “He once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust.” Do not talk of suffering for sin; that is not what a Christian has to do. Here is the complete contrast of Christ’s suffering and the Christian’s. Christ suffered alone in that, never to have a follower. He stood alone that there might never be an atom of wrath for us. From whom did He suffer this? From God. Christ suffered for sin from Him. He drank that dreadful cup at His hands; and the effect of Christ’s suffering for sin from God is that all judgment is passed from them who believe. They have no fellowship in the cup of wrath. Their sins were therein, and that was all from them. The ark in the midst of Jordan typifies this. When I come to the other character of His sufferings, it was for righteousness’ sake, and for love. Walking through the world and up to the cross, He suffered dreadfully from man, the contradiction of sinners, etc. There were “dogs,” and “strong bulls of Bashan” staring upon Him at the last. He suffered from those around closing in upon Him. Even on the cross He had this kind of suffering as well as the others. Men were instruments of Satan to bring all kinds of suffering on Christ.

Suffering for righteousness’ sake and for His name’s sake are different. One person may suffer for a good conscience, and another may suffer martyrdom for preaching Christ. This last is for His name’s sake. These two kinds of suffering are distinguished in the sermon on the Mount, and also here in chapters 3 and 4; that which is for His name’s sake is a higher kind than for righteousness’ sake. Christ was the light, and they hated the light. He was hated for His goodness and for the activity of His love also. Through His active life Christ had no suffering from God. When suffering from God, “the hour” was come. It was at the close He was under the judgment: and unmingled grace is the result. On the other hand, His sufferings from man for righteousness will be followed by judgment. “Let their table become a snare.” Compare Psalm 69 with Psalm 22.

Christ is an example to us in His suffering from men. I am partaker of His sufferings. He suffered from the unbelief of those around Him. “He sighed deeply in his spirit,” mentioned on one occasion, “because of the hardness of their heart,” seeing how this wretched world goes on deceiving itself: we ought to feel it too. He suffered also perfectly with the feeling of a man. “Reproach hath broken my heart.” “They may tell all my bones.” “They look and stare upon me.” Hanged up as a malefactor before the world, He felt it all; and the more refined the feeling, the more acutely His disciple’s unfaithfulness was felt by Him. It was love to Peter brought him back.

The nature of man does not like to be reviled now for preaching the gospel or righteous ways. “Unto you it is given,” Phil. 1. We do not ordinarily think of it as a gift at all, we do not like it. But Christ bore our sins, “that we being dead to sin should live unto righteousness,” even to the laying down our life. There should be no limit to suffering in the service of love. There is no suffering to get into the position, but suffering because of being in it.

This makes very clear the distinction between responsibility and grace. Duties flow from a relationship that exists already. If a man is legal, he expects to get something for his suffering. Grace teaches me that I am always to act as a child, because I am one. The believer is what he has to praise Him for. “We are made the righteousness of God in Christ.” Therefore I can go and speak of it. Because of my lot in the blessing, I can go and shew forth His praises. What a blessing to carry the consciousness of what God is through this world!

In prayer I have not only to ask for things, but to realise the presence of Him to whom I speak. The power of prayer is gone, if I lose the sense of seeing Him by faith. Prayer is not only asking right things, but having the sense of the Person there. If I have not that, I lose the sense of His love and of being heard. We are brought into His “marvellous light,” by which we are to test everything we do. Let us suffer for doing well. This is not easy unless Christ and the power of grace are dwelling in our hearts.

The word of God presents various relations—for instance, the bride of Christ, and brethren one with another. Affections and duties too belong to each relationship. Again, the Christian can be viewed as having to say to God while walking on the earth. Or the church may be collectively looked at as the fulness of Christ; we are thus members of His body; we are identified with Him in heavenly places (this position being revealed by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven). In Colossians 1 the apostle speaks of his being minister of the church, “to fulfil the word of God.” The word of God was completed when the church was brought out. All the truth of God was then .revealed. It was looked at as needing nothing to be added. It had been given partially before; then all had come out.

There is the individual position of a child of God, wanting daily supplies from God, as His child. He loves His child, caresses His child, chastens His child; and then His patience and help are exercised over us. But we cannot lightly speak of His patience towards Christ’s body as such. In Ephesians we have both aspects of our position, the individual and the collective, as in the first and last parts of chapter i. Hence we may observe that Christ is not Priest to His body, for viewed as united to Him, it is perfea. Ephesians does not speak of this, for when priesthood is the subject, as in Hebrews, it is not the doctrine of the church which is brought out. We are regarded individually in respect of need and weakness. There is abundant sweetness in knowing that He takes cognisance of all our wants and failings. In Hebrews it is said, “Having boldness to enter into the holiest.” We are not said to be seated there, as in Ephesians we are seated in Christ in heavenly places. In 1 Peter 1 we are said to be begotten unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead; it is the ground of our setting forth on this pilgrimage of which Peter speaks, “strangers and pilgrims.” We have to do with God and we have to do with the Father. God does not give up His claims as God because He is our Father, but deals with us as God in those things that relate to His claims as such. Christ walked in the perfectness of a man with God, and as a Son with the Father: through redemption He has brought us into the same position.

Never as priests have we to do with the Father. The near place we have as to God is priesthood: we are priests to God. Christ is not a Priest between us and the Father. We have an Advocate with the Father. In chapter 2:5 the holy priesthood alludes to Aaron; in verse 9 the royal priesthood refers to Melchizedec.

The high priest went into the holiest alone, the law “having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things.” There was an analogy, but rather contrast than exact similarity. The Lord Jesus, the great High Priest entered within the veil. But as to Israel, there is no priest to them until He comes out, as no priest witnessed to Israel of the acceptance of the sacrifice till Aaron came out on the day of atonement. So with Christ. He will come out to them: in the meantime, as a nation, they are maintained, kept, but must wait. For us it is different. He is gone in for believers. He Himself is not come out, but the Holy Ghost has already, and we know by virtue of this the sacrifice accepted. “Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more “is witnessed by the Holy Ghost; so “by whose stripes ye are healed.” All the saints of God know Christ gone in and the Holy Ghost come out.

In Hebrews 10:12 Christ is seen sitting in contrast to Stephen. He does not sit as it were till Israel has formally rejected the testimony, when the cry of Stephen reached His ear. He took His place, sitting down until His enemies are made His footstool, after their refusal to hear the Holy Ghost’s testimony. Stephen being received by Christ in heaven, Israel as Israel must wait outside.

The consequence of Christ’s priesthood is that He makes us priests. He has entered in once into the holy place. That relates to Himself, and He makes us children with the Father and priests to God. He has the pre-eminence of course. The moment the least thought of a priesthood comes in between us and God, the truth of Christianity is gone. There is only now the priesthood of all believers. We are priests by virtue of the competency to enter the holiest of all. There is as much liberty for us to enter into the holiest as Christ Himself. To deny the priesthood of all believers is to say that all saints cannot enter into the holiest by virtue of that blood. Israel could not go in because of that blood, and therefore they needed priests: but now the veil is rent and the way into the holiest is open. His death made all the difference as to our right to enter. It is the contrast of theirs.

In Hebrews 10:22 the allusion is to the priests who were washed with water and sprinkled with blood before they were anointed. Christ has made us all priests to God, and with that we have the title to offer praise, “spiritual sacrifices to God.” We go directly to God. In another character, again, there is the same principle: “I say not unto you that I will pray the Father for you, for the Father himself loveth you,” John 16. Going to God through priests was Jewish, this is Christian.

We get into a happy condition of soul founded on the work Christ has done: exercises (not legal) of soul with God begin, as going within the veil. We are all priests: then whom are we to go for? We go together—we are a holy priesthood. In a certain sense, the priest if he sinned was to have an offering presented for him by another priest—Christ the Priest. The priest offered burnt-offering and the fat of the peace-offerings for a sweet savour, without thought of sin in these, but representing worship. Zacharias in Luke 1 was burning incense within, while the people were without. On the great day of atonement the priest, as a guilty person, confessed the sins of the people. Christ on the cross stood for His people, as their substitute or representative priest. After that, when the blood was carried in, the priestly office began.

There is no veil now: we go in, whether presenting worship, praise, etc. Christ is gone in for us. I have nothing to do to offer for myself; I have an abiding title to offer sacrifice. What sacrifice? Praise, thanksgiving. Why? The only sacrifice fit for my place. I can praise God for His own glory as well as for my own blessing; but I cannot be in the holiest and mourn. If I am hindered in going in through failure, I mourn, and there is the working of His Spirit to restore the communion, but there cannot be worship, which is offered in the Holy Ghost. There is no veil that ever hides God at all now. My feet may have to be washed before I can go in rightly; John 13. We are not fitted for worship if our feet are unclean. There is the power of the Holy Ghost needed for that, and then His work is to tell us we are unclean— not to set us worshipping when we are unclean, but to make us wash. Christ, the Advocate with the Father, the High Priest over the house of God, washes the feet for the sanctuary. We have not ceased to be priests, but are unfitted for priestly work when we have failed; we are bathed, but we need the feet washed. There must be cleansing from all defilement, according to the purity of the place we are brought into. We can intercede for others. Not only are there burnt offerings, the food of God in the offering; there is another kind of offering for the saints, supposing failure in others. There is the spirit of intercession for one another, and not only offering sacrifices ourselves.

The blood has been put on the mercy-seat. We stand in its abiding (not renewed) efficacy. When we fail, it is not its renewed efficacy that we know. When did that blood lose its efficacy? Never. He has perfected for ever them that are sanctified. The application of the word, called the “washing of water,” by the power of the Holy Ghost to judge us and to restore us and bring us back, is what we want. This is shewn, in connection with the sacrifice of Christ, in the “red heifer.” The red heifer had been burnt long before; and they were to mix water with the ashes, so bringing the sacrifice to remembrance. The heart is brought back to remember what was done. The blood of Christ never can be repeated in its application.

Thus in verse 5 the holy priesthood is within the rent veil. The next thing (v. 9) is “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood” (Melchizedec). The nation of Israel will be a kingdom of priests compared with other nations. When Christ displays His Melchizedec priesthood, He comes forth as royal priest. He has it now, as we know by faith; but when He comes out He will be seen as Priest on His throne. The counsels of God for Christ in connection with the earth will be fulfilled. Christ will come out with all the glory He has taken in heaven and all will be in communion with the display of His glory. He will reign as a king, and everything will be cut off that is contrary to His glory; Lev. 9. Meanwhile we have this to do; we are set to shew forth His praises who has brought us into His marvellous light. We do it together and as individuals. It will make us suffer now.

Moses and Aaron came out, the fire shewing acceptance. It will be perfectly fulfilled in the world to come. Our privilege is to go in as worshipping priests in the holy place, and coming out of it to shew forth His praises in the world. In all this we find the office of the great High Priest to meet us— “find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4), this “need” being the consciousness of our inability to do anything.

All enjoyed privileges make us humble, because they bring us into the presence of One so infinitely above us. Theoretical knowledge only puffs up. All the praise in our hearts before God should flow from the Spirit, and this will bring us into the consciousness of being in the sympathy of those there— God and Christ. Knowing God as my Father, and going to Him with the knowledge of His countenance smiling upon me are very different: the one may exist without the other. Conscious acquaintance with the thoughts of those who are there (God and Christ in the holiest) is our privilege.