1:1-9 This epistle is addressed to believers in general, who are strangers in every city or country where they live, and are scattered through the nations. These are to ascribe their salvation to the electing love of the Father, the redemption of the Son, and the sanctification of the Holy Ghost; and so to give glory to one God in three Persons, into whose name they had been baptized. Hope, in the world's phrase, refers only to an uncertain good, for all worldly hopes are tottering, built upon sand, and the worldling's hopes of heaven are blind and groundless conjectures. But the hope of the sons of the living God is a living hope; not only as to its object, but as to its effect also. It enlivens and comforts in all distresses, enables to meet and get over all difficulties. Mercy is the spring of all this; yea, great mercy and manifold mercy. And this well-grounded hope of salvation, is an active and living principle of obedience in the soul of the believer. The matter of a Christian's joy, is the remembrance of the happiness laid up for him. It is incorruptible, it cannot come to nothing, it is an estate that cannot be spent. Also undefiled; this signifies its purity and perfection. And it fadeth not; is not sometimes more or less pleasant, but ever the same, still like itself. All possessions here are stained with defects and failings; still something is wanting: fair houses have sad cares flying about the gilded and ceiled roofs; soft beds and full tables, are often with sick bodies and uneasy stomachs. All possessions are stained with sin, either in getting or in using them. How ready we are to turn the things we possess into occasions and instruments of sin, and to think there is no liberty or delight in their use, without abusing them! Worldly possessions are uncertain and soon pass away, like the flowers and plants of the field. That must be of the greatest worth, which is laid up in the highest and best place, in heaven. Happy are those whose hearts the Holy Spirit sets on this inheritance. God not only gives his people grace, but preserves them unto glory. Every believer has always something wherein he may greatly rejoice; it should show itself in the countenance and conduct. The Lord does not willingly afflict, yet his wise love often appoints sharp trials, to show his people their hearts, and to do them good at the latter end. Gold does not increase by trial in the fire, it becomes less; but faith is made firm, and multiplied, by troubles and afflictions. Gold must perish at last, and can only purchase perishing things, while the trial of faith will be found to praise, and honour, and glory. Let this reconcile us to present afflictions. Seek then to believe Christ's excellence in himself, and his love to us; this will kindle such a fire in the heart as will make it rise up in a sacrifice of love to him. And the glory of God and our own happiness are so united, that if we sincerely seek the one now, we shall attain the other when the soul shall no more be subject to evil. The certainty of this hope is as if believers had already received it.
4. To an inheritance—the object of our "hope" (1Pe 1:3), which is therefore not a dead, but a "living" hope. The inheritance is the believer's already by title, being actually assigned to him; the entrance on its possession is future, and hoped for as a certainty. Being "begotten again" as a "son," he is an "heir," as earthly fathers beget children who shall inherit their goods. The inheritance is "salvation" (1Pe 1:5, 9); "the grace to be brought at the revelation of Christ" (1Pe 1:13); "a crown of glory that fadeth not away."
incorruptible—not having within the germs of death. Negations of the imperfections which meet us on every side here are the chief means of conveying to our minds a conception of the heavenly things which "have not entered into the heart of man," and which we have not faculties now capable of fully knowing. Peter, sanguine, impulsive, and highly susceptible of outward impressions, was the more likely to feel painfully the deep-seated corruption which, lurking under the outward splendor of the loveliest of earthly things, dooms them soon to rottenness and decay.
undefiled—not stained as earthly goods by sin, either in the acquiring, or in the using of them; unsusceptible of any stain. "The rich man is either a dishonest man himself, or the heir of a dishonest man" [Jerome]. Even Israel's inheritance was defiled by the people's sins. Defilement intrudes even on our holy things now, whereas God's service ought to be undefiled.
that fadeth not away—Contrast 1Pe 1:24. Even the most delicate part of the heavenly inheritance, its bloom, continues unfading. "In substance incorruptible; in purity undefiled; in beauty unfading" [Alford].
reserved—kept up (Col 1:5, "laid up for you in heaven," 2Ti 4:8); Greek perfect, expressing a fixed and abiding state, "which has been and is reserved." The inheritance is in security, beyond risk, out of the reach of Satan, though we for whom it is reserved are still in the midst of dangers. Still, if we be believers, we too, as well as the inheritance, are "kept" (the same Greek, Joh 17:12) by Jesus safely (1Pe 1:5).
in heaven—Greek, "in the heavens," where it can neither be destroyed nor plundered. It does not follow that, because it is now laid up in heaven, it shall not hereafter be on earth also.
for you—It is secure not only in itself from all misfortune, but also from all alienation, so that no other can receive it in your stead. He had said us (1Pe 1:3); he now turns his address to the elect in order to encourage and exhort them.