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.
6. Wherein—in which prospect of final salvation.
greatly rejoice—"exult with joy": "are exuberantly glad." Salvation is realized by faith (1Pe 1:9) as a thing so actually present as to cause exulting joy in spite of existing afflictions.
for a season—Greek, "for a little time."
if need be—"if it be God's will that it should be so" [Alford], for not all believers are afflicted. One need not invite or lay a cross on himself, but only "take up" the cross which God imposes ("his cross"); 2Ti 3:12 is not to be pressed too far. Not every believer, nor every sinner, is tried with afflictions [Theophylact]. Some falsely think that notwithstanding our forgiveness in Christ, a kind of atonement, or expiation by suffering, is needed.
ye are in heaviness—Greek, "ye were grieved." The "grieved" is regarded as past, the "exulting joy" present. Because the realized joy of the coming salvation makes the present grief seem as a thing of the past. At the first shock of affliction ye were grieved, but now by anticipation ye rejoice, regarding the present grief as past.
through—Greek, "IN": the element in which the grief has place.
manifold—many and of various kinds (1Pe 4:12, 13).
temptations—"trials" testing your faith.