1 Peter 1:6-9
Wherein you greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, you are in heaviness through manifold temptations:…
These words have reminded me of a phrase which, twenty or thirty years ago, was constantly recurring in sermons of many of the younger and more ardent preachers of that time. They insisted that Christ had come to achieve for us what they described as a present salvation. There was a polemical element, too, in preaching of this kind, for the doctrine of a present salvation was asserted as though it were a part of the Christian gospel that had never been clearly apprehended; it was implied that most Christian people had thought of salvation as something future, something that could not be known on this side of death, while in fact we are to be saved, if saved at all, here and now. Those who preached a present salvation said in substance, "Many of you Christian people have missed the power and glory which Christ came to make yours in this life, because you are always thinking of heaven and the life to come; your religion is unpractical, you do not see that Christ came to make an infinite difference in the whole life of man in this world, as well as to make eternal blessedness our inheritance in the next." There is no need to preach like that now. None of us, I imagine, are too much occupied with thoughts of heaven and the life to come. Richard Baxter, as some of you remember, tells us that in the afternoon, when it began to be too dark to go on with his reading and writing, and before the candles were brought in, he used to sit quietly in the twilight meditating on the saints' everlasting rest. There are not many Christian people, I imagine, who spend much of their time in that way now. Whether we realise the present salvation more fully than our fathers did I cannot tell, but I imagine it is certain that we think very much less about any salvation that is still to come. There is a present salvation, there is also a salvation to be hoped for, "Wherein ye greatly rejoice." Christ, not the earthly Christ but the ascended Christ, is the head of the new race. His larger, diviner, human life is ours, and the life which we have received from Him, and into the full possession of which He entered at His resurrection and ascension, that life has in its essence the hope and assurance of passing into the same glory into which Christ has entered. Having this life we are born, therefore, to "an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away." This inheritance is not here; it is not ours in possession yet; it is no part of the present salvation; it is reserved for us in heaven. And lest we should come to harm before we reach it, we are kept safely for the salvation which is ready to be revealed at the last time. In this it is that we Christian people are to rejoice. The present salvation is an incomplete salvation; the perfect salvation is to come. The future life of those who are to live forever in God — the complete salvation — transcends all thought as well as all hope; we cannot see the inheritance for the golden haze that surrounds it; it is too intensely bright for mortal vision; it belongs to another order than this; it cannot be revealed to knowledge until it is revealed in experience. But some elements of the present salvation will in the future salvation be perfect. Our sins, through the infinite mercy of God, are already forgiven, and we may have the full assurance that they are forgiven. But not until we are capable of a fuller knowledge of God shall we know the infinite blessedness of the discovery that He has blotted out our sins as a thick cloud which varnishes and leaves no stain on the blue of heaven. That blessedness is to come. There are times when we see the manifestations of the love of God for us — manifestations given to us in secret and wonderful ways by the power of the Spirit of God, making the heart tremble with a blended reverence and joy. We have no strength to bear them for long. If they remained glory would break upon glory, and we should anticipate the blessedness we hope for. What we hope for is a life that appears so enlarged, and with so Divine an environment that these manifestations of the personal love of the Eternal for us, and manifestations still more wonderful, will be with us always; that we shall move freely among them as we move in the common air and in the light of the common sun; they will never become dim, never be interrupted, but that in their tenderness and in their power they will increase through age after age of increasing wonder and joy. There is something in this great hope to give us courage and to renew the strength which too often faints and the resolution which too often falters. The joy of the Christian life would be immeasurably augmented if we dwelt more constantly on its eternal consummation in the Divine Presence, and the joy would give strength. We have great memories to sustain us, and, above all, the memory of the supreme manifestation of the Divine love in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But when hope is confederate with memory, and both are confirmed by the present consciousness that we have found God, every power of our better life receives new animation, and we see that all things are possible to us. Further, apart from a clear vision of the perfect salvation, faith is subject to an unnecessary strain. Forget too how large and free and blessed a life men are destined for in Christ in the next world, and it will sometimes seem as if there were disproportion between the great discoveries of the Christian gospel and what the gospel actually accomplishes. It is as if you were to judge of the labour which has been spent on the fields by the appearance of early spring, when the dark ground is hardly relieved by the faint green of the wheat which has just begun to shoot — it is so frail, apparently of so little value. Is this all that is to come of cleaning the ground and ploughing it and enriching it with the seed? Ah! you must wait — wait till the spring has expanded into the bright days of summer, and the summer into early autumn, and then the corn ripened, perfected, rising and falling in golden billows under the glowing sun, will reveal the end for which the farmer laboured. And Christ's harvest home is not ended here, but in worlds unseen. Not until we know the perfect righteousness and the perfect blessedness of the saints in glory shall we see for what great ends the Son of God became man and rose again for our race.
(R. W Dale, LL. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: