1 Peter 1:3-12
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…
I. THE SUBJECT OF A DOXOLOGY.
1. God praised. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." Peter may have seen the same form of words in Paul's opening doxologies in 2 Corinthians and Ephesians. Having called up his readers before his mind and saluted them, he here bursts forth in an ascription of praise to God. To praise God is with becoming feelings to acknowledge what he is or has done. As this is pleasing to God (Psalm 1:23), so also, if we are much exercised on what God is or has done, it is a relief and delight to us. It is not the God of Christ (as the language might seem to imply) that is here praised, but God generally. It is the exalted Name that is fitted to call forth all sacred feelings. But there is added the Christian interpretation. We praise "the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." We praise Jesus Christ, who, according to Divine appointment, did saving work for us. We praise him as our Lord who receives our service for God and dispenses to us the Divine blessings of salvation. We praise not only him, but his Father, who, in the incarnation of the Son and atonement made by him in his death, has shown us Fatherly love.
2. God praised for his mercy. "Who according to his great mercy." The Pauline expression is "God who is rich in mercy" (Ephesians 2:4). Mercy has been called the internal impulsive cause of salvation. It was mercy which moved God to come to our help in our misery. Mercy up to the measure of the human would have been insufficient as a cause. For we rose up before his mind as those who had rebelled against his authority and brought on our own misery. But "let us fall now into the hand of the Lord; for his mercies are great: and let me not fall into the hand of man." It was mercy up to the measure of the Divine - great beyond all measurement - that led to our being rescued.
3. God praised for his mercy in begetting us again unto a life of hope. "Begat us again unto a living hope." Peter appears here as the apostle of hope, as Paul is the apostle of faith and John the apostle of love. Regeneration has been called the formal cause of salvation. The mercy of God moved him to put forth creative power upon us so as to bring us into a new relation to himself, and give us the commencement of a new life (Ephesians 2:5). This life is meantime a life of hope. What we were born out of was a state of hopelessness (Ephesians 2:12); what we are born into is a state of hope, and a state in which hope is "living," i.e. instinct with life, full of energy, able to bear up the spirit, able to resist decay.
4. God praised for his thus begetting us by means of the resurrection of Christ. "By the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." Peter goes beyond the meritorious cause of our salvation in Christ's death, and sees the power which can regenerate in his resurrection (efficient cause). Because he rose again after being dead, therefore God can put forth power upon dead hearts, and upon dead bodies too, to raise them to newness of life. It is not only in the power of Christ's resurrection that we live, but also that our life is a life of hope. We see, in the fact that our Head lives with a full and glorious life, what can make our life full and glorious too.
5. God praised for his thus begetting us with a view to an inheritance.
(1) The inheritance in its peculiar nature. "Unto an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away." The inheritance is the final cause of salvation. It is the objective appointment corresponding to the subjective hope. "As long as we journey we have the living hope; when the journey is finished the living hope becomes the promised inheritance." Here again the Jewish coloring of Peter's thought appears. As the elect people, we have an inheritance (an apportioned possession), such as the land of Canaan was to look forward to. The Canaan condition represented rest, satisfaction, in comparison with the wilderness condition. In describing the antitype of the land of Canaan, Peter proceeds not positively, but by negation. It is an inheritance not subject to corruption. The fruits of the earthly Canaan, however good, perished with the using; not so the fruits of the heavenly Canaan. It is an inheritance not susceptible of defilement. The earthly Canaan, though sacred, could be defiled (Jeremiah 2:7); not so the heavenly Canaan. It is an inheritance that fadeth not away. The flowers of the earthly Canaan soon faded away; not so the beauty of the heavenly Canaan. Thus by three negatives does be magnify the inheritance.
(2) The inheritance in its present relation to us. The inheritance reserved for the heirs. "Reserved in heaven for you." Far separated from us, it is beyond the perils of earth, and is inalienable from us. The heirs guarded for the inheritance. "Who by the power of God are guarded through faith unto a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." We are safe guarded as in a citadel. That which guards us is the power of God, so that it is active toward us. That by means of which the power of God guards us is our faith, so that we are not to be inactive toward God. That toward which the power of God guards us is our salvation in its completion, which is not the inheritance, but rather the condition of the inheritance (to be interpreted by reference to the Israelites, who, when their salvation was completed, enjoyed the possession of the land of Canaan). This salvation is viewed as hidden, but already in existence, only waiting God's time for its revelation, which is not to be till the last time (also hidden).
II. THE SOURCE OF JOY IN ITS COMPLETION.
1. The last time is associated with joy. "Wherein ye greatly rejoice." Peter has a way of moving from one section to another by catching up the last word. The preceding section concluded with the words "in the last time;" this section commences with the words "in which," i.e. in which last time. If" in" retains the same force (which is only natural), then the present tense following comes to have (as it sometimes has) the force of a future. This view greatly helps to clear up the thought in this section. The use of the present in this way has the effect of "emphasizing the certainty of the future joy." In the last time we are greatly to rejoice (originally, "dance for joy"). We are to have a joy which cannot be repressed, but must find expression in outward signs of triumph.
2. The present time may be associated with being put to grief. "Though now for a little while, if need be, ye have been put to grief in manifold temptations." Instead of rejoicing (as we shall do in the future), we may now be put to grief. The being put to grief is regarded as from without. The grief arises within us from temptations, which we may think of as events of an adverse nature. Those make an assault on us, and, from our imperfect spiritual life, would lead us into sin. It is said in 2 Timothy 3:12, "Yea, and all that would live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." There are events in the lives of us all that, instead of making us sad, make us glad. But none of us are exempted from the coming on us of sorrowful events. If they do come, there is a "need be" for them. As our needs are manifold, so the temptations appointed for us as suited to them are manifold too. The view that the apostle has reference to future joy is confirmed by the language here. For first, the being put to grief in manifold temptations is regarded retrospectively. Looking back from the time of rejoicing, it is said, "Ye have been put to grief." Again, the "little while" has its due force only when compared with the length of the future joy.
3. The end sought in our now being put to grief is the joy of future recognition. "That the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold that perisheth though it is proved by fire, might be found unto praise and glory and honor." We are not to think here of the putting to proof, nor of the means of proof (untoward events), but of the approving that comes out in the result. What comes out in faith, when brought into contact with temptations, is its sincerity and its strengthening. Faith thus sincere and strengthened is more precious than perishable gold: are we to wonder at the treatment being similar? Gold is subjected to fire for the purpose of being tested and purified: shall not imperishable faith be similarly tested and purified? "Gold is committed to the fire, not for its destruction, but for glory;" so our faith, after having passed through "fiery trial," as the result of judicial investigation, is to be "found unto praise and glory and honor." There is an accumulation of words to bring out what there will be, in contrast with the present needful fire, to make us glad.
4. Our joy will be completed at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
(1) What there is in the revelation of Jesus Christ to give us joy. "At the revelation of Jesus Christ." In 2 Timothy 1:12 there is reference to the first "appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus;" the reference here is to his second appearing, for which Peter uses what Trench calls the grander word (grand as "appearing" is). There was revelation in his first appearing. There was a bringing out into accomplished fact of the hidden counsel of God. It was made clear how God was to proceed in laying the foundation of human salvation. In the Incarnation we have the essential revelation. But even in revealing Jesus Christ was hidden. It was not known what depth of love there was in his heart, and what glory properly belonged to him. His revelation will be a joyful event, because it will be the full disclosure of his grace, with such glorious accompaniment as is fitted to exalt him as Savior.
(2) The foregoing conditions of joy at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
(a) Love. "Whom not having seen ye love." Peter was not among those who had not seen Christ; he therefore does not include himself. We are told of one who had three wishes - that he had seen our Lord in the flesh, that he had heard Paul preach, and that he had seen Rome in its glory. There is a certain advantage to our loving in our standing at a distance from our Lord's day. We stand clear of prejudices connected with our having seen him; and we have all the facts before us, so that we can form an accurate conception of what he was and did. If we get at the meaning of these facts, and have our hearts touched with love to him, then the first condition is fulfilled of our having joy at his revelation.
(b) Faith. "On whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing." A point has been raised regarding love coming here before belief. "Why is the natural order of things reversed? How can we love before we believe? Must we not first feel convinced of the reality of Christ and the genuineness of his claims? Must we not on this conviction trust him, and so have love generated in our souls?" The answer given is that "in the history of a soul's coming to Christ we are touched by the narrative of his sufferings, or stirred by an appeal, or moved by the grandeur of some utterance," and thus are led on to the more difficult exercise of trust. It may be said that love is mentioned first as lying near to our rejoicing as it ever will do. It would be an advantage if (prejudice aside and an imperfect conception aside) we saw the Object of our love. The present substitute for seeing is believing. We are to have living intercourse with an unseen Savior until, to the great advantage of our love and also of our joy, our faith becomes sight.
(3) Stow our joy at the revelation of Jesus Christ is characterized.
(a) As transcendently excellent. "Ye rejoice greatly with joy unspeakable and full of glory." The present tense is again used with the force of a future. When at the revelation of Jesus Christ, with hearts full of love to him, we see, our joy will be unspeakable. "For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another." What a joy to look upon him, then, in the human nature which he took upon him! to look upon him with the marks testifying to the mysterious sufferings through which he came! to look upon him finally triumphing over sin and death! It will be unspeakable experience of joy added to experience of joy beyond all power of expression. It will be as if the joy of a lifetime were concentrated into a moment. It will also be full of glory, the joy of a glorified spirit in a glorified body in presence of the glory of the Redeemer.
(b) As faith's reward in the soul's experience. "Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls." The revelation of Jesus Christ is to be the time for distributing rewards. What we are to receive as our reward is not apart from our foregoing faith; it is its goat. Faith is the principle of life: the soul is the subject of the life, which is to be saved or lost. When Christ makes our faith issue in our emancipation from all sin and imperfection and in the vigorous exercise of all our powers, our joy will be complete.
III. THE SUSPECT OF INQUIRY BY PROPHETS AND ANGELS.
(1) Their private desire and public function. "Concerning which salvation the prophets sought and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you." Salvation, carried forward from the preceding section, must continue to have the sense of completed salvation. It is a magnifying of this salvation that prophets had to do with privately and publicly. They are mentioned here as a great order. They had their private exercises. Concerning the salvation they "sought and searched diligently." There is the idea of intensified search in both verbs. If there is a distinction, the one may refer more to the end, and the other to the means. They eagerly tried to grasp what the full salvation was to be. The remarkable thing is that their private desire was in connection with their public function, which is here defined as a telling beforehand of the grace that was to come to men in Christian times. What they were eager to find out was the Christian elements contained in the salvation. This is pointed to in grace, which is to be referred to that on which salvation depends, and by which also it is charactered. There was a display commencing with the incarnation of the Son of God on our behalf, which certainly was not due to our merit, but only to grace. There is additional grace in our living in Christian times.
(2) To what their inquiry was subjected. "Searching what time or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did point unto, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glories that should follow them." The latter of the verbs is here continued (not in the intensive form). Their search was directed to two connected points - time and manner of time. This must be referred to Messianic time and circumstance as giving a gracious character to the salvation. How were they led to think of a salvation connected with Christian facts? In a very direct way - the Spirit of Christ was in them. It was this that made the prophets a great order; and yet in this respect they were not entirely removed from us, for in Romans 8:9 it is said of us that we have the Spirit of Christ. The Spirit of Christ was in them to fit them for their prophetic function. The language is remarkable as pointing to the pre-existence of Christ, and also to the Spirit in the prophets as proceeding, not directly from the Father, but from the Son, and the Son that was to be incarnate. The language is also to be noted as explaining the private desire of the prophets. If they had been uttering their own thoughts, they would have understood them; but as they were uttering the thoughts of the Spirit of Christ, they had, as well as other men, to set themselves to understand them. The matter of revelation was closely related to the Revealer. It was a testifying beforehand to the sufferings of Christ (destined for Christ), and the glories that should follow them. There was a time when Peter did not see what he here sets down. His mind was full of the triumphs of the Messiah, but not of the triumphs as founded on sufferings. "Be it far from thee, Lord; this shall not be unto thee." Since that time he had read prophecy in another light. "O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures, the things concerning himself." The sufferings of Christ reached their climax in his death; the glories of Christ began with his resurrection, and cannot be said to have yet reached their climax. The plural indicates that, as there was a plenitude of suffering, so there will also be a plenitude of glory. Our salvation cannot be apprehended aright apart from both Christ's sufferings and glories. Both enter into it to give it character. We are saved not only in virtue of Christ's death, but also in virtue of Christ's triumph.
(3) Favored position of men in Christian times. As ministered to by prophets. "To whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto you, did they minister these things." It was revealed to prophets that the things which they announced beforehand would not be fulfilled in their day. They had application not to themselves, but to others. This was not altogether regressing so far as they were concerned. It set their mind at rest for their own day; and for the future they could still closely examine their own words, and try to form some conception of what gospel realities were to be. Picturing the gospel day as well as they could, they would look forward to it with longing desire. It was honoring so far as Christian believers were concerned. Prophets, in what they said of the gospel day, had been ministering unto them. As ministered to by apostles. "Which now have been announced unto you through them that preached the gospel unto you by the Holy Ghost sent forth from heaven." The same things which had been announced beforehand had then been announced as fulfilled. The announcers were the apostles. They also are a great order having to do with salvation - " the glorious company of the apostles." Their function was to preach the gospel, i.e. the message of salvation, but connected with the facts of Christ having come into the world, having suffered, and thereafter passing into heaven. They were fitted for their work not other wise than were the prophets. It is not said that the Spirit of Christ was in them; but the Holy Spirit by whose influence they were moved in their preaching is represented as sent forth from heaven, i.e. as following on Christ's going into heaven. As thus endowed, they could preach the gospel with proper unction, and unerringly. We have net the presence of the apostles; but we have many of those statements of truth which, under the guidance of the Spirit, they omitted.
2. Angels. "Which things angels desire to look into." This is a third great order connected with salvation. The things announced by apostles which before had been predicted, i.e. gospel facts which give meaning to salvation, angels desire to look into. "God manifest in the flesh ' was "seen of angels." While the mystery was being evolved they were held in rapt wonder. What is here said has reference to an after-period. After Christ has undergone "the suffering of death," and passed into glory, they are still occupied with inquiring into the meaning of the facts. The language is remarkable. Angels desire to bend aside, i.e. from matters properly belonging to them to examine into, i.e., matters belonging properly to men. Whatever happens under the government of God cannot but be interesting to them. They are profoundly interested in the facts pertaining to human salvation as throwing a new and powerful light on the character of God, and opening up to them therewith a new and higher life. For although they cannot undergo the saving change, yet they can take the great facts of the gospel into them for their spiritual nourishment and growth. - R. F.
Parallel VersesKJV: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,