1 Peter 1:13-25
Why gird up the loins of your mind, be sober…
1. Unity of the energies. "Wherefore girding up the loins of your mind." The apostle has been dwelling on the bright future before the people of God. We are pilgrims on our way to our inheritance. It becomes us therefore to gird up the loins of our mind. It belongs to the richness of our endowment that there are strong forces in our nature. But these are naturally in a state of dispersion. We are like travelers with loose flowing robes which form an impediment in walking. We need to gird up the loins of our mind - to gather up our scattered energies, to unite them in a common bond for the accomplishment of a common end. For this there is needed a vigor of will which is by no means common. There is a Chinese proverb which says, "Most men have passions, strong men have wills." We are not to allow ourselves to be swayed by alternate passions, which counteract one another and involve loss of force. We need all the vigor we can command for sustaining us in the accomplishment of our arduous journey, in the execution of our difficult plan. It has been pointed out that even for success in an evil undertaking there is needed a harmonious character, or agreement of the powers. And men have sometimes failed in their evil schemes just because they have not been bad enough; there has been some better feeling of their nature drawing them back (Macbeth). For all success we must be able to say with Paul, "This one thing I do." It is to be observed that the language here comes with a special appropriateness from Peter, to whom were spoken the words of destiny, "When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not."
2. Sobriety. "Be sober." "Peter commands," says Calvin, "not merely moderation in eating and drinking, but spiritual sobriety rather, when we shut in all our senses, that they do not intoxicate themselves with the unlawful things of this world." The sobriety here enjoined has a natural association with wakefulness, being a condition of wakefulness. Hence Paul says, "Let us watch and be sober." As thus associated with wakefulness, it naturally follows on girding up the loins. Hence the Master says, "Let your loins be girded about, and your lamps burning." We are not to allow the pleasures of the world to bring us into a state of unnatural excitement or of stupor; but we are so to sober ourselves with all sobering thought (such as the vanity of worldly pleasure, the shortness of time) as that with a clear head we can discern the way we are taking, and the end to which it leads.
3. Hope. "And set your hope perfectly on the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." Stress is laid in tiffs verse on the exercise of hope. There are various degrees in which it may exist. We are to aim at exercising it perfectly. One aspect of the perfectness is brought out in the old translation, "Hope to the end." To be thus enduring it must be vigorous, conquering. The ground of hope on our part is grace on the part of God. Grace has already been brought unto us in our election (Ver. 1); it is to be signally brought unto us at the revelation of Jesus Christ. What we hope for from grace is our inheritance. When Christ is to be glorified then are we also to be enriched from grace. In order that our hope may be perfect or abundant (Romans 15:13), we must not only realize the inheritance as well merited for us, but must form some distinct conception of its nature. This is what Paul teaches when he thus prays for his Ephesian converts, "That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your heart enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints." When gathering up our energies, and sobered against the blandishments of the world, we are also sustained by hope, we are prepared for the journey of life.
1. Not after self. "As children of obedience, not fashioning yourselves according to your former lusts in the time of your ignorance." The apostle proceeds on our being children of obedience (Ver. 2). We are naturalized in obedience, so that we have it as our father. The dignity of our nature lies in this, that we are character-making. We have the power of fashioning ourselves, leaving our own mark on our nature - a power not possessed by the lower creatures. We have not the power of adding any new principle or eradicating any that there is; for we do not stand to our nature as creators; but we can lead to such a change in ourselves as amounts to a second nature. As children of obedience, we are not to fashion ourselves as we please. There is a negativing here of lusts, which are just self in some form or other. If, like many of those addressed in this Epistle (Gentile converts), lusts once had the fashioning of us, that belonged to our former life when we were in ignorance of Divine things. Now that we are enlightened, let them not have the fashioning of us any more. Let there not be the slightest impress on us from sensuality; from avarice, from falseness, from pride, from worldliness, from ambition, from injustice, from hatred.
2. After God. "But like as he which called you is holy, be ye yourselves also holy in all manner of living; because it is written, Ye shall be holy; for I am holy." We are to have the Divine impress on us. We are to fashion ourselves according to the character of him who called us to be his people. This held under the old covenant. The command laid repeatedly on the people of God then was, "Ye shall be holy; for I am holy." As belonging to God and enjoying many tokens of the Divine favor, it was their duty to take the fashion of their life, not from the heathen around them and their pollutions, but from God and his absolute holiness. We have come into their privileges, and also their obligations. As called by God to a rich inheritance in the future, there is for us a shall be, a must be holy in the holiness of God. We are bound to approve what he approves, to condemn what he condemns. This obligation extends to every part of our life. We are to be holy in all manner of living. Whatever holy form there is (purity, generosity, sincerity, humility, spirituality, earnestness, honorableness, gentleness), we are to impress it on all we think, and feel, and say, and do.
III. FEAR ACCOMPANYING THE PILGRIM-STATE.
1. Fear of judgment. "And if ye call on him as Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to each man's work, pass the time of your sojourning in fear." The fear enjoined here is not the feeling of reverence which we are forever to cherish toward God as infinitely exalted above us. It is the fear connected with our state of sojourning - our being away for a time from the Father's house, the fear of sin endangering the happiness, if not the certainty, of our home-going. "It is not fear alone, or fear supreme, or fear thwarting or limiting love and hope and joy that the Word of God enjoins, but fear surrounded, intertwined, and subservient. Fear must be like the sentinel - always awake, always on the alert, always faithful, but always aware that he is neither general nor leader of any kind. Although fear in itself and by itself cannot produce truly good or spiritually right action, it yet performs a vital function in keeping the soul awake. Fear rings the alarm-bell and rouses the conscience. It blows the trumpet of warning. Where the sense of right is growing numb the smart blows of fear bring it back to consciousness again. It creates pause and opportunity for all better and nobler things to make themselves heard. To be regardless of dangers is to cut the sinews of effort" (Leckie). Fear is represented as springing out of our view of God as judging. His essential relation to each man (believer or not believer) is that of Judge. He judges without respect of persons, i.e. not by appearances, but by the actual realities of the case. He judges according to each man's work, i.e. all in which character is displayed. His judgment is ever going forward along with our work; it is to culminate in a pronounced judgment on our work as completed. It is fitted to inspire us with fear, that the Divine judgment accompanies every deed. It is fitted by itself to overwhelm us with fear, that the Divine judgment is to be pronounced on our deeds as a whole. But then as believers we call on (in our prayers acknowledge) this Judge as our Father. That does not make his judgment free from fear. "The judgment of a King does not feel half so searching and painful as that of a Father. It is dreadful to feel that even love, that even a Father's love, condemns me. But still Father is Father, and the heart that clings to the word will find enough in that to keep the fear from paralyzing or even depressing" (Leckie). Let us, then, pass the time of our sojourning in the fear of judgment. Let us not lull ourselves into a feeling of security. Let us realize that there are perils by the way, and that we must never for a moment relax our efforts until we actually possess the inheritance.
2. Fear of redemption. Two points in analogy founded on. "Knowing that ye were redeemed, not with corruptible things, with silver or gold." The first point in the analogy is suggested in words which follow ("vain manner of life"). The life of a captive is a vain manner of life, i.e. empty of the activities and therefore the pleasures which belong to a life of freedom. The second point in the analogy is brought out. The usual way of redeeming a captive is by silver or gold being paid for him. The captive who has thus been redeemed has reason to fear first when he thinks of the life he has escaped, and also when he thinks of the cost of his redemption.
(1) The fear of the life escaped. "From your vain manner of life handed down from your fathers." The life of sin is a vain manner of life, i.e. empty of the holy activities and pleasures which are the contents of a true life. The life of sin is here viewed as inherited. When, as in heathenism, wrong ideas and customs are handed down from generation to generation, deliverance presents appalling difficulty. The redeemed to whom Peter wrote had reason to fear, when they saw in the heathen around them what they once had been. When the man rescued sees the bridge or ledge on which he lately stood toppling into the abyss, his first feeling is that of fear. So have we not reason to fear when we think of the life of sin in which we were once involved, or when we see in the sinful lives of men around us what we might have been?
(2) The fear of the manner in which redemption has been effected. The cost of redemption. "But with precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, even the blood of Christ." We were redeemed not with corruptible things, but with precious blood (which therefore is to be ranked with incorruptible things and marks incorruptibility as a chief element of the preciousness). "Precious blood" is a description of the blood of Christ, i.e. of him who was the Anointed of God for his redeeming work. He is here represented as offering himself a sacrifice in the way of redeeming. The main point in which his sacrifice differed from all previous sacrifices was that it was no mere prefigurement, but was the real transaction with God on behalf of man. It was no unconscious victim, but conscious, free, morally characterized life in the nature identified with the sin. There is also the representation of the innocent being offered for the guilty and vile. There are two words used to express innocence. Bengel is probably right in the distinction - has not blemish in itself, nor has contracted spot from without. As applied to Christ as a sacrifice, the meaning is, that he had no pollution in himself, neither did he take pollution from without. In his sacrifice we see the required physical immaculateness of the animal sacrificed rising into moral immaculateness. "That he who sought to give himself as a sacrifice to free the world from sin should have been conscious of being himself a sinner, or felt himself to be in any one respect unclean before God, would have been not merely a contradiction, it would have been a gross impiety" (Ullmann). The two epithets used are negatives; but we must for a full conception think of there being on the positive side absolute excellence. He yielded complete obedience to the Law of God under which he was placed, and, in the result, carried our nature forward into a state of perfection. It was only by his offering life on which God could look with the highest satisfaction that our redemption could be effected. Have we not, then, reason to fear when we think of the precious blood, the incorruptible reality, that has obtained redemption for us? "You have felt, when some blessing came to you, a sort of pain at the thought of your own unworthiness. The kindness of God has made you ashamed. It did not make you glad, as you expected. It rather made you sad and afraid lest you should prove unworthy of it all. So it is with redemption. It shows so grandly and tenderly the love of God; it shows so powerfully God's desire to have you, his determination to win you by love, his resolution that no barriers shall be allowed to stand between you and him. It shows a God so intensely in earnest, both for happiness and holiness, that you feel afraid. He is so much in earnest, and I so careless; he so intent on my salvation, and I so dull and indifferent. He so anxious for me, he the Infinite One so intent on having me, and I, poor worm, so cold about him who is in himself all wealth and glory and blessedness. Such love, such intensity, such sacrifice for me. I am ashamed and I fear - I fear lest I should not respond to all this. What a devotedness and thoroughness, what a living existence it would take to be at all in harmony with such love! And I shall I be able to come even near to such a course?" (Leckie). The sphere of its operation. Redeemer provided from eternity. "Who was foreknown indeed before the foundation of the world." There is similar language in Revelation 13:8, "The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." The purpose was formed, and the fact taken into account from eternity, that the Second Person of the Godhead was to be sent forth as Redeemer. And therefore, when the world was founded, it was not without respect to redemption. God planned and acted beforehand, as though redemption had taken place - throwing a splendor over material creation, giving a day of grace to men, sending forth redeeming power upon men's souls and, in some instances, upon men's bodies. In redemption reaching in its operation through preceding times far back into the eternal counsels of God, is there not reason for fear - the fear that we do not sufficiently endeavor to appreciate what has entered so long and so deeply into the thought of God? Manifested in time. "But was manifested at the end of the times." The Redeemer was provided from eternity; he was also the subject of prophecy from a very early time (Genesis 3:15) - he was manifested, we are told here, "at the end of the times." Time, according to the idea, is divided into various times. At the beginning of the last of the times Christ was manifested. It was then made clear what the thought of God was. The Incarnation burst forth (not to the carnal eye) in all its wonderfulness. And when we think of the "strong Son of God, immortal Love," dwelling in our nature and in it redeeming, have we not reason to fear - to fear lest by our sin we dishonor the nature upon which so much love and honor have been bestowed? Persons benefiting by the manifestation. "For your sake, who through him are believers in God, which raised him from the dead, and gave him glory; so that your faith and hope might be in God." Peter's readers were many of them benefited to a very great extent in relation to the time of the manifestation. From being idolaters, by one bound they had got into the position of Christian believers. We are also greatly benefited, as having our lifetime on earth connected with the last of the times. Now that Christ has been manifested, we have presented to us what in its essential elements is the highest conception of God. This conception embraces not only God providing the precious blood of Christ for redemption, but, beyond that, showing Christ triumphant in raising him from the dead and giving him glory. Thereby God compels, not only our faith, but our hope - our faith in the proof that is given of the redeeming virtue of the blood, and our hope in the pledge that is given of our full redemption, which is a being raised and glorified with our Head. When we think of our having been brought into a position in which our prospects are so great, have we not reason for fear - fear lest we should prove unworthy of what redeeming love has in store for us?
IV. RULE BETWEEN FELLOW-PILGRIMS.
1. Prerequisite to brotherly love. "Seeing ye have purified your souls in your obedience to the truth unto unfeigned love of the brethren." What we are to aim at is love of the brethren, i.e. Christian brethren; and, since love is so often and so easily feigned, we are to see to it that it is love not in appearance, but in reality (1 John 3:18). With a view to this, we are to purify our souls, i.e. ourselves in our individual life. We cannot do this from ourselves; it is only the truth that has the power to sanctify (John 17:17). The way in which we are to bring ourselves within the sanctifying influence of the truth is by our living in the element of obedience to the truth, i.e. believing what the truth proclaims, and realizing what the truth requires. We are to think especially of the truth of the gospel. When we grasp what God is in redemption, and allow ourselves to be swayed by the love of redemption, we are prepared for loving the brethren.
2. Statement of the duty of brotherly love. "Love one another from the heart fervently." Cremer remarks on the expression, "loving from the heart," that it denotes "the love of conscious resolve." It is love which is here viewed as depending on ourselves. We are to see to it that it comes from the depths of our being. "Fervently," which should be translated "intently," points to the energetic way in which we are to give our heart's affections free play. We are to allow nothing to come between them and their object. We are to allow nothing to stop them in the steadiness of their course. We must not think that we only require to be passive to love; to love rightly, our energies, as we are here taught, must be on the stretch.
3. Ground of brotherly love in regeneration.
(1) Connection of the Word with regeneration. "Having been begotten again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the Word of God, which liveth and abideth." As regenerated, we are capable of attending to the duty of loving one another. Stress is laid on the way in which we have been regenerated. We have been begotten again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible. By the seed we are to understand the Word which, lodged in the soul ("implanted Word," James 1:21), is the beginning of a new and incorruptible life. This Word is also viewed as the outward means by which regeneration is effected. And, as the seed which is the beginning of the new life is said to be incorruptible, so the Word of the Lord by which the new life is effected is said to live and abide, Though its earthly form is not to remain, it has a living, active power in it which can never fail. The bearing of this is that, being alike in having been born into the new abiding life, we are plainly intended for loving one another. As on the way to the same inheritance, we are to keep up good brotherhood.
(2) Confirmation of the abiding power of the Word. "For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory thereof as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower falleth: but the Word of the Lord abideth forever." That with which grass is compared is all flesh, i.e. man on the earthly side of his life. That with which the flower of grass is compared is all the glory of flesh - beauty of form, strength of muscle, greatness of intellect, riches, honors. The image sets forth the transitoriness of human life and glory. Grass has only a certain amount of vitality, and, when a certain stage is reached, it withers; it is not otherwise with the flower - it falleth. The language is graphic - the grass we looked upon withered and the flower fell. So the life of man on its earthly side has only a certain amount of endurance, which is soon exhausted, and its greatness soon comes to its decadence. It is otherwise with the Word of the Lord - it abideth forever. The language in this verse, which is from Isaiah 40:6-8, is not formally introduced as a quotation, and is quoted freely. It gives us an exalted conception of the Word as that by which we are introduced into a life that is never to end.
(3) Means of recognizing the Word. "And this is the Word of good tidings which was preached unto you." The Word, in this as in the preceding verse, is appropriately the spoken Word. It is thought of as the Word of glad contents. It is the Word which had been preached to Peter's readers by Paul and others, so that they could have no difficulty in understanding what was meant by it. "This, therefore, als0 instructs us where we must seek for the Word of God, viz. in the authentic originals of the apostolic preaching" (Stager). - R.F.
Parallel VersesKJV: Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;