1 Peter 1:13
Why gird up the loins of your mind, be sober…
The grammatical structure of this verse marks out the principal command as being that to hope, while two subsidiary participial clauses give subordinate exhortations to girding up the loins of the mind, and to being sober, as accompaniments of and helps to this Christian hope. The true meaning of the injunction is given in the Revised Version, which substitutes "hope perfectly" for "hope to the end." Peter is not encouraging to persistence but to completeness in our hope. The characteristic which he would have all Christians cultivate refers, not to its duration, but to its degree. Such a perfect hope is the only one corresponding to the perfect object on which it is fixed - the grace that will be ours when Christ shall come. The more clearly that object is discerned, the more vigorous wilt be the joyous anticipation which grasps it. But such strength of hope will not come of itself. It needs effort and discipline, self-stimulating and self-restraint.
I. We have to consider THE PERFECT OBJECT OF CHRISTIAN HOPE. There are three striking ideas suggested by the remarkable language here.
1. We have a very unusual designation for that object, namely, "grace." Usually the future blessings are called glory, and in common religious language, "grace and "glory" are contrasted, as belonging to earth and heaven. Here clearly "grace" means the whole sum of the blessings to be bestowed in another life, and is equivalent to the" salvation ready to be revealed" spoken of in an earlier verse. The unusual expression teaches us that the glories of our ultimate exaltation in all their splendor are purely gratuitous and the product of the undeserved love and liberality of our God. The whole Christian career from first to last owes all it enjoys, possesses, or hopes to "grace." The substantial identity of the Christian character here and there is also implied. Glory is but grace perfected; grace is incipient glory. The gift is one here and there, only the measure varies. What is a spark now, almost smothered sometimes under green wood, flames out ruddy and triumphant then.
2. That ultimate grace is on its way to us. It is "being brought," or, as Leighton puts it, "a-bringing." The same word is used to describe the onward-moving rush of the mighty wind of Pentecost. It is as if some strong angel-choir had already begun their flight with this great gift in their hands, and were hasting with all the power of their majestic pinions to this small island in the deep. The light from fixed stars may take centuries to reach us, but is speeding through space all the while. So that "great far-off Divine event" is coming steadily nearer, as if some star, at first a point in the distance, should take motion towards us and at last pour all its splendor on our eyes. A solemn but invigorating thought, fitted to brighten hope and kindle desire that "now is our salvation nearer than when we believed."
3. This approaching grace is wrapped up in the revelation of Jesus Christ. We may render "at," as the Revised Version does, and yet give full force to the preposition in the original. The grace is included in the revelation of Jesus Christ, as a jewel in a case. The manifestation of Christ in his glory shall be the participation in that glory of all who love him. It overflows, as it were, into us, partly because the sight of him in his glory shall work transformation into his likeness, as a light falling on a mirror makes a brightness; but chiefly because he and we shall be so truly one in deep mystic union that all this is ours, and the glory which streams from him shall brighten us. All which he shows to a wondering world we shall share. This is the perfect object of Christian hope. How different from paltry, perishable earthly hopes! Why let this great faculty trail along the ground, when it might climb to heaven by the trelliswork of God's promises? Why limit it to days and years, when it might expand to lay hold on eternity? Let hearts and hopes mount to fix on Christ, and they shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end.
II. THE PERFECT HOPE WHICH GRASPS THE PERFECT OBJECT. There is no doubt that "hope perfectly" is the injunction here. It is more needful to exhort to perfection in degree than to permanence in duration, which will follow naturally. Hope may exist in all degrees from a tremulous "perhaps" up to "I am sure." Usually it is less than certainty. "Hopes and fears that kindle hope" are "an inextinguishable hope. A leek of doubt slumbers in her fair eyes. How can that be firm which is built on a quagmire?" But it is possible for a Christian to have this perfect hope. God's fixed and faithful Word gives us certainty of future. Nor need our own sin or, weakness dash our confidence, for his promises are made to the sinful and weak. We have rock on which to build. Why should our hope cast its anchor on some floating island which may drift and melt away, when it may be fastened within the veil? It is a duty to hope perfectly, because only such hope corresponds to facts. Not to hope is unbelief. Some good people say "I hope" in such tremulous melancholy tones that it sounds liker "I fear." Joyous confidence becomes those who have God to lean on. "I am persuaded," "we know," are the words with which Paul and John heralded their hopes; and we should be bold to use the same. It is blessedness to hope perfectly. So we escape the alternations which, like the hot and the shivering fits of ague, rack others, and the bitterness of disappointment when some gleaming vision collapses, and, instead of the rainbow-hued bubble, we are left with a drop of dirty water. He who lives by earthly hopes is in danger of dying by earthly disappointments, A fulfilled hope is often a disappointed one. We may have a pillar of fire to guide us in all the darkness, which will glow brighter as we draw near the end. It is strength to hope perfectly. Hope is often a trifler, robbing us of energy, making the present flat, and withdrawing us from working in order to dream. But Christian hope is an armed warrior, grave and calm, ready for conflict because assured of victory. It will be as wings to lift us above care and sorrows, and as cords to bind us to duty and toil.
III. THE SELF-DISCIPLINE WHICH KEEPS THE PERFECT HOPE. It has two parts - "girding up the loins," and "being sober." These two are somewhat difficult to distinguish. But the former enjoins determined effort, the bracing up of all one's powers, or, as we say, "pulling one's self together." Travelers, servants, soldiers, have to tighten their belts and confine loose robes. A slackly braced mind has not force enough to cherish a perfect hope. There are many difficulties in its way, and vigorous effort is needed to concentrate the mind and heart on the truth which warrants it. All Christian virtue needs determined effort. Earthly hopes will not be vigorous unless the intrusive present is shut out by resolute effort, and the attention kept fixed on the future. How can a strong Christian hope be preserved on easier terms? Again, for the completeness of Christian hope, rigid self control and repression are needed. "Be sober" means "keep a tight hand on all desires and tastes, especially on animal passions and appetites." There is no possibility of clear vision of the future if the mists that steam up from these undrained marshes bide it, nor can the soul whose desires turn earthwards go out in keen expectation to the more ethereal joys above. If the plant is allowed to throw out side shoots, it will not run high. Our hopes are regulated by our desires. We have a limited amount to expend, and if we bestow it on things of time and sense, we shall have none to spare for the unseen. If we pour the precious ointment on the heads of earthly loves, there will be none with which to anoint our true Lover and King. A great possibility is set before us weary sons of men, whose hearts have been so often turn by disappointment that we know not whether it is sadder to hope or to despair. We may have the future made as certain as the past, and be made conquerors over sorrow and the dread of to-morrow and the apathy which does not look forward, by a calm hope which knows that it will be fulfilled. We need not build on peradventures, but on "Verily, verily, I say unto you." Do not build on saint when you may build on rock, even on "Christ, who is our Hope" - and you will not be confounded. - A.M.
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;