1 Peter 1:17
And if you call on the Father, who without respect of persons judges according to every man's work…
The injunction here and the reason for it are equally strange. Both seem opposed no less to the confidence, hope, and joy which have been glowing in the former part of this chapter than to the general tone of the New Testament. "Live in habitual fear, for God is a strict Judge," strikes a note which at first hearing sounds a discord. Is not Christianity the religion of perfect love which casts out fear? Is not its very promise that he who believes shall not come into judgment? Is not its central revelation that of a Father who hath not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our transgressions? Yes; God be thanked that it is! We cannot too earnestly assert that, nor too jealously guard these truths from all tampering or weakening. But these solemn words are none the less true.
I. THE TWOFOLD REVELATION OF GOD AS FATHER AND JUDGE. If we adopt the translation, "call on him as Father," we shall catch here an echo of the Lord's Prayer, and recognize a testimony to its early and general use, independent and confirmatory of the Gospels. We need not dwell upon the thought that God is our Father. There is little fear of its being lost sight of in the Christian teaching of this day. But there is much danger of its being so held as to obscure the other relation here associated with it. Men have often been so penetrated with the conviction that God is Judge as to forget that he is Father. The danger now is that they should be so occupied with the thought that he is Father as to forget that he is Judge. What do we mean by "judgment"? We mean, first, an accurate knowledge and estimate of the moral quality of an action; next, a solemn approval or condemnation; and next, the pronouncing of sentence which entails punishment or reward. Now, can it be that he who loves righteousness ant1 hates evil should ever fail to discern, to estimate, to condemn, and to chastise evil, whoever does it? The eternal necessity of his own great holiness, and not less of his own almighty love, binds him to this. Our text distinctly speaks of a present judgment. It is God who judgeth, not who will judge; and that judgment is of each man's work as a whole, not of his works, but of his work. There is a perpetual present judgment going on. God has an estimate of each man's course, solemnly approves or disapproves, and shapes his dealings with each accordingly. The very fact of this Fatherhood, so far from being inconsistent with this continual judgment, makes it the more certain. He is not so indifferent to his children as to let their deeds pass unnoticed, and, if need be, unchastised. "We have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence." They would have deserved little of it while we were children, and would have almost deserved our malediction when we became men, if they had not. Our Father in heaven knows and loves us better than they. Therefore he judges from a loftier point of view. Standing higher, he looks deeper, and corrects for a nobler purpose - "that we should be partakers of his holiness." To the Christian God's judgments are a sign of his love. So we should rejoice in and long for them. Do we wish to be separated from our sin, to be drawn nearer to him? Then let us be glad that "the Lord will judge his people," and while in penitent consciousness of our sins we pray with the psalmist, "Enter not into judgment with thy servant, O Lord!" let us also cry with him, "Judge me, O Lord; try my reins and my heart!" Abundance of Scripture teaching insists on the fact that there is a future judgment for Christians as for others. "We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ." True, "in the course of justice none of us should see salvation." But though we are saved, not according to works of righteousness which we have done, it is also true that our place in heaven, though not our entrance into heaven, is determined by the law of recompense, and that, in a very real sense, "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." A saved man's whole position will be affected by his past. His place will be in proportion to his Christian character, though not deserved nor won by it. Let us ponder, then, the solemn words, almost the last which come to us from the enthroned Christ, "Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be."
II. THE FEAR WHICH CONSEQUENTLY IS AN ELEMENT IN THE CHILD'S LOVE. Perfect love casts out the fear which has torment, but it deepens a fear which is blessed. By fear we oftenest mean an apprehension of and a shrinking from dangers or evils, or a painful recoil from a person who may inflict them. Such fear is wholly inconsistent with the filial relation and the child's heart. But the fear of God, which the Old Testament so exalts, and which is here enjoined as a necessary part of Christian experience, is not dread. It has no trembling apprehension of evil disturbing its serenity. To fear God is not to be afraid of God. It is full of reverential awe and joy, and, so far from being inconsistent with love, is impossible without it, increases it and is increased by it. It is a reverent, awe-stricken prostration before the majesty of holy love. Its opposite is irreverence. It is, further, a lowly consciousness of the heinousness of sin, and consequently a dread of offending that Divine holiness. He who thus fears, fears to sin more than anything else, and fears God so much that he fears nothing besides. The opposite of that is presumptuous self-confidence, like Peter's own earlier disposition, which led him into so many painful and humbling situations. "A wise man feareth and departeth from evil." The fear enjoined here is, primarily, then, a reverential regard to the holy Father who is our Judge, and, secondarily and consequently, a quick sensitiveness of conscience, which knows our own weakness, and, above all else, dreads falling into sin. Such sensitive scrupulousness may seem to be over-anxiety, but it is wisdom; and, though it brings some pains, it is blessedness. This is no world for unwary walking. There are too many enemies seeking admission to the citadel for it to be safe to dispense with rigid watchfulness at the gates. Our Father is our Judge, therefore let us fear to sin, and fear our own weakness. Our Judge is our Father, therefore let us not be afraid of him, but court his pure eyes and perfect judgment. Such fear which has in it no torment, and is the ally of love, is not the ultimate form of our emotions towards God. It is appropriate only to "the time of our sojourning here." The Christian soul in this world is as a foreigner in a strange land. Its true affinities are in heaven; and its present surroundings are ever seeking to make it "forget the imperial palace" which is its home. So constant vigilance is needed. But when we reach our own land we can dwell safely, having neither locks nor bars. The walls may be pulled down, and flower-gardens laid out where they stood. Here and now is the place for loins girt and lamps burning. There and then we can walk with flowing robes, for no stain will come on them from the golden pavements, and need not carefully tend a flickering light, for eternal day is there. - A.M.
Parallel VersesKJV: And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear: