1 Peter 1:10-12
Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come to you:…
The salvation which is secured by the work of Christ, and the work which secures it, are the center-point of the creation. "They that go before and they who follow after cry, Hosanna! blessed be he that cometh!" The calendar of civilized nations proclaims that he is the Lord of the ages - which are to be reckoned as "before Christ" or as "years of the Lord "-preparatory to or the development of his work. As for all time, so for all orders of being, the cradle and the cross are the center. There were angels in the heavens when there where shepherds in the fields, and not only Wise Men from the East but "bright, harnessed" seraphs came as pilgrims to Bethlehem. There were angels in the tomb while weeping women stood without. Prophets heralded his coming; evangelists told that he had come; and both were taught by the Spirit, whose chiefest office in the past and in the present is to take of the things of Christ, and to show them to us. Thus round him move all ages; to him turn all eyes; of him speaks all revelation; for man's salvation is the crowning work of God, and Christ effects man's salvation. Note, then, in this grand utterance four sets of persons, all concerned in that great work.
I. THE PROPHET-HERALDS. It has become fashionable now to speak doubtfully of Messianic prophecy. But any one who believes that Christ is what Peter knew him to be, the Son of God who died for all men, will feel it fitting that he should be heralded by the long series of predictions, and that before the King's chariot should be many outriders. The view of Old Testament prophecy given here is remarkable. Its main theme is declared to be the sufferings which were destined for the Messiah, and his subsequent glories. Precisely that suffering Messiah which had been such a difficulty to Peter himself and has ever been so to his nation, and which so many scholars now cannot see in the Old Testament, is here regarded as the center of prophecy; not that the whole body of Jewish prophecy is concerned with him, but that "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." The stratum crops out at many points, but is continuous, even where not exposed. The whole system has a forward look. Institutions and persons, ritual and kings, the very nation itself in its high vocation and its many sorrows, witnessed of One to come, whose personality should be all and more than all which these shadowed. And all this light of prophecy is gathered into certain bright points, such as Isaiah 53. and Psalm 22., in which that mystery finds speech, of the Messiah who suffers and then conquers and reigns. That thought is the center of the Old Testament, The criticism which does not group it all round the suffering Messiah has missed the shaping principle which moulds it all, and in its perplexity has turned order into chaos. Again, the relation of the prophets to their message is taught here in a remarkable fashion. It is an axiom with some critics that prophecy must be interpreted in the sense in which the speaker and his hearers understood it. But Peter thinks that the prophetic inspiration sometimes left the speaker ignorant of the full meaning of his own predictions, so distinctly was it the utterance of a higher power. The period of fulfillment, in its date ("what") and characteristics ("what manner of time"), were not necessarily known by the prophet. Another axiom of modern philosophizers upon prophecy is that predictions must have had a bearing, consolatory or menacing, upon their first hearers. But Peter thinks that a prophecy may have been spoken which was only to be fulfilled long centuries after, and could only have gladdened the hearers with a far-off hope. Yet the prophet was not a mere machine or pipe through which the breath of inspiration blew. His heart throbbed in sympathy with his message, and he pondered it with all his force of thought. Peter's theory of prophetic inspiration is equally far from the naturalistic and from the mechanical theories.
II. THE ANSWERING CHOIR OF EVANGELISTS. The same truths were the theme of prophet and of preacher. The word "reported" and that rendered "preached the gospel" are both compounds of one root. To tell that message which prophets foretold is to preach the glad tidings to the world; and the whole business of the Christian teacher is to proclaim the joyful facts. So we have here:
1. The full identity of the message of the prophet and the preacher. The main difference is in the tense of their verbs. The one speaks in the future; the other, in the present; but the verbs are the same and the nominative is the same. The bud and the flower are one. Prophecy is condensed, outlined gospel. Gospel is expanded, specialized prophecy. Rays which were parted in the prophet's utterance are united in the evangelist's message. Anticipations are ever less definite than realities. But the theme is one, though prophecy touched with but a light hand the mysterious nature of the Messiah whom it proclaimed.
2. The essential substance of the gospel is the proclamation of historical facts. It is not a philosophy, nor directly a theology, still less is it a system of morality. It is the record of what has happened on this solid earth. Philosophy and theology and morality will all be evolved from these facts, but the first form of the gospel is history. Only it is to be remembered that the fact that Jesus has lived and died is not the gospel; but the fact that Christ has died for our sins is. The more plainly Christian teachers deliver their message, not as the product of their own thoughts, but as the message given to them, and the more they center their energy on setting forth the fact of Christ's sufferings in the past and glories in the present, the better for their success and for the world.
III. THE LISTENING, GAZING ANGELS. "To look into" is literally" to bend the body so as to gaze upon an object," as the apostles did at the sepulcher. This graphic figure may, perhaps, be a reminiscence of the quiet forms which sat the one at the head and the other at the foot where the body of Jesus had lain, as gazing upon a mystery and guarding a holy place, or it may even recall the cherubim bending with outstretched and meeting wings above the mercy-seat. At all events, it speaks of the remoter and yet earnest interest which other orders of beings in other worlds take in the story of redemption. Men have the honor of proclaiming it, whether as prophets or evangelists. To them it belongs. He helped not angels, but he helped the "seed of Abraham? Therefore they do not speak of it, but stand around, like spectators in some great arena, all silent and all eyes. Three great truths concerning angelic natures are here. They are capable of learning. They too know God by his work which excites in them wonder and interest as it unfolds. The life and death of Christ, with the resulting salvation, are a revelation of God to angels no less than to men, and, though they have no share in the redemption, they have a share in the knowledge which the cross brings to them as to us. From it far-darting beams of light shoot earthwards and upwards. It is the crowning manifestation of the Divine nature for all worlds and orders of being, as for all ages.
IV. THE ONE SPIRIT DWELLING IN PROPHETS AND EVANGELISTS. Not only is the theme the same, but the animating impulse also. The power by which the prophet saw all the wonder that should be is the same as the power which sat in cloven tongues of fire on the heads of all the Church on Pentecost, and has ever since been the strength of every evangelist and of every Christian. Inspiration is not a past phenomenon, but the permanent possession of the Church. Nay, the Spirit which of old came for special purposes on selected men and. tarried not with them, is now, as it were, a denizen of earth, for it is "sent down from heaven" once for all, to abide among us, touching all lips which humbly and prayerfully speak Christ's Name among men. And it was the "Spirit of Christ" which dwelt in the prophets, and which they ever called "the Spirit of the Lord." From the beginning the Word was God; the manifested Jehovah of the old covenant is the Jesus Christ of the new. He is the Lord and Sender of that Spirit which spoke through all the prophets; he is the Medium of all revelation, the Self-manifestation of God from eternity. It is Christ who binds all the ages into one, filling the past, the present, and the future. It is Christ who binds all worlds and beings into one, revealing and ruling for angels and men. It is Christ who is the Theme and the Inspiration of all prophets and all teachers. To him cherubim and seraphim turn with eager gaze. The goodly fellowship of prophets speak of him; of him speak the great company who publish the Word. Let us, too, yield to the attraction of the cross, which binds all things in heaven and earth in golden unity. Let us gaze on those wonders of Divine pity and righteousness and love which have given to heaven a new conception of God. Let us open our spirits to that Spirit of Christ whose dwelling in our hearts shall set us free from sin and death. Let us cleave to that message which, in the history of his incarnation, death, and royal glories, brings to our hearts the good news that sheds light over all the darkest places of our human experience, and endows us with full salvation. - A.M.
Parallel VersesKJV: Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: