1 Peter 5:10
But the God of all grace, who has called us to his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that you have suffered a while, make you perfect…
These closing words of the Epistle, which have only some personal greetings after them, are best taken, not as a prayer, but as a full-toned assurance, like some grand swell of music at the end of an oratorio. The apostle has been speaking much about suffering and trial, especially in the latter part of his letter. He has just warned his readers of the adversary who seeks their destruction. And here against that grim figure he holds up the shield of the Name and purpose of God, and bids us be brave and jubilant amid all sufferings and in the presence of the enemy, because he is for us. We shall consider the rich significance of the various forms of the Divine help as expressed in the latter part of this verse, in another homily. For the present we confine ourselves to the former half of the verse, each clause of which sets forth a fresh ground on which a poor feeble soul may build its confidence, in spite of sorrow and Satan, that no harm will come to it.
I. THE GREAT FOUNDATION FOR THE TRIUMPHANT ASSURANCE WHICH FORESEES VICTORY IN THE MIDST OF THE SOREST CONFLICT IS THE INFINITE FULNESS AND LOVING HEART OF GOD. When surrounded by difficulties, crushed by sorrows, assaulted and battered by all the artillery of temptations, when faint of heart and conscious of one's own weakness, when dull torpor seems to have taken all warmth of feeling out of us, and many defeats to have robbed us of hope, - there is one strong tower into which we may run and be safe. The Name of the Lord, the thought of his revealed character as the God of all grace, is enough to scatter all the black-winged brood of cares and fears, and to bring the dove of peace into our hearts, though they be lonely as the ark, and all be one waste of waters around. For that great Name proclaims that his love is inexhaustible. Grace is love exercised to inferiors and undeserving persons; and, if he is the God of all grace, boundless love for the lowliest and foulest is in his heart. Anything short of such Divine fullness of love would be tired out by our slowness and repeated sin. Impatience steals into the most long-suffering heart, and the most liberal hand will shut fast at last when the ragged good-for-nothing comes for the hundredth time with the old story of shiftless improvidence and misery, and the old whining petition for help already so often given and squandered. But there is no wearying out his patient love, and no past misuse of his gifts can ever prompt him to deny us more. The God of all grace has grace for all. The Name, too, proclaims the infinite fullness of his resources. That great storehouse is inexhaustible, after all giving full. He works and is not weary. He bestows and is none the poorer. The stream has been pouring for ages with a rush like Niagara, and the flood to-day is as mighty as at the beginning. It is fed from the eternal fountains in the "mountains of God," and cannot cease. Shall we fear drought whilst we are borne on its broad bosom? The coins in circulation, though enough to enrich the world, are as nothing to the masses of bullion stored in the depths. The sun itself will die by self-communication, and that great hearth-fire will grow cold, and all the family of worlds that move around it cease to be united and warmed by its beams; but the God who is our Sun burns and is not consumed. Shall we fear freezing or darkness while we walk in the light of his face? And that great Name implies an infinite variety of resources. All diversities of grace are his, that they may be ours. Grace is not only love in exercise to inferiors, but is also the gifts of that love, which are so inseparable from it that they are called by the same name. These take the shape of every man's need, and of all the needs of every man. The bread-fruit tree to the South Sea Islanders is a storehouse from which they get all they require. Its fruit is their food, its juice their beverage, from its bark they prepare their clothing, from its wood they build their houses and fashion their weapons, its leaves make their thatch, its fibers their cordage. So the grace of God is all-sufficient - Protean in its forms, fitting each necessity as it arises, and shaped so as to give to every one of us the very thing which character and circumstances at the moment require. Shall we fear to be ever left to fall before enemies or to be crushed by our sorrows, when we have such an ever-full fountain of various grace to draw from?
II. ANOTHER GROUND OF CONFIDENT ASSURANCE IS GOD'S OWN ACT, WHICH WOULD BE STULTIFIED IF WE WERE NOT UPHELD. He "called us unto his eternal glory in Christ" Here the act of calling, and that to which we are called, and the Christ in whom we are called, are all alleged as a threefold cord on which we may hang the whole weight of our confidence. They make it inconceivable that God should not do for us all which the next clause assures us he will do. He will not leave his purpose half accomplished. Nobody shall ever have to point to his incomplete work, and say that he began to build and was not able to finish. His gifts and calling are subject to no change of his solemn purpose, He is not a son of man that he should repent. And if he wills an end, he wills the means to that end. He will assuredly provide for his children all that is needed to bring them to the glory to which he has called them. Does God summon men to his eternal glory, and forget to provide them grace? Will he call them to his own palace, and not give them an outfit for their journey? Does he send out his soldiers without ammunition or stores? "It is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" was Christ's great reason to his little flock why they should not fear; as if he had said, "Do you suppose that the Father who gives you a crown at last will not give you all you need on your way to it?" So a joyous temper of triumphant confidence in the face of all suffering and temptation should be ours; "for faithful is he that calleth you, who also will" carry out his purpose to the blessed end.
III. THE FINAL GROUND ON WHICH WE MAY BUILD OUR CONFIDENCE IS GOD'S APPOINTMENT OF SUFFERING AND ITS MEANING. The words, "after that ye have suffered a while," must be connected more immediately with the preceding. They teach that the way to the eternal glory is through transitory, brief suffering. The apostle comes back to the thoughts with which he began his Epistle about "for a season being in heaviness." These sufferings, then, were included in the Divine purpose. They are as much a part of his scheme, are as much a fruit of his inexhaustible love, as the glory to which they lead. They do not break in upon the Divine plan. There is no fear of their threatening its fulfillment. They are not excrescences, but essential parts of that deep counsel of the unfathomable wisdom according to which all our circumstances are appointed by him. He will not, then, be taken at unawares by them, nor will any accumulation of sorrow or suffering be any hindrance to his Divine purpose of strengthening us. The electric spark finds no resistance to its passage in the deepest sea, and though all the waves and billows go over us, his sustaining grace can none the less make its way to our hearts. Nor are they only his appointment, but their direct purpose is to fit us for the eternal glory to which we are called. Joy alone would not do that. The heart needs to be refined by sorrow, and the experience of desolation, ere it can fully receive the grace now which leads to the glory hereafter. So we are not only strengthened for, but by, sorrow; and one of God's ways of "stablishing" us is to cut away all other props, that we may lean all our weight upon him. Faith, then, out of the lion brings honey, wrings hope and assured triumph out of the very pains and foes that beset us, as if one should draw lightning to guide him on his road from the heavy thunder-clouds that frown above him. When sorrow comes, see in it a part of that Divine plan which issues in eternal glory, see in it one of the channels by which that plan shall be accomplished, that glory reached, and the grace of the God of all grace enter more abundantly into your heart. So good cheer will be born of sadness, as radiant morning from night, and your light affliction, which is but for a moment, will bring you even now a confidence in God and an enlarged strength, which are precursors and pledges of an eternal weight of glory. - A.M.
Parallel VersesKJV: But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.