Triple Perfection
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…

The Revised Version makes two changes of some importance in this passage. The word "settle" is removed to the margin. And the form of the whole passage is changed from that of a prayer to that of an assurance: "The God of all grace shall Himself perfect, stablish, strengthen you." It may be taken as a revelation.

I. First of all, WHAT GOD ACTUALLY IS — a "God of all grace"; that is, of grace for all men, and of every kind of grace. Its contents may perhaps be defined best as unmerited goodwill, showing itself in act or waiting in perpetual eagerness for an opportunity to show itself. Now it is one of the peculiarities of the Christian religion that it represents God as in eternal possession of such grace, and as always ready and disposed to exercise it towards man. Other religions are apt to confine the goodwill of the God within the limits of the country, or the tribe, or the association of tribes, or to represent the God as gracious only to some men, although ungracious and His heart entirely closed against others. To all our dull questionings whether God really loves us, the one reply the New Testament makes is simply that He is "the God of all grace," in such a sense that no higher degree of grace on the one hand, and on the other no defect or arbitrary restraint of grace, can be conceived of Him.

1. That reply is worth lingering upon, in order that we may teach ourselves more confidently to adore. Through all nature it is easy to trace God's grace or effective goodwill towards man, nor is it necessary to suppose that it is altogether confined to man. That He Himself feels pleasure at the beautiful things He makes, whether they spring into being as the product of a fresh creation or evolve their glories out of some "closely packed germ," may be inferred from the phrase in Genesis (He "saw that it was good.") In the shapes of the leaves, the colours of the flowers, and all the fragrance of the garden, it is possible to see not only the skill of the Creator in providing for the vital purposes of nature, but His generosity also in weaving beauty and use in His processes and decking His handiwork with glories that are almost superfluous but for pleasure.

2. It is much the same with history, God's providential administration of the world. Grace of every kind and degree, of patience, and discipline, and spiritual help, may be traced all through it, vindicating the interests of righteousness, leading men on to ever clearer moral perception and completer moral attainment. To that statement it is questionable whether any exception can be taken. On the part of some men, indeed, it is customary to hold that the testimony is divided, that whilst in certain places the race has declined and fallen, in others only has it risen and advanced. But there is a distinction, of primary importance in human affairs, which does not seem to warrant such a conclusion. Man's progress through the centuries appears at times to be confused and slow. But that is exactly what might have been expected from man; and if any long period is taken, and his condition at the close compared with his condition at the beginning, as far as morality and the highest and innermost interests of the man are concerned, it will not be easy to question either that the progress has been very real and great, or that the cause of it all has been the overflowing grace of God.

3. But no manifestation of that grace in any other sphere can compare with its manifestation in religion. "Who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus." This states that the grace is so great as to be able to satisfy itself with nothing less than that we should be with God, partakers of His nature and sharers through eternity of His glory. Of course the apostle added "by Christ Jesus," for no Christian with the thought of God's grace in his mind can keep it separate long from its companion thought of the Saviour. For that there are at least two reasons. Whenever a man wants to know the heart of God, the best mode is to dwell upon the kindliness and patience and love of the Saviour amongst men, to trace them all back to the Divine source from which they come, and to regard them as but sparks and emanations, dulled in their passage earthwards, of the ever-glowing Love that sits upon the throne of the heavens. Secondly, and chiefly, the gift of Jesus Christ is at once the most magnificent and the most irrefragable proof Jehovah could give that His grace is like His justice, without defect and without limit.

II. Let us turn now to the revelation the verse contains of WHAT MAN MAY BECOME.

1. The same second phrase, "called to His eternal glory," sets it forth in part, but is almost too ideal dud even inconceivable for exposition. For what the glory of God is, in the sense in which the word is used here, His own state of blessedness, the eternal beatitude that fills and surrounds Him, of necessity no man can tell. It must include all the gratifications that pure spirit is capable of receiving, with no liability to interruption or loss, and with all kinds of associated joys, each of which exceeds man's highest imagination. And all this glory is to be ours — the discord and strife of our natures forever quieted; the whole moral nature beatified, perfected, assimilated to God. In that respect, too, the Christian religion does not believe in limitations.

2. The other part of the revelation of what man may become can be more easily understood. God "shall Himself perfect, stablish, strengthen you," writes the apostle; and he may also have added "settle you." The first word implies such adjustment as issues in exact fitness to relationship — the making a man precisely what he ought to be in regard of his attitude towards God, towards his fellow men, towards his own conscience and sense of duty. The second word means radically power to resist and stand firm; and the third, power of effective strength by means of which conquests are made and obstacles overborne. The last word, "settle," denotes the laying of a firm foundation, like the rock of which our Saviour speaks, whereon if a man build, his house will be able to defy the vehemence of wind and weather. There is thus a triple perfectness, set before us and even pledged to us in this verse, as the revelation of what man may become; fitness to all moral relationships, strength to resist every assault of Satan, power of progress and triumph which nothing can hinder, and all this resting upon, nay, built into a foundation so firm that the might of hell cannot shake it. There are, however, two or three facts frequently familiar to the thought of every one, which make the prospect opened up by St. Peter very blessed, but sometimes very dubious. The one is our almost constant consciousness that the motives of our best acts are mixed, some right, but others in every way unworthy. That "alloy of impure motive" — at times it seems to be a defect we cannot escape from, "tainting our best moments," turning men's mistaken praise into the parent of humiliation and self-reproach. But that is not the worst. Moralists teach that the range of man's duty is "co-extensive within the range of his moral consciousness"; or, in other words, that the standard at which he aims should contain the completeness of everything, which his conscience when most sensitive recognises as dutiful and right. Two miserable results immediately follow. Every one knows that his performances day after day insist upon lingering a great way behind his standard; and every one must occasionally fear that the standard itself has shrunk, because the conscience has been dulled by past trifling and sin. The emphatic positiveness of this verse will not, however, permit itself to be overlooked. And instead of giving way to doubt and questioning the possibility of our perfecting, it is better that we should set ourselves to find out how such a blessing may be certainly ensured and enjoyed. St. Peter does not hesitate in his teaching or qualify his words in any way. He says distinctly that only God can do it for us, and that He will do it because His grace is complete and full. We must therefore get the Spirit of God into our hearts by trust in Him, and become possessed of Him, or the thing remains of necessity hopeless. There are indeed at the present day, as there have ever been, strong tendencies to look in other directions for the power that will confer the greatest benefit upon society anal upon the individual. Sometimes it assumes the shape of the study of some form of art or branch of science, of devotion to an impossible equality or an unreasonable hierarchy, of a kind of progress that slaughters the unit and passes on to a remote and general triumph, of culture, or combination, or the coercion of the will. Doubt, however, is long-lived and hard to kill; and still it may be our fears are whispering to us, Can He perfect me, and will He? It is almost certain that Peter was an old man when he wrote these words; and an old man's counsel and assurance, especially when they are based upon his own actual experience, are not to be despised. In his youth and earlier manhood he had lacked steadfastness. If, therefore, reason and experience have any validity at all, there is no room left for doubt. It is an argument in which no possible flaw can be found; the grace of God is not liable to exhaustion or abatement, and therefore whatever it has actually done for others it can do for us. The God of all grace will do it for us. That grace of His will go with us wherever we go, constantly compassing us about, sustaining our hearts, preparing us for blessedness.

(R. W. Moss.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: But may the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a little while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.

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