1 Peter 1:17-21
And if you call on the Father, who without respect of persons judges according to every man's work…
In saying "if ye call on the Father," the apostle did not mean for a moment to express any doubt; the "if" simply introduces a premise on which a conclusion is to be based, as when St. Paul wrote, "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above." There was no uncertainty as to whether the readers of the Epistle — Christianised Jews scattered abroad — were calling upon the Father, or more correctly, as to whether they were calling Him Father. That was just what they were doing, having learned to do so in their conversion to the Christian faith. They had always believed in a righteous, impartial Governor of the world — the God, namely, of Moses and the prophets, who was supremely the just One; and now, since their surrender to Jesus as their Master, and their acceptance of His Gospel, they had come to name this God, the Father. He whose throne was in the heavens, who hated iniquity and ruled with faultless justice, He was the Father. "And if He be," says the apostle, "pass, I pray you, the time of your earthly sojourning, in fear." A true word, a word spoken in utter sincerity, and representing what is fact, may yet prove very misleading — may convey or suggest something contrary to truth. If language be a vehicle of thought, it is far from being always an adequate or a safe vehicle. Now the word, "Father," we might anticipate, would speak alike to all. The relation which it designates is common enough. Yet how differently the word may affect different individuals, what different pictures it may conjure up before them! As to what it shall express to any of us, much will depend upon the kind of domestic experience we have had, upon the kind of home with which we are most familiar, in which our childhood and youth were spent. Oh, the world of grand and sweet meaning for you, in the word Father! What a solemn, noble, gracious sound it has! But here is another, upon whose ear it falls with no sound of music, in whose mind it is associated with harsh and tyrannical exercise of authority. It brings to his recollection a testy, passionate, wrath-provoking man, whose ways were hard to bear; or a man, cold, stern, austere, whose presence chilled and rather discomforted, or one who, while protecting and ministering, was uncertain in judgment — now weakly lenient, now unreasonably and unwholesomely strict. And St. Peter would seem to have apprehended that it might be thus with his readers, that in calling the Divine Governor, Father, they might scarcely be alive to all which the name implied; for he proceeds to indicate to them how it behoved them to be moved and affected by the sense of God's Fatherhood. "Since you worship as the Father, Him, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning in fear." And it is very likely that this conclusion of his rather surprised and staggered them. "In fear!" they would exclaim, perhaps; "should he not have written, on the contrary, 'in comfort and peace,' 'in bright courage and hope'"? Yes, yes, most surely; but then, it should inspire you also with a great awe, and if it do not, the whole meaning of the word Father cannot have been grasped by you; for the true Father is not merely the gracious Protector, Succourer, Provider, but the constant, persistent, earnest, unsparing Educator, also, whose love deals closely and inexorably with each child of the family, in desire for his due training and his best development. Now, as may have been the case with the people whom St. Peter addressed, we perhaps, are possessed with too poor and low an idea of fatherliness, and, more or less blinded by that idea, need to be reminded of what he saw and sought to inculcate, namely, that the Fatherhood of the Almighty is a very solemn reality, and serves to render life very serious. There is, I think, a widespread tendency to repose in it as involving rather less demand upon us for moral care and earnestness, as allowing us to be rather less particular about the cultivation of righteousness, rather less anxious concerning our spiritual condition and quality. "Let us not be troubled greatly," they say to themselves — "let us not be troubled greatly if we are negligent and unfaithful, and do not amend or improve as we should; is not the Judge and Ruler the Father, and will He not therefore be gentle with us; may He not therefore, overlook much, and make things considerably pleasanter for us in the end than we deserve?" Are there not those who reason thus from the thought of God's Fatherhood? Yet did they consider and understand, the very thought in which they find relief, would rather set them trembling. For, see, what government is so close and penetrating as the government of a true father? Is there anything in existence to compare with it? How very much it takes cognisance of, to frown upon, and rebuke, which no other government notices! Parents will often punish severely, where the police would never interfere. The man whom the lad has to fear, when others show lenity, is his father, and because he is the father. A father's rule, again, a true father's rule, consists not merely in legislating and in punishing when laws are broken, but in studying to train toward obedience — to school and discipline, with the object of eliminating or checking what is wrong, and guiding and helping to the formation of right habits. He not only commands good conduct, and visits the opposite with his displeasure, but endeavours in every way, and by every means, to influence to goodness, and to educate the child on all sides, with whatever exercises and appliances may seem fitting, to the best of which he is capable. To this end, he watches over and pursues him. Do we not acknowledge, that to be at all careless about the training of our children, and their culture by us to better things, is to be unfatherly, and that the fondness which passes by a fault demanding correction, rather than draw forth tears and put to grief, is not true paternal love? If then there be a Divine Governor of mankind, all-holy and just, the principle and spirit of whose government is really paternal, is it not a profoundly serious thing for us men, in our state of confessed imperfection, with so much in us which as yet falls short of and is contrary to holiness? What hope can there be of rest or happiness, what hope of acquittal, for unrighteous souls, if God, the infinitely righteous, be the Father? Can He ever be content to tolerate them as they are, to leave them as they are, unvisited, unmeddled with? If He be indeed the Father, what chance can there be for one of us, of our not receiving according to our works? Do you not perceive the certainty, the inevitableness of due punishment upon the supposition of His Fatherhood? I think of the suffering that must yet be in store for such; for without suffering, how are these habits and sympathies of theirs to be worked out? and I know, methinks, that they will have to be worked out; that the great paternal love will not be able to refrain from them, or stay its hand until they are.
(S. A. Tipple.)
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: