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COMMENTARY ON 1 PETER.

By Dr Peter Pett BA BD (Hons-London) DD

The Sender and Recipients of the Letter And Their Status (1.1-2).

1.1 ‘Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the elect who are sojourners of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.’

The letter is addressed by ‘the Apostle’ Peter to district churches in Asia Minor (modern Turkey), their names given in the order in which the messenger would visit them. It is probable that these areas were areas that Paul had not visited (Galatia here referring to northern Galatia). Peter may well have been on his way to these churches when he stopped off in Pisidian Antioch to spend time with the local church (Galatians 2.11). It may well have been because Peter was ministering in Bithyinia that the Spirit of Jesus barred Paul from going there (Acts 16.7). Paul always sought to work in areas that were as yet unreached (Romans 15.20).

Peter saw these churches as colonies of Heaven living on earth who must not allow earthly affairs and tribulations to discourage them or defile them. They were ‘strangers and pilgrims on the earth’ and must therefore press on towards their goal (1 Peter 2.11), while anticipating tribulation and persecution on the way, because their ways were not of this world.

This is one of the main themes of Peter. They have left the world behind (2.11) and have entered into the obedience of Jesus Christ (1.2, 14, 22). While continuing fully in that obedience they are thus to hold lightly to the things of this world, having their eyes fixed on God’s purpose for them in this world (2.1-10) and on the salvation yet to come (1.13-14; 4.4-5).

‘An Apostle of Jesus Christ.’ In the early church ‘Apostle’ (one sent forth, a messenger, a personal representative) had two meanings. One meaning (regularly defined in terms of ‘an Apostle of Jesus Christ’) was in order to indicate the select band set apart by God through Jesus Christ (Luke 6.13) who had been given special knowledge and understanding in order that they might set forth the infallible truth (John 14.26; 16.13-15 compare 2 Timothy 3.16; 2 Peter 3.16), a band into which Paul was incorporated as a result of his special calling and revelations (Galatians 1.16; 2.7-9). One or two others (such as the Lord’s brothers, Barnabas and possibly Silas/Silvanus), who were witnesses of His life and resurrection (Acts 1.21-25), may also have been included more loosely under the heading as a result of their special status. This kind of Apostleship ceased on the death of the last of the Apostles (probably John). The other meaning of ‘apostles’ (with a small ‘a’) was as referring to representatives and messengers (apostoloi) of the churches (2 Corinthians 8.23), but they were never referred to as ‘Apostles of Jesus Christ’.

This designation as ‘an Apostle of Jesus Christ’, made without qualification at the commencement of a letter, is unique to Peter. Paul always qualifies it with ‘in the will of God’ or something similar. James sees himself as ‘the servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ’. But Peter was aware of having been personally and officially chosen by Jesus Christ Himself, and this unconscious emphasis tends to indicate the genuineness of the ascription (an imitator would have mimicked Paul). It could, of course, have been used by any of the eleven, for they alone had been appointed directly by Him as ‘Apostles’ (Luke 6.13). This is not to downgrade Paul, merely to bring out the different circumstances behind his appointment, of which he himself was very conscious.

‘The elect.’ That is, ‘those who are chosen and called out’. The New Testament Scriptures constantly make clear that God has chosen out and elected some among mankind for Himself, ‘according as He has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love’ (Ephesians 1.4; see also Romans 8.28-30, 33; 9.11; 11.5; James 2.5; Matthew 24.22, 24, 31; Colossians 3.12; 1 Thessalonians 1.4; 2 Timothy 2.10). But the test of whether we are truly elect is to be the response in our lives, which will demonstrate that God has begun His work within us (Philippians 1.6; 2.13; 2 Peter 1.10). To Peter the word ‘elect’ was very significant. He had never forgotten that moment when Jesus had said to the eleven, ‘You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you’ (John 15.16), and he had felt that thrill of being chosen by Him. And he wanted all true Christians to recognise that they too had, in the same way, been personally chosen and called out by the Master, and were safe in His keeping.

In the Old Testament the true Israel were called God’s elect (Deuteronomy 4.37; 7.6-7; 14.2; Isaiah 45.4), but as Paul brings out such a status only belonged to those who were truly responsive to God (Romans 11.5, 7), something which the prophets had already brought out (e.g. Hosea 1.10). Throughout Scripture the difference is continually brought out between the true believers, sometimes many, sometimes few, who walk in faith and obedience (Genesis 15.6; Isaiah 7.9; 28.16; 30.15; 43.10; 53.1; Habakkuk 2.4; contrast Deuteronomy 32.20), in contrast with those who by their lives rejected God as revealed in their unbelief and disobedience (Nehemiah 9.26; Hebrews 3.12, 19; 4.11), and it differentiates between those who were His people, and those who were ‘not my people’ (Hosea 1.9-10). Compare the ‘seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to Baal’ whom God had reserved for Himself in the time of Elijah (1 Kings 19.18; Romans 11.4-5).

‘Sojourners of the Dispersion.’ The ‘sojourner’ is someone who is temporarily dwelling in a foreign country and not in his native land, and the emphasis in the word is on the transitoriness of the dwelling. It was used of Abraham’s dwelling in Canaan, as one who had no settled home (Genesis 23.4), and in Psalm 39.12 of the dwelling of God’s people on earth. All Christians are thus to be seen as ‘sojourners’ on earth because Heaven is their native land to which they will soon be going. The ‘dispersion’ (diaspora) was the technical name given to the Jews who lived outside Palestine and were dispersed in many countries. But Peter is here writing mainly to ex-Gentiles, as is clear from 1.14, 18; 2.10; 4.2-4. (To Peter the actual term ‘the Gentiles’ always indicates the unbelieving majority of mankind - 2.12; 4.3. It does not include former Gentiles who were now Christians). Thus by this description he was indicating that the church were the true people of God dispersed among the nations, and that as such they were ‘strangers and pilgrims in the earth’ (2.11).

He was by this indicating that the church is now the true Israel (John 15.1-6; Galatians 6.16; Ephesians 2.11-22; Romans 11.17-28; Galatians 3.29; compare Matthew 21.43). And it is important to note that this did not mean a kind of symbolic Israel, as though there could be two Israels running in parallel. Rather it means that the true church, composed of both the bedrock of believing Jews and the incorporation of believing ex-Gentiles, were to be seen as the genuine ‘descendants’ of Abraham (Galatians 3.29), and the true stock of Jacob, with believing Gentiles being incorporated into the true Israel spoken of by the prophets in accordance with Exodus 12.48 combined with Colossians 2.11. Compare Matthew 16.18; 21.43, and see our article on ‘Is the Church the True Israel?’.

To Peter, Paul and the other Apostles unbelieving Jews were no longer members of Israel. They had been ‘cast away’ and ‘cut off’ (Romans 11.15, 20; John 15.1-6), and believing Gentiles had been grafted in. Thus Biblically speaking there is now no Israel destined to inherit the promises other than ‘the assembly/congregation/church/ekklesia of Jesus Christ’, who are the true ‘sons of Abraham’ (Galatians 3.29). The point is that we ARE Israel, God’s elect, and there is no other. And if some of the cast off Israel are to become true Israel it can only be by being grafted into Christ (Roman 11.23), and it may be that God has gathered the Jews in Palestine for that purpose. But while they may call themselves Israel, God does not. The true Israel of the promises is the church of Jesus Christ, God’s elect (Isaiah 45.9; 49.3; 65.9, 22; Romans 11.7). And if ‘Israel’ are to become Israel, it must be by submission to Jesus Christ and uniting with His people. There is now no other Israel.

1.2 ‘(Elect) according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied.’

And who are the ‘elect’? Here they are clearly defined, and it will be noted that it is in terms of the activity of the whole Godhead, an activity which results in our being fitted for His presence and becoming obedient to His will.

  • Firstly they have been chosen ‘according to the foreknowledge (prognosis) of God the Father’. This word ‘foreknowledge’ does not just signify ‘knowing about beforehand’. It involves a direct sovereign activity of God whereby by His own will He enters into relationship with all who are His from eternity past. In other words He has us marked down for His own and relates to us from before the world began.

    The ‘knowledge’ indicated by ‘gnosis’ is the ‘knowledge of experience’ in contrast with ‘the knowledge of the intellect’ (oida). A man ‘knows’ his wife when he engages in the most intimate activity with his wife (Genesis 4.1). When God ‘knew’ Abraham He was personally choosing him out (Genesis 18.19). Christians are ‘known by God’ (1 Corinthians 8.3; Galatians 4.9) because He has entered into a special relationship with them. It is a relationship word. We might therefore translate prognosis as ‘entered into relationship with beforehand’.

    We can compare here Acts 2.23 where Jesus was ‘delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge (prognosis) of God’, signifying that what happened to Him was the work of God, fixed by His counsel, and experienced by Him even before it happened. God was with Him in it before its occurrence. Compare also Romans 8.29, ‘whom He did foreknow, them He did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, and whom He did predestinate them He also called.’ Once again His foreknowing is the first stage of His activity. It begins the work of God which He has determined from beginning to end. All began with His active ‘foreknowing’ of them. Note that it was those spoken of who were foreknown, not their future. He foreknew them. Thus Paul could declare that those whom God has foreknown could never be cast away (Romans 11.1-2) because their destiny is the result of His active will. They are His.

    For this idea of being ‘known’ beforehand by God compare Genesis 18.19, “For I have known him, to the end that he may command his children and his household after him, that they may keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice; to the end that the LORD may bring on Abraham what He has spoken of him.” There once again to ‘know’ meant to ‘set the mind on and choose out’.

  • Secondly it is ‘in/by sanctification of the Spirit.’ These words are very important because they indicate that the sanctifying (setting apart to God) work of the Holy Spirit is assumed throughout the whole of the letter. It undergirds everything that is said. Furthermore those who preach the Gospel do so by ‘the Holy Spirit’ Who was sent forth from Heaven (1.12). Those who have been born of God desire ‘spiritual’ (logikos) milk, the milk of the word (logos) which has caused them to be ‘begotten’ by God (2.2 with 1.23), and are built up a ‘spiritual’ (pneumatikos) house (2.5). If they are reproached for the name of Christ ‘the Spirit of God rests on them’ (4.14). His presence is assumed at every stage in the work of obedience which results from His sanctifying activity.

    The word ‘sanctification’ means to be ‘set apart for a holy purpose’, and where it is ‘of the Spirit’ it results in that person becoming ‘a new creature in Christ Jesus’ (2 Corinthians 5.17), and being ‘begotten again to a living hope’ (1.3). The fact that this phrase comes before being ‘sprinkled with the blood of Jesus’, and results in entry into a state of ‘obedience’, indicates that this sanctification is inclusive of an initial activity of God prior to, and resulting in, salvation for the one in question. It is initially by this activity of the Spirit that men and women are brought to believe, and are transformed in the inner man (are brought to the obedience of faith - Romans 1.5), while at the same time being made pure by being ‘sprinkled with the blood of Jesus’. This active work of the Spirit results in ‘belief of the truth’ (2 Thessalonians 2.13), and therefore in the response of faith that ensures the full enjoyment of salvation, the consequence of which is that we are ‘in Christ’, with our lives ‘hid with Christ in God’ (Colossians 3.4).

    As a result we can be spoken of as ‘those who have been sanctified once for all’ (1 Corinthians 1.2), even though we have not yet been made completely holy inwardly. The Corinthians were in fact far from holy inwardly. And yet they were seen as ‘sanctified once for all’. It means that we have been set apart with perfection in view, because the glory of God has descended on us as His Temple (1 Corinthians 6.19; compare John 14.23). We have been taken over by God. And thus, because Christ ‘is made unto us sanctification’ (1 Corinthians 1.30) as He encloses us within His own sanctifying of Himself (John 17.19), we are ‘perfected for ever’ in His sight (Hebrews 10.14). In Him we have thereby been ‘set apart as holy’, as being wholly for His use and glory, just as the sanctified vessels in the Temple were wholly set apart as holy (although the latter was not by the Spirit’, the Spirit introduces a new, living element into sanctification as Peter makes clear in 1.3-5). We can compare also, ‘you have been washed, you have been sanctified, you have been justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God’ (1 Corinthians 6.11), where sanctification occurs in parallel with justification, which incorporates a similar idea. This sanctification is as true of the youngest believer as it is of one of sixty or more years standing. They have been ‘begotten by God’, ‘born again’, ‘newly created’, and ‘set apart as holy’ by God, in a work which will continue on and bring them to perfection in the Day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1.6). We should compare here Hebrews 10.14.

  • Thirdly it is ‘Unto obedience.’ Obedience was central to the saving work of Christ. ‘He learned obedience by the things which He suffered’ (Hebrews 5.8). This was not just something that happened on the way but was an essential, for that was why He had come, to do the will of His Father, and it was this obedience that fitted Him to be a sacrifice on our behalf (Hebrews 10.5-10). So through the sanctifying work of the Spirit we are united with Him in His obedience, an obedience which was fulfilled on our behalf (compare Romans 5.19), and will be fulfilled in us in our lives.

    It is as a result of Christ’s will having been set to obey God in this way, in other words ‘through His obedience’, that it became possible for us to be sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Hebrews 10.10). But such a work on our behalf must itself inevitably have its outward observed and inwardly experienced effect within ourselves. Thus we are absorbed into His obedience and can be called ‘children of obedience’ (1.14).

    Being conjoined with Him in His obedience initially results in the first acts of obedience which are ‘repentance’ (Acts 2.38; 1 Thessalonians 1.9) and ‘belief of the truth’ (2 Thessalonians 2.13), and this must result in a continuing ‘obedience of faith ‘ (Romans 1.5; 16.19, 26), which is an ongoing obedience (Romans 6.17-18) which results from His working within us to will and to do of His good pleasure (Philippians 2.13) as we ‘obey the Gospel’ (4.17; Romans 10.16; 2 Thessalonians 1.8), and are ‘obedient to the truth’ (1.22). Thus by the sanctification of the Spirit the one foreknown of God is borne forward by His irresistible will, becoming obedient as He Who was foreknown of God was obedient in the face of suffering (1.19-20). This ‘required obedience’ will be outlined practically in 2.11-3.12.

    It is unfortunately true that we may temporarily resist Him at times, and fall short in our obedience, but if we are His we can be sure that at such times our resistance will be taken note of and broken down by His chastening or by His love through the Spirit, so that we are eventually carried along in His purposes. Indeed we are warned that if we are without this chastening, which results in such obedience, then it make it clear that we are not true sons and daughters of God our Father at all (Hebrew 12.8).

  • Fourthly it accomplishes ‘the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus.’ This is usually interpreted in terms of the sprinkling of the blood of the covenant offerings on the altar and on the people in Exodus 24.1-11, with the idea that those sprinkled are incorporated within the covenant. We can compare with this, ‘this is My blood of the covenant which is shed for many for the remission of sins’ (Matthew 26.28). And we would not argue with this as being an aspect of its meaning. Certainly our being set apart in holiness does bring us within the new covenant (Galatians 3.17; Hebrews 8.8-12).

    But it should be noted that the verbs used for sprinkling in Exodus 24 LXX are prosecho and kataskidazo while in LXX (which Peter was using) the word used here, hrantismos (sprinkling), is used only in respect of the sprinkling with the water of purification and expiation into which had been mixed the ashes of a sacrificed heifer (Numbers 19.9, 13, 20, 21; compare 8.7). This water for purification or expiation was sprinkled on those who had been defiled, but were now restored, and was in order to remove the taint of their uncleanness, and it was used in conjunction with various offerings.

    Connection with this aspect of cleansing comes out in that this letter is mainly written to ex-Gentiles. All Gentiles were seen as ‘unclean’ because of the way that they lived, and the idea is that those who have come to Jesus and have been sprinkled with His blood are now clean. They are no longer ‘unclean Gentiles’. And we should notice in this respect the call to be ‘holy’ in 1.15. These words are taken from Leviticus 11.44 where they were a call to avoid all that leads to uncleanness and to be holy. So there is a great emphasis here on being made spiritually ‘clean’ and fit to come into God’s presence and enjoy the promises. It is a further confirmation that they are a part of the new Israel.

    (The first thing that a Gentile who wanted to become a Jew in the time of Christ had to do was have an initial once-for-all bath for the ‘removal of uncleanness’. This is replaced here by the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus).

    All this would tie in with the idea that the blood is sprinkled on those who have been brought into a state of obedience through the obedience of Christ (see introduction). They have come under His covenant and are now committed to Him. They have been spiritually ‘healed’ from anything that was rendering them unclean. Thus they have also now been sprinkled so as to purify them as a result of their ‘healing’, their having been made clean by God.

    This would further tie in with the idea of ‘sanctification’ above, and indicate our being made clean, pure and acceptable to God. But here the water of purification, which had initially been made into an atoning medium through receiving the ashes of the heifer (Numbers 8.7), is seen as replaced by the even more efficacious blood of Jesus (compare 1 John 1.7). And this idea of shed blood (1.19) incorporates within it the whole compass of Old Testament sacrifices and offerings (Hebrews 10.12). It is because they have been sprinkled with His purifying blood that they are sanctified in God’s eyes (compare Hebrews 10.14; 13.12). The verb hrantizo is also used in Psalm 51.7 (LXX 50.9) of the sprinkling with hyssop, and there it was for the removal of uncleanness seen in terms of sin. For the use of hyssop as a sprinkler in this way see Numbers 19.6, 18; Leviticus 14.4 (but note also Exodus 12.22, although ‘sprinkling’ is not mentioned there). So the main emphasis here would appear to be on the removal of spiritual uncleanness.

    However, all ceremonies undoubtedly included within them to some extent both the thought of positive participation in the covenant, and of the purifying in the eyes of God of the persons involved, and we may similarly therefore see here both the idea of being brought into personal participation within the covenant through His blood, and that of being made pure in the eyes of God. As with entering into the state of obedience (the equivalent of coming under the Kingly Rule of God), so also with the sprinkling, it is initially once for all, but then continues on as a necessary ongoing process (1 John 1.7).

So they are ‘chosen’ as those who have been ‘foreknown by God the Father’, it is ‘in the sanctification of the Spirit’, and it is unto the ‘obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus’. It will be noted that all these themes will be taken up in what follows in this chapter. For the ‘sanctifying’ work of the Spirit see 1.3-5. For ‘obedience’ see verses 14, 23. For ‘setting apart in present holiness’ see verses 15-16. For the effectiveness of ‘the blood of Jesus’ see verses 18-19. For the significance of ‘foreknowledge’, and how it associates us with Jesus Christ in His death see verse 20. Note also that ‘obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ’ are here in 1.2 closely connected in one phrase by the use of one preposition, emphasising the closeness of the connection between them and indicating that both are ‘of Jesus Christ’ (see introduction).

The Resources That We Can Draw On.

‘Grace to you and peace be multiplied.’ Here Peter now reminds us of the resources that are available to us, resources which are ‘multiplied’ to us by God (compare Ephesians 1.3-14). The first resource is ‘the grace of God’, that is, the unmerited, undeserved compassionate activity of Gods on our behalf mediated through Jesus Christ. (G-R-A-C-E = God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense). Thus the Gospel is the Good News of the grace of God (Acts 20-24). It is by the grace of God that we are ‘sanctified in the Spirit unto the obedience of Jesus Christ, and the sprinkling of His blood’ (1.2). It was by the grace of God that the church was first built up as the Spirit fulfilled His ministry (Acts 4.33; 11.23; 13.43; 14.26; 15.11; 18.27). For ‘grace’ indicates the undeserved, unmerited favour of God which is active towards the weak and unworthy, revealed through the power of His Spirit. It is totally apart from merit (Romans 11.6). It is the grace of God which brings salvation to all men and women (Titus 2. 11). It is by His grace that we are declared righteous through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3.24). It is in grace that we stand and hope in the glory of God (Romans 5.2). It is by the grace of God, and His gift through grace by our Lord Jesus Christ, that our offences have been dealt with (Romans 5.15) enabling us to reign in life by Him (Romans 5.17). It is the grace of God which reigns (in us) through righteousness unto eternal life (Romans 5.21). We owe everything that we are in Christ to the grace of God (1 Corinthians 15.10). And in our lives God is able to make all grace abound towards us, so that we having all sufficiency in all good things might abound unto every good work (2 Corinthians 9.8). His grace is sufficient for us in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12.9). It is in His grace that we have been ‘engraced’ in the Beloved, in Whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of His grace (Ephesians 1.6-7). It is by grace that we are saved (Ephesians 2.5-8). And so we could go on. For His grace is revealed to us and made effective in us by the working of His Spirit. In the words of Peter, grace is ‘multiplied’ to us.

And because we experience continually the grace of God we have ‘peace’, peace with God (Romans 5.1) because we are accounted as righteous by Him, peace from God (Romans 1.7; 2 Corinthians 1.20; Galatians 1.3) because He is concerned for our wellbeing and we walk in faith before Him, and the peace of God which passes all understanding filling our hearts in and through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4.7; Colossians 3.15).

Note On The Triunity Implied in Peter’s Descriptions in 1.2-3.

In these introductory words Peter speaks of ‘God the Father’ (1.2), and then of ‘the God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ’ (1.3) This immediately implies a unique relationship of Father and Son. This relationship is depicted especially clearly in John’s Gospel, although also reflected in the other Gospels (see below on verse 3). As ‘God the Father’ God is over all things (Malachi 2.10; Ephesians 3.14-15), but as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ He has a unique relationship with Him, and with those who are ‘in Him’. Especially to be noted is the fact that in such a context Jesus can be called ‘our Lord’, and this when speaking of Him in the same breath as God the Father (see also Acts 2.36; 7.59; 20.21). It is ‘God the Father’ and ‘Jesus our Lord’ to Whom we look.

In contrast to the Jew it was God Who was ‘our Lord’. And in the ancient Gentile world divine beings were called ‘Lord’. No Jew who did not recognise the divine nature of Christ would have so spoken of Him in such direct relationship to God. We can compare how Paul similarly uses the terms ‘God’ and ‘Lord’ so as to parallel Jesus with God (1 Corinthians 8.6). There is in this a clear indication of co-divinity.

Significant from this point of view is the reference to the ‘sanctification of the Spirit’. While indicating a separateness of the Spirit, this need only imply here the extension of God’s invisible activity (the idea behind the term Spirit when used of God in the Old Testament), but Peter will later refer to Him as also ‘the Spirit of Christ’ (1.11) indicating that He can be the Spirit of both Father and Son, and in 1.12 He is ‘the One sent from Heaven’, while in 4.14 the Spirit of God rests on His people. Thus triunity is at least implied.

We should compare with Peter’s words (given in brackets in the following quote) the description in 2 Thessalonians 2.13-14, ‘God chose you from the beginning (elect according to the foreknowledge of God) unto salvation in sanctification of the Spirit (in sanctification of the Spirit) and belief of the truth (unto obedience), whereunto you were called in our Gospel to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ (and the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ).’ For other triune statements of God see also Matthew 28.19; 2 Corinthians 13.14.

End of note.

The Great Privilege and Blessing That Is Theirs As God’s Elect Which Even Angels Desire To Look Into (1.3-12).

The result of God’s foreknowing of us, and of the sanctifying work of the Spirit is now made clear as Peter expands on the activity of God. He is emphasising that God Himself works on us and within us through ‘sanctification in the Spirit’, and gives praise to God for it. This will then be followed in verses 13-16 with the expansion of ‘unto obedience, and in 17-20 with the expansion of ‘unto sprinkling of the blood of Jesus’. The wonder of it so thrills him that he bursts out in thanksgiving. ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ --’.

For this opening in praise compare the selfsame phrase in 2 Corinthians 1.3; Ephesians 1.3, and note the constant use of the verb ‘blessed’ for the same purpose in the Septuagint (LXX - Greek Old Testament). See for example Genesis 9.26; 24.27; 1 Kings 1.48; 5.7; 8.15, 56; Psalm 68.19; 72.18; 144.1 and compare Psalms 34.1; 103.1-2; 104.1. See also Luke 1.68. This is thus phrased like a typical Jewish prayer, although in this case ‘Christianised’, for each day every Jew would ‘bless’ God as his Creator concerning His provision for man. But now Peter blesses Him as ‘the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ’, for His spiritual provision for redeemed man through the resurrection. For Peter all centres on Christ and His resurrection, following His death on ‘the tree’ (2.24). This description as ‘the tree’ is a typically Petrine way of putting it. Compare for the same emphases Peter’s speeches in Acts 2.22-36; 5.30-32. But as with John, and unlike Paul whose emphasis is different (although note Titus 3.5), Peter emphasises it in terms of the ‘new birth’ (or more strictly ‘the new begetting’).

It is perhaps worthy of note that we find here the usual spiritual foundations. They are begotten again to a living HOPE (verse 3) --- they are guarded by the power of God through FAITH unto salvation (verse 5) --- and it has resulted in joyous LOVE (verse 8). These are the three essential attitudes of the Christian life. Compare 1 Thessalonians 1.3; 1 Corinthians 13.13.

1.3-4 ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his great mercy has begotten us again to a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, unto an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that does not fade not away, reserved in heaven for you,’

We should note here Who it is Who has wrought for us, it is ‘the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ’. And we should note what He has wrought. ‘He has begotten us again to a living hope’ (note the emphasis on ‘living’). And we should further note the means by which He has wrought this, ‘by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead’, and what the result is for us, ‘to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that does not fade away’, an inheritance as sure and eternal as His own resurrection life.

  • ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ.’ Note the stress on the fact that God is uniquely the Father of ‘our Lord, Jesus Christ’. This contrast between God’s eternal Fatherhood of His Son (He is the Father of His Son - verse 3a), and His fatherhood of His people (He has begotten us - verse 3b), comes out constantly throughout the New Testament. The ‘God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ’ parallels Jesus description of Himself as uniquely ‘the Son’ in relation to ‘the Father’ (Matthew 11.27; Mark 13.32; Luke 10.22 and regularly throughout John, see e.g. 5.17-26). Jesus never spoke of ‘our Father’, with ‘our’ including Himself, but always of ‘My Father and your Father’ (John 20.17). Note also in Matthew’s Gospel how in the first part Jesus speaks regularly of God as ‘your Father’ while in the second part He speaks regularly of ‘My Father’. The disciples were to pray ‘our Father’, but Jesus never did so Himself. Having made them aware that as believers God was their Father in Heaven, He also wanted them as they advanced in their awareness to recognise His own unique status and relationship with God

    ‘Our Lord Jesus Christ.’ In this description is summed up what He is to us. He is ‘our Lord’, sovereign over our lives, God of our worship, supreme over all things, the Lord of glory (1 Corinthians 2.8; James 2.1). ‘Lord’ was a regular Gentile title for deity, and in the Septuagint is used to translate the Name of God. As Lord He is closely associated with the Father.

    But as ‘Je-sus’ (Yah is salvation) He is closely associated with us. He is God made man for our salvation (compare Matthew 1.21, 23), our Elder Brother as the Trek Leader of our salvation (Hebrews 2.11), the One Who humbled Himself and became man on our behalf (Philippians 2.6-8), the One Who was tempted in all points in the same way as we are, and yet without sin, with the result that He is therefore able to succour us in our own temptations (Hebrews 4.15; 2.18). Furthermore He is ‘the Christ’, the ‘Anointed One’, God’s promised One, Whose coming was prepared for from the beginning (Genesis 3.15; 49.10; Numbers 24.17; 2 Samuel 7.16; Psalm 2.2, 6-9; 110.1; Isaiah 9.5-6; 11.1-4; Ezekiel 37.24-25; Daniel 9.25-26; Micah 5.2). No wonder then that he blesses God for giving us His Son.

  • ‘Who according to His great mercy.’ All is of the great mercy of God, His great compassion and goodness revealed towards the undeserving. Compare for the sentiment expressed here the parallel thought in Ephesians 2.4, ‘God being rich in mercy, for His great love with which He loved us -- made us alive together with Christ’. We are reminded by the reference to His ‘great mercy’ of the words of the hymnwriter, ‘depths of mercy can there be, mercy still reserved for me’. Can God really stoop to such as we? And we know that amazingly the answer expected is ‘yes’. This concept of God’s continuing great mercy pervades both the Old and the New Testament (e.g. Exodus 20.6; 34.7; Numbers 14.18; Deuteronomy 5.7; 10.9; and often).
  • ‘Has begotten us again to a living hope.’ Through Him we have been ‘begotten again’ by God (see 1.23; John 1.12-13; 3.1-6; James 1.18; 1 John 3.1-3; 4.7; 5.18; and compare the verb used in Isaiah 57.10). We have been born of the Spirit (John 3.1-6). Having originally given us life as the Creator, God has now imparted to us spiritual life through sanctification in the Spirit, and we have thus become ‘partakers of His divine life’ (see 2 Peter 2.4; Ephesians 2.4-5; Romans 6.23). We have been made His special children (John 1.12; 1 John 3.1; Romans 8.14-17) with the expectant and sure hope of eternal life, an eternal life which we already enjoy in a very real sense in the present (2 Peter 2.4; John 5.24; 1 John 5.11-13; Matthew 19.29; 25.46; Mark 10.30; Romans 5.21; Titus 1.2; 3.7), but will enjoy even more fully in the eternal future. As a result the life of God flows within our spiritual veins, and is the guarantee that we will share eternity with Him.

    It should be noted that by this stress on the new birth as a central theme in his letter Peter could be seen as being closer to John’s theology than to Paul’s. This is not a ‘confirmed Paulinist’ speaking, even though he shares many ideas with Paul (as we would expect of Peter, who, as Paul confirms, expressed agreement with his teaching - Galatians 2.2, 6). He is one who like John had learned from the Master Himself, see Matthew 19.29; 25.46; John 3.15-16; 5.24, 39; 6.54, 68; 10.10; 17.3. We can consider how this emphasis on new birth echoes Peter’s own words to Jesus in John 6.68, ‘You have the words of eternal life’. The thought is typically Petrine.

    Compare also 2 Peter 2.4 where he speaks of our being ‘partakers of the divine nature’. While Paul certainly taught the hope of eternal life (Romans 5.21; 6.23; Titus 1.2; 3.7), and believed in ‘regeneration’ (Titus 3.5), he tended to bring the idea out in a different way in terms of new creation (e.g. 2 Corinthians 5.17), and of being united with Jesus in His resurrection (Roman 6.4-5 and regularly). In fact, of course, all of them were interpreting the ideas of Jesus Himself (John 3.1-7), while giving them their own slant.

    ‘Who has begotten us again to a living hope.’ Believers are each begotten of God in certain hope of the resurrection. In God’s eyes we are ‘new-born babes’ (2.2). But there may also be included here the idea that we are also begotten as one whole (His church). Just as Israel of old was ‘My son, My firstborn’ as God began His work of redeeming them from Egypt (Exodus 4.22), but were also individually ‘the children of the LORD your God’ (Deuteronomy 14.1), so in the same way all who believe and thereby become members of His true church are begotten by Him as one whole, and yet are also each begotten individually (2.2; John 1.12-13; 3.1-6). Thus the ‘begotten AGAIN’ may signify that this is the Exodus experience being repeated (see Isaiah 66.8; Ezekiel 37; and compare Matthew 21.43). Originally Israel in Egypt were begotten as His firstborn son. But they had gone from Him. Now in the church through the resurrection Israel are ‘begotten again’.

    Alternately the ‘again’ may refer to the fact that each of us has first been born as a human being, and are now secondly born as believers as children of God through the Spirit (John 1.12-13; 3.1-6; James 1.18), by being made partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1.4). Either way the individual aspect must certainly not be lost sight of. We are each of us a ‘new-born babe’ (2.2). But nor must the corporate aspect be lost. We are built together into one spiritual house (2.5). That is why we must love one another fervently (1.22).

    ‘A living hope.’ That is, a certain and sure hope that springs from His life as the source of all life. It is a life-giving, life-guaranteeing hope of eternal life obtained through Him by means of His resurrection life. These words would have special significance for Peter as he remembered back to the disciples’ black despair when Jesus was crucified, and the glorious hope and joy that followed as a result of His resurrection. It is a promise of life out of the darkness of death.

  • ‘By the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.’ Our certainty and hope lie in the resurrection of our Messiah Jesus (Acts 2.33, 36; 1 Corinthians 15), which along with His coming and death is the greatest event in history. He was the firstfruits of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15.23), ‘the firstfruit of those who sleep’ (1 Corinthians 15.20), the guarantee of what is to come for all who are His (Ephesians 4.30). This fact unites us together in our salvation. Through this mighty event salvation is guaranteed for all whose trust is in Him, for from His risen life we receive life (John 10.17, 28; 1 John 5.12; Galatians 2.20).

    This idea of being ‘begotten again’ as a result of directly sharing in the life of One Who was raised from the dead is a uniquely Christian idea. What is received is ‘life in Christ’, heavenly life, triumphant life, life through death, life out of defeated death (Isaiah 25.7-8; 1 Corinthians 15.54; Hebrews 2.14), imperishable life, not simply as a renewed earthly life or some remarkable ‘spiritual’ experience, but as the renewed life of the resurrection in which was expressed the holy power of God (compare John 5.24-29; Romans 6.4; 1 Corinthians 15.20-23; Hebrews 2.14-15, and see Isaiah 25.7-8; 26.19) and which guarantees the resurrection of the body in spiritual form (1 Corinthians 15.44-45).

  • ‘To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that does not fade not away, reserved in heaven for you.’ And through His incorruptible and undefiled resurrection life, and through the word of God active through it, we ourselves receive the incorruptible seed of eternal life (1.23), which will result for us in an incorruptible, undefiled and unfading inheritance. The idea of an inheritance is of something freely given, and freely received. It is unearned and undeserved, and bestowed freely by the Donor, because He has accepted us as His sons and daughters. And it is ours because we are heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ (Romans 8.16-17).

    It also connects directly back to God’s promises in the Old Testament. Just as Canaan was Israel’s ‘inheritance’ as, having been redeemed by Him (Exodus 20.2), they travelled through the wilderness towards the promised land, the land of rest (e.g. Exodus 15.17; Numbers 26.53; 33.54; Deuteronomy 4.38), so is what awaits us in Heaven our ‘inheritance’ (compare Ephesians 1.14; 5.5; Acts 20.32; 26.18; Hebrews 9.15), obtained for us through the redemption of His blood (1.18-19; Romans 3.24), so that we are strangers and pilgrims on the earth (2.11) as we travel forward in a heavenly direction in expectancy of our inheritance. This idea of our heavenwards journey, and the dangers that must be avoided, is well brought out in Hebrews 2.10-4.11 (compare 2 Corinthians 10.1-13).

    Not the change of the inheritance from an earthly to a heavenly one (or more strictly to one on the new earth, which is the only place where an everlasting inheritance could be possible). This change in the situation of God’s promised inheritance to His people from an earthly inheritance to a heavenly inheritance is significant in relation to all God’s promises in the Old Testament. Like Abraham, the hope of the true Israel is no longer to be that of possession of an earthly land, but of possession of a ‘continuing city’ and of a Greater Land above. Compare Hebrews 11.9-16 which illustrates this quite clearly. ‘They sought a better country, a heavenly’ (Hebrews 11.16). And that was in reference to the direct descendants of Abraham! The land that they sought was not of this world. Consider also the new position of Jerusalem as the ‘Jerusalem which is above’ (Galatians 4.26; Hebrews 12.22), and the fact that Mount Zion is now in Heaven (Hebrews 12.22).

    And in this case the inheritance is directly connected with Christ’s resurrection life, which itself is eternal, incorruptible, undefiled (Hebrews 7.26) and unfading. It is a reminder that ‘the things that are seen are temporal, but the things that are unseen are eternal’ (2 Corinthians 4.18). The emphasis on ‘undefiled’ takes us back to the idea of the ‘sanctification of the Spirit’ and the ‘sprinkling of the blood of Jesus’. These have removed our defilement (1.2), thus enabling us to have a share in His undefiled life.

    ‘Incorruptible -- unfading.’ Jesus had constantly brought home to His disciples the contrast between the fading, corruptible things of this life in contrast with the unfading, incorruptible things of the next (Matthew 6.19-20, 33; 19.21; Luke 12.31-33; 18.29-30; 2 Corinthians 4.17-18; compare James 5.1-4). Peter has learned his lesson well. The eternal future would not be affected by such things as corruption and the effects of the passage of time.

    So in total contrast to the old Israel’s inheritance in Canaan, the inheritance of the new Israel is free from all possibility of invasion, corruption and death, it is free from sin and from all that could mar or spoil, and it is free from the ravages of time. ‘You have come to Mount Zion, and to the city of the living God, and to the heavenly Jerusalem, -- and to the general assembly of the firstborn who are written in Heaven, -- and to the spirits of righteous men made perfect’ (Hebrews 12.22-23).

    ‘Reserved (by God) in Heaven for you.’ And this has been reserved, kept safely, for us in Heaven. The Holy Spirit, Who has been given to all who truly believe in Jesus Christ, is the sample and guarantee (the ‘earnest’ - Ephesians 1.14; 4.30; 2 Corinthians 1.22) of what is to come, something which Peter now tells us is ‘reserved in Heaven’ for us. Our reserved table awaits us where the Master Himself will serve us (compare Luke 12.32 and its context, including verse 37). Whatever happens to us in this world, once we are truly His our inheritance can never be taken away from us, and it is all the result of the grace of God active through the power of His resurrection, and made sure to us by Jesus Christ Himself (John 10.27-29; 1 Corinthians 1.8-9; Philippians 1.6; 3.10; Jude 1.24).

1.5 ‘Who by the power of God are being guarded through faith unto a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.’

And all these things are guaranteed to us because we are ‘being continually closely guarded’ (a direct military term) by the power of God, (compare John 10.27-29), Who has our salvation always in view, so that we will be made ready to be manifested and openly revealed ‘at the last time’. This is a security enjoyed by us ‘through faith’. But it should be noted that it is not the faith that ensures the guarding. It is not saying that our being guarded is dependent on our faith. Rather the faith receives it, and rests in it, and rejoices in it. It is a reminder that, while not being dependent on our faith, God’s work never goes on without man’s involvement (compare Philippians 2.12-13), for once God has begun to work it must eventually become apparent to all.

The fact that we (or our salvation) must be ‘revealed at the last time’, that is, at the consummation of the age, is a reminder that it is His purpose to present us before Himself, holy, without blemish and unreproveable (Colossians 1.22). It is a reminder that salvation not only involves our being made acceptable in His sight, but also involves our being made like Him (Romans 8.29; 1 John 3.2-3). That is why we must be changed from glory into glory (2 Corinthians 3.18). That is why He is at work within us to will and to do of His good pleasure (Philippians 2.13). It is because He intends to make us like Himself. It is because He has predestinated us to be conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8.29). But there is no salvation without the intention of, and desire for, transformation on our part. It is all a part of God’s working, but we must nevertheless ‘work it out’ with greatest care (Philippians 2.12).

‘Unto salvation.’ Salvation is a primary thought of this passage, compare verses 9 and 10, although there our present salvation is more in mind. Behind all God’s activity it is our ‘salvation’, our being redeemed to obedience and eternal life, which is in view. And here in this verse in Peter it is specially the final full salvation which is in view, when all is completed and we are presented in His image (Romans 8.29-30; 1 John 3.1-2; Colossians 1.22).

Note On Salvation In The New Testament.

Salvation in the New Testament is in fact presented in four tenses. In Titus 3.5; 2 Timothy 1.9 Paul speaks of ‘having been saved’. This is in the aorist tense, and indicates something that has happened once for all when a person genuinely responds to Christ. At that moment the person who believes enters into the sphere of Gods salvation. He becomes a sheep in the flock of the Good Shepherd with his future guaranteed (John 10.27-29). He becomes a patient of the Great Physician (Mark 2.17).

He also speaks of ‘having been saved and therefore now being saved’ (Ephesians 2.5; 2.8). This is in the perfect tense which indicates something that has happened in the past the benefit of which continues to the present time. This is what is in mind when we say a person has been ‘saved’, and is therefore now ‘saved’. This salvation has begun and is on its way to certain completion because the saving is done by Him. Such a person is being daily fed and cared for by the Good Shepherd (John 10.4, 27-28).

But the Bible also speaks of us as those who “are being saved” (1 Corinthians 1.18; 2 Corinthians 2.15) in the present tense and thus as being part of a process which is going on as God ‘works in us to will and to do of His good pleasure’ (Philippians 2.13). We enjoy and experience continually His saving work. This is probably what is in mind in 1.9, ‘receiving continually the salvation of your innermost beings’.

And it speaks of those who will be saved (1 Corinthians 3.15; 5.5; 2 Corinthians 7.10; 1 Thessalonians 5.9; 2 Thessalonians 2.13), the future tense and its equivalents (as found here in verse 5) reflecting something yet to be brought to full completion. In other words, when God ‘saves’ someone they are saved once and for all, and it is fully effective, but if it is genuine it means that it will then result in a process by which they are being ‘changed from glory into glory’ by God (2 Corinthians 3.18), with the final guarantee of a completed process, when they are presented before Him holy and without blemish. It is ‘unto salvation’ (1.5). If our salvation is not progressing, even though slowly, then its genuineness must be questioned. The Saviour does not fail in His work.

Consider a man drowning at sea, in a fierce storm, clinging to a life raft with one hand, his other arm broken and trailing behind, and both his legs paralysed, having been many hours in the freezing water and suffering from hypothermia, more dead than alive. Then along comes the life boat and drags him out and he gasps, hardly able to speak because of the seriousness of his condition, “I am saved”. Well, it is true. He is no longer doomed. But he has a long way to go. He would not have much confidence in his salvation if they put him to one side in the bow of the boat, with the waves lashing over him, and said to him, “Well, you’re saved now”, and then went off and played cards and then practised turning the lifeboat over. His confidence and dependence lie in a fully trained and capable crew who are dedicated to warming him up, treating him and getting him to hospital so that he can be fully restored.

So as they get to work on him, wrapping him in a blanket and gently warming his frozen limbs, trying to set his broken arm and doing everything else necessary to restore him to some kind of normality, he can begin to have hope and think gratefully to himself, “I am being saved”. But he may well still be aware of the winds howling round, and the boat heaving in the heavy seas, and the pain and agony of his limbs, and he may then look forward to the comfort of the hospital and think, “I will soon be saved”. If those crewmen, and the ambulance waiting for him on shore on that terrible night, can be so dedicated, can we think that the One Who died on a cross for us on an even more terrible night, can be less dedicated? And His lifeboat is unsinkable. But He does not just want us in the lifeboat. He wants us fully restored. And that is what He is determined to have. And we can be sure that the Good Shepherd and Great Physician will not fail in His task. But if we want to be saved it is full salvation that we must want! We cannot say, ‘Lord, save me, but leave me as I am’. And that is what Peter is stressing here.

End of note.

This Work Will Go On Amidst Our Present Trials And We Must Therefore Keep Our Eyes On Him (1.6-9).

But while salvation may in the end be guaranteed for all who are truly His, there is no promise that the way ahead will be easy for the chosen. Many of us will discover at some stage that in this world we are travelling through ‘the valley of shadows’ (Psalm 23.3), for we are human, and we live in a dark and sinful world, and life can be full of trouble. However, we learn here that we must recognise in such troubles the means by which God continues to refine us, and especially to strengthen our faith, as we look to Him in our troubles, and keep our eyes firmly fixed through faith on the One Who is our continuing Saviour. For this will all turn out to be for our salvation (our total restoration to what we should be). The Potter is shaping the clay, and it can be painful, but while remembering that we must never forget the words of the Psalmist, ‘the Lord is our shepherd, we will want for nothing’, so that even though we go through the darkest valley we need fear no evil (Psalm 23).

1.6-7 ‘In which you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been put to grief in manifold trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which perishes though it is proved by fire, may be found unto praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ.’

Peter now tells them that, although he knows that they are rejoicing in their salvation, he is not forgetful of the trying time through which they are going because of their commitment to Christ. And he encourages them, in view of the rejoicing that is theirs as a result of their commitment to Him, to consider what that suffering will mean for them eternally.

Peter has learned how necessary suffering is, but notice how, while not dismissing it, he turns the emphasis away from the thought of suffering to the thought of blessing and glory. We are to be greatly rejoicing in what God has done and is doing for us. And thus if fiery trials come on us (see 4.12 and compare 2 Corinthians 4.8-12) we should not be disturbed, for such trials indeed have a purpose which is very necessary for us. They will have the result of ‘proving’ our faith on the anvil of suffering, shaping it and deepening it, and demonstrating its reality, a proving which is much more precious than passing wealth, for it makes it firm and strong and able to cope with anything. For just as gold is refined in the fire, so will the fires of persecution and tribulation refine those who are His (see Isaiah 48.10; Zechariah 13.9; Malachi 3.2; Romans 5.3-5), with the result that we will come out of them with our dross removed and with the certainty that at the final ‘appearance and manifestation’ of our Lord, Jesus Christ (compare the same word in 2 Thessalonians 1.7, where the afflicted are encouraged by it), we will receive praise and glory and honour (1 Corinthians 4.5; 2 Corinthians 5.10; compare Psalm 8.5), and at the same time bring praise and honour and glory to Him (2.9; 4.11; Revelation 5.9-10).

The fact that our faith needs to be ‘proved’ is a warning to beware of faith that is false. The danger in a so-called ‘Christian society’ is that people can call themselves Christians for all the wrong reasons. Their faith might be in the church and what the church can do for them. Many a man who has lived like a monster has then looked to the church to put things right for him, often in return for large sums of money. But his faith has been in vain, because it was faith in the wrong thing. It was not faith in a living Saviour. But even humble people can live in the belief that the church will save them if only they go through the right ritual and mainly conform to the church’s requirements, following which they can live their lives as they choose. And they too are going to be disappointed. For unless they break through the barrier of the church to contact with Jesus Christ Himself they will be without hope. In the case of others their faith is in what they see as the goodness of their lives. They think that because they are respectably ‘good’ they will be acceptable to God. And they even think that that is the Christian position. Others like the message and atmosphere and comfort of the church and rest content in the hope that this will be enough to please God. They are sure that being in the right atmosphere must be sufficient to bring them into a condition where they are approved unto God. Many consider that the church has a noble philosophy with which they agree. They do not think that they need saving. Their faith is in themselves. John also tells us of many who ‘believed in Jesus’ because of the miracles that He did (John 2.23-25). They acknowledged that He was some great One. But they were not interested in any kind of commitment to Him. So Jesus would make no commitment to them. In a similar way Jesus warned of those who received the word, but in whom it was unfruitful It produced no real response within (Mark 4.15-19). Saving faith, however, goes beyond all these. For saving faith is the faith of someone who recognising his own inadequacy and sinfulness casts everything on Jesus Himself. He longs to be saved and he looks only to Him. And that is where persecution comes in. It helps to sort out people’s faith and to bring out whether it really is true life-affecting faith in Jesus Christ Himself, or faith in something else. There is nothing like persecution and suffering to make people think out their position. In Peter’s terms it makes them consider whether their faith is ‘unto obedience’.

Note that ‘greatly rejoice’ is in parallel with ‘put to grief, in heaviness’. There is no suggestion that he is unaware of what pain they are really suffering, or thinks that the rejoicing removes the pain completely. Indeed he recognises that such joy often goes hand in hand with grief. They rejoice while in pain. It is a warning that we must sometimes be ready to ‘praise God through gritted teeth’. The point is that we must be like Jesus Who ‘for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is sat down at the right hand of God’ (Hebrews 12.2). It is not wrong to weep, but it is certainly wrong not to have rejoicing accompanying our weeping as we recognise what God is, and what He is doing for us in it. For true faith will always triumph over present circumstances.

‘For a little while’ No tribulation lasts for ever, nevertheless it may not always seem ‘a little while to us’. However, it is always ‘a little while’ in God’s terms. For the real point is not how long it will last, but that it will not go on for ever. However bad it may be, it is temporal, not eternal.

‘More precious than gold which perishes.’ We refine gold because it is so valuable, but to God the faith of those who are His far outweighs the value of gold, and that is why He takes such trouble to ensure that by our being tried it remains firm and strong.

‘If need be.’ This could mean, ‘if the necessities of your environment require it’, or it could mean ‘if God feels it necessary for you’. It may well be inclusive of both thoughts, but is a reminder that not all will necessarily experience the same fiery trials, although all will at some stage necessarily experience the troubles of life and should recognise in them a preparation for that Day.

We can compare with these verses how James tells us to ‘count it all joy when you fall into varied testings, knowing that the proving of your faith works patient endurance’, resulting in our becoming ‘perfect and entire, wanting in nothing’ (James 1.2-4). See also Roman 5.3-5; 2 Corinthians 8.10, and note Proverbs 17.3; Matthew 5.10-12; Acts 5.41; Romans 8.31-39. Thus we constantly learn that it is ‘through much tribulation’ that we will ‘enter under the Kingly Rule of God’ (Acts 14.22). On the other hand we should ever note that Jesus taught us to pray, ‘do not lead us into testing’ (Matthew 6.13). Suffering is not something that Christians should seek, or that should be courted. We must leave it with God to determine what is necessary for our good, and what we can bear, and then we must trust Him through it.

1.8-9 ‘Whom not having seen you love; on whom, though now you see him not, yet believing, you rejoice greatly with joy unspeakable and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.’

The one thing above all that will sustain us is our love for Christ. Not some soft, sentimental emotion (although there is nothing wrong with that in the right place), but the love that springs from gratitude and appreciation of what He is, and what He has done for us. We love Him (and others) because He first loved us (1 John 4.19).

Unlike us Peter had himself seen Him face to face. He had seen Him and had known Him in His daily life. But He recognised that for his readers and for us, faith takes the place of sight. It is not, however, blind faith. We do not just ‘believe’ in the dark, for we have Jesus revealed for us in the Gospels and can assess Him from them. True faith is based on illuminated reason (even when we do not realise it). That is why unbelief is without excuse. The evidence is there for all to see in His life and teaching, and even the words of critics cannot hide it, for its truth and beauty shine through. And when those whose hearts are open consider His life and assess His teaching, what He is will be opened up to them (John 7.17), for none other has ever taught like He did, none other has lived as He did, and they will know that He truly is ‘the Christ, the Son of the living God’. One thing is sure, and that is that no one invented the life and teaching of Jesus (apart from Jesus). It is beyond man’s inventive capabilities.

Many talk as if faith and reason are contrary to each other, but on that basis we could believe anything. The truth is that (even though they may not recognise it) the humblest Christian believers exercise reason when they make their response of faith. They see Him for what He is revealed to be and their hearts respond to Him, because they recognise in that revelation the evidence of His divine Being. They know that there is no other explanation for Him. And the Holy Spirit, Who reveals this to them, confirms it in their hearts.

And it is because we have ‘seen’ Him through His life and teaching and death for us (Hebrews 2.9) that we love Him, so that, although we cannot see Him with our eyes, our hearts reach out to Him in love and we believe continually (present tense) with all our hearts, with the result that we rejoice greatly with joy unspeakable and full of glory. Compare Jesus’ words in John 6.35. ‘He who comes to Me will never hunger and he who believes in Me will never thirst’. And the consequence of such a faith, both in the present and in the future, will be the salvation of our souls (see note above).

‘Receiving (continually) the salvation of your souls.’ For the significance of the verb ‘receiving’ compare ‘on Whom believing’. Both are in the present tense. The believing is a present experience and so is the receiving of salvation. It is going on even as we experience the trials, and it is guaranteed to the end. When we first truly believed (assuming that we have done so) we ‘were saved’ once for all. We were marked off as one of His elect. As we go on believing we go on being saved because we are one of His elect. The Holy Spirit continues His sanctifying work in us. And one day faith will turn into sight and then we will be fully saved. ‘He will gather together His elect -- from one end of heaven to the other’ (Matthew 24.31; compare 1 Thessalonians 4.13-18). For it is all the result of the foreknowing of God and the sanctification in the Spirit.

The word for ‘receiving’ is in the middle voice and signifies the receiving for oneself of a promise, or of a benefit, or of one’s just deserts. The word is also used in respect of a person receiving wages in respect of what he has done. We can note its use in 2 Corinthians 5.10 where those before the judgment seat of Christ receive for themselves in respect of what they have done, whether it be good or bad; in Ephesians 6.8 where ‘whatever good thing each one does, the same will he receive for himself again from the Lord’; in Colossians 3.25, where ‘he who does wrong will receive for himself the wrong that he has done’; and in Hebrews 10.36, where Christians ‘have need of patient endurance that having done the will of God we may receive for ourselves the promise.’ Thus we receive the salvation of our souls through believing, because thereby the Holy Spirit makes fully applicable to us the obedience of Christ, and as we believe and obey so we receive. Is it then of merit? The answer is ‘no’. And the reason that it is not is because it is the result of what He works in us, not the result of our own goodness. It is received freely through the response to His love of our faith as a result of the sanctification of the Spirit.

‘The end (telos) of your faith.’ That is, its aim and goal. Compare 1 Timothy 1.5; James 5.11; Romans 10.4.

‘The salvation of your souls.’ This does not mean that a small part of us called our ‘souls’ will be saved. It means that we will be saved in all that we are. It refers to our very lives. We will be saved spirit, inner man and body.

‘ouk idontes (having not seen Him)-- me horowntes (not now gazing at Him).’ The change in the negative particle from ‘ouk’ to ‘me’ is an indication that the words are written by an eyewitness as if he had distinguished, ‘You have not seen Him’ from ‘-- we now not gazing at Him.’

The idea of ‘seeing Jesus’ is a theology in itself:

  • 1). The prophets ‘saw’ Jesus as they looked ahead and prophesied about Him.
  • 2). The disciples literally saw and beheld Jesus as He walked among them. They were witnesses to His life (Acts 1.21; 2.22; John 1.14; 1 John 1.1-4) and resurrection (Matthew 28.10; John 20.29; Luke 24.31).
  • 3). Both His followers and His enemies ‘saw Jesus’ through His triumph in the establishing of His Kingly Rule through the early church (Matthew 16.28; 26.64; Mark 14.62).
  • 4). Paul literally saw Jesus as the resurrected Jesus on the Damascus Road (Acts 9.27; 1 Corinthians 9.1). Compare Acts 7.55 where Stephen also saw the resurrected Jesus reigning in Heaven.
  • 5). Believers ‘see’ Jesus as they read the Scriptures and look to Him in faith (Hebrews 2.9; compare 2 Corinthians 4.6; 3.18), but like the prophets, they do not see Him with their eyes.
  • 6). Those who are alive at His coming will literally see Him in His glory (Matthew 26.64).
  • 7). One day all who are His will literally see Him face to face (1 John 3.2; John 17.24; 1 Corinthians 13.12).

This Salvation Is What The Prophets Saw Before Its Time As They Prepared The Way For His Coming (1.10-12).

Peter now stresses that what the prophets saw ahead in previous centuries was pointing to what we are experiencing. The ‘church age’, in which believing Gentiles are incorporated into Christ as the new Israel, is the fulfilment of the expectancy of the prophets, and the implication is that we need look no wider for the significance of their message. It is in the new Israel which is ‘in Christ’ (the new Vine in place of the old (John 15.1-6) and is founded on the One Who as representing Israel came out of Egypt to call a people to Himself (Matthew 2.15; 16.18; 21.43)) that all God’s promises to ‘Israel’ will find their fulfilment. And this message is so important and so central that the prophets spent their valuable time diligently searching it out, and it is so precious that even the angels of Heaven now desire to look into it. It is the truth on which both prophets of old, through the Holy Spirit, and angels now, have set their whole concentration. It is only unbelieving man who sets it aside as unimportant.

1.10 ‘Concerning which salvation the prophets searched intently and enquired diligently, who prophesied of the grace that (should come) to you.’

This salvation which is on offer is not something newfangled. It is the salvation of which the Old Testament prophets spoke in the past, and which they had put a great deal of effort into understanding. And it is they whose eyes were opened, and who prophesied of this wondrous gracious activity of God which we in the church, both ex-Jews and ex-Gentiles, now experience (see for example Isaiah 42.6; 49.6). They had seen the wider vision of what the grace of God could do. To Peter the ‘church age’ was not a mystery hidden from the prophets, but was central to their message. In Peter’s eyes we, and what we are experiencing, are the fulfilment of their hopes.

‘The grace that (should come) to you.’ Literally ‘the grace unto (eis) you’. A verb has to be read in. They prophesied of the undeserved favour and saving activity of God that was to come. It is grace to both Jews and Gentiles. This ‘grace unto you’ is the consequence of ‘the sufferings unto Christ’ (verse 11).

1.11-12 ‘Searching what time or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did point to, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of (or ‘unto’) Christ, and the glories that should follow them. To whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but to you, did they minister these things, which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent forth from heaven; which things angels desire to look into.’

For the prophets had within them ‘the Spirit of the Messiah’, as through the Holy Spirit Christ had revealed to them beforehand the truth concerning His coming, and the times that lay ahead, including both His sufferings and all the glories that would follow. And that is why, in the final analysis, the prophets recognised that the time was not yet, and that their prophetic message was not for themselves but for us, and they thus ministered to us. To Peter, as to Jesus and Paul, Christ’s ‘congregation’ (Matthew 16.18) is the renewed Israel, so that all the promises concerning Israel apply to us, and it was us who were in God’s mind when the prophets prophesied.

‘Searching.’ The prophets did not just placidly wait for inspiration. They studied the Scriptures. ‘To the law (the torah) and to the testimony. If they speak not according to this word, surely there is no morning for them’ (Isaiah 8.20). They studied God’s Instruction (the Torah, the first five books of the Bible). They studied the prophets who came before them. E.g. Isaiah 2.2-4 parallels Micah 4.1-3; Jeremiah regularly takes up the ideas of earlier prophets, as does Daniel specifically (9.2); and so on. How much more then should we be searching the Scriptures (Acts 17.11; 2 Timothy 2.15; 3.15-16).

‘The Spirit of Christ.’ Peter had been present in the Upper Room when Jesus had indicated that the Spirit would come at His behest and in His Name (John 14.16, 26; 15.26; 16.7) when He had entered into His glory. Thus the Holy Spirit would come from Christ in His glory. But Jesus had at the same time also emphasised that He had previously had that same glory with the Father from Whom He had come (John 17.3, 5). He was God’s Anointed One from before time began (1.20). Thus Peter applies the same idea to the past experiences of the prophets. They too had benefited from Christ sending the Holy Spirit to them from His glory (compare 2 Peter 1.21). Thus the use of the term ‘the Spirit of Christ’ links up with the fact that the Spirit had come to them to reveal the ‘sufferings unto Christ’, which were foreknown and determined before the foundation of the world (1.20; compare Acts 2.23). He was very much involved with the Godhead’s plan of redemption for the world.

‘The sufferings unto Christ.’ The point is that grace has come ‘unto us’ (verse 10) because of the sufferings that came ‘unto Christ’. Both are God’s activity. But the use of eis (unto), (used instead of saying ‘of Christ’), may also be intended to link Christ’s sufferings with his readers’ sufferings. Suffering had come to Him, and suffering comes to us in His Name (just as the sanctifying Spirit was ‘unto obedience’ so our sufferings are ‘unto Christ’), and both were prophesied of old. For His people share with Him in His sufferings. But in view of the contrast with ‘grace unto us’, and of the references in Acts 3.18; 17.3; 26.23 where there is an emphasis on Christ’s sufferings as ‘fulfilling’ prophecy, we must certainly see the idea as primarily including the sufferings of Christ Himself. Significantly both ‘the Son of Man’ and ‘the Servant of the Lord’, prophetic titles claimed by Jesus, were terms which indicated an individual who came out of suffering (Isaiah 50.3-8; 52.13-53.12; Daniel 7.13-14 with 21-22), while at the same time incorporating a group who did the same (Isaiah 49.3; Daniel 7.21-22, 25, 27; compare Daniel 7.17 where the wild beasts are ‘kings’ with 23 where the wild beasts are ‘kingdoms’).

Peter’s emphasis on the ‘suffering’ of Christ in his letter contrasts widely with New Testament emphasis elsewhere. In all his letters Paul only refers three times to the sufferings of Christ, firstly in Romans 8.17, where he writes ‘if we suffer with Him (Christ), we shall also be glorified with Him’; secondly in 2 Corinthians 1.5 where ‘the sufferings of Christ abound towards us’; and thirdly in Philippians 3.10, where Paul desires to enter into ‘the fellowship of His (Christ’s) sufferings’. He does of course refer to the death and sacrifice of Christ in other terminology, but in his letters he clearly reserves the idea of His suffering to times when he is speaking of our participation with Him in His sufferings. Thus He lays no emphasis on the fact of His sufferings as something in itself, but only in relation to His people’s sufferings. It was a little different in his evangelistic preaching for the term is twice applied to his preaching in Acts, both in an evangelistic context. Firstly where he taught ‘from the Scriptures’ that the Christ must suffer (Acts 17.3), and secondly where he speaks of the prophets declaring that the Christ must suffer (Acts 26.23). In both these cases he is drawing on the Old Testament depictions of the sufferings of the Christ (e.g. Isaiah 50.3-8; 53; Psalm 22; Daniel 7), and the idea of suffering is seen to link with what was prophesied. Interestingly apart from these examples, and in Hebrews, no other letters refer to the ‘sufferings’ of Christ.

Hebrews refers more regularly to the suffering of Jesus/Christ, five times in all. ‘Jesus -- was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death’ (to pathema) ‘tasting death for every man’ (Hebrews 2.9); He (Jesus) was ‘made perfect through sufferings’ (Hebrews 2.10); ‘though He (Christ) was a Son yet He learned obedience through the things that He suffered’ (5.8); He (Christ) did not offer Himself as an atoning sacrifice annually otherwise He must often have suffered since the foundation of the world (9.26); in order that He (Jesus) might ‘sanctify His people by His own blood He suffered outside the gate’ (of Jerusalem - 13.12). Here three of the references are to His suffering as a sacrificial offering on our behalf, while two refer to the purifying effects of suffering on Jesus Christ Himself. Note also that three of the references (a different three) refer to the sufferings of ‘Jesus’, while two refer to the sufferings of ‘Christ’. In the first two cases it is because He is there being closely allied with His manhood and His incarnation. He is suffering because He was made man, but in the third case the reason for the difference is not so obvious, although it might have been in order to stress His oneness with His people for whom He was dying as a human being. However what is clear in these references is the emphasis on the fact that Jesus Himself did suffer as a human being, and that He suffered as the Messiah.

But to Peter the idea of the sufferings of Christ is more central and constantly emphasised. In his short letter he refers to it seven times, always with reference to ‘Christ’, and with different emphases. The first example parallels Paul’s usage in Acts, referring to the prophecies of the sufferings of the Messiah, and connecting that suffering with His people. ‘The Spirit of Christ -- testified beforehand the sufferings unto Christ and the glories that should follow’ (1.11). The second connects His sufferings with His people’s sufferings, in a similar way to Paul in his letters. ‘Christ suffered for you leaving you an example that you should follow in His steps’ (2.21). The third lifts Him up as an example of how to behave under duress. ‘When He (Christ) suffered He did not threaten’ (2.23). In the fourth case He is dying as a sacrificial offering as in Hebrews 13.12; compare 9.26. ‘Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God’ (3.18), although again it is connected with the suffering of His people. In the fifth case His suffering is used as a call to His people to be willing to suffer as He did, for their own good, as it will be an aid towards their being made perfect, as it was for Christ in Hebrews 2.10; 5.8. ‘Forasmuch then as Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin (by dying with Him)’ (4.1). In the sixth case suffering for His sake, and thus participating in His sufferings, is a cause for rejoicing because of the ultimate joy and glory that it will bring. ‘Insomuch as you are partakers of Christ’ sufferings, rejoice, that at the revelation of His glory also you may rejoice, with exceedingly great joy’ (4.13). In the seventh case there is a very personal reminiscence of His sufferings. ‘I -- who am -- a witness of the sufferings of Christ, who am also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed’ (5.1).

Thus he has seven references in all, and all teaching varying lessons, although most also connect with His people’s sufferings. We may possibly also add Acts 3.18, where Peter speaks of ‘the things that God foreshowed by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ should suffer’, which ties in with 1.11 (compare Luke 24.26). Thus to Peter the sufferings of the Messiah lay at the root of every aspect of the Gospel, as something deeply imbedded in his own heart. Like Hebrews Peter reveals himself as more intensely aware of the fact that ‘Christ’ did actually ‘suffer’, yet nevertheless it is not the suffering itself which is in most cases the central emphasis in what he has to say, except in so far as it is an example to us. While the sufferings of His Master do clearly affect him, they do not prevent him from applying the lessons that arise. His thought is not sentimental. He is equally concerned with why He suffered.

This great emphasis on His suffering ties in with what happened at Caesarea Philippi, when Jesus spoke of His coming suffering in a way that upset Peter enough to make him denounce the idea, only for Peter to be put firmly in his place (Matthew 16.21-23), and with the fact that Jesus did later constantly emphasise to His disciples His coming suffering (Matthew 17.12; Luke 17.25; 22.15’ 24.26), and with the fact that Peter was a witness of His sufferings, especially in the Garden of Gethsemane and in the courtyard of the High Priest. Peter thus had cause to be very much aware of the sufferings of Christ, and of its importance in the scheme of things.

‘The glories that should follow.’ These glories will arise both in this world and the next. For the glories that would follow in this world see Isaiah 53.10b-12a and Psalm 22.22-31 where we enter into the aftermath of Messiah’s coming. ‘He will see His seed’ as they receive life through Him (Isaiah 53.10b). ‘The pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand’ as the Good News goes out to the whole world, and the many become obedient to Him (Isaiah 53.10b). ‘By His humiliation many will be accounted righteous’ (Isaiah 53.11). The meek will eat and be satisfied and will praise God (Psalm 22.6). ‘All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the kindreds of the nations will worship before Him, for the Kingly Rule will be the Lord’s and He will rule over the nations’ (Psalm 22.27-28). For the glories to come in the next world compare 1.4, 7, 21; 4.13-14; 5.1; Romans 8.18, 29-39.

‘The Spirit of Christ.’ The fact that Peter can speak in terms of ‘the Spirit of Christ’ speaking through the prophets clearly indicates his recognition of the pre-existence of Christ, for elsewhere such activity is connected with ‘the Spirit of God’ or ‘the Spirit of the Lord’ or ‘the Holy Spirit’, Who is also the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8.9) because He makes Christ known to men.

And we are told here that these words of the prophets have come to us through those who have preached the Gospel by the Holy Spirit Who has been sent down from Heaven, those who are the successors to the prophets. They have come through evangelists and teachers. For He has made clear to those who have preached the Gospel what the teaching of the prophets was really pointing to. There is here a clear reference to Pentecost. Not only did the Prophets receive their guidance from the Spirit, but the same Spirit was now at work through Christian preachers and Christian prophets. From the day of Pentecost onwards Peter had been aware of the consequences of that new beginning. The Kingly Rule of God was coming with power (Mark 9.1) through the proclamation of the Gospel empowered by the Holy Spirit. And he recognises that ‘these things’ are of such vital importance that it is the desire of all who are in Heaven to ‘stoop down and look into them’ and understand them fully.

Note On The Use Of The Term Prophets.

Some have sought to interpret these verses as referring exclusively to New Testament prophets. But this view must be seriously questioned:

  • Firstly because to any Jew like Peter the term ‘the prophets’ standing on its own would always indicate the Old Testament prophets (they called their Scriptures, ‘the Law and the Prophets’). And this was so even though there had been large numbers of ‘prophets’ in Judaism which were not included in this their natural use of the term in 1st century AD, whom for that purpose they ignored. Compare also 2 Peter 3.2 where the holy Prophets precede the Apostles. All knew who were in mind when a Jew spoke of ‘the Prophets’
  • Secondly because it is unlikely that an Apostle of Jesus Christ would have so spoken of New Testament prophets as seen independently of the Apostolate (he would in that case have said ‘the Apostles and prophets’. It is ‘first Apostles, and then prophets’ - 1 Corinthians 12.28). Note that he does not say ‘we prophets’.
  • Thirdly because he speaks of what they prophesied about as spoken ‘not unto themselves but unto you’. But had this referred to New Testament prophets it would have been very much for themselves as well as for Peter’s readers. It would have been intended for them all. The point is that the prophets had not benefited because they died before these things happened.
  • Fourthly because the indications are that the reason that the New Testament prophets were distinctive from other Christian preachers was because they spoke ‘under inspiration’ (1 Corinthians 14.29-32) and received direct divine intimations (Acts 11.28; 13.2; 20.23; 21.10-11) not because they searched diligently. Searching diligently was not a special attribute of New Testament prophets. All Christians, and especially preachers, were supposed to search diligently. But all knew that the Old Testament prophets distinctively researched the Scriptures, and cited previous or contemporary prophets.
  • Fifthly because while the term ‘the Spirit of Christ’ could certainly be seen as applicable to the Spirit, especially as sent by Christ to His Apostles (John 20.22) and the wider group (Acts 2.1-4), and to the church as a whole (Galatians 4.6; compare Romans 8.9) in response to what He had promised in John’s Gospel, nevertheless when connected with the New Testament prophets it is always as ‘the Spirit’ or ‘the Holy Spirit’ (Acts 11.28; 13.2; 20.23; 21.11; 1 Corinthians 12.3, 4, 7, 8, 11, 13, as applying to 12.28; 14.29-32), and there is a distinction between Christ and the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12.12-13). But see Acts 16.7, ‘the Spirit of Jesus’, although that may simply be signifying behaving in a Christlike way because Peter was already evangelising there. The Spirit of Jesus is not, however, necessarily the equivalent of ‘the Spirit of Christ’. On the other hand there is good reason for seeing ‘the Spirit of the Messiah’ as referring to the inspiration by which the Old Testament prophets proclaimed the Messiah’s coming.

End of note.

In The Light Of Their Great Privilege And Blessing They Should Set Themselves To Live Accordingly (1.13-16).

In the light of the wonder of the message that has come to them, and of the sanctifying work of the Spirit, His people are to tighten up the discipline of their minds and wills, fixing them on the goal that lies ahead. As a result they will receive the full benefits of God’s gracious and undeserved favour, ‘the riches of His grace’ (Ephesians 2.7; compare 1.7; 2.4), which are to be brought to them when Jesus Christ is openly manifested at His second coming.

Thus, as ‘children of obedience’ (verse 14), that is, as those who follow in the way of the obedience of Christ, they are to fashion themselves in accordance with that obedience to which they have been set apart in the obedience of Christ (verse 2; Romans 5.19; Hebrews 10.5-14). And this is to be in deliberate contrast to the way in which they had previously fashioned themselves in accordance with their worldly lusts and desires (verse 14) when they had been caught up in the ways of the world. In other words they are to turn their backs on the sinful ways of the world and are to set their hearts on being holy like God is holy (verses 15-16), by being obedient to His truth. Here is ‘sanctification in the Spirit unto the obedience of Jesus Christ’ being fully worked out.

If we see the first section from verses 3-9 as calling to ‘hope, faith and love’, we may see this second section as calling to ‘soberness, obedience and holiness’; that is, to sensible living, obedient living, and clean and holy living. That is what is to result from their hope, faith and love.

1.13 ‘For which reason, girding up the loins of your mind, be sober and set your hope perfectly on the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.’

Because of what he has said they are to ‘gird up the loins of their mind.’ The flowing robes that men wore hindered strenuous activity so that, for example, in order to run for any distance or go into warfare men had to ‘gird up their loins’, that is, gather up their robes in a girdle so that they would not interfere with their movements. (We might speak of rolling up our sleeves ready for action). So here ‘girding up the loins of your mind’ indicates ‘gathering yourselves together and tightening up the discipline of your minds and wills’, thus avoiding all loose thinking. This call to action was in total contrast to many of the religious experiences of those days which were actually intended to lift men out of their rational minds into an unthinking ecstasy. But those who follow Christ do not stop thinking, rather they think more deeply, but with a deeper understanding (see Romans 12.2; Ephesians 4.17, 23).

There may be in this phrase ‘gird up the loins’ a glance back to the Exodus when on Passover night the people had to eat their Passover meal with their loins girded (Exodus 12.11). Perhaps there is here the hint of a new Exodus (see introduction), as they are called on to leave the world behind and travel towards their inheritance.

And this is to result in sober and thoughtful living, with their eyes fixed on the goal that lies ahead. Their hope is to be set, not on worldly things, but on the riches of the grace of God which will finally be revealed in the good things that will be brought to them when Jesus Christ is openly manifested at His coming, and they share with Him His glory. They must live in the light of His coming remembering that the things which are seen are temporal, while the far more abundant things which are not seen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4.18). They must thus count worldly things as nothing, and eternal things as everything.

‘Be sober.’ In other words, do not be befuddled by wine, or by other detrimental things which can have the same impact (1 John 2.15-17). Rather they are to see things as they really are.

‘In the “being brought to you grace” in the revelation of Jesus Christ.’ This present participle may refer to the grace being brought to them in the present revelation of Jesus Christ, speaking of the impact of His first coming. Or it may refer to the grace which will be brought to them at His second coming. In the light of verse 7 we should probably see it as having in mind the grace to be brought to them in His second coming. But both equally apply. We receive grace now as Christ is revealed in our hearts. We will receive grace then when he is revealed in His glory.

‘The revelation of Jesus Christ.’ That is the time when the King’s presence is openly revealed, when the curtain is drawn back and He is seen in all His glory and authority. Compare 1 Corinthians 1.7; 2 Thessalonians 1.7. That revelation is made individually in every Christian heart even now when they come to Him with the eyes of their hearts being enlightened (2 Corinthians 4.6), but it will one day be made to all. Every eye will see Him (Revelation 1.7; compare Matthew 24.27). >p> 1.14-15 ‘As children of obedience, not fashioning yourselves according to your former lusts in your then-time ignorance, but like as he who called you is holy, be you yourselves also holy in all manner of living.’

And they must do this because they are now ‘children of obedience’, because they have been begotten again through the Obedient One, in the power of His resurrection (verse 3). By submitting to Christ they have entered into the obedience of Christ, and their lives are thus to reveal that obedience. Thus those who are Christ’s are called on to be Christ-like, they are to be ‘children of obedience’, following the way of obedience into which they have entered in Christ.

Peter remembered well Jesus’ words, “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do the things that I say?” (Luke 6.46). They will thus no longer think like the world thinks. They will not live as they had done when they were ignorant of eternal things, and of the living Christ. Then their lives had been fashioned, ‘cobbled haphazardly together’, by their foolish desires. They had lived to please themselves, driven by their own lusts. They had been ignorant (‘unknowing’), with no knowledge of God and without genuine moral standards. They had been ‘sons of disobedience’ (Ephesians 2.2; 5.6; Colossians 3.6). But now that they have become ‘children of obedience’ they are to be holy as the One Who has called them is holy. They are to be children of holiness, wholly set apart for God.

Note the contrasts. Firstly between ‘gird up the loins of your mind’ in contrast with ‘fashioning yourselves haphazardly. Secondly between ‘Be sober’ in contrast with living ‘according to your former desires’. And thirdly between ‘Set your hope perfectly’ in contrast with being ‘in your ignorance’. The Christian life is positive in its aims.

For the idea of ‘children of --’ compare the ‘children of wisdom’ implied in Matthew 11.19, and the ‘children of light’ spoken of by Jesus (Luke 16.8; John 12.36). They are the product of, and ‘follow after’, wisdom and light, and in this verse they are the product of the obedience of Christ and are to follow after obedience.

‘As He Who called you is holy, be you yourselves also holy in all manner of living.’ The purpose of the Spirit’s sanctifying work (work of ‘making holy’ - verse 2) is in order to make them holy, just as God, Who has foreknown and called them (verse 2), is holy (Isaiah 57.15; and often as ‘the Holy One’). And that is therefore what they should set their minds on. The holiness in mind here is that of moral holiness, for it is to be in ‘all manner of living’. They are to live in accordance with all God’s requirements. They are to be Christ-like in all their ways.

1.16 ‘Because it is written, “You shall be holy; for I am holy”.’

And this requirement is confirmed by the Scriptures. The citation is from Leviticus 11.44 (compare Exodus 22.31; Leviticus 19.2; 20.26), and is significantly connected there with the need for ‘cleanness’ and separation from all that grovel in the earth or bear the stamp of death (see our commentary on Leviticus). For that was the purpose of the laws of ‘cleanness’, to set their minds on what was wholesome and was free from the taint of death and corruption so that they may be truly holy to God.

These laws were not just haphazard regulations. They were based on very sound and identifiable principles and were intended to teach an important lesson which was very relevant here. The basic idea was that foodstuffs should be avoided that were in some ways connected with grovelling in the dirt and connecting with the dust of death. The animals that chewed the cud and had divided hooves spent their time eating in grassy areas and among good pasture, the remainder were often found in places where there was dirt and death. The birds that were acceptable generally obtained their food in the air, or among the grainfields, while those which were predators or waders were connected with death and delving into the mud. The fish that were clean swam in the clear water. The others swam in the murky dirt at the bottom of the river or sea. It was not just a question as to whether food was edible, (although it unquestionably acted to some extent as a kind of good health guide), but rather that not eating it was a testimony to the fact that as God’s people they lived cleanly and above the sphere of dirt and death. They were holy. It was the badge that marked them off from their contemporaries as belonging to a holy and living God.

Thus Peter was not calling on his readers to follow the food laws of Leviticus. He was calling on them to live lives that were above the general sordidness of mankind, by not delving into the corrupt behaviour of mankind in general, but walking in the higher sphere, in the way of righteousness. Compare how Jesus made clear the meaning of the laws of cleanliness when He pointed out that cleanliness came from a clean heart, while what was ‘unclean’ came from a sinful heart (Mark 7.15-23)..

‘It is written’ was a standard way of indicating that the words came from Scripture. It was also later used of the New Testament writings. It indicates that what is written in them is what will be. Once so written it is certain of accomplishment. Thus the requirement for holiness and Christ-likeness is the equivalent of being ‘fixed in stone’. The use of the passive tense leaving the subject unidentified regularly indicates in Scripture that God is the subject. ‘It has been written.’ Who by? By God. Thus it is God Who has caused it to be written. ‘Men spoke from God being moved by the Holy Spirit’ (2 Peter 1.21); compare also ‘words which the Holy Spirit teaches’ (1 Corinthians 2.13). And it is stressing that God’s final intention is that we should be made like Him so that we can dwell with Him (Isaiah 57.15).

Recognising What God Has Done For Them They Should Live Their Lives With Greatest Care (1.17-21).

The emphasis on obedience continues, and now it is linked with God’s remedy through the blood of Jesus Christ. Recognising that the Father on Whom they call is also their judge, Who judges without respect of persons, and that they have been redeemed by the very blood of Christ, they must live like it. They must live ‘in the fear and awe of the Lord’ which is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111.10; Proverbs 9.10). Having God as ‘Father’ is not to be seen as a grounds for assuming that we will be let off lightly. In Jewish families the father was expected to act to maintain discipline and ensure obedience to God’s Instruction. How much more then our Father Who watches over us and is jealous for us and for our purity, Who knows the whole truth about us, and from Whose eyes nothing is hidden.

The idea of ‘fear’ here is not of terror, but of reverent awe, recognising Whom God is and acknowledging that fact in our behaviour and attitude. We know that He dwells in the high and holy place (Isaiah 57.15), and expects of us His own peerless standards (compare Matthew 5.48). Redemption through the blood of Christ does not lessen our responsibility but makes it even greater. If we have been redeemed at such a great cost how can we ever possibly treat sin lightly?

1.17 ‘And if you call on him as Father, who without respect of persons judges according to each man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning in great and reverent awe,’

The stress in the verse is on ‘Father’. We might paraphrase, ‘And if it is AS FATHER that you call on Him.’ That is the glorious truth. We can call on Him as Father because he has begotten us again as His own. But the point is that when we do so we must remember Who and what our Father is. Believing that God is our Father is not a let out from holiness, it is a commitment to holiness. Because God is our Father we have a greater responsibility than all others to be holy, for we are our Father’s sons, and our behaviour reflects on Him. If we are not holy then men will not glorify our Father Who is in Heaven (Matthew 5.16), rather they will ridicule His Name. Thus we are to pay to Him the reverence and respect that is due to the One Who is Father and Judge of His family in all that we do and are. We are to be children of obedience.

Indeed, our Father is the Judge of all the world (Genesis 18.25). He treats none with favouritism. He does not excuse men because of their high status or their wealth. He judges all equally according to their lives. As Peter says elsewhere, ‘of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation he who fears Him and works righteousness is accepted with Him’ (Acts 10.34). And therefore we should conduct ourselves with greatest care, and with deep discernment. We should live a life that results from reverent awe as we realise Who God is. For knowing Him as we do, we have a greater responsibility than if we did not know Him.

‘The time of your sojourning.’ This is Peter’s continual emphasis, that we are living as strangers and sojourners as we make our way towards our heavenly home. It is in this light that we must constantly determine our attitudes.

1.18-19 ‘Knowing that you were redeemed, not with corruptible things, with silver or gold, from your vain manner of life handed down from your fathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb without spot, even the blood of Christ,’

And especially should we be filled with awe as we recognise the cost of what He has done for us. There we were living a vain manner of life, following in the footsteps of our fathers, counting silver and gold as the be-all and end-all of everything, and living as our fathers had done. And then our Father stepped in to act as our Redeemer and Deliverer. He delivered us from such a vain manner of living. He did not, however, redeem us with silver and gold, but with something infinitely more valuable, with the ‘precious’ blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot. He redeemed us through the obedience and death of Jesus. He lifted us into a new sphere.

Notice the stresses of the verse:

  • We were ‘redeemed’. That is we were set free through the payment of a price. We had been slaves to debt and sin, and our kinsman redeemer stepped in to pay the debt, and free us from the bondage of sin, from the bondage of our old manner of life. This illustration possibly looks back to the Law when someone who had become a bondslave in order to pay off an unpayable debt, was often set free by a kinsman coming in and paying off his debt, and thus ‘redeeming’ him (compare Leviticus 25.47 ff. In the same way we owe an unpayable debt to God because of our failure to do His will, a debt that only Christ could pay.

    Alternately Peter may have had in mind the Passover lamb. On the night when Israel were ‘redeemed’ from Egypt every household had to offer a Passover lamb in order to ‘redeem’ their firstborn from the sentence of death (Exodus 12), and the blood was sprinkled on the doorposts of their houses. And from that day on every firstborn son born in Israel had to be ‘redeemed’ from sentence of death by the slaying of a lamb or goat (Exodus 13.13), and became dedicated to the service of God. At the same time the whole of Israel were ‘redeemed’ from Egypt by the powerful arm of God (Exodus 6.6; 15.13; 20.2), a redemption continually celebrated at the Passover. And through Christ’s death and resurrection we too have been ‘redeemed’ in a similar way. Compare here 1 Corinthians 5.7, ‘even Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us’. Peter has remembered the words of John the Baptist, ‘Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1.29).

    This illustration would fit the whole passage well, for it includes the ideas of the sprinkling of the blood (1.2), the dedication to obedience (1.2, 14), and the deliverance of God’s people from a life of bondage to the old ways, as they set off as sojourners on their way to their inheritance.

  • And the price that He paid was the ultra-precious ‘blood of Christ’. It was a necessary price, for it was a price paid to bring us into obedience and into cleanness (1.2). Compare Paul’s ‘you were bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body’ (1 Corinthians 6.20). ‘The church of God which He purchased with His own blood’ (Acts 20.28). ‘In Whom we have redemption through His blood’ (Ephesians 1.7). And that could only be done through the One Who was obedient in all things, and who, being spotlessly clean, offered Himself to pay the price of sin in dying for us.

    ‘A lamb without spot.’ The sacrificial lamb had to be perfect in every way (compare Exodus 12.5; Leviticus 22.19, 20; Deuteronomy 15.21). In the same way Christ could only be offered because He was perfect in obedience.

    ‘From the vain manner of life handed down from your fathers.’ They had been brought up in the ways of idolatry and vain worship and useless living. They had lived for those who were no-gods. This was their heritage from their fathers. It emphasises that many of his readers were Gentiles. Godly Jewish Christians, descended from a godly Jewish home, would not have looked on their past in this way.

1.20-21 ‘Who was foreknown indeed before the foundation of the world, but was manifested at the end of times for your sake, who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead, and gave him glory; so that your faith and hope might be in God.’

And this act of redemption was not some last minute action made in despair. For the coming of Christ as the Lamb to be slain was foreknown before the foundation of the world. That is, it was planned and entered into by God before the beginning of time. Even before He created the world He faced up to the cost of redeeming His own (compare Acts 2.23; Ephesians 1.4; Romans 8.29), and knew in experience what it would involve. Thinking in terms of the Passover, He set apart the Passover Lamb before the foundation of the world. ‘Before the foundation of the world’ was a phrase that Peter had heard on the lips of Jesus when He had said to His Father, ‘You loved me before the foundation of the world’ (John 17.24).

And its manifestation was planned so as to occur at ‘the end of times’ for our sakes who through Him are believers in God. This is a reminder to us that while to us two thousand years may seem a long time, to Him it is simply ‘the end of the times’, ‘the last days’ (Acts 2.17). Compare ‘God -- has at the end of the days spoken to us in His Son’ (Hebrews 1.2), ‘once now at the end of the ages has He been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself’ (Hebrews 9.26). Compare also how Paul writes of believers as those ‘on whom the end of the ages has come’ (1 Corinthians 10.11). Pentecost and what followed is seen as commencing the consummation of the ages.

‘For your sake, who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead, and gave him glory; so that your faith and hope might be in God.’ And all this was done ‘for your sake’, that is, for those who ‘through Christ are believers in God Who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory’. It is because of the coming of Christ, and because of His manifestation to us, and because of His resurrection and His taking His place in glory, that we have come to believe in Him. And it was all God’s foreknown, actively worked out purpose from the beginning, and all carried through by Him, so that our faith and hope might be in God and in His mighty working.

‘And gave Him glory.’ Compare ‘the God of our fathers has glorified His Servant Jesus’ (Act 3.13; compare Isaiah 52.13; 53.12. See also Acts 7.55-56). This was the glory which He had had with His Father before the world was (John 17.5).

Being Begotten Again Of The Living And Eternal Word of God Has Purified Their Souls In Obedience To The Truth, And This Must Work Itself Out In Love For One Another (1.22-25).

He now outlines what should be their resultant behaviour. In all the Apostolic letters the expounding of divine truth leads on to the requirement for righteous living.

1.22-23 ‘Seeing you have purified your souls in your obedience to the truth unto unfeigned love of the brethren, love one another from the heart fervently, having been begotten again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the word of God, which lives and abides.’

The result of our entering into these great truths and of our being sanctified into the obedience of Christ, should be that we have ‘purified our souls in our obedience to the truth unto unfeigned love of our brothers and sisters’. The purifying of our souls, resulting from our being conjoined with the obedience of Jesus Christ and from our having had sprinkled on us the purifying and redeeming blood of Jesus Christ (verse 2, 19), and from our being begotten again by God (verses 3, 23), has brought about in us obedience to the truth, which has resulted in a true love of our brothers and sisters who are one with us in all that has happened. We are therefore to ensure that that love is fully revealed in our ‘loving one another fervently (with heart and soul)’.

Here we have emphasised what we saw earlier, that our salvation is not just for our own benefit as individuals, but as joining us together as one whole in Christ, just as the covenant ceremony and the covenant blood did for the multinational gathering at Sinai (compare Exodus 12.38). The God Who has called us out and has redeemed us, has now united us together in Him. And He has done it by ‘begetting us again, not of corruptible seed but of incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides for ever’. Essentially it is the water of the word of God as it moves our consciences and our hearts (Ephesians 5.26), not the water of baptism, that saves. God has spoken and has brought it about by sowing in our hearts the seed of His word (compare Mark 4.14, 20), which is incorruptible and indestructible, like our future inheritance (verse 4). And it is this that has resulted in our being purified in and by His obedience, with the consequence that His divine love is to be revealed through our hearts (Matthew 5.44-48), especially to our brothers and sisters in Christ. ‘By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love one for another’ (John 13.35).

‘The word (logos) of God which lives and abides.’ What God has spoken bears within it the seed of eternal life, and produces such life in men’s hearts for ever. Compare the ‘living hope’ to which we have been begotten in verse 3.

Note on ‘Purifying Your Souls.’

It will be noticed by those who are using commentaries that while Peter has not mentioned baptism some commentaries constantly bring it in. However, we are wise not to bring in ideas here which are largely based on people’s theories about liturgical use. Had Peter been speaking of baptism he would have said so. In fact when he does so in 3.21 it is not as something that removes defilement, but as the response of a good conscience towards God.

‘Purifying’ comes from the word hagnizow, ‘to purify, sanctify’. It is never connected with water in the New Testament. (The word used in John 2.6 is a different one). It rather links up with the sanctifying work of the Spirit in 1.2. Nor does it refer to washing with water in the Old Testament. It refers to them setting themselves apart for a certain length of time. Any washing with water is merely preparatory to the major requirement.

The truth is that baptism does not tend to be linked with purifying in the New Testament. Apart from Ananias’ words to Paul in Acts 22.16 about ‘washing’, where the words probably have in mind Isaiah 1.16 and refer to the forgiveness in mind in Mark 1.4, baptism is never connected with cleansing and purifying. Rather baptism points to the receiving of the Holy Spirit, and renewal of life in Christ. John the Baptist had the same emphasis on renewal. He compared his baptism with the coming ‘drenching with the Holy Spirit’, and spoke in terms of fruitful trees and harvesting wheat, indicating that his baptism was to be pictured in terms of the Old Testament references to the coming of the Holy Spirit in terms of rain (Isaiah 32.15; 44.1-5) along with the accompanying eschatological forgiveness (Mark 1.4).

Nor did water cleanse and purify in the Old Testament, except when mixed with the ashes of a heifer, which in 1.2 is replaced by the blood of Jesus Christ. In all cases the person who bathed in the Old Testament ritual did so in order to remove dirt and sweat from his body, in Peter’s words ‘the defilement of the flesh’ (3.21), preparatory for his approach to God. He was not ‘made clean’ by the water. That required a period of waiting before God ‘until the evening’.

In the New Testament a kind of cleansing takes place through ‘the washing of water with the word’ (Ephesians 5.26), but the reference to the word suggests rather the medium of washing is the preaching of the Gospel. Compare 1 Corinthians 1.17-18 where the preaching of the Gospel is specifically disconnected from baptism. Here in 1 Peter ‘purifying’ is also by ‘obedience to the truth’ and is associated with being begotten again of the word (1.3, 23), and with the sanctifying work of the Spirit in applying to the believer the benefits of the obedience of Jesus Christ and of the sprinkling of His blood. In 1 John 1.7 also cleansing is by the blood of Jesus Christ. We can compare also Jesus’ words, ‘sanctify them in the truth, your word is truth’ (John 17.18). But nowhere is ‘making holy’ linked with baptism. Thus to introduce baptism here is against New Testament precedent.

End of note.

1.24-25a ‘For, All flesh is as grass, And all the glory thereof as the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord abides for ever.’

Peter now backs up the imperishable nature of the word of God from Scripture (Isaiah 40.6, 8). Men are made of flesh. And flesh is like herbage, it withers and dies, and its glory dies with it. All its glory is like the flowers that grow from herbage. They flourish for a while, and they make such a display, and then they wither and the flower droops and falls. But the word of the Lord abides and flourishes for ever. This ‘word of the Lord’ is speaking primarily of the word of the Lord which is God’s effective voice. It has in mind that God speaks in men’s hearts resulting in a transformation which will last for ever. But it includes His written word, when enlightened by the Spirit, for that is one of the instruments that He uses.

1.25b ‘And this is the word of good tidings which was preached to you.’

And this ‘word (rema) of the Lord’ is the very word of good tidings that had been preached to his readers and had brought their response. By this incorruptible seed they have been begotten again to incorruptible life. They are no longer ‘flesh’. They are renewed flesh which contains within it the seed of resurrection life. In terms to be used later (3.18; 4.6) they are ‘spirit’.

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sanctification,Spirit,sprinkling,blood.Pontus,Galatia,Cappadocia,
Asia,Bithynia,multiplied,peace,grace,Father,Lord,Jesus,Christ,
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guarded,manifold,temptations,proof,fire,gold,tried,precious,prais,glory,
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searched,diligently,sufferings,Christ,glories,follow,angels,desire,look,loins,
girded,children,obedience,times,ignorance,holy,redeemed,corruptible,
things,silver,gold,vain.manner,life,fathers,precious,blood,lamb,without,
blemish,spot,foreknown,foundation,world,purified,souls,unfeigned,love,
brethren,love,heart,fervently,seed,incorruptible,word,God,lives,abides,
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