1 Peter 1:1
1Peter, an apostle What in this salutation is the same with those of Paul, requires no new explanation. When Paul prayed for grace and peace, the verb is left out; but Peter adds it, and says, be multiplied; still the meaning is the same; for Paul did not wish to the faithful the beginning of grace and peace, but the increase of them, that is, that God would complete what he had begun.
To the elect, or the elected. It may be asked, how could this be found out, for the election of God is hid, and cannot be known without the special revelation of the Spirit; and as every one is made sure of his own election by the testimony of the Spirit, so he can know nothing certain of others. To this I answer, that we are not curiously to inquire about the election of our brethren, but ought on the contrary to regard their calling, so that all who are admitted by faith into the church, are to be counted as the elect; for God thus separates them from the world, which is a sign of election. It is no objection to say that many fall away, having nothing but the semblance; for it is the judgment of charity and not of faith, when we deem all those elect in whom appears the mark of God’s adoption. And that he does not fetch their election from the hidden counsel of God, but gathers it from the effect, is evident from the context; for afterwards he connects it with the sanctification of the Spirit As far then as they proved that they were regenerated by the Spirit of God, so far did he deem them to be the elect of God, for God does not sanctify any but those whom he has previously elected.
However, he at the same time reminds us whence that election flows, by which we are separated for salvation, that we may not perish with the world; for he says, according to the foreknowledge of God This is the fountain and the first cause: God knew before the world was created whom he had elected for salvation.
But we ought wisely to consider what this precognition or foreknowledge is. For the sophists, in order to obscure the grace of God, imagine that the merits of each are foreseen by God, and that thus the reprobate are distinguished from the elect, as every one proves himself worthy of this or that lot. But Scripture everywhere sets the counsel of God, on which is founded our salvation, in opposition to our merits. Hence, when Peter calls them elect according to the precognition of God, he intimates that the cause of it depends on nothing else but on God alone, for he of his own free will has chosen us. Then the foreknowledge of God excludes every worthiness on the part of man. We have treated this subject more at large in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians, and in other places.
As however in our election he assigns the first place to the gratuitous favor of God, so again he would have us to know it by the effects, for there is nothing more dangerous or more preposterous than to overlook our calling and to seek for the certainty of our election in the hidden prescience of God, which is the deepest labyrinth. Therefore to obviate this danger, Peter supplies the best correction; for though in the first place he would have us to consider the counsel of God, the cause of which is alone in himself; yet he invites us to notice the effect, by which he sets forth and bears witness to our election. That effect is the sanctification of the Spirit, even effectual calling, when faith is added to the outward preaching of the gospel, which faith is begotten by the inward operation of the Spirit.
To the sojourners They who think that all the godly are thus called, because they are strangers in the world, and are advancing towards the celestial country, are much mistaken, and this mistake is evident from the word dispersion which immediately follows; for this can apply only to the Jews, not only because they were banished from their own country and scattered here and there, but also because they had been driven out of that land which had been promised to them by the Lord as a perpetual inheritance. He indeed afterwards calls all the faithful sojourners, because they are pilgrims on the earth; but the reason here is different. They were sojourners, because they had been dispersed, some in Pontus, some in Galatia, and some in Bithynia. It is nothing strange that he designed this Epistle more especially for the Jews, for he knew that he was appointed in a particular manner their apostle, as Paul teaches us in Gal_2:8. In the countries he enumerates, he includes the whole of Asia Minor, from the Euxine to Cappadocia.
Unto obedience He adds two things to sanctification, and seems to understand newness of life by obedience, and by the sprinkling of the blood of Christ the remission of sins. But if these be parts or effects of sanctification, then sanctification is to be taken here somewhat different from what it means when used by Paul, that is, more generally. God then sanctifies us by an effectual calling; and this is done when we are renewed to an obedience to his righteousness, and when we are sprinkled by the blood of Christ, and thus are cleansed from our sins. And there seems to be an implied allusion to the ancient rite of sprinkling used under the law. For as it was not then sufficient for the victim to be slain and the blood to be poured out, except the people were sprinkled; so now the blood of Christ which has been shed will avail us nothing, except our consciences are by it cleansed. There is then to be understood here a contrast, that, as formerly under the law the sprinkling of blood was made by the hand of the priest; so now the Holy Spirit sprinkles our souls with the blood of Christ for the expiation of our sins.
Let us now state the substance of the whole; which is, that our salvation flows from the gratuitous election of God; but that it is to be ascertained by the experience of faith, because he sanctifies us by his Spirit; and then that there are two effects or ends of our calling, even renewal into obedience and ablution by the blood of Christ; and further, that both are the work of the Holy Spirit. We hence conclude, that election is not to be separated from calling, nor the gratuitous righteousness of faith from newness of life.
Peter. It is the Greek form of the name, which the Lord Jesus himself had given to the great apostle; first, by anticipation, in the spirit of prophecy (Joh_1:42); and again when the prophecy was already in a measure fulfilled, and Simon was proving himself to be indeed a stone, built upon the Rock of Ages, which is Christ (Mat_16:18). It was his Christian name; he must have prized that name as the gift of Christ, reminding him always, of his confession and of the Savior’s promise, urging him to maintain throughout life that rock-like steadfastness which was indeed characteristic of him, but in which he had more than once very sadly failed. The use of the Greek form seems to indicate that the Epistle was originally written in Greek, and gives some slight support to the view that it was addressed to Gentile converts as well as to Hebrew Christians. An apostle of Jesus Christ. He does not add any assertion of the truth of his apostleship, as St. Paul often does; his apostolic dignity had not been questioned; the false brethren, who so often disputed the authority of St. Paul, had never assailed St. Peter. He does not join other names with his own in the address, though he mentions at the close of his Epistle Marcus—probably the John Mark who accompanied St. Paul in his first missionary journey—and Silvanus—probably the Silas of the Acts of the Apostles, and the Silvanus whom St. Paul associates with himself in addressing the Church of the Thessalonians. He describes himself as “an apostle of Jesus Christ.” All Christians who knew the gospel history knew that St. Peter was one of the first-called apostles, one of the three who were nearest to the Lord, one who had received the apostolic commission in a marked and special manner direct from Christ. But he calls himself simply an apostle, not the prince of the apostles; he claims no superiority over the rest of the apostolic college. The impulsive forwardness which had once been the prominent defect in his noble character had passed away; he had learned that difficult lesson which the Lord had impressed upon the apostles when he set the little child among them as their example; he was now, in his own words, “clothed with humility.” To the strangers scattered; literally, to the elect sojourners of the dispersion of Pontus, etc. “The dispersion” (διασπορά) was the recognized term (comp. Jas_1:1; Joh_7:35; 2 Macc. 1:27) for the Jews who were scattered over Gentile countries. The gospel of the circumcision was committed unto Peter (Gal_2:7); Paul and Barnabas were to go unto the heathen; James, Cephas, and John unto the circumcision (Gal_2:9). But St. Peter had been taught to call no man common or unclean; he did not forget that God had made choice that the Gentiles by his mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe (Act_15:7); he can scarcely have intended to maintain in this Epistle that exclusiveness into which he once relapsed, and for which he was rebuked by St. Paul (Gal_2:11-14). He certainly uses the word here rendered “strangers” (παρεπιδήμοις) metaphorically in 1Pe_2:11 (comp. Heb_11:13);’and we cannot but think that, by “the sojourners of the dispersion,” he means, not merely the Jewish Christians of Asia Minor, but all Christian people dispersed among the heathen. We shall see, as we proceed in the study of the Epistle, that the writer contemplates Gentile as well as Jewish readers. Those readers were sojourners for a brief time on earth. “Here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come;” they were dispersed here and there among the unbelievers, but they were one body in Christ. Compare Bengel’s brief comment, “Advents in terra, in coelo, electis.” Throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. Bengel says,” He mentions the five provinces in the order in which the names naturally occurred to one writing from the East.” This is not precisely accurate, for Cappadocia lies to the south-east of Galatia, and Bithynia to the north-east of Proconsular Asia; but yet the general arrangement of the names seems to furnish a slight argument ‘in favor of the view that the Babylon from which St. Peter wrote was the famous city on the Euphrates. The Churches of Galatia and Asia (by “Asia” St. Peter means Proconsular Asia, that is Mysia, Lycia, and Carla; Phrygia also was commonly reckoned as belonging to it, but not always, see Act_2:9, Act_2:10) were founded by St. Paul and his companions; those of Pontus possibly by Aquila, who, like the other Aquila who translated the Old Testament into Greek, was a Jew of Pontus (Act_18:2). Of Cappadocia all that we know from the New Testament is that dwellers in Cappadocia, as well as in Pontus and Asia, were in Jerusalem at the Pentecostal outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and heard the great sermon of St. Peter, by which three thousand souls were added to the Church. The Cappadocian Churches may have owed their origin to some of these men, or to some of St. Paul’s converts from Galatia or Lycaonia. St. Paul himself had once “assayed to go into Bithy-nia, but the Spirit suffered them not” (Act_16:7); that province may have received the word of God from Troas; the famous letter of Pliny, written about the year 110, shows how widely the faith of Christ had spread throughout the district. We notice that the missions of the Church in Asia Minor had now covered a field considerably larger than that reached at the date of the Acts of the Apostles. We notice also that many of the Churches addressed by St. Peter were founded by St. Paul or his converts. There was no rivalry between the two great apostles. There had been jealousies among the twelve (Mat_18:1; Mat_20:24, etc.); there had been differences between St. Peter and St. Paul (Gal_2:11); but they were children no longer—they were full-grown Christians now.
1 Peter 1:1
Peter (Petros). Greek form for the Aramaic (Chaldaic) Cēphās, the nickname given Simon by Jesus when he first saw him (Joh_1:42) and reaffirmed in the Greek form on his great confession (Mat_16:18), with an allusion to petra, another form for a rock, ledge, or cliff. In 2Pe_1:1 we have both Simōn and Petros. Paul in his Epistles always terms himself Paul, not Saul. So Peter uses this name, not Cephas or Simon, because he is writing to Christians scattered over Asia Minor. The nominative absolute occurs here as in Jam_1:1, but without chairein as there, the usual form of greeting in letters (Act_23:26) so common in the papyri.
An apostle of Jesus Christ (apostolos Iēsou Christou). This is his official title, but in 2Pe_1:1 doulos is added, which occurs alone in Jam_1:1. In 2 John and 3 John we have only ho presbuteros (the elder), as Peter terms himself sunpresbuteros in 1Pe_5:1. Paul’s usage varies greatly: only the names in 1 Thessalonians and 2 Thessalonians, the title apostolos added and defended in Galatians and Romans as also in 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians and Colossians and Ephesians and 2 Timothy with “by the will of God” added, and in 1 Timothy with the addition of “according to the command of God.” In Philippians Paul has only “doulos (slave) Christou Iēsou,” like James and Jude. In Romans and Titus Paul has both doulos and apostolos, like 2 Peter, while in Philemon he uses only desmios (prisoner) Iēsou Christou.
To the elect (eklektois). Without article (with the article in Mat_24:22, Mat_24:24, Mat_24:31) and dative case, “to elect persons” (viewed as a group). Bigg takes eklektois (old, but rare verbal adjective from eklegō, to pick out, to select) as an adjective describing the next word, “to elect sojourners.” That is possible and is like genos eklekton in 1Pe_2:9. See the distinction between klētoi (called) and eklektoi (chosen) in Mat_22:14.
Who are sojourners (parepidēmois). Late double compound adjective (para, epidēmountes, Act_2:10, to sojourn by the side of natives), strangers sojourning for a while in a particular place. So in Polybius, papyri, in lxx only twice (Genesis 23:4 or Psalm 38:13), in N.T. only here, 1Pe_2:11; Heb_11:13. The picture in the metaphor here is that heaven is our native country and we are only temporary sojourners here on earth.
Of the Dispersion (diasporās). See Joh_7:35 for literal sense of the word for scattered (from diaspeirō, to scatter abroad, Act_8:1) Jews outside of Palestine, and Jam_1:1 for the sense here to Jewish Christians, including Gentile Christians (only N T. examples). Note absence of the article, though a definite conception (of the Dispersion). The Christian is a pilgrim on his way to the homeland. These five Roman provinces include what we call Asia Minor north and west of the Taurus mountain range (Hort). Hort suggests that the order here suggests that Silvanus (bearer of the Epistle) was to land in Pontus from the Euxine Sea, proceed through Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, to Bithynia, where he would re-embark for Rome. This, he holds, explains the separation of Pontus and Bithynia, though the same province. Only Galatia and Asia are mentioned elsewhere in the N.T. as having Christian converts, but the N.T. by no means gives a full account of the spread of the Gospel, as can be judged from Col_1:6, Col_1:23.
Cambridge Greek NT: Blenkin
1 Peter 1:1
ἐκλεκτοῖς παρεπιδήμοις διασπορᾶς. The word διασπορά occurs first in the LXX. of Deut. 28:25 describing the scattering of Israel if they are disobedient to God, and it is occasionally used in the later books of the O.T. In the N.T. it only occurs twice elsewhere, Jn 7:35, “Will he go unto the Dispersion among the Greeks?” Jas. 1:1, “To the twelve tribes which are of the Dispersion.” In both these passages the word is generally supposed to refer to the Jewish Dispersion (but see Introduction, p. liii f.). So here some commentators would interpret the phrase literally and regard St Peter as addressing Jewish Christians only. But many passages in the Epistle (see Introduction) imply that the majority of the readers had been heathen, though in many towns it is morally certain that the nucleus of the Christian congregation would be derived from the Jewish congregation, as we find in St Paul’s missionary work. St Peter however does not merely mean scattered strangers, but uses the word διασπορά deliberately. Salmon suggests that it means “members of the Roman Church whom Nero’s persecution had dispersed to seek safety in the provinces.” Ramsay, who dates the Epistle as late as 80 a.d., finds a reference to the Fall of Jerusalem which left the Church a “dispersed” body with no recognized centre. More probably the word is used metaphorically, not merely in the sense that Christians are a scattered body of sojourners in the world, but one of the titles of the old Israel is transferred to the Church, the new Israel of God. Just as the Jewish Dispersion served to spread the knowledge of Jehovah more widely, so the Christian Church scattered far and wide is the new “Dispersion” and has a similar work to do for God in the heathen world around. So elsewhere in the Epistle St Peter constantly applies to the Christian Church titles which originally belonged to the Jewish nation.
ἐκλεκτοῖς. In the O.T. divine “Election” is spoken of (a) in the choice of Israel as a nation, (b) in the choice of individual Israelites to perform special functions for Israel, e.g. Abraham, Moses, Saul, David, Solomon, Zerubbabel, the tribe of Judah, or for priestly work, Aaron and the Levites. In each case the choosing by God was not a reward. It was not an act of favouritism on God’s part. Those chosen were selected not for their own sake or to the exclusion or “reprobation” of others, but to do some special work for God, and if they were untrue to their mission they would forfeit their position. Here St Peter probably means that the Church is the new Israel of God, “a chosen people.” As a corporate body the Church is chosen “to tell forth God’s excellencies” and to complete the work of Christ her Head, but every member of that body has his own work to do and was chosen by God for that work. To have been thus chosen by God is not a guarantee of final salvation unless those chosen are faithful to their position. But to be one of “the elect people of God” is a “state of salvation,” to which we are brought by God and not by chance, and we must pray for “grace to continue in the same unto our life’s end.”
παρεπιδήμοις, cf. 2:11. In one sense St Peter’s readers were sojourners because they lived among heathen. In another sense all Christians are in this world merely sojourners whose home is in heaven.
Pontus, etc. It is generally admitted that the names are used in their imperial sense as denoting Roman provinces and not in the popular or geographical sense. The order in which the various provinces are mentioned affords no clue to the place of writing. On the one hand Pontus is in the E. and therefore nearly the last in geographical order from Rome, but on the other hand it is in the N. and therefore not the first in geographical order from Babylon. Again, Pontus and Bithynia formed one Roman province, therefore there must be some reason for their being named separately first and last in the list. Probably the provinces are named in the order in which Silvanus was expected to visit them, landing perhaps at Sinope in Pontus and making a circuit round to the coast of the Euxine again somewhere in Bithynia.
The provinces named include all Asia Minor north of the Taurus Mountains, which were a natural frontier shutting off the provinces of the south coast.
Pontus. The old kingdom of Pontus was conquered by Rome in 65 b.c., when Pompey defeated Mithridates and the maritime district of the Euxine W. of the Halys was joined to the recently formed province of Bithynia, a further strip of coast to the E. being added about 100 years later. The rest of the districts remained independent for a time but were afterwards incorporated in the Roman province of Galatia, and early in the 2nd century were transferred to Cappadocia. The chief towns of Provincial Pontus along the coast from W. to E. were Heraclea, Amastris, Sinope and Amisos. All of these were thriving seaports with extensive commerce, the most important being Sinope, which was a Roman colony. In such centres of trade there were certain to be numerous Jewish settlers. In Acts 2:9 we read that Jews from Pontus were present in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, and it is conceivable that the first knowledge of Christianity may have been introduced into Pontus by them. Again Aquila, who had married a Roman wife, Prisca or Priscilla, is described in Acts 18:2 as “a Jew, a man of Pontus by race,” and it is possible that he may have helped to evangelize his native country during his visits to the East. In any case there was constant commercial intercourse between Pontus and other centres of early Christianity, and the Church may well have been established in Pontus about the middle of the first century (though Ramsay, Ch. in Rom. Emp. p. 225, regards 65 a.d. as the earliest probable date).
At any rate Pliny, the governor of Bithynia, writing apparently from Pontus to the Emperor Trajan about 112 a.d., speaks of many Christians of every age, every rank and of both sexes, not only in the towns but also in the villages and the country, through whom the temples had come to be well-nigh deserted and the sacred rites to be long suspended. This points to the fact that Christianity was of considerable standing in the district, and one suspected person who was examined declared that he had been a Christian but had abandoned the faith 25 years previously. Sinope was the birthplace of Marcion, a semi-Gnostic teacher, who came to Rome in 140. He had been a wealthy shipowner and his father is described as a bishop.
Galatia. The Roman province included all the central part of Asia Minor and extended from Pontus on the N. to the Taurus Mountains on the S. It embraced Paphlagonia, part of the old kingdom of Pontus, part of Phrygia including Antioch and Iconium, and part of Lycaonia including Lystra and Derbe, but it derived its name from the north central district, Galatia Proper, which had been occupied by Gaulish immigrants in the 3rd century b.c. They were conquered by the Romans under Manlius in 189 b.c. but retained semi-independence until 25 b.c., when Galatia Proper was made a Roman province. The chief towns in this district were Ancyra, Pessinus and Tavium. The southern part of the Roman province of Galatia was certainly evangelized by St Paul during his first missionary journey. Lightfoot and others hold that St Paul also visited Galatia Proper on his second and third journeys, and that the Epistle to the Galatians was addressed to that district, but Ramsay maintains that St Paul only wrote to the churches of the southern part of the Roman province of Galatia and never visited the northern district at all.
Cappadocia was the district east of Galatia and came into the possession of the Romans in 17 a.d., but it was treated as an unimportant frontier district, governed only by a procurator until 70 a.d. when it was considerably enlarged and made a regular province under a pro-praetor. From 76–106 it was under the same governor as Galatia, though otherwise the two provinces were distinct. The fact that it is here mentioned as if it was an important province has been urged as a slight argument in favour of dating the Epistle after 70 a.d., but if Silvanus was to visit this district it is difficult to see by what other name than Cappadocia it could be designated. Jews from Cappadocia were present on the day of Pentecost. Otherwise nothing is known of the introduction of Christianity there, but Caesareia, the chief town of Cappadocia, was on the great trade-routes from Syrian Antioch to the Black Sea and from Ephesus to the East.
Asia. The Roman province included all Asia Minor west of Galatia, the capital being Ephesus. St Paul had been forbidden by the Spirit to preach there on his second missionary journey (Acts 16:6), but stayed in Ephesus for three years during his third journey, “so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 19:10). Several of St Paul’s Epistles were addressed to this district, the Epistle to the Ephesians being almost certainly a circular letter to be passed on from Ephesus to the churches of the Lycus valley. The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon imply the existence of a considerable Christian body in Colossae, Laodicea and Hierapolis, though St Paul had apparently never visited those places in person (Col. 2:1). The two Epistles to Timothy contain directions to him as head of the Church in Ephesus. Ephesus was also the home of St John in his later years; there his Gospel and Epistles were probably written and the letters to the Seven Churches in the Apocalypse are addressed to that district. In the beginning of the 2nd century the letters of Ignatius are addressed chiefly to churches of Asia and imply a developed organization with bishops, presbyters and deacons; while Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, who was martyred at the age of 86 in 155–156 a.d., is another link with the Apostolic age.
Bithynia had been bequeathed to the Romans by its last king, Nicomedes III, in 74 b.c., and was joined with Pontus and formed into a united province by Pompey in 65 b.c. St Paul attempted to enter Bithynia when precluded from preaching in Asia on his second missionary journey, but “the Spirit of Jesus suffered them not” (Acts 16:7). We have no evidence to shew how Christianity was introduced there, but there were two great roads connecting its chief towns Nicaea and Nicomedia with Antioch in Pisidia in the S. and Ancyra and Syria in the E.
Cambridge NT: Plumptre
2. elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father] The word “elect” or chosen belongs, as already stated, to verse 1, but the English sufficiently represents the meaning of the Greek. The word and the thought that the disciples of Christ are what they are by the election or choice of God, characterises the whole teaching of the New Testament. Here there is the personal interest of noting that the word is prominent in the Gospel of St Mark, which we have seen reason to connect closely with St Peter’s influence, and in that portion of our Lord’s discourses recorded in it (Mar_13:20, Mar_13:22, Mar_13:27), to which the wars and tumults of Palestine must at this time have been drawing attention. Comp. also the prominence of the thought and of the verbs for “choosing” in Joh_13:18, Joh_13:15:16, Joh_13:19. The “elect” had, like the “saints” (Act_9:13), become almost a synonyme for Christians (2Ti_2:10; Tit_1:1). And this choice is referred to the “foreknowledge” of God. The word hovers between the meaning of a mere prevision of the future, and the higher sense in which “knowing” means “loving” and “approving,” as in 1Co_8:3, Gal_4:9, and probably Rom_8:29, Rom_11:2. The noun occurs in the New Testament only here and in St Peter’s speech in Act_2:23, and is so far evidence of continuity of character and thought. In what way the thought of man’s freedom to will was reconcileable with that of God’s electing purpose the writers of the New Testament did not care to discuss. They felt, we may believe, instinctively, half unconsciously, that the problem was insoluble, and were content to accept the two beliefs, which cannot logically be reconciled. In the words “the foreknowledge of God the Father,” we find, perhaps, the secret of their acceptance of this aspect of the Divine Government. The choice and the knowledge were not those of an arbitrary sovereign will, capricious as are the sovereigns of earth, in its favours and antipathies, seeking only to manifest its power, but of a Father whose tender mercies were over all His works, and who sought to manifest His love to all His children. From that stand-point the “choice” of some to special blessings was compatible with perfect equity to all. It should be noticed that in Rom_8:29 we have “foreknowledge” as a step in the Divine order prior to predestination, but it may well be questioned whether either Apostle had present to his thoughts the logical solution presented by the Arminian theory, that God, foreseeing the characters of men as they would have been, if not predestined, then predestined them accordingly. On that theory the question may well be asked, What made them such as God thus foreknew? The difficulty is but thrown further back, and it is wiser to accept the conclusion that the problem is insoluble, and that the language of Scripture issues in the antinomy of apparently contradictory propositions.
through sanctification of the Spirit] The word for “sanctification,” for which, perhaps, consecration would be a better equivalent, is used eight times by St Paul, once in the Epistle to the Hebrews (12:14), here, and not elsewhere in the New Testament. Grammatically the words admit of the interpretation which sees in them the sanctification of the human spirit (genitive of the object), but the juxtaposition of the word Spirit with that of the Father and with Christ, is decisive in favour of the explanation which sees in the construction the genitive of the subject, or of the agent, and finds in the sanctification wrought by the Spirit the region in which the foreknowledge of God finds its completion.
unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ] The clause is co-ordinate with that which precedes it, pointing to the end of the election as that points to the sphere in which it worked and the means by which it was to be accomplished. In “obedience” we have the active human side of the result, in the “sprinkling” the Divine side of pardon and acceptance. The word for “sprinkling” is found elsewhere only in Heb_12:24, where, as in this place, it refers definitely to the narrative of Exo_24:8. Moses had sprinkled Israel according to the flesh with the blood of oxen, as being “the blood of the covenant,” that by contact with which they were brought within the covenant of which he was the mediator (Gal_3:19). In like manner, in St Peter’s words, believers in Christ are brought within the new covenant by the mystical, spiritual sprinkling on their souls and spirits of the blood of Jesus, and for that sprinkling God had chosen them with a purpose supremely wise to which no time-limits could be assigned. The same thought, it may be noted, is expressed in St John’s words, that “the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin” (1Jn_1:7).
Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied] The combination of “grace” and “peace” may be noted as a probable instance of St Peter’s adopting the very phraseology of St Paul, as he found it in the letters with which 2Pe_3:16 (assuming the genuineness of that Epistle) shews him to have been acquainted. In “peace” we have the old Hebrew formula of salutation (Mat_10:12, Mat_10:13): in “grace” (χάρις) probably the substitution of the more definite Christian thought for the “joy” or “greeting” (χαίρειν) which, as in Act_15:23, Jam_1:1, was the customary opening formula of Greek epistles. The addition of “be multiplied” is peculiar to the two Epistles of St Peter (2Pe_1:2), and to the Epistle of St Jude (verse 2), which presents so many points of contact with the second of those two.
Elect. This word, in the Greek, is in the first verse; the Greek order is “to the elect sojourners of the dispersion.” We begin already to notice coincidences with the teaching of St. Paul. St. Paul insists strongly on the doctrine of election; St. Peter holds it no less clearly. Holy Scripture constantly ascribes all that is good in us to the choice or election of God. The sacred writers do not enter into the many difficulties which lie around this central doctrine: they do not attempt to explain its relations to that other great truth, taught in Scripture and revealed in consciousness—the freedom of the human will; their statements of the two apparently conflicting doctrines balance, but do not explain, one another; they seem to recognize the fact that we are in the presence of an insoluble mystery; and they teach us by their silence that the proper attitude of the Christian, when brought face to face with mystery, is rest in the Lord, humble childlike confidence in his love and wisdom. According to the foreknowledge of God the Father. St. Peter sets in the forefront of his Epistle the mystery of the blessed Trinity and the Divine plan of human salvation. It is, however, a question whether the words just quoted should be taken, as in the Authorized Version, with “elect” or with “apostle.” Many ancient authorities take the latter view. ‘Thus we should have a description of St. Peter’s apostleship, such as we often read at the opening of St Paul’s Epistle. He was, like St. Paul, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God; he was chosen before the foundation of the world to be holy and without blame; like St. Paul, he had received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations (comp. Rom_1:1, Rom_1:5). There is much to be said in favor of this connection. But, on the whole, the balance of the sentence, and the general usage of similar language in the New Testament, lead us to prefer the common view, and to regard St. Peter’s words as a description of the origin, progress, and end of God’s election. The origin is the grace of God the Father. He chose his elect before the foundation of the world. He predestinated them unto the adoption of children; and that according to the good pleasure of his will (Eph_1:4, Eph_1:5). It is interesting to note that the substantive “foreknowledge” (πρόγνωσις) occurs nowhere else in Holy Scripture except in St. Peter’s Pentecostal speech (Act_2:23). We mark the agreement of St. Peter and St. Paul (comp. Rom_8:29, “Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son;” comp. also Rom_11:2 and 2Ti_2:19). Election is “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father;” but not simply, as the Arminians taught, ex praevisis meritis; for we cannot separate foreknowledge and predestination; the foreknowledge of an Almighty Creator must imply the exercise of choice and will; what he knoweth, that he also willeth; eligendos facit Deus, non invenit. Thus in 1Pe_1:20 “foreknown,” the more exact rendering of the Revised Version must imply the “foreordained” of the old translation. But that foreknowledge is the foreknowledge of God the Father, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, but our Father also. He careth for his children; we must trust in him. The potter makes one vessel for honor, another for dishonor; but he makes none for destruction. A veil of awful mystery hangs round the relations which exist between the Almighty and his creatures; but “God is Love.” Through sanctification of the Spirit; rather, in, as in the Revised Version. We have the same words in 2Th_2:13. The word ἀγισμός, which St. Peter uses here, is almost peculiar to St. Paul; it occurs eight times in his Epistles; once in the Epistle to the Hebrews; but elsewhere only here in the New Testament. Like other verbals of the same form, it may have either an active or a passive meaning. Perhaps the former is the more suitable here. God’s election places the Christian in the sphere of the sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit; he lives in the Spirit, he walks in the Spirit, he prays in the Holy Ghost; and the blessed Spirit sanctifieth the elect people of God: he worketh in them that holiness (ἁγιασμόν) without which they cannot see God (Heb_12:14); they have their fruit, the fruit of the Spirit, unto holiness (ἁγιασμόν, Rom_6:22). The fundamental idea of the Hebrew שׁוֹדקָ, which is represented by the Greek word ἅγιος, seems to be, “separation, purity,” though some connect it with שׁדַחָ, and regard it as meaning originally “fresh, new, young,” and so “pure, shining, bright” (see Delitzsch, on Heb_2:11). By the word “spirit” we might, if we took the words apart from the context, understand the spirit of man, which is sanctified by the Holy Spirit of God; but the context shows that St. Peter is thinking of the work of the three blessed Persons of the Holy Trinity. Unto obedience. Obedience is the work of the Spirit; for the fruit of the Spirit is love, and “if a man love me, he will keep my words.” Thus election has its origin in the foreknowledge of the Father; it is wrought out in the sanctifying influences of the Spirit as its sphere, and it issues in ,active obedience. Obedience is the sign and test of God’s election: “By their fruits ye shall know them.” The end of election is obedience first, then everlasting life. And sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. The word ῥαντισμός, sprinkling, occurs also in Heb_12:24 (comp. also Heb_9:19). In both places there is an evident reference to the events related in Exo_24:8, where we read that “Moses took the blood, arid sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord hath made with you.” We observe that in this place also ceremonial sanctification (Exo_19:10) and the promise of obedience (Exo_24:3) preceded the sprinkling of blood. “The blood of sprinkling” is called by the Lord himself the blood of the new covenant, the blood by which the covenant of grace was ratified and inaugurated. Moses sprinkled the blood of the old covenant once upon the people; the blood of the new covenant was shed once for all upon the cross; but it is ever fresh in its efficacy and power; still we have boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus; still, if we abide in him, we have our “hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience;” still, “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light,… the blood of Jesus Christ his Son is cleansing us from all sin.” Those who are elect unto obedience are elect unto the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ; the loving obedience of faith keeps them in the presence of the cross, within the cleansing range of the one all-sufficient sacrifice. Thus we have in this verse the concurrence of the three blessed Persons in the scheme of salvation—the choice of the Father, the sanctification of the Spirit, the redeeming work of the Son. Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied. St. Peter uses the familiar salutation of St. Paul; possibly he quotes it, for he was plainly familiar with St. Paul’s Epistles—he refers to them expressly in 2Pe_3:15, 2Pe_3:16, and Sylvanus, the old companion of St. Paul, was now with him. He unites into one expression the Greek and Hebrew salutations, the χαίρειν of the Greeks under its Christian aspect of χάρις, the favor of God; and the מוֹלשָׁ of the Hebrews—the peace which is the fruit of grace, which is the blessed possession of those on whom the favor of God abideth. That grace and peace is granted to all the elect of God. St. Peter prays that it may be multiplied, that his readers may be blessed with an ever-increasing measure of that heavenly gift. He uses the same form of salutation in his Second Epistle. It is interesting to observe that the phrase, “Peace be multiplied unto you,” occurs also in the proclamation of Nebuchadnezzar (Dan_4:1), and in that of Darius (Dan_6:25),both written in Babylon, the city from which St. Peter now sends the message of peace. The anarthrousness of these two verses is remarkable; in the original there is not one article in 2Pe_3:1, 2Pe_3:2.
1 Peter 1:2
Elect – That is, “chosen.” The meaning here is, that they were in fact chosen. The word does not refer to the purpose to choose, but to the fact that they were chosen or selected by God as His people. It is a word commonly applied to the people of God as being chosen out of the world, and called to be His. The use of the word does not determine whether God had a previous eternal purpose to choose them or not. That must be determined by something else than the mere use of the term. This word has reference to the act of selecting them, without throwing any light on the question why it was done. See Mat_24:22, Mat_24:24, Mat_24:31; Mar_13:20; Luk_18:7; Rom_8:33; Col_3:12. Compare the notes at Joh_15:16. The meaning is, that God had, on some account, a preference for them above others as his people, and had chosen them from the midst of others to be heirs of salvation. The word should be properly understood as applied to the act of choosing them, not to the purpose to choose them; the fact of his selecting them to be his, not the doctrine that he would choose them; and is a word, therefore, which should be freely and gratefully used by all Christians, for it is a word in frequent use in the Bible, and there is nothing for which people should be more grateful than the fact that God has chosen them to salvation. Elsewhere we learn that the purpose to choose them was eternal, and that the reason of it was his own good pleasure. See the notes at Eph_1:4-5. We are here also informed that it was in accordance with “the foreknowledge of God the Father.”
According to the foreknowledge of God the Father – The Father is regarded, in the Scriptures, as the Author of the plan of salvation, and as having chosen His people to life, and given them to His Son to redeem and save, Joh_6:37, Joh_6:65; Joh_17:2, Joh_17:6,Joh_17:11. It is affirmed here that the fact that they were elect was in some sense in accordance with the “foreknowledge of God.” On the meaning of the phrase, see the notes at Rom_8:29. The passage does not affirm that the thing which God “foreknew,” and which was the reason of their being chosen, was, that they would of themselves be disposed to embrace the offer of salvation. The foreknowledge referred to might have been of many other things as constituting the reason which operated in the case; and it is not proper to assume that it could have been of this alone. It may mean that God foreknew all the events which would ever occur, and that He saw reasons why they should be selected rather than others; or that He foreknew all that could be made to bear on their salvation; or that He foreknew all that He would himself do to secure their salvation; or that He foreknew them as having been designated by his own eternal counsels; or that He foreknew all that could be accomplished by their instrumentality; or that He saw that they would believe; but it should not be assumed that the word means necessarily any one of these things.
The simple fact here affirmed, which no one can deny, is, that there was foreknowledge in the case on the part of God. It was not the result of Ignorance or of blind chance that they were selected. But if foreknown, must it not be certain? How could a thing which is foreknown be contingent or doubtful? The essential idea here is, that the original choice was on the part of God, and not on their part, and that this choice was founded on what He before knew to be best. He undoubtedly saw good and sufficient reasons why the choice should fall on them. I do not know that the reasons why he did it are revealed, or that they could be fully comprehended by us if they were. I am quite certain that it is not stated that it is because they would be more disposed of themselves to embrace the Saviour than others; for the Scriptures abundantly teach, what every regenerated person feels to be true, that the fact that we are disposed to embrace the Saviour is to be traced to a divine influence on our hearts, and not to ourselves. See Joh_6:65; Rom_9:16; Tit_3:5; Psa_110:2-3.
Through sanctification of the Spirit – The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. The Greek is, “by (ἐν en) sanctification of the Spirit;” that is, it was by this influence or agency. The election that was purposed by the Father was carried into effect by the agency of the Spirit in making them holy. The word rendered “sanctification” (ἁγιασμός hagiasmos) is not used here in its usual and technical sense to denote “the progressive holiness of believers,” but in its more primitive and usual sense of “holiness.” Compare the notes at 1Co_1:30. It means here the being made holy; and the idea is, that we become in fact the chosen or elect of God by a work of the Spirit on our hearts making us holy; that is, renewing us in the divine image. We are chosen by the Father, but it is necessary that the heart should be renewed and made holy by a work of grace, in order that we may actually become His chosen people. Though we are sinners, He proposes to save us; but we are not saved in our sins, nor can we regard ourselves as the children of God until we have evidence that we are born again. The purpose of God to save us found us unholy, and we become in fact His friends by being renewed in the temper of our mind. A man has reason to think that he is one of the elect of God, just so far as he has evidence that he has been renewed by the Holy Spirit, and so far as he has holiness of heart and life, and no further.
Unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ – This expresses the design for which they had been chosen by the Father, and renewed by the Spirit. It was that they might obey God, and lead holy lives. On the phrase “unto obedience,” see the notes at Rom_1:5. The phrase “unto sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ,” means to cleansing from sin, or to holiness, since it was by the sprinkling of that blood that they were to be made holy. See it explained in the notes at Heb_9:18-23; Heb_12:24.
Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied – See the notes at Rom_1:7. The phrase “be multiplied” means, “may it abound,” or “may it be conferred abundantly on you.” From this verse we may learn that they who are chosen should be holy. Just in proportion as they have evidence that God has chosen them at all, they have evidence that He has chosen them to be holy; and, in fact, all the evidence which any man can have that he is among the elect, is that he is practically a holy man, and desires to become more and more so. No man can penetrate the secret counsels of the Almighty. No one can go up to heaven, and inspect the Book of Life to see if his name be there. No one should presume that his name is there without evidence. No one should depend on dreams, or raptures, or visions, as proof that his name is there. No one should expect a new revelation declaring to him that he is among the elect. All the proof which any man can have that he is among the chosen of God, is to be found in the evidences of personal piety; and any man who is willing to be a true Christian may have all that evidence in his own case. If anyone, then, wishes to settle the question whether he is among the elect or not, the way is plain. Let him become a true Christian, and the whole matter is determined, for that is all the proof which anyone has that he is chosen to salvation. Until a man is willing to do that, he should not complain of the doctrine of election. If he is not willing to become a Christian and to be saved, assuredly he should not complain that those who are think that they have evidence that they are the chosen of God.
1 Peter 1:3
3Blessed be God We have said that the main object of this epistle is to raise us above the world, in order that we may be prepared and encouraged to sustain the spiritual contests of our warfare. For this end, the knowledge of God’s benefits avails much; for, when their value appears to us, all other things will be deemed worthless, especially when we consider what Christ and his blessings are; for everything without him is but dross. For this reason he highly extols the wonderful grace of God in Christ, that is, that we may not deem it much to give up the world in order that we may enjoy the invaluable treasure of a future life; and also that we may not be broken down by present troubles, but patiently endure them, being satisfied with eternal happiness.
Further, when he gives thanks to God, he invites the faithful to spiritual joy, which can swallow up all the opposite feelings of the flesh.
And Father of our Lord Jesus Christ Understand the words thus, — “Blessed be God who is the Father of Jesus Christ.” For, as formerly, by calling himself the God of Abraham, he designed to mark the difference between him and all fictitious gods; so after he has manifested himself in his own Son, his will is, not to be known otherwise than in him. Hence they who form their ideas of God in his naked majesty apart from Christ, have an idol instead of the true God, as the case is with the Jews and the Turks. Whosoever, then, seeks really to know the only true God, must regard him as the Father of Christ; for, whenever our mind seeks God, except Christ be thought of, it will wander and be confused, until it be wholly lost. Peter meant at the same time to intimate how God is so bountiful and kind towards us; for, except Christ stood as the middle person, his goodness could never be really known by us.
Who hath begotten us again He shews that supernatural life is a gift, because we are born the children of wrath; for had we been born to the hope of life according to the flesh, there would have been no necessity of being begotten again by God. Therefore Peter teaches us, that we who are by nature destined to eternal death, are restored to life by God’s mercy. And this is, as it were, our second creation, as it is said in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians. Lively or living hope, means the hope of life. At the same time there seems to be an implied contrast between the hope fixed on the incorruptible kingdom of God, and the fading and transient hopes of man.
According to his abundant mercy He first mentions the efficient cause, and then he points out the mediating cause, as they say. He shews that God was induced by no merits of ours to regenerate us unto a living hope, because he assigns this wholly to his mercy. But that he might more completely reduce the merits of works to nothing, he says, great ( multam ) mercy. All, indeed, confess that God is the only author of our salvation, but they afterwards invent extraneous causes, which take away so much from his mercy. But Peter commends mercy alone; and he immediately connects the way or manner, by the resurrection of Christ; for God does not in any other way discover his mercy; hence Scripture ever directs our attention to this point. And that Christ’s death is not mentioned, but his resurrection, involves no inconsistency, for it is included; because a thing cannot be completed without having a beginning; and he especially brought forward the resurrection, because he was speaking of a new life.
Cambridge Bible-1 Pet Plumptre
3. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ] Here again we note the close correspondence with the opening words of two of St Paul’s Epistles (2Co_1:3, Eph_1:3). It is, of course, possible that both have adopted what was a common inheritance from Jewish devout feeling, modified by the new faith in Christ; but looking to the reproduction of Pauline phrases in other instances, the idea of derivation seems on the whole the most probable.
which according to his abundant mercy] Literally, as in the margin, “his much or great mercy.” The thought, though here not the phraseology, is identical with St Paul’s “being rich in mercy” (Eph_2:4). In the prominence thus given to the “mercy” of God, as shewn in His redeeming and sanctifying work, we recognise the conviction that those who were the objects of His favour were at once wretched, and unworthy of it through their guilt, and that His pity for that wretchedness was the source of the “grace” or “favour” which He had thus shewn to them.
hath begotten us again unto a lively hope] Better perhaps “a living hope,” a hope not destined, as human hopes proverbially were, to be frail and perishable, but having in it the elements of a perennial life. And this was brought about by God’s regenerating work on and in the soul. The word which St Peter uses is peculiar to him among the writers of the New Testament, and meets us again in verse 23. The thought, however, is common to him with St James (“of His own will begat He us,” 1:18), with St Paul (“the washing of regeneration,” Tit_3:5), and with our Lord’s teaching (“except a man be born again”) as recorded by St John (Joh_3:5). It is noticeable that St Peter, who elsewhere (chap. 3:21) lays so much stress on baptism, does not here refer to it as the instrument of the new birth, but goes further back to the Resurrection of Christ as that without which baptism and faith would have been alike ineffectual. In this also his teaching is substantially at one with St Paul’s, who sees in baptism that in which we are at once “buried with Christ,” and raised by and with Him to “newness of life” (Rom_6:3, Rom_6:4).
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Greek word rendered “blessed” (εὐλογητός) is used by the New Testament writers only of God; the participle εὐλογημένος is said of men. St. Peter adopts the doxology used by St. Paul in writing to the Churches at Corinth and Ephesus (2Co_1:3; Eph_1:3), the last being one of those to which this Epistle is addressed. It is a question whether the genitive, “of our Lord Jesus Christ,” depends on both substantives or only on the last. The Greek will admit either view, and there are high authorities on both sides. On the whole, the first seems the most natural interpretation. The Lord himself had said, “I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God” (Joh_20:17). He could not say, “our God,” for the relations are widely different; he could say, “my God,” as he had said upon the cross; for, in the well-known words of Theophylact, “he is both the God and the Father of one and the same Christ; his God, as of Christ manifest in the flesh; his Father, as of God the Word.” So St. Paul, after using this same form of salutation in Eph_1:3, speaks of God in the seventeenth verse as “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory” (comp. also Rom_15:6; 2Co_11:31; Col_1:3). Which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead; rather, begat, as in the Revised Version. St. Peter refers our regeneration back to the great fact of the resurrection of Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ is “the First-begotten of the dead” (Rev_1:5); we are “buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead” (Col_2:12). The Church, “which is his body” (Eph_1:23), died with him in his death, rose with him in his resurrection. Christians individually are baptized into his death, “that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom_6:4). The resurrection of Christ was in a real sense the birth of the Church. Therefore St. Peter, who in 1Pe_3:21 speaks so strongly of the effect of holy baptism, here refers oar regeneration to that without which baptism would be an empty ceremony, the resurrection of our Lord. God’s great mercy (comp. Eph_2:4, Eph_2:5, “God, who is rich in mercy…. hath quickened us together with Christ”) is the first cause of our new birth, Christ’s resurrection is the means through which it was accomplished. St. Peter alone of the New Testament writers uses the word here rendered “hath begotten again” (ἀναγεννήσας); it occurs also in verse 23. But our Lord himself, and his apostles St. James and St. Paul, teach the same truth to similar words (see Joh_3:5; Jas_1:18; Tit_3:5). Some commentators, as Luther, Bengel, etc., connect the words, “by the resurrection,” etc., not with “hath begotten us again,” but with the word “lively” or “living”—a hope that liveth through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This connection is grammatically possible, and gives a good and true meaning; it is the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ which makes the Christian’s hope living and strong; but the other explanation seems more natural, and is supported by such passages as Rom_4:25, and 1Pe_3:21 of this Epistle. The heavenly inheritance is the ultimate end of our regeneration; the hope of that inheritance is the present joy of the Christian life. St. Paul reminds the Ephesian Christians that when they were without Christ they had no hope (Eph_2:12); but God according to his great mercy begat us again into a new life, and one important aspect of that new life is hope, the hope of ever-deepening fellowship with God now, of everlasting life with God in heaven. That hope is living; it is “pervaded with life, carrying with it in undying power the certainty of fulfillment (Rom_5:5), and making the heart joyful and happy.” (Huther); “it has life in itself, and gives life, and has life as its object” (De Wette). And it liveth, it doth not perish like the hopes of this world, but it lives on in ever fuller joy till it reaches its consummation in heaven; even there “hope abideth,” forever in heaven there will be, it seems, a continual progress from glory to glory, nearer and nearer to the throne. St. Peter is the apostle of hope. “He loves,” says Bengel, “the epithet living, and the mention of hope.”
1 Peter 1:4
4To an inheritance The three words which follow are intended to amplify God’s grace; for Peter (as I have before said) had this object in view, to impress our minds thoroughly as to its excellency. Moreover, these two clauses, “to an inheritance incorruptible,” etc., and “to salvation ready to be revealed,” I deem as being in apposition, the latter being explanatory of the former; for he expresses the same thing in two ways.
Every word which follows is weighty. The inheritance is said to be reserved, or preserved, that we may know that it is beyond the reach of danger. For, were it not in God’s hand, it might be exposed to endless dangers. If it were in this world, how could we regard it as safe amidst so many changes? That he might then free us from every fear, he testifies that our salvation is placed in safety beyond the harms which Satan can do. But as the certainty of salvation can bring us but little comfort, except each one knows that it belongs to himself, Peter adds, for you For consciences will calmly recumb here, that is, when the Lord cries to them from heaven, “Behold, your salvation is in my hand and is kept for you.” But as salvation is not indiscriminately for all, he calls our attention to faith, that all who are endued with faith, might be distinguished from the rest, and that they might not doubt but that they are the true and legitimate heirs of God. For, as faith penetrates into the heavens, so also it appropriates to us the blessings which are in heaven.
Cambridge Bible-1 Pet: Plumptre
4. to an inheritance incorruptible] The clause is co-ordinate with the preceding and depends upon the word “begotten.” The idea of the “inheritance” is again essentially Pauline (Act_20:32, Gal_3:18, Eph_1:14, Eph_1:18 and elsewhere). The epithets attached to the word distinguish it from any earthly inheritance, such as had been given to Israel (Act_7:5), and agree with the “everlasting inheritance” of Heb_9:15. Here it answers to the completed “salvation” of the next verse, of which we get glimpses and foretastes here, but which is reserved in its fulness in and for the region of the eternal. In that inheritance there is nothing that mars, nothing that defiles (Rev_21:27), nothing that fades away, as the flower of the field fadeth (Jam_1:10, Jam_1:11). The two latter adjectives (amiantos, amarantos) have in the Greek an impressive assonance which cannot be reproduced in English.
for you] Some MSS. give “for us,” but this was probably a correction due to the use of the first person in the preceding verse, and the present text, which rests on the authority of the best MSS., is like St Paul’s changes from the first person to the second (as in Rom_7:4, Rom_7:5, Eph_2:13, Eph_2:14), the natural expression of the feeling of the Apostle that what he hopes and believes for himself, he hopes and believes also for those to whom he writes.
Robertson’s Word Pictures
1 Peter 1:4
Unto an inheritance (eis klēronomian). Old word (from klēronomos, heir) for the property received by the heir (Mat_21:38), here a picture of the blessedness in store for us pilgrims (Gal_3:18).
Incorruptible (aphtharton). Old compound adjective (alpha privative and phtheirō, to corrupt), imperishable. So many inheritances vanish away before they are obtained.
Undefiled (amianton). Old verbal adjective (note alliteration) from alpha privative and miainō, to defile, without defect or flaw in the title, in N.T. only here, Jam_1:27; Heb_13:4.
That fadeth not away (amaranton). Alliterative and verbal adjective again from alpha privative and marainō (to dry up, to wither, as in Jam_1:11), late and rare word in several inscriptions on tombs, here only in N.T. These inscriptions will fade away, but not this inheritance in Christ. It will not be like a faded rose.
Reserved (tetērēmenēn). Perfect passive participle of tēreō, old verb, to take care of, to guard. No burglars or bandits can break through where this inheritance is kept (Mat_6:19.; Joh_17:11.). Cf. Col_1:5, where laid away” (apokeimenēn) occurs.
For you (eis humas). More graphic than the mere dative.
1 Peter 1:4
An inheritance (κληρονομίαν)
A Pauline word, from κλῆρος, a lot, and νέμομαι, to distribute among themselves. Hence an inheritance is originally a portion which one receives by lot in a general distribution. In the New Testament the idea of chance attaching to the lot is eliminated. It is the portion or heritage which one receives by virtue of birth or by special gift. So of the vineyard seized by the wicked husbandmen: “Let us seize on his inheritance” (Mat_21:38); of Abraham in Canaan: “God gave him none inheritance” (Act_7:5); “an eternal inheritance” (Heb_9:15).
Incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away
Note Peter’s characteristic multiplication of epithets. Incorruptible (ἄφθαρτον). From ἀ, not, and φθείρω, to destroy or corrupt. Undefiled (ἀμίαντον). From ἀ, not, and μιαίνω, to defile, though the verb means especially to defile by staining, as with color; while μολύνω, also translated defile (1Co_8:7), is to besmirch, as with mire. We might render unstained, though the word is not used with any conscious reference to its etymology. That fadeth not away (ἀμάραντον) Used by Peter only, and but once. From ἀ, not, and μαραίνομαι, to wither. The loveliness of the heavenly inheritance is described as exempt from the blight which attaches to earthly bloom. As between ἄφθαρτον, incorruptible, and ἀμάραντον, unwithering, the former emphasizes the indestructibility of substance, and the latter of grace, and beauty. The latter adjective appears in the familiar botanical name amaranth. It will be observed that all of these three epithets are compounded with the negative particle ἀ, not. Archbishop Trench aptly remarks that “it is a remarkable testimony to the reign of sin, and therefore of imperfection, of decay, of death throughout this whole fallen world, that as often as we desire to set forth the glory, purity, and perfection of that other, higher world toward which we strive, we are almost inevitably compelled to do this by the aid of negatives; by the denying to that higher order of things the leading features and characteristics of this.” Compare Rev_21:1, Rev_21:4, Rev_21:22, Rev_21:23, Rev_21:27; Rev_22:3, Rev_22:5.
Lit., which has been reserved, a perfect participle, indicating the inheritance as one reserved through God’s care for his own from the beginning down to the present. Laid up and kept is the idea. The verb signifies keeping as the result of guarding. Thus in Joh_17:11, Christ says, “keep (τήρησον) those whom thou hast given me;” in Joh_17:12, “I kept them” (ἐτήρουν); i.e., preserved by guarding them. “Those whom thou gavest me I guarded (ἐφύλαξα).” So Rev., which preserves the distinction. Similarly, Joh_14:15, “keep (τηρήσατε) my commandments;” preserve them unbroken by careful watching. So Peter was delivered to the soldiers to guard him (φυλάσσειν), but he was kept (ἐτηρεῖτο) in prison (Act_12:4, Act_12:5). Compare Col_1:5, where a different word is used: ἀποκειμένην, lit., laid away.
For you (εἰς)
The use of this preposition, instead of the simpler dative, is graphic: with reference to you; with you as its direct object.
1 Peter 1:5
5Who are kept by the power of God We are to notice the connection when he says, that we are kept while in the world, and at the same time our inheritance is reserved in heaven; otherwise this thought would immediately creep in, “What does it avail us that our salvation is laid up in heaven, when we are tossed here and there in this world as in a turbulent sea? What can it avail us that our salvation is secured in a quiet harbour, when we are driven to and fro amidst thousand shipwrecks?” The apostle, therefore, anticipates objections of this kind, when he shews, that though we are in the world exposed to dangers, we are yet kept by faith; and that though we are thus nigh to death, we are yet safe under the guardianship of faith. But as faith itself, through the infirmity of the flesh, often quails, we might be always anxious about the morrow, were not the Lord to aid us.
And, indeed, we see that under the Papacy a diabolical opinion prevails, that we ought to doubt our final perseverance, because we are uncertain whether we shall be tomorrow in the same state of grace. But Peter did not thus leave us in suspense; for he testifies that we stand by the power of God, lest any doubt arising from a consciousness of our own infirmity, should disquiet us. How weak soever we may then be, yet our salvation is not uncertain, because it is sustained by God’s power. As, then, we are begotten by faith, so faith itself receives its stability from God’s power. Hence is its security, not only for the present, but also for the future.
Unto salvation As we are by nature impatient of delay, and soon succumb under weariness, he therefore reminds us that salvation is not deferred because it is not yet prepared, but because the time of its revelation is not yet come. This doctrine is intended to nourish and sustain our hope. Moreover, he calls the day of judgment the last time, because the restitution of all things is not to be previously expected, for the intervening time is still in progress. What is elsewhere called the last time, is the whole from the coming of Christ; it is so called from a comparison with the preceding ages. But Peter had a regard to the end of the world.
1Pe_1:5. Who are kept by the power of God, φρουρεῖν, a military term used of a guard for the protection of a place, or of a strongly garrisoned fortress. Fear not the enemies of your salvation, for you are surrounded by a strong, protecting body-guard, by the power of God and His holy angels, cf. 2Co_11:32; Php_4:7; Son_3:7-8; Zec_2:5; 2Ki_6:16-17. Nothing short of Divine power is needed to protect us from so many strong and subtle enemies, as Peter made experience in his own case. Weiss with Steiger and de Wette explain it of the Holy Ghost. δύναμις Θεοῦ is certainly used in that sense, Luk_1:35, but πνεῦμα ἅγιον goes before. The other passages adduced by them are inconclusive. It seems therefore arbitrary to abandon the relation of the expression to the Omnipotence of God. On what condition do we enjoy that guard? Faith, whose object is not mentioned here in particular, and should be supplied from 1Pe_1:8. It is the same means by which salvation is first procured, then constantly kept up, viz.: acknowledging Jesus as the Messiah and confidently surrendering to Him, which is not identical with obedience, but the source of it, cf. Act_3:16; Act_10:43; Mat_9:22; Mar_5:34; Luk_7:50.
Salvation ready, σωτηρία, יְשׁוּעָה negatively, deliverance from eternal destruction, and positively, introduction to the salvation prepared by Jesus, translation from the power of Satan, sin and death into the perfect life of liberty, righteousness and truth, Act_2:40; Act_4:12; Act_5:31; Act_15:11; 1Pe_1:9; Mat_16:25; Luk_9:56. The former point is predominant as the latter lies rather in κληρονομία. With Peter σωτηρία appears in most intimate connection with the completion of salvation, 1Pe_1:9; 1Pe_4:17-18; Act_2:21; 1Pe_2:2. How much he has it at heart is evident from his using the word three times in this section. He thinks of it not as far distant, but as close at hand, as he says in 1Pe_4:5, “Who shall give account to Him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead,“ cf. 1Pe_4:7. Sharing the opinion of the other apostles concerning the nearness of Christ’s Advent to judgment, he describes σωτηρία as ready to be revealed (Jam_5:7-8; Rev_1:3; Rev_22:10; Rev_22:20; Heb_10:25; Heb_10:37; Judges 18; 1Jn_2:18; Rom_13:11-12; 1Co_15:51; 2Co_5:2-3; Php_4:5; 1Th_4:17). “The inheritance to which you are ordained, has been acquired long since and prepared from the beginning of the world, but lies as yet concealed, covered and sealed; but in a short time, it will be opened in a moment and disclosed, so that we may see it.” Luther.
To be revealed, ἀποκαλυφθῆναι, denotes salvation fully disclosed, cf. 1Pe_1:7; 1Pe_4:13; 1Pe_5:1. At 1Pe_1:13 it refers to the announcement of the first advent of Christ, cf. Rom_16:25; and to inward revelation at 1Co_2:10; Gal_1:16; Gal_3:23. In the last time, ἐν καιρῷ ἐσκάτῳ, in the completing period of salvation beginning with the return of Christ, this is elsewhere called συντέλεια τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου, Mat_13:39-40; Mat_24:3; Mat_28:20; or ἡ ἐσχάτη ἡμέρα Joh_11:24; Joh_12:24; Joh_12:48. In Hebrew אַחֲרִית הַיָּמִים Gen. 69:1; Num_24:14; Deu_4:39; Isa_2:2; Mic_4:1; Eze_38:16; Dan_10:14, where regard is had sometimes more to the beginning, sometimes more to the development of that period The last times of the present system of the world, of the αἰὼν οὖτος are also called ἔσχαται ἡμέραι, 2Ti_3:1; Judges 18; 1Pe_1:20; 2Pe_3:3, or ἐσχάτη ὣρα, 1Jn_2:18; they border upon those συντέλεια, but do not coincide with them. Somewhat different appears the usus loquendi of the Ep. to the Hebrews (Heb_9:26). But ἐπὶ συντέλειᾳ may be rendered, near to the period of completion, which the author thought immediately impending.
1 Peter 1:5
Who are kept by the power of God – That is, “kept” or preserved in the faith and hope of the gospel; who are preserved from apostacy, or so kept that you will finally obtain salvation. The word which is used here, and rendered “kept,” (φρουρέω phroureō,) is rendered in 2Co_11:32, kept with a garrison; in Gal_3:23, and here, kept; in Phi_4:7, shall keep. It does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. It means to keep, as in a garrison or fortress; or as with a military watch. The idea is, that there was a faithful guardianship exercised over them to save them from danger, as a castle or garrison is watched to guard it against the approach of an enemy. The meaning is, that they were weak in themselves, and were surrounded by temptations; and that the only reason why they were preserved was, that God exerted his power to keep them. The only reason which any Christians have to suppose they will ever reach heaven, is the fact that God keeps them by his own power. Compare the Phi_1:6 note; 2Ti_1:12; 2Ti_4:18 notes. If it were left to the will of man; to the strength of his own resolutions; to his power to meet temptations, and to any probability that he would of himself continue to walk in the path of life, there would be no certainty that anyone would be saved.
Through faith – That is, he does not keep us by the mere exertion of power, but he excites faith in our hearts, and makes that the means of keeping us. As long as we have faith in God, and in his promises, we are safe. When that fails, we are weak; and if it should fail altogether, we could not be saved. Compare the notes at Eph_2:8.
Unto salvation – Not preserved for a little period, and then suffered to fall away, but so kept as to be saved. We may remark here that Peter, as well as Paul, believed in the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. If he did not, how could he have addressed these Christians in this manner, and said that they were “kept by the power of God unto salvation?” What evidence could he have had that they would obtain salvation, unless he believed in the general truth that it was the purpose of God to keep all who were truly converted?
Ready to be revealed in the last time – That is, when the world shall close. Then it shall be made manifest to assembled worlds that such an inheritance was “reserved” for you, and that you were “kept” in order to inherit it. Compare Mat_25:34. This verse, then, teaches that the doctrine that the saints will persevere and be saved, is true. They are “kept by the power of God to salvation;” and as God has all power, and guards them with reference to this end, it cannot be but that they will be saved. It may be added:
(a) That it is very desirable that the doctrine should be true. Man is so weak and feeble, so liable to fall, and so exposed to temptation, that it is in itself every way a thing to be wished that his salvation should be in some safer hands than his own.
(b) If it is desirable that it should be true, it is fair to infer that it is true, for God has made all the arrangements for the salvation of his people which are really desirable and proper.
(c) The only security for the salvation of anyone is founded on that doctrine.
If it were left entirely to the hands of people, even the best of people, what assurance could there be that anyone could be saved? Did not Adam fall? Did not holy angels fall? Have not some of the best of men fallen into sin? And who has such a strength of holiness that he could certainly confide in it to make his own salvation sure? Any man must know little of himself, and of the human heart, who supposes that he has such a strength of virtue that he would never fall away if left to himself. But if this be so, then his only hope of salvation is in the fact that God intends to “keep his people by his own power through faith unto salvation.”
1 Peter 1:6
6Wherein ye greatly rejoice, or, In which ye exult. Though the termination of the Greek verb is doubtful, yet the meaning requires that we read, “ye exult,” rather than “exult ye.” In which refers to the whole that is said of the hope of salvation laid up in heaven. But he rather exhorts than praises them; for his object was to shew what fruit was to come from the hope of salvation, even spiritual joy, by which not only the bitterness of all evil might be mitigated, but also all sorrow overcome. At the same time to exult is more expressive than to rejoice.
But it seems somewhat inconsistent, when he says that the faithful, who exulted with joy, were at the same time sorrowful, for these are contrary feelings. But the faithful know by experience, how these things can exist together, much better than can be expressed in words. However, to explain the matter in a few words, we may say that the faithful are not logs of wood, nor have they so divested themselves of human feelings, but that they are affected with sorrow, fear danger, and feel poverty as an evil, and persecutions as hard and difficult to be borne. Hence they experience sorrow from evils; but it is so mitigated by faith, that they cease not at the same time to rejoice. Thus sorrow does not prevent their joy, but, on the contrary, give place to it. Again, though joy overcomes sorrow, yet it does not put an end to it, for it does not divest us of humanity. And hence it appears what true patience is; its beginning, and, as it were, its root, is the knowledge of God’s blessings, especially of that gratuitous adoption with which he has favored us; for all who raise hither their minds, find it an easy thing calmly to bear all evils. For whence is it that our minds are pressed down with grief, except that we have no participation of spiritual things? But all they who regard their troubles as necessary trials for their salvation, not only rise above them, but also turn them to an occasion of joy.
Ye are in heaviness, or, Ye are made sorrowful. Is not sorrow also the common lot of the reprobate? for they are not free from evils. But Peter meant that the faithful endure sorrow willingly, while the ungodly murmur and perversely contend with God. Hence the godly bear sorrow, as the tamed ox the yoke, or as a horse, broken in, the bridle, though held by a child. God by sorrow afflicts the reprobate, as when a bridle is by force put in the mouth of a ferocious and refractory horse; he kicks and offers every resistance, but all in vain. Then Peter commends the faithful, because they willingly undergo sorrow, and not as though forced by necessity.
By saying, though now for a season, or, a little while, he supplied consolation; for the shortness of time, however hard evils may be, does not a little lessen them; and the duration of the present life is but a moment of time. If need be; the condition is to be taken for a cause; for he purposed to shew, that God does not, without reason, thus try his people; for, if God afflicted us without a cause, to bear it would be grievous. Hence Peter took an argument for consolation from the design of God; not that the reason always appears to us, but that we ought to be fully persuaded that it ought to be so, because it is God’s will.
We must notice that he does not mention one temptation, but many; and not temptations of one kind, but manifold temptations It is, however, better to seek the exposition of this passage in the first chapter of James
1 Peter 1:6
Wherein ye greatly rejoice – In which hope of salvation. The idea is, that the prospect which they had of the future inheritance was to them a source of the highest joy, even in the midst of their many sufferings and trials. On the general grounds for rejoicing, see the Rom_5:1-2 notes; Phi_3:1; Phi_4:4 notes; 1Th_5:16 note. See also the notes at 1Pe_1:8. The particular meaning here is, that the hope which they had of their future inheritance enabled them to rejoice even in the midst of persecutions and trials. It not only sustained them, but it made them happy. That must be a valuable religion which will make people happy in the midst of persecutions and heavy calamities.
Though now for a season – A short period – ὀλίγον oligon. It would be in fact only for a brief period, even if it should continue through the whole of life. Compare the notes at 2Co_4:17; “Our light affliction which is but for a moment.” It is possible, however, that Peter supposed that the trials which they then experienced would soon pass over. They may have been suffering persecutions which he hoped would not long continue.
If need be – This phrase seems to have been thrown in here to intimate that there was a necessity for their afflictions, or that there was “need” that they should pass through these trials. There was some good to be accomplished by them, which made it desirable and proper that they should be thus afflicted. The sense is, “since there is need;” though the apostle expresses it more delicately by suggesting the possibility that there might be need of it, instead of saying absolutely that there was need. It is the kind of language which we would use in respect to one who was greatly afflicted, by suggesting to him, in the most tender manner, that there might be things in his character which God designed to correct by trials, instead of saying roughly and bluntly that such was undoubtedly the fact. We would not say to such a person, “you certainly needed this affliction to lead you to amend your life;” but, “it may be that there is something in your character which makes it desirable, or that God intends that some good results shall come from it which will show that it is wisely ordered.”
Ye are in heaviness – Greek, “Ye are sorrowing,” (λυπηθέντες lupēthentes;) you are sad, or grieved, Mat_14:9; Mat_17:23.
Through manifold temptations – Through many kinds of trials, for so the word rendered “temptation” (πειρασμος peirasmos) means, Jam_1:2, Jam_1:12. See the notes at Mat_4:1; Mat_6:13. The meaning here is, that they now endured many things which were suited to try or test their faith. These might have consisted of poverty, persecution, sickness, or the efforts of ethers to lead them to renounce their religion, and to go back to their former state of unbelief. Anyone or all of these would try them, and would show whether their religion was genuine. On the various ways which God has of trying his people, compare the notes at Isa_28:23-29.
1 Peter 1:7
7.Much more precious than of gold The argument is from the less to the greater; for if gold, a corruptible metal, is deemed of so much value that we prove it by fire, that it may become really valuable, what wonder is it that God should require a similar trial as to faith, since faith is deemed by him so excellent? And though the words seem to have a different meaning, he yet compares faith to gold, and makes it more precious than gold, that hence he might draw the conclusion, that it ought to be fully proved. It is moreover uncertain how far he extends the meaning of the words, “tried” δοκιμάζεσθαι and “trial” δοκίμιον
Gold is, indeed, tried twice by fire; first, when it is separated from its dross; and then, when a judgment is to be formed of its purity. Both modes of trial may very suitably be applied to faith; for when there is much of the dregs of unbelief remaining in us, and when by various afflictions we are refined as it were in God’s furnace, the dross of our faith is removed, so that it becomes pure and clean before God; and, at the same time, a trial of it is made, as to whether it be true or fictitious. I am disposed to take these two views, and what immediately follows seems to favor this explanation; for as silver is without honor or value before it be refined, so he intimates that our faith is not to be honored and crowned by God until it be duly proved.
At the appearing of Jesus Christ, or, when Jesus Christ shall be revealed. This is added, that the faithful might learn to hold on courageously to the last day. For our life is now hidden in Christ, and will remain hidden, and as it were buried, until Christ shall appear from heaven; and the whole course of our life leads to the destruction of the external man, and all the things we suffer are, as it were, the preludes of death. It is hence necessary, that we should cast our own eyes on Christ, if we wish in our afflictions to behold glory and praise. For trials as to us are full of reproach and shame, and they become glorious in Christ; but that glory in Christ is not yet plainly seen, for the day of consolation is not yet come.
1 Peter 1:7
Only here and Jam_1:3. Rev., proof. The word means a test. As the means of proof, however, is not only the touchstone itself, but the trace of the metal left upon it, the sense here is the result of the contact of faith with trial, and hence the verification of faith. The expression is equivalent to your approved faith. Compare Rom_2:7, Rom_2:10.
Than of gold
Omit the of, and read than gold. The comparison is between the approved faith and the gold; not between the faith and the proof of the gold.
Though it be tried (δοκιμαζομένου)
Kindred with δοκίμιον, proof, and better rendered by Rev., proved. The verb is used in classical Greek of assaying or testing metals, and means, generally, to approve or sanction upon test. It is radically akin to δέχεσθαι, to receive, and hence implies a proof with a view to determine whether a thing be worthy to be received. Compare 1Co_3:13; Gal_6:4; 1Jo_4:1. It thus differs from πειράζειν, to try or tempt (see on πειρασμοῖς, 1Pe_1:6), in that that verb indicates simply a putting to proof to discover what good or evil is in a person; and from the fact that such scrutiny so often develops the existence and energy of evil, the word acquired a predominant sense of putting to the proof with the design or hope of breaking down the subject under the proof – in other words, of temptation in the ordinary sense. Hence Satan is called ὁ πειράζων, the tempter, Mat_4:3; 1Th_3:5. See on Mat_6:13. Archbishop Trench observes that “δοκιμάζειν could not be used of Satan, since he never proves that he may approve, nor tests that he may accept.”
Might be found (εὑρεθῇ)
In accord with the preceding expressions, and indicating discovery as the result of scrutiny.
Praise and glory and honor
Such is the order of the best texts, and so Rev. Glory and honor often occur together in the New Testament, as Rom_2:7, Rom_2:10; 1Ti_1:17. Only here with praise. Compare spirit of glory, 1Pe_4:14.
1 Peter 1:7
That the trial of your faith – The putting of your religion to the test, and showing what is its real nature. Compare Jam_1:3, Jam_1:12.
Being much more precious than of gold – This does not mean that their faith was much more precious than gold, but that the testing of it, (δοκίμιον dokimion,) the process of showing whether it was or was not genuine, was a much more important and valuable process than that of testing gold in the fire. More important results were to be arrived at by it, and it was more desirable that it should be done.
That perisheth – Not that gold perishes by the process of being tried in the fire, for this is not the fact, and the connection does not demand this interpretation. The idea is, that gold, however valuable it is, is a perishable thing. It is not an enduring, imperishable, indestructible thing, like religion. It may not perish in the fire, but it will in some way, for it will not endure forever.
Though it be tried with fire – This refers to the gold. See the Greek. The meaning is, that gold, though it will bear the action of fire, is yet a destructible thing, and will not endure forever. It is more desirable to test religion than it is gold, because it is more valuable. It pertains to that which is eternal and indestructible, and it is therefore of more importance to show its true quality, and to free it from every improper mixture.
Might be found unto praise – That is, might be found to be genuine, and such as to meet the praise or commendation of the final judge.
And honor – That honor might be done to it before assembled worlds.
And glory – That it might be rewarded with that glory which will be then conferred on all who have shown, in the various trials of life, that they had true religion.
At the appearing of Jesus Christ – To judge the world. Compare Mat_25:31; Act_1:11; 1Th_4:16; 2Th_2:8; 1Ti_6:14; 2Ti_4:1, 2Ti_4:8; Tit_2:13. From these two verses 1Pe_1:6-7 we may learn:
I. That it is desirable that the faith of Christians should be tried:
(a) It is desirable to know whether that which appears to be religion is genuine, as it is desirable to know whether that which appears to be gold is genuine. To gold we apply the action of intense heat, that we may know whether it is what it appears to be; and as religion is of more value than gold, so it is more desirable that it should be subjected to the proper tests, that its nature may be ascertained. There is much which appears to be gold, which is of no value, as there is much which appears to be religion, which is of no value. The one is worth no more than the other, unless it is genuine.
(b) It is desirable in order to show its true value. It is of great importance to know what that which is claimed to be gold is worth for the purposes to which gold is usually applied; and so it is in regard to religion. Religion claims to be of more value to man than anything else. It asserts its power to do that for the intellect and the heart which nothing else can do; to impart consolation in the various trials of life which nothing else can impart; and to give a support which nothing else can on the bed of death. It is very desirable, therefore, that in these various situations it should show its power; that is, that its friends should be in these various conditions, in order that they may illustrate the true value of religion.
(c) It is desirable that true religion should be separated from all alloy. There is often much alloy in gold, and it is desirable that it should be separated from it, in order that it may be pure. So it is in religion. It is often combined with much that is unholy and impure; much that dims its lustre and mars its beauty; much that prevents its producing the effect which it would otherwise produce. Gold is, indeed, often better, for some purposes, for having some alloy mixed with it; but not so with religion. It is never better for having a little pride, or vanity, or selfishness, or meanness, or worldliness, or sensuality mingled with it; and that which will remove these things from our religion will be a favor to us.
II. God takes various methods of trying his people, with a design to test the value of their piety, and to separate it from all impure mixtures:
(1) He tries his people by prosperity – often as decisive a test of piety as can be applied to it. There is much pretended piety, which will bear adversity, but which will not bear prosperity. The piety of a man is decisively tested by popularity; by the flatteries of the world; by a sudden increase of property; and in such circumstances it is often conclusively shown that there is no true religion in the soul.
(2) He tries his people in adversity. He lays his hand on them heavily, to show:
(a) Whether they will bear up under their trials, and persevere in his service;
(b) To show whether their religion will keep them from murmuring or complaining;
(c) To show whether it is adapted to comfort and sustain the soul.
(3) He tries his people by sudden transition from one to the other. We get accustomed to a uniform course of life, whether it be joy or sorrow; and the religion which is adapted to a uniform course may be little suited to transitions from one condition of life to another. In prosperity we may have shown that we were grateful, and benevolent, and disposed to serve God; but our religion will be subjected to a new test, if we are suddenly reduced to poverty. In sickness and poverty, we learn to be patient and resigned, and perhaps even happy. But the religion which we then cultivated may be little adapted to a sudden transition to prosperity; and in such a transition, there would be a new trial of our faith. That piety which shone so much on a bed of sickness, might be little suited to shine in circumstances of sudden prosperity. The human frame may become accustomed either to the intense cold of the polar regions, or to the burning heats of the equator; but in neither case might it bear a transition from one to the other. It is such a transition that is a more decisive test of its powers of endurance than either intense heat or cold, if steadily prolonged.
III. Religion will bear any trial which may be applied to it, just as gold will bear the action of fire.
IV. Religion is imperishable in its nature. Even the most pure gold will perish. Time will corrode it, or it will be worn away by use, or it will be destroyed at the universal conflagration; but time and use will not wear out religion, and it will live on through the fires that will consume everything else.
V. Christians should be willing to pass through trials:
(a) They will purify their religion, just as the fire will remove dross from gold.
(b) They will make it shine more brightly, just as gold does when it comes out of the furnace.
(c) They will disclose more fully its value.
(d) They will furnish an evidence that we shall be saved; for that religion which will bear the tests that God applies to it in the present life, will bear the test of the final trial.
1 Peter 1:8
8Whom having not seen, or, Whom though ye have not seen. He lays down two things, that they loved Christ whom they had not seen, and that they believed on him whom they did not then behold. But the first arises from the second; for the cause of love is faith, not only because the knowledge of those blessings which Christ bestows on us, moves us to love him, but because he offers us perfect felicity, and thus draws us up to himself. He then commends the Jews, because they believed in Christ whom they did not see, that they might know that the nature of faith is to acquiesce in those blessings which are hid from our eyes. They had indeed given some proof of this very thing, though he rather directs what was to be done by praising them.
The first clause in order is, that faith is not to be measured by sight. For when the life of Christians is apparently miserable, they would instantly fail, were not their happiness dependent on hope. Faith, indeed, has also its eyes, but they are such as penetrate into the invisible kingdom of God, and are contented with the mirror of the Word; for it is the demonstration of invisible things, as it is said in Heb_11:1. Hence true is that saying of Paul, that we are absent from the Lord while we are in the flesh; for we walk by faith and not by sight. (2Co_5:6.)
The second clause is, that faith is not a cold notion, but that it kindles in our hearts love to Christ. For faith does not (as the sophists prattle) lay hold on God in a confused and implicit manner, (for this would be to wander through devious paths;) but it has Christ as its object. Moreover, it does not lay hold on the bare name of Christ, or his naked essence, but regards what he is to us, and what blessings he brings; for it cannot be but that the affections of man should be led there, where his happiness is, according to that saying, “Where your treasure is, there is also your heart.” (Mat_6:21.)
Ye rejoice, or, Ye exult. He again refers to the fruit of faith which he had mentioned, and not without reason; for it is an incomparable benefit, that consciences are not only at peace before God, but confidently exult in the hope of eternal life. And he calls it joy unspeakable, or unutterable, because the peace of God exceeds all comprehension. What is added, full of glory, or glorified, admits of two explanations. It means either what is magnificent and glorious, or what is contrary to that which is empty and fading, of which men will soon be ashamed. Thus “glorified” is the same with what is solid and permanent, beyond the danger of being brought to nothing. Those who are not elevated by this joy above the heavens, so that being content with Christ alone, they despise the world, in vain boast that they have faith.
Whom having not seen, ye love. Some ancient manuscripts read οὐκ εἰδότες, “although ye know him not:” but the reading ἰδόντες is best supported, and gives the better sense. The Christians of Asia Minor had not seen the gracious face of the Lord, as St. Peter had. But though they had never known him after the flesh, they knew him by the inner knowledge of spiritual communion, and, having learned to love him, had attained the blessing promised to those who had not seen, but yet had believed. St. Peter may possibly be thinking of his well-remembered interview with the risen Lord (Joh_21:15-17). He has here the word ἀγαπᾶν, expressive of reverential love, which Christ had used in his first two questions; not the word of warm human affection (φιλεῖν) which he himself had employed in his three answers. In whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. The words, “in whom” (εἰς ὅν, literally, “on whom now not looking, but believing”), are to be taken with the participles “seeing” and “believing,” not with “ye rejoice.” St. Peter insists on the necessity and blessedness of faith as earnestly as St. Paul does, though with him the antithesis is rather between faith and sight than between faith and works. As a tact, St. Peter’s readers had never seen the Lord; now, though not seeing him with the outward eye, they realized his presence by faith, and in that presence they rejoiced. The verb is that used in 1Pe_1:6—they rejoiced greatly, they exulted, and that though they saw him not. Human love needs the seen presence of the beloved one to complete the fullness of its joy (2Jn_1:12); but their joy was even amid afflictions unspeakable—like all our deepest and holiest feelings, not to be expressed in words; and it was glorified by the unseen presence of Christ. His chosen behold even now, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, and, beholding, are changed into the same image from glory to glory. Joy in the Lord is a foretaste of the joy of heaven, and is irradiated by glimpses of the glory that shall be revealed. Others, as Huther and Alford, again give to the verb ἀγαλλιᾶσθε, “ye rejoice,” a quasi-future sense. The word for “unspeakable” (ἀνεκλαλητός) is found only here.
1 Peter 1:8
Whom having not seen, ye love – This Epistle was addressed to those who were “strangers scattered abroad,” (See the notes at 1Pe_1:1) and it is evident that they had not personally seen the Lord Jesus. Yet they had heard of his character, his preaching, his sacrifice for sin, and his resurrection and ascension, and they had learned to love him:
(1) It is possible to love one whom we have not seen. Thus, we may love God, whom no “eye hath seen,” (compare 1Jo_4:20) and thus we may love a benefactor, from whom we have received important benefits, whom we have never beheld.
(2) We may love the character of one whom we have never seen, and from whom we may never have received any particular favors. We may love his uprightness, his patriotism, his benignity, as represented to us. We might love him the more if we should become personally acquainted with him, and if we should receive important favors from him; but it is possible to feel a sense of strong admiration for such a character in itself.
(3) That may be a very pure love which we have for one whom we have never seen. It may be based on simple excellence of character; and in such a case there is the least chance for any intermingling of selfishness, or any improper emotion of any kind.
(4) We may love a friend as really and as strongly when he is absent, as when he is with us. The wide ocean that rolls between us and a child, does not diminish the ardour of our affection for him; and the Christian friend that has gone to heaven, we may love no less than when he sat with us at the fireside.
(5) Millions, even hundreds of millions, have been led to love the Saviour, who have never seen him. They have seen – not with the physical eye, but with the eye of faith – the inimitable beauty of his character, and have been brought to love him with an ardor of affection which they never had for any other one.
(6) There is every reason why we should love him:
(a) His character is infinitely lovely.
(b) He has done more for us than any other one who ever lived among men.
He died for us, to redeem our souls. He rose, and brought life and immortality to light. He ever lives to intercede for us in heaven. He is employed in preparing mansions of rest for us in the skies, and he will come and take us to himself, that we may be with him forever. Such a Saviour ought to be loved, is loved, and will be loved. The strongest attachments which have ever existed on earth have been for this unseen Saviour. There has been a love for him stronger than that for a father, or mother, or wife, or sister, or home, or country. It has been so strong, that thousands have been willing, on account of it, to bear the torture of the rack or the stake. It has been so strong, that thousands of youth of the finest minds, and the most flattering prospects of distinction, have been willing to leave the comforts of a civilized land, and to go among the benighted pagans, to tell them the story of a Saviour’s life and death. It has been so strong, that unnumbered multitudes have longed, more than they have for all other things, that they might see him, and be with him, and abide with him forever and ever. Compare the notes at Phi_1:23.
In whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing – He is now in heaven, and to mortal eyes now invisible, like his Father. Faith in him is the source and fountain of our joy. It makes invisible things real, and enables us to feel and act, in view of them, with the same degree of certainty as if we saw them. Indeed, the conviction to the mind of a true believer that there is a Saviour, is as certain and as strong as if he saw him; and the same may be said of his conviction of the existence of heaven, and of eternal realities. If it should be said that faith may deceive us, we may reply:
(1) May not our physical senses also deceive us? Does the eye never deceive? Are there no optical illusions? Does the ear never deceive? Are there no sounds which are mistaken? Do the taste and the smell never deceive? Are we never mistaken in the report which they bring to us? And does the sense of feeling never deceive? Are we never mistaken in the size, the hardness, the figure of objects which we handle? But,
(2) For all the practical purposes of life, the senses are correct guides, and do not in general lead us astray. So,
(3) There are objects of faith about which we are never deceived, and where we do act and must act with the same confidence as if we had personally seen them. Are we deceived about the existence of London, or Paris, or Canton, though we may never have seen either? May not a merchant embark with perfect propriety in a commercial enterprise, on the supposition that there is such a place as London or Canton, though he has never seen them? Would he not be reputed mad, if he should refuse to do it on this ground? And so, may not a man, in believing that there is a heaven, and in forming his plans for it, though he has not yet seen it, act as rationally and as wisely as he who forms his plans on the supposition that there is such a place as Canton?
Ye rejoice – Ye do rejoice; not merely ye ought to rejoice. It may be said of Christians that they do in fact rejoice; they are happy. The people of the world often suppose that religion makes its professors sad and melancholy. That there are those who have not great comfort in their religion, no one indeed can doubt; but this arises from several causes entirely independent of their religion. Some have melancholy temperaments, and are not happy in anything. Some have little evidence that they are Christians, and their sadness arises not from religion, but from the want of it. But that true religion does make its possessors happy, anyone may easily satisfy himself by asking any number of sincere Christians, of any denomination, whom he may meet. With one accord they will say to him that they have a happiness which they never found before; that however much they may have possessed of the wealth, the honors, and the pleasures of the world – and they who are now Christians have not all of them been strangers to these things – they never knew solid and substantial peace until they found it in religion And why should they not be believed? The world would believe them in other things; why will they not when they declare that religion does not make them gloomy, but happy?
With joy unspeakable – A very strong expression, and yet verified in thousands of cases among young converts, and among those in the maturer days of piety. There are thousands who can say that their happiness when they first had evidence that their sins were forgiven, that the burden of guilt was rolled away, and that they were the children of God, was unspeakable. They had no words to express it, it was so full and so new: “Tongue can never express. The sweet comfort and peace
Of a soul in its earliest love.”
And so there have been thousands of mature Christians who can adopt the same language, and who could find no words to express the peace and joy which they have found in the love of Christ, and the hope of heaven. And why are not all Christians enabled to say constantly that they “rejoice with joy unspeakable?” Is it not a privilege which they might possess? Is there anything in the nature of religion which forbids it? Why should not one be filled with constant joy who has the hope of dwelling in a world of glory forever? Compare Joh_14:27; Joh_16:22.
And full of glory -
(1) Of anticipated glory – of the prospect of enjoying the glory of heaven.
(2) Of present glory – with a joy even now which is of the same nature as that in heaven; a happiness the same in kind, though not in degree, as that which will be ours in a brighter world.
The saints on earth partake of the same kind of joy which they will have in heaven; for the happiness of heaven will be but an expansion, a prolongation, and a purifying of that which they have here. Compare the notes at Eph_1:14.
1 Peter 1:9
9Receiving the end of your faith He reminds the faithful where they ought to direct all their thoughts, even to eternal salvation. For this world holds all our affections ensnared by is allurements; this life and all things belonging to the body are great impediments, which prevent us from applying our minds to the contemplation of the future and spiritual life. Hence the Apostle sets before us this future life as a subject of deep meditation, and he indirectly intimates that the loss of all other things is to be deemed as nothing, provided our souls be saved. By saying receiving, he takes away all doubt, in order that they might more cheerfully go on, being certain of obtaining salvation. In the meantime, however, he shews what the end of faith is, lest they should be over-anxious, because it is as yet deferred. For our adoption ought now to satisfy us; nor ought we to ask to be introduced before the time into the possession of our inheritance. We may also take the end for reward; but the meaning would be the same. For we learn from the Apostle’s words, that salvation is not otherwise obtained than by faith; and we know that faith leans on the sole promise of gratuitous adoption; but if it be so, doubtless salvation is not owing to the merits of works, nor can it be hoped for on their account.
But why does he mention souls only, when the glory of a resurrection is promised to our bodies? As the soul is immortal, salvation is properly ascribed to it, as Paul sometimes is wont to speak, — “That the soul may be saved in the day of the Lord.”(1Co_5:5.)
But it is the same as though he had said “Eternal salvation.” For there is an implied comparison between it and the mortal and fading life which belongs to the body. At the same time, the body is not excluded from a participation of glory when annexed to the soul.
Cambridge Bible 1 Pet: Plumptre
9. receiving the end of your faith] The question has been raised whether these words refer to the present or the future. It has been urged on the one hand that the word for “receiving” applied in 2Co_5:10, and perhaps in Heb_10:36, Eph_6:8, to the ultimate issue of God’s judgment, excludes the former. On the other hand, it may be replied that it is arbitrary to limit the last two passages to the final judgment, and that the tense both of “rejoice” and “receiving” is definitely present. On the whole therefore there is no adequate reason against taking the words in their natural and obvious meaning. Those to whom the Apostle wrote were thought of as already receiving, very really, though not, it might be, in its ultimate fulness, that which was the “end” or “goal” of their faith, and that goal was found in the “salvation” of their “souls”—the deliverance of their moral being (in this instance the word includes “spirit,” though elsewhere it is distinguished from it) from the burden of guilt, the sense of condemnation, the misery and discord of alienation from God.
1 Peter 1:10
He hence commends the value of salvation, because the prophets had their minds intensely fixed on it; for it must have been a great matter, and possessing peculiar excellency, which could have thus kindled in the prophets a spirit of inquiry respecting it. But still more clearly does God’s goodness toward us shine forth in this case, because much more is now made known to us than what all the prophets attained by their long and anxious inquiries. At the same time he confirms the certainty of salvation by this very antiquity; for from the beginning of the world it had received a plain testimony from the Holy Spirit.
These two things ought to be distinctly noticed: he declares that more has been given to us than to the ancient fathers, in order to amplify by this comparison the grace of the gospel; and then, that what is preached to us respecting salvation, cannot be suspected of any novelty, for the Spirit had formerly testified of it by the prophets. When, therefore, he says that the prophets searched and sedulously inquired, this does not belong to their writings or doctrine, but to the private desire with which every one boiled over. What is said afterwards is to be referred to their public office.
But that each particular may be more evident, the passage must be arranged under certain propositions. Let the first then be this, — that the Prophets who foretold of the grace which Christ exhibited at his coming, diligently inquired as to the time when full revelation was to be made. The second is, — that the Spirit of Christ predicted by them of the future condition of Christ’s kingdom, such as it is now, and such as it is expected yet to be, even that it is destined that Christ and his whole body should, through various sufferings, enter into glory. The third is, — that the prophets ministered to us more abundantly than to their own age, and that this was revealed to them from above; for in Christ only is the full exhibition of those things of which God then presented but an obscure image. The fourth is, — that in the Gospel is contained a clear confirmation of prophetic doctrine, but also a much fuller and plainer explanation; for the salvation which he formerly proclaimed as it were at a distance by the prophets, he now reveals openly to us, and as it were before our eyes. The last proposition is, — that it hence appears evident how wonderful is the glory of that salvation promised to us in the Gospel, because even angels, though they enjoy God’s presence in heaven, yet burn with the desire of seeing it. Now all these things tend to shew this one thing, that Christians, elevated to the height of their felicity, ought to surmount all the obstacles of the world; for what is there which this incomparable benefit does not reduce to nothing?
10Of which salvation Had not the fathers the same salvation as we have? Why then does he say that the fathers inquired, as though they possessed not what is now offered to us? The answer to this is plain, that salvation is to be taken here for that clear manifestation of it which we have through the coming of Christ. The words of Peter mean no other thing than those of Christ, when he said,
“Many kings and prophets have desired to see the things which ye see, and have not seen them.” (Mat_13:17.)
As then the prophets had but a limited knowledge of the grace brought by Christ, as to its revelation they justly desired something more. When Simeon, after seeing Christ, prepared himself calmly and with a satisfied mind for death, he shewed that he was before unsatisfied and anxious. Such was the feeling of all the godly.
Cambridge Bible 1 Pet: Plumptre
10. Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently] The words require a slight correction before we proceed to explain them. The noun “prophets” is without the article and the verbs are in the aorist and not the perfect. We translate accordingly, of which salvation prophets enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied. The words have commonly been taken as referring exclusively to the Old Testament prophets, and it is at least right to set before the reader the interpretation of the passage in detail based upon that assumption. Those prophets, it is said, saw the future sufferings of Christ and the after glory but not the time of their accomplishment. The Spirit which taught them was, though they knew it not, the Spirit of Christ, one with that which proceeds from Him and which He bestows on His people. The sufferings appointed for Christ (this, rather than “sufferings of Christ,” is the true rendering) were such as those indicated prophetically in Isa_53, typically in Psa_22. The glories were those of His Eternal Kingdom. It was revealed to the prophets that they were ministering these things (the verb is in the tense that implies continuous action) not for themselves (comp. the parallel language of Heb_11:13, Heb_11:39) but for “you” (some MSS. giving “us”), i.e. for the whole body of future believers in Christ. And these things, the sufferings of Christ and the glories of the future kingdom, were now, St Peter adds, “reported” by the preachers of the Gospel, those preachers being themselves also inspired by the Holy Ghost sent down, as on the day of Pentecost, to fit them for their work; the Gospel which was so preached including, on the one hand, the sufferings of Christ, as they are recorded in the written Gospels, and embodying all that had been revealed to the writers, of the future glory. And these things, he adds, “angels (the word is again without the article, as emphasizing the contrast between them as a class and prophets as a class) ‘desire to look into,’ yet do not see them with the clearness with which the true believer in Christ contemplates them.”
Having thus stated with, it is believed, adequate fulness what may be called the received interpretation of the words, it remains to give that which seems, on the whole, to be truer to the meaning of the words, and which presents a solution of phenomena which the other leaves unsolved. The basis of this other explanation lies in the belief that St Peter is speaking mainly, though perhaps not exclusively, of the prophets of the Apostolic Church. The position of those prophets was, we must remember, as prominent as that of the Apostles (Eph_2:20, Eph_2:3:5, Eph_2:4:11; 2Pe_3:2). Among those with whom St Peter had been brought into personal contact were Barnabas, the “son of consolation,” or, as the Hebrew might be interpreted, the “son of prophecy” (Act_4:36), Agabus (Act_11:28, Act_21:10), Judas, and Silas or Silvanus (Act_15:32). In 2Pe_1:19 we have sufficient proof of the importance attached to the “prophetic word” as a light giving guidance amidst the darkness and perplexities of the time. In 2Pe_3:1-13 we see that they spoke of the glories of the new heaven and the new earth after a time of darkness and distress In 1Co_2:9, 1Co_2:10 we read how the things which “eye had not seen nor ear heard” had been revealed to prophets by the Spirit, and in Rom_16:25, Rom_16:26, in like manner, that “the mystery which had been kept secret since the world began was now made manifest in prophetic writings,” just as in Eph_3:5 St Paul speaks of the same mystery as now “revealed unto the Apostles and Prophets by the Spirit.” All this is enough, it is believed, to warrant, if only at first, tentatively, the assumption that the prophets of the New Testament are those of whom St Peter speaks. It will be seen how far the detailed examination of what follows falls in with the hypothesis.
1 Peter 1:10
Of which salvation – Of the certainty that this system of religion, securing the salvation of the soul, would be revealed. The object of this reference to the prophets seems to be to lead them to value the religion which they professed more highly, and to encourage them to bear their trials with patience. They were in a condition, in many respects, far superior to that of the prophets. They had the full light of the gospel. The prophets saw it only at a distance and but dimly, and were obliged to search anxiously that they might understand the nature of that system of which they were appointed to furnish the comparatively obscure prophetic intimations.
The prophets – This language would imply that this had been a common and prevalent wish of the prophets.
Have enquired – This word is intensive. It means that they sought out, or scrutinized with care the revelations made to them, that they might understand exactly what was implied in that which they were appointed to record in respect to the salvation which was to be made known through the Messiah. See the following places where the same word is used which occurs here: Luk_11:50-51; Act_15:17; Rom_3:11; Heb_11:6; Heb_12:17.
And searched diligently – ἐξερευνάω exereunaō. Compare Dan_9:2-3. The word used here means to search out, to trace out, to explore. It is not elsewhere used in the New Testament, though one of the words from which this is compounded (ἐρευνάω ereunaō) occurs. See Joh_5:39, (Notes) Joh_7:52; Rom_8:27; 1Co_2:10; Rev_2:23. The idea is, that they perceived that in their communications there were some great and glorious truths which they did not fully comprehend, and that they diligently employed their natural faculties to understand that which they were appointed to impart to succeeding generations. They thus became students and interpreters for themselves of their own predictions. They were not only prophets, but men. They had souls to be saved in the same way as others. They had hearts to be sanctified by the truth; and it was needful, in order to this, that truth should be applied to their own hearts in the same way as to others. The mere fact that they were the channels or organs for imparting truth to others would not save them, any more than the fact that a man now preaches truth to others will save himself, or than the fact that a sutler delivers bread to an army will nourish and support his own body.
Who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you – Of the favor that should be shown to you in the gospel. Though the predictions which they uttered appeared to the people of their own times, and perhaps to themselves, obscure, yet they were in fact prophecies of what was to come, and of the favors which, under another dispensation, would be bestowed upon the people of God. The apostle does not mean to say that they prophesied particularly of those persons to whom he was then writing, but that their prophecies were in fact for their benefit, for the things which they predicted had actually terminated on them. The benefit was as real as though the predictions had been solely on their account.
1 Peter 1:11
11. And what they inquired is pointed out when he adds, Searching what, or what manner of time There was a difference between the law and the gospel, a veil as it were being interposed, that they might not see those things nearer which are now set before our eyes. Nor was it indeed proper, while Christ the Sun of righteousness was yet absent, that the full light should shine as at mid-day. And though it was their duty to confine themselves within their prescribed limits, yet it was no superstition to sigh with a desire of having a nearer sight. For when they wished that redemption should be hastened, and desired daily to see it, there was nothing in such a wish to prevent them patiently to wait as long as it pleased the Lord to defer the time. Moreover, to seek as to prophecies the particular time, seems to me unprofitable; for what is spoken of here is not what the prophets taught, but what they wished. Where the Latin interpreters render, “of future grace,” it is literally, “of the grace which is to you.” But as the meaning remains the same, I was not disposed to make any change.
It is more worthy of observation, that he does not say that the prophets searched according to their own understanding as to the time when Christ’s kingdom would come, but that they applied their minds to the revelation of the Spirit. Thus they have taught us by their example a sobriety in learning, for they did not go beyond what the Spirit taught them. And doubtless there will be no limits to man’s curiosity, except the Spirit of God presides over their minds, so that they may not desire anything else than to speak from him. And further, the spiritual kingdom is a higher subject than what the human mind can succeed in investigating, except the Spirit be the guide. May we also therefore submit to his guidance.
The Spirit of Christ which was in them First, “who was in them,” and secondly, “testifying,” that is, giving a testimony, by which expression he intimates that the prophets were endued with the Spirit of knowledge, and indeed in no common manner, as those who have been teachers and witnesses to us, and that yet they were not partakers of that light which is exhibited to us. At the same time, a high praise is given to their doctrine, for it was the testimony of the Holy Spirit; the preachers and ministers were men, but he was the teacher. Nor does he declare without reason that the Spirit of Christ then ruled; and he makes the Spirit, sent from heaven, to preside over the teachers of the Gospel, for he shews that the Gospel comes from God, and that the ancient prophecies were dictated by Christ.
The sufferings of Christ That they might bear submissively their afflictions, he reminds them that they had been long ago foretold by the Spirit. But he includes much more than this, for he teaches us, that the Church of Christ has been from the beginning so constituted, that the cross has been the way to victory, and death a passage to life, and that this had been clearly testified. There is, therefore, no reason why afflictions should above measure depress us, as though we were miserable under them, since the Spirit of God pronounces us blessed.
The order is to be noticed; he mentions sufferings first, and then adds the glories which are to follow. For he intimates that this order cannot be changed or subverted; afflictions must precede glory. So there is to be understood a twofold truth in these words, — that Christians must suffer many troubles before they enjoy glory, — and that afflictions are not evils, because they have glory annexed to them. Since God has ordained this connection, it does not behove us to separate the one from the other. And it is no common consolation, that our condition, such as we find it to be, has been foretold so many ages ago.
Hence we learn, that it is not in vain that a happy end is promised to us; secondly, we hence know that we are not afflicted by chance, but through the infallible providence of God; and lastly, that prophecies are like mirrors to set forth to us in tribulations the image of celestial glory.
Peter, indeed, says, that the Spirit had testified of the coming afflictions of Christ; but he does not separate Christ from his body. This, then, is not to be confined to the person of Christ, but a beginning is to be made with the head, so that the members may in due order follow, as Paul also teaches us, that we must be conformed to him who is the first-born among his brethren. In short, Peter does not speak of what is peculiar to Christ, but of the universal state of the Church. But it is much fitted to confirm our faith, when he sets forth our afflictions as viewed in Christ, for we thereby see better the connection of death and life between us and him. And, doubtless, this is the privilege and manner of the holy union, that he suffers daily in his members, that after his sufferings shall be completed in us, glory also may have its completion. See more on this subject in the third chapter of the Epistle to the Colossians, and in the fourth of the first Epistle to Timothy.
Cambridge Bible 1 Pet: Plumptre
11. searching what, or what manner of time] The two words have each a distinct force, the first indicating the wish of men to fix the date of the coming of the Lord absolutely, the second to determine the note or character of the season of its approach. Of that craving we find examples in the question “wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” which was met by our Lord with the answer “It is not for you to know the times and the seasons” (Act_1:6, Act_1:7), in the over-heated expectations which St Paul checks in 2Th_2:1-12, in the hopes that were met by the mocking scorn which St Peter himself rebukes in 2Pe_3:3-8.
the Spirit of Christ which was in them] It will hardly be questioned that the name thus given to the Spirit, as compared with Rom_8:9 and Gal_4:6, primarily suggests the thought of prophets who were living and working in the Christian Church rather than of those of the older Church of Israel.
when it testified beforehand the sufferings] To the English readers these words naturally seem decisive in favour of the current interpretation, and against that which is here suggested. But they seem so only because they are a mistranslation of the original. When St Peter wishes to speak of the “sufferings of Christ,” he uses a different construction (chap. 4:13, 5:1), as St Paul does (2Co_1:5). Here the phrase, as has been noticed above, is different. St Peter speaks of the sufferings (which pass on) unto Christ. The thought is identical with that of St Paul’s, expressed in terms so analogous that it is a marvel that their bearing on this passage should have escaped the notice of commentators. “As the sufferings of Christ abound toward us,” St Paul says (2Co_1:5), “so also does our consolation.” He thinks of the communion between Christ and His people as involving their participation in His sufferings. Is it not obvious that St Peter presents in almost identical phraseology the converse of that thought, and that the “sufferings” spoken of are those which the disciples were enduring for Christ, and which he thinks of as shared by Him, flowing over to Him? That predictions of such sufferings, sometimes general, sometimes personal, entered largely into the teaching of the prophets of the New Testament we see from Act_11:28, Act_11:20:23, Act_11:21:11; 2Ti_2:3, 2Ti_2:12. That they dwelt also upon the “glories” that should come after the sufferings lies almost in the very nature of the case. Visions of Paradise and the third heaven, as in 2Co_12:1-5, of the throne and the rainbow and the sea of glass, and the heavenly Jerusalem, like those of St John, were, we may well believe, as indeed 1Co_2:9, 1Co_2:10 sufficiently indicates, almost the common heritage of the prophets of the Apostolic Church.
Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify; or, as the Revised Version, did point unto. The Authorized Version neglects the preposition εἰς. The apostle says that the Spirit of Christ dwelt in the prophets. The words πνεῦμα Ξριστοῦ cannot mean “the Spirit which bears witness of Christ,” as Bengel and others. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ (see Rom_8:9; Gal_4:6). He is not only sent from the Father by the Son, but he proceedeth from the Father and the Son. This important statement involves also the pre-existence and the Divinity of Christ (comp. Joh_8:56, Joh_8:58; 1Co_10:4; Jud_1:5, in the best-supported reading). The prophets felt within them the working of the Spirit. They knew that the mysterious voice which filled their souls was his voice. Its utterances were not always clear; they were sometimes obscure and mystical, but the heart of the prophets was stirred to the utmost; they sought with earnest prayer and devout thought into the purposes of God announced in the revelation. Especially they asked, as the apostles asked the Lord on the Mount of Olives, “When shall these things be, and what shall be the sign of thy coming?” At what time would the Messiah be revealed?
What would be the distinctive character, the marks, the signs, of that time? “Prophetae ab ipso habentes donum in ilium prophetarunt”. When it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow; rather, the sufferings for Christ (destined for Christ), and the glories after these. Compare St. Peter’s speech (Act_3:18), “Those things which God before had showed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled.” So St. Paul, in his speech before King Agrippa (Act_26:22, Act_26:23), asserts that he had said “none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: that Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead.” The doctrine of a suffering Messiah was a stumbling-block to the Jews. The apostles could not understand it till after the Savior’s resurrection; Peter himself had recoiled from it with horror, and had been rebuked by the Lord (Mat_16:22, Mat_16:23); now, taught by the Spirit, he understands the foreshadowings of the sufferings of Christ, which the Spirit of Christ had testified to the prophets. The Lord himself had expounded, on the day of his resurrection, the things concerning himself, beginning at Moses and all the prophets: “Ought not Christ,” he said, “to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?” (Luk_24:26). Some think that St. Peter is referring mainly to the prophets of the New Testament, and that the words, “the sufferings of Christ,” are to be understood mystically of Christ suffering in his Church, as “the afflictions of Christ” in Col_1:24. But the context does not require this explanation, and the parallel passages quoted above seem to preclude it.
1 Peter 1:11
Searching what – That is, examining their own predictions with care, to ascertain what they meant. They studied them as we do the predictions which others have made; and though the prophets were the medium through which the truth was made known, yet their own predictions became a subject of careful investigation to themselves. The expression used here in the original, rendered “what,” (εἰς τίνα eis tina,) literally, “unto what,” may mean, so far as the Greek is concerned, either “what time,” or “what people,” or “what person;” that is, with reference to what person the prophecies were really uttered. The latter, it seems to me, is the correct interpretation, meaning that they inquired in regard to him, who he would be, what would be his character, and what would be the nature of the work which he would perform. There can be no doubt that they understood that their predictions related to the Messiah; but still it is not improper to suppose that it was with them an interesting inquiry what sort of a person he would be, and what would be the nature of the work which he would perform.
This interpretation of the phrase εἰς τίνα eis tina, (unto what or whom) it should be observed, however, is not that which is commonly given of the passage. Bloomfield, Rosenmuller, Doddridge, Whitby, Benson, and Grotius suppose it to refer to time, meaning that they inquired at what time, or when these things would occur. Macknight thinks it refers “to people,” (λαον laon,) meaning that they diligently inquired what people would put him to death. But the most obvious interpretation is that which I have suggested above, meaning that they made particular inquiry to whom their prophecies related – what was his rank and character, and what was to be the nature of his work. What would be a more natural inquiry for them than this? What would be more important? And how interesting is the thought that when Isaiah, for example, had given utterance to the sublime predictions which we now have of the Messiah, in his prophecies, he sat himself down with the spirit of a little child, to learn by prayer and study, what was fully implied in the amazing words which the Spirit had taught him to record! How much of mystery might seem still to hang around the subject And how intent would such a mind be to know what was the full import of those words!
Or what manner of time – This phrase, in Greek, (ποῖον καιρὸν poion kairon,) would properly relate, not to the exact time when these things would occur, but to the character or condition of the age when they would take place; perhaps referring to the state of the world at that period, the preparation to receive the gospel, and the probable manner in which the great message would be received. Perhaps, however, the inquiry in their minds pertained to the time when the predictions would be fulfilled, as well as to the condition of the world when the event takes place. The meaning of the Greek phrase would not exclude this latter sense. There are not unfrequent indications of time in the prophets, (compare Dan_9:24 ff) and these indications were of so clear a character, that when the Saviour actually appeared there was a general expectation that the event would then occur. See the notes at Mat_2:9.
The Spirit of Christ which was in them – This does not prove that they knew that this was the Spirit of Christ, but is only a declaration of Peter that it was actually so. It is not probable that the prophets distinctly understood that the Spirit of inspiration, by which they were led to foretell future events, was especially the Spirit of Christ. They understood that they were inspired; but there is no intimation, with which I am acquainted, in their writings, that they regarded themselves as inspired by the Messiah. It was not improper, however, for Peter to say that the Spirit by which they were influenced was in fact the Spirit of Christ, so called because that Spirit which suggested these future events to them was given as the great Medium of all revealed truth to the world. Compare Heb_1:3; Joh_1:9; Joh_14:16, Joh_14:26; Joh_16:7; Isa_49:6. It is clear from this passage:
(1) That Christ must have had an existence before his incarnation; and,
(2) That he must have understood then what would occur to him when he should become incarnate; that is, it must have been arranged or determined beforehand,
Did signify – Meant to intimate or manifest to them, ἐδήλου edēlou or what was implied in the communications made to them.
When it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ – As Isaiah, Isa_53:1-12; Daniel, Dan_9:25-27. They saw clearly that the Messiah was to suffer; and doubtless this was the common doctrine of the prophets, and the common expectation of the pious part of the Jewish nation. Yet it is not necessary to suppose that they had clear apprehensions of his sufferings, or were able to reconcile all that was said on that subject with what was said of his glory and his triumphs. There was much about those sufferings which they wished to learn, as there is much still which we desire to know. We have no reason to suppose that there were any views of the sufferings of the Messiah communicated to the prophets except what we now have in the Old Testament; and to see the force of what Peter says, we ought to imagine what would be our views of him if all that we have known of Christ as history were obliterated, and we had only the knowledge which we could derive from the Old Testament. As has been already intimated, it is probable that they studied their own predictions, just as we would study them if we had not the advantage of applying to them the facts which have actually occurred.
And the glory that should follow – That is, they saw that there would be glory which would be the result of his sufferings, but they did not clearly see what it would be. They had some knowledge that he would be raised from the dead, (Psa_16:8-11; Compare Act_2:25-28) they knew that he would “see of the travail of his soul, and would be satisfied,” Isa_53:11 they had some large views of the effects of the gospel on the nations of the earth, Isa. 11; Isa_25:7-8; 60; 66. But there were many things respecting his glorification which it cannot be supposed they clearly understood; and it is reasonable to presume that they made the comparatively few and obscure intimations in their own writings in relation to this, the subject of profound and prayerful inquiry.
1 Peter 1:12
12Unto whom it was revealed This passage has been strangely perverted by fanatics, so as to exclude the fathers who lived under the law from the hope of eternal salvation. For it does not deny that the prophets usefully ministered to their own age, and edified the church, but teaches us that their ministry is more useful to us, because we are fallen on the ends of the world. We see how highly they extolled the kingdom of Christ, how assiduous they were in adorning it, how diligently they stimulated all to seek it; but they were by death deprived of the privilege of seeing it as it now is. What else then was this, but that they spread the table, that others might afterwards feed on the provisions laid on it. They indeed tasted by faith of those things which the Lord has by their hands transmitted to be enjoyed by us; and they also partook of Christ as the real food of their souls. But what is spoken of now is the exhibition of this blessing, and we know that the prophetic office was confined as it were within limits, in order that they might support themselves and others with the hope of Christ, who was to come. They therefore possessed him as one hidden, and as it were absent — absent, I say, not in power or grace, but because he was not yet manifested in the flesh. Therefore his kingdom also was as yet hid as it were under coverings. At length descending on earth, he in a manner opened heaven to us, so that we might have a near view of those spiritual riches, which before were under types exhibited at a distance. This fruition then of Christ as manifested, forms the difference between us and the prophets. Hence we learn how they ministered to us rather than to themselves.
But though the prophets were admonished from above that the grace which they proclaimed would be deferred to another age, yet they were not slothful in proclaiming it, so far were they from being broken down with weariness. But if their patience was so great, surely we shall be twice and thrice ungrateful, if the fruition of the grace denied to them will not sustain us under all the evils which are to be endured.
Which are now reported to you, or announced to you. He again marks the difference between the ancient doctrine and the preaching of the gospel. For as the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel, having a testimony from the law and the prophets, so also the glory of Christ, of which the Spirit testified formerly, is now openly proclaimed. And at the same time he hence proves the certainty of the gospel, because it contains nothing but what had been long ago testified by the Spirit of God. He further reminds them, that under the banner of the same Spirit, by his dictation and guidance, the gospel was preached, lest they might think of anything human in this case.
Which things the angels desire to look into It is indeed the highest praise to the gospel, that it contains treasures of wisdom, as yet concealed and hidden from angels. But some one may object, and say that it is not reasonable that things should be open and known to us which are hidden from angels, who always see the face of God, and are his ministers in ruling the church, and in the administration of all his blessings. To this I answer, that things are open to us as far as we see them in the mirror of the word; but our knowledge is not said to be higher than that of angels; Peter only means that such things are promised to us as angels desire to see fulfilled. Paul says that by the calling of the Gentiles the wonderful wisdom of God was made known to angels. for it was a spectacle to them, when Christ gathered into one body the lost world, alienated for so many ages from the hope of life. Thus daily they see with admiration the magnificent works of God in the government of his church. How much greater will their admiration be, at witnessing the last display of divine justice, when the kingdom of Christ shall be completed! This is as yet hidden, the revelation of which they still expect and justly wish to see.
The passage indeed admits of a twofold meaning; either that the treasure we have in the gospel fills the angels with a desire to see it, as it is a sight especially delightful to them; or that they anxiously desire to see the kingdom of Christ, the living image of which is set forth in the gospel. But the last seems to me to be the most suitable meaning.
Cambridge Bible 1Pet: Plumptre
12. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us] The better MSS. give “you” instead of “us,” obviously with a better sense and in closer agreement with the “you” of the following clause. What is meant, still keeping to the line of interpretation here adopted, is that the prophets who had these previsions, at once of the coming sufferings and coming glories of the Church, had not carried on their ministering work for themselves, bounded, i.e., as by local and personal interests, but with a view to those even of the most distant members of the great family of God. The vision of the heavenly Jerusalem was for the dwellers in Pontus and Asia, in Rome or Corinth, as much as for those who lived within the walls of the earthly city.
which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel] The Greek verbs are in the aorist, and therefore point to something in the past, but English idiom hardly allows us to combine present and past by saying “which now were reported.” Here, it is believed, St Peter speaks of St Luke, St Paul, and the other labourers by whom the provinces of Asia Minor had been evangelised. They too, he recognises, were as fully inspired as the prophets of whom he had just spoken.
which things the angels desire to look into] Better, angels, without the article. See note on verse 10. The word for “look” is the same as that used by St James (1:25), and implies, as in Luk_24:12, Joh_20:5, Joh_20:11, the earnest gaze of one who bends over a given object and scrutinizes it thoroughly. The words fit in, perhaps, with either of the two interpretations, but considering the part assigned to angels in the records of the Gospels, in connexion alike with the Nativity (Mat_2:13, Mat_2:19; Luk_1:11, Luk_1:26, 2:Luk_1:9-15), the Passion (Luk_22:43), the Resurrection (Mat_28:2; Mar_16:5; Luk_24:4; Joh_20:12) and the Ascension (Act_1:10, Act_1:11), it is more natural to refer them to sufferings and glories that were still future than to those of which they had already been spectators.
Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things. It was revealed to them, whether in answer to their search as in the case of Daniel, or as part of the original revelation made to them, that the vision was for many days (Dan_10:14). Compare St. Peter’s quotations from the prophetic Scriptures in Act_2:17, Act_2:31; Act_3:24. The best manuscripts read here, “unto you.” The prophets, doubtless, like Abraham, rejoiced to see the day of Christ; they saw it by faith, and were glad (Joh_8:56); but they saw it in the far distance; they desired to see and hear what the apostles saw and heard, but the time was not yet (see Mat_13:16, Mat_13:17). They did minister the things; i.e. they were made the instruments of revealing them; they presented them to the devout for their spiritual food and support. Which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost lent down from heaven; rather, which were now reported to you through them that preached the gospel unto you (literally, evangelized you) by the Holy Ghost. St. Peter claims for those who evangelized Asia Minor (St. Paul and his companions) the same authority which was possessed by the ancient prophets; they preached as fulfilled the great truths which the prophets foretold as future. The Spirit of Christ was in the prophets; the same Spirit worked and preached through the apostles; nay, he dwelt in them in fuller measure, for he had been sent down from heaven on the great Day of Pentecost, and it was by his aid that the apostles and evangelists preached. Which things the angels desire to look into. The salvation which God’s elect receive is so full of glory and mysterious beauty, that not only did the prophets of old search diligently, but even an gels (there is no article) desire to look into it. The verb παρακύψαι means “to stoop sideways;” it is used of persons standing outside a place who stoop in order to look in. “The παρά of the verb,” says Huther, “indicates that the angels stand outside the work of redemption, inasmuch as it is not for them, but for man (cf. Heb_2:16).” The same verb occurs in Jas_1:25; Joh_20:5, Joh_20:11; Luk_24:12, in which last place it is used of Peter himself, when he stooped to look into the empty sepulcher on the morning of the Lord’s resurrection. St. Paul has a similar thought in Eph_3:10, “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God.” The attitude of the golden cherubim, whose wings covered the mercy-seat and whose faces were toward it (Exo_25:20), seems to imply the same rapt, reverent attention.
1 Peter 1:12
Did minister (διηκόνουν)
Imperfect tense, were ministering. See on Mar_9:35. The term is applicable to any kind of service, official or not. Compare 2Co_3:3.
The word commonly denotes intense desire. It is used by Christ in expressing his wish to eat the passover (Luk_22:15); of the prodigal’s desire to satisfy his hunger with the husks (Luk_15:16); and of the flesh lusting against the spirit (Gal_5:17).
To look into (παρακύψαι)
A very graphic word, meaning to stoop sideways (παρά). Used by Aristophanes to picture the attitude of a bad harp-player. Here it portrays one stooping and stretching the neck to gaze on some wonderful sight. It occurs in Jam_1:25, describing him who looks into the perfect law of liberty as into a mirror; and in Luk_24:12; Joh_20:5, Joh_20:11, of Peter and John and Mary stooping and looking into the empty tomb. Possibly the memory of this incident unconsciously suggested the word to Peter. The phrase illustrates Peter’s habitual emphasis upon the testimony of sight (see Introduction). Bengel acutely notes the hint in παρά, beside, that the angels contemplate the work of salvation from without, as spectators and not as participants. Compare Heb_2:16; Eph_3:10.
1 Peter 1:12
Unto whom it was revealed – They were not permitted to know fully the import of the predictions which they were made the instruments of communicating to mankind, but they understood that they were intended for the benefit of future ages.
That not unto themselves – We are not to suppose that they derived no benefit from their own predictions; for, as far as they understood the truth, it was as much adapted to sanctify and comfort them as it is us now: but the meaning is, that their messages had reference mainly to future times, and that the full benefit of them would be experienced only in distant ages. Compare Heb_11:39-40.
Unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you – Not unto us by name, but their ministrations had reference to the times of the Messiah; and those to whom Peter wrote, in common with all Christians, were those who were to enjoy the fruits of the communications which they made. The word reported means announced, or made known.
By them that have preached the gospel unto you – The apostles, who have made known unto you, in their true sense, the things which the prophets predicted, the import of which they themselves were so desirous of understanding.
With the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven – Accompanied by the influences of the Holy Spirit bearing those truths to the heart, and confirming them to the soul. It was the same Spirit which inspired the prophets which conveyed those truths to the souls of the early Christians, and which discloses them to true believers in every age. Compare Joh_16:13-14; Act_2:4; Act_10:44-45. The object of Peter by thus referring to the prophets, and to the interest which they took in the things which those to whom he wrote now enjoyed, seems to have been, to impress on them a deep sense of the value of the gospel, and of the great privileges which they enjoyed. They were reaping the benefit of all the labors of the prophets. They were permitted to see truth clearly, which the prophets themselves saw only obscurely. They were, in many respects, more favored than even those holy men had been. It was for them that the prophets had spoken the word of the Lord: for them and their salvation that a long line of the most holy men that the world ever saw, had lived, and toiled, and suffered; and while they themselves had not been allowed to understand the fall import of their own predictions, the most humble believer was permitted to see what the most distinguished prophet never saw. See Mat_13:17.
Which things the angels desire to look into – The object of this reference to the angels is the same as that to the prophets. It is to impress on Christians a sense of the value of that gospel which they had received, and to show them the greatness of their privileges in being made partakers of it. It had excited the deepest interest among the most holy men on earth, and even among the inhabitants of the skies. They were enjoying the full revelation of what even the angels had desired more fully to understand, and to comprehend which they had employed their great powers of investigation. The things which are here referred to, εἰς ἅ eis ha – unto which) are those which the prophets were so desirous to understand – the great truths respecting the sufferings of Christ, the glory which would follow, and the nature and effects of the gospel. In all the events pertaining to the redemption of a world they felt a deep interest.
The word which is rendered “to look,” (παρακύψσαι parakupsai,) is rendered “stooping down,” and “stooped down,” in Luk_24:12; Joh_20:5, Joh_20:11; looketh, in Jam_1:25; and look, in the place before us. It does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. It properly means, to stoop down near by anything; to bend forward near, in order to look at anything more closely – Robinson, Lexicon. It would denote that state where one, who was before at so great a distance that he could not clearly see an object, should draw nearer, stooping down in order that he might observe it more distinctly. It is possible, as Grotius supposes, that there may be an allusion here to the posture of the cherubim over the mercy-seat, represented as looking down with an intense gaze, as if to behold what was in the ark. But it is not necessary to suppose that this is the allusion, nor is it absolutely certain that that was the posture of the cherubim. See the notes at Heb_9:5. All that is necessarily implied in the language is, that the angels had an intense desire to look into these things; that they contemplated them with interest and fixed attention, like one who comes near to an object, and looks narrowly upon it. In illustration of this sentiment, we may make the following suggestions:
I. The angels, doubtless, desire to look into all the manifestations of the character of God, wherever those manifestations are made:
(1) It is not unreasonable to suppose that, to a great degree, they acquire the knowledge of God as all other creatures do. They are not omniscient, and cannot be supposed to comprehend at a glance all his doings.
(2) They doubtless employ their faculties, substantially as we do, in the investigation of truth; that is, from things known they seek to learn those that are even unknown.
(3) It is not unreasonable to suppose that there are many things in relation to the divine character and plans, which they do not yet understand. They know, undoubtedly, much more than we do; but there are plans and purposes of God which are yet made known to none of his creatures. No one can doubt that these plans and purposes must be the object of the attentive study of all holy created minds.
(4) They doubtless feel a great interest in the welfare of other beings – of their fellow-creatures, wherever they are. There is in the universe one great brotherhood, embracing all the creatures of God.
(5) They cannot but feel a deep interest in man – a fallen creature, tempted, suffering, dying, and exposed to eternal death. This they have shown in every period of the world’s history. See the notes at Heb_1:14.
II. It is probable, that in each one of the worlds which God has made, there is some unique manifestation of his glory and character; something which is not to be found at all in any other world, or, if found, not in so great perfection; and that the angels would feel a deep interest in all these manifestations, and would desire to look into them:
(1) This is probable from the nature of the case, and from the variety which we see in the form, size, movements, and glory of the heavenly orbs. There is no reason to suppose, that on any one of those worlds all the glory of the divine character would be manifest, which he intends to, make known to the universe.
(2) This is probable from what we can now see of the worlds which he has made. We know as yet comparatively little of the heavenly bodies, and of the manifestations of the Deity there; and yet, as far as we can see, there must be far more striking exhibitions of the power, and wisdom, and glory of God, in many or most of those worlds that roll above us, than there are on our earth. On the body of the sun – on the planets Jupiter and Saturn, so vast in comparison with the earth – there must be far more impressive exhibitions of the glory of the Creator, than there is on our little planet. Saturn, for example, is 82,000 miles in diameter, 1,100 times as large as our earth; it moves at the rate of 22,000 miles an hour; it is encircled by two magnificent rings, 5,000 miles apart, the innermost of which is 21,000 miles from the body of the planet, and 22,000 miles in breadth, forming a vast illuminated arch over the planet above the brightness of our moon, and giving a most beautiful appearance to the heavens there. It is also, doubtless, true of all the worlds which God has made, that in each one of them there may be some unique manifestation of the glory of the Deity.
(3) The universe, therefore, seems suited to give eternal employment to mind in contemplating it; and, in the worlds which God has made, there is enough to employ the study of his creatures forever. On our own world, the most diligent and pious student of the works of God might spend many thousand years, and then leave much, very much, which he did not comprehend; and it may yet be the eternal employment of holy minds to range from world to world, and in each new world to find much to study and to admire; much that shall proclaim the wisdom, power, love, and goodness of God, which had not elsewhere been seen.
(4) Our world, therefore, though small, a mere speck in creation, may have something to manifest the glory of the Creator which may not exist in any other. It cannot be its magnitude; for, in that respect, it is among the smallest which God has made. It may not be the height and the majesty of our mountains, or the length and beauty of our rivers, or the fragrance of our flowers, or the clearness of our sky; for, in these respects, there may be much more to admire in other worlds: it is the exhibition of the character of God in the work of redemption; the illustration of the way in which a sinner may be forgiven; the manifestation of the Deity as incarnate, assuming permanently a union with one of his own creatures. This, so far as we know, is seen in no other part of the universe; “and this is honor enough for one world.” To see this, the angels may be attracted down to earth. When they come, they come not to contemplate our works of art, our painting and our sculpture, or to read our hooks of science or poetry: they come to gather around the cross, to minister to the Saviour, to attend on his steps while living, and to watch over his body when dead; to witness his resurrection and ascension, and to bless, with their offices of kindness, those whom he died to redeem, Heb_1:4.
III. What, then, is there in our world which we may suppose would attract their attention? What is there which they would not see in other worlds? I answer, that the manifestation of the divine character in the plan of redemption, is that which would especially attract their attention here, and lead them from heaven down to earth:
(1) The mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God would be to them an object of the deepest interest. This, so far as we know, or have reason to suppose, has occurred nowhere else. There is no evidence that in any other world God has taken upon himself the form of one of his own creatures dwelling there, and stooped to live and act like one of them; to mingle with them; to share their feelings; and to submit to toil, and want, and sacrifice, for their welfare.
(2) The fact that the guilty could be pardoned would attract their attention, for:
(a) it is elsewhere unknown, no inhabitant of heaven having the need of pardon, and no offer of pardon having been made to a rebel angel.
(b) There are great and difficult questions about the whole subject of forgiveness, which an angel could easily see, but which he could not so easily solve. How could it be done consistently with the justice and truth of God? How could he forgive, and yet maintain the honor of his own law, and the stability of his own throne? There is no more difficult subject in a human administration than that of pardon; and there is none which so much perplexes those who are entrusted with executive power.
(3) The way in which pardon has been shown to the guilty here would excite their deep attention. It has been in a manner entirely consistent with justice and truth; showing, through the great sacrifice made on the cross, that the attributes of justice and mercy may both be exercised: that, while God may pardon to any extent, he does it in no instance at the expense of justice and truth. This blending of the attributes of the Almighty in beautiful harmony; this manifesting of mercy to the guilty and the lost; this raising up a fallen and rebellious race to the favor and friendship of God; and this opening before a dying creature the hope of immortality, was what could be seen by the angels nowhere else: and hence, it is no wonder that they hasten with such interest to our world, to learn the mysteries of redeeming love. Every step in the process of recovering a sinner must be new to them, for it is unseen elsewhere; and the whole work, the atonement, the pardon and renovation of the sinner, the conflict of the child of God with his spiritual foes, the supports of religion in the time of sickness and temptation, the bed of death, the sleep in the tomb, the separate flight of the soul to its final abode, the resurrection of the body, and the solemn scenes of the judgment, all must open new fields of thought to an angelic mind, and attract the heavenly inhabitants to our world, to learn here what they cannot learn in their own abodes, however otherwise bright, where sin, and suffering, and death, and redemption are unknown. In view of these truths we may add:
(1) The work of redemption is worthy of the study of the profoundest minds. Higher talent than any earthly talent has been employed in studying it; for, to the most exalted intellects of heaven, it has been a theme of the deepest interest. No mind on earth is too exalted to be engaged in this study; no intellect here is so profound that it would not find in this study a range of inquiry worthy of itself.
(2) This is a study that is especially appropriate to man. The angels have no other interest in it than that which arises from a desire to know God, and from a benevolent regard for the welfare of others; we have a personal interest in it of the highest kind. It pertains primarily to us. The plan was formed for us. Our eternal all depends upon it. The angels would be safe and happy it they did not fully understand it; if we do not understand it, we are lost forever. It has claims to their attention as a wonderful exhibition of the character and purposes of God, and as they are interested in the welfare of others; it claims our attention because our eternal welfare depends on our accepting the offer of mercy made through a Saviour’s blood.
(3) How amazing, then, how wonderful, is the indifference of man to this great and glorious work! How wonderful, that neither as a matter of speculation, nor of personal concern, he can be induced “to look into these things!” How wonderful that all other subjects engross his attention, and excite inquiry; but that for this he feels no concern, and that here he finds nothing to interest him! It is not unreasonable to suppose, that amidst all the other topics of wonder in this plan as seen by angels, this is not the least – that man by nature takes no interest in it; that in so stupendous a work, performed in his own world, he feels no concern; that he is unmoved when he is told that even God became incarnate, and appeared on the earth where he himself dwells; and that, busy and interested as he is in other things, often of a most trifling nature, he has no concern for that on which is suspended his own eternal happiness. If heaven was held in mute astonishment when the Son of God left the courts of glory to be poor, to be persecuted, to bleed, and to die, not less must be the astonishment than when, from those lofty heights, the angelic hosts look down upon a race unconcerned amidst wonders such as those of the incarnation and the atonement!