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Bible Commentaries

Smith's Writings

1 Peter 1

Verses 1-25

( 1Pe_1:1-13 )

The first thirteen verses are introductory and set forth the position and portion of the believer in the Lord Jesus while yet in this world. This position forms the basis of all the practical exhortations that follow.

In this important introduction believers are viewed as strangers on earth (1, 2) with a home in heaven (3, 4). While passing through this world they are kept guarded by the power of God (5); tested by trials (6, 7); supported by Christ, the Object of their faith and affection (8). They have received the salvation of their souls (9); and wait for the full salvation in glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

It is surely good for our souls to ponder these introductory verses, seeking to realise afresh our true position in this world, and the blessedness of our portion as believers in the Lord Jesus.

1. Strangers on earth.

(V. 1). The first verse tells us to whom the apostle addressed his Epistle. He wrote to “the strangers” scattered throughout the province of Asia Minor. “Sojourners of the dispersion” is the better translation. The apostle therefore writes to the Christians among the Jews who had been “dispersed” among the Gentiles. The Pharisees referred to these Jews when they asked, concerning the Lord, “Will He go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles?” ( Joh_7:35 ).

The fact that God's ancient people are addressed as scattered or “dispersed” is proof that the nation had completely broken down, and for the time being all is out of order on earth. Man has failed in every position in which God has set him, and lost everything committed to his responsibility. The Garden of Eden, fresh from the hand of God, was committed to Adam to dress and keep. He failed, and was driven out; and his son was driven from God's face to be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth ( Gen_4:12-14 ). The new world was committed to Noah. He failed, and his descendants were divided and scattered “abroad upon the face of all the earth” ( Gen_11:9 ). The Land of Canaan was given to Israel; they utterly failed, and were scattered among the nations, even as God foretold ( Deu_28:64 ). The church, in its administration, was committed to the responsibility of men, and again man has failed, and outwardly the church is divided and scattered. Even so, although we have failed, God in His goodness may recall a few to the original ground of the church, but here also there is failure, division and brokenness.

Let us not therefore forget that, if we are strangers in this world by the call of God, we are “dispersed” on account of our failure.

(V. 2). Passing on to the second verse, we at once come to the blessings which are the result of God's sovereign electing grace, and in which there can be no failure. This it is that makes these introductory verses so exceedingly precious. Beginning with election in a past eternity we are carried on to glory in an eternity yet to come. Grace begun on earth ends in glory above.

However much we may fail, God has His elect. Election is not national or collective, but personal and individual. This verse gives a beautiful description of each individual believer. As such we were elected in eternity according to foreknowledge of God the Father.

Then we are told to what we have been elected. We are elected unto the obedience of Jesus, and to the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus. Through sanctification of the Spirit, God has set us apart for these two things. We are set apart to express His life, and to come under the efficacy of His death.

Sanctification of the Spirit is an actual operation of the Holy Spirit in us, by which we are born of the Spirit, imparting to us a new life and nature, which produces an entire change of mind, manifesting itself in a new desire to obey. So the apostle Paul could say, even before he had learned the efficacy of the blood, “What wilt Thou have me to do?” The obedience of Christ is not simply that we come under a new rule and obey Christ, but that we are set apart to obey as He obeyed. We have a new nature that delights to do the will of God, even as Christ could say, “I do always those things that please Him” ( Joh_8:29 ).

The sanctification spoken of in this passage is not the practical sanctification of the believer spoken of in other Scriptures, and which must be relative or a question of degree, but that far deeper sanctification of the Spirit which is absolute. It is that “effectual work of divine grace which first separates from the world a person, whether Jew or Gentile, to God” (W.K.). The order in which the truth is presented clearly shows that it cannot be practical sanctification. Practical holiness follows on being justified by the blood, whereas the sanctification in this passage precedes the blood.

Moreover, the elect are set apart through the Spirit to come under the cleansing of the blood of Jesus Christ. By faith in Christ, the believer comes under the shelter of the precious blood which cleanses from all sin, and sets him before God in peace.

When the Spirit of God works in a sinner, it is in order that the life of Christ may be produced in him, and that he may come under the efficacy of the death of Christ that removes everything contrary to God. Thinking only of ourselves, we should have put the blood first, for it is by the blood alone we can approach God. But Scripture first presents the great positive end that God has in view when His Spirit begins to work in our souls, namely, to reproduce the life of Christ.

From this verse we learn that we have come into relations with every divine Person in the Godhead. We have been elected according to the foreknowledge of God the Father; we have been sanctified by the work of the Spirit in us; and the Father's election and the Spirit's work are in view of our obeying as Christ obeyed and coming under the sprinkling of the blood of Christ.

2. Our home in heaven.

(Vv. 3, 4). The first two verses view the believer as a stranger on earth, set apart from the world according to the election of the Father, the work of the Spirit, and the work of Jesus Christ. Now we learn that the believer's home is in heaven. The hope of the Jew was earthly and, for the time, was closed by the death of Christ. The nation had crucified their Messiah, and thus forfeited their earthly blessing. Nevertheless, in the abundant mercy of God, these believers had been begotten again to a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from among the dead. Every hope of the believer rests upon Christ risen. Our hope is a sure and certain hope because He is risen. It is a living hope because Christ is living. This heavenly inheritance, in contrast to the earthly, is incorruptible, undefiled, and unfading; and is reserved for the believer.

3. Guarded by the power of God.

(V. 5). Not only is heaven reserved for us, but, as we pass along our way, we are kept guarded from all the dangers of the journey through this world. It is indeed the power of God that guards us, and yet the way that power works is “through faith”. The power of God sustains the faith of His people, who are thus kept waiting for the salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. By faith we look on to the final deliverance by which we shall enter into the full enjoyment of the heavenly inheritance.

4. Tested by trials.

(Vv. 6, 7). To be kept guarded by the power of God from the dangers of the way does not mean that we shall have no trials to meet. In the prospect of the heavenly inheritance we can greatly rejoice, though in the present we may be put to grief through manifold trials. These trials are for the testing of our faith. In the sight of man gold is counted most precious: in the sight of God the faith of His people is much more precious than gold. If men try their gold in the fire to purify it from dross, shall not God prove the faith of His people by fiery trials in order to manifest the reality of their faith as well as to purify and strengthen faith?

By these trials we are “put to grief”. God does not mean His people to be unmoved by trials, and untouched by sorrows; but in the grief and sorrow He would draw out our faith in Himself. For our comfort we are reminded of three definite truths in connection with these trials.

First, we learn that our trials are only “for a season”. If the pleasures of the sinner are only for a season, so too the sorrows of the saints are but for a season (cf. Heb_11:25 ).

Secondly, we are reminded that there is a need for these sorrows, for these trials are for “a season, if need be”. The Father does not cause His children a needless tear. The needs be is to prove our faith. This does not mean to prove whether we have faith, but rather to make manifest the preciousness of the faith we have. Gold is not put into the fire to prove that it is gold, but to bring out the precious qualities of the metal. So God proves our faith by various trials to bring out the precious qualities of our faith. Faith, counting upon God in the trial, leads to submission to what God allows: faith in God enables the soul to wait in patience ( Jam_1:3 ). Faith in God enables the believer to be steadfast against the attacks of the enemy ( 1Pe_5:9 ). The soul may have true faith, but when the trial comes these blessed qualities of faith - submission, patience, steadfastness, confidence and dependence upon God - become manifest.

Thirdly, we learn that trials have a blessed answer in the coming day of glory. The manifestation of these qualities in the day of trial will lead to praise and honour and glory in the day of Jesus Christ. We are apt to think that a time of deep trial, which may prevent us from taking part in active service for the Lord, is all lost time. No, says God, it will be “found unto praise” at the appearing of Jesus Christ.

5. Sustained by Christ.

(V. 8). Whatever the trials we may have to pass through down here, we have in Christ an Object for our affections; One in whom we can trust, though we do not see Him; One in whom we rejoice with a joy that is a foretaste of the coming glory. Thus in the midst of trials we have an unfailing resource in Christ.

6. Receiving the salvation of the soul.

(V. 9). We wait for the inheritance; we wait for the full salvation ready to be revealed; we wait for the honour, and praise, and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ. We do not wait for the salvation of our souls. By faith in Christ, the One that we have not yet seen, we have already received the salvation of our souls.

7. Waiting for the full salvation in glory.

(Vv. 10-13). The apostle proceeds to speak of this salvation in all its fulness. He shows the three stages by which it is brought into manifestation. He speaks in these verses of salvation in its fulness - the entire deliverance of soul and body from all the consequences of sin. This salvation coming to us as undeserving sinners he rightly calls “the grace”, both in verses 10 and 13. This grace, or salvation, was first announced by the prophets who, speaking by the Spirit of God, prophesied of the rejection of the Messiah by the Jews and blessing flowing out to the Gentile - the sufferings of Christ and the glories that should follow.

This salvation has not only been announced prophetically since Pentecost, it has been announced by those who preach the Gospel by the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven. Finally, the grace of a full salvation will be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ, a salvation that takes us out of all our trials and sufferings and brings us into glory with Christ. This coming glory was foretold by the prophets in days past; it is preached by the Holy Spirit in the present day; it will be fully accomplished in the day of glory yet to come.

In view of this coming glory we are to gird up the loins of our mind, to be sober, and hope with steadfastness for the coming grace that introduces us into glory. Girding up the loins of the mind suggests that the Christian is to be careful that his mind is not allowed to range unchecked over the things of the earth: he is to set his mind on things above. The Christian is also to be sober in his judgment as to all that is passing in this world, not deceived by the efforts of men to bring in a millennium without Christ. Whatever may be taking place in this world, the Christian is to look on and hope with perfect steadfastness for the grace that will be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

We have, then, in the introduction to the Epistle, a very beautiful presentation of the portion of the believer, commencing with the election of God in eternity, and leading to the glory that is yet to come. God's sovereign election is in view of glory. No failure on our side can frustrate the purpose of God. Between the election and the glory there are the trials by the way; but those God elects He guards, and those He guards He brings to glory.


Conduct Suited to Christian Relationships

( 1Pe_1:14 - 1Pe_2:17 )

Having in the introductory verses set before us the position and portion of the believer, now and hereafter, the apostle exhorts us as to the practical conduct that flows from this position and is suited to the different relationships in which the Christian is found. Believers are viewed in a sevenfold connection:-

First, as children in relation to the Father ( 1Pe_1:14-17 ):

Secondly, as redeemed in relation to the work of Christ ( 1Pe_1:18-21 ):

Thirdly, as brethren in relation to one another ( 1Pe_1:22-25 ; 1Pe_2:1 ):

Fourthly, as new-born babes in relation to the word ( 1Pe_2:2 ; 1Pe_2:3 ):

Fifthly, as living stones in relation to Christ in glory ( 1Pe_2:8 ):

Sixthly, as a chosen race in relation to God ( 1Pe_2:9-10 ):

Seventhly, as strangers and pilgrims in reference to the world ( 1Pe_2:11-17 ).

l. Our practical life as children.

(Vv. 14-17). The first mark of the child in relation to the Father is obedience. This obedience, as we have seen, is the obedience set forth in all its perfection in Jesus Christ. His path on earth was one of continual obedience to the Father. He could say, “As my Father hath taught me, I speak”; and again, “I do always those things that please Him” ( Joh_8:28-29 ). In the days of our ignorance of God we carried out our own wills, gratifying unholy lusts; now, as children, we are exhorted to holiness, or separation from evil. The apostle quotes the law to insist upon holiness ( Lev_11:44 ). However much the character of the dispensation may alter, the nature of God cannot change. It was true under law, it is still true under grace, that God is absolute in holiness; therefore those in relationship with God, whether under law or grace, must be holy.

If, as believers, we fail in holiness, the very relationship in which we stand to God will bring us under the holy discipline of the Father. Because we are sons the Father will chasten and discipline us as sons in order that we may be partakers of His holiness. This righteous government of the Father will be according to our deeds, and carried out without respect of persons. Let us therefore pass the time of our pilgrimage in holy fear. As children, then, our practical lives are to be consistent with the holiness of the One who has called us, and upon whom we call, and marked by obedience, holiness and godly fear. Do we call upon the Father for protection, guidance and blessing? Let us see that we do not hinder our prayers, and bring discipline upon ourselves, by self-will or unholiness.

2. Our practical life as redeemed.

(Vv. 18-21). In our unregenerate days we were far from God, living the vain life of fallen generations before us. From this condition we have been redeemed; and the value God has set upon us, as well as God's horror of that fallen condition, has been set forth by the immense cost of our redemption. We are not redeemed by corruptible things as silver and gold, but by “the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot”. The Lamb was foreknown by God before the foundation of the world, but manifested in time for believers, that through Him we might be brought to God and walk before Him in faith and hope, knowing that God has raised Christ from the dead and given Him glory. Our faith is in the God that can raise the dead, our hope in a God that can give glory. As the redeemed, we are to be marked by faith and hope in God.

3. Our practical life as brethren.

(V. 22). In relation to the Father we are children; in relation to the work of Christ we are redeemed; in relation to one another we are brethren. As brethren we are exhorted to “love one another with a pure heart fervently”. The “pure heart” is obtained by the soul being purified from all evil and selfish motives that would hinder the outflow of love through obeying the truth.

(Vv. 23-25). Our relationship as brethren is not traced back to natural birth, as with Israel, but to a spiritual birth, when we were “born again . . . by the word of God”. By this new birth we received a new nature, the very essence of which is love, so that, in spite of many social differences, we are capable of loving one another. The life and relationships that flow from this new birth are as lasting as the word of God by which the soul is born again. The word of God “liveth” and “abideth for ever”, so that the one born again enters into a life and into relationships which death cannot touch or time end. The natural man is indeed like the grass that withereth, and his glory like the flowers that quickly fall away even before the plant is withered.

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Bibliographical Information
Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on 1 Peter 1". "Smith's Writings". 1832.