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Bible Commentaries

Sermon Bible Commentary

1 Peter 1

Verse 1

1 Peter 1:1

I. Election in its source: "elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father."

II. Election in its means: "elect through sanctification of the Spirit." (1) Election first shows itself in a man's separation from the world, which lieth in wickedness. (2) But more than separation from or nonconformity to the world is here intended: the moral purification of our nature. (3) The wording of the text leads us still further: this holiness is not a limited, circumscribed result of the inward operation of the Spirit, but an infusion into our nature of the very quality or attribute of holiness inherent in Himself.

III. Election in its end: "elect unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ." (1) Election has for its object our obedience, obedience in a twofold sense: ( a ) the obedience of faith; ( b ) the obedience which faith produces. (2) The sprinkling of the blood is necessary not only at the beginning of the Christian career, but all along to the very end.

J. C. Jones, Studies in First Peter; p. 1.

References: 1 Peter 1:1 , 1 Peter 1:2 . G. E. L. Cotton, Sermons to English Congregations in India, p. 283; J. S. Howson, Church of England Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 259.

Verse 2

1 Peter 1:2

Who would take happy views of religion, whoever would have full assurance of his own salvation, must be accustomed to look for his evidences, not in himself, nor in any abstract truth, but in the character, and the work, and the person of God. In this respect, the doctrine of the blessed Trinity is a very tower of confidence and strength to a Christian. The offices of the Holy Three are so full, they so fit into each other and make a harmony, they are so appropriate, each in its distinctness, and they are so sufficient, all in their completeness, that they seem made for this very purpose: to assure a man's soul and to leave no place for the weakest doubt.

I. The beginning, the foundation, of the whole scheme of salvation, is the electing grace of the Father. The election of the saved ranges without the slightest reprobation of the lost; and the right application of the doctrine is always an application of comfort. So St. Peter here implies, in like manner St. Paul, always to strengthen and assure, and stir up to holiness, afflicted Churches and tried believers.

II. Look at the path which election takes, by which it always travels, without which it is no election at all: "through sanctification of the Spirit." The great object of all election is the glory of God. The glory of God is a happy, holy thing, the reflection of Himself. The Spirit carries on His sanctifying work by implanting a new life, new principles, with new affections, within a man's breast, which then act with a threefold influence. First, they occupy the heart; then they keep down and restrain the evil that was and still is there; and then they gather up and absorb the bad nature, purify and elevate it towards the character of the Divine: this is sanctification.

III. "Obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Christ." In that obedience we were elected; for it we were created in Christ Jesus; God willed it, God purposed it, and God means it.

J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 5th series, p. 294.

References: 1 Peter 1:2 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. viii., No. 434; Ibid., Morning by Morning, p. 194.

Verse 3

1 Peter 1:3

The Hope of the Resurrection.

The religion of Jesus Christ presented one great contrast to the heathen religions with which it found itself in conflict: it pointed steadily forward, while they looked wistfully backward. The religions of classical heathenism were religions of regret; the Gospel is a religion of hope. Two great ideas are involved in the fact of the Resurrection, ideas influencing human thought and action at every turn, ideas coextensive in their application with human life itself.

I. By opening out the vista of an endless future, it has wholly changed the proportions of things. The capacity of looking forward is the measure of progress in the individual and in the race. Providence is God's attribute. In proportion as a man appropriates this attribute of God, in proportion as his faculty of foresight is educated, in the same degree is he raised in the moral scale. The Christian is an advance on the civilised man, as the civilised man is an advance on the barbarian. His vista of knowledge and interest is not terminated abruptly by the barrier of the grave. The Resurrection has stimulated the faculty and educated the habit of foresight indefinitely by opening out to it an endless field of vision over which its sympathies range.

II. The Resurrection involves another principle not less extensive or less potent in its influence on human life. The Resurrection does not merely proclaim immortality. It declares likewise that death leads to life; it assures us that death is the portal to eternity. Thus it glorifies death; it crowns and consecrates the grave. Death issuing in life, death the seed and life the plant, and blossom, and fruit this is the great lesson of the Gospel.

III. See how far-reaching are the applications of this lesson to human life. Through darkness to light, through sorrow to joy, through suffering to bliss, through evil to good this is the law of our heavenly Father's government, whereby He would educate His family, His sons and His daughters, into the likeness of His own perfections. Accordingly we find this same principle extending throughout the Gospel teaching. Everywhere it speaks of renewal, of redemption, of restitution yes, of resurrection.

IV. So to the true Christian all the ills of life have an inherent glory in them. Not only do they deserve our pity, deserve our respect, deserve our alleviation. There is a great potentiality of future good in them. No degradation of human character, no abasement of human life, no depth of human vice, is so great as to forfeit its claim to the consideration of the Christian. How can it forfeit this claim when hope is shut out from none, restitution is denied to none? It was the common taunt of the heathen against the Christians in the early ages that they gathered about them the lowest of the people, the outcasts of society, the scum of mankind. They proudly accepted the reproach; they avowed that their shame was their glory. Had not their Master been taunted with the companionship of publicans and sinners? Was it not their special mission, as it had been His before them, to call not righteous men, but sinners?

J. B. Lightfoot, Sermons on Special Occasions, p. 233.

References: 1 Peter 1:3 . H. P. Liddon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. i., p. 376; W. Hubbard, Ibid., vol. xxiii., p. 163; M. G. Pearse, Ibid., vol. xxx., p. 85.

Verses 3-4

1 Peter 1:3-4

The Lively Hope.

I. Whence does it spring? Hope is popularly defined to be the expectation of future good; but, to render the definition complete, the good should be an object which the mind affects and which the heart desires. It has been implanted in the breast of universal man, and is one of the chiefest displays of the loving-kindness of the Lord. Without it the world were a sepulchre and the conscience a hell. There is hardly a condition of human adversity which it cannot soothe and sweeten. But the hope to which the text refers is not an instinct. It is a gift, and is not, therefore, the common heritage of all mankind; it is the hope of heaven, which the world knoweth not, and to which the sinner is of necessity a stranger. Such a hope can only be of Divine bestowment; it is at once too lofty and too lasting to come from meaner hands. And it is the gift of God to those who receive the Gospel of His Son.

II. What is the medium by which this hope is certified to us? The Apostle says it is "by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead." The resurrection of Jesus is fitly put here for His whole atoning work, as it is at once the proof of the reality and completeness of His death as a sacrifice and the token of its acceptance as a satisfaction by the justice of the Father.

III. Note the recompense in which this hope of the Christian is fulfilled: "to an inheritance." The word at once traces the blessing to its source, and humbles at the outset all the vapourings of human pride. An inheritance is neither reward of industry nor meed of valour. Believers cannot purchase heaven. They may not win its honours, as a knight his spurs, by bravery; they are heirs because of their sonship, and their sonship is by adoption of grace. Boasting is excluded, and gratitude inspired by the boundless love of God. (1) This inheritance is incorruptible; it does not contain the seeds of dissolution. (2) It is undefiled. Herein is the secret of its incorruptibility. (3) It fadeth not away. There comes upon it no whisper of a change. There will be neither consuming memories nor boding fears. Once pass the portals of the inheritance, and you are safe for ever.

W. M. Punshon, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 80.

Verses 3-5

1 Peter 1:3-5

The Heavenly Inheritance.

I. The greatness of God's mercy is to be seen in the great number of the saved.

II. The greatness of God's mercy is to be seen in the great change which takes place in the great multitude.

III. The greatness of God's mercy is to be seen in the greatness of the inheritance which He confers on the great multitude which have undergone the great change.

IV. The greatness of God's mercy is to be seen in the greatness of the expense to which He went to be able to confer this great inheritance on the great multitude that have undergone the change.

V. The greatness of God's mercy is to be seen, lastly, in the greatness of the power that is pledged to bring the great multitude to the possession of the inheritance secured for them at such a cost.

J. C. Jones, Studies in First Peter, p. 15.

References: 1 Peter 1:3-5 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvi., No. 048; W. Boyd-Carpenter, Church of England Pulpit, vol. v., p. 263; Ibid., vol. xxi., p. 267; F. D. Huntingdon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. i., p. 232. 1 Peter 1:4 . W. Marshall, Ibid., vol. x., p. 315; Homilist, 2nd series, vol. iv., p. 375. 1 Peter 1:6 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iv., No. 222.

Verse 6

1 Peter 1:6

The Theology of Suffering.

I. Temptations or trials reveal faith. (1) Trials, on the one hand, show us the evil that is in us. (2) Afflictions further serve to evoke our good, to lead forth into visibility the faith, the hope, and the charity God, in His loving-kindness, has infused into our souls.

II. Temptations or trials strengthen faith. (1) Bitters are the best tonic for the spiritual man, as for the physical; (2) sorrows further invigorate faith because they call it into frequent, yea constant, exercise.

III. Temptations or trials purify faith. (1) Trials release it from the impurities attached to it; (2) adversity throws faith more upon its proper resources, making it draw its aliment and inspiration more directly from God, from God as revealed in His book.

IV. Temptations or trials beautify faith.

J. C. Jones, Studies in First Peter, p. 29.

References: 1 Peter 1:6 , 1 Peter 1:7 . R. W. Dale, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxv., p. 102 1 Peter 1:6-9 . H. S. Brown, Ibid., vol. xii., p. 230. 1 Peter 1:7 . Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 317; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 147.

Verse 8

1 Peter 1:8

Loving the Invisible Christ.

The place occupied by any on the ledge of fame and genius is very narrow indeed. Forgetfulness soon grows over us, and we are less than shadows after the sun has passed. "I am clean forgotten," says Swift, "as a dead man, out of mind and out of loving hearts." Contrast this with the influence of the unseen Christ. "By His death," Paul says, "we see the resurrection and ascension." Not only is our Lord Jesus Christ known to countless millions, but He is loved wherever He is known. The proof of love is sacrifice. The martyrs have been dying for Christ for over eighteen hundred years. The noble army is added to year after year by fresh recruits ready to seal with their own blood their devotion to Christ. On our university classes and Toynbee Hall Christ looks down from His holy heaven, and strikes into life and arouses the chivalry and enthusiasm of those who work in the mission field of the East of London. This is a power we cannot but love. Amongst those who have never seen Him, Christ has power to perpetuate His love through all ages. The first Napoleon, who trusted rather to the effect of his own fascination, awoke to the continued fascination of the love of Christ, and said, "I am a judge of men, but I tell you that this was more than a man." That was Napoleon's commentary upon St. Peter's words, "Whom having not seen, ye love." Let me point to two applications.

I. The text lies at the heart and root of the whole Christian life. Remember the Epistle and portion of Scripture for St. Barnabas's Day. A great writer has told us, in his own picturesque way, that Antioch was the capital of vice, the sewer of all sorts of infamies, the house of moral and spiritual putrefaction; yet the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. It is a solemn time when a new influence gets its name, for the name is a distinct sign of separate existence. Many will in all probability say that that was the name by which believers were known to the Roman police. But this step was now taken; they were now no longer merely disciples, brethren, saints, and believers, but Christians. It may be that, as we have been told, the name was founded upon the misconception that Christ was a proper name; but, at all events, ten years after the Resurrection and Ascension our Lord's disciples called themselves by the name of One whom they loved, and that name will never die that beautiful, that worthy, name by which we are called. Yes, save in the Gospels, there is no authentic likeness of Christ by one who had seen Him. In the long, worn features seen in the Lateran mosaics many Christians are able to perceive the hands and feet, the wounded side, and the awful circle of the crown of thorns; among all the pictures in galleries, and in all its forms, the crucifix stands out in distinct isolation, as if challenging the attention of those who believe the Gospel story; but none can claim to be the original and authentic likeness of Jesus, the Son of Mary and the Son of God. And yet, said St. Barnabas, that name of Jesus is not the name of a man, but of One who is true, gentle, pure, holy, and sympathising, and who is also the true and Eternal God. This idea, in all the Gospel and creeds, is fixed again and again by the reign of the Holy Ghost upon the sensitive plate of the human heart, and is a proof of the reality of the object which it represents: "Whom having not seen, ye love."

II. The text no doubt affords a personal test: "Whom having not seen, ye love." People are all too ready to put to others trisyllabic questions to which they must have monosyllabic answers. "Are you saved?" "Yes." Another question put in this form is, "Do you love Jesus?" That is a question to put to ourselves rather than to others. Imitate the sensitive delicacy of St. Peter in our text. He tells us we have not seen Christ, but he had seen Him in the guest-chamber, on the long summer evenings by the lake of Galilee, and it is an exceedingly reverential statement to make when he says, "Whom having not seen, ye love." Do we love Jesus? The answer, after all, does not depend upon what we say. Who does not remember that sublime passage in dramatic literature where the aged king intends to make a trial of the love of his three daughters? Two of them, when asked if they loved him, heaped word upon word, hyperbole upon hyperbole. The third was the one alone whose heart was richer than her tongue. Who loved the old man best of all? We can read the answer upon the heath where the old man's form stands out in the flashing lightning, and his white hair is drifted by the storm. Our answer to the question is to be measured not by what we say, not by what we think we are enabled to do, but by what we do when the hour of trial comes.

Bishop Alexander, British Weekly Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 89.

References: 1 Peter 1:8 . A. M. Fairbairn, The City of God, p. 335; Homilist, 1st series, vol. v., p. 107; R. Tuck, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiv., p. 72.

Verses 8-9

1 Peter 1:8-9

Salvation: its Subjective Elements.

I. Faith. (1) Faith is the first Christian grace; (2) faith is a personal trust in a personal Saviour; (3) faith is trust in an invisible Saviour.

II. Love. (1) Love is one essential element of the Christian religion; (2) Christ claims and gets our supreme love; (3) these strangers of the dispersion evinced their love to the Saviour by suffering themselves to be despoiled of all their possessions rather than deny Him.

III. Joy. This joy defies philosophy to explain it, or language to express it. It is already glorified or full of glory.

J. C. Jones, Studies in First Peter, p. 50.

References: 1 Peter 1:8 , 1 Peter 1:9 . F. Ferguson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxiii., p. 193; A. Rowland, Ibid., vol. xxxiv., p. 88; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 120; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xii., No. 698.

Verse 10

1 Peter 1:10

I. The prophets are an example to us in the study of salvation (1) in the intention of their study; (2) in the subject of their study; (3) in the noble spirit of resignation they evinced in presence of intellectual difficulties which they were not able to surmount.

II. The Apostles are examples to us in the proclamation of the Gospel (1) in subject matter; (2) in manner of preaching; (3) in the power which accompanied their preaching.

III. The angels are examples to us in the wonder and adoration that should fill our minds in the contemplation of this salvation.

J. C. Jones, Studies in First Peter, p. 71.

Reference: 1 Peter 1:10-12 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvi., No. 1524.

Verse 11

1 Peter 1:11

The Suffering which Fruits in Glory.

I. The sufferings of Christ. From what source did they spring? What was their deepest and most essential characteristic? There will be many answers. (1) They were vicarious; (2) they were extreme; (3) they were unmerited; (4) they were according to the will of God.

II. The glory that should follow. Language and imagination alike stagger in the Apocalypse under the revelation. It is called the glory of the Father, the glory at which the Father has been aiming through all the sin and sorrow of the world, for the sake of which He saw Eden broken up and the pall of sin settling over the earth. It is the glory which God saw beyond all the unutterable anguish of the great experiment of freedom, and which we shall behold, if we believe in Him who hath overcome the world, in the day of the manifestation of the Cross.

J. Baldwin Brown, The Sunday Afternoon, p. 243.

Reference: 1 Peter 1:11 . Homiletic Magazine, vol. vii., p. 199.

Verse 12

1 Peter 1:12

Advent Tidings.

Our text speaks of angel students, and it speaks of them as being engaged in their eager and, if I may use the word of such high, and blessed, and holy intelligences, in their curious, research; for in the original the term which is translated "desire to look into" conveys the idea of bending, stooping over, in order that they may eagerly peer into those subjects which are the objects of their investigation. Those subjects are the great Advent tidings.

I. The Apostle first brings before us those Advent tidings, or this Gospel report, in its great aim of salvation. This is the keynote of the passage salvation first introduced to us, not in its primary stages, not in those stages of salvation which some of us are now enjoying, and which are within the reach, through God's mercy, of all of us, but salvation in its consummation. Never take a low view of this term "salvation." Remember that, while the salvation which you are called upon to seek is a salvation from the masterful tyranny of the devil, and of the world, and of indwelling sin, the crown of salvation, the full accomplishment and development of salvation, is never attained until the body is glorified by its resurrection at the second coming of the Lord. And this is the salvation of which the text speaks.

II. And mark again that we not only have the great aim of these Advent tidings, but we have also their great characteristic. The great characteristic is presented to us by the Apostle when he says, "the grace that should come unto you." Grace in this particular phase is love: love to the guilty; love to the fallen; love to those who have forfeited all right and title to God's favour. There is a combination of characteristics in the Gospel which shows how it bears the stamp of adaptation to our wants, while it bears the impress of the mind of Deity. It is the wonderful combination of depth and simplicity. There is such a combination of depth and simplicity in the Gospel that I may sit down to study it with an angel for my fellow-student, or I may sit down to teach it with a little child for my pupil.

J. C. Miller, Penny Pulpit, New Series, No. 617.

References: 1 Peter 1:12 . T. J. Crawford, The Preaching of the Cross, p. 38; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 131; vol. xiii., p. 321.

Verse 13

1 Peter 1:13

The Place of Mind in Religion.

The phrase may have lost something of its picturesqueness in its transfer from the East to the West and from the first century of the Gospel to the nineteenth. But if St. Peter stood amongst us at this moment here in England, in London, at the exact point of thought and talk and writing which is our position today, I doubt if he could find a word of counsel more suitable or more suggestive than that which speaks in this brief text: "Gird up the loins of your mind." What can be more striking than St. Peter's application of this figure to minds, and to minds in their religious aspect? He sets before us the figure of an ungirt, untidy, slovenly mind, and bids us beware of it in ourselves as religious men and Christians. One thing is presupposed; St. Peter counts it self-evident: that mind has place in the things of God. St. Peter does not fear the too much mind, but the too little. What St. Peter dreads is the half-mind; what he rebukes is the slovenly, the untidy, the dissolute mind. He does not fear the practised, the disciplined, the intense intellect. He bids the mind gird itself up as for a task requiring all its exertion, a task desperate without it. Mind has place in the things of God, and must gird itself up to handle them. Just in proportion as it is earnest and active, it will know and keep its place. Let us try to sketch one or two of the particulars of that girding of the text.

I. "Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty. Surely I have stilled and quieted my soul, like a weaned child on the breast of its mother." Humility, queen of graces towards God and man, but chief element of that mind-girding which is our subject. Gird up the loins of your mind, first of all, by a deep humility. "Thou art near, they tell me, O Lord; but I am so far off so ignorant, so stupid, so sin-bound oh quicken me."

II. But next to it I would place its sister grace, which is patience, that Divine ὑπομονή of which we speak so often, made up of two ingredients: submissive waiting, that upward look which acknowledges dependence and that onward look which believes in eternity, which knows that with the Lord a thousand years are as one day, which therefore is "willing to wait." Be willing to wait, not indolently, not in indifference, not as those who wrap themselves in their virtue or wrap themselves in their faith, careless of the multitude, careless of the race, but in the twofold definition of the grace which we are magnifying: a submissive waiting.

III. Humility; patience; last, hope. Hope is the expectation more or less confident, for it admits of degrees of a pleasant future. It cannot be that this scene of confusion should be for ever. Hope, which is faith's foresight, sees things which are not as though they were, and hears a voice say from the excellent glory, "Behold, I make all things new." "We, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness."

C. J. Vaughan, Restful Thoughts for Restless Times, p. 264.

References: 1 Peter 1:13 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxii., No. 1909; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 422. 1 Peter 1:13 , 1 Peter 1:14 . Homilist, 2nd series, vol. iv., p. 483. 1 Peter 1:14 . H. P. Liddon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxiii., p. 257; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 83.

Verse 14

1 Peter 1:14


I. Holiness in the heart, or as it works its way down to the depth of our nature. (1) In their unregenerate state men always fashion themselves after the pattern of their lusts or inward sinful desires; (2) the power of evil, though not expelled, is dethroned in the believer's heart, and the principle of dutiful obedience takes its place.

II. Holiness in the life, or as it widens out over the whole area of conduct. This enjoins holiness (1) in all our reading and thinking; (2) in all our conversation; (3) in all our acts.

III. Holiness in its standard: "Be ye holy, for I am holy."

J. C. Jones, Studies in First Peter, p. 111.

References: 1 Peter 1:14-16 . W. Landels, Christian World Pulpit, vol. viii., p. 404. 1 Peter 1:15 . Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii,. p. 207. 1 Peter 1:15 , 1 Peter 1:16 . J. Burton, Christian Life and Truth, p. 67; W. Simpson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxi., p. 390.

Verse 16

1 Peter 1:16

I. We must not think we have exhausted the subject of righteousness when we have merely taught men the more obvious of the elementary lessons: to maintain an external respectability of conduct and to have a general preference for truth and justice. Christ came to supply a remedy that reaches deeper than this. The term "righteousness" implies that we must endeavour to maintain a more equitable balance than we often witness among the varied rights and interests which contribute to make up our social system. Our righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees by founding itself, not on some rigorous definition of abstract right, but on equity inspired by love.

II. But if it were one object of our Saviour's coming to deepen and extend our moral regeneration, a still greater revolution is implied in our restoration to holiness, the character which is so emphatically claimed by God Himself, and which had been still more completely forfeited by sin. It is one of the foremost conditions of our sacramental union with Christ that His grace should cleanse our hearts from evil tendencies and should make and keep them pure and holy.

III. The third of the three great gifts which are to renew us in the image of Christ is that of knowledge, the marvellous extension of that spiritual knowledge which ranges from this world to the next. It is a revelation which appeals to the highest instincts of the spirit, lifting up the cloud which hung with equal mystery over the beginning and the end, showing us how man was created after the image of God and in what way he departed from his fellowship with God, opening out the prospect of that Divine contemplation which will form the highest reward and occupation of the saints hereafter in the eternity wherein the faithful shall be finally made perfect in Christ's image.

Archdeacon Hannah, Cambridge Review, Feb. 17th, 1886.

References: 1 Peter 1:16-20 . Expositor, 1st series, vol. i., p. 69; vol. iv., pp. 372, 496.

Verse 17

1 Peter 1:17

We collect from the language of the New Testament that fear formed a greater part of the state of mind in which the first disciples of Christ lived than it does now. Persons are described as being in a permanent and habitual state of mind which is called fear. It is not, of course, that state of disturbance and alarm which we are placed in by a sudden danger, not excitement and alarm. Still it is fear, and it has the natural and true characteristics of fear. It keeps people in earnest that they should be in the right way, apprehensive lest they should fail. They are solicitous about their own salvation, do not regard it as a matter of course. They always have it in their minds that they are going they do not know where; and while, on the one hand, they have firm hopes resting on God's promises, they still do not think of an unknown world and another life without fear.

I. It must appear indeed, when we examine it, that this fear is part of the very life of Christians, and that we cannot have even our understanding quick and vigorous without it; it is part of our very understanding. Fear is the very mode through which we express the fact that we do believe; it is our perception of things being real. It is simple stupidity, it is being without ideas, to be without it. Persons may have quick parts, eyes and speech may be quick and ready, but their souls are dull, they are without the quickening faculty, if they are without fear.

II. In the Christians of the Bible we see, as I have said, habitual fear, and this fear, far from depressing them, is rather a stimulus to their faith; and by giving strength to their faith, it confirms a happy experience of the effects of the Gospel upon them. With fear operating in them, they felt that they could not doubt. The faith of the early Christians was largely indebted to their fear for its rootedness and firmness. Fear planted it in their souls, and established it as a natural product of the soil, whereas under mere joy and hope it would have flourished prosperously for a season as an exotic, but its strength would have been a delusive one. While you fear, you believe; this, at any rate, is one effect. Fear is thus sustaining. While you fear God, you believe that God is, and that He is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. This is ever the accompaniment of fear in Scripture, and the great compensation; it settles, it tranquillises, it gives peace, and it breeds ultimately security and calm, and a reasonable assurance. All those quiet, settled views of the Divine government which fix and strengthen its hold upon the mind, and make it the great anchorage it is, from which to be unmoored is to lose everything, arise from fear, from seeing the awfulness of facts as they are and this whole world as it is around us.

J. B. Mozley, Sermons Parochial and Occasional, p. 322.

Christian Fear.

I. The first reason why we should cultivate this fear is that the God on whom we call is a Father.

II. The second, that He is a Judge.

III. The third, that He judges according to every man's work. (1) Here the work, not the person, is the subject of judgment; (2) work, not works. God will judge our life as a whole.

J. C. Jones, Studies in First Peter, p. 131.

Verses 17-19

1 Peter 1:17-19

Fear of Judgment to Come and of Redemption Accomplished.


I. The sphere and operation of Christian fear. There are some to whom the importance attached to fear in this place and elsewhere seems in contradiction to the teaching of the Apostle John, who speaks of fear as being cast out by perfect love. But it is to be observed that it is perfect love to which this prerogative is assigned. When love is perfect, it renders fear in any other sense than that of reverence unnecessary and impossible; but with imperfect love fear has room, and an important sphere of action. It affords help and stimulus to imperfect love, and pushes it on to perfection. You may say that fear depresses, and sometimes even benumbs and paralyses. This may be true of fear that exists alone in the soul, but it is not true of that which coexists with faith and love, and hope and joy. The sharp east wind of spring is not a favourite; nobody speaks well of it; everybody grumbles about it; but still it dries the wet earth, and it is the accompaniment of lengthening days and strengthening sunshine. So fear goes along with the stirring of life. Fear of loss and pain, and every form of evil, is such an essential part of human nature and so bound up with man's progress in every direction, so necessary even to his very existence, that man cannot extirpate fear except by casting out the last vestige of belief in danger and every faintest foreboding of conscience.

II. Fear in relation to the Father that judgeth. I believe in a Father that judges: that will certainly rouse me up; it will waken my slumbering energies; it will cause me to look well to the state of my heart and life; but the word "Father" will always keep the thought of judgment from overwhelming me. So long as the word "Father," is real to me, the thought of judgment will make life solemn and earnest, but never gloomy, never enduringly sad.

III. In order to have a true Christian fear we must place together judgment by works and redemption by the blood of Christ. Let not this fear in view of redemption be deemed inconsistent with the joy and freedom which belong to the Gospel. It is precisely the man who has that realising sense of redemption which makes him afraid of not proving worthy of it who has also joy. These two, fear and joy, grow out of the same root of redemption. The more joy in Christ any man has, the more will he be afraid of not conforming sufficiently to Christ. Fear is inseparable from earnestness of purpose. It accompanies all the nobler feelings. If you love, you fear; if you strive and aspire, you fear. Whatever may be one's estimate of the fear of judgment, all must recognise the nobility of the fear that springs from thinking of the greatness of redemption. This fear is only possible to men who have spiritual sight, tender conscience, and gratitude. But who can fail to see how the thought of judgment to come enhances redemption? Is it not equally clear that the awe of redemption and the fear of not being worthy of it will always, in proportion as a man grows, come more and more to the front, and throw the other fear into the shade? Fear thus stands out as one of the main ways by which men pass from the life of self to the life of God, and the higher fear shines forth as the antidote to all that is selfish and narrow in the lower.

J. Leckie, Sermons, p. 194.

Verse 18

1 Peter 1:18

The Ransom.


I. The foreordination of the sacrifice.

II. The preciousness of the sacrifice.

III. The efficiency of the sacrifice in accomplishing its twofold object (1) in satisfying Divine justice, for "God raised Him up from the dead, and gave Him glory"; (2) in effecting the emancipation of men from the dominion of sin and the corruption of their nature, redeeming them from their vain conversation, received by tradition from their fathers.

J. C. Jones, Studies in First Peter, p. 149.

References: 1 Peter 1:19 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xi., No. 621; Ibid., Morning by Morning, p. 107; H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Sunday Sermonettes for a Year, p. 203; Homilist, 3rd series, vol. x., p. 286; A. C. Rice, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 108; J. Stannard, Ibid., vol. xiv., p. 232. 1 Peter 1:21 . L. D. Bevan, Ibid., vol. xxvii., p. 299.

Verse 22

1 Peter 1:22

Christian Love.

I. Purity: "Love one another with a pure heart fervently." (1) The word for purified in this verse is not that denoting the infusion of virtue, but that which signifies the expulsion from the soul of all defilement, and especially of selfishness. (2) The way to secure this is by believing obedience to the truth as revealed in the Gospel.

II. Unfeignedness: "unfeigned love of the brethren" genuine love, without dissimulation, free from hypocrisy. (1) We read of faith unfeigned that is, faith which is firm and solid to the core. (2) Love unfeigned is love which will not give way under trial, that will suffer a burden to be put on its back.

III. Fervour: "with a pure heart fervently." This implies that our love of the brethren should be powerful enough (1) to overcome all sinful obstacles in our nature, (2) to overcome all national and sectarian differences.

J. C. Jones, Studies in First Peter, p. 170.

References: 1 Peter 1:23 . Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 125; Homilist, 2nd series, vol. i., p. 325.

Verse 23

1 Peter 1:23

The New Birth.

I. Man's inner and nobler life is not like his outer life, a life carried on in many of its most important functions unknown to himself. That lower life has its youth and its age, its vigour and its infirmity, its ruddy cheek and its grey hair, independently of him who lives it. These things follow a fixed law, and come upon us although we will not, and when we know not. But it is not so with the higher life of the Spirit. There is no unconsciousness here. No man lives unto God and knows it not. If you are made a son of God, by the power of the Spirit, through faith in Christ, you don't go about hoping and trusting you are God's, committing your eternal prospects to a miserable uncertainty; no, if you have this life, you know it, and you live it. The truth of love first softened, first warmed, first quickened, your hard, and cold, and dead hearts, first found its way, like a chance seed, under some broken bit of the surface, and obtained a lodgment there, so that the birds of the air snatched it not away, nor the foot of the passer-by trod it down. "The Father hath loved Me." Let this seed abide and work, and though little is done in comparison with what is to come, much is done in comparison with what is past.

II. We want some Divine, abiding influence which may show us the wonders of that love; and so it was that when the incarnate and triumphant Son of God was taken from us He did not leave us orphans. He went up on high and received gifts for men, even God the Holy Spirit, who came down upon the assembled Church as the one fulfilled promise of the Father, the great result of redemption, the begetting, and enlivening, and enabling power of the new life in man. Without Him all were vain; without Pentecost Calvary were powerless.

H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. iii., p. 324.

References: 1 Peter 1:23-25 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vii., No. 398; vol. xvii., No. 999.

Verse 24

1 Peter 1:24

The Great Contrast.

Like the sway and swell of Christmas bells across the snow, like mournful music heard across the hurrying waves, like the haunting refrain of an enchanting song which refuses to be forgotten, come the words of this Apostle of human feeling chastened by penitence and sorrow, "All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withereth; the flower thereof faileth."

I. St. Peter is writing to the scattered congregations of the Lesser Asia. He is writing to comfort, to stimulate, to encourage. These poor struggling bands of Christians, surrounded by vast and unsympathetic heathen populations, needed all the assistance which could be given them by apostolic strength, and insight, and enthusiasm. St. Peter has his feet on the track of the greatest of the prophets; and just as the children of captive Israel must have found it hard to think of the vast Babylonian power which held them as anything but invincible, just as the spectacle of the immense material splendours of that ancient empire of palaces and temples must have overwhelmed their imagination, and therefore it was necessary for the prophet, gazing forward through these years of trial and sorrow, to leave them a certain assurance that all this earthly splendour was as passing as the withering grass or the fading flower, so it was now.

II. "All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass." Here, then, under the pathetic image of the withering grass and the fading flower, the Apostle illustrates the passing character of that group of phenomena which he characterises as man and his glory. The glory of man! Yes, man, in many departments of his wide-reaching activity, has the glory which thrills and excites him in this mortal life. (1) There is, for instance, his glory in relation to nature. How marvellous have been at once the discoveries and the consequent achievements in the fields of science. (2) Think, again, of the development of those arts and inventions, side by side with a more enlightened social sentiment, which have made this scene of sense and time more suitable, less painful, to man as a passing home! We are not foolish if these are viewed as among God's gifts. (3) Or think of the beauties of art, the sweet songs of sweet singers, the entrancing tones of music, the triumphs of architecture, or the development of principles of loyalty to love and duty which have created or guided the immeasurable blessings of a civilised society and a Christian home. The mind has only to rest for a moment on any of these very real blessings to feel how real, how attractive, is "the glory of man"! But we cannot close our eyes to the fact that, with all our many blessings, with all our intoxicating discoveries, the main conditions of the journey of life have not changed. There is still the mystery of bodily pain; there is still the darker mystery of moral evil; there are still disappointed hopes and broken hearts; and, still before us all

"Black-stoled, black-hooded like a dream,"

there is the inexorable form of death. If we are to make anything our own in so real a sense that it may be ours for ever, it must be something more than that which death can touch; it must be something more than the "glory of man."

III. The "glory of man" is "as the flower of the grass." Yes, but "the word of the Lord abideth for ever." The word of the Lord! What do we mean by the word of the Lord? When we speak of the word of a man, we mean his very thought, clothed in appropriate garb and equipped with suitable equipments to enable it to pass from mind to mind. When we speak of the word of the Lord, we mean the very thought of the living God, sent forth to reach the mind, and to dwell in the heart, and to become part of the life of His creature; and as it comes from the Infinite, the Eternal, it partakes of His truth, His eternity, His infinity. By it man knows God, and "this is life eternal," this is a permanent possession, this is a lasting heritage: "to know Thee, the true God." (1) The moral law abideth for ever. Right is right, and wrong is wrong, by an absolute decree. Though all appearances are against it, "though hand join in hand" appearances are one thing, and reality quite another right in the long run must prevail, and "wickedness shall not go unpunished." (2) The catholic faith abideth for ever. Call it the Divine revelation, call it the Gospel of Christ, call it the catholic faith, call it what you will; do not quarrel about names, but remember that that body of unchanging truth with regard to God's nature, and man's dealing, and man's relation to God does not change. Of all duties there is none more paramount than in heart and life to "hold the faith." (3) The Bible in its sacred and unapproached pre-eminence abideth for ever. It lives on because it has in it the life and thought of the unchanging God, felt in serious moments to be of the last importance for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for consolation to the soul in the journey of life.

W. J. Knox-Little, The Journey of Life, p. 125.

The Perpetuity of the Gospel as compared with other Religions and Philosophies.

I. Christianity must satisfy the intellectual requirements of every age. It must (1) be in accord with the demonstrations of science, (2) offer new problems of its own, (3) stimulate the understanding to greater activity.

II. It must meet the moral requirements of every age. (1) This implies that it must accord with the distinct dictates of our moral nature. (2) It must be in advance of the moral performances of every age. (3) It must enter into the world as a refining element.

III. If the Gospel is to continue to the end of time, it must continue to meet the spiritual wants of man. If it does not do this, it is inevitably doomed to extinction.

J. C. Jones, Studies in First Peter, p. 185.

Human Changes and the Divine Unchangeableness.

I. The first consolation our text has for depression is that it contrasts with our frailty the word of the Eternal God. It matters little that the worker passes if his work endures. The truth we speak lives after us. God has His purpose, and He reveals it. He uses us as we wish to use ourselves: to do a thing which shall survive us. He calls us to take up our calling in a labour that others were at before us, and that shall be consummated when we are gone. We plant for our heirs; we build for the future: we heap up riches, and know not who shall gather them. If we had but as firm a faith in "the word of God" as we have in the results of human investigation, if we were as earnest in the Divine work as in our own, despondency would be at an end.

II. The next thought suggested by our text is that man's changefulness illustrates the eternal purpose of God. The Divine intention is brought out in His dealing with the fleeting generations of men; it becomes venerable in retrospect, while it is ever revealing itself in the freshness of a progressive history. A succession of changes implies the unchangeable; there would be no movement if there were not that which endures. An unvarying history would be a history of death; we gain a vaster idea of permanence by advance than we could ever gain by the continuance of unchanging forms. "One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh, but the earth abideth for ever," depository of God's creative energy. We want a varying, enlarging human history to gain a complete and worthy view of the faithfulness of God.

III. The perpetuity of the Gospel is the third subject of our thoughts. We need a revelation; an unrevealed were an unknown God. And yet how can we dream of abiding truth in a changing humanity? As mankind advances, will not men's thoughts vary concerning even such fundamental things as moral obligation, the character of virtue, the objects of our devotion, the very being of God? The answer is, all the progress of human thought and feeling, all developments of the religious consciousness which are to be enduring, will take place along the line of the Gospel revelation. There will be development in the Christian faith: a fuller apprehension of its truths; a deeper sympathy with its spirit; a larger experience of its power; a broader application of it to the varying wants of men.

IV. The enduring word of God is the pledge of our endurance. "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible seed, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever." "Because I live, ye shall live also."

A. Mackennal, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvii., p. 51.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on 1 Peter 1". "Sermon Bible Commentary".