The First Epistle Of Peter
The epistles of Peter are addressed to the elect Jews of his day, believing of course on the Lord Jesus, and scattered throughout a considerable portion of Asia Minor. The apostle takes particular care to instruct them in the bearing of many of the types that were contained in the Levitical ritual with which they were familiar. But while he contrasts the Christian position with their former Jewish one, in order to strengthen them as to their place and calling now in and by Christ, he takes care also to maintain fully whatever common truth there is between the Christian and the saints of the Old Testament. For it is hardly necessary to say to any intelligent believer, that whatever may be the new privileges, and consequently fresh duties which flow from them, there are certain unchangeable moral principles to which God holds throughout all time. These were insisted on in the Old Testament, particularly in the Psalms and the prophets. And the apostle guards against the wrong conclusion, that, because in certain things we stand contrasted with the Old Testament saints, there are no grounds in common.
Let it then be well borne in mind, that God holds fast that which He has laid down for all that are His as to the moral government of God. That government may differ in character and depth; there may be at a fitting moment a far closer dealing with souls (as undoubtedly this is the case since redemption). At the same time the general principles of God are in nowise enfeebled by Christianity, but rather strengthened and cleared immensely. Take, for instance, the duty of obedience; the value of a gracious, peaceful walk here below; the degree of confidence in God. It was ever right that love should go out towards others, whether in general kindness towards all mankind, or in special affections towards the family of God. These things were always true in principle, and never can be touched while man lives on earth.
It is equally true, however, that from the beginning of his first epistle, Peter draws out the contrast of the Christian place with their old Jewish one. It is not that the Jews were not elect as a nation, but therein precisely it is where they stand in contrast with the Christian. Whatever may be found in hymns, or sermons, or theology, scripture knows no such thing as an elect church. There is the appearance of it in the last chapter of this very epistle, but this is due solely to the meddling hand of man. In 1 Peter 5 we read, "The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you;" but all concede that the terms "the church that is" have been put in by the translators: they have no authority whatever. It was an individual and not a church that was referred to. It was probably a well known sister there; and therefore it was enough simply to allude to her. "She that was at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you." The very point of Christianity is this, that as to election it is personal - strictly individual. This is precisely what those who contend against the truth of election always feel most: they will allow a sort of body in a general way to be elect, and then that the individuals who compose that body must be brought in, as it were, conditionally, according to their good conduct. No such idea is traceable in the word of God. God has chosen individuals. As it is said in Ephesians: He has chosen us, not the church, but ourselves individually. "The church," as such, does not come in till the end of the first chapter. We have first individuals chosen of God before the foundation of the world.
Here too the apostle does not merely speak, nor is it ever the habit of scripture to speak, in an abstract way of election. The saints were chosen "according to the foreknowledge of God the Father;" for it was no question now of a Governor having a nation in whom He might display His wisdom, power, and righteous ways. They had been used to this and more in Judaism, but it had all passed away. The Jews had brought His government into contempt by their own rebellion against His name; and Jehovah Himself had found it morally needful to hand over His own nation into the power of their enemies. Consequently that nation as a display of His government was a thing of the past. A remnant, it is true, had been brought up from Babylon for the purpose of being tested by a new trial by the presentation of the Messiah to them; but alas! only to their responsibility, not to their faith; and if it be responsibility, whether to do the law or to believe the Messiah, it is all one as far as the result in man is concerned. The creature is utterly ruined in every way, and with so much the speedier manifestation the more spiritual the trial.
Thus, as is known, the rejection of the Messiah was incomparably more fruitful of disastrous consequences to the Jew than even had been of old their breach of the divine law. This accordingly gave occasion for God to exercise a new kind of choice. Undoubtedly there was always a secret election of saints after the fall and long before the call of Abraham and his seed; but now the choice of saints was to be made a manifest thing, a testimony before men, though of course not till glory come absolutely perfect. Accordingly God chooses now not merely out of men but out of the Jews. And this is a point that Peter presses on them, - a startling thought for a Jew, yet they had only to reflect in order to know how true it is: "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father." He is forming a family, and no longer governing one chosen nation. Those addressed from among the Jews were among the chosen ones, "elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father."
But there is more than this: it was no longer a question of ordinances visibly separating those subject to them from the rest of the world. It was a real inward and not merely external setting apart; it was through "sanctification of the Spirit." God set them apart unto Himself by the effectual working of the Holy Ghost,. We do not hear now of the gift of the Spirit. Sanctification of the Spirit is altogether distinct from that gift. His sanctification is the effectual work of divine grace, which first separates from the world a person, whether Jew or Gentile, unto God. When a man for instance turns to God, when he has faith in Jesus, when he repents towards God, even though it may be faith but little developed or exercised, and although the repentance may be comparatively superficial (yet I am supposing now real faith and repentance through the action of the Holy Ghost), these are the tokens of the Spirit's sanctification.
There are those who constantly think and speak of sanctification as practical holiness, and exclusively so. It is granted that there is a sanctification in scripture which bears on practice. This is not the point here, but if possible a deeper thing; and for the simple reason, that practical holiness must be relative or a question of degree. The" sanctification of the Spirit" here spoken of is absolute. The question is not how far it is made good in the heart of the believer; for it really and equally embraces all believers. It is an effectual work of God's Spirit from the very starting‑point of the career of faith. Elect of course they were in God's mind from all eternity, but they are sanctified from the first moment that the Holy Ghost opens their eyes to the light of the truth in Christ. There is an awakening of conscience by the Spirit through the word (for I am not speaking now of anything natural, of moral desires or emotions of the heart). Wherever there is a real work of God's Spirit - not merely a testimony to the conscience but an arousing of it effectually before God - the sanctification of the Spirit is made good.
If asked why this should be accepted as the meaning of the expression, I acknowledge that one is bound to give a reason for that which no doubt differs from the view of many, and I answer, that in my judgment the just and only meaning of the word is proved from the fact that the saints are said to be "elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ."
The order here is precise and instructive. Now practical holiness follows our being sprinkled with the blood of Jesus Christ, whereas the sanctification of the Spirit of which Peter here treats precedes it. The saints are chosen through sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience. This is somewhat difficult for theology, because in general even intelligent and godly souls are much shut up in the prevalent commonplaces of men. Never should I for one blame their tenacity in adhering to the truth and duty of advancing in practical holiness, or what they call sanctification. This is both true and important in its place. The fault is in denying the other and yet more fundamental sense of sanctification here shown by Peter in its right relation to obedience. A truth is not the truth. True growth in practice confessedly is after justification; sanctification in 1 Peter 1: 2 is before justification. It is very evident when a man is justified, he is under the efficacy of the blood of Christ. He is no longer waiting for the sprinkling of that precious blood, he is already sprinkled with it before God. But the sanctification of the Spirit laid down here is in order to the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus; and therefore unless you would destroy the grace of God, and reverse a multitude of scriptures as to justification by faith, this sanctification cannot be one's practice of day by day.
Confound the one with the other and you upset the gospel: distinguish sanctification in principle from the beginning for all from sanctification in practice in the various measures of believers, and you learn the truth of what Peter here teaches, which is forgotten for the most part in Christendom. If you say that practical holiness precedes the being brought under the blood of Jesus, I ask, How is one to become holy? Whence is the power or the growth in holiness? Certainly such is not the teaching of God's word anywhere, still less is it what the apostle Peter insists on here. There is a wider and, if possible, a deeper thought than the measure of our walk, which, after all, differs in all the children of God, - no two being exactly the same, - and all of us depending on self‑judgment as well as growth in the knowledge of the Lord and of His grace. The word of God, prayer, the use that we make of the opportunities that His goodness affords us, both public and private, - all the means that teach and exercise us in the will of God no doubt contribute to this practical holiness.
But here the apostle speaks of none of these things, but only of the Spirit separating the saints to obey as Jesus obeyed, and to be sprinkled with His blood. And so we find it in fact and in Scripture. Thus, for instance, Saul of Tarsus had this sanctification of the Spirit the moment that, struck down to the earth, he received the testimony of the Lord speaking from heaven. He went through a profound work in his conscience after that. For three days and nights, as we all know, he neither ate nor drank. All this was thoroughly in season; and after it, as we are told, the blindness was taken away, and he was filled with the Holy Ghost. This is not the sanctification of the Spirit. It was clearly the consequence of the Holy Ghost being given to him, but the gift of the Spirit is not the sanctification of the Spirit. Sanctification of the Spirit is that primary action that was experienced before Saul entered into peace with God. When a man is roused to hate his sins through God's testimony reaching him, and convicting him before God, and not in his own eyes, - when a man is ashamed of all that he has been in presence of God's grace, ever so little known and understood, - still where a real work goes on in the soul, sanctification of the Spirit is true there. Now this ought to be a great comfort even to the feeblest of God's children, not an alarm. There is not one of them who has not really sanctification of the Spirit They may be troubled as to the question of practical holiness, but the fundamental and essential sanctification of the Spirit is that which is already true of all the children of God. I am not speaking of a particular doctrine. It is not a question of that; but of a soul quickened by the Spirit through the truth received in ever so simple and limited a manner. But it is a reality, and from that time this sanctification of the Spirit becomes a fact.
But then, to what are they sanctified of the Holy Ghost thus? Unto Christ's obedience and the sprinkling of His blood; for "Jesus Christ" belongs to both these clauses. This again is a difficulty to some minds. They would rather have placed the sprinkling of the blood first, and obedience next. I can understand them, but do not in the least agree with them. Indeed such difficulties serve to show where people are. The root of all is that people are occupied about themselves first, instead of leaning on the Lord. No doubt if a person were at once to be brought into the comfort of full peace with God through the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus, this would suit the heart's sense of its own need. But it is not what the word of God gives us by that converted soul, to whose case I have adverted. What is it that Saul of Tarsus says as the effect of the light of God shining on his soul? "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" And was not this before he knew all the comfort and blessing of the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus?
The first impulse of a converted man is to do the will of God. There may be no sense of liberty yet, nor even joy in the Lord; there can be no solid peace whatever. All this will come in due time, and it may be very rapidly, even the self‑same hour; but the very first thing that a soul born of God feels is the desire at all cost to do the will of God. It is exactly what filled Jesus perfectly. It was not a question of what He was to gain or what He was to avoid; but as it is written, "Lo, I come, to do thy will, O God." To my mind, nothing is more wonderful in our blessed Lord here below than this devotedness to His Father, not merely now and again, but as the one motive that animated Him from the beginning to the end of His course here below. He came to do the will of God, and this not as the law proposed, in order that it might be well with Him, and He might live long in the earth; He never had such a motive though He fulfilled the law perfectly. On the contrary, He knew quite well before coming that He was not here for a long life, but to die on the cross. He was about to be a sacrifice for sin, giving Himself up spite of suffering, not only from man, but from God. But at all cost God's will must be done; "by the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." The self‑same principle is true in the believer, although of course it is pure grace toward him, whereas it was moral perfectness in Jesus. In our case it is all through Jesus. It is the Holy Ghost no doubt producing it. It is the instinct of that new nature, - of life in the believer, who, being born of God, has this necessary feeling of the new nature, the desire to do the will of God. In point of fact Christ is the life of the believer; and we can well understand, therefore, that the life of Christ, whether viewed in all its perfection in Him, or whether it is seen modified in ourselves, is nevertheless just the same life, - in our case hindered alas! by all sorts of circumstances, and above all by the evil of our old nature that surrounds it, in Him, as we know, absolutely perfect and without mixture.
In this case, then, it seems to me that the order is divinely perfect, and manifestly so. Being sanctified of the Spirit, we are called to obey as Christ obeyed. It is another character and measure of responsibility. The Jew, as such, was bound to obey the law. To him it was a question of not doing what his nature prompted him to do. But this was never the case with Jesus. He in no case desired to do a single thing that was not the will of God. Now the new nature in the believer never has any other thought or feeling; only in our case there is also the old nature which may, and which alas! does struggle to have its own way. Therefore God has His own wise, holy, and gracious mode of dealing with it. We shall see that this comes later on in our epistle, and therefore I need say no more upon it now.
Here we have the first great primary fact, that the Christian Jew does not belong any more to the elect nation; but is taken out of this his former position, and is elect after a wholly new sort. In this case, those actually addressed had belonged to that elect people, but now they were chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. It was no afterthought, but His settled plan. It was the foreknowledge of God the Father in virtue of (ejn) sanctification of the Spirit, and this unto the obedience of Jesus Christ (that kind of obedience), and the sprinkling of His blood. These two points are carefully to be weighed - Christian obedience, and the sprinkling of His blood. I consider them both to stand in manifest contrast with the same two elements under the law in Exodus 24, which appears to be in view. In that chapter we have Israel agreeing to do whatever the law demanded, and thereupon the blood of certain victims is taken and sprinkled on the people, as well as on the book that bound them.
It is a great mistake to suppose that the blood there is used as a sign of the putting away of sin. This is not by any means the only meaning of blood, even where it was sacrificially employed. The meaning in that sense I take to be this: that the people formally pledged themselves to legal obedience, and bound themselves in this solemn manner to obey. Just as the blood sprinkled was from the animals killed in view of the old covenant, so they shrank not from that dread and extreme exaction if they failed to obey the will of God. It was an imprecation of death on themselves from God if they violated His commandments. Therefore it is observable there was the sprinkling of the book along with it. This had nothing at all to do with atonement - a supposition which only arises from people closing their eyes to other truths in the Bible, to their own great loss even in the truth they hold. We must leave room for all truth. Atonement has its own incomparable place. But certainly when the Israelites were binding themselves to obey the law, it was as far as possible from a confession of atonement. It is a total fallacy, injurious to God's glory and to our own souls, to interpret the Bible after this fashion. It only makes confusion in jumbling up law and gospel, to the detriment of both, and indeed to the destruction of all the beauty and force of truth.
In the case of the Christian all is changed. For Christ communicated a new nature which loves to obey God's will, which accordingly is given us from conversion, before (and it may be long before) a person enjoys peace. From the time that this new nature is given, the purpose of the heart is to obey. Such was, unhindered by imperfection, the obedience of Jesus.
But besides this, the gospel, instead of putting a man under blood as a threat or imprecation of death in case of failure, the awful sign of his doom before his eyes if he disobeyed, puts him under the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus, which assures him of plenary forgiveness. With this he is intended to start as a Christian; he begins his career with that blessed shelter which tells him that, although he has entered on the path of Christian obedience, he is a forgiven and justified man in the sight of God. Such is the suited and striking preface with which our apostle commences, contrasting the portion of the believer in Christ with that of the Jew, as it stands in their own sacred books, which we as well as they acknowledge to have divine authority.
Next follows the salutation, "Grace unto you, and peace," the usual Christian or apostolic style of address. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to he revealed in the last time." Thus he loves to bring out again confirmatorily the new relationship in which they stood to God. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." It is not here blessing them in heavenly places in Christ. Such is not., the topic of Peter; it had been given to another instrument more fitted for revealing the heavenly position of the believer. But if it is not union with Christ, if not our full place in Him before God, there is a clear statement of our hope of heaven. And this is what Peter immediately enlarges on. Speaking of God he says, "Who according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven." It is not the universal inheritance of which the apostle Paul treats, so that clearly we have the distinction between his testimony and Paul's very definitely.
Bear in mind that the one is just as truly Christian as the other. There is no difference in their authority, but each has its own importance. The man that would make all his scripture to be the epistle to the Ephesians would soon find himself in want of Peter. And I am persuaded that a hardness of character, quite intolerable to men of spiritual minds, would inevitably be generated by making all our food to consist in what could be extracted from Ephesians and Colossians, the effect of which would soon become painfully sensible to others. The consequence would be that much of the exercise of spiritual affection which humbles the soul, a vast deal which renders needful the gracious present care of the Lord Jesus as advocate and priest on high, would be of necessity left out. In other words, if we think of firmness, as well as the sense of belonging to heaven, - a bright triumphant consciousness of glory, surely we must enter into and enjoy the precious truth of our union with Christ. But this is not all; we need Christ interceding for us, as well as the privilege of being in Christ; we need to have Him active in His love before our God, and not merely a condition in which we stand. Peter treats chiefly of the former, Paul of both, but chiefly of the latter. Such was the ordering of matters under God's hand for both. The epistle to the Hebrews of all the Pauline epistles is that which most approaches the testimony of Peter, and coalescing in it to a large extent. There we have not union with the Head, but "the heavenly calling;" and substantially the latter line of truth is that which we have in 1 Peter.
Nor is it only that we find here the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus, but the life that grace has given us is characterized by resurrection power. "We are begotten again," says he, "to a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." The blood of Jesus Christ, however precious and indispensable, does not of itself constitute a man a Christian either in intelligence or in fact of standing. It is the foundation for it; and every one who rests on the blood of Christ is surely a Christian; but I repeat that, both for position before God and intelligent perception and power of soul, we need and have much more. Supposing God only gave the believer according to his own thoughts (often meagre); supposing one believed in the power of the precious blood of Jesus ever so truly, and had nothing more than this our real portion by the Spirit, such an one, I maintain, would be a sorry Christian indeed. No doubt as far as it goes it is all‑important, nor could any one be a Christian without it. Still the Christian does need the effect of the resurrection of Jesus following up the sprinkling of His blood - I do not say the resurrection without His blood, still less the glory without either. A whole Christ is given and needed. I do not believe in these glory‑men, or resurrection‑men either, without the blood of Jesus; but, on the other hand, as little are we in scripture limited to that most wonderful of all foundations - redemption through Christ Jesus our Lord. To restrict yourself to it would be a wrong, not so much to your own soul as to God's grace; and if there be any difference, especially to Him who suffered all things for God's glory and for our own infinite blessing.
In this case then we have the Christian by divine grace possessed of a new nature which loves to obey. He is sprinkled with Christ's blood, which gives him confidence and boldness in faith before God, because he knows the certainty of the love that has put away his sins by blood. But, besides this, what a spring is conveyed to the soul by the sense that his life is the life of Jesus in resurrection. So, he adds, there is a. similar inheritance for the saints with Christ Himself - "an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven," where He has already gone. More than this, there is full security, spite of our passing through a world filled with hatred and peril, for the Christian above all. "For you," says he, "who are kept;" for Christian doctrine is not, as men so often say, that of saints persevering. In this I, for one, do not believe. One sees alas! too often saints going astray, comparatively seldom persevering as the rule, if we speak of their consistent fidelity and devotedness. But there is that which never fails, - "the power of God through faith," - by which the believer is kept to the end. This alone restores the balance; and thus we are taken out of all conceit of our own stability. We are thrown on mercy, as we ought to be; we look up in dependence on One who is incontestably above us, and withal infinitely near to us. This ought to be the spring of all our confidence, even in God Himself, with His own power preserving us. There is given to the soul of him who thus rests on God's power keeping him a wholly different tone from that of the man who thinks of his own perseverance as a saint. Far better is it, then, to be "kept by the power of God through faith." In this way it is not independent of our looking to Him.
But there is discipline also. God puts us to the proof; and, undoubtedly, if there be unbelief working, we must eat the bitter fruit of our own ways. It is good that we should feel that it is unbelief, and that unbelief can produce nothing but death. This may be in various measures, and therefore no more is meant than so far as want of faith is allowed to work. In the unbeliever, where it does work unhinderedly, the consequences are fatal and everlasting. In the believer the evil heart of unbelief is modified necessarily by the fact that, believing on Christ, he has everlasting life. But still, as far as unbelief does work, it is just so far death in effect. The saints, then, are "kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation." And here it is well to observe, as an important fact to be recognised, that salvation in Peter's epistle looks onward to the future, where it is not otherwise qualified. Salvation is here viewed as not yet come. In the general sense of the word, salvation awaits the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ. It supposes that the believer is brought out of all that is natural even as to the body - that he is already changed into the likeness of Christ. "Salvation," says Peter, "ready to be revealed in the last time." This is the reason why he connects it with the appearing of Jesus Christ. It is not merely the work effected, but salvation revealed; and hence it necessarily awaits the revelation of Jesus Christ.
There is another sense of salvation, and our apostle, as we shall shortly find, does not in anywise ignore it; but then he qualifies the term. When he refers it to the present, it is the salvation of souls, not of bodies. This also is a very important point of difference for the Christian, on which it will be desirable to speak presently. On the other hand, as here, when salvation simply and fully is meant, we are thrown on the revelation of the last time. "Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations." Such is the path of trial through which the believer goes forward, putting to the proof the faith which God has given him:" That the trial of your faith" (not of flesh as under the law) "being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ."
It is not said to be at Christ's coming. The trial of our faith will not be revealed then, but "at the appearing of Jesus." This is the reason why the appearing of Jesus is brought in here. The coming of Jesus might be misunderstood, as being a much more comprehensive term than His appearing or revelation. His coming (parousiva) is that which effects the rapture and reception of the saints to Himself; and His appearing is that which subsequently displays them with Himself before the world, and therefore expresses but a part of His presence, being the special (not the generic) term. The appearing of Jesus is exclusively when the Lord will make Himself visible, and be seen by every eye. It is evident that the Lord might come and make Himself visible only to those in whom He is distinctly interested, and who are themselves personally associated with Him; and such, I have no doubt, is the truth of scripture. But then He may do more and display Himself to the world. Such is the "appearing" of Jesus, and of this the apostle Peter speaks when the revelation of the sons of God in glory will take place. Then it is that the trial of the faith of the Christian will be made manifest in glory. Wherever the saints have shown faith or unbelief, whether hindered by the world, the flesh, or the devil, whatever the particular snare that has drawn them aside, all will be made plain then. There will be no possibility of self‑love keeping up appearances longer: unbelief will cost as dear in that day as it is worthless now; but the trial of faith, where it has been genuine, will be "found unto praise and honour" then. Proved unbelief will be certainly to the praise of none, but where feeble faltering faith has been put in evidence by the trial, while surely forgiven in the grace of God, nevertheless the failure cannot but be judged as such. The flesh never counts on God for good. All unbelief therefore will be shown plainly to be of the flesh, not of the Spirit, and never excusable.
But this gives the apostle an occasion to speak of Jesus, especially as he had spoken of His appearing, and this in a way that remarkably brings out the character of Christianity. "Whom," says he, "having not seen, ye love." It is a strange sound and fact at first, but in the end precious. Who ever loved a person that he never saw? We know that in human relations it is not so. In divine things it is precisely what shows the power and special character of a Christian's faith.
Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: receiving the end of your faith," - not yet the body saved, but soul‑salvation - "the salvation of souls." This at once gives us a true and vivid picture of what Christianity is, of signal importance for the Jews to weigh, because they always looked forward for a visible Messiah, - the royal Son of David - the object, no doubt, of all reverence, homage, and loyalty for all Israel. But here it is altogether another order of ideas. It is a rejected Messiah who is the proper object of the Christian's love, though he never beheld Him; and who while unseen becomes so much the more simply and unmixedly the object of his faith, and withal the spring of "joy unspeakable and full of glory."
While this is in full and evident contrast with Judaism, it needs little proof that it is precisely what gives scope for the proper display of Christianity, which could not be seen in its true light if at all till Jesus left the world. Whilst the Lord was here, it is ignorance and error to call such a state of things, however blessed and needed, Christianity. Of course it was Christ, which, after all, was far more important in one sense than the work He wrought for bringing us to God. All on which one could look with delight and praise was concentrated in His own person. What were the disciples then? Members of His body? Who told you this? None eau find it in Scripture. Up to that time membership of Christ, or to be in Christ, was not a fact, and consequently could not be testified to any soul, nor known to the most advanced believer. What Christ was to them then was all: not in the least did any suspect (for indeed it was not yet true) that any were in Him. The Lord spoke of a day when they should know it; but as yet the foundation was not even laid for it. This was done in the mighty work of the Saviour on the cross; and not the fact only but its results were made good when Christ, after having breathed His own risen life into them, went up to heaven and sent down the Holy Ghost that they might taste the joy and have the power of it. This gives room for all the practical working of Christianity. It was necessary to its existence that Jesus should go. There could have been no Christianity if Jesus had not come; yet as long as He was visibly present on earth, Christianity proper could not even begin.
It was when He who died went to heaven that Christianity appeared in its full force; and accordingly then came out faith in its finest and truest character. While He was here, there was a kind of mingled experience. It was partly sight and partly faith; but when He went away, it was altogether faith, and nothing but faith. Such is Christianity. But then, again, as long as Christ was here, it could not be exactly hope. How could one hope for One who was here, however different His estate from what was longed for and expected? Thus neither faith had its adequate and suited sphere, nor had hope its proper character till Jesus went away. When He left the earth, especially as the Crucified, then indeed there was room for faith; and nothing but faith received, appreciated, and enjoyed all. And before He went away, He had left the promise of His return for them. Thus hope also could spring forth as it were to meet Him; as, indeed, it is the work of the Holy Ghost to exercise the faith and hope He has given.
This, then, may serve to show the true nature of Christianity, which, coming in after redemption, is founded on it, and forms in us heavenly associations and hopes while Jesus is away, and we are waiting for Him to return. Perhaps it is needless to say how the heart is tried. There is everything, as we have seen, to give not only faith and hope their full place, but also love. As we are told here, "Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing," - no wonder he adds, - "ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory." But none of these wonders of grace could have been, unless by redemption we receive the end of our faith meanwhile, namely, soul‑salvation.
A very important development follows in the next verses. "Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you." How little, it seems, the Old Testament prophets understood their own prophecies! How much we are indebted to the Spirit who now reveals a Christ already come! The prophets were constantly saying that the righteousness of God was near at, hand, and His salvation to be revealed. Thence, we see, they did speak of these very things. They "prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching), what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glories after these." Take Psalm 22 or Isaiah 53, where we have the sufferings which belonged to Christ, and the glories after these. But mark, "To whom it was revealed, that not to themselves, but to us they did minister the things which are now reported to you in virtue of the Holy Ghost sent from heaven. This is Christianity. It is very far from identifying the state and testimony of the prophets with ours now under grace and a present Spirit. He shows that first of all there was this testimony of that which was not for themselves but for us, beginning of course with the converted Jewish remnant, - these Christian Jews who believed the gospel which in principle belongs to us of the Gentiles just as much as to them.
Christianity is come to us now; but when really known, it is not at all a mere question of prophetic testimony, even though this be of God, but there is the preaching of the gospel by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. The gospel sets forth present accomplishment - redemption now a finished work as far as the soul is concerned. At the same time, the day is not yet come for the fulfilment of the prophecies as a whole. This is the important difference here revealed. There are three distinct truths in these verses, as has been often remarked, and most clearly, as we have seen. "Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the appearing of Jesus Christ." Then the prophecies will be fulfilled. Thus the Lord Jesus, being already come and about to come again, brings before us two of these stages, while the mission of the Holy Ghost for the gospel fills up the interval between them. Had there been only one coming of Christ, then the accomplishment that we have now, and the fulfilment of the prophecies that. is future, would have coalesced, so; far as this could have been; but two distinct comings of the Lord (one past, and the other future) have broken up the matter into these separate parts. That is, we have had accomplishment in the past; and we look for future fulfilment of all the bright anticipations of the coming kingdom. After the one, and before the other, the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven is the power of Christian blessedness, and as we know also of the church, no less than of preaching the gospel everywhere.
And when the Lord Jesus appears by and by, there will be not the gospel as it is now preached, nor the Holy Ghost as He is now sent down from heaven, but the word going forth and the Spirit poured out suitably to that day. There may be a still more diffusive action of the Holy Ghost when He is shed upon all flesh, not merely as a sample, but to an extent (I do not say depth) beyond what was accomplished on the day of Pentecost. In due time there will be the fulfilment of the prophecies to the letter. Christianity accordingly, it will be observed, comes in between these two extremes - after the first, and before the second, coming of Christ; and this is exactly what Peter shows us in this epistle. "Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope perfectly," etc. Again in the 14th verse: "As children of obedience, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: but as he which hath called you is holy, be ye also holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy." There is an instance of what I referred to - that the essential moral principles. of the Old Testament are in nowise disturbed by Christianity. And, indeed, you find this not merely in Peter but in Paul. Paul will tell you so, even after he shows that the Christian is dead to the law; and then a term is used to show that he does not at all mean that the righteousness of the law is not fulfilled in us, but that it is. In fact, the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in no one but the Christian. A man under the law never fulfils the law: the man who is under grace is the one that does, and the only one; for the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in those "who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." So Peter takes up a passage of Leviticus, and shows that it is strictly true - yea, if one can employ such an expression, more true (of course meaning by this more manifestly true) under the Christian than under the Jewish system. As all know, many things were allowed then for the hardness of the heart, which are thoroughly condemned now. That is, the holiness of the Christian is fuller, and deeper than that of the Jew. Hence he can fairly take up the quotation from the law, not at all conveying that we were under law, but with an