NOTES ON THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PETER
Peter, James and Paul wrote epistles to the same people, to the saints of the Dispersion (James 1:1; 1 Pet.1:1; 2 Pet.3:15). The Dispersion was the dispersed Jews who lived in Gentile lands. The only epistle of Paul which answers to what Peter said is that of the Hebrews, and we are of the opinion, despite what some modern writers have written to the contrary, that Paul was the writer of the Hebrews. Peter writes as an apostle. Those to whom he writes are the elect in Pontus, Galatia, etc. The elect are viewed as sojourning on earth, a pilgrim people, like the children of Israel in their journey through the wilderness. This is different from the view of election in Eph.1:4, where the saints are viewed as chosen in Christ before there was any earth. “He chose us in Him (Christ) before the foundation of the world”; and as chosen ones we were blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. In Ephesians we are taught to look away from earth to the heavenlies in Christ, the place of our blessings and election, but in 1 Peter we look to the earth and see a chosen people wending their way as pilgrims through a strange and foreign land to their inheritance above. These elect in 1 Peter were sojourners in a double sense, they were Jewish people sojourning among the Gentiles, away from their own land, but they were also “sojourners and pilgrims” (chapter 2:11) in the higher sense; they were pilgrims on earth going on to their heavenly country. Like Abraham, they desired “a better country, that is, a heavenly” (Heb.11:16). The five places mentioned, Pontus, etc., were Roman provinces in Asia Minor, which is now called Turkey. In these provinces there were churches of God in various cities, certain of which we know were planted by Paul and his fellow-workers. These elect sojourners were elect according to the foreknowledge of God. Of old, God chose the seed of Abraham, His friend, and we can see how in His foreknowledge He made provision so that His purposes might be fulfilled. We point out but one thing in this connexion, the choice of the sons of Joseph, according to God’s foreknowledge of future events, who were given a place among the sons of Jacob as though they had been Jacob’s own sons (Gen.48:5,6). This was because the day would come when Levi would be given the place of the firstborn sons of Israel because of the idolatry of the latter in the matter of the golden calf (Ex.32:26-29; Num.3:44-51). In this election of 1 Pet.1 we are to make our calling and election sure (2 Pet.1:10), but in that of Eph.1, which is coupled with foreordination, we cannot make it more sure (Eph.1:5). What is said in Eph.1 is similar to what is recorded in Rom.8:30: “whom He foreordained, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified.” This foreordination, which is connected with justification and glory, cannot be made more sure, but in service, during the days of our sojourning on earth, we are to make our election sure. Election in 1 Peter is “unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” This takes us back to Sinai, to the time when Israel became the people of God, to which they had previously been chosen. The sprinkling of the blood of the covenant at Sinai should not be confused with the blood of the Passover which was put upon the portals of the doors of the homes of the Israelites in Egypt. Two very different lessons are to be learned from the blood in each case. It was when Moses “took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people”, and they said, “All that the LORD hath spoken will we do, and be obedient,” that Moses took the blood of the covenant, and sprinkled it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words” (Ex.24:7, 8). No obedience, save what was involved in the killing of the Passover, applying the blood, and eating the Passover lamb in preparation for their journey, was required of Israel in Egypt, but it was quite different in regard to the blood of the covenant; the covenant required continual obedience on the part of Israel. It is even so in regard to the obedience and sprinkling of the blood in 1 Pet.1:2: There is a great difference between obedience to the Faith (Acts 6:7), and the obedience of faith (Rom.1:5; 16:26). To the gospel the believing sinner renders the obedience of faith; he is not allowed to do more than believe, and hence he is saved and justified by faith. But when he is justified, then he has to be obedient to the Faith in all its commandments, the Faith being the revealed will of God for His people in this day, as the law was for Israel in the past. In the past the covenant was the law, and the law was the testimony; it was the ten commandments written on the tables of stone which were placed in the ark in the Holy of Holies. Peter salutes this elect, sanctified, obedient, blood-sprinkled people with the words “Grace to you and peace be multiplied.” Even such as Nebuchadnezzar wrote of peace being multiplied (Dan.4:1), and of Messiah’s kingdom it is written “Of the increase of His government and of peace there shall be no end” (Isa.9:7).
Peter begins this paragraph with an ascription of praise to God the Father, whom He calls the God (this implies the manhood of Christ, who as Man was an obedient worshipper) and Father (this implies the Deity of Christ, who is the only begotten Son of the Father) of our Lord Jesus Christ. He according to His great (not Gk. megas, great, but polus, “great in magnitude or quantity, much”) mercy begat us again unto a living hope, and that living hope springs from the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The two disciples on the way to Emmaus were in a disconsolate and hopeless state, for to them the Lord was dead. They said, “We hoped that it was He which should redeem Israel,” but their hope blazed up afresh when He was known of them in the breaking of the bread (Lk.24:35). “The Lord is risen indeed” is the hope of the believer, and to such a hope he is begotten again. The AV/KJV uses the Old English word “lively.” At times this hope, though it is alive in the believer, is not “lively”; it is a fact which does not quicken his pulse, brighten his eyes, raise his head. He is more like those who followed the body of the Lord to Joseph’s new tomb, than like those who walked out with Him in resurrection to the slopes of Olivet, when He went back to heaven. We have been begotten again to a hope, not to hopelessness. We have also been begotten again to an inheritance, for since we are children of God with the Spirit-taught words, “Abba, Father,” upon our lips, we are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ (Rom.8: 15-17). Ours is an incorruptible, undefiled, and unfading inheritance. There are no death duties here to reduce a noble inheritance to what is but a faded memory of fabulous fortunes. The inheritance which is ours is in heaven, where there is neither illegal theft, nor legal appropriation. The inheritance does not fade away till its wealth and glory are gone. Neither the corrupting hand of sin nor the defilements of earth can affect it; it is reserved, kept for us against our arrival in heaven. One day we shall claim our own unto which we have been born again. The inheritance is not something we have laboured to attain, but it comes to us through the new birth.
Guarded means that we are guarded as with a military guard. The danger of these pilgrim- heirs was great as they made their way through what was truly “a waste, howling wilderness.” Israel’s wilderness was a “land of trouble and anguish, from whence come the lioness and the lion, the viper and fiery flying serpent” (Isa.30:6); it was the Negeb (Heb. the South) of Israel’s wanderings. The power of God guarded His people in the past and the power of God is the guard of His people now. Thus we have a reserved inheritance for a
guarded people. We are guarded through faith, for we must not stray from the path marked out for us in the Scriptures, for if we stray to the right and left, we may fall a prey to the devil, who, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour (chapter 5:8). “We walk by faith” (2 Cor.5:7) should follow being saved by faith. We have been saved by grace through faith (Eph.2:8); we are being saved daily by working out our own salvation through God working within us (Phil.2:13); and there is salvation yet further, which is nearer to us than when we believed (Rom.13:11), and which is ready to be revealed in the last time; this is at the Lord’s coming again.
“Greatly rejoice,” the Greek word translated is agalliao, which means “to leap for joy, exult.” This is what is called “the rapture” by some teachers of the word. On the one hand, we are “transported with desire” at the thought of being saved completely from the world and its corruptions; on the other, we may be put to grief by manifold temptations, if there should be need for this. “But God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation make also the way of escape, that ye may be able to endure it” (1 Cor.10:13). “With the temptation” (with, Gk. sun, together with), shows that the temptation and the escape, the issue or way out, are made together. Often, perchance, we are so grieved with the temptation that we do not wait on God to reveal the way out, which will surely come if we wait for it with patience. The way of escape came for Job after his weary days and nights of temptation. It came also for David, for Joseph, and for many others. Why should there need to be temptations? The answer is, they are a test of faith. God has had great pleasure in displaying the faith of His saints. Think in particular of faith’s “picture gallery” in Heb.11: How frequently we have gone round and viewed the characters of those faithful men and women, as the Spirit of God has painted them! That is a display in miniature of what will yet be, which is sufficient to encourage present sufferers to imitate their faith. But what will it be when at the revelation of Jesus Christ the proof of the faith of saints will be exhibited, a proof so precious that gold could not buy it, which will be found unto praise, glory and honour? The revelation of Jesus Christ here is not His revelation to the world in flaming fire, as in 2 Thess.1:7,8, etc. The different words used in connexion with the Lord’s coming again should be studied. The Greek word parousia, “coming,” or more correctly “presence,” is used both in connexion with the Lord’s coming to the air for His saints (1 Thess.4:15) and His coming to earth as the Son of Man (Matt.24:27). Gk. phaneroo, to be manifested or appear, refers to Christ at His first coming (Heb.9:26; 1 Jn 1:2; 1 Jn 3:5-8) and to His coming again for His saints (1 Pet.5:4; 1 Jn 2:28, 1 Jn 3:2). Gk. epiphaneia, appearing or manifestation, refers to the Lord’s first coming (2 Tim.1:10; Tit.2:11), to His coming for His saints (Tit.2:13, “the blessed hope and appearing of the glory”), and to His coming to earth (1 Tim.6:14; 2 Tim.4:1). Gk. apokalupsis, uncovering, revelation or appearing, refers to His being revealed to His saints at His coming for them (1 Cor.1:7; 1 Pet.4:13; 1 Pet.1:5,13; revelation also applies to the Lord’s coming in judgement to earth (2 Thess.1:7).
We believe in One whom we have not seen (Jn 20:29), and we also love Him whom we have not seen. Peter is careful to use “ye” and not “we,” for he had been privileged to see the Lord daily. Though we see Him not, yet believing (faith makes things more real to the believer than sight, for faith implies seeing persons and things as God sees them), we rejoice greatly (Gk. agalliao, “leap for joy,” the same word as in verse 6) with joy unspeakable, with a joy which cannot be told out, and which human words cannot express. Peter thinks of saints leaping for joy, their whole being exulting, something like David when he danced before the
LORD at the bringing up of the ark to Zion. Gk. doxazo (full of glory) means to be glorified or such as are glorified; it is a present experience like being changed from glory unto glory, as from the Lord the Spirit (2 Cor.3:18). We are believing ones now; we shall be receiving ones shortly, for we shall receive the end of our faith. This faith which applies to the present circumstances of life (though faith, hope, love, we judge, shall never cease) shall reach its end or issue, which is the salvation of our souls or selves at the Lord’s coming.
Salvation will not be completely effected until we receive the end of our faith, even the salvation of our souls or selves. As has often been pointed out, there is (1) salvation once for all from sin’s penalty (Eph.2:5,8; Tit.3:5), (2) salvation daily from sin’s power, effected by the work of God within us and by our own work and the ministry of others (Phil.2:12,13; 1 Tim.4:16), (3) salvation from the defiling presence of sin when we fall asleep in Christ (1 Cor.15:18) or when the Lord comes (Rom.13:11). God’s saving grace has appeared, by which we are already saved (Tit.2:11), but there is yet grace which is to be brought unto us at the revelation of Jesus Christ when He comes for His saints (1 Pet.1:13). Two words are used, of somewhat similar meaning, of the exercise of the prophets of the Old Testament, they sought out, they set themselves to seek out concerning this salvation of which they wrote, and they also traced out, investigated, scrutinized their own writings and they did so diligently. A prophet not only searched out the matter in is own writings, but he searched the writings of other prophets. Daniel read the prophecy of Jeremiah, and Zechariah referred to what the former prophets had written. What was the cause of their deep and painstaking interest? It was because the Spirit of Christ which was in them testified beforehand the sufferings of (Gk. eis, unto, belonging to) Christ, and the glories that should follow them. What would be the time and what would be the manner of the time of the sufferings of Christ? How evil would be those days, and the people thereof, when men would cause the Messiah, the very Son of God, to suffer! They searched out also the days of the glories of Messiah; these were to follow Messiah’s sufferings. Such are still the cause of much diligent searching of the Scriptures on the part of God’s saints. Here are mines where they may dig riches untold.
What had been covered was revealed to the prophets, but they did not minister the things to themselves, but they ministered in their prophecies things which had their application to those who would have the gospel preached to them. Such are the ways of God who uses some to minister for the good of others. The spirit of this is found in Paul’s resignation to the divine will to serve for the blessing and spiritual progress of others; “Yea, and if I am offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all” (Phil.2:17). The fulfilment of Old Testament prophecies in the Lord’s days and afterwards is referred to by Him in the words, “Blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, that many prophets and righteous men desired to see the things which ye see, and saw them not; and to hear the things which ye hear, and heard them not” (Matt.13:16,17). In the comparative gloom of the times of the prophets, as compared with the noon-day light which resulted from the coming of the Lord and the coming of the Holy Spirit, the holy men of old sought out and searched out concerning the day of grace which lay ahead of them. What a day of the fulness of divine revelation there is in our time! We have the full revelation of God in the Scriptures to which God will add no more. When the Lord comes He will speak in Person. The Holy Spirit is the One who empowers the preacher of the gospel, even as the Lord said, “Ye shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be My witnesses” (Acts 1:8). The preaching was “by,” or, rather, “in” the Holy Spirit. The following words show the interest of heaven in the work of God on earth: “which things angels desire to look into.” “To look” (Gk. parakupto) means “to stoop down towards, bend forwards, particularly for examination.” How wonderful is this conception of the angels bending down and gazing upon the suffering Saviour and examining the glorious results of His sufferings in that salvation which is bound up with His sufferings and glories!
The grace of God is manifold, that is, it is variegated (1 Pet.4:10). There is grace for every need and every time of need. Then there is grace to be brought unto us at the Lord’s coming for His saints. The revelation of Jesus Christ here is not His revelation to the world, when every eye shall see Him, but His revelation to His own. We have not to allow our minds to go loose and to be occupied with all manner of unworthy objects, but to set our hope perfectly on the Lord’s coming, that great crowning act of grace on His part towards His unworthy people. If we have our hope set on Him we shall be purifying ourselves even as He is pure (1 Jn 3:2, 3).
The children of God are to be children of obedience. They are not to fashion themselves (Gk. suschematizo): the Greek word signifies that the outward appearance or likeness bears no relationship to the nature which is within. Gk. scheme, “fashion,” has a vastly different meaning from morphe, “form,” which signifies the external form of the inward nature or essence, “the utterance of the inner life.” We, who have a new nature by the new birth, are not to fashion ourselves according to the present evil age (Rom.12:2), but to be transformed by the renewing of our mind, which is similar in meaning to Peter’s exhortation here, not to fashion ourselves according to our former lusts in the time of our ignorance. In contrast, we are to be holy as God who called us is holy and that in all manner or mode of life, conduct, deportment. Peter strengthens his exhortation by a quotation from Lev.11:44, in which God commanded His people to keep themselves from everything unclean. Then it was physical cleanness and holiness, now it is moral and spiritual holiness. We are to be separate and to touch no unclean thing and to be perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Cor.6:14-7:1).
God loves all His children equally, and in the matter of the judgement of their works there are no preferences for the one more than the other. But the faithful or unfaithful work of saints will make a difference both here and hereafter. It is in the hands of saints themselves whether they, through their works, will be commended or condemned. God cannot be blamed for the result, for He judges the work of His saints without respect of persons. How proper and how just are His ways! Hence we are to pass our earthly days in holy fear, not in dread of punishment, but in fear lest our actions should displease our God.
Peter has before him Lev.11:44, in which the people of Israel were commanded to be holy, because God brought them forth from the land of Egypt to be their God. Peter writes of God’s people in his day as being redeemed also, not by earthy precious metal, corruptible riches, but with precious blood, even the blood of Christ, from their vain manner of life handed down from their fathers, a life of ritualistic observance in which they were in bondage to the ceremonial law’s requirements (Gal.4:3,8-10,24,25; Gal.5:1) Of old, God’s people, Israel, were in bondage to Pharaoh, from which God redeemed them by power and by the blood of the paschal lamb. Pharaoh’s bondage was a vain, empty life, so also was the bondage of the law; it was a weary round of ceremonials for such as were not men of faith. Faith saw beyond the shadow to the substance, which was Christ (Col.2:16,17), who is without blemish and without spot, therefore the paschal lamb had to be so too (Ex.12:5). See 2 Pet.2:13, where the pleasure-lovers are described as spots and blemishes, persons who were a disgrace to Christian society. There is neither blemish nor spot on the Lord’s behaviour. He is “holy, guileless, undefiled, separated from sinners” (Heb.7:26).
Christ, the incarnate Son of God, was foreknown before the foundation of the world; saints, who are members of the Church which is His Body, were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world. Note that others, not of this dispensation of grace, had their names written in the book of life from the foundation of the world (Rev.17:8, 13:8; Matt.25:34: The mystery of the wisdom of God is Christ who was crucified, who was foreordained before the ages unto our glory (1 Cor.2:7,8). None of the rulers of this world knew of this hidden wisdom, or they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. He who was foreknown was manifested at the end of the times for our sakes. He was manifested that we might enjoy fellowship with the Father and with the Son and with one another (1 Jn 1:1-4), and to take away sins (1 Jn 3:5; Heb.9:26), and to destroy the works of the devil (1 Jn 3:8). It is through Christ that we are believers in God, not by the visible things of the creation which declare God’s eternal power and divinity (Rom.1:20), nor yet by the fact that He spoke to Moses and Israel out of the midst of blazing Sinai when He gave to them the law, but through the Man Christ Jesus we are believers in God. The words and miracles of His life were proved to be divine, if proof were needed, by His resurrection from the dead, for God glorified His holy Servant Jesus (Acts 3:13-15). Through this incarnate, crucified and risen Christ, the believer’s faith and hope in God are firmly fixed.
Purified (Gk. hagnizo) means “to live like one under a vow of abstinence, as the Nazirites, to purify in a moral sense.” Obedience to the truth brings us, not into a state of bondage, but into one of glorious liberty in which the heart is free and the conscience is pure. This purity, resulting from obedience to the truth, has for its object unfeigned love of the brethren. “Unfeigned” means “without hypocrisy,” not to appear to be what we are not, for there is nothing so fulsome as insincere love, if such love can exist. We are to love one another from the heart fervently. Though the RV leaves out “pure” (with a pure heart, A.V.) and certain textual critics leave out Gk. katharos (pure) from the Greek Text, yet purity of heart is undoubtedly involved in loving with the heart fervently, which means intensely, earnestly.
God’s elect had been both redeemed by the precious blood of Christ (verse 19), and born again. The new (Gk. anothen, again, anew, or from above: Jn 3:3) birth is by the incorruptible seed of the word of God, which word of God is the word (or saying) of the gospel which was preached. Peter uses the word Gk. anagennao in this verse and verse 3: The preposition Ana signifies “again” in composition, as well as “back” and “up.” Gk. gennao means “to beget or generate.” In Tit.3:5 the Greek word rendered regeneration is palingenesia, palin, “again,” and geneses, “birth,” the noun form of the verb gennao, so that in effect the different words Paul and Peter use are similar in meaning. Both mean another or a second birth, a birth again. The new birth is of water (the laver or washing with the word: Eph. 5:26; Tit.3:5) and the Spirit (“renewing of the Holy Spirit”: Tit. 3:5). See Jn 3:3,5: It is by the incorruptible seed of the living word of God (1 Pet.1:23); it is by receiving Christ by faith in the gospel which is preached (Jn 1:12,13; 1 Jn 5:1); for the new birth never was or could be effected by baptism in, or sprinkling of, literal water, either in the case of adults or infants. That which is born of the flesh (by corruptible seed) is flesh, a thing as corruptible as grass or the flowers of the grass. The life of the flesh of man is longer than that of grass, but the end is the same; it falls back again into the dust whence it came: “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Gen.3:19). Thus comes to an end the material part of man (in saying this we are not oblivious of the fact of resurrection), but the soul, the individual, which is created by the breath of God, does not end thus. The soul, the person, which came into being by the breath of God (Gen.2:7), needs to hear inspired or God- breathed Scripture which lives and abides, and that for ever. There is life in the word. This is the living message of the gospel which was preached unto those to whom Peter wrote, by which they were begotten again.
Here are evils which must be put away if the children of God are to grow. They are harmful evils and were, and still are, the habits of life of the old man, the corrupt nature which is still in our flesh. “Wickedness” (Gk. kakia) signifies “worthlessness, cowardice, malice, malignity.” It is derived from Chazo, “to retreat in battle.” It describes a cowardly, dastardly action, something done with the object to cause harm to another and often done in a cowardly way. “Guile” (Gk. dolos) means “fraud, deceit, insidious artifice, iniquity.” It indicates the action of one who sets out to deceive others. Hypocrisies (Gk. hupokrisis); we know what this means; the Pharisees of old were past-masters at the art of appearing to be what they were not. The Lord called them whited sepulchres. The hypocrite is one who assumes a feigned character. Envies (Gk. phthonos), this word is derived from phthino, which means “to decay, pine away.” There is usually little envying where there is health, vigour, and forward movement. Those given to envy are such as see others making progress either spiritually or materially and themselves being surpassed. Envy is well illustrated in the story of Saul and David. Saul could not bear the women of Israel singing, “Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Sam.18:7). Evil speakings (Gk. katalalia), this is “detraction, backbiting, calumny.” This describes the tearing of the characters of others to pieces. When two evil speakers get together they tear their victim limb from limb. Peter contemplates those to whom he writes as newborn babes, and as natural babes long for milk, so were these to desire or long for Gk. to logikon adolon gala, which literally means, “the mental, without guile, milk.” This mental milk is for the spiritual mind of the children of God, as natural milk is for the bodies of babes. This is the milk of the word of God. If this milk is freely and regularly taken there will be growth, “unto salvation.” God’s children, who follow this course, will be saved from many evils, to which those fall a prey who scarcely ever read the Scriptures and meditate therein. The salvation of the sinner is by one act of faith in Christ, and this salvation is once for all, but salvation by growth is a continuous process and never ceases during the earthly lifetime of the children of God.
“If” (Gk. ei) means, “because, since”; it is not the “if” of doubt, but the “if” of argument. There was no doubt that those to whom Peter wrote had tasted that the Lord is gracious, for they had been redeemed and born again. It is the same conjunction (ei) that is used in Col.3:1; “If (ei) then ye were raised together with Christ.” There was no doubt that they had been raised with Christ. But it is quite different in Heb.3:6, where “if” (Gk. ean) means “if, on condition that.” It is the “if” of condition, and not the “if” of argument. Those in the house of God would remain there on condition that they held fast. About this there cannot be two opinions, and those who faithfully handle the inspired Scriptures will be careful to follow the mind of the Spirit in each passage. Since those to whom Peter wrote had tasted that the Lord was gracious, they had to come again to Him and to continue coming, not to a Saviour who would save them from the penalty of sin – that was an accomplished fact – but to Christ, the living Stone, the Stone which the builders rejected (Ps.118:22; Matt.21:42), the Stone which was and still is rejected by men, but with God He is both elect, or chosen of God, and precious. Here we have a similar thought, but under a different similitude, to what Paul writes in Heb.13:13, “Let us therefore go forth unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach.” Christ is both elected and rejected, elected by God and rejected by men, and we should be like Him in this world.
Christ is the living Stone, and we also are living stones, but stones do not make a house, unless they are built up according to a pattern. God’s house had ever a pattern. Moses was given the pattern of God’s house, the tabernacle in the wilderness. “Let them make Me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. According to all that I shew thee, the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the furniture thereof, even so shall ye make it” (Ex.25:8,9). David, too, got the pattern of the house of God which he gave to Solomon (1 Chron.28:11- 21). Ezekiel also received the pattern of God’s house which he was to show to the house of Israel (Ezek.43:10-12). “Let them measure the pattern, ” said God through Ezekiel. God’s children do well today to measure the pattern of the house of God in the New Testament, and then with the measuring rod of God’s word, measure where they are to see whether it agrees with the Scriptures. Let them not hold down the truth in unrighteousness, but let the truth speak to them (Rom.1:18). “Ye are built up,” means “ye are being built up”; it is continuous. It may also be rendered “be ye built”; see AV/KJV margin. The building of the house of God is a continuous process; a condition of remaining in God’s house is, “if we hold fast.” In Heb.3 the falling-away doctrine is plainly taught, not falling away from Christ as Saviour, which can never take place, but falling away from the living God (verse 12), the God of the house of God (1 Tim.3:15). God’s spiritual house, composed of saints, built together according to the pattern contained in the New Testament, is also a holy priesthood, the purpose of which is to offer up spiritual sacrifices which are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ, the Great Priest (Heb.8:3,10:21,22). God the Father is the object of worship (Matt.4:10; Jn 4:23,24).
The house of God remains ever a possibility, and the offering of spiritual sacrifices therefrom by a holy priesthood is because of the fact that the Lord is laid in Mount Zion above as the chief corner Stone (Heb.12:22). All the heavenly hosts are under His control; all created heavenly beings are in alignment with Him, as a building is laid out from the corner stone, it is under the rule of line and plummet. Christ is Son and Great Priest over the house of God (Heb.3:6,10:21), over those who acknowledge His authority. He has also all authority on earth, though we see not yet all things subjected to Him (Heb.2:8), but the time will come when He will sit upon earthly Zion, and then judgement will be the line, and righteousness the plummet, and all will be brought into line with His authority (Isa.28:16,17). But that day for the earth is not yet; it awaits His coming again as the Son of Man. The Stone which the builders (the elders of Israel) rejected has become the Head of the corner in the heavenly Zion, of the edifice of the whole angelic order. And if saints on earth would be right they, too, must obey His word, spoken by the Lord Himself and by Him through His apostles. “For you therefore which believe is the preciousness. ” Believe what? Believe in Christ as Saviour? No, that is not the truth with which Peter is dealing. He is dealing with Christ, the living corner Stone whom men rejected, and whom God has exalted to His throne on Mount Zion above, to whose authority it is the privilege of saints to be subject, and whose commandments they are privileged to obey, if they would become a house for God to dwell in, and a priesthood to offer to Him. But what of those who disbelieve? Their portion is stated in the next verse.
Here we have the fatal choice of the people of Israel through their elders: “And as soon as it was day, the assembly of the elders (the elderhood) of the people was gathered together, both chief priests and scribes; and they led Him away into their council” (Lk.22:66) (Sanhedrim, the council of seventy elders who sat in Moses’ seat, Matt.23:2,3; Num.11:16,17), and they condemned and rejected the Lord there. He was to the leaders of the nation and all who followed them, a Stone of stumbling and Rock of offence. They stumbled at Him nationally and fell and were broken to pieces (Matt.21:44). They stumbled because they were disobedient; they refused to be convinced despite all He said and did. Then we come to the solemn word of divine decision in regard to the Israel nation – “Whereunto also they were appointed.” Paul deals fully with this matter of God’s governmental dealings with Israel in Rom.11, in which we see God giving to Israel a spirit of stupor, and their eyes were darkened that they should not see, and so a hardening in part befell Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles should come in (Rom.11:7-10,25). Though Israel was appointed to stumble nationally at Christ and fall and be broken to pieces, no individual Jew is appointed to stumble at Christ and fall and become a lost soul in eternity. The message of life is to whomsoever, and it was to the Jew first and also to the Greek. We must distinguish between God’s dealings with Israel nationally and with the Jew as a man. Though the nation rejected Christ, yet the door of mercy was ever open to those who repudiated the action of their leaders or to the leaders who repudiated their own action in the crucifixion of the Lord, as many did, in Acts 2:36-42 and after, for a great company of the priests became obedient to the faith (Acts 6:7). The wrath of God came upon Israel nationally (1 Thess.2:14-16: God eventually sent the Romans who destroyed the Jews and burnt Jerusalem (Matt.22:7), but this must be distinguished from the rejection of Christ by the individual Jew and the punishment of the Christ-rejector in hell.
“Race” (Gk. genos) means offspring, progeny, and, in consequence, family, kindred. They were “an elect race.” Besides, they were “a royal priesthood.” In verse 5 these same people are called “a holy priesthood.” It has been taught from the time of Luther that all believers are priests. It is more correct to say that all believers have a birthright to priesthood, but not all believers exercise their birthright. Those who are called priests, in Rev.1:6, were in the seven churches which were in Asia, and are comprehended within the scope of Peter’s first letter, who wrote to those in Asia as well as the other four Roman provinces. Priests of the house of Aaron could not function apart from being in the house of God. Priestly service and God’s house cannot be separated, either in the past or present. Blemished sons of Aaron who had permanent defects could not engage in the work of priests in a past dispensation, though they ate the bread of their God. Such could neither come into the sanctuary nor approach to the altar (Lev.21:16-24). Again a man of Aaron’s seed who was a leper or had a running issue was not even allowed to eat of the holy things. If he did approach to the holy things he was to be cut off from before the LORD (Lev.22:3,4). It is far too undefined a statement to say that every believer is a priest. To be priests, however, is the birthright of believers. In order to exercise this birthright believers must be in the house of God, forming part of the holy and royal priestood. “A holy nation” shows a people together subject to authority, and obedient to the law which governs the nation, not the law of Moses now, but the law of Christ (1 Cor.9:21), which is the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ (James 2:1), which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jud. 3). “A people for God’s own possession,” or “a peculiar people,” this carries one back in thought to Ex.19:5,6, where we hear God saying to Israel at Sinai: “Now therefore, if ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me from among all peoples: … and ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.” The parallel between 1 Pet.2 and Ex.19 and Ex.24, is too close to be denied. The conditions are similar in both cases – obedience to the revealed will of God, for if people are to be together and function together in collective life, then obedience to revealed and collectively accepted conditions are necessary. Upon Israel’s acceptance of the conditions of the covenant, God revealed to them His desire to have a house, a dwelling or sanctuary, and to dwell among them (Ex.25:1-9), and thus the tabernacle came into being and the service of God in Israel commenced. The purpose of God in a holy priesthood is to offer spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ (1 Pet.2:5), and that in the same people as a royal priesthood is to show forth the Lord’s excellencies, which are the excellencies of Deity revealed in the Lord’s Manhood. “Excellencies” means “virtues.” Virtue (Gk. arete) means “goodness of any kind” and here means “transcendence of divine perfections.” We have been called, in His effectual calling, out of darkness into His marvellous light. It is marvellous light indeed when we contrast the darkness of unbelief with the light in which the enlightened believer dwells through the Spirit in revealed truths of the Scriptures, which truths form the truth, like the colours of light which together form light. God’s New Testament people were once no people, but in wondrous grace, through divine regeneration and the call of God to come out and be separate in order to give effect to His revealed will, God’s people came into existence in the days of the apostles, and today a remnant is found together in God’s house to do what the churches of God did at the beginning of the dispensation. Such a people knew not the mercy of God once, but now they have obtained mercy. God’s remnant today can say as the remnant of old said, “And now for a little moment grace hath been shewed from the LORD our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a nail in His holy place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving” (Ezra 9:8).
“Beseech” may also be rendered “exhort.” Believers in this world are only sojourners or temporary residents. It is also true of all men that their day in the world is very temporary compared with the permanence of eternity, but the unbeliever does not acknowledge this, for this world is the only home he has; his portion is in this life. The enlightened believer is travelling on to his home and rest. He is a pilgrim, a person residing in a country not his own. He is exhorted to abstain from fleshly lusts, or desires of the flesh, which war (as an army on a military expedition) against the soul. Their objective is to wound and reduce the believer to enslavement, so that he may become useless to God. By such lusts, if permitted, he is dragged back to the level of ordinary men of the world. In contrast, his behaviour is to be of such a character, that though men would wish to speak against the believer, his good works cause them to glorify God in the day that He visits them. Visitation (Gk. episkope) means “inspection” and is the word used of the work of an overseer, in 1 Tim.3:1: The word may be applied to a time of God visiting men in mercy, as in Lk.19:44: A day of visitation may also be one of judgement, as in Isa.10:3: The visitation Peter has in mind seems to be one of mercy, wherein men glorify God for the lives of saints which were as shining lights to them.
Subjection is a necessary lesson which God’s saints need to learn, especially in the present state of things in the world: (1) subjection to rulers (verse 13); (2) subjection of servants to masters (verse 18); (3) subjection of wives to their own husbands (3:1). The form of human government is a human institution or creation (Gk. ktisis, creation, see RV margin). Perhaps there never was a day when so many diverse forms of human government occupy men’s minds: (1) rulers by natural descent, (2) rulers elected by the people, (3) rulers raised up by dominating foreign powers, and (4) autocrats who grasp the reins of government by destroying the lives of others, or by artifice, or by both. It is not for believers to choose the kind of government they think should exist, but to acknowledge the institution of men as that to which they are to be subject. They must be subject to the supreme head, king or president, and to their governors who are sent to maintain law and order, and to punish evil-doers and to praise well-doers. To these and all forms of human government in whatever land it may be, the believer is to be subject.
“Well-doing” is the banner and battle-cry of saints. With it they march against the forces of ignorance and all kinds of evil. Through it they are strong, and without it they are as a flock of terror-stricken sheep ready to be devoured by wolves. The will of God was that by well- doing they should silence and put to shame human ignorance. Though freeborn, and delivered from the bondage in which they previously were, yet they were bond-servants of God; and a cloke of wickedness ill became those in such high service and employment. They were as heaven’s gentlemen to be careful of their manners and to honour all men. Courteous behaviour is ever becoming in a Christian. Whilst we are to honour all men, there are those who are nearer to us, and these we are to love; love the brotherhood, all such as are in a unity of brethren. The word is again used in 1 Pet.5:9, where it is translated brethren, but it should be brotherhood (see RVM). It shows those who were brethren joined together in unity, similar to priests united in a priesthood (1 Pet.2:5,9). They were to fear God, and of the fear of the LORD David said that it “is clean, enduring for ever” (Ps.19:9). It is both wisdom (Job 28:28), and the beginning of wisdom and knowledge (Prov.1:7,9:10). The word Honour (Gk. timao) means “to estimate,” “to fix a value upon,” and in consequence “to respect, to reverence.” This reverence due to the king must ever be regulated by the reverence due to God implied in the fear of God.
“Servants” means household-servants (see RV marg.), they were domestic servants who lived in the house, who were probably household slaves. This thought is strengthened by the word in the Greek for “master” (Gk. despotes), the “absolute master or lord” who had unqualified authority, a master of slaves. To such masters Christian household-servants were to be subject, whether the masters were good and gentle or froward (Gk. skolios, “crooked” or “perverse, hard to please, peevish, morose”). To be subject to masters of the latter sort was acceptable (grace, R.V. marg.); it showed what grace could do or bear for conscience towards God, when servants had to suffer wrongfully.
There is no glory in suffering for one’s own wrong-doing, but there is glory when one suffers for well-doing. If such suffering is taken patiently then such is acceptable or grace with God. The fruits of grace in the lives of saints are well-pleasing to God. How well pleasing this is to God is revealed in the next verse.
Christ is the example for all, whether they be suffering servants or other sufferers. Saints are called to a path of suffering in this world. The Lord assured His own that in the world they would have tribulation, but in Him they would have peace. They were to be of good cheer, for He had overcome the world (Jn 16:33). He suffered for us; it was because of us that He had all His suffering as Jehovah’s Servant, and servants were called upon to follow His steps. They were to be sufferers, following a suffering Leader.
John tells us that “in Him is no sin,” no original sin such as that in which all mankind is conceived (Ps.52:5), and here we are told by Peter that He “did no sin.” No guile, fraud or deceit, was found in His mouth. When He was reviled or was railed at, He railed not in return. He did not return word for word or blow for blow. When He suffered He did not threaten His persecutors with dire retribution for their actions. He committed His cause to God who judgeth righteously, as is said, “He is near that justifieth Me” (Isa.50:8). The time will come when His persecutors will stand before Him to hear His just sentence, but that was not in His lifetime on earth.
Here was the consummating act of God’s suffering Servant, when in His own body He bore our sins upon (Gk. epi, upon), not to or up to the tree. The suffering of Christ for sins was once only (1 Pet.3: 18), and that was when He was hanging on the tree. It was then that God laid upon Him the iniquity of us all (Isa.53:6). Peter, without doubt, had Isa.53 before his mind when he wrote “by whose stripes (or bruises) ye were healed,” and that “ye were going astray like sheep.” We have now a Divine Shepherd and Overseer to care for our souls, and, like David, we can say, “The LORD is my Shepherd” (Ps.23:1), He who is the Good, Great and Chief Shepherd. Christ bore our sins as our Saviour and Substitute, and we in Him have died unto (not for) sins, and now it is ours to live unto righteousness, to the doing of what is right.
“In like manner” casts us back on the matter of the subjection of believers to kings and governors, and of believing servants to their masters. Here it is the subjection of wives to their own husbands. Subjection is one of the necessary lessons Christians need to learn. Christian wives are to seek to gain their husbands who are disobedient to God’s word, not by firing scripture texts at them, or reproving them in other ways, but by their behaviour. In them husbands are to be able to witness the word of God in practice in a chaste manner of life in fear. Not dread, but fear lest anything be done which would destroy the objective they have before them, of gaining or enriching themselves by having their husbands walking in obedience to the Lord, like themselves.
Here are two ways of adorning: (1) the body, with braided hair, wearing jewels and fine clothes; (2) the hidden man of the heart, with that which is incorruptible, a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. If the heart is right within, then there will be little need for cosmetics and other things for bodily adornment (Gk. “cosmos,” translated adorning, the beautiful display of hair, jewels and the conspicuousness of the latest fashion). The beauty of the hidden man of the heart will give womanly grace which all who see it cannot but admire. Such clothing is heaven’s fashion, not according to the fashion centres of the earth.
The conduct of holy women is contrasted with that of common women. The latter went in for a great display of bodily adornment, the former were concerned with the beauty of the heart. We have to remember that “the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” (1 Sam.16:7). In fleeing from decking oneself according to the latest fashion model, women need not run to the opposite extreme and become dowdy in their appearance, as though dowdiness would more abundantly show the beauty of the hidden man of the heart. One need not become a spectacle to show this. Dowdiness may equally mar testimony as fashionableness. Christians should so dress, both men and women, that their outward attire may be in keeping with their profession. “In modest apparel” are the fitting words of Paul (1 Tim.2:9). Subjection is seen in the words of Sarah in her old age. She still in old age had that reverence for her husband which she had in youth. She said to the angel concerning her husband Abraham, “my lord being old also” (Gen.18:12). In such a case wives will not be put in fear by any terror, and married life will be a delight, as God intended it should be.
Husbands have to see that they play their part in the happiness of married life. What an amount of wise dealing is contained in the exhortation – “Dwell with your wives according to knowledge”! In the secrets of married life that only husband and wife are privy to, the husband’s knowledge of his wife, who is the physically weaker partner, or generally so, of the union, plays a large part. If he acts according to his knowledge, he will be a wise man and will pave the way to his own happiness as well as that of his wife and of his family, if they are blessed with a family. It is abominable if Christians follow the ways of the world. The husband is to give honour to the wife as unto the weaker vessel. He is the head and chief partner to the union and much depends upon him. The English word husband is an abbreviation of “house-band,” the one who binds the house together. Husband and wife are joint-heirs of the grace of life. This is a peculiar statement not found elsewhere in the Scripture. It is evident that Peter views marriage here as much more than the physical union of male and female, in that they become one flesh. The word here is not Bios, which means the present state of existence, but Zoe, the word always used in the Scriptures wherr reference is made to eternal life, that is, to the higher life. That the “grace of life” is the higher spiritual life is indicated by the words which follow, “that your prayers be not hindered.” The behaviour of the husband and wife is to be such that communion between themselves in spiritual things is not broken, and, in consequence, communion with God hindered. It is a calamity in the home of Christians when the Bible is not opened and read and when joint prayer ceases.
It is of the greatest importance that saints together in the house of God should be of the same mind, not only in doctrine, but in their disposition or attitude to each other, “thinking, feeling, and acting alike,” “compassionate,” that is, sympathetic, “loving as brethren, tender- hearted, humble-minded.” No exposition is needed of such excellent words of exhortation; their meaning is evident. If believers were in such a condition, how smoothly collective life would flow! There is to be no rendering of evil for evil, nor reviling for reviling. The Lord is to be our example in this, for when He was reviled, He reviled not again. The Christian instead of being a reviler or railer should be one whose words are a blessing, they should “give grace to them that hear” (Eph.4:29: Paul said, “Bless them that persecute you; bless, and curse not” (Rom.12:14). If they bless, then they will themselves inherit a blessing. The words which form their title to this inheritance of blessing are clear.
words are the teaching of David on the fear of the LORD, when he said, “Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the LORD” (Ps.34:11-16: This psalm was written by David following his deliverance from Abimelech (Achish) (1 Sam.21:10-15). He fled from the persecution of Saul to Achish for protection, but he found that he was in even greater danger among the Philistines than he was from Saul and his own people. If he was to win through to the good days the LORD had promised him, when he would be king over all Israel, it would not be by a policy of vilification of Saul and of Israel. He had to keep his tongue from evil, and there should be no deceit in his mouth. He was to do good though others might do evil to him. He was to be in hot pursuit of peace even amidst his days of turbulence. He was to learn that the LORD knows all, for His eyes are upon the righteous and His ears are open to their cry. His face is against the evil-doers. If we would ever remember that God sees us and hears when we cry to Him, it would save us from saying and doing things that grieve Him and which are against our own well-being.
Solomon wrote, “When a man’s ways please the LORD, He maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him” (Prov.16:7). When Jehoshaphat walked in the first ways of his father David and when he sent princes, Levites and priests to teach the law of the LORD in all the cities of Judah, “the fear (or terror) of the LORD fell upon all the kingdoms of the lands that were round about Judah, so that they made no war against Jehoshaphat” (2 Chron.17:3-10). It does, nevertheless, happen that God’s saints are caused to suffer for righteousness’ sake, even as the blessed Master suffered in His day on earth. “A sufferer all His life was He, A dying Lamb at last.” He said, “Blessed are they that have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake,” and again, “Blessed are ye when men shall reproach you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven” (Matt.5:10-12). “Fear not their fear” is a rendering of Isa.8:12: Men have their fear, but men’s fear is not to be the fear of God’s saints. Those who fear God have no fear of divine retribution, but for persecutors there is punishment ahead; for though God allows His saints to suffer betimes, He is not unconcerned about it. See 2 Thess.1:4-10:
Here is one of those proofs of the Deity of the Lord Jesus which occur frequently in the Sacred Scriptures. This refers to Isa.8:13, where we have Isaiah saying, “The LORD of hosts, Him shall ye sanctify.” Peter renders this, “Sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord” (RV). Christ the Lord is the LORD of Hosts. Sanctify means to set apart, and the Lord is to be Lord in our hearts, to dominate our whole being in all its affections and activities. If this is so, then we shall be ever ready to give a reason for our hope, and this we are to do with meekness and fear, without ostentation. If we have a good conscience that our manner of life is in keeping with our testimony, then we need be in terror of no one, whatever may be said regarding our life and hope. “Christ liveth in me,” said Paul. The old Saul-life was dead; it was now the Christ-life, a life ever beautiful and radiant.
Christ is an ensample in suffering. He suffered for the sins of others, the object of this was that He might bring them to God. He was righteous and those who caused Him to suffer were unrighteous. If saints suffer, let it not be for evil-doing. The Lord was a sufferer all His life, suffering ever for well-doing, but when He suffered for sins, it was once and once only, when He hung on the cross, bearing our sins in His own body on the tree. He was not the Sin-bearer all His lifetime. We must distinguish between His suffering once at the hands of
God for sins, and His day-by-day sufferings at the hands of men. He was put to death in the flesh, but quickened or made alive in the Spirit. Spirit here is the Person of the Holy Spirit and should be printed, as in AV/KJV, with a capital. The Spirit was the One by or in whom He was made alive. He rose from the dead in the body in which He was nailed to the tree. He showed to the disciples and also to Thomas the print of the nails in His hands, and the spear-wound in His side, the marks of identification (Jn 20:20,25,27).
We have here an admittedly difficult passage upon which we tender our view. Firstly, we are told that Christ did not go in Person and preach to those spirits, but went in the same Spirit as that in which He was quickened after His death on the cross. If the heralding took place in prison, in Hades, why was it limited to the people who perished in the flood of Noah? Others perished in signal judgements, such as the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea, the host of Sennacherib, and why should the preaching be limited to the Antedeluvians? This presents a difficulty, if the preaching took place in Hades. Then again, What could be the message heralded to these people in Hades? Was it a message of hope and deliverance? This could not be! If it were, it would open up a vast question which would be against any scripture we know in the whole range of the word of God. Then, Was the message one of added doom and despair? What would be the value of such a preaching? It seems to us that the simple, straightforward interpretation of the passage is this, that Christ went in the Holy Spirit and preached by the mouth of Noah who was a preacher of righteousness (2 Pet.2:5). Both the preaching to and the disobedience of the Antedeluvians (who disbelieved aforetime) were “when the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing.” “When” and “while” refer to the same time as the preaching and the disobedience. God speaking to men on earth by the mouth of His prophets, and also by the apostles (2 Pet.3:2), is one of the most common things in the Scriptures. “He spake by the mouth of His holy prophets which have been since the world began” (Lk.1:70). “God spake by the mouth of His holy prophets which have been since the world began” (Acts 3:21). “The Holy Spirit spake before by the mouth of David” (Acts 1:16). David spoke in the Spirit (Matt.22:43), and the Spirit of the LORD spoke by him, and His word was upon his tongue (2 Sam.23: 2). The Spirit of Christ who was in the prophets “testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glories that should follow them” (1 Pet.1:11). “Men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet.1:21). We believe that Christ in the Spirit spoke to the men of Noah’s time, even as the gospel is now preached “by the Holy Spirit sent forth from heaven” through men (1 Pet.1:12). The following is a helpful note by Mr. William Kelly on this difficult passage: “To be understood, this verse must be taken with what goes before. Christ was ‘put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit, by which also He went and preached unto the spirits in prison, which sometime were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah,’ etc., just as we read, in 1 Pet.1:10-12, of Christ’s Spirit in the prophets testifying, so here we learn that His Spirit preached (i.e. in Noah). Those who heard were disobedient then, and their spirits are in prison now. Christ’s Spirit, by Noah, went and preached to them when they were living men, before the Deluge came; but they rejected it, and now, consequently, their spirits are kept for judgement. The collocation of the Greek (tois en phulake pneumasin) is decisive, that the true connexion is not between the preaching, but the spirits and the prison. The preaching was by Christ’s Spirit in Noah to men on earth, whose spirits are now imprisoned till the judgement of the dead.” Peter tells us that those in the ark were saved through water. They were saved by the ark from the water, which was God’s judgement upon the world, but they were saved by the water from the corrupt world which was destroyed by the flood. “Saved” and “salvation” do not refer always to salvation from the
same danger – God’s wrath. We need to be saved from men, as well as from God’s wrath, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation,” said Peter (Acts 2:40), and there are many like exhortations regarding salvation from surrounding dangers in this present evil age.
Sprinkling water on infants and adults is a mockery of divine regeneration, and the mocking rite of churches (so called) which do not hold baptismal regeneration, is in no sense baptism. Baptism means dipping, and in scriptural language signifies burial and resurrection, a figure of the Lord’s burial and resurrection (Rom.6:3,4; Col.2:12). Baptism in water is not necessary to salvation from hell, as some teach, for salvation from hell is by God’s grace through our faith in Christ, and through faith in Christ alone (Acts 16:30,31; Eph.2:5,8,9). As Noah and his family were saved by the ark from the waters of judgement and from a corrupt world by the same judgement of the flood, so after a true likeness baptism saves us, if we truly appreciate that baptism is not just dipping a person in water, but it has a spiritual significance. It signifies that the believer who died with Christ to sin is buried with Him and raised with Him, the object of this being that the old life which ended in death is finished and buried. We should be raised from a corrupt world, as the ark of Noah was by the water, from the evil world that then was to the top of Ararat. The believer is now to walk in newness of life. If this truth is appreciated it will save the believer from the corruptions of the world. It is in such a sense that the believer is saved through water. Though the believer should regard himself as dead to this world and buried, dead to all its plans and pleasures, the corruptions of his flesh are not put away by baptism. Noah, who was saved from a corrupt world, planted a vineyard, made wine and drank too freely, and “was drunken” (Gen.9:21), and “old Noah,” or “old Adam,” still lives in our flesh, and we need to learn what it means to die daily (1 Cor.15:31). Paul also said of himself, “Always bearing about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our body” (2 Cor.4:10). Death is the only way that the corruptions of the flesh can be dealt with. Baptism is the question or demand of a good conscience, and when it is obeyed it is the answer of that same good conscience toward or unto God; it is the outward sign of the invisible conscience within. Christ is raised from the dead, but the unbaptized believer who died with Him is neither buried nor raised with Him through faith in the working of God who raised Him from the dead (Col.2:12). He who has been raised is on the right hand of God, and to Him angels, authorities and powers are subject, but the unbaptized believer is not subject or obedient. No wonder conscience often knocks at his heart’s door demanding that he should obey the word of the Lord.
Here the believer is to arm himself with the same idea, thought, or intention, that he is to be a sufferer in the flesh as Christ was, He who suffered at the hands of men. Consequently, when suffering is his portion, he is not to be surprised as though some strange thing has happened to him (verses 12,13). It is what the believer is to expect in this world. Then Peter adds, “For he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin,” that is, he has done with, left off, desisted or refrained from sin. Suffering in this world (not bodily illness) is a purifier in the life of the believer, as we learn from Heb.12:4-11, and by it God chastens His sons so that they may become partakers of His holiness. The object of suffering, as stated by Peter, is that we should no longer live the rest of our time in the flesh (that is during this earthly life) to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. “The rest of your time,” what an opportunity, be the time long or short, to devote it to the doing of God’s will, and there is nothing more important!
The time past, previous to conversion, is a sufficient part of human existence to be devoted to work the desire, purpose or determination of the Gentiles, and to have walked in all forms of lust, and in some cases idolatry. How frequently the unbeliever is surprised in the changed behaviour of a friend who has just been saved by grace! The whole attitude of each to each is changed by the one having become a new creature in Christ. The greater the change in the believer the greater the wonderment of the unbeliever. Then sometimes evil- speaking starts and scorn is heaped on the believer.
Solemn indeed will be the accountability of the wicked in the day of judgement. They wilfully allow themselves to be cheated that the day of judgement will never come or that it is far distant from them and they have more than enough time to reform their ways, whereas the Lord is ready to judge, and was ready to judge the living and the dead when the epistle was written. The wicked have no time to lose to repent and believe the gospel. Death is an enemy who may come upon them unawares, and then time will be gone. Then we are told that it was unto this end, in view of divine judgement, that the gospel was preached to the dead, that is the dead in trespasses and sins (Eph.2:1), not to persons who once lived and are now dead (certainly not to the physically dead), that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, their sins having been borne and judged in the person of Christ their Substitute (1 Pet.2:24; Rom.5:6,8), the judgement of God for them is past (Jn 5:24; Rom.8:1). Now it is theirs to live according to God in the Spirit. Spirit here is the Holy Spirit. “If we live by the Spirit, by the Spirit let us also walk (Gal.5:25).
New Testament writers speak of this dispensation as the “end of the times” (1 Pet.1:20), “the last days” (Jas.5:3), “the last hour” (1 Jn 2:18). If the end was at hand when Peter wrote, how close to us the end must be now! In the light of the swiftly approaching end we are to be of sound or sober mind, to be sober, watchful, vigilant, unto prayers. We are to be fervent in love among ourselves. Love coves sins, not discovers them. Where there is little love the sins and wrongs done by one believer to another grow like the snowball, when rolled for a time, to enormous proportions. “Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all transgressions” (Prov.10:12). Where love is, believers act like Shem and Japheth in regard to their father’s sin and shame, but loveless believers act like Ham (Gen.9:20-27). How fulsome and wrong it is to murmur at the need of showing hospitality, which means love for strangers, and be glad to see them go! How has God treated us who were strangers and aliens? If God loved us, should we not be like the Father’s children and love one another? Whatever gift we have, whether it is in spiritual things or things material, we are to minister it among the saints as good and beautiful stewards (for we are only stewards of what God has given us) of the manifold (Gk. poikilos, various, variegated, different) grace of God. God’s manifold grace suits every need and time: His grace is all-sufficient.
Speaking and ministering or serving (Gk. diakoneo) are quite evidently not identical. The speaker is to speak (Gk. laleo) the words as if he were speaking oracles of God, and he that serves is to do so in the strength with which God has supplied him, which, I judge, is something different from mere physical, bodily strength, though that too is necessary in its place. All is to be done that God may be glorified amongst His people through Jesus Christ. Due to God is the glory and the dominion or might unto the ages of the ages. Amen.
Satan had been allowed by God to turn on the fire of persecution, to try or tempt (Gk. peirazo) God’s saints so that they might break down in the temptation, but they were not to think that something strange had happened. The Lord continually warned His disciples of the suffering that they must expect in this world for His sake. “If the world hateth you, ye know that it hath hated Me before it hated you….Now have they both seen and hated both Me and My Father” (Jn 15:18,19,24). These are but a few of the Lord’s statements of the world’s attitude to the Father, the Son and His disciples. Suffering saints are to rejoice if they are partakers of, if they share in, the sufferings of Christ, for at the revelation of His glory great will be their joy. Great sufferers will be great rejoicers!
“Reproached” (Gk. oneidizo) is a bad word, it means “to revile, scoff at, insult with opprobrious language.” It is the language of those who live in the darkness of sin when they see coming into view one upon whom the light of the glory of God’s Spirit dwells. Such as hate the light, hate also the light-givers, believers who are as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life (Phil.2: 16). If the believer hides his light, then there will be no reproach, for he will be as an ordinary man in whom no light is, but the glorified saint in this world is sure to be reproached. But blessed are they who shine in this dark world. “Ye are the light of the world,” said the Lord (Matt.5:14). How dark this world would be without the children of God!
Believers may bring suffering upon themselves by their behaviour, but they should not. Some think that a believer might be a thief, an evil-doer or a meddler in other men’s matters, but he could never be a murderer. Such forget that one who hates his brother is in God’s sight a murderer. “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer” (1 Jn 3:15). Indeed if it were not possible for a believer to be a murderer such an exhortation would not have been given by Peter. But if any one suffers as a Christian, a disciple of Christ, he is not to be ashamed of being one who belongs to Christ and follows Him, but rather, he is to glorify God in this name by which he is called. We are told “that the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch” (Acts 11:26). It was not a nickname, but a correct definition of their character. They lived like Christ. Called (Gk. chrematizo) means “to transact public business; to converse or treat about business…in the N.T. to impart a divine warning or admonition…to be called, named, be known by a particular appellation . . .” (Acts 11:26; Rom.7:3).
This judgement which begins at the house of God is not such as we read of in 1 Cor.5:12,13: “For what have I to do with judging them that are without? Do not ye judge them that are within, whereas them that are without God judgeth? Put away the wicked man from among yourselves.” Both the elders and the church of God in Corinth had failed in their responsibility to judge the fornicator and to put him away, hence Paul had to judge the case, as he says, “For I verily, being absent in body but present in spirit, have already, as though I were present, judged him that hath so wrought this thing” (verse 3). This same kind of judgement had to be effected by Joshua the high priest in the remnant that returned from Babylon to Jerusalem to build the temple. “Thus saith the LORD of Hosts: If thou wilt walk in My ways, and if thou wilt keep My charge, then thou also shalt judge My house, and shalt also keep My courts” (Zech.3:7). See also Deut.17:9 and 1 Cor.6:1-8: There is a parallel between judgement beginning at the house of God in the above verses and judgement beginning at God’s sanctuary or house as portrayed in Ezek.9: Men were marked who sighed and cried because of the condition of God’s people and were to be spared in the judgement which was about to fall in the coming of Nebuchadnezzar and the Chaldeans, whilst others were to fall in that judgement as set forth in the six men with weapons in their hands. The judgement of God’s house in these verses, in the connexion in which they are found, leads one to conclude that it was by external persecution, which the carnal, worldly- minded believers would not endure but would leave the faithful to continue in their testimony as the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim.3:15). If God judges His house by fiery trial, what shall be the end of them that obey not the gospel? They have but one end, the fiery torment of hell. If the righteous is scarcely saved! Mark, it is not if the sinner who believes is scarcely saved, for there can be no “scarcely”, or with difficulty, in that glorious salvation by Christ. But here it is the salvation of the righteous. What is his danger? His danger is not that of eternal fire, but the dangers of this evil world through which he is passing. He has a trinity of evils to combat, Satan the adversary in front of him, the world around him, and the flesh within. But what of the ungodly and sinner who know no present salvation from such evils, who are slaves to sin? Where will they appear? The answer is at the Great White Throne judgement, there to hear the fatal sentence and to be cast into the lake of fire (Rev.20:11-15). Those who will be there are defined in Rev.21:8.
The Lord in encouraging His disciples in Lk.12 said that they were not to fear them that kill the body, but to fear Him who had power to cast into Gehenna (not His disciples but others). Then He speaks of God in His faithfulness as Creator, that not one common sparrow is forgotten in His sight, and His disciples were of more value than many sparrows. He said that the very hairs of their head were all numbered. He also taught them lessons from God’s care for the ravens and from the lilies of the field. Such is the faithful Creator to whom all sufferers are to commit their souls in well-doing. Let them do well, and God the Creator will not fail to do well for them. Let none say as did Zion, “Jehovah hath forsaken me, and the Lord hath forgotten me…Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of My hands; thy walls are continually before Me” (Isa.49:14,16).
As the saints in the churches of God in the five provinces of Asia are addressed as a whole (1 Pet.1:1) and viewed as a holy and royal priesthood (1 Pet.2:5,9) and together as a brotherhood (1 Pet.2:17; 1 Pet.5:9), so here the elders of the churches are viewed together and addressed as a whole. The elders were among the flock (verse 1), and in verse 2, the flock is among the elders. Peter describes himself as a fellow-elder. An apostle was an elder, though an elder was not an apostle. Undoubtedly the church of God in Jerusalem was cared for by the apostles who were also elders, before there came to be “the apostles and the elders” (Acts 15:6). “A witness” (Gk. martus) is one who bears testimony, but if he is to bear testimony he must first of all see and hear, even as Peter and Jn said, “We cannot but speak the things which we saw and heard” (Acts 4:20). What they saw and heard fitted them to be credible witnesses. Thus Peter testified of the sufferings of Christ which he saw. He was also a partaker of the glory which is to be revealed. Suffering and glory is the way of Christ and His saints. Alas, the world’s way is glory (for those who get it) and suffering. It is death and life with the Lord and His own, but life and death with the world. These things are exemplified in the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Lk.16:19-31; suffering and comfort in the one case and comfort and suffering in the other. The lot of each was determined by his attitude to God.
The elders are here exhorted to tend or shepherd, to feed and care for, the little flock of God. The word “little flock” is found in all places where flock refers to the Lord’s own in the New Testament, except in Matt.26:31; Jn 10:16. “Exercising the oversight,” means doing the work of an overseer. Of this Paul wrote to Timothy that if any seeketh (stretches forward to) the work (not the office of a bishop) of an overseer, he desired a good work. A man qualifies for overseership by the work he does. Oversight work is not to be of constraint or compulsion, but is to be voluntary or spontaneous. “According unto God” is not in the A. V. and some authorities omit the words, but it is true nevertheless that oversight work is to be carried out according to God. It is not to be undertaken for monetary reward, for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind, nor yet is there to be any lording of the overseers over their allotted charge (Gk. ton kleron, the lot, which falls to any one, “the church or people of God, which are said to be their peculiar possession or property, 1 Pet.5:3”). Instead of lording it over God’s little flock they were to make themselves ensamples. Eastern shepherds go before the flock, they do not drive them forward with dogs. So also shepherds of God’s little flock should go before them as ensamples for them to follow and imitate. An ensample is a type or pattern.
The Lord is the Good Shepherd who died (Jn 10:11), the Great Shepherd was raised from the dead (Heb.13:20), and the Chief Shepherd who shall be manifested to His own at His coming again, as here, bringing His rewards with Him (Rev.22:12). “Crown” (Gk. stephanos) does not always mean a victor’s crown, but means one which adorns as well. The faithful shepherds of the little flock will be adorned, and so rewarded with the crown of glory which will never fade.
The younger elders are to be subject to the older elders, and, indeed, all elders are to bind or gird on humility as clothing in order to serve one another, even as the Lord did prior to the institution of the remembrance of Himself on the night of the betrayal. He girded Himself with a towel, poured water into the basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet (Jn 13:4,5). Such was His blessed example of lowly service toward His own. God resisteth, or sets Himself against, the proud, but He giveth grace to the humble for humble service.
God gives grace to the humble to keep them humble and to enable them to humble themselves still further under the mighty hand of God. The Lord is our example, who emptied Himself and humbled Himself to become Man. Then He humbled Himself still further, becoming obedient to the death of the cross. What grace was His! The mighty hand of God under which elders are to humble themselves is the same hand which will exalt them in due season. A season is a brief period of time. Elders are to cast all, not some, of their anxiety or care upon God, who cares for them, in the burdens He has given them to bear. Moses of old complained to God about the great burden the care of the children of Israel was to him, and seventy elders were chosen, men who were already elders, to share with him the burden of responsibility in the rule of God’s people (Num.11).
Be sober (not intoxicated either with alcohol or with the pride of position as an elder or with anything which takes away sense), that is, be prudent, and be watchful, be awake and vigilant, for there is a lion about and the flock needs to be guarded. The roaring lion, the devil, is your adversary and theirs, and he is out to kill and devour. “Will a lion roar in the forest, when he hath no prey?” (Amos 3:4). The elders are to withstand him, stand against or resist him, firm, steadfast, in the faith. I think the AV/KJV is correct here “in the faith” rather than “in your faith” (RV). The same sufferings which the elders addressed were enduring were being accomplished in their brotherhood elsewhere in the world.
“In Christ,” a term used by Paul to describe the abiding and eternal relationship to Christ of believers who are members of Christ’s Body, is here used by Peter. God, the God of all grace, the Source of all the grace which has been poured out richly upon us through Jesus Christ, has called us unto His eternal glory in Christ. Here again glory is connected with suffering. For after these saints had suffered a little while He would perfect (Gk., katartizo, “repair, i. e. restore from breach or decay, mend, whatever damaging effects suffering had had upon them”). He would also establish, render firm, and strengthen, impart strength to them. To Him be the dominion or might unto the ages of the ages. Amen.
As Tertius wrote the epistle to the Rom.at Paul’s dictation (Rom.16:22), so Silvanus (Silas), the faithful brother as Peter reckoned him, wrote this epistle at the dictation of Peter. He sums up this brief letter as being the true grace of God, covering election, salvation, redemption, regeneration, the house of God, the functions of the holy and royal priesthood, subjection, suffering, rule. It is an epistle which contains much in little, and he exhorts and testifies that they stand fast in God’s true grace which he outlines in this letter. She that is elect together with them in Babylon is the church of God there. Church is a feminine noun, hence the feminine definite article (He) is used here. There is neither the word for church nor woman in the verse. The correct meaning, I judge, is given in the A. V., “The church that is at (in) Babylon.” Babylon here I take to mean literal Babylon and not the Roman church. The apostate Roman Catholic church was not then in existence. Then it was political Rome. Saints and churches sent salutations to each other by apostolic letters, as witness Rom.16: They were to salute each other with a kiss of love, we may do likewise by a warm shake of the hand. Peace (the salutation of the Hebrew) be unto you all in Christ.