By J.R. Miller
1 Peter 1:1-12
"To God's elect, strangers in the world, scattered . . . who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father." It is a sweet pleasure to be chosen to be a friend even by a true and noble man, to have a pure and loving heart turn to us and choose us from among many for regard, affection and interest. But it is far more precious to know that God has chosen us to be His friends. His children. Jesus said of His disciples, "You did not choose me--but I chose you."
We are told also that we love God--because He first loved us. Instead of puzzling our brains over the doctrine of "election," let us accept the sweet thought which such words as these bring to our hearts. How sacred it makes our life seem to think of it in this way!
"Through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood." When God chooses us to be His children, He also provides for making us holy and fit to be partakers of the heavenly inheritance. The word "sanctification" has two senses. It means a setting apart. The Father chooses us--and the Holy Spirit sets us apart as God's. We belong to Him and are sacred to His uses. Then the word means also the actual cleansing of the nature--making it holy. The Spirit enters into our heart and makes His home there, purifying the fountains of life and overcoming and driving out the evils of the flesh. The blood of Christ also has a part in the making holy of those whom the Father has chosen. We are redeemed by His blood. The blood cleanses from all sin. Thus the three persons of the Trinity are active in the saving of everyone who is saved:
The Father chose,
the Son made atonement, and
the Holy Spirit purifies and sanctifies.
We enter God's spiritual family by a new birth. "In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope." In our natural state we are not ready for life in God's household. A wicked man, with an unholy heart, could never be happy in heaven. He cannot even be happy in a prayer meeting on earth. We must have holy feelings, desires and affections, before we are prepared for living in a holy atmosphere. The kingdom of heaven must come into our heart--before we can enter into the kingdom. So God provides that when we receive Christ, the Holy Spirit renews and changes our nature, giving us the child-heart. We see here also that it is not for anything in ourselves that God has chosen us, changed our heart, and taken us into His family--but "according to his great mercy." Mercy always implies unworthiness. We are saved through the grace and love of God.
There is a glimpse here, too, of the blessedness of the Christian's hope. It is a "living" hope. We are born again to an inheritance of life, eternal life. Our hope itself is living and eternal. Earth's best things are uncertain, and at their best are only for a time. But the hope of the Christian is immortal. It is guaranteed by Christ's resurrection. He conquered death, and all who rest upon Him--live with Him for evermore.
"An incorruptible and undefiled and unfading inheritance--reserved in heaven for you." Here we see what our living hope is. It is an inheritance, a free gift to us, something which comes to us from our Father. It is not like earthly inheritances, however, for they are liable to waste or to be lost. This inheritance is "incorruptible," that is, it is not subject to decay--but is eternal. It is "undefiled." Some earthly inheritances pass down to children stained in the getting. An honest old man, dying, said to his sons, "I do not leave you very much--but there is not a dirty shilling in it all." He meant that every penny of it had been honestly earned. This is not always true of this world's inheritances. Too often there is many a stained shilling in them. But the heavenly inheritance is absolutely without stain. It is purchased for us at the price of Christ's blood, and comes to us from our Father's hands, white with heaven's own purity.
Another thing about it, is that it fades not away. Earthly inheritances often fade away, leaving the inheritor in poverty. This inheritance is beyond the reach of robber and money panic and all shrinking in values. It never can be taken from us. It is not in any banks or investments of earth--but is laid up for us in heaven, reserved there in security until we get home.
"Who are being protected by God's power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time." Not only is the inheritance kept in secure reserve for us--but we are guarded on the way to receive the inheritance. This is very important. The world is full of dangers through which we must pass to get to heaven. On every hand there are enemies. We could never get safely to the blessedness laid up for us--if we had no protection along the way. But we are guarded by the divine power. God Himself is with us always, sheltering us with His wings of love, keeping us. Our part is faith--resting in the divine keeping, simply going forward in the way of duty, leaving to God the guarding of our lives.
"You rejoice in this, though now for a short time you have had to be distressed by various trials." For a little while the Christian is to be tried. "Weeping may tarry for the night--but joy comes in the morning." We can surely bear trial a little while. Then, there is a "need be" in the trial. There is a blessing which God has to give us--that we cannot get in any other way. The purifying of the gold never can be gotten without fire. Not to be cast into the hot furnace--is to keep the dross. God never chastens unless there is a "need be."
"These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." Again, the grief is caused by "trials" which are testings of faith, so that it may shine at length in glory at the appearing of Christ. So we ought not to be troubled by our trials. There is a blessing in them. As the rough, unsightly ore, by passing through the fire, yields at last bright, shining gold--so our weak faith, with its admixture of self-will and pride and evil--is purified by the fires of trial, so that at last it appears before God to receive praise, honor and glory.
"Though you have not seen Him--you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him." The love of Christ will keep us in temptation and trial. The secret of a faithful, true and beautiful life--is this love of the unseen Friend. Drummond tells of a young girl who became wondrously beautiful in her life and character, growing into a rare Christlikeness. Her friends wondered what the secret could be. She wore upon her breast a little locket, which she always kept closed, refusing to allow anyone to see within it. Once, however, when she was very ill, a friend was permitted to open it and found there only a little piece of paper, bearing the words, "Whom not having seen--I love." This told the whole story. Her love for the unseen Christ was the secret of that beautiful spiritual life which had so impressed itself upon her friends.
The secret of the life of Moses is given in one phrase, "He endured, as seeing him who is invisible." Faith is better than sight. If we believe and love the unseen Friend, our life will be firm and steadfast in all trial, and will be transformed little by little into the beauty of Christ.
"Though you have not seen Him--you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls." We find here two blessings resulting from the love for the unseen Savior. One is unspeakable joy, even in a life of sore trial. The other is "salvation." We need but to continue faithful unto the end, to receive the full and glorious inheritance.
"Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care." Both earth and heaven are intensely interested in this great redeeming work of Christ. There are smart men who are so busy in their researches into little earthly matters that they cannot get time to study the things of the spiritual kingdom of God. Here, however, we see that in heaven's sight, nothing in this world so merits the thought, study and research of the wisest beings in the universe, as Christ's work of redemption.
The interest of the angels in Christ's sufferings as the Redeemer is very beautiful. There is a picture by Domenichino which represents the scene on Calvary, on the evening after the Savior's body had been taken down and laid in the grave. The cross is empty. An angel stands beside the crown of thorns which lies there, feeling with the point of his finger one of the sharp points. His face wears a look of mystery and wonder. He is trying to find out the meaning of suffering. Angels in heaven know nothing of pain by personal experience. The artist's thought is that to this angel, the sufferings of Christ were a great mystery which he was trying to understand. The same thought is suggested in the words, "Which things angels desire to look into." Surely it is worth while to give thought and attention to the great and wonderful things of Christ, since even the highest angels find in them mystery worthy of their deepest study. Nothing else in all the ranks of knowledge, is so worthy of our deepest study and most diligent research and investigation, as is the glorious gospel of the blessed God!