1 PETER 1
1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,
"Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ" - a simple but all - inclusive introduction - an apostle - an appointed messenger of the Anointed Saviour - a messenger from him who was at once the King of Kings and the Elder Brother - the Lamb of God, the central figure of mankind, around whom all revolves, the personal manifestation among men of all the power, wisdom and love of God. Peter had a message for them and us direct from him...
..."To the strangers"-to those sojourning in a strange place, pilgrims, living, like the patriarchs, in tabernacles, having no continuing city, no fixed ties to this present order of things - a strange, separate, consecrated people -
"No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him" (2 Tim. 2:4).
How easy it is to forget this!-to begin to "hew us out sepulchres on high" as if the things of this life had any importance or value. But as the Scriptures so vividly present it, all we can ever have out of this life is a "sepulchre on high" a monumental gravestone to commemorate our folly and lost opportunity...
...."Scattered"-literally, "of a dispersion." The primary figure is the worldwide, homeless dispersion of Israel all through the Gentile times, but the real, deeper thought is-
"THE CHILDREN OF GOD SCATTERED ABROAD."
-whom John in his gospel declares it was the purpose of Christ's sacrifice to "gather together in one" (Jn. 11:52). This is, and must ever be, the condition of his people in his absence-scattered abroad. It is a day of small things - a day of individual things.
The tendency, in religion, as in all else, is to build organizations, but the Truth is essentially a matter of individuals. Our strength or weakness lies solely in the degree of godliness and spiritual knowledge in the individual brethren and sisters. We must constantly force ourselves to think in terms of individuals, considering each separately, never in masses.
Ecclesial organization, the ability of leaders, numerical strength - these things mean nothing in the ultimate - all this will be sifted out as chaff and all will stand forth as individuals - one by one -"the children of God scattered abroad."...
"Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, Bithynia" - that is, Asia Minor, the present Turkey - scene of Paul's earliest labours in proclaiming the Truth to the Gentiles. As such, as the foundation, this area is typical of all. It is the land brother Thomas always preferred to speak of by its name of Anatolia -"the land of the sun's rising"- the land of the earliest proclamation to the Gentiles of the Sun of Righteousness. It was the area also in which lay the ecclesias to whom Jesus' last great prophetic message was addressed - the Revelation. Here again its representative and typical character is illustrated...
...These were the ecclesias of Asia Minor which were the scene of Paul's earliest labours. Peter was the "apostle to the circumcision"- to the Jews. These brethren and sisters whom he wrote were Paul's first Gentile converts. What then were the purpose and circumstances that would cause Peter to write to these?
We know from Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians that there was a tendency among believers to identify themselves with one particular apostle or leader to the detriment of unity and balanced growth in the Truth. The appointment of Paul to the Gentiles and Peter to the Jews would have a tendency among the undiscerning to encourage this.
The Body of Christ is a unity; its unity is a vital First Principle. Anything that detracts from that unity is evil.
Bro Growcott - Grow in Grace
2 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.
God elects saints for His kingdom, not by foregone conclusions which are irreversible; but men are "elect through sanctification of spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 1:2). This reveals to us the means, and design of the election in relation to the present time. "Sanctification of spirit" is the means; "obedience and sprinkling of Christ's blood," the end.
How this is brought about is explained in these words -- "Ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the spirit" (1 Pet. 1:22). The manner in which men are brought to obedience, and purification by the sprinkled blood, through the spirit, is practically explained in the use of the keys by Peter on the day of Pentecost, and at the house of Cornelius.
The spirit through the apostle, "convinced men of sin, and righteousness, and judgment to come;" and confirmed his words by the signs which accompanied them. They believed and obeyed the truth; and "in obeying it" were purified from all past sins by faith in the blood of sprinkling. Thus, they were "washed, sanctified, and justified by the name of the Lord, and by the spirit of God;" and after this manner elected according to His foreknowledge and predetermination.
No man need flatter himself that he is one of God's elect, unless he believes the gospel of the kingdom and obeys it, and walks in the steps of the faith of Abraham. A man then knows, and feels, that he is elected; because God hath said, "He that believes the gospel, and is baptised, shall be saved."
Elpis Israel 2.3.
God's choice is upon eternal and unrespecting principles-
"SEEK, and ye SHALL find" (Lk. 11:9).
"Draw nigh unto God, and He will draw nigh unto you" (Jam. 4:8).
"Ye shall find Me WHEN ye shall seek for Me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13)."The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong in the behalf of THEM WHOSE HEART IS PERFECT TOWARD HIM" (2 Chr. 16:9).
The foreknowledge of God, and its relationship to the freewill of the individual, has caused much confusion and perplexity, but it need not. We know that both are basic and simple truths, yea, they are essential truths, in the very nature of things. We trouble ourselves needlessly when we in any way set one against the other, because of the limitations of our own minds.
It is not just a matter of being asked to accept an incomprehensible contradiction like the unscriptural doctrine of the Trinity. It is simply a matter of accepting obvious, and inescapable, and simple divinely testified truths.
The limitless foreknowledge of God is essential to His character as the eternal, all-wise, all-powerful Creator of all. God is essentially limitless in power, and knowledge, and goodness and love, for He is perfection and completeness in all these things.
"God is light, and in Him is NO DARKNESS at all" (1 Jn. 1:5) declared the Spirit through John. Any limitation of His knowledge would be darkness.
Even though we find difficulty in adjusting our puny minds to these vast conceptions, all concern is removed from the subject by the revelation that He is not only all-wise and all-powerful, but all-good.
We can calmly leave the matter of free will and predestination in His hands with the assurance - not only of perfect fairness - but limitless help, mercy and love to those who seek Him wholeheartedly in the way His love prescribes.
This is contained in the title Peter here uses -"God the Father." This manifestation of Himself to us as "The Father" draws us to Him in affectionate faith and confidence, and takes away all the strangeness and terror that would attach to so great a Being to whom we had no kinship or likeness. Is not the revelation of Jesus Christ, the perfect man, as His Own Son, a powerful source of strength and fellowship in this respect? The Fatherhood of God is one of His most beautiful truths toward us.
Through sanctification of the Spirit
"Sanctification" means "making holy" which in turn means cleansing from all that is evil and ungodly, and bringing into full harmony with the pure perfection of God. The whole epistle is a stirring up unto holiness.
Paul expresses the same glorious thought of divine choice and sanctification in writing to the Thessalonians (2:2:13)-
"God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth."
Both are essential to salvation:
(1) belief of the Truth - the gospel of the Kingdom and Name -and
(2) being made holy-purified-transformed- "sanctified of (by) the Spirit."
Obedience is the great lesson to be learned, not as a matter of force and necessity, but of love and wisdom...The spirit of obedience is the key to life-a desire to obey-a PLEASURE in obeying-in getting as CLOSE to God's requirements as possible. Saul was told-
"To obey is better than sacrifice" (1 Sam. 15:22).
Nothing that we can do, however self-sacrificing or worthy or laborious, can take the place of simple obedience to the commands of God.
Sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.
Obedience of itself is not enough, essential as it is. There must be the sprinkling, covering, atoning blood-the God-provided way of life, humbly and thankfully accepted. There is no other way of cleansing.
Paul, writing to the Hebrews concerning the typical sprinklings of the Law, speaks of the fulness of the divine purpose in Christ-
"How much more shall the blood of Christ . . . purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Heb. 9:14).
And again (Heb. 10:22)-
"Let us draw near . . . having our hearts SPRINKLED FROM AN EVIL CONSCIENCE."
What does it mean to have the heart "sprinkled (or purged) from an evil conscience" by the blood of Christ?
Paul explains the evil conscience that is cleansed when he speaks of coming to a recognition of the indwelling law of sin which tended to pull him down to death. This was the "evil conscience"-the consciousness of inner, inborn evil that caused him to exclaim-
"O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Rom. 7:24).
As we come back to the seventh chapter of Romans from time to time, we increasingly realize that it describes a stage through which all must pass-a great awakening-a great turning point. Thenceforth, the realization of the deliverance-the thankfulness and relief-becomes stronger and stronger the more we realize and are oppressed by this consciousness of the evil of the flesh (Rom. 7:21)-
"When I would do good, evil is present with me."
Only the blood of Christ, and all it stands for in love, and mercy, and reconciliation and forgiveness, can lift the weight of this oppression of the evil of the flesh, and give strength and hope to press on in the way of righteousness. *
Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied
The peace he prays for for them is the "Peace of God that passeth understanding." It is a condition of heart and mind - settled - not disturbed - not anxious - not discouraged - but quiet joyfulness, confidence in the goodness of God regardless of anything else.
It is a recognition that all trials are passing and for a purpose, that God is good, that we shall not be tried above what we are able to bear, that nothing matters but the maintenance of a close communion with God, that everything else in life but this is just the passing scenery of a brief dream.
Peace is a quiet determination to do our best each day - cheerfully, patiently and thankfully, and leave things each night without anxiety in the hands of God. Peace is not the blankness or numbness of stagnation, but a living, active thing - a keen, joyful, absorbing intenseness in the unchanging eternal beauties to which we are by faith and hope related. Peace is stability of mind, built upon the stability of God.
Grace is usually linked with peace, as here, and rightly so, for there can be no true peace apart from the grace and blessing of God. Grace is a word of great depth of meaning. It combines the thoughts of favour, benevolence, kindness, gentleness, charm, beauty, sweetness of disposition, balanced and mature cheerfulness - but none of these comprehend it in its fulness. It carries the sense of heavenliness of character, freedom from the ugliness of all the natural evil reactions of the flesh.
This word is used in two related ways - of God's attitude and action toward man - infinitely forgiving and patient; and of man's own manifestation of the same godliness and beauty of character.
...When we have learned the Divine patience of complete peace and kindness and self-control in the face of the most unjust and flesh-provoking of circumstances, we have learned the beautiful characteristic of grace. Grace is true, unmarred beauty of thought, word and action toward good and bad alike.
Peter concludes his epistles with the admonition-
"GROW in grace, and in knowledge" (2 Pet. 3:18).
All scriptural history, and much of other history, is given an interest and a meaning because of the workings out of this purpose. Consider particularly our viewpoint of current events compared to the view of the people of the world.
To us the activities of Russia, of the Arabs, of Israel, and so forth, are all seen as relating to a great divine plan-a plan soon to be consummated in a wonderful fulfilment, solving all problems, banishing all fears, and bringing worldwide benefits beyond the dreams of any of the world's troubled statesmen.
But to the world there is just the building up of evil forces, the violence of ancient hatreds, terrible and increasing powers of mutual destruction, constant and increasing fear of a world wide Pearl Harbor when the growing northern aggressor is fi-nally ready to strike; endless, meaningless negotiations for dis-armament while more and more fearful weapons are developed.
Bro Growcott - Grow in Grace
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
"Blessed be God"
should be our continual frame of mind. It is a sound and healthy frame of mind. It recognizes the true facts of eternity and is in harmony with them.
There are many unhealthy and self-destructive frames of mind, but this line of thought has the power to drive them all away. If we can keep this uppermost, it will set the pattern for the growth of grace and godliness.
Mercy is sympathetic forebearance towards weakness and guilt - unearned goodness. God's mercy is limitless, as are all His attributes of goodness, but it is not shapeless and haphazard, it only runs in a certain specified channel, in harmony with His righteousness and justice. The Psalmist says (103:17-18)-
"The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon THEM THAT FEAR HIM . . .
"To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember His commandments to do them."
The universal tendency of the flesh is to presume on God's mercy, to take His endless longsuffering for granted, to be always thinking of mercy in terms of its future manifestation; but our continual thought should be upon what His abundant mercy has already done for us in the past, and the great obligation of love that we are under because of it. *
Hath begotten us again
that is, He has caused us to be born again- He hath brought us through the travail and wonderfulness of a new birth. There is much comfort and inspiration in this picture of a complete new birth unto a life of goodness.
Natural man is dead in trespasses and sins, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, driven by selfish, destructive, never-satisfied lusts and urges - "by nature children of wrath" (Eph. 2:3).
But God desires a holy family for Himself, and out of this dead mass of corrupt humanity He is calling some, through a new birth, to a life of beauty and purity unto Him.
This new birth, this passing from death to life, is inseparably connected by both Peter and John, with LOVE. The new birth is the adoption of the motive of divine love as the rule of life, in place of the old way of fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind. John says (1 John 3:14):
"We KNOW that we have passed from death unto life, BECAUSE WE LOVE THE BRETHREN. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death."*
4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,
Peter says the inheritance is "incorruptible, undefiled, and unfading." It is incorruptible-endless-continuing for ever-can never be destroyed or taken away. It is undefiled- there is nothing to detract from this infinite perfection of its goodness and joy. It is "altogether lovely." It is free from all the problems and sorrows and weaknesses and limitations of this sad present vale of tears. It is perfection.
It is unfading-this is perhaps its most wonderful aspect. The word means that it never withers, wastes, or loses strength. To our natural weak minds, the conception of endlessness in anything-even infinite joy-is a little frightening. All our thinking is adjusted to the limits of human nature.
The greatest of joys, the keenest of excitements, the deepest of emotions, soon give way to fatigue and monotony. But if we by any means attain unto the resurrection of the dead, all human limitations will have been forever left behind-we shall have entered a timeless joy that will never lose any part of its intensity and fresh vigor.
Let us remember that God's infinite wisdom and power has given us all the capacity for enjoyment of things as we are at present. Whatever pleasure we experience, God's wisdom has designed and created the capacity for it in us.
All at present is on a low, brief, mortal level. Surely we can leave it to God to fulfil His marvellous promise to recreate our powers of pleasure on a vastly greater, spiritual and eternal plane. The Psalmist said, by the mind of the Spirit-
"In Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures forever more" (Psa. 16:11).
We have not the mental capacity to even conceive the eternal joys prepared for THOSE THAT LOVE GOD.
Bro Growcott - Grow in Grace
5 Who are kept by the power of God THROUGH FAITH unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
In what way are the children of God preserved by this power unto salvation? To the Thessalonians Paul said-
"I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thess. 5:23).
And to the Corinthians-
"God shall confirm-sustain-preserve-you unto the end that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 1:8).
This "preserving blameless" is "by the power of God unto salvation." But upon what principle? Who is preserved blameless, and who is not? What of those who "for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away?'' What of those who are "choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring forth no fruit to perfection?" They enter the race - why are they not "Kept by the power of God blameless unto salvation?" Peter says-
"You are kept by the power of God THROUGH FAITH unto salvation."
"Through faith" is the key-
"Chosen to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and BELIEF OF THE TRUTH" (2 Thess. 2:13).
"Belief" and "Faith" are synonymous words in Scripture. It is always exactly the same word in the original for both. Belief is faith and faith is belief - always. John declares-
"He that believeth not God hath made Him a liar, because he believeth not the record that God gave" (Jn. 5:10).
Paul says that there is One Faith- One Belief - that is, one body of Truth to be believed, and that body of Truth is called THE GOSPEL, for the apostle says to the Romans -
"The gospel is the power of God unto salvation unto every one that believeth" (Rom. 1:16).
Belief of the Gospel, then, is the connecting link - the ONLY connecting link - between the power of God and the believer's salvation -
"Kept by the power of God-through faith-unto salvation."
Paul emphasises this when he says to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 15:2)-
"Ye are saved by the gospel IF ye keep in memory- (margin & RV: hold fast)-what I preached unto you."
So although Peter speaks of the "elect according to the foreknowledge of God"- being "kept by the power of God unto salvation," he is neither minimizing the essential necessity of belief of the Gospel, nor is he lessening the force of the basic truth that salvation depends upon faithful personal effort sustained unto the end, and is only for those who of their own free will, choose to submit to - and be transformed by -the purifying power and will of God -
"NOT MY WILL, BUT THINE, be done" (Lk. 22:42).
Bro Growcott - Grow in Grace
6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:
It is against God's law to be anything else but joyful- intensely, overwhelmingly joyful in Faith, Hope and Love. Any other frame of mind is an unfaithful reflection on His goodness and providence and glorious eternal purpose..."All things-ALL things-work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose."
Everything that happens to us is lovingly designed to develop and test our comprehension of this glorious promise-to teach us that nothing is able to obscure this eternal joy or to separate us from the glorious power of the love of God. Paul assures us (Rom. 8:38-39) that-
"Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God." *
Sometimes in reproof, sometimes in comfort: thus the Spirit speaks as need requires. Here, it is the voice of comfort; the voice of the shepherd, Peter, as he executes the commission assigned to him in the parting words of the Chief Shepherd: "Feed My lambs."
It is pleasant to hear such a voice. We need comfort. We are in a world of evil, in which are many hindrances. The Father is little thought of; the Son largely forgotten; and the children (such few as there are) despised. This makes the situation bleak enough for the lambs; but there are other trials; false brethren, wolves in sheep's clothing, biting - winds of doctrine," and poor weak failings in all of us that make us self chidden and condemned. We need to be comforted, and the Lord commands it for such as are broken and contrite in heart, trembling at His word.
Peter addresses himself to "the strangers scattered." In Peter's day, they were scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, etc. To-day they are scattered throughout England, Wales, Scotland, America, Australia, etc.; and though differently situated in many respects, their spiritual needs are the same. They are strangers and not strangers. The truth has made them at home where they were strange, and strange where they were at home.
They are no longer strangers and foreigners to the commonwealth of Israel with its all glorious covenants of promise, with which in the days of their darkness they had no connection. They have received the adoption of sons, and rejoice in being fellow-citizens with the Lord Jesus, with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets and saints of that splendid polity that will one day fill the world with light, and life, and love, and joy, and glory to God in the highest; in this, they are at home where they were strange. But this has more of the future than the present in it. We rejoice in the hope it is true; but we walk by faith and not by sight, and this is burdensome to the natural man.
In the things that are seen, we have been turned just the other way about. We once belonged to the world, and the world loved its own, and we were at home in it, but now we are strangers and sojourners, as all the fathers were. We look not at the things which are seen. We await the day of the manifestation of the sons of God.
In this attitude we need the exhortation of this chapter: "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 revelation of Jesus Christ." Without the continual girding of the loins of the mind (in the continual adjustment of our mental relation to the things that are and shall be, in the unfailing study of the holy oracles) we shall grow weary and faint in our minds, and hope will die instead of continuing, and we ourselves become cast away on the great ocean.
We must train ourselves to accept the position of strangers and sojourners. "If ye call on the Father," says Peter: that is if ye really mean to be children of the Father, who, I without respect of persons, judgeth according to every man's work, "pass the time of your sojourning here in fear." Our salvation is not otherwise to be wrought out than in fear and trembling. There is no time for pleasure hunting. The service of Christ is now, as it always has been, a course of self-denial.
Bro Roberts - Comfort
"Ye greatly rejoice . . . though ye are in sorrow."
It is a strange and beautiful truth that earthly sorrow can be mixed with heavenly joy and that the bitterness of the sorrow can intensify the joy. How fearfully and wonderfully we are made! How little we know of the marvellous ways of God! How great our puny darkness to His infinite light! Who are we to question?-we can but accept His wisdom with awe.
"Ye greatly rejoice." Other versions have "exult," "full of exultation," "rejoice triumphantly," and the same word is rendered elsewhere "exceeding joy," and is applied to the mental condition of those who in the last day stand accepted in the presence of the Lord-
"Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy" (Jude 24).
He is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless-will He DO it? He will if we let Him-if we will get everything else cleared out of the way so that He can. It is clear from Peter's words that the exceeding joy is a part of the future which we can have right now, IF WE WILL ACCEPT IT.
There is one very clear fact that we can all easily observe, and that is that it is not those that have the most, and suffer the least, that are the happiest and most contented.
We can easily learn by observation that happiness, contentment, peace of mind and rejoicing do not stand in any direct proportion to outward circumstances - the greatest sufferer can be the happiest; the most fortunate can be the most miserable.
On what, then, does joy depend? Purely on the inner state of the mind. Now although this is true even in the natural, we are not concerned with any joy except the true, sound, unchanging spiritual joy that is based on the Faith, Hope and Love which come from a wholehearted embracing of the Gospel of the Kingdom.
There the intense inward joy exists, not only in spite of outward sorrow, but actually because of it. It is recorded of the early disciples, when they were beaten by the Jewish authorities-(and these public beatings, whippings by strong men with lashes, were cruel and vicious; the intent was to inflict as much pain as possible that would continue a long time after)-when they were beaten, they departed-
"Rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name" (Acts 5:41).
-not just patiently bearing it, but rejoicing! How close are WE to the mind of Christ? James exhorts-
"Count it ALL JOY when ye fall into manifold trials" (Jam. 1:2).
Paul said, "I take pleasure -(a powerful word translated "well pleased" in the occasions where God speaks of Christ: "In whom I am well pleased")-
"I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches (insults, abuses) in necessities (need, hardship, deprivation) in persecution, in distresses (grievous difficulties) for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong" (2 Cor. 12:10).
Do we even understand what this spiritual joy in suffering is all about? How are we ever going to break up our smug, comfortable little self-centered existences and cast ourselves fully into this glorious spiritual joy? Peter himself says-
"Rejoice inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings: that when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy" (1 Pet. 4:13).
The testimony is (2 Tim. 2:12)-
"IF we suffer (with him); we shall also reign with him."
Bro Growcott - Grow in Grace
Though now for a season
-"for a short time"-"for a little while.''
This is an important aspect. The trial is short, the results are eternal. Sometimes seventy, eighty or ninety years do not seem short, when they are filled with difficulties and struggles and sorrows and bereavement and long lonely waiting. But that is just the natural fleshly point of view. We must get the spiritual point of view. Paul says-
"Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Cor. 4:17).
Because Paul had the true point of view, he was joyful and contented and continuously thankful through the most terrible of trials; therefore he could look forward to a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
Bro Growcott - Grow in Grace
7 That the trial of your faith, 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:
To be exalted from the present to the future state and inheritance, he must be subjected to trial. From the examples recorded in the Scriptures, it is evident that God has established it as the rule of His grace; that is, the principle upon which He bestows His honours and rewards -- to prove men before He exalts them.
Probation, then, is the indispensable ordeal, to which every man is subjected in the providence of God, before he is accepted as "fit for the Master's use" (2 Tim. 2:20-21). By these examples, also, it appears that man's probation is made to bear upon the trial of His faith by testing His obedience. An untried faith is worth nothing; but a faith that stands the test of trial "is much more precious than gold which perisheth, though it be tried with fire;" because the sustained trial will be "found unto praise, and honour, and glory, at the appearance of Jesus Christ " (1 Pet. 1:5-7).
An untried faith is a dead faith, being alone. Faith without trial finds no scope for demonstration, or evidence of its existence. Thus, it is written, "faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 'Yea,' a man may say, 'thou hast faith, and I have works:' show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works.
Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well; the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and NOT by faith ALONE" (James 2:17-24).
"Without faith," says Paul, "it is impossible to please God;" and it is also apparent from James' testimony, just recited, that the faith with which he is pleased is a faith that is made manifest by works, of which Noah, Abraham, Job, and Jesus, are pre-eminent examples.
Now, this "precious faith" can only be educed by trial; for the trial elaborates the works. This is the use of persecution, or tribulation, to believers; which in the divine economy is appointed for their refinement. Peter styles the "manifold persecutions," to which his brethren were subjected, "the trial of their faith;" and Paul testified to others of them, that "it is through much tribulation they must enter the kingdom."
Probation is a refining process. It purges out a man's dross, and brings out the image of Christ in His character; and prepares him for exaltation to His throne (Rev. 3:21). We can enter the kingdom through the fire (1 Cor. 3:13); but, if a man be courageous, and "hold fast the confidence and rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end," he will emerge from it unscorched; and be presented holy, unblameable and unrebukeable (Col. 1:22-23) before the King.
Elpis Israel 1.4.
We are apt to think in our thoughtlessness, that as long as we do not openly abandon the Truth, our faith is holding firm. But there is far more to it than that. Paul tells us-
"If any provide not for his own relatives, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever" (1 Tim. 5:8).
"He hath denied the faith"-This illustration shows that anything that is contrary to the commands of God is "denying the faith." Denying the Faith is not just denying the doctrine. The purging, purifying, perfecting of our faith is the process of putting us through a long series of adverse experiences wherein, by practice and self-control, we gradually develop a godly character. Of Jesus it was said-
"He learned obedience by the things which he suffered" (Heb. 5:8).
How could Jesus, who was from the first perfect in obedience - never disobedient - how could he "learn obedience"?
He, too, like his brethren, had to build and strengthen the mental character of joyful enlightened obedience and faithfulness to Divine principles of conduct under great trial. He never failed, never disobeyed, but still he, too, grew in grace and knowledge and spiritual strength and stature.
This is why the theory of his preexistence as a divine person is so utterly contrary to Scripture and subversive of the true picture of salvation.
Bro Growcott - Grow in Grace
8 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:
Trial of Your Faith
"I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts."
This searching is adapted to the necessities of each case. That which is a trial to one is not always a trial to another. It is no hardship for a man indifferent to wealth to be deprived of it; nor for one devoid of parental love to lose his offspring. It requires no great effort for a man with little self-esteem to refrain from walking in pride's silly ways; nor for one who has large benevolence and small acquisitiveness to dispense alms.
Divine tests call for sacrifices, for endurance, and for resistance. A saint's first duty is obedience, and should it entail the loss of things near and dear, it must be borne with resignation. Let us not measure our own trials by the experience of others, nor vice versa. Do not let us trouble ourselves with the apparent freedom from trial of others. In so doing, we may misjudge.
It is a conceit of human nature to think it knows better than the Deity - it was so with Job's Satan. Everyone is put to the proof in the best and most effectual way, and this way is known only to God.
Bro AT Jannaway
The Christadelphian, March 1887. p104
10 Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you:
The simple truth is that the prophets were men by whom God spoke. Their words were not their own words. What they said, they said under the power of an impulse extraneous to their own faculties-which explains a good deal. Among other things, it explains why they did not always understand what the Spirit uttered through them...
...The only key to the scripture of Moses and the prophets is their own truthfulness.
... God wrought with Moses, spoke by the prophets, and impelled them to commit to writing some portion of His word by them.
The Christadelphian, June 1898
Watch: The signs of the times.
Z. "The prophets have enquired and searched diligently, what manner of time the spirit did signify when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow."
Is it not manifest from this testimony that the terms in which the spirit expressed the time of the suffering, and the time of the after glory, were enigmatical? The prophets saw the mystery, and diligently laboured to unfold it. It is not affirmed of them as it may truthfully be of certain of their modern students,
"Let us not bother ourselves concerning the times. Let us rather strive to develop that character well pleasing in the sight of God."
This does not sound amiss as a general exhortation, till it comes to be asked what constitutes the character with which God is well pleased? Is it reasonable to imagine that God can be pleased with those who themselves neglect, and who exhort others to do likewise - to apply their hearts to understand all the things written beforetime for their learning?
The times cannot be regarded of minor importance. In this respect they are only second to the events. And where would the events be without the times? That man's organization must be very peculiar who can feel a most lively interest in the events, and be so far indifferent to the times, as to exhort his brethren "not to bother themselves about them."
Brethren who are anxiously waiting the Lord's return, can hardly be edified with hortatory advice of this kind. And let me remark, en passant, that brethren will do well to let their affections follow, and not precede their judgment. "Hold fast the form of sound words." This is an exhortation which implies attachment between the holders and speakers on account of the "words" spoken.
To the Pharisees and Sadducees, Jesus said,
"O ye hypocrites! ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?
This teaches plainly enough that certain "signs" have been by Yahweh allotted to certain "times." In the divine arrangements there is a time fixed.
"To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven."-(Ecc. iii, 1.)
"And a wise man's heart discerneth both time and judgment."-(chap. viii, 5.)
Without a knowledge of the times, the signs cannot be understood, for they are "the signs of the times" to which they have been appointed. No doubt this plan has been adopted to enable "the wise" to "understand" the sign-periods, or to "discern both time and judgment." This is perfectly rational. But any pretension of a desire to understand the prophetic oracles, with an aversion to take the times into consideration, seems unreasonable at first sight; and upon mature study, cannot fail of being rejected altogether. Z
The Ambassador of the Coming Age, Aug 1867. p196,197.
11 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 glory that should follow.
Did Christ Have a Beginning?
The man Christ Jesus had a beginning: the power of which he was the manifestation, by the Spirit operating on Mary, never had a beginning.
And because it is impossible, in this case, to distinguish between the living medium of manifestation and the power manifested, there is a possibility of the matter appearing at different times in apparently contradictory shapes.
The Spirit, in the prophets, is recognised as the Spirit of Christ (1 Peter 1:11), ages before the individual Christ appeared.
In this sense, the children of Israel in tempting Moses, the greatest of the prophets in a sense, are said to have tempted Christ.-(1 Cor. 10: 9.)
This is intelligible when the indissoluble connection between Jesus and the Spirit is recognised, and surely we require no greater visibility of this connection than is apparent in the following from his lips:
"These things saith the first and the last, which was dead and is alive.. . He that hath an ear, let him hear what the spirit saith unto the ecclesias."-(Rev. 2:8, 11.)
The putter of the question would have preferred a "yes" or a "no," but it is just one of those questions that cannot be fully answered by either. The "yes" has to be qualified, and the "no" has to be qualified.
This may be unsatisfactory to those who wish the answer for captious purposes; but to those who wish for the truth only, all the qualifications it enforces are welcome. By "rightly dividing the word of truth," we arrive at the wisdom that will guide to life eternal: but there be such as wrest the Scriptures to their own destruction.
The Christadelphian, Feb 1872
12 Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the holy spirit sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.
The Revealed Mystery
The gospel invites men to enter into the kingdom of God. The way of entering is made exceedingly plain in the Bible. There is now no hidden mystery concerning it as there was before the sufferings of Christ were manifested. The mystery of the kingdom has been unlocked. The key of knowledge has been given, but unfortunately it has been stolen again by Peter's pretended successors, and by every other ecclesiastic upon a smaller scale who would discourage or throw hindrances in the way of a free, unbiased and independent examination and avowal of Bible truth in their churches, or an unrestricted advocacy of it, though at variance with the institutes of dogmatic theology, in all the pulpits of the land.
The leaders of the people dare not permit such a course to be pursued; for the Bible is hostile to their systems, and sets forth things, which, if believed, would empty their rostrums, disperse their flocks, and close their doors, and elaborate such a social revolution, that truth and righteousness would triumph amidst the earth, and the people be enlightened in the knowledge which comes from God. Such a consummation, however, need never be hoped for, so long as the instruction and government of the nations are in the hands of the existing orders of rulers, lay and ecclesiastical; for "like priests like people," and vice versa; they are corrupt and altogether gone out of the way; and, therefore, are devoid of all power to resuscitate the things which remain, and which are ready to vanish away.
Before a man can enter into the kingdom of God, he must be unloosed from his sins in the present state, and liberated here after from the prison-house where the dead lie bound in chains of intense darkness. The unloosing from sins, Jesus committed to Peter; but the enlargement from the chamber of death, He reserved to Himself (Rev. 1:18; 20:1).
Knowledge is the key to remission, or release from sins, and to an entrance into the kingdom of God. No one can enter this kingdom in his sins, and destitute of a character approved of God; and none could answer the question, "how can a man obtain the remission of sins, and what kind of character would God account worthy?" -- until the apostle revealed the secret, communicated to him by the Spirit, on the day of Pentecost.
If the reader peruse the second chapter of the Acts he will there learn how Peter used one of the keys of the kingdom given to him by its King. On that occasion, I say, he used but one of the keys. He revealed the mystery of the gospel of God's kingdom to the Jews only. They believed in the kingdom, glory, and dominion, promised to the Son of Man in Daniel and the prophets; they were well aware that the kingdom was to belong to their nation, that the King was to be David's Son, and to live for ever, and the righteous were to take the kingdom with Him: these things were the substance of the national hope; but they did not then know upon what conditions the obtaining of them was predicated.
Hence, it was Peter's duty to instruct them. He first called their recollection to certain notable things concerning Jesus -- that the wonders He performed by the power of God evidently showed that God approved Him; that they had been guilty of His death in clamoring for His crucifixion, but that all this was predetermined of God; that God had "loosed Him from the pains of death" by raising Him from the dead. He then proceeded to show by their prophets that the things which had thus happened to Jesus were verifications of certain predictions.
He adduced the testimony of David, that the Christ was to be "raised up to sit upon David's throne," and consequently, must previously suffer death; and that after He was resurrected, he was to ascend to the right hand of God. He then concluded by saying, "let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God hath made that same Jesus whom ye have crucified, both Lord and King Anointed (CHRISTOS)." For the truth of this statement he appealed to what they saw and heard, to the cloven tongues like fire sitting upon their heads, the "sound of a rushing mighty wind," and the many languages spoken by Galilean fishermen without previous study.
The result of the apostle's reasoning was their conviction that Jesus was indeed the King of Israel, even the Shiloh that had been promised them for so many ages. They acknowledged Him to be the "Son whose NAME should be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Founder of the Future Age, the Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6).
Elpis Israel 2.1.
Which things the angels desire to look into
The mystery of the kingdom, then, has been made known and we find that it had relation to the sufferings of the Christ; and repentance, remission of sins, and eternal life in His name, to Jews first and afterwards to the Gentiles. The prophets who foretold these things, were not able to penetrate the mystery of them; and the angels themselves, who brought the word to them, desired to understand them. But this was not permitted; and and it was preserved as a secret until after the sufferings of Christ, which were to be the foundation of the manifestation.
When the "point of time" drew nigh for
"the finishing of the transgression, the making an end of sin-offerings, the making reconciliation for iniquity, and the bringing in of everlasting righteousness" (Dan. 9:24),
Jesus, who had been anointed the Most Holy, the sealed prophet of the Father, and fully confirmed as Messiah the Prince, selected one man of the twelve (who had least reason to exalt himself above his brethren as " the prince of the apostles," ) as the depository of the keys of the mysteries of the kingdom of God.
Elpis Israel 2.1.
13 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 revelation of Jesus Christ;
Symbolically, the girdle is a very important part of the raiment of Christ-covering righteousness. "Gird up the loins of your mind." This is the tightening of the girdle and a pulling up of all the loose flowing ends of the garment into it for rapid travel or strenuous labour. This takes effort and determination. It does not come naturally and easily. The easy way is to please the flesh. We must be strongly impressed with the necessity of effort and strongly motivated to it by the love of God.
"We must through much tribulation enter the Kingdom." (Acts 14)
The tribulation is in crucifying the flesh, and always abounding in the work of the Lord, when the flesh wants to follow its own inclination. Paul said (I Cor. 9),
"I keep under my body, lest I should be a castaway."
"Keep under" is a most feeble and inadequate translation. The Revised Version is a little better: "I buffet my body." But this is still too weak. Rotherham comes closer:
"I beat my body under."
The context and the language show that Paul is using the figure of boxing. "Fight" in verse 26 should be "box." It's pukteo (pook-teh'-o), from which we get the word pugnacious. The root is fist. Not boxing as it is today, but as it was in the stern Roman day. The word here for "keep under" is hupopiazo (hoop-o-pee-ad'-zo) and it literally means to punch beneath the eye, to strike violently in the face. It is a boxing term for knocking out the opponent. Roman boxers in the arena did not use soft padded gloves for mere entertainment. Their hands were wrapped in leather thongs with metal knobs. A writer says, describing them,
"One wonders how any human being, no matter how strong and powerful, could stand the blows from such weapons."
They were accurately called limb breakers. Boxing, in the Roman arena, was a bloody conflict unto death. This is the figure Paul uses of the conflict of his own flesh, and for him it was literally true. As a direct result of his faithful, fearless walk and teaching, he was stoned and left for dead, scourged with whips, and beaten with rods repeatedly. He permanently bore the marks on his battered body, as we read in Galatians. These are harsh realities intended to make us think.
We are not likely to be called upon in these soft, easy, treacherous days to endure these things for the sake of the Truth or the brotherhood, as so many of the faithful have been in the past. The test for us is just the same - whom we will serve, to what extent of faithfulness and completeness we will render that service, and to what extent we will please the flesh?
Bro Growcott - Blessed is he that watcheth and keepeth his garments
...if we look at man as we know him. He is a bundle of powers, faculties, and capacities, among which there are such as are low, and such as are high. All his powers fulfil a good purpose in their right connections and subordinations; but some of them are manifestly fitted and intended to have the controlling place, while others put in this place are odious and destructive.
'...few include God in the practical objects of their exertion and concern. The consequence is that human nature scarcely anywhere attains the beauty of development of which it is capable. The upper brain is checked in its action and dwarfed in development by the universal manners, and consequently the vast mass of human beings on earth are but insipid specimens of a noble race, unhappy in themselves and possessing only the capacity of being a trial and a nuisance to others.
...The upper brain must have the education which by its nature it requires and demands, and no education short of the knowledge of God is suited to those requirements. The whole group of the moral powers (and they are the dominating powers in the human organisation), require God for their action.
Without action you cannot have development; and without development, man cannot rise to the standard of His being... 'veneration', and the capacity to worship and adore, and having its most natural action in the recognition of God...hope and faith, which unitedly give the capacity to realise the action of unseen power, and to base anticipation thereon... the impulse of benevolence. .. the staying power of firmness, flanked by conscientiousness which gives sensitiveness with regard to right and wrong. The whole group is of angelic tendency when allied with enlightened intellect in the front of the brain.
They require development like every other faculty or capacity in the human mind, and this development can only be attained by the education appropriate to their action...
Now, we live in a state of society where these powers are not provided for. Modern life and modern education address themselves almost wholly to the lower range of the brain faculties ...
There is little intellect, less mercy, and less expansive and noble godliness anywhere. It is as the Scriptures testify. They are all gone astray, every one to his own way, which is as far as possible from the way God designed them to walk in.
Bro Roberts - Without God, All is vanity and vexation of spirit.
Other versions render it "Be vigilant," "With strictest self-control," "Self-restraint." The meaning is a personal, watchful vigilance against the wandering of the mind and interests to things that have no profit as regards salvation.
No empty, frothy, shallow lightness, but a serious, intent directing of the mind into profitable and eternally-satisfying channels. There is no real satisfaction and peace in the ways of the flesh, no matter how desirable and appealing they may seem to be. There is just a constant, frustrating, elusive seeking for satisfaction-"Seeking rest, and finding none."
Bro Growcott - Grow in grace
"Be not deceived, God is not mocked - Gal. 6: 7."
He has planned life a certain way. We must do it His way if we hope for satisfaction and success. How stupid of us to think that we can outwit Him - prove Him wrong - find satisfaction and peace where He says there is none!
Men of the world spend years of self denial to obtain a corruptible crown that soon ends in the grave. Peter exhorts the brethren and sisters to constantly keep their minds centered on the eternal, incorruptible joys of their great destiny of God-manifestation throughout eternity.
Foolishness, fleshliness, worldliness, are a degrading of that which was made in the image of God - a debasing and prostituting of the high calling to which we are called - a mockery of God's great and holy purpose of forming a pure spiritual Temple to His everlasting Honour and glory. Therefore, intensely and prayerfully-
"Gird up the loins of your mind!"
Bro Growcott - Grow in Grace
15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;
Here is one source of the affliction that belongs to the high calling to which men are called in Christ Jesus. Another is to be found in the aversions that the Truth creates towards those who obey the Truth. Ungodly men do most keenly resent the reflection implied in the separateness for Christ that the Truth imposes. "Come out from among them;" you could not hurt them more.
They "reproach you," as Jesus says, and "cast out your name as evil." What are we to do? If we are weak-eyed in the things of the Spirit, we shall fear men and try to propitiate them, and be neither one thing nor another.
This will be a mistake. You cannot propitiate them except by being out-and-out one of themselves. If you are this you cannot belong to Christ. If you are half-and-half, you please neither him nor them. It is best to be thorough, but with all courtesy. Even the enemies of Christ will respect you more if you are thorough than if you mince and trim and try to appear to belong to them when you don't.
Bro Roberts - All parts of the Truth necessary
It is not agreeable when everybody is busy and enthusiastic, to be looked down upon as a religion-warped lunatic, nursing utopian dreams, and letting the present substance slip.
It is not agreeable to be isolated in the corner, and considered as belonging to those whose society is to be avoided; yet the eye of faith, the mind of conviction, the soul that really and resolutely believes the gospel, will have no difficulty in "tiding" over the trial, and in keeping a tenacious hold of the invisible link of connection between a suffering and degraded present, and a glorious future-such a future as the world has no conception of and can never realise.Bro Roberts - Sunday morning 12
17 And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear:
It is hard for us to get the true picture in respect to this matter of "without respect of persons."
Our thinking is almost inevitably tinged with the assumption that God will make a special exemption in our case - that He will tolerantly overlook things in us which He would not in ordinary people. We each are so important to ourselves that it is very difficult to regard ourselves as just one more among millions in God's sight.
This was the Jews' great and fatal self-delusion - let it not be ours. The only thing that will mark us out as anything different in God's sight from the rest of the nameless, forgotten, perishing millions is to BE different, very different, in the way He specifies.
There are many in the world who are different from the general run - many who differ strikingly in a devoted, religious way - marvellous examples of utter dedication and self-discipline. Men have given their whole lives - sometimes unto terrible deaths - in devotion to God, in study and translation of the Scriptures, in compiling books of reference, in missionary labours, in works of charity and self-sacrifice.
What is it that will make God look to US, and not to them, confer the eternal divine nature upon us, and allow them to pass into endless oblivion? Certainly it must be something very exceptional.
There is no respect of persons with God. No one has any special consideration because of relationship, or because they happen to be in an ecclesia, or to be brought up in the Truth.
Each of the chosen in the end will be there because of just one reason, because he has manifested something that God desires that He has not found in those vast numbers that are not chosen.
How can this fundamental difference between the way of life and the way of death best be defined? We know, of course, that none will be among the accepted apart from a knowledge and belief of the things that comprise the One True Gospel of salvation, the Scriptures are very clear on that. But, all the rejected will have a sufficient knowledge of God's way to make them responsible, or else they would not be called to judgment at all.
Many, therefore, who believe will be rejected. So a belief of the Truth, while essential to salvation, is not the deciding factor between acceptance and rejection (unless we think of the term "believe" in its fullest scriptural sense which means a belief which is harmoniously and consistently manifested in every aspect of life and conduct - a belief which takes over the entire will and desires).
In the very nature of things, there is no intermediate between salvation and rejection. The judged are divided into two classes, just as sharply as the distinction between black and white - the sheep and the goats, the right hand and the left - "Come, ye blessed . . . depart, ye cursed" (Matt. 25:34, 41).
How can such a sharp line of cleavage be cut? Are there no degrees of effort and accomplishment? As to salvation itself, clearly there are no degrees - it is all or nothing.
There must therefore be one basic factor of distinction, and that basic deciding factor is defined perhaps most clearly by Paul in the 8th chapter of Romans-
"To be fleshly-minded is death: but to be spiritually-minded is life and peace" (v. 6).
All mankind, therefore, as God looks down upon them, are either carnally-minded or spiritually-minded. There is no in-between. Each of us here today are either fleshly (or natural) minded, and in the way of death; or we are spiritually minded, and in the way of life. What do we think of naturally? What things interest us? Where is our heart? Where is our treasure?
The apostle, in this same place, in further defining the distinction, declares-
"They that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the spirit the things of the Spirit . . ." (Rom. 8:5).
"If ye live after the flesh ye shall die, but if ye through the Spirit do MORTIFY-put to death-THE DEEDS OF THE BODY, ye shall live" (Rom. 8:13).
Here, then, are the two classes-those whose motives spring from the flesh, who manifest the "works of the flesh": impatience, selfishness, anger, indifference to others' welfare, interest in and desire for present things; and those whose motives spring from the guidance and teaching and transforming power of the Word of God:
Love, gentleness, calmness, patience, peace of mind, joyfulness, serene and untroubled faith in the care and goodness of God, no thought of self-pleasing or self-advantage, devotion to the good of others and the glory of God through the beauty of holiness, thinking no evil, bearing all things, seeking not their own - not their own desires, not their own ideas of righteousness, but God's. It is very possible to be wholly absorbed in scriptural things without being "spiritual-minded," for the latter goes to the very roots of character and disposition.
We can see that there can be no halfway between the two ways of life, for they deal with the central motivating power of all actions, and a man can only serve one master. In scriptural terms, the one group are alive, the others dead. No greater difference could be expressed. It is not a difference of degree, but of a complete opposite.
This is not to say that there will not be repeated failures on the part of those who are dedicated to spiritual-mindedness, but the big distinction is that they are dedicated to this way, that they intelligently recognize and joyfully accept it, that they discern and repudiate the way of the flesh, that they recognize its evil and ugliness, that they experience heartfelt sorrow - not only for failures - but for the puny limitations of their highest and best efforts of holiness and spiritual-mindedness.
"With God there is no respect of persons" (v. 17) - no arbitrary favourites, no special cases, no exceptions to the rules of supreme and loving wisdom, but all is according to an undeviating divine rule-
"To be fleshly-minded is death, but to be spiritually-minded is life and peace."
Bro Growcott - Grow in Grace
To "sojourn'' is to dwell at a place temporarily as a stranger-not a native, not a citizen, not a part of the community. The literal meaning is even more striking and applicable: it means "to dwell from day to day"-just a day at a time: no roots, no connections, no fixed abode.
We must constantly fight the tendency to get entrenched in the present, to lay up treasure on earth, to build ourselves "sepulchres on high" (for all we can build in this life is a sepulchre, and if we are not constantly on guard against the trends of the flesh that is exactly what we shall in the end find that we have done-merely erected a magnificent tombstone of folly and failure.)
We must live in the constant recognition that ours is a day-to-day pilgrimage, that the Master's call-"Leave all and follow me"-is still the narrow, and only, way to life. "Here we have no continuing city"-no ties to the present-one day at a time.
Bro Growcott - Grow in Grace
19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:
The sacrifices had to be "without blemish," a "perfect" life poured out unto death - a recognition that the flesh must be cut off; the body of sin must die: the ultimate submission and subjection and conformation of humanity to God in perfect unity of will.
Their required "perfection" is the key to their meaning: the strong perfection of Christ which can cover weak sinful man, if man will humbly and obediently accept the covering in the way appointed, and live in the way required to maintain possession of this covering.
The sacrifices were a manifestation of faith in the deliverance from sin that God had promised and would provide - the Seed of the Woman to crush the Serpent's head.
Bro Growcott - Purifying of the heavenly Ch 2
20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,
The power of God's purpose is in its personal application. All was done, says Peter, "for you." It is true that we are told that all things were created for God's pleasure, but we must not interpret this in an arbitrary and an impersonal and discouraging way, as if all flesh were mere cattle in His sight.
It is God's pleasure to be the compassionate Father of a great multitude of beautiful and glorified sons and daughters. All the individual personalities that make up that vast host are elements of God's pleasure. "God so loved the world" is a thought of great power, always to be kept in the foreground, even though the world has made it the watchword of a false system of belief.
Bro Growcott - Grow in Grace
22 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:
Ye have purified your souls-your lives-your hearts-your inward selves-by obeying the Truth, because thereby you have repudiated all the evils of the flesh, all its selfish motives and motions, all its carnal and godless desires, all its ugly characteristics of greed and hate and pride and malice and bitterness, and have dedicated yourselves wholly to LOVE and the GUIDANCE OF GOD, for all your thoughts and actions.
Ye were unclean, but "ye have purified yourselves" by accepting and submitting to the cleansing of the blood of Christ, the condemnation of the natural, fleshly way of sin, the repentance of and disassociation from that way, the exaltation of holiness, the covenanted allegiance to godliness.
Have we purified ourselves? These things are not rituals and technicalities and outward forms; to have any power or meaning or value in the sight of God they must be strong and living realities-glorious realities of spiritual transformation.
It is as Paul tells the Romans-
"Ye were the slaves of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you, and have become slaves of righteousness" (6:17-18).
"Ye were slaves of sin . . . ye are now slaves of righteousness."
The word indicates the all-comprehensiveness of the service, the completeness of the dedication and ownership. And so it must be. There can be no partial, calculated, limited, reserved service to righteousness.
This principle of total slavery-ALL our time and efforts and interests and energies belonging to God-is the very life and essence of the Truth.
Bro Growcott - Grow in Grace
Unfeigned love of the brethren
Here is the acid test of the reality of our transformation. And let us never forget for a moment that the "love" of which he speaks is a vast and heavenly thing. It is a quality of devotion that strains the capacities of our puny, fleshly minds to even comprehend, let alone to fully manifest. It is something far above and beyond anything the natural mind of itself can conceive. Paul tells us this.
The natural mind has an almost irresistible tendency to cut down its definitions of scriptural conceptions to fit its own cramped range of understanding. Let us recognize this tendency and do our utmost to guard against it. Otherwise we shall never rise to the true and full conception of the glorious way of godliness which Paul describes as being "changed into the image of Christ, from glory to glory" (2 Cor. 3:18).
Jesus said (John 13:35), on the eve of his laying down his life for his friends-
"By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, IF YE HAVE LOVE ONE TO ANOTHER."
Now there are many manifestations of deep affection in the world, so it is evident that the love among his disciples of which he speaks here must be something very unique and exceptional and noticeable to others-"By this shall all men know". It is the love of which Paul speaks in 1 Cor. 13, not a common, shallow, superficial affection, but a devotion whose unshakable roots sink deep into Faith, and Hope, and Wisdom, and-above all-Patience.
It is the love that caused him to lay down his life for us while we were yet sinners-looking, hoping, believing right through all present appearances and disappointments to the glorious end.
Peter's exhortation here is that-seeing that pure and devoted love of the brethren is the agreed distinguishing characteristic of the children of God- they MUST, above all things, take care to manifest and build up that love.
John likewise said that love of the brethren was the distinguishing evidence between life and death-
"We know that we have passed from death unto life, BECAUSE WE LOVE THE BRETHREN. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death" (1 Jn. 3:14).
Seeing (says Peter) that the acceptance of this principle was the basis and the actual means of your entrance into the purified family of God, take care than you live up to your solemn undertaking. You were admitted freely by God into His family upon the basis of your professed acceptance of a new, unnatural, unearthy, unfleshly way of life-LOVE. Do not betray that trust, for God is not mocked.
Peter's reference to unfeigned love emphasizes the great danger of failing to comprehend and manifest the true divine affection in its fulness. It is SO EASY to accept a form of words, so easy to talk glowingly and gushingly about "love" without even beginning to realize what is meant and what is involved in this tremendous conception of Christlike, self-sacrificing godliness.
If there is one aspect of the Truth above all others in which we can be said to fall short, it is this aspect of "loving one another with a pure heart fervently."
When God speaks of love, He speaks of no light or common thing. He speaks of supreme sacrifice, of a cheerful readiness to lay down the life. The great sacrifice for sin which we have met together to remember manifests God's conception of the magnitude of love.
It is not natural. It is the very opposite of everything that is natural. It is the mark of godlikeness.
The natural, fleshly way is irritation, impatience, self-justification, retaliation, petty criticism, imputing wrong motives, thoughtlessness of others. How quick we are to resent a slight, to snarl viciously back at opposition or contradiction, to find fault, to expose and belittle, to repeat anything that is unfavorable, to gossip. We never call it gossip. We never think of what we say as gossip, but much of our conversation to and about one another is nothing else.
Whenever anything unfavorable has to be said, we must be sure it is necessary for the accomplishment of good, and that its overall purpose and motive is love-to warn, to correct, to build up in love.
Bro Growcott - Grow in Grace
23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever
This new man, or state of mind, is "inward." It exists in the mind in which it has been developed by the word, and it is in the experience of every son of God that this new man may grow stronger while the natural man is falling into decay.
The Christadelphian, March 1871
The word of the Kingdom (Matt 13:19)...the incorruptible seed
It is by this word that an individual is renewed or renovated so as, in an intellectual and moral sense, to become a "new man" as appears from what the apostle says to the brethren at Colosse; "Ye have put on the new man, which is renewed by knowledge (Col. 3:10) after the image of Him that created him."
Elpis Israel 1.2.
When this seed, or word of the kingdom, is received, it begins to work in a man until he becomes a believer of the truth. When things have come to this pass, he is a changed man. He has acquired a new mode of thinking, for he thinks in harmony with the thoughts of God as revealed in His law and testimony.
He sees himself, and the world around him, in a new light. He is convinced of sin, and experiences an aversion to the things in which he formerly delighted. His views, disposition, temper, and affections, are transformed. He is humble, child-like, teachable, and obediently disposed; and his simple anxiety is to know what God would have him to do. Having ascertained this, he does it; and in doing it is "born out of the water." Having been begotten of the Father by the word of truth (James 1:18), and born of water, the first stage of the process is completed. He is constitutionally "in Christ."
When a child is born, the next thing is to train it up in the way it should go, that when it is old it may not depart from it. This is also the arrangement of God in relation to those who are born out of water into His family on earth. He disciplines and tries them, that He may "exalt them in due time." Having believed the gospel and been baptized, such a person is required to "walk worthy of the vocation," or calling, "wherewith he has been called" (Eph. 4:1), that by so doing he may be "accounted worthy" of being "born of spirit," that he may become "spirit," or a spiritual body; and so enter the kingdom of God, crowned with "glory, honour, incorruptibility, and life " (Rom. 2:7).
When, therefore, such a believer comes out of the ground by a resurrection from among the dead, the spirit of God, worked by the Lord Jesus, first opens the grave, and forms him in the image, and after the likeness of Christ; and then gives him life. He is then an incorruptible and living man, "equal to the angels;" and like them capable of reflecting the glory of him that made him. This is the end of the process. He is like Jesus himself, the great Exemplar of God's family, born out of water by the moral power of the truth, and out of the grave by the physical power of spirit: but all things of God through Jesus Christ the Lord.
Elpis Israel 1.4.
Born again...of incorruptible-the word of God
This he gives as the basis of his exhortation to love. Ye have been reborn. Ye are new creatures. Your natural birth was of the defiled and corruptible seed of Adam. Through him you inherit sin and corruption, mortality and death-evil desires and evil reactions.
But you have been reborn by the power of the Word of God, and the Word of God is incorruptible and ever-living. It is pure and wholesome and life-giving. It teaches the greatness and beauty of the power of love. To illustrate the contrast between the natural and spiritual births, Peter quotes a very appropriate passage from Isaiah-
"All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: but the word of the Lord endureth forever" (1 Pet. 1:24-25).
The Word of the Lord - the wonderful revelation of Himself which He has given us...God's Name is all His works and attributes. His Word is His purpose in Christ Jesus. Christ is the Word made flesh-
"He hath magnified His word above all His name."
This statement occurs in Psa. 138:1-3, a psalm of intense praise and thanksgiving to God for His manifestation to man of His infinite goodness-
"I will praise Thee with my whole heart for Thy lovingkindness and for Thy truth, for THOU HAST MAGNIFIED THY WORD ABOVE ALL THY NAME.
"In the day when I cried Thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with STRENGTH IN MY SOUL."
We must realize the value of this living Word of Truth that we have in our hands, that is able to transform us to the mind of the Spirit, and give us an inheritance with the saints in light-
"This is the word"-says Peter, v. 25
"which by the gospel is preached unto you."
Bro Growcott - Grow in Grace
When these people's hearts were purified by belief of the testimony ("with thy precepts thou hast quickened me;" "the entrance of thy words giveth light,") some of them became recipients of the Holy Spirit, or "spiritual gifts."
They were not bestowed upon all; but upon obedient persons, having certain natural and moral attributes, qualifying them for a proper use of the gifts.
The Spirit was given, not for their own private advantage, but for the profit of all the members of a particular heritage. Those who had received the gifts by the imposition of hands and prayer, became ὁι πνευματικοι hoi pneumatikoi, the pneumatics, or spiritual men, of the ecclesia; while those who received them not,
"occupied the room of the unlearned,"
-unlearned, not in the doctrine of the kingdom and name, but in the foreign tongues spoken by those who had the gift of tongues, &c.-1 Cor. 14:13-16.
The gifts were imparted to those who were spiritualized by them, that they might be
"perfected for the work of the ministry, in order that they might build up the body of Christ."
In those days, saints were not sent to college to be educated for the ministry. Neither, indeed, are they now; for the striplings that frequent those dens of stale divinity are not saints.
The ministry of God's heritages was "the ministration of the spirit, " through certain approved and qualified saints, styled, "apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers," "overseers and servants;" among whom were distributed "diversities of gifts," "differences of administrations," and "diversities of operations;" distinctively named, "the word of wisdom," "the word of knowledge," "faith" for signs and wonders, "gifts of healing," "the working of miracles," "prophecy," or speaking to edification, and exhortation, and comfort; "discerning of spirits," "kinds of tongues," and "the interpretation of tongues."
Here were nine distinct gifts of the Holy Spirit; and all that possessed them could give indisputable evidence to others that they had them; which modern pretenders to the Holy Spirit cannot do.
Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, Dec 1856
24 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:
25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.
It is a great revelation that all things exist in the will of God; that all things are but the concretion of His invisible energy according to His intention.
There is no room for accidental perdition or spontaneous dissolution here. Nothing can interfere with the foundation things have in the word of Yahweh. It is no inflated figure of speech that describes God as the Rock. Its perfect appropriateness is evident when we think of His Spirit as the medium and formative executor of His purposes, radiated by His volition from the presence of His eternal power and glory.
This is His word in its physical relations. There is rest for our feeble minds in the fact that His word is everlasting: that though the world passeth away, and human life as we know it at present is a fading flower,
"the purpose of the Lord standeth sure."
We have His word for it that heaven and earth are for ever: therefore, we are unaffected by the theories and thoughts that would make all things uncertain, and our lives as the mere bubbles on a restless ocean of everlasting change. We rest in the Lord, and have the comfort of hope and the quietness of assurance for ever.
We are tranquillized and made glad by the knowledge that the Eternal Father has a purpose involving the perpetual stability of the glorious place we inhabit, that in ages to come He will show us His kindness in Christ Jesus, when His Name shall have attained that exaltation among men which is the basis of all blessedness.
Bro Roberts - The word enduring forever, Seasons 1: 41.
Uncertainty is the most salient feature of the present age. It pertains to friends, means of subsistence, health, and, above all, to life itself. What a pleasing contrast to all this does the Bible form!
"The word of the Lord endureth for ever."
But even in this, men are endeavouring to shake our confidence. They would make it send forth a very uncertain sound; its history they would convert into fable; its miracles reduce to the level of everyday occurrences; its morality question; and its divinity overthrow by attributing to it bungles and blunders innumerable.
The book, however, remains unaffected-a certain guide and an invaluable friend. It cannot be rendered unintelligible by the cavilling, pedantry, and hypercriticism of sinful flesh; it cannot be biassed; its yeas are yeas and nays, nays. Unlike human friends, it is not fickle.
Act righteously and it will commend you; act wickedly and it will condemn you. Approach it rightly-honestly, considerately, and reverently-and it will bless you; approach it wrongly, and you will most certainly incur the vengeance of God, its author.
Bro AT Jannaway
The Christadelphian,Nov 1886