It is a wonderful fact, that salvation is immutably certain for the elect strangers scattered in the midst of this world, both in the days of Peter and in ours. We have only reason to rejoice in God, our Savior. In the death and resurrection of Christ He hath begotten us unto a lively hope. And, we may be certain, this hope never puts us to shame, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts through His Holy Spirit. Nothing will ever separate us from the love of God in Christ. We are kept in the power of God through faith unto the salvation which is ready to be revealed in the last day.
Such is the glad tidings of the gospel!
In this gospel reality of God’s grace the believers are exultant with thankfulness; our joy is of the Holy Spirit, and it is a well of water springing up unto everlasting life.
Even our present sorrows cannot and may not dim our joys, but, strange and paradoxical as it may seem, these sorrows of this present life can only enhance the greatness of our joy and final salvation.
Writes Peter in these verses under consideration: “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, ye have been put to grief through manifold trials that the proof of your faith being more precious than gold that perisheth though it is proved by fire, may be found unto praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
These are wonderful words of consolation and encouragement for the sorrow-rejoicing pilgrim amid the weariness of his pilgrim journey.
How comforting is God’s gospel design in our lives! Think of it, weary pilgrim, what a great and glorious harvest God designs through the winds and trials of life. Sorrow indeed endureth for a moment, but joy cometh in the morning. When ye see all these sorrows in life come upon you, then lift up your heads in the firm trust, that your final salvation is very nigh. Lift up, therefore, the loins of your mind in spiritual sobriety of faith and hope in God.
Let us attempt to understand the details of this quoted passage, our text.
First of all we wish to remark, that the phrase “in which” evidently refers to the entire former verse. We rejoice in the faith in which we are kept by the power of God. We are indeed weak and helpless in ourselves. But the assurance of faith wrought by the Word and Spirit in our hearts makes us to rejoice exceedingly. It is a fact that God’s people are a glad people who love to speak of God’s guarding power. Always we rejoice in God’s faithfulness and strength.
To be sure, thus understood, our rejoicing is also in our having been begotten unto a lively hope. Furthermore, it ought also to be clear, that our rejoicing is in the hope laid away for us and kept for us in heaven. For truly we cannot rejoice in God’s keeping without rejoicing also in the hope unto which we are kept, the glorious and heavenly inheritance. But the central point, the immediate thought and truth that keeps us rejoicing is, according to the text, the immutable keeping of God.
Such is the status quo of the believers in this world.
Peter states this as a fact. He evidently employs the indicative mood. At once this statement of this glorious fact is an encouragement for the believers to great exaltation. It is what God has wrought and what He still does that encourages us to press forward. And this encouragement is an aspect of the power whereby He through His Spirit guards us from despair and despondency in our manifold trials and temptations.
What a glorious “status quo” of the church!
This unique character of God’s people calls for a special treatment from our heavenly Father. Hence, He sends us “manifold trials”. The trials that are our lot and portion in this life are not limited to a few isolated instances, says Peter. They are not few but they are many. Then too these many trials are not all of one sort and one pattern. Nay, they are of manifold and different kinds. Then it is poverty now it is riches, sometimes it is sickness, pain and weariness then again it is war and anxiety of heart. Thus it was in the days of Peter. Some must go to battle, our dear ones are sick or God places us upon a bed of languishing, when the days are long and dreary and when nightfall can be terrifying.
Oh, how manifold are God’s trying ways. They are as manifold as life itself.
But do we despair, or do we bless God and die? Do we fall by the way-side in unbelief and in brooding discontent with God and His dealings with us?
Not at all. For we are kept in God’s power thru faith! And this power of God is richly supplied each day anew we need it. God creates such situations in our life—in His paternal providence—that He gives us to taste the power of faith, and of faith only! We must learn to simply walk in faith; the dross must be taken out of it, and faith must stand forth before our sanctified and believing consciousness, as His great and glorious gift of power through which we are guarded.
This dealing of God with us is His chastisement of us in love. God does not spoil us; He deals with us as with sons and not as with bastards. And the rod of His chastisements strikes us in these “manifold trials”. They are not a cause of rejoicing but of sorrow when present. But being exercised thereby they work in our lives the peaceable fruit of righteousness.
Wherefore the apostle mentions the design of God, also in our text, exhibited in these manifold trials.
God sends us pain and He makes us to taste sorrow. The purpose? That we shall learn to kiss the rod that strikes us, knowing that it is for our benefit. The unbelievers curse God even upon their beds of sickness and they spend their last breath in cursing God. Oftentimes they literally “spend” their last strength in exasperation with the Most High. But God’s people become longsuffering and patient in suffering. The grand truth is that in the elect strangers, reborn by God’s power of the resurrection of Christ, are studious unto salvation in the School of God’s ways of affliction. They sing: Ere I was afflicted I went astray, but now I search out Thy commandments.
And what do we learn?
We learn more and more in the holy place of prayer, as the searching of faith, that the affliction that came to us was only because we really needed it. God would make us men and women, matured in the Lord. It was simply the all-wise pedagogy of our loving and holy Father. As the mother eagle stirreth up her nest so the Lord places us in the trials of life that on the wings of faith we may soar upwards, placing our hope and confidence alone in Him. And thus we find rest amid life’s sorrows in the design of the Architect and Author of our salvation. Thus our hearts are filled by faith with wisdom and prudence. We become wiser than our teachers. Oh, the joy of it; it must be expressed in tens of thousands of tongues.
We were speaking just now of this “design” of God with us.
God deals with us very jealously. Why not? Are we not His peculiar treasure in the earth? All the earth is His, but only we are His peculiar treasure. He has an inimitable glory in the saints. And the riches of this glory must appear. And is God not jealous of our faith, even as a husband is jealous of his beloved wife?
Nothing can compare with the preciousness of the saints.
To demonstrate this incomparable preciousness of God’s glory in the saints, Peter draws an analogy. It is the analogy between the attitude of a goldsmith toward His gold, and the attitude of the heavenly Father toward the faith of His children, through which faith He keeps them in this world unto glory. The apostle reasons from the lesser to the greater. Gold tried in the fire is precious. It is twice tried. Once to remove the dross and then again to show its approved character, to demonstrate that it is indeed pure and tried gold. Such gold is precious. But even so it perishes. The rust and corruption of time causes the most pure gold to perish; soon it loses its luster, it becomes simply a trinket that is cast aside as so much useless and worthless trash.
But such is not the case with the jewel, God’s gift of faith in its glorious activity. This faith is incomparably greater than gold. And it must become manifested through the manifold trials of life.
Three things must become evident from faith.
The first is that faith must be to “praise”. Praise of whom? The text does not express it, but evidently to God whose power and wisdom and might become manifest in this faith. “Praise” is expressed recognition of God as its author and finisher. The believer more and more sings: All that I am I owe to Thee. Thy wisdom Lord hath fashioned me. I give my Maker thankful praise; whose wondrous works my soul amaze!
Secondly, it must be unto “glory”. It must be such that the virtues of God are manifest in the faith that is ours. It must be emphatically seen that it is God’s glory in our faith.
Thirdly, it must be unto “honor”. Honor is recognition of dignity, God’s dignity in the saints.
Now this all must be manifested in the final day of Christ, when He shall be revealed in the Church.
This cannot be revealed now as yet. Now it is the time of trial. In the drama of the history of this world we see the saints live and die in faith, and we read: These all died in faith not having received the promise. But that is not the end of the matter. Presently comes the great day of the Lord, when the “age to come” shall be ushered in. Then shall the great preciousness of faith be seen as the victory that overcame the world.
In this knowledge we are saved in hope. Thus we are kept in the power of God through faith. Thus our hope throbs with life and our faith rests firmly on the rock-bottomness of God’s immutable promise.
Yes, we rejoice with exceeding great joy. And though now our eyes are filled with tears we rejoice in the prospect that God Himself shall wipe all tears from our eyes. This boon He keeps for us in store, and unto this great blessedness He jealously guards us through faith.
Jehovah is a man of war; Jehovah, the faithful God, is His Name!