“Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:
That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.”
Wherein ye greatly rejoice!
The reference is, of course, to the inheritance of which the apostle had been speaking in the preceding context. The incorruptible, undefiled, and unfadable inheritance which is reserved in heaven for you. The inheritance unto which, or better still, into which you are also preserved through faith by the power of God. The glorious inheritance which is ready to be revealed in the last time.
In respect to that inheritance ye greatly rejoice!
And, mind you, this you do while you are still in the midst of the world and are, if need be, subjected to manifold temptations. Thus there can be and should be joy amidst sorrow!
Wonderfully strange is the word of God here!
In the midst of sorrow, yet leaping for joy! Is it possible that these two can exist at the same time and in the same persons? Can anyone laugh, and at the same time weep? Can one be in heaviness and rejoice, in sighing and yet sing? Evidently the answer to these questions is affirmative.
Though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness, that is, have been put to grief, through manifold temptations.
The apostle has in mind the Christian, the elect stranger, who has become stranger because of his election, who, therefore has been chosen to be a stranger in the world. Who is also a stranger and a pilgrim because of the fact that he has been begotten again by the resurrection, that is, by the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. He walks, therefore, in the midst of the world with the principle of new life in his heart. It is the principle of new life that is also new to him. It is not of this world, but the world to come. It is precisely because of this that he no longer is in harmony with the world about him. The new life in him causes him to look for the things above. Therefore also the world does not know him. He is not of her party, and has no fellowship with her.
Now often this child of God finds himself encompassed by manifold, temptations. Just because he is the child of God does not make him immune to the sufferings of this present time. Often, in the providence of God he receives a full share of this suffering from the hand of God. Pain and misery, he, too, suffers in his body. Sorrow and grief are often his portion here below. How often waters of a full cup are poured out by the Lord for His people! Besides, there is also the suffering that is brought on, inflicted upon him by the world simply because he is a child of God. The world will not tolerate the elect strangers in her midst. If only they would sing and dance as the world, the world would leave them alone. But this they cannot do. They are not of the world. They have been called out of darkness into the life of God’s covenant. They belong to the party of the living God. Hence, they are often hated and despised. As they hated Him Who died for them and rose again from the dead, so they are given to bear in their bodies and souls a measure of the sufferings of Christ. Consequently they are often engulfed in manifold temptations, in afflictions and sorrows, in ridicule and scorn.
Temptations these trials and sufferings become from the point of view of the evil world. The world has in mind to cause the pilgrim to err from the path of truth, to denounce Christ, to despise and reject heaven and the inheritance reserved there for him. The world desires that he seek the things below. Thus, the term temptation always includes in it an evil element.
In various ways the children of God are being tempted. They must cope with the enticements of the world when the children of darkness offer them the glories of the present time. Before their feet are laid riches, gold and silver. Name and fame, glory and honour are proffered them if only they will deny their principles and play ball with the world. Then, too, if the pilgrims refuse to choose their belly for their god, the world will ridicule and despise them. And because the pilgrim by grace is meek, he does not like to be despised and ridiculed. This often makes him hesitate to remain faithful. And if the world does not succeed in drawing them from the path of duty, and the pilgrim does not mind the ridiculing, she will attack the elect strangers. She will threaten to kill the children of God with drawn sword, or burning stake.
Indeed, manifold are the temptations that encompass the children of God. This has been their lot throughout the ages. Thus it was in the day when the apostle penned our text. So it will be unto the end of the world. It is the rule without exceptions. To be sure, the child of God may escape for a time if he hides his light. But when he reveals himself as a stranger and pilgrim, he must expect manifold temptations.
In the midst of these sorrows, ye are to rejoice!
Do not misunderstand the Word of God here! There are those who explain the words “wherein ye greatly rejoice” as futuristic. They tell us that they refer to the last part of Verse 5 especially to the words “in the last time.” And these words refer to the second coming of Christ at the end of the world. Consequently the rejoicing will be then. So that there is a contrast in the text—on the one hand, we are in sorrow now because of manifold temptations, but in the day of Christ we will rejoice. But this is not what the apostle is saying!
We may grant that the term “wherein” refers to the day of Christ, when we shall behold our inheritance and rejoice with joy unspeakable. But the apostle would not have us rejoice only then, but right now, while we are in the midst of sorrow and grief. The meaning is, that the object of the Christian’s hope is so glorious that even the expectation of it causes him to leap for joy while he is in the midst of troubles and sorrows. Our hope enables us to laugh through our tears, to sing while we weep. Here, indeed, we find again one of those strange but wonderful paradoxes in the life and experience of the child of God. Though he dies every day, yet he lives and shall never die. Though he is full of trouble and sorrow, yet he walks as it were in heaven. Though he is persecuted and killed all the day long, yet he has the victory. Though he is poor, yet he possesses all things. Though he is sinful and subject to temptation, yet he is holy. So it is also in the text: while we are encompassed with many sorrows, yet we should leap for joy. While we are tempted to forget about our inheritance and find our pleasure in the things below, yet we rejoice with great joy in the object of our hope. But this is not all!
If you ask what it is that makes the child of God rejoice in sorrow, the answer is twofold: He rejoices also because his heaviness is but for a short time—”for a season.” His suffering is not eternal, nor even for a long time. The apostle assures us of the brevity of suffering. Considering that, we also have material for rejoicing.
Moreover, the apostle also suggests that the suffering and sorrow need not be severe and constant. He says “if need be.” This means that the sorrow and pain occurs only when we need it. We must understand well that not the world, the enemy ultimately determines who shall suffer, when they shall suffer, and how much they shall suffer. Rather, our God is at the controls. He governs our life: also when He thinks it necessary for us to be encompassed by manifold temptations He has a good reason. He purposes also to make this turn out to our profit—our salvation.
Our present trials and suffering are therefore divinely intended to be the trial of our faith.
And lest you should misunderstand the translation of our text, we must point out that it is not the intention of the apostle here to compare merely the trial of our faith with the trial of gold. He does not mean to emphasize that the trial of our faith is more precious than the trial of gold. Rather, he says, that faith having been tried is much more precious than gold that has been tried. In other words, the comparison is not between the trial of faith and the trial of gold; but he says, tested faith is more precious than tested gold. The reason being that gold, even tested gold, perishes; but faith does not.
O, indeed, there is nothing more precious than the faith of the child of God! That faith when it is given to us out of mere grace as a seed in regeneration is pure, holy, good, precious. As it grows under the rain and sunshine of God’s Word, its beauty and preciousness becomes all the more apparent. But that faith is given to and worked in those children of God who by nature are impure, unholy, faithless, worldly. That good, precious, pure faith, like precious gold ore, when it is revealed in the child of God as he is by nature appears with many impurities. As gold ore is smelted in the hottest fire to separate it from all impurities, so the child of God is placed in the crucible of afflictions and temptations to burn off all fleshly impurities, thus to allow the pure golden faith to shine as the precious gift of God that it is. When it shall have been completely delivered of all that is of man, it will be fully apparent that it was a wonderful gift of God’s grace. It must become clearly apparent that God not only preserves us into the inheritance by His power through faith, but that He also preserves the faith He has implanted in us through the purging fire of temptations.
Thus we can understand also the latter part of the text which expresses the divine and glorious purpose of it all.
That the tried faith may be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ!
Not the glory of the believer, as some would have it!
But the glory of Christ!
His glory is the ultima of tried faith! The trial is of Him. The tested faith is of Him also. Hence, the honour and praise is also His. Honour is that which is ascribed to the Workman for His work. Praise is the hour which the self-conscious creature ascribes to the Lord because of His glory.
In the appearing of Jesus Christ!
Now for a time He is hidden from us as He resides at the right hand of God, clothed with glory and honour. Presently He, as the sun piercing the clouds of the sky, shall reveal Himself in all the majesty of His glory.
Then, O yes, then, we shall praise Him unto Whom all honour and glory is due!