To hope is the first admonition Peter writes in his letter to the church. Hope perfectly, let your hope be more and more complete. Have your eye fixed upon the complete salvation, which is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
He adds another admonition when he writes, be ye holy, because the Lord your God is holy. Holiness and hope are closely related to each other. Unless one walks in holiness, he cannot hope and when walking in holiness, hope will always be active. Therefore, holiness is the requisite for the hope of the church.
Now he continues, let your walk be in fear.
To walk means that we move in a certain direction. A man’s walk is his conduct of life from beginning to end. We move in a certain direction, with a purpose in mind. We aim at something and try to reach the goal we have set before us. The whole of life reveals our aim or purpose and is determined by our innermost being from a spiritual point of view. We cannot separate our inner life from the external revelation. Our life is characterized, either by darkness and sin, or by light, righteousness and holiness. In the absolute sense of the word, as is our heart so also is our walk. There is simply no third possibility.
We say this is so in the absolute sense of the word. As a man is, he reveals himself before God. He is a man of the world or he is a child of God. Yes, it does not always look that way from our point of view. We consider and judge a man according to his outward manifestation, therefore, we call a hypocrite also a child of light, because we are not able in this case, nor in any case, to judge the heart. But we may safely say, hypocrites are the exception to the rule that what a man is, he will reveal in his walk. Hence, it is not difficult to know the difference between a child of God and a child of the devil. Both have their peculiar aspirations, their ideals, their aims and purposes. And will reveal their true spiritual character.
Peter adds that the walk must be a walking in fear.
Fear often means that one is afraid. A man is afraid when he hurts someone. The criminal is afraid when the law pursues him. He is afraid because he knows the judge will pronounce sentence in harmony with the offence. Thus it is with man over against man. The weak fear the strong, the wicked fear the righteous. The devil fears God when he thinks of the judgment to come. He trembles, knowing there is no way of escape and also knowing that the judgment of God shall be right. In this sense of the word there is torment in fear. Fear is never the result of love, but at the bottom of it lies the fact that man does not live the life of fellowship with the Lord.
There is, however, also a fear of love. This fear reveals itself in that its object is honored. In this sense the fear of the Lord is the fear for the Lord and thus a revelation of reverence. This implies that one is conscious of God’s presence. And because a man knows himself to be in the presence of God, his life reveals his love for God in that he is obedient to God’s Word. Such a man will not easily turn to the former life of sin, but to the contrary, he will walk carefully in the midst of the world. His thoughts are with the Lord and his life outwardly is a manifestation of the love for God and for His cause. Hence, the life of the Christian differs from the life of the natural man, just as light differs from darkness.
The question is, does Peter simply and exclusively mean that the Church must walk in that fear of love? Of course, he cannot very well admonish that they should not fear, because they are afraid of God. We may never be afraid of him. And we do well to emphasize this fact. Many a so-called evangelical preacher will use the fear of natural man as the theme for his religious talk. The torments of hell are presented in such a vivid picture, that man must be afraid of the consequences of sin. With the ultimate outcome, that it is best after all not to sin and be lost, but to be saved—heaven is so much nicer than hell. Throwing scares into people will make them turn from their evil, sinful ways one would expect? Why no, people are not that easily scared. They know and will get accustomed to that kind of preaching and continue in their sinful ways. Besides, Peter does not admonish at random, but sends this admonition to the Church of Christ Jesus. Pass the time of your sojourning in fear. This means that the pilgrim must be well aware of his own weaknesses. He must know also the many temptations and the possibilities of falling into sin. Work out your salvation with fear and trembling is repeated here, be it in a somewhat different way and presented in different words.
Yes, salvation is by sovereign grace only and not by our works. But that does not change the fact, that it will be ours through the way of sanctification. Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who worketh in you, both to will and to do according to his good pleasure. Hence, walk in fear does not refer to the fear which has torment in it, but it refers to that fear-knowing, self-knowing God’s holiness, whereby we become afraid of self and of the world and the devil. This is not the fear of cowardice, but of being careful not to rely on himself and not to underestimate sin. With Peter these admonitions were a question of experience. To boast, as if one is not susceptible to the many pitfalls, means, that such parties will fall by the wayside.
Secondly, as to the positive side of it, fear as a matter of reverence, shows the sincerity of the Christian in the midst of the actual battle. Behind that Godly fear we find the desire to be like our God. We often say to be of His party in the midst of the world. Rightly so. If ye call on Him as Father, and Peter means to say ‘you do,’ you acknowledge and confess thereby the most intimate relation between yourself and your God. For when we confess, that He is our Father, we are duty bound to reveal ourselves as His children.
The result of it will be, that in our walk, in our talk, yea, in the manifestation of our life we reveal that relation.
Notice, how this fact of the relation between God and His people finds its basis and its realization in another fact, always emphasized in Scripture, that we are bought. The general idea of being bought is, that the buyer claims ownership of his property. We must see this clearly. If anything or anyone is bought, it or he are at the disposal and under the command of the owner. The owner has a right to demand. In this case the owner is God, who bought us with the precious blood of Christ as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. Christ’s sacrifice was a perfect sacrifice, hence, a perfect price.
And this transaction of buying was not merely something outside of us, but also something in us. The ransom paid for the sins of God’s people made them the rightful property of the Lord. But this buying was not only a judicial action, but also a setting free from the power of the devil, sin and corruption. Free from the power of the life of self, they were liberated from what they had learned by tradition of their fathers. In one word, they were freed from the things of the flesh and of sin and thus set free, because the power of it was broken.
Most emphatically the Apostle impresses this fact upon their minds, by calling this fact in a peculiar way to their attention: Ye know that you are bought by the precious blood of the perfect Lamb. This knowledge is not a knowledge of a fact as such, but at the same time a matter of subjective experience. You personally know of that new power of the life of Christ implanted in you. Through it you have become a new creature. There is a new relation between you and your God. You call Him Father and He calls you His children. And even as the sacrifice was perfect, so that nothing was wanting, so is the new life, which by means of the ransom you received a perfect life, liberating you from the power of sin and corruption. Christ Himself thus became your example. God’s righteousness demanded a perfect payment and the Only Begotten gave it. He walked in perfect love and in perfect obedience to the bitter end, even the death on the cross. Therefore, it became possible by means of fulfilling the perfect demand of God with a perfect sacrifice to set you free and to instill in your hearts the life of freedom, the life of perfection.
To heed this admonition is a case of necessity.
First of all, because you call upon God as your Father. You confess the most intimate relation wherein you stand to Him. It is the relation of love. And this confession is not only a question of words. For, if you call upon God as Father, this Father judges without respect of persons. Generally speaking, God simply does not consider a person as such. !He never finds anything in you to be of consideration to make you worthy of His fellowship. He does not depend upon you. He is the Self-sufficient One.
Hence, you cannot bring Him anything that is not His own work.
Secondly, according to the meaning of “without respect of persons” carries in it the idea, that someone tries to present himself in such a way to make it appear as though he walks seemingly in harmony with the command of God. However, his virtues are a mask. He does not reveal his inner self. He hides behind the mask of his real self. He looks other than self. In other words, he is false in his appearance. He takes his own position, his place in society, his riches or name, that is, he takes all that impresses the world as the sufficient ground for a so-called Christian walk. But he cannot maintain himself before God, who is not fooled by any appearance, how nice it may seem, of any man. God judges the heart and as is the heart so also is the walk of life and nothing is hidden before the face of God, not even when a mask is put on.
Finally, you call on the Father, but remember this Father is the Righteous One.
He deals righteously, according to every man’s work. Now then, let your walk be characterized by that knowledge of his perfect righteousness and holiness.
Fear and in reverence serve Him.
You know how absolutely holy your Father is through righteousness revealing that He cannot and will not be satisfied through a walk in holiness.
And let your holiness and righteousness be that of your Savior, the lamb without blemish and without spot.
And you may call Him Father.