The Letters of Peter
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 1 - A Living Hope by the Resurrection

Reading: 1 Peter 1:1-5.

We have been occupied with the Lord's forming of Peter as a vessel for future usefulness, and we were seeing some of the things which constituted the difficulties in the clay which had to be broken down, adjusted, and brought into line with the Lord's mind. We saw that there was a great deal that had to be done before Peter could come to the place where it was possible for the Lord to use him as He subsequently did.

Now, when we come to Peter's letters, we are looking backward rather than forward. We see that work very largely accomplished and as we take up this first letter, we are at once able to recognise what a tremendous change has taken place, what an utterly new position Peter has come to occupy - an entirely new mentality and outlook, because he has come to see everything in a new form and in a new realm. His letters, as you know, are mainly occupied with the Kingdom, but he sees the Kingdom now altogether differently from how he was seeing it in the old days when it was to him an earthly and temporal expectation. It was now a heavenly and a spiritual kingdom.

Then he was looking for immediate realisation of his ambitions, the gratification of his senses in the matter of a temporal kingdom, with position and so on. Now he has come to see that for this dispensation the Kingdom is a matter of sufferings. His letters have much to say about the present suffering in relation to the Kingdom, and now he sees that the glory has to come. Suffering, and glory to follow. Suffering was no thought of his in the old days. He could not tolerate the thought of suffering. When the Lord spoke about His coming sufferings, Peter began to rebuke Him. He would not entertain the idea of suffering in relation to the Kingdom. Now here in this letter, he is saying very much about the present suffering.

Then it was immediate glory, the restoration of the kingdom to Israel, and immediate glory. Now in this letter it is "the glory which is to follow", and the glory which is a reward of suffering and of faithfulness.

He here takes up some of the great themes, the great matters, such as election and gives an altogether new point of view to the matter of election. It is not just Israel now, it is something more than the earthly Israel. He has something to say about redemption. The house of God, the priesthood, all these things are here in his letters, but they are all seen now as belonging to another realm and of another kind. Election is something beyond the earthly Israel.

Redemption is something very much different from what he had formerly thought. The house of God was no longer that earthly temple. It is a spiritual house about which he speaks. The priesthood is no longer the Jewish priesthood. It is our priesthood, it is a spiritual matter.

It is all in a new form, it is all in a new realm and if Peter had, as he had before, his own ideal of the covenant of God, now it is entirely transformed and the one word in his letters which expresses his new conception of the covenant of God is the word 'grace'. You can write with very large letters over what Peter says here the word 'grace'. That is the present form of the covenant of God.

So you see the change. But what a change! At what cost that change was brought about! What a terrible shock the cross of Christ was to him and to his brethren. It shattered everything for them, and it was at that cost of a terrible shattering of their expectations and hopes and all their ideas that this transition was made and this new position was reached. But you do not detect anything of regret here for the change. Rather he says, "though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice greatly with joy unspeakable and full of glory" (1:8). There is no sense of regret or of having lost something. The change has brought very great gain.

He writes to the sojourners, or those who are scattered in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, so that he is not writing to a people in possession of their earthly inheritance when he is writing about the inheritance. It is something not centred in any place on this earth. It is a heavenly inheritance.

Then he uses this tremendous phrase - "God... who begat us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, unto an inheritance incorruptible" (v.4). Well, we can enter into that with Peter. Everything went for him with the death of the Lord Jesus. In the resurrection of the Lord Jesus he got everything back in a new form, on a larger scale. The whole thing was transfigured through death and resurrection. The man who was in utter despair at the death of the Lord Jesus, who would say, "We had hoped that it had been He who should redeem Israel..." (though it was not Peter who actually said that, he would certainly agree). His hopes are shattered in the death of the Lord Jesus. But we are begotten again, not unto despair, but to "a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (v.3).

And this, as we know, has its abiding application, that the Lord brings us by the same way through shattering experiences where things which are in a wrong realm are completely brought to an end. For us it seems that everything of our world has gone. Then the touch of His resurrection recovers, but after a different kind, a different form, a different realm, and we do not regret it. It has not been loss; it is a living hope by resurrection.


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