1 Peter i. ii.
The Scope of Salvation.
IT is clear that "the salvation of God" covers much more than what the popular use of the expression conveys. The term itself has become, alas! very "cheap" in our days of easy-going profession when the phraseology of Divine things is so often put in the place of the possession of the things themselves.
In the first two chapters of Peter's first epistle, the subject of "salvation" is looked at from various points of view. As I apprehend it, we have it in connection with THE PURPOSES OF GOD, in connection with THE APPROPRIATION OF FAITH, and thirdly, in connection with THE DEVELOPMENT AND GROWTH OF THE DIVINE NATURE IN THE CHILD OF GOD. (i. 5; i. 8, 9; ii. 2, R.V.).
It is with the first that the epistle opens. Salvation is regarded as the grand finale of all the ways of God with man, and, as thus considered, we have it not as yet. We are on the way to it. Not that there is any doubt in the apostle's mind as to our finally reaching it, though he speaks of the pathway towards this goal lying through a fiery oven of tribulation and testing. But there is a power commensurate with the grace that has called to salvation. The salvation is not yet "revealed"—it awaits "the last time" for its realization—but believers are "kept by the power of God," while that which is the object of their desire is only known to faith.
It is evident Peter has his eye on the end. Indeed, his two epistles bring us to the verge of Time. We seem to breathe the solemn air of Eternity. He looks beyond "dispensations" to the coming of "the day of God," in the which that which is material shall be removed to make room for that which will allow the Divine perfections a greater scope for display, and in which righteousness will be able to take up its undisturbed repose.
Peter does not make mention of that great event which the Apostle Paul, "by the Word of the Lord," brings before the mourners in Thessalonica (1 Thess. iv.). Was that one of the "mysteries" which "the teacher of the Gentiles" was specially commissioned to make known? Not that Peter slighted the more abundant revelations granted to his younger fellow in the apostolate. He goes out of his way to express fellowship with them (2 Pet. iii. 15, 16), though owning that there were many things in the writings of Paul, "hard to be understood," which could easily lead to "destruction" if handled by ignorance or instability.
Nor are we to say that, therefore, Peter's ministry is "Jewish." That he addressed Jews by nature, who had become "Christians" by grace (iv. 16), is evident, and no doubt he speaks to them in a way specially interesting to Hebrew believers. But his aim is clearly to bring them out of Judaism, and to establish them in "the true grace of God," which is Christianity, that which has divinely supplanted the legal order of Judaism (v. 12).
The Judaizing of professing Christendom is sad enough. What shall we say of the eagerness of many to Judaize the major part of the New Testament? Even the older Scriptures I would read in the light of the Lord, as the apostles did, drawing from them their spiritual essence, which is in the same life and nature as the choicest parts of those Divine communications which the hyper-dispensational critics of the present day have left to "the Church."
Dispensational differences there are. But they may easily loom too largely before us, overshadowing that which is of greater moment, the eternal principles of truth which dispensations were intended gradually to reveal. These will abide in their own Divine glory when dispensations have run their course. When the building is finished, the scaffolding is removed.
Peter then looks on to the winding up of everything in judgment, and the coming into view, out of the universal cataclysm, of a paradise of new creation blessedness, in which earth will be the mirror to reflect the purity and gladness of heaven; an “inheritance" better than the one bartered away by Adam, or the one forfeited by Israel; incorruptible in its nature, undefiled in its character, and that fadeth not away, but one in which God will be all in all.
In chapter i. he looks back into the infinitudes of Eternity before Time began, and he looks on to the infinitudes of Eternity when Time shall be no more. Again and again, he returns to this subject: "The end of all things is at hand; be ye, therefore, sober, and watch unto prayer;" "He is ready to judge the quick and the dead," taking no account of the millennium between; "The God of all grace has called you to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus," looking beyond the mediatorial kingdom committed to the Son of Man, to be yielded up again to the Father, when its object has been accomplished. Then—at "the end"—will be revealed all that was hidden in the womb of the Divine counsels, and all that the incarnation, death, resurrection, and glorification of the Son had in view to bring about.
And that salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time, will be a sufficient answer to the devil and his angels for all the havoc they have wrought in God's universe, and will also fully justify the marvellous patience of God through the revolving centuries with that which seemed to compromise His character, i.e., the continued triumph of evil, and with that which seemed to defy His power, i.e., the continued tyranny of death.
What the child of faith, has in the meantime, the "salvation" in which he finds a present deliverance from the evil, and a present victory over death, we hope to consider, God willing, in a second paper.
"Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls."
A SOUL-SALVATION, then, is what faith is entitled to appropriate at the present time. It is faith's present issue. To the Hebrew believers to whom Peter wrote, this was of special importance, as their rabbis had educated them to expect a material deliverance from the promised Messiah. The spiritual nature of His Kingdom was but slowly perceived even by many who were truly attached to Him when they saw "the King of Israel," as Nathaniel did, in "Jesus of Nazareth."
By this is not meant that earth does not fall within the bounds of the Kingdom committed to Christ. It verily does as well as heaven. Nor that in its final display, material blessings will not accompany it for the weary nations of this sobbing, distracted earth. To be sure, they will. War, slavery, corruption in high places, tyranny, those social inequalities which flow from might crushing right, these and kindred abuses which cause even "civilized" society to groan to-day, will be put an end to. "The meek shall inherit the earth" yet, when the perfection of meekness—the Lamb slain— shall be upon the throne.
But these are not the great things of the Kingdom. God begins with the inside of the platter. The real essence and substance of the Kingdom can only be perceived by that opening of the eye which accompanies the new birth. To be outwardly in the enjoyment of the results of the Kingdom, and to be inwardly, experimentally " translated" into it (Col. i. 13), are two different things. And this last is what believers already have.
Peter predicates three things of the "saved" soul. How often one hears the word, "My soul is saved!" Certainly in one sense not too often. But is there not a danger of Scripture terms being taken up without the reality and substance of the things spoken of being possessed? And when was there greater danger than to-day? In thousands upon thousands of tracts and "good" books, from numberless "gospel hall" platforms, &c, people are encouraged to call themselves "saved" because "the Bible says so," though the heart has never been broken under the hammer of the living Word. The result is "letter-made saints," whose religion consists in talking about things they admire, instead of feeding upon that which they possess; whose faith stands in the wisdom of men, and not in the power of God; who are soulish only, not having the Spirit. (Jude 19: Psykikos—soulish.)
What, then, is a saved soul according to the Apostle Peter? A soul of whom the three things spoken of in verse 8 of chap. i. are true in some measure: "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; receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls." That is, that unseen Saviour is the object of my confidence, the object, also, of my love; and, thirdly, the fountain of my joy.
One might have clear views of the work of Christ; be able to define the scriptural teaching of His atonement; have orthodox conceptions of the plan of salvation, of justification, sanctification, election, regeneration, &c. A man thus furnished might become a learned theologian, but a Christian, a believer, a saved soul, he is not, if that is all he has.
How did Peter become a saved soul? Flesh and blood did not communicate it to him; it was by the revelation of the Father. And one thus drawn, thus illuminated, he has Christ, he has life, he has a spark of that eternal love which the Father has to Christ, being born of the Father, born of God, who is "love," and in some measure, that blessed Christ, though, because unseen, an object of faith, is the source of his happiness. He is never more happy than when absorbed with Him.
And let none say this makes the salvation of the soul very difficult to reach. All is of grace, and therefore man's natural conception, his flesh and blood religious ideas, though logically true, will not save. Grace involves the creature's silence, that God might speak, and the creature's passivity, that God might act.
The Christianity of the apostles was a miracle. It was a stone cut out without hands, which proved itself superior to the combined forces of darkness. It overcame the world. Without prestige, honour, influence, ecclesiastical permits, or patronage, ignorant fishermen and a Jew of Tarsus, who purposely hid his learning, attacked and triumphed over the Roman empire at the height of its development. Sword, nakedness, hunger, death, could not stop them. In all these things, they were more than conquerors through Him who loved them. Their faith was triumphant, imperishable, invincible—because supernatural.
And is our twentieth-century Christianity supernatural? Or does it consist too often in pious phrases, orthodox confessions, a round of religious duties, careful walking, contention for "points," such as "ordinances," or "views," such as "prophecy," “typology," "Church truth," "holiness," instead of the outward expression of an inward principle, the life divine rising into dominion within us, a Christianity whose faith, hope, and love is divine in its character, celestial in its source, and supernatural in its communication?
The kind of conversions which are constantly being produced by the easy-going evangelism of the day, which might have taken place whether there be any Holy Ghost or no; and the counterfeit holiness which is satisfying the cravings of such, who still feel there is something wrong—a holiness which consists in walking on high religious stilts, instead of a lowly, self-judging knowledge of Christ, inwardly revealed by the illumination of the Father—are preparing Christendom for the reign of the false Christ as surely as Ritualism and Rationalism in the countries which are the heirs of the glorious heritage of the Reformation.
Thankfully does one own all that has its roots in "God's workmanship" in modern evangelistic activity. We bless God for every "sent" preacher. There have been, and are still, not a few. Such ever carry souls in their bosom. They travail in birth that Christ may be formed in them. These remarks do not for one moment apply to such, but to their imitators. One is rather anxious to press the importance of John i. 13, that those who are "born of God," are not such by "blood," i.e., by natural descent, nor by "the will of the flesh," i.e., by their own efforts, nor by "the will of man," i.e., by the efforts of another, but "OF GOD," without forgetting that God has His chosen instruments, whom He uses as and when it pleases Him. "It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe."
"Long for the spiritual milk which is without guile, that ye may grow thereby unto salvation, if ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious" (1 Pet. ii. 2, 3, R.V.)
WE now come to the third aspect of salvation, as seen in the First Epistle of Peter, and I beg the reader's careful attention to the reading from the Revised Version, quoted above, which is attested in this particular by many others who are competent to speak on points of criticism. There is then a present growing up unto salvation, and this growth is produced by the taking in of nourishment which is here called "the spiritual milk which is without guile."
What that "salvation" is, I take it, is unfolded in the rest of the chapter. It involves separation from the whole course of things down here—moral detachment from those principles which make up that system of evil called "the world." It means a going out to Christ, and becoming with Him a rejected stone, disallowed indeed of men, content to have the sweet assurance that with Him we too "are chosen of God and precious." It means a being built up in that character a spiritual house, where we can exercise collectively the privileges of a holy priesthood, and be strengthened to go out—to go back into the world, where we are now "strangers and pilgrims"—to exercise the responsibilities of "the royal priesthood"—that is, to show forth the virtues (margin) of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvellous light.
"Salvation," then, in this character, is a present answer to the purposes of God in His saints, that they might be for Him in this scene, a people for His possession, not in sentiment, but in reality and truth.
The opening verses show how this is reached. They were to get the teaching of God, to draw the Divine nourishment direct out of the breast—drinking out of the "Fountain," and not merely out of "cups." And this is the grand secret of growth. John pursues the same method, commending babes to the Anointing which abides in the saints, that they might be taught thereby; surely not to set aside oral instruction, through Divinely qualified teachers. His epistle is evidence to the contrary. But then, the great end of outward teaching is to lead the saints to that teaching which is inward. When people begin to worship the teacher, the principle of "system" is already introduced. Thus, in Eph. iv., the outward edification through gifted men, who are Christ's love-gifts to His Body, is to put the whole body in a state to "edify itself in love."
There may be too much ministry as well as too little. If saints were in a healthy state, they would need to break to each other only a little of the heavenly bread for their mutual refreshment when they come together. The great Melchizedek Himself is in our midst, the Minister of the Sanctuary, to feed us with that Bread and Wine of the Kingdom which ministers strength and, gladness to the soul (Matt. xviii. 20; Heb. viii. 2).
There is no sight more beautiful on earth than a company of believers sitting in reverential silence under the canopy of the over-shadowing Spirit, each one spiritually occupied with the Lord, each heart making melody to the Father, having fellowship one with another in the light that is too pure for mortal eyes, and where the beauty of the Lord is the feast of the soul (Ps. xxvii. 4; John iv. 23, 24; Heb. x. 19, 20; 1 John i. 7).
Alas, alas! how has Christendom fallen! How has the creature been exalted, how have men been seen as trees walking, how have "words" been the food sought after, instead of that "spiritual milk that is without guile," that teaching that is only then known when all flesh is silent within us, when all malice, and all guile and hypocrisies, and envies, and evil speakings are hushed by the consciousness of the presence of God! (2 Sam. vii. 18; Hab. ii. 20; 1 Cor. iii. 16).
And if thus taught, we shall be qualified to teach others. Let us hear our apostle again: "As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth, that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen" (iv. 10, 11.)
This kind of ministry is very costly. It has cost soul-labour, and its fruits are its best credentials. The salvation Peter wants us to grow into, is a complete deliverance from the maxims of the flesh and the principles of the world, that each believer may be the perpetuation in some measure of Christ down, here. We are to follow in His steps. His beauty is to be upon us. His virtues are to be shown forth (not merely preached about), by us. Christ has died, that through death and resurrection, He might multiply Himself in His saints, in whom He lives, not in sentiment, but in fact, spiritually present in His life imparted; and the beauty of that calm, meek, lowly, and gentle life, shedding, the same fragrance all around in His saints,, as it did—and that to perfection—in Him, in the days of His holy, though suffering flesh. (1 Pet. ii. 9-11, 21-25).
“The Witness” 1901