Charles Simeon Commentary - 1 Peter 1:3 - 1:5

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Charles Simeon Commentary - 1 Peter 1:3 - 1:5

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1Pe_1:3-5. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

AMONGST the many distinguishing characters of the true Christian, this is not the least remarkable, that he can rejoice in the midst of the heaviest tribulations. Others may be patient under them: but no man who is not born of God can attain this high state of feeling, to glory in them. The Christians to whom the Apostle wrote were in a state of very severe affliction, scattered over divers countries, whither they had been driven by the violence of persecution. Yet, how did the Apostle address them? in terms of pity or condolence? No: but in terms of the sublimest congratulation. He thinks not of what man has done against them, but of what God has done for them; and bursts forth in this rapturous strain: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who of his abundant mercy hath begotten us again!” The recollection of the mercy vouchsafed to them by regeneration swallowed up all thought of their trials, and superseded, for a time, all mention of their sufferings.

The terms in which regeneration is here spoken of will lead us to consider it in,

I.       Its nature—

Regeneration is a spiritual and supernatural change of heart—

[Many, when they hear this word, are ready to merge its import altogether in the rite of baptism. I deny not, but that the word “regeneration” is used in Scripture as synonymous with baptism; and it was properly so used; because in baptism there is a real change of state; and there was good reason to hope that, in the person submitting to that rite there was also a change of nature: nor can I doubt, but that, wherever baptism is duly received, there is a descent of the Holy Spirit upon the soul, to seal it with a blessing from on high. But the strongest advocates for baptismal regeneration will not deny, but that the spiritual gift is that in which we are chiefly interested; and that, without that, the outward act would be of little value. And God forbid that we should be disputing about a term, when our main concern should be about the blessing connected with it! All are agreed, that we must be baptized with the Holy Ghost: all are agreed, that we must be made “partakers of a new and a divine nature [Note: 2Pe_1:4.],” and become “new creatures in Christ Jesus [Note: 2Co_5:17.]:” in a word, all agree, that, in order to be children of God, we must be “begotten of God:” and that being admitted, I am indifferent as to the name by which it shall be called: call it a new birth, a new creation, a renewal in the spirit of the mind, or a conversion of soul to God; only let an entire change of heart and life be included in it, and (though one word may more strictly and appositely express it than another) we are satisfied. Suffice it to say, that “a new heart must be given us, and a new spirit be put within us;” and that this change is essential to us, as children of God.]

It is this that distinguishes the Lord’s people from all the rest of the world—

[The natural man possesses nothing but what he brought into the world with him. His faculties may be of the first order, so far as they relate to earthly things: yet is he as blind as others in relation to heavenly things. In order to comprehend these, he must have a spiritual discernment [Note: 1Co_2:14.]; which can only be given to him from above. This may be possessed by the poorest and most illiterate man, whilst it is withheld from the wise and prudent. In fact, God has so ordered it, that “what he has hid from the wise and prudent, should be revealed unto babes [Note: Mat_11:25-26.]:” and there are but “few of the wise and learned, in comparison,” to whom this gift is imparted; for “God has chosen the weak and foolish, on purpose to confound the wise and mighty [Note: 1Co_1:26-29.].” Nor is this a mere conceit: it is proved by the life and conversation of all who are born of God. They shew that they have a view of God and of eternity, which others do not possess: and, in consequence of this view, they manifest a heavenliness, both of heart and life, which others cannot attain. Being born of God, they live no longer to themselves, but unto Him who begat them, and to Him who redeemed them with his blood.]

But in the passage before us we are more particularly led to notice regeneration in,

II.      Its causes—

The great efficient cause of it is God—

[Jehovah, in the Old Testament, is called “the God of Abraham:” but to us he is revealed under the more endearing title of the “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” and our God and Father in him. In this relation he is considered as “begetting us again;” and forming us, as it were, altogether anew. This he does by the operation of his word upon the hearts and consciences of men, and by the Almighty power of his Spirit working effectually in them. Hence we are said to be “born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever [Note: 1Pe_1:23. See also Jam_1:18.].” In like manner we are said to be “born of the Spirit [Note: Joh_3:5-6.].” And this birth is not only distinguished from, but put in direct opposition to, the natural birth of man; for “to as many as receive Christ, to them gives he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name; who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God [Note: Joh_1:12-13.].” Here, then, the efficient cause of our regeneration is distinctly marked: it is not effected by any power which is possessed by the man himself, or by others over him, or by any created being: it must be traced to God himself, to God only, to God entirely, to God exclusively.]

The moving cause of it is his “mercy”—

[Man never merited it; never asked it; never of himself desired it. God, who sees us when dead in trespasses and sins, is moved only by his own “mercy” towards us, to impart unto us this transcendent gift. He saw us, like new-born infants, “lying in our blood; and bade us live [Note: Eze_16:6.].” O! who can ever appreciate this blessing aright? Who can ever estimate the blessing of being “begotten of God,” and “born of God?” To be begotten and born of an earthly monarch were nothing in comparison of it; nothing in respect of honour; nothing in respect of benefit. That we were created men, was grace; because we might have been of a lower order of beings, like beasts: but to be new-created, after that we were fallen, and by this new creation to be made sons of God, is not only “mercy,” but such mercy as never was vouchsafed to the angels that fell: no; it was reserved for us: and “abundant” mercy it was! The very angels in heaven have not in this respect been so highly favoured as we: for they can sing of grace only: whereas we, when we had abused and forfeited all the blessings of grace, had them all restored to us through the tender mercy of our God.]

The instrumental or procuring cause of it was the Lord Jesus Christ—

[In general, the blessings of salvation are traced to the death of Christ, as their procuring cause. And such, no doubt, it was: for by it we are reconciled to God, and obtain the remission of all our sins. But here the blessing of regeneration is traced to the resurrection of Christ; and with great propriety; because, if “he was delivered to death for our offences, he was raised again for our justification [Note: Rom_4:25.].” To enter into this aright, we should place ourselves in the situation of the immediate followers of our Lord. What comfort should we have derived from the death of our Divine Master? We might be told, indeed, that he offered himself a sacrifice for our sins: but how should we know that sacrifice was accepted in our behalf? It was his resurrection alone that put that matter beyond a doubt: and therefore we find the Apostles everywhere insisting principally on this [Note: Act_2:24-36; Act_3:15; Act_17:3; Act_17:18; Act_17:31.], as proving, beyond all reasonable doubt, that he was indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world [Note: Rom_1:4.]. Moreover, it is as a risen Saviour that “he lives to make intercession for us [Note: Heb_7:25.];” and is enabled to send the Holy Ghost down upon us, for the commencing and perfecting of a work of grace within us [Note: Act_2:33; Act_2:38-39.]. Hence St. Paul, speaking of the death of Christ as prevailing for our salvation, yet lays the greater stress upon his resurrection [Note: Rom_8:34; Rom_5:10.]: and hence also, in order to attain higher eminence in the divine life, he desired to “know Christ in the power of his resurrection [Note: Php_3:10.].” So that our regeneration may well be ascribed to the resurrection of Christ, not only on account of its proving his death to have been available for us, but as through it he is empowered to send down the Holy Spirit upon our souls.]

We must, however, proceed yet further to trace this work in,

III.     Its effects—

Of its sanctifying effects I have spoken under the first head. But we must on no account omit to notice those great benefits which it confers,

1.       In entitling us to heaven—

[Repeatedly does St. Paul mark the indissoluble connexion which God has established between our sonship and our inheritance: “If sons, then heirs, heirs of God through Christ, and heirs of God with Christ [Note: Rom_8:17. Gal_4:7.].” Now, the inheritance to which God has begotten us is nothing less than all the glory of heaven; an inheritance, “not corruptible,” as earthly treasures, “which moth and rust will corrupt;” “not defiled,” like the earthly Canaan, by wicked inhabitants, (for “into heaven nothing entereth that can defile [Note: Rev_21:27.];”) “not fading,” by use, or age, or enjoyment, like the pleasures of sense: no, it is an inheritance worthy of God to give to his beloved children, even that inheritance which Christ himself, as our Forerunner, our Head, and Representative, already occupies. “To a lively hope of this” are we begotten, whilst yet we are in this vale of tears; and to the full possession of it, as soon as we go hence.]

2.       In securing to us the possession of it—

[In two ways is this inheritance secured to us: “it is reserved by God for us; and we are kept by God for it;” so that neither shall it be taken from us by any enemy; nor shall we be suffered to come short of it through our own weakness. This is what God promised, by his prophet of old: “I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me [Note: Jer_32:40.].” O inestimable gift! This security is the crown of all. What would regeneration be without it? What would it be to be made sons of God, and heirs of heaven, if we were left to ourselves, to engage in our own strength our great adversary? Truly there is not one of us, however elevated he may at this moment be, who would not, in a very short space of time, if left to himself, become a child of Satan, and an heir of hell. But the power of God! what shall withstand that? or who shall fail, that has that exerted for him? All that is required of us is, to “have faith in God [Note: Mar_11:22. Joh_14:1.].” If only our faith be as a grain of mustard-seed, there is nothing that we shall not be able to effect [Note: Mat_17:20.]. But “Christ has prayed for us, that our faith may not fail; and therefore, though Satan desires to have us, that he may sift us as wheat,” yet shall he not finally prevail against us [Note: Luk_22:31-32.]; but “shall be bruised under our feet [Note: Rom_16:20.],” even as he was under the feet of our triumphant Saviour: for “because HE, our Almighty Saviour, liveth, we shall live also [Note: Joh_14:19.].” Like persons in an impregnable fortress [Note: This is the precise import of the word ö ñ ï õ ñ ï ý ì å í ï ò .], we may defy all the powers of darkness, and smile at all the confederacies both of earth and hell.]

Observe then, beloved,

1.       How happy are the saints, the sons of God—

[If we consider only the “hope,” “the lively hope,” to which they are begotten, methinks they are by far the happiest of all mankind. But, if we take a view of the inheritance itself, the wonderful inheritance to which they are begotten—and, above all, the security which they possess for the ultimate enjoyment of it—what shall I say? Are they not happy? Or can they be placed in any circumstances whatever (sin only excepted) wherein they are not proper objects of envy to the whole creation? Be it granted, that they are as much oppressed as ever saints were, and as destitute of all earthly comfort; still will I congratulate them from my inmost soul, and bid them exclaim with joy and gratitude, “Blessed be God, who hath begotten us again!” — — —]

2.       How pitiable is the condition of the unregenerate—

[You, alas! have no part or lot in the felicity of God’s children. Never having been begotten of him, you have no relation to him, nor any title to his inheritance. Ah! think, then, whose children ye are [Note: Joh_8:44.], and with whom you must take your everlasting portion [Note: Mat_25:41.]! I tremble to announce such awful tidings. But I thank God that yet ye may become new creatures: for, as all the saints once were what ye now are, so may ye become what they are [Note: Gal_4:12.]. Yes, the word, which is God’s great instrument, yet sounds in your ears: and it is as powerful as ever, to convert souls to him [Note: Heb_4:12.]. Only receive it into your hearts by faith; and it shall “turn you,” as it has unnumbered millions of your fellow-creatures, “from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God [Note: Act_26:18.].” Only believe in Christ, and you shall instantly become sons of God [Note: Joh_1:12. before cited, with Gal_3:26.], and be enabled to look up to heaven as your everlasting inheritance. My dear brethren, “make not light of” this great salvation. Do but think how “ready it is to be revealed,” and how certainly it shall be attained by all who believe in Christ. May God now pour out his Holy Spirit upon you all, that not one of you may “receive this grace of God in vain!”]