God’s Abundant Mercy

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” —I Peter 1:3

THE LIVING HOPE highlighted in this text, is possible only because Jesus, our Lord and Master, sacrificed his life on our behalf and then was resurrected from the dead by God, his Father.

The Apostle Paul called this ‘living hope’ to which we have been begotten by God, a “high calling,” in Philippians 3:14. He said: “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” And we read again, in Hebrews 3:1, “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus.” What a grand calling it is! Those who have received this invitation have been called “to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven.”—I Pet. 1:4

Paul, when writing to the Corinthian brethren on this matter, stated that there were many kinds of flesh: the “flesh of men, another of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds.” (I Cor. 15:39) He went on to say that the heavenly or celestial world is very similar to our earthly environment: There are also celestial bodies, “which differeth from [one] another,” and he used the material heavens as an example: “There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.” (vss. 40,41) But despite the fact that there already existed many types of celestrial life—serephim, cherabim, etc.—Jesus told his disciples, “I go to prepare a place for you, … that where I am ye may be also.” (John 14:2,3) This ‘place’ prepared by Jesus is a unique “mansion” (vs. 2) which has been reserved by our Master as an inheritance for all those who have been called of God, and “who are kept by the power of God through faith.”—I Pet. 1:5

Faith is such a simple and familiar concept to us that we might at times underestimate its importance. But the apostle tells us that it is so vital that “without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Heb. 11:6) Peter described it as “being much more precious than of gold that perisheth.” (vs. 7) And Paul reminds us that, “all men have not faith.” (II Thess. 3:2) It is a quality which must be developed by those who will prove to be overcomers at the close of their Christian careers. Indeed, whosoever is begotten to this new and wondrous hope “of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith!”—I John 5:4

What a wonderful hope! If faithful, when our salvation has finally been consummated, we shall see our Redeemer, Christ Jesus, and our Heavenly Father, face to face! The Apostle John wrote, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God. … Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” (I John 3:1,2) And again in Revelation he wrote, “The throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it [the New Jerusalem]; and his servants shall serve him: and they shall see his face.”—Rev. 22:3,4

I Peter 1:6

Continuing our consideration of the Apostle Peter’s first epistle, we read in the 6th verse, “Wherein ye greatly rejoice” in the “salvation ready to be revealed in the last time, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations.” The temptations—or more correctly, ‘trials’—Peter calls to our attention, have been permitted to come to us by God. They are for our benefit as New Creatures in Christ Jesus since they help us to develop and to display the fruits and graces of the Holy Spirit under difficult conditions, proving our faith and trust in God. The idea contained in the word ‘trial’ is not only that of a difficult experience, but of one which ‘proves’ our faith. See the Wilson’s Emphatic Diagiott rendition of I Peter 1:7.

Each experience we undergo is a direct result of God’s providential overruling in our lives. For this reason when difficult times try us we should never ask, “Why do these things happen to me?” Rather, we should say, “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Rom. 8:28) Is our faith strong enough to believe that all things are working together for our good when difficult times make life hard to bear or even to understand? There is no easy way to salvation, and, as we read in Acts 14:22: We must “continue in the faith,” because it is through “much tribulation” that we shall “enter into the kingdom.” As the hymn puts it:

“Am I a soldier of the cross, a follower of the Lamb?
    And shall I fear to own his cause, or blush to speak his name?
Must I be borne to Paradise on flowery beds of ease,
    While others fought to win the prize, and sailed through bloody seas?

“Are there no foes for me to face? Must I not stem the flood?
    Is this vain world a friend to grace, to help me on to God?
Sure I must fight if I would reign; increase my courage, Lord;
    I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain, supported by thy Word.

When thine illustrious day shall rise, and all thy saints shall shine,
    And shouts of victory rend the skies, the glory, Lord, be thine!

Romans 8

In Romans 8, we read Paul’s words, when he said that those who were ‘called according to God’s purpose’ were ‘predestinated’ to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, and to become like him: “Whom he [God] did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” (vss. 29,30) When those who are ‘called of God’ have been found faithful in carrying out their covenant of sacrifice even unto death, they will receive the glory, honor, and immortality which has been promised to them. Not until then will they actually be in the ‘image’ of God’s dear son.—Rom. 2:7

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” (I Cor. 12:27) Earlier in the chapter he stated, “As the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.” What a high calling this is! We are even now considered by God as being part of the body of Christ—the Christ class!

But how can we who are members of a sinful, dying race, be invited to be a part of the body of Christ? Paul reminds us that “whom he called, them he also justified.” (Rom. 8:30) Our justification is as a result of our Lord Jesus’ sacrificial death followed by his resurrection, when he “appeared in the presence of God, for us.’’ (Heb. 9:24) Through this satisfaction of justice and our faith in it, we are reckoned as having been redeemed from condemnation. (Rom. 8:1) “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation [satisfaction] through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past.” (Rom 3:24,25) “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”—Rom. 5:1,2

In the lesson of the Tabernacle and its sacrifices, when the bullock was slain on behalf of Aaron and his house, the blood of the bullock was taken into the Most Holy and sprinkled on and before the Mercy Seat—the seat of divine justice. (Lev. 16) It was there that a picture was given of the atonement made for those who would, centuries later, be ‘the called’ of God. Because Jesus’ sacrifice—which was pictured by the death of the bullock as an atonement for sin—was presented to the Heavenly Father and accepted by him, the ones who are called of God are acceptable to the Heavenly Father. They are called to participate with Jesus in the sin-offering sacrifices for the world’s atonement.

This is illustrated for us in the types and shadows of the Atonement Day sacrifices of ancient Israel. (Col. 2:17; Heb. 8:5; 10:1) Paul spoke concerning the antitype of this type when he said, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”—Rom. 12:1

In Romans 8, Paul continues his wonderful dissertation, saying, “Whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (vss. 30-32) What a tremendous, matchless gift the Lord proposes to give to those who have faith, and who have been called by him—shall he not freely give us all things!

Our Glorious Hope!

These heavenly promises are almost too wonderful to contemplate! But because God has given them to us in his Word as inspiration and encouragement to faithfulness, we know that we will, if faithful, be part of the ‘seed of promise’ which will eventually crush Satan under its feet.—Gen. 3:15; Rom. 16:20

Satan has endeavored ceaselessly, from the very beginning of mankind’s fall into sin, to destroy the ‘seed of promise’. And those who have been called to the heavenly inheritance have a formidable adversary in Satan. The Apostle Peter reminds us that we must constantly be on the alert against this wily foe: “Be sober, be vigilant [watchful], because your adversary the Devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour; whom resist steadfast in the faith.”—I Pet. 5:8,9

Satan is still our adversary today, and he is still seeking whom he may devour. He has already devoured the world, and is its god. (II Cor. 4:4) It is our faith that Satan is attempting to destroy, and his most useful tools include introducing subtle thoughts and suggestions into our minds which are meant to undermine our faith in God and his promises. How can we resist this one who is so powerful, and who is actively engaged in his endeavors to ensnare us with a view to our ultimate destruction? We can do no better than to look to our forerunner—Christ Jesus—who faithfully avoided all Satan’s entrapments, and who has now “entered into that within the veil.” (Heb. 6:19,20) Jesus’ powerful weapon was the Word of God, which led him and kept him close to his Heavenly Father through the power of the Holy Spirit. In each instance when Satan tried to tempt Jesus, his answer was: “It is written.”—Matt. 4:4,7,10

In I Peter 5:6-10, the apostle gives us another key to successfully overcoming our intimidating adversary. He said: “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” And, after warning us about Satan, continued: “Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.” If we do resist steadfastly to the end of our earthly course, we will be proven worthy of a share in the spiritual phase of the kingdom.

Not only do we have the faithfulness of our Master as a guide to the acceptable pathway in life, but we must follow him ‘whithersoever he goeth’. We also have many other faithful ones of the past as inspiration and examples. There are, for instance, the Ancient Worthies, the Apostles, and the disciples of Jesus in his day. Peter tells us that we have examples among us even now to emulate: “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock.”—I Pet. 5:1-3

Peter advised us that our best defense against our great adversary, Satan, is to be clothed, not with the garment of self-righteousness, but with the armor of humility, because we know that “God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.” (I Pet. 5:5) James fortifies this argument by reaffirming: “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.”—James 4:6-8

Overcoming through Faith

During his lifetime, Peter had learned a great deal from his experiences, even as had other footstep followers of the Lord. He knew that Jesus had suffered many difficulties and trials, and had been triumphant in them. Peter was very willing to follow in the Master’s footsteps, and in this way to share his triumph. According to tradition, he felt that it would be inappropriate for him to be crucified in the same manner as his Lord—he did not feel worthy. Instead, he requested that he be crucified upside down. Whether tradition is accurate or not we do not know, but we are certain that it faithfully represents the sacrifices Peter was willing to make.

And we, too, understand, as we offer ourselves in sacrifice, that since we have been called of God, this scripture refers to us: It is God that worketh in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Phil. 2:13) As a result, we have been “called unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus,” after we have suffered awhile, we will be made perfect, established, strengthened, and settled, to God’s glory.—I Pet. 5:10,11

Other apostles wrote about the fact that glory, honor, and fullness of life would follow the short period of suffering we endure in our lifetime here on earth—the Apostle John wrote concerning those things, that our “joy” might “be full”! (I John 1:4) God’s unmerited favor and grace to those he has called to be joint-heirs with his Son should not be, and is not, without cost. But Paul assures us that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us”!—Rom. 8:18

Paul knew much about suffering. He had been stoned and left for dead; shipwrecked—in the sea a day and a night. He had been beaten and imprisoned. He had suffered the perils of the sea, perils of heathen, perils from the Jews, perils in the wilderness, perils of robbers. He had been weary, cold, naked, hungry, thirsty. Yes, and as well as all this, he had the “care of all the churches.” (II Cor. 11:24-28) Yes, he had suffered many hardships for Christ’s sake, but he knew that these experiences were nothing to be compared with the glory to come when he would receive “the crown of life.”—Rev. 2:10

The Heavenly Father gave this glory first to our forerunner—Christ Jesus—at his resurrection, when he went “within the veil.” (Heb. 6:19) If faithful, we, too, upon our resurrection, will be in the likeness of our Lord, and will share with him in his glory, honor, and immortality. It is our hope to hear the new song sung concerning us: Thou “hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.” (Rev. 5:10) The Revelator expressed this joyous thought again in these words: “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.”—Rev. 20:6

The body of Christ, his bride, his church, are called for the purpose of reigning with him in his thousand-year kingdom, to assist the world of mankind up the highway of holiness, and so that all may know God and give glory to him. The thought that they will be ‘priests of God’ has the idea that they will mediate between fallen mankind and the high and lofty God, as did the ancient Jewish priesthood, until mankind will be restored to the perfection lost in Eden, at which time they will no longer need the intercessory powers and duties of the holy priesthood.

During the time of our pilgrimage here on earth, while we have been called to this high calling and are striving to make our calling and election sure (II Pet. 1:10), we are told to “show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (I Pet. 2:9) As we preach the Gospel “unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8), we become more firmly established, more unyieldingly strengthened, and more deeply settled in our Christian character—more certain of our hope—more crystallized in righteousness—more full of faith In our God and his purposes—more resolute in the narrow way.

It is of the utmost importance that we have our faith “founded upon a rock” (Luke 6:48), solidly established upon a ‘thus saith the Lord’, and not upon the shifting sands of false doctrines or traditions. The thought of a solid foundation, built upon a rock and not upon sand, is contained in Paul’s words to the Colossians: “Continue in the faith, grounded and settled.”—Col 1:23

Peter said, “I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth. Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ has showed me.” (II Pet. 1:12,14) Peter knew that his earthly time was drawing to an end, and he had a great desire before he left them to encourage the brethren to be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might. He said, “Brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus, Christ.”—II Pet. 1:10

Finally, he said, “Beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. … Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever. Amen.”—II Pet. 3:14,18

Dawn Bible Students Association
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