COMMENTARY ON FIRST PETER
"13Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ"KJV (1 Pet 1:13)
More and more, the importance of "focus" and "emphasis" is becoming apparent to me. Distraction is a master stroke of the devil, and it has reached unprecedented proportions in our day. The social and spiritual environment in which we are living has induced a flood of theological diversions. Matters are regularly emphasized that have little or nothing to do with God, Christ, faith, or eternity. In many Christian circles, the primary issues are not even mentioned in Scripture, to say nothing of not being emphasized. All of this may appear innocent, and having no impact upon spiritual life. But this is not the case at all. In this text, the Holy Spirit will draw us back into the center of Divine purpose, showing us that our focus is of primary importance. He does not allow us to define the proper center of attention, but firmly directs us to the only one that is acceptable to God. He will point us to "the end," and admonish us to concentrate upon it.
A CHALLENGE TO SPIRITUALLY ACTIVE THINKING
"Therefore, gird up the loins of your mind . . . " NKJV The NASB reads, "gird your minds for action," and the NIV reads "prepare your minds for action." Here, the KJV version is a more literal translation: "Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind."
THE LOINS. What are the "loins?" The word refers to a spiritual aspect of our persons that parallels nature. Literally, the word means "hip," and was taken to mean the area in which generative power existedThayer. From the standpoint of lineage, Jesus was the "fruit" of David's "loins" (Acts 2:30). The "sons of Levi" are said to have come out of "the loins of Abraham" (Heb 7:5,10). The "loins of our mind," therefore, refers to the productive capacity of the mind-a capacity that is unleashed in spiritual reflection. The "loins" are included in spiritual exhortations. "Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning . . . having your loins girt about with truth . . . " (Lk 12:35; Eph 6:14).
GIRD UP. This refers to the manner in which those of the East prepared for intense activity. Still those in this section of the world wear long robes, which cover the entire body. In ordinary activities, the robe hangs loose down to their feet. When, however, excessive movement and activity are required, they gather up their loose robes, tucking them under a "girdle," or wide belt, about the waist. The "girdle" was not for looks, but was the means of freeing the person for activity. The High Priest's garments included an intricately woven girdle (Ex 28:8). John the Baptist had a "leather girdle" or belt about his waist (Matt 3:4). This part of Paul's attire is also mentioned (Acts 21:11). The glorified Savior was seen with a golden girdle about His chest (Rev 1:13). Those sent on a mission were to gird their loins so they could move more swiftly and freely (2 Kgs 4:29; 9:1). The spiritual girdle of the believer is declared to be truth: "girt about with truth" (Eph 6:14).
The girding of the loins of the mind, therefore, refers to freeing ourselves of distracting influences, and preparing for extensive and productive thought. This is the extreme opposite of drunkenness, revelry, and other forms of activity that render the mind dull and unproductive. When confronting Job, God called him into the arena of intense thought. "Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me . . . Gird up thy loins now like a man: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me" (Job 38:3; 40:7). When the Lord sent Jeremiah to recalcitrant Israel He said, "Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them" (Jer 1:17).
The metaphor is powerful. Just as those engaged in a long journey were to gird up their loins, so believers are to prepare for a long and arduous journey. The gate through which they enter the race, and the highway on which they travel, are too difficult for the flesh. They will not complete the journey if they are casual and uninvolved. Further, their minds are to be involved in the fullest sense of the word. Every distraction and encumbrance is to be subordinated, and every thought is to be brought "into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor 10:5). That is involved in girding up the loins of the mind.
Setting, or placing, our affection on things above is also entailed in girding up the loins of our minds. Like a long flowing robe, affections can hinder swift movement and dexterity of spiritual thought. They must be gathered up under the belt of truth, enabling us to develop a proper focus, and hear Him who is speaking from heaven. Many a professed believer is distracted and disjointed in their thinking. They are by no means prepared to think after a godly manner. Thinking is not their strong point, but is the cause of their weakness and spiritual retardation. They have not girded the loins of their mind.
Properly girded, or prepared, your mind can be a source of great comfort and strength. The reason for this is obvious: God has given us much to think about-much to ponder and contemplate. When Paul said to the Philippians, "Think on these things," he was saying "gird up the loins of your mind." Paul confessed the manner of the Kingdom when he wrote, "with the mind I myself serve the law of God" (Rom 7:25). But the loins of the mind must be girded, prepared, and readied for involvement in heavenly contemplation.
THE MATTER OF SOBRIETY
" . . . . keep sober in spirit . . . "NASB Here is a word, and concept, that is rarely emphasized in the contemporary church. There is even an approach to the worship of God that imagines entertainment and "fun" to have superior value. All such approaches occur because of the blindness of the heart. Thus, the seriousness of the believer's situation is not known. Not only is the child of God engaged in a journey for which only faith can equip him, but he is opposed by powers of darkness that are staggering in power and influence. Additionally, the believers carry about in them the remnants of the old nature, which are inclined to this condemned world, and shout for their attention. The matter of being "sober" addresses this situation. It is not an option, but a requirement.
The word "sober" means "self-possessed, without excesses of any kind, moderate and discreet."ISBE The nature of spiritual life does not allow for being swept up in irrational behavior, or being lulled into complacency. The antithesis of sobriety would be drunkenness, where the individual is made vulnerable to all Satanic devices. In particular, this a spiritual intoxication that causes irrational thought and flawed spiritual vision. Anything that throws the mind out of gear, or moves us toward the realm of pure passion and fleshly excitement contributes to a lack of sobriety, and can be lethal to the soul.
The NASB version adds the words "in spirit," which the spirit of the text supports. The sobriety of which he speaks is in the area of the mind. In this use, being "sober" involves disentangling ourselves from the affairs of this world. It is written, "No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier" (2 Tim 2:4). The whole thrust of this passage has to do with the inner man: 1-anticipating an inheritance reserved for us in heaven (1:4), 2-rejoicing in the midst of trial (1:6-7), 3-believing in One we do not see (1:8), and 4-the salvation of the soul (1:9).
Sobriety is a focused heart, an undistracted mind, and a fixed affection. Often the Spirit admonishes the people of God concerning being sober. In view of the imminent return of our Lord, believers are admonished, "Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober" (1 Thess 5:3-6). There are certain protective provisions that cannot be appropriated unless we are sober. "But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation" (1 Thess 5:8). Because of the stealth and aggressiveness of the devil, we are exhorted, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Pet 5:8). The soul that is not alert, is erratic and unstable in spiritual thought, or is unfocused in affection, cannot escape the snare of the devil.
There is another aspect to being sober that should be noted. The world, with all of its glitter and allurements, can easily take hold on us if we dabble with it. The smallest taste of sin tends to addict the soul, pulling it into the whirlpool of sin and condemnation. Although "the pleasures of sin" are only for a season (Heb 11:25), no person dabbling in them views them in that way. There is such a thing as "the sin which so easily entangles us"NASB (Heb 11:1). Believers are very much like a body of people camping in the dark, with wild beasts surrounding their camp, waiting for a convenient moment to attack. Were it not for our spiritual weaponry, it would be an intimidating situation, indeed. Sobriety arms the soul for this situation, keeping us both alert to danger and sensitive to the Lord.
There is no stage of spiritual life in which being sober is not required. Those in the extremities of life in Christ are alike exhorted to be sober. At the threshold of spiritual life, it is required: "Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded" (Tit 2:6). Older ladies are to "teach the young women to be sober" (Tit 2:4). Those in the twilight of life are also exhorted: "That the aged men be sober" (Tit 2:2). For that matter, the grace of God teaches us that "we should live soberly . . . in this present world" (Tit 2:12). Rest assured, this will require devoted effort on your part-the girding up of the loins of your mind. If you want to win the prize, you must master the art of being sober, alert, and focused on that prize.
THE FIXATION OF OUR HOPE
" . . . fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ."NASB The personal involvement of the believer in salvation is apparent throughout Scripture. At no point is there allowance for indifference or a lack of participation in God's "great salvation." In fact, it is not possible to escape the wrath of God if that salvation is neglected (Heb 2:2-3). Notwithstanding this very clear teaching of Scripture, it is exceedingly rare to find a professing Christian these days that is not living in nearly constant neglect of that salvation. It is an alarming situation.
Here we are summoned to do something with our "hope." Elsewhere we are reminded that God has given us our hope. "Our Father . . . hath given us . . . good hope through grace" (2 Thess 2:16). We are stewards of this hope, and are responsible for keeping it. In fact, our identity with Christ requires the maintenance of this hope. "But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end" (Heb 3:6). Now, through the Holy Spirit, Peter tells us what to do with our hope.
The various translations of this phrase confirm its centrality in spiritual life. "Hope to the end"KJV, "rest your hope fully"NKJV, "fix your hope completely"NASB. The point here is that the objective of the hope given to you is to appropriate what Jesus will bring with Him when he returns. That is "the end," or objective, of the hope. Our hope will not be a protective helmet unless it is fully set on that objective, making no allowance for any other ultimate goal. Sobriety is required because the things of this world put hope to sleep, and remove it from the throne of the heart. Hope must be fed by faith, else it will die. As soon our "eternal inheritance" fades from view, and is no longer prominent in our hearts, hope begins to wane. It must be "fixed," or resolutely placed, on what is ahead for us.
The consideration of "grace" is always profitable. There is an approach to grace that only associates it with removing our sins and accepting us even though we are unworthy in our own persons. While those are precisely correct, they are by no means a full view of the grace of God. You may recall that "the grace of God" was upon our blessed Lord Jesus when He "grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom" (Lk 2:40). That grace certainly had nothing whatsoever to do with any sin in Jesus, or any unworthiness found in Him. Now the Spirit points to another time when sin and unworthiness will not be the matter addressed by grace: "the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed."NIV It is then that we shall "be like Him," and be seen "with Him in glory" (1 John 3:2; Col 3:4). At that time, we will be completely divested of every vestige of sin. We will begin a reign with Jesus that has no terminal point, but continue throughout "the ages to come" (Eph 2:7).
The grace of God is not only relevant while we are in this world, surrounded by weakness and hounded by the devil, it is also relevant in glory, where there is no weakness, and the devil cannot be found. Thus it is written, "that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus"NKJV (Eph 2:7). The grace of God has appeared (Tit 2:1), but not in its fulness! There is yet a grace "to be brought" to us at "the revelation of Jesus Christ." Then we will possess the fulness of the salvation of which we now have but the firstfruits-a salvation "ready to be revealed" 1 Pet 1:5). So central is the return of our Lord, that Peter has already referred to it four times. Salvation will then be revealed (v 5). Our faith will be found to praise, honor, and glory at that time (v 7). The complete objective of our salvation will then be realized-the salvation of our souls (v 9). And now, we are told of the grace to be brought to us. It will involve a "crown" (2 Tim 4:8), an "inheritance" (1 Pet 1:4), a "new name" (Rev 2:17), and an eternal "reign" (2 Tim 2:12). All of this is but an introduction to what is ahead-to what Jesus will bring with Him when He comes again. It is all encapsulated in a single word, "REWARD" (Rev 22:12)-the "grace to be brought to you" when Jesus is revealed.
Thus the Spirit admonishes us to place our hope on what is ahead-what will only be experienced when Jesus returns. Fixing our hope on the coming grace will stabilize us in this present world, and equip us to withstand assaults from without and within.