COMMENTARY ON FIRST PETER
"And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear"KJV (1 Pet 1:17)
There is a certain perspective always evident in what "the Spirit says to the churches." The past is always viewed as futile apart from Christ. The future is always viewed as hopeless part from Christ. The profitable past is always traced back to the atoning death of Christ. The profitable future is always viewed in association with our eternal inheritance. Our life in this world is always seen as transitory. Acceptable living is always in view of the passing of this world and the coming glory. All of this is seen in the twenty-seven words of this text. It is a text of perspective-written with the objective of God's great salvation in mind. Any doctrine, or approach to life in Christ, that cannot be concluded with the words of this text cannot be true. These words are always appropriate, whether believers are being taught, rebuked, or admonished. They are foundational in nature, and apply to all times and cultures. As long as the world stands, there will never be a time when the words of this text are not appropriate and needed.
CALLING ON THE FATHER
"And if ye call on the Father . . . " This is a continuation of the thought concerning "obedient children." Children, in this view, call upon their Father: they depend upon Him, and seek for their needs from Him. The word "call" is a large one, signifying appealing to the Father, or invoking His name. It involves petitioning for help, appealing to His authority in our behalf, or to solicit or make an earnest request.
Calling upon the Lord is at the very core of spiritual life. It displays the awareness of our total reliance upon the Lord. It is one thing to be dependent upon the Lord. It is quite another thing to know this in our hearts, and conduct our lives in view of that circumstance. Calling upon the Father relates to this awareness, or the spiritual cognition of our situation. Further, there is a joy and confidence that attend this consciousness.
It was in the days of Enos, son of Seth (whom Adam begat in his own image-Gen 5:3), that men began to "call upon the name of the Lord" (Gen 4:26). When Elijah boldly confronted the prophets of Baal he said, "call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD" (1 Kgs 18:24), thereby petitioning God to work in his behalf. David once delivered a Psalm to Asaph that admonished, "Give thanks unto the LORD, call upon his name" (1 Chron 16:8). Joel foretold the era of the New Covenant, when calling upon the name of the Lord would become the norm, and people would be delivered (Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21). In Christ Jesus invoking the name of the Lord has reached its apex, for we call upon "the Father," whose sons we have become by His grace!
An example of calling upon the Father is found in Paul's prayer for the Ephesians. "For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man . . . " (Eph 1:14-17). The petition is in perfect accord with the will of the Father, and is offered by one who has been reconciled to the Father through Jesus Christ.
God is primarily the Father of Jesus Christ, and secondarily the Father of those who are in His Son. Thus we read of "the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom 15:6; 2 Cor 1:3; 2 Cor 11:31; Eph 1:3,17; 3:14; Col 1:3; 1 Pet 1:3).While this may appear to be a mere technical point with little relevance, that is emphatically not the case. The Spirit will not allow us to consider ourselves related to the Father apart the Lord Jesus Christ.
Calling on the Father, therefore, involves our acceptance in "the Beloved" (Eph 1:6). It does not refer to a crisis type situation, but a manner of life that finds us continually relying upon the One who has begotten us through the Word of truth (James 1:18). This is another view of living by faith (Heb 10:38) and walking in the Spirit (Gal 5:25). Faith emphasizes our trust in and reliance upon the Lord. Walking in the Spirit underscores the realm in which we walk. Calling upon the Father accents an acute awareness of our dependency upon the Father.
Our text does not take for granted that we call on the Father, even though that is the nature of the Covenant into which we have been brought. The critical matters of spiritual life are never assumed. Thus the Spirit says, "IF you call on the Father." The NIV says "Since you call on a Father." The word used here ("if"), however, denotes a conditional situation. The exhortation that follows depends upon calling on the Father. It is as though the Spirit said, "If you call on the Father, the conclusion that follows will be obvious."
All of life is viewed through our relationship to God through Jesus Christ and by the Holy Spirit. If, at any point, we lose this perspective, we will gravitate immediately to sin. If a sense of our dependency upon the Father wanes, or even leaves us, our natural resources will prove wholly inadequate for living "soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world" (Tit 2:12). Just as spiritual life cannot be expressed seasonally, so calling upon the Father is not occasional or periodic. It is a manner of living, a posture of soul. It is to godly living what breathing is to life in the flesh. Faith will keep such calling alive and dominate, thereby equipping us to address living in this world in a proper manner.
HE JUDGES WITHOUT RESPECT OF PERSONS
" . . . who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work . . . " Here is an exceedingly important reality: God is no respecter of persons! How often this is stated by the Spirit. Peter said, "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons" (Acts 10:34). Moses affirmed, God "a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward" (Deut 10:17). Jehosaphat said, "there is no iniquity with the LORD our God, nor respect of persons, nor taking of gifts" (2 Chron 19:7). Elihu said of God, "Him that accepteth not the persons of princes, nor regardeth the rich more than the poor? for they all are the work of his hands" (Job 34:19). Paul wrote, "For there is no respect of persons with God" (Rom 2:11). And again, "God accepteth no man's person" (Gal 2:6). And again, "knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with Him" (Eph 6:9). It should be apparent, therefore, that this is a vital part of our perception of God.
In saying God is no respecter of persons, we are to understand we cannot gain His respect or appropriate His help by offering Him a gift or a reward (Deut 10:17; 2 Chron 19:7). Neither, indeed, does He have a higher regard for the rich than for the poor (Job 45:15). He is not impressed by appearance, but looks upon the heart (1 Sam 16:7). He looks for truth within (Jer 5:3), and where it is not found His favor cannot be gained. This is the trait to which the Spirit refers when He says, "But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth" (Rom 2:2). He regards no man because of the office he holds, or because of the possessions he has, or because of his achievements in this world. If fact, "God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God" (Lk 16:15). He knows nothing of the elaborate distinctions among men that are fostered by the contemporary church.
The conclusion to which this should lead is simply this: our devotion to God must not be merely external. His requirements are not only addressed to our words and actions, but to the thoughts and meditations of our hearts, our preferences, and our expectations. The word "persons" denotes natural, not spiritual, distinction. The Father has a high regard for the new creation-that which is born of Him. He looks to the person who is properly aligned with Him. As it is written, "but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at My word" (Isa 66:2).
When, therefore, it is written that God has no "respect" or regard for persons, it does NOT mean He views everyone the same, or that He has the same degree of love for all. Such a thought is utterly absurd, though entertained by not a few. Enoch towered above those of His generation, for "he had this testimony, that he pleased God" (Heb 11:5). Of all the people in the world, "Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord" (Gen 6:8). Abraham stood out among his peers, and even all generations, being called "the Friend of God" (James 2:23). God said of Israel, "You only have I known of all the families of the earth" (Amos 3;2). John is referred to as "the disciple whom Jesus loved" (John 20:2; 21:20). Of those in Christ it is written, "But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people"NKJV (1 Pet 2:9).
Having no respect of persons, our God "judges according to each one's work." He is not speaking of works with merit, but here views them as the incontrovertible evidence of what a person really is. As Jesus said, "Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them" (Matt 7:17-20). Character erupts in words and deeds. Thus, in judging according to our works, God is actually judging in strict accord with our character, which is evidenced by our works. The knowledge, rather persuasion, of this will compel us to "put off concerning the former conversation the old man," and "put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness" (Eph 4:22-24). You can count on the "new man" to produce the type of works that will stand up under the judgment of God.
SOJOURNING WITH FEAR
" . . . pass the time of your sojourning here in fear." Here is a perspective unique to those possessing faith: we are "sojourning here." The believer is in the world what Israel was in the wilderness-sojourning. Even in the best of worldly circumstances, the trusting one who calls upon the Father is what Abraham was in Canaan: "By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God" (Heb 11:9-10). Like Joseph in Egypt, even though believers may experience temporary exaltation, yet they really do not belong there. That is why Joseph, believing the people would be delivered from Egypt, "gave commandment concerning his bones." It is written, "And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence" (Gen 50:25; Heb 11:22). He knew, although second only to Pharaoh, he did not really belong in Egypt.
A sojourner is a stranger-a foreigner from another land. That is why Abraham confessed to the sons of Heth, "I am a stranger and a sojourner with you" (Gen 34:4). Much later, after Moses had left Egypt, he also dwelt in a land for which he was not well suited. It is said of that time that he "was a stranger in the land of Madian" (Acts 7:29). In the thirty-ninth Psalm, David poured out his soul to God, pleading for an answer to his prayer on the basis of his strangership, in the world. "For I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were" (Psa 39:12). Indeed, faith plucks us from at-home-ness in this world. Whether we are able to adequately articulate it or not, our hearts confirm to us that we do not belong to this world. We no longer are harmonious with its fashion or order.
There is a time-limit attached to our sojourning-praise the Lord! That is why such comfort is found in the expression "the TIME of your sojourning." As those who lived by faith before us, we are truly "strangers and pilgrims on the earth" (Heb 11:13; 1 Pet 2:11). As soon as we are consonant with this world, and think it to be our primary residence, we are under the influence of the wicked one. He is "the god of this world," blinding all who chose to settle down in that realm (2 Cor 4:4).
And why is it we are admonished to spend the time of our pilgrimage "in fear." It is because we are under the watchful eye of our Father, and He has no respect of persons. He will not divorce who we are from what we do-for that would be respecting our persons. The fear of reference does not drive us from God, or move us to cry for the rocks and mountains to hide us. Rather, it keeps us alert for the intrusions of the enemy. It constrains us to mortify our members that are upon the earth (Col 3:5), and deny the flesh its desire for expression. The necessity of this posture is declared in Romans 11:20, and is declared in view of the fact we are not presently in our homeland. "Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: for if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee" (Rom 11:20-21). In unbelieving Israel we see an example of those who left the land of bondage, but never entered into Canaan. It was en route to the promised land that they "fell," succumbing to the trial of the wilderness (Heb 3:17). With this in mind we are also admonished, "Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil 2:12).
The novice might object that "it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Phil 2:13), and consequently there is no need to "fear." However, God does not work "to will and to do" in those who are at home in this world. The reason He does not is because they are His enemies. Therefore it is written, "friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God" (James 4:4). Such knowledge will produce "reverence and godly fear" (Heb 12:28) that will move us to think more of our real home than our temporary one. Your sojourn is only for a "little while," and will conclude with a triumphant transfer to the presence of the Lord. Being a "stranger and a pilgrim" will not last long. Spend the time properly!