COMMENTARY ON FIRST PETER
"24For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: 25But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you."KJV (1 Pet 1:24-25)
Throughout Scripture there is a consistent proclamation of two pillars of sound reasoning. (1) That man has fallen by transgression, is in a state of deterioration, and needs to be rescued. (2) That God is eternal and unchanging, and thus is to be trusted implicitly. In view of this, man's wisdom has been repudiated by God, and is not to be trusted. Too, what the Lord has said is as stable as God Himself, and must be trusted. The necessity of the new birth and living by faith is comprehended in the light of these two things: (1) The instability of man, and (2) The eternality of God. At no point are these things to be taken for granted. Nor, indeed, are we to imagine that they can be kept in our hearts and minds without considerable effort. If, at any point, these realities are renounced, or even become blurred in our understanding, we immediately become vulnerable to the devil. Temptation obtains greater power when we ascribe too much glory to man, or too little glory to God. The larger man looms, the more enticing sin becomes. The smaller God and His Word appear in our understanding, the more powerful Satan becomes. Our perception of both God and humanity must be correct, and we must fight to maintain that correctness.
THE PREVAILING TRAIT OF THE FLESH
" For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away."KJV The word "flesh" refers to humanity, as distinguished from Deity, and the holy angels. In Noah's day, when the earth was filled with sin, God observed, "all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth" (Gen 6:12). In the flood, "all flesh" died-man and beast alike (Gen 7:21). Something of significance is to be seen here. Prior to the fall, man was called "a living soul" (Gen 2:7), bearing the very "likeness of God" (Gen 5:1). After the fall, man was predominately known as "flesh," with a closer kinship to the beasts of the earth than to the God from whose glory he fell.
The phrase, "all flesh is grass," is taken from the Prophets. It is intended to give us a proper view of humanity apart from God. This is the word that God put in Isaiah's mouth, and was spoken against the backdrop of the promised salvation of God. The fortieth chapter of Isaiah is beautiful in tone and powerful in message. It speaks of the accomplishment of warfare and the pardon of iniquity (v 1-2). The coming of John the Baptist is foretold, a "voice" crying out in the "wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God" (v 3). A spiritual renovation was to take place that boggles the mind. "Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain" (v 4). The glory of the Lord was going to be revealed, and "all flesh" would see it together. God has said it, and it would come to pass (v 5).
The one speaking to Isaiah then told him, "CRY," or "CRY OUT," or "PREACH," or "LOUDLY ANNOUNCE!" But Isaiah does not know what to shout-what message to loudly proclaim. Showing the nature of faith to rely upon the Lord, he said, "What shall I cry?" It is then that God gave him the message to which Peter refers. "All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: the grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever" (v 6-8). This is not intended to describe only man's external part, but his soul as well. Everything about man apart from Christ is in a state of disintegration.
But notice the way Peter begins this reference: "FOR all flesh is grass . . . " The word "for" explains the necessity for the new birth. "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever, FOR . . . " The NKJV reads, "BECAUSE all flesh is grass." There is no hope of those in a state of irreversible decline obtaining eternal life-they must be born again! Unless men are extricated from the course of nature, they will not be saved.
But this is not merely a general statement, or one that is confined to only the worst of our race. "The glory of man," or man in his best and most refined natural state, is nothing more than "the flower of the grass," that quickly fades and falls to the ground. The most notable achievements of unregenerate men are nothing more than a flower that remains beautiful for a while, but soon fads and falls to the ground in the blast of the winter wind. It is for this reason that we should never make our boast in men (1 Cor 3:21).
There are at least two reasons why "The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away." First, sin has introduced a state which will conclude in death. Second, the closer unregenerate man comes to God, the more he withers. That is the point made to Isaiah. "The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: BECAUSE the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it" (Isa 40:7). By this we conclude that even though men appear to be something, when they stand before God, their "comeliness" is "turned" into "corruption," and they retain "no strength" (Dan 10:8). No personality will ever stand before the Living God and retain a high estimation of their own worth or accomplishments. The Spirit of God does not need to speak to flesh, but only to "blow upon it" for this to become most evident. We have reason to thank God for the privilege of hearing the Gospel and being born again. In our new birth we are delivered from the realm of withering! Praise the Lord!
THE NATURE OF THE WORD OF GOD
" But the Word of the Lord endureth for ever."KJV Notice that the "Word of the Lord" is compared to "all flesh." It is as though God will not stoop to compare His Person with that of mankind. This is the "Word," or "incorruptible seed," through which we were "born again" (1:23). It is the "seed" to which John referred, when the Spirit moved him to write, "Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God" (1 John 3:9).
The reasoning of the Spirit is very powerful. While some men have dared to speculate on precisely what the word of God is (Scripture, prophecies, etc.), we are here told of its nature: it "endures for ever." The point is that permanency can only be found in God, and God can only be found through His word--the revelation of His Person, mind, and purpose. Through, or by means of, that eternal Word man, who by nature is fading and degenerating, becomes a partaker of "eternal life." He is brought to a state in Jesus where he "will never die" (John 11:26). Is that not a marvelous consideration?
The eternality of God's Word is frequently emphasized in Scripture. His word is "settled in heaven" where change and decay cannot enter (Psa 119:89). Emphasizing the stability of Divine utterance, Jesus said of the Law (which was not God's most lofty message), "And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail" (Luke 16:17). If that is true of the Law, ended by Christ as a means to righteousness (Rom 10:4), what must be said of the promises, or of the Gospel of Christ? Jesus said His words "shall not pass away" (Matt 24:35).
More is involved here than the mere existence of the Word. Its endurance involves its fulfillment as well. "For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it" (Isa 55:10-11). An "eternal purpose" (Eph 3:11) cannot be implemented by a passing or temporal word.
When it comes right down to it, people either trust in men or God-in what men have said, or in what God has said. The blessing of God is pronounced on those who have a proper view of His word. "Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word" (Isa 66:1-2). God urges those who tremble at His Word to listen to it (Isa 66:5). In Ezra's day, the people "trembled at the words of the God of Israel" (Ezra 9:4). David stood in "awe" of God's Word (Psa 119:161). When Habakkuk heard the word of the Lord, his "Body trembled," his "lips quivered," and "rottenness" entered into his bones (Hab 3:16). When Saul of Tarsus confronted the living Christ, he asked what he should do, with "trembling" and astonishment (Acts 9:6). When the Philippian jailor asked what he should do to be saved, he did so with "trembling" (Acts 16:29). For that matter, believers are to "work out" their own salvation "with fear and trembling" (Phil 2:12).
All of this confirms the arresting nature of the Word of God. It only remains for the individual to be convinced it is the word of Almighty God. Once that takes place, an acute awareness of the abiding nature of His Word will register upon the heart. It is at precisely that point that men begin to "live by every word of God" (Lk 4:4).
In view of this, who, then, would choose to rely upon men rather than God? Let every child of God put to death the tendency to elevate human opinion, trust in human accomplishments, or neglect the Word of the Living God. Everything about the natural man fades, and everything about the Word contributes to life and growth. There is nothing about the Word that is transitory, and nothing about nature that is eternal. Faith will invariably cast us upon the Word of God.
THE WORD THAT COMES BY THE GOSPEL
"And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you."KJV There is a certain progression in the word of God. It is not found in the nature of the word itself, as though it gradually improves. Rather, the advancement is found in the message of the Word. Further, what is declared at the last is an extension of what was said at the first. For example, the last words of the Bible are the final extension of the first promise of the Bible. "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen" (Rev 22:21), is the ultimate fulfillment of "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel" (Gen 3:15). This character of God's word is confirmed in our text.
The culminating word of God for men is found in "the Gospel." There His purpose is most fully delineated. The righteousness of God is made known in the Gospel of Christ (Rom 1:17). The Gentiles are made fellow heirs "by the Gospel" (Eph 3:6). "Life and immortality" are "brought to light through the Gospel" (2 Tim 1:10). The "fulness" of God's blessing is brought through the Gospel (Rom 15:29). Here, in the Gospel, "your salvation" is most fully detailed (Eph 1:13).
When the Spirit says "This is the word which by the Gospel is preached unto you," He means the Gospel is an "everlasting Gospel" (Rev 14:6). It represents the ultimate Divine purpose, the highest calling, and the most wonderful news. God had this Gospel in mind when He announced the ultimate overthrow of Satan (Gen 3:15). It was in His mind when He promised to bless the world through Abraham (Gen 22:18). The Law was given in prospect of the Gospel, to prepare men to receive Christ (Gal 3:24). This was the burden of the Prophet's message (1 Pet 1:12).
Notice, it is preaching that has brought the powerful Gospel near to us. The Spirit does not say the Word is by the Gospel explained to us, but "preached" to us. Faith has, indeed, come to us "by hearing" (Rom 10:17). One of the most poignant affirmations of this is found in the tenth chapter of Romans. "But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach" (Rom 10:6-8). Ponder the strength of that declaration. Through a proclaimed word, both faith and righteousness were brought to us! Peter adds that we were "born again" through the word proclaimed in the Gospel.
How significantly this contrasts with the Law, which detailed what men should do, but gave them no power to do it. The Law was not the "Seed" of the Kingdom, but the Gospel is! If you want new births to occur, and spiritual stability as well, then the Gospel must be preached, for it is the ultimate message of God to men. There is no higher or more relevant word than the Gospel of Christ! Without it, the Prophet's become meaningless and the Law useless.
All that we need for obtaining and maintaining spiritual life is found within the message of the Gospel. It is what sheds light upon both the Law and the Prophets. The knowledge of God is procured and maintained through the Gospel. There is no point in the newness of life where the Gospel Christ is no longer needed, or ceases to be the focus of thought. God will not walk with us apart from Christ Jesus, and Christ Jesus can only be properly known through the Gospel of Christ.
I trust that you have learned the high worth of the "glorious Gospel of the blessed God" (1 Tim 1:11). We have been "begotten . . . through the Gospel" (1 Cor 4:15), and "stand" firm within it (1 Cor 15:1). As we "keep" it in "memory," we will be "saved" by it (1 Cor 15:3). Spiritual life will never take you far from the Gospel. Again and again, the Holy Spirit will bring you back to the message of the Gospel, firming up your grasp of the truth, enhancing your knowledge of God, and providing good reason to live by faith. The most powerful incentives are found in the Gospel, as well as the greatest provisions.