1 Peter 1:6-9
Wherein you greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, you are in heaviness through manifold temptations:…
Peter is very fond of this word "precious." He uses it more frequently than all the other New Testament writers, with the exception of John in the Revelation, where, however, it is only employed in reference to things of material value, such as jewels and costly woods. Paul uses it only once, and in a similar connection, speaking about "gold, silver, and precious stones." James employs it once in regard of the fruits of the earth; and all the other instances of its use are in Peter's writings. Here are the cases in which he uses it. First, in my text, about the process by which Christian faith is tested; then about the blood of Jesus Christ; then, in a quotation from Isaiah, about Christ Himself as the cornerstone. These three are the instances in the first Epistle. In the second we find two, where he speaks of "like precious faith," and of "exceeding great and precious promises."
I. THAT OUR TRUE TREASURES ARE ALL CONTAINED IN, AND CLUSTERED ROUND, THE PERSON AND WORK OF JESUS CHRIST. Now, in order to estimate the value of a thing, the first necessity is a correct standard. Now, if we are seeking for a standard of value, surely the following points are very plain. Our true treasure mast be such as helps us towards the highest ends for which we are fitted by our make. It must be such as satisfies our deepest needs; it must be such as meets our whole nature; and it must be such as cannot be wrenched from us. I do not want to undervalue lower and relative good of any kind, or to preach an overstrained contempt of material, transient, and partial blessing. Competence and wealth, gold and what gold buys, and what it keeps away, are good. High above them we rank the treasures of a cultivated mind, of a refined taste, of eyes that see the beauty of God's fair creation. Above these we rank the priceless treasures of pure reciprocated human love. But none of them, nor all of them put together, meet our tests, simple and obvious as they are. They do not satisfy the whole, or the depths, of our natures. Only God can fill a soul. So Peter is right after all, when he points us in a wholly different direction for the true precious things. "Christ is precious." Now, the word that he employs there is slightly different from that which occurs in the other verses. The speaker in the original words of the prophet is God Himself. It is the preciousness in God's sight of the stone which He "lays in Zion" that is glanced at in the epithet. Let me suggest how the preciousness of His beloved Son, in the eyes of the Father who gave Him, enhances the preciousness of the gift to us. God obeys the law which He lays upon His servants; and He "will not give" to us "that which costs Him nothing." But Christ is precious to us. Yes, if we know ourselves and what we want; if we know Him and what He gives. Do you want wisdom? He is the wisdom of God. Do you seek power? He is the power of God. Do you long for joy? He will give you His own. Do you weary for peace? "My peace I leave with you." Do you hunger for righteousness? "He of God is made unto us wisdom and righteousness." Do you need fulness and abundance? "In Him dwells all the fulness of God; and of His fulness have all we received." Whatever good any soul seeks, Christ is the highest good, and is all good. Let us turn our hearts away from false treasures and lay hold on Him who is the true riches. Further, Christ's blood is precious. Peter believed in Christ's atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world, and of each single soul therein. If you strike that element out of the work of our Lord, what remains, precious as it is, does not seem to me to so completely satisfy human necessities as to make Him the one all-sufficient and single treasure and riches of men's souls. And then there is the third precious thing, clustering round and flowing from Jesus Christ and His work — and that is, the "exceeding great and precious promises," which are given to us "that by them we may be partakers of a Divine nature." I presume that these promises referred to by the apostle are largely, if not exclusively, those which have reference to what we call the future state. And they are precious because they come straight to meet one of the deepest needs of humanity, often neglected, but always there — an ache, if not a conscious need. What about that dark, dim beyond? Is there any solid ground in it? Christ comes with the answer: "I am the Resurrection and the Life; he that believeth on Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live." Then it is not mist; then I can fling my grappling-iron into it and it will hold, and I can hold on to it.
II. THAT WHICH PUTS US IN POSSESSION OF THE PRECIOUS THINGS IS ITSELF PRECIOUS. So the apostle speaks, in his second Epistle, about "like precious faith," using a compound word, which, however, is substantially identical with the simple expression in the other verses. The only preciousness of that faith which the New Testament magnifies so greatly is that it brings us into possession of the things that are intrinsically precious. Suppose a door, worth half a crown. Yes! but it is the door of a storehouse full of bullion. Here is a bit of lead pipe, worth twopence. Yes, but through it comes the water that keeps a besieged city alive. And so your faith, worth nothing in itself, is worth everything as the means by which you lay hold of the durable riches and righteousness of Jesus Christ. Therefore cherish it. A cultivated mind is a treasure, because it is the key to many treasures. Refined tastes are treasures because they bring us into possession of lofty gifts. AEsthetic sensibilities are precious because they make our own a pure and ennobling pleasure. And, for precisely the same reason, high above the cultivated understanding, and refined tastes, and the artistic sense, ay, and even above the loving heart that twines its tendrils round another heart as loving, we rank the faith which joins us to Christ.
III. THE PROCESS WHICH STRENGTHENS THAT FAITH IS PRECIOUS. My nominal text speaks about "the trial of your faith" as being "much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire." Peter meant that the process by which faith was tested, and, being tested, is purified and perfected, is a precious treasure. If Christ and what pertains to Him are our real wealth, and if our faith is the means of our coming into possession of our property, then everything that tightens our grasp upon Him, and increases our capacity of receiving Him, is valuable. Let us lay that to heart, and it changes all our estimates of this world's mistaken ill and good. Let us lay that to heart, and it interprets much. We do not understand life until we have got rid of the prejudice that enjoyment, or any lower thing, is the object of it. Let us understand that the deepest meaning of all our experience here is discipline, and we have come within sight of the solution of most of our perplexities. Sorrow and joy, light and darkness, summer and winter, sunshine and storm, life and death, gain and loss, failures and successes — they all have the one end, that we may be partakers of the wealth of His holiness. Let us try to clear our minds of the delusions of this world, and to rectify our estimates of true good. A very perverted standard prevails, and we are too apt to fall in with it. Many of us are no wiser than savages that will exchange gold for trash, and barter away fertile lands for a stand of old muskets or a case of fiery rum. Listen to Jesus Christ counselling you to buy of Him gold tried in the fire. Turn away from the fairy gold, which by daylight will be seen to be but a heap of yellow fading leaves, and cling in faith, which is precious, to Him who is priceless, and in whom the poorest will find riches that cannot be corrupted nor lost forever.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: