1 Peter 1:6-9
Wherein you greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, you are in heaviness through manifold temptations:…
I. THE GRAND POSSIBILITIES OF CHRISTIAN JOY — UNSPEAKABLE AND FULL OF GLORY. It is quite possible to be beset all about with cares and troubles and yet to feel a pure fountain of celestial gladness welling up in our inmost hearts, sweet amidst bitter waters. There may be life beneath the snow. There may be fire burning, like the old Greek fire, below the water. A man has this power if he have two objects of contemplation, to one or other of which he may turn his mind — he can choose which of the two he will turn to. Like a railway signalman, you may either flash the light through the pure white glass or the darkly coloured one. You may either choose to look at everything through the medium of the sorrows that belong to time, or through the medium of the joys that flow from eternity. The question is, which of the two do we choose shall be uppermost in our hearts and give the colour to our experience. And then the text reminds us that the gladness which thus belongs to the Christian life is silent and a transfigured "joy unspeakable and glorified," as the word might be rendered. "He is a poor man who can count his flock," said the old Latin proverb. Those joys are on the surface that can be spoken. The deep river goes silently, with equable flow, to the great ocean; it is the little shallow brook that chatters amongst the pebbles. The true Christian joy is glorified, says Peter. The glory of heaven shines upon it and transfigures it. It is suffused and filled with the glory for which the Christian hopes, like Stephen when "God's glory smote him on the face" and made it shine as an angel's.
II. THE ONE GREAT ACT BY WHICH THIS POSSIBILITY OF GLADNESS IS TURNED INTO A REALITY. "In Whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing ye rejoice." The act of faith is the condition of joy. Joy springs from the contemplation or experience of something calculated to excite it, and the more real, permanent, and all-sufficient that object the fuller and surer the joy. But where can we find such an object as Him with Whom we are brought into union by our faith? Jesus Christ is all-sufficient, full of pity, full of beauty and righteousness, all that we can desire — and all this forever. But mark, the language of our text shows that our gladness will be accurately contemporaneous with our trust. As long as we are exercising faith, so long shall we experience joy — not one instant longer. It is like a piano, whose note ceases the moment you lift your finger from the key — not like an organ, in which the sound persists for a time after.
III. THE GIFT WHICH ENHANCES JOY. The exercise of faith is itself joy, apart from what faith secures. We stretch out our hands to Christ, and the act is blessedness. Faith is the condition of joy, and the salvation of our souls, which we receive as its end, is the great reason for joy. Salvation is past, present, and future. Here it is clearly regarded as present. That present salvation will be a source of pure and noble joy. If my heart is humbly and even tremulously resting upon Him, I have got, in the measure of my faith, the real germ of all salvation. What are the elements of which salvation consists? The fact and the sense of forgiveness to begin with. Well, I have that, have I not, if I trust Christ? A growing possession of pure desires, heaven-wrought tastes, of all that is called in the Bible "the new man" — well! I have that, surely, if I trust Him. Such progressive salvation is given to me if I am trusting in Him, "Whom, having not seen, I love." All these will tend to joy. The present salvation points onwards to its own completion, and in that way becomes further a source of joy. In its depths we see reflected a blue heaven with many a star. The salvation here touches the soul alone, but salvation in its perfect form touches the body, soul, and spirit, and transforms all the outward nature to correspond to these and makes a worthy dwelling for perfected men. That prospect brings joy beyond the reach of aught else to afford.
(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: