At this point I would like to comment further on the Spirit’s sanctification. The sanctification of the Spirit is of two aspects: the sanctification of the Spirit before justification, the first aspect, and the sanctification of the Spirit after justification, the second aspect. With the second aspect of the Spirit’s sanctification there are two sides—the positional side and the dispositional side. After God justifies us and regenerates us, immediately the sanctifying Spirit continues His separating work upon us and within us. First, the sanctifying Spirit separates us positionally from things that are common and worldly. This positional sanctification is objective. Simultaneously, the sanctifying Spirit also begins to sanctify us dispositionally. This means that the Spirit is sanctifying our disposition. This is the subjective side of the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. The subjective sanctification is what we mean by the work of transformation. Subjective sanctification involves the transformation of our disposition and our inward parts. Therefore, this transformation of our disposition is the dispositional sanctification of the Spirit.
By now we should be clear concerning the two aspects of sanctification. The first aspect takes place before justification. The second aspect, with its two sides, takes place after justification. After we have been justified and regenerated, the Spirit works to sanctify us positionally and also dispositionally.
In 1:5 Peter says that we are being guarded by the power of God through faith unto salvation, and this salvation is ready to be revealed at the last time. The last time refers to the time of the Lord’s coming (1:7). This last time does not denote a day or an hour. Rather, it signifies a period of time. At the end of this particular period of time, the Lord Jesus will come back.
God’s full salvation will be revealed to us, or brought to us, by the Lord’s coming back. That is the time this full salvation will become complete to us in experience. Even now this salvation is ready to be revealed.
In 1:6 Peter goes on to say, “In which you exult, though for a little while at present, if it must be, you have been made sorrowful by various trials.” Some readers of the Bible may think that the antecedent of “which” in verse 6 is salvation. This understanding is not correct. The relative pronoun “which” does not refer to salvation; instead, it refers to the last time. This means that we exult in the last time. Whenever we consider the last time, we should exult, that is, we should become joyful and rejoice to the uttermost.
In verse 6 Peter not only speaks of exulting in the last time, but also speaks of being made sorrowful by various trials. These trials are sufferings which test the quality of someone or something.
The purpose of the book of 1 Peter is to establish and strengthen the suffering believers who have been chosen by God, sanctified by the Spirit from the world unto God, sprinkled by the redeeming blood of Christ, and regenerated by God the Father unto a living hope, unto an inheritance kept in the heavens for them (1:1-4), yet are as pilgrims still sojourning on this earth (1:1, 17; 2:11). In their sojourn, sufferings are unavoidable. They are used by God to test and prove their faith (1:7), to see whether they will follow Christ in suffering for doing good (2:19-23; 3:14-18). The sufferings are used to arm them with a mind against the flesh, that they might not live in the lusts of men, but in the will of God (4:1-2), that they might share the sufferings of Christ and rejoice at the unveiling of His glory (4:12-19), that they might be witnesses of the sufferings of Christ (5:1), and that they might be perfected, established, strengthened, and grounded for the eternal glory into which God has called them (5:8-10). This is wholly under God’s government that He might judge His chosen people (1:17), to begin His judgment from His own house (4:17). Hence, this book may also be considered a book concerning God’s government.
In verse 6 Peter inserts the phrase “if it must be.” Peter’s intention is to give the suffering saints a comforting word. Sometimes we need a certain trial, a trial that makes us sorrowful. When we are made sorrowful by a particular trial, we need to realize that such a trial is necessary. However, this trial is “for a little while at present.” The “last time” is coming. At that time God’s full salvation will be revealed to us. Therefore, we should exult in the last time.
In the foregoing message we considered 1:5 and 6. We saw from verse 5 that we are being guarded by the power of God through faith unto salvation and that this salvation is ready to be revealed at the last time. The power of God is the cause by which we are being guarded, and faith is the means through which the power of God becomes effective in guarding us. We also saw that the salvation spoken of in this verse denotes the full salvation of the Triune God in three stages: the initial stage, the stage of regeneration; the progressing stage, the stage of transformation; and the completing stage, the stage of consummation. This salvation is ready to be revealed at the last time, at the time of the Lord’s coming. According to verse 6, Peter tells us that we should exult in this last time, though for a while, if necessary, we are made sorrowful by various trials.
In verse 7 Peter continues, “That the proving of your faith, much more precious than of gold which perishes and is proved by fire, may be found unto praise and glory and honor at the unveiling of Jesus Christ.” In this verse Peter gives the reason we are put into trials. We are put into trials because our faith needs to be tested, proved.
The Greek word rendered “proving” means testing for approval. It is the proving, the testing, of our faith, not our faith itself, that may be found unto praise. This may be compared to an examination in school related to a student’s study. It is not the student’s study itself that is found approved; rather, it is the examination that is found to be approved. Of course, the approval of our faith comes out of the proper faith. The emphasis here is not on our faith; the emphasis is on the proving of our faith by the trials through sufferings.
A good student will actually welcome the opportunity to be examined. An examination will prove how thoroughly he has studied and how much he knows concerning the material on which he is being tested. Without examinations, a superior student would never be proved to be outstanding. A student who studies diligently may look forward to an examination because it will prove, both to the student himself and to others, that he is an excellent student. This is an illustration of what Peter means by the proving of our faith.
In verse 7 Peter says that the proving of our faith is “much more precious than of gold which perishes and is proved by fire.” The words “much more precious than of gold...by fire” do not modify faith; they modify the proving. This means that the proving of our faith is much more precious than the proving of gold. The comparison here is not that between faith and gold. Many Christians understand verse 7 in this way; however, this understanding is wrong. The comparison here is that between the proving of our faith and the proving of gold. Gold is proved by the purifying fire. In like manner, our faith is proved by trial. This proving is certainly more precious than the proving of gold.
In verse 7 Peter uses the adjective “precious.” Peter in his two Epistles presents us five precious things: the precious stone, which is the Lord Himself (1 Pet. 2:4, 6-7); the precious blood (1 Pet. 1:19); the precious promises (2 Pet. 1:4); the precious faith (2 Pet. 1:1); and the precious proving (1 Pet. 1:7).
In verse 7 Peter indicates that the proving of our faith “may be found unto praise and glory and honor at the unveiling of Jesus Christ.” The various trials in verse 6 are that the proving of our faith may result in praise, glory, and honor at the unveiling of the Lord.
Peter’s use of the word “unveiling” in verse 7 is significant. Christ is present with us today, but He is veiled. The time of His coming will also be the time of His unveiling. Some mistakenly think that the Lord Jesus is not here today. But the Lord certainly is here. Matthew 28:20 says, “Behold, I am with you all the days until the consummation of the age.” Although the Lord is with us, He is with us under the veil. Sometimes, however, in our experience with the Lord, we are not under the veil with Him. But at other times we are with Him under the veil. Are you under the veil with the Lord, or are you outside the veil?
Do you know what the Lord’s coming back will be? The Lord’s coming back will be His unveiling. When He is unveiled, we who are under the veil with Him will also be unveiled.
The Lord Jesus actually is present with us today. Do you not believe that the Lord is with us? I must testify that the Lord is in my spirit. But according to the concept of unbelievers, Christ is not with us. Even certain believers who are fundamental and who emphasize the objective aspect of the truth say that Christ is far away in the third heaven on the throne at the right hand of God. Some of these fundamental Christians may not believe that Christ is in us. But we know that the Lord whom we love not only is in the heavens, but also dwells within us.
Because the Lord is now veiled, people cannot see Him. But His coming will be His unveiling. In verse 7 Peter emphasizes the particular matter that the Lord’s coming back will be the taking away of the veil that now covers Him. At that time, everyone will see Him. Prior to that time, we can see Him in spirit.
In John 14:19 and 20 the Lord Jesus speaks of being seen by His disciples: “Yet a little while and the world beholds Me no longer, but you behold Me; because I live, you shall live also. In that day you shall know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” According to John 14:19, the worldly people cannot see the Lord Jesus, but the believers can see Him. In John 14:20 the Lord Jesus indicates that He and we live together. How can we live together with the Lord without seeing Him? Actually, what we have described for us in John 14:20 is not merely living together with the Lord; this verse actually speaks of a life of co-inherence with Him, that is, a life of the Lord living in us and of our living in Him. Because we live such a life, to us He has already been unveiled.
When the Lord Jesus is unveiled and we are unveiled with Him, those who oppose us will be amazed. Today some oppose us and speak evil concerning us. In some cases, young people may be opposed by their parents. Nevertheless, although their parents oppose them, sometimes the parents are astonished at the young people. They may say, “Sometimes you do things that are marvelous. We don’t understand you. How can you do these things?” Although the parents of some of the young people may not be able to understand them now, they will understand when the veil is taken away from the Lord Jesus and also from us. Then they will know the Lord and they will also know us. When the Lord Jesus is unveiled, the worldly people will see Him, and they will see us with Him. Then they will know Christ, and they will also know us.
Unbelievers and people of the world sometimes regard us as peculiar and strange. According to their understanding, we are not normal. They enjoy different kinds of worldly entertainment, but we do not partake of these things. For example, someone at work may encourage you to participate in a certain form of worldly amusement. If you refuse to do so, he may say that you are strange or abnormal. Unbelievers will see things differently when the Lord Jesus is unveiled. When this veil is taken away and our veil is removed as well, the worldly people will say, “Now I know that this one is a follower of Jesus. When I knew him at work, he was one who loved the Lord and sought Him. Now I understand why I thought he was so strange, so abnormal.” This will be the situation if we love the Lord and follow Him today. However, if we do not love the Lord, follow Him, and seek Him, our situation will be very different when He is unveiled.