Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on 1 Peter 1:17-25

Fr. MacEvilly provides a paraphrase of he text he is commenting on, these are in purple text. I’ve also included his summary of chapter 1 in this post. Text in red, if any, represent my additions.

Summary of 1 Peter 1~In the first two verses of this chapter, the Apostle addresses his apostolical salutation to the faithful who are elected to grace here, and to glory hereafter, and shows that the Three Persons of the Adorable Trinity concur in the work of redemption. He next bursts forth into the praises of God, for the great gift of spiritual regeneration bestowed on the faithful, which carried with it a lively hope (verse 3); and this regeneration was bestowed on them in order to qualify them, as sons of God, to enter on the possession of his priceless and undying inheritance, securely laid up in heaven for them, who are protected by the strong fortress offaith, until they enjoy this consummate salvation, which shall be manifested on the last day (4, 5). And on account of the blessings in store for them, they now rejoice under the afflictions which it may please Providence to send them, with a view of testing their faith, and bringing it to a happy issue (6, 7). He points out the greatness of the blessings bestowed on them, by referring to the anxiety of the prophets of old to become fully acquainted with them, and of the angels themselves to view these mysteries of grace with awe and wonder (10-12). Here closes the dogmatical part of the Epistle.

He next enters on the moral part, and exhorts them to remove evety obstacle, arising from their unsubdued passions, to the attainment of the bliss prepared for them (19), and to obey, as children of God, his precepts, and perform good works (14). He exhorts them to sanctity of life, after the example of God (15, 16), and to have reverential fear of him as just judge (17). He reminds them of the value God attaches to their souls, owing to the price paid for them (19); not only did Christ shed his blood for them in due time, but this was pre-ordained from eternity; hence, a new motive for sanctity of life (21). He exhorts them to practise fraternal charity (22), and points out the excellence of their new spiritual birth (23-25).

1Pe 1:17  And if you invoke as Father him who, without respect of persons, judgeth according to every one’s work: converse in fear during the time of your sojourning here.

And although, in your daily prayers, you address God, and invoke him as your Father; still, you must bear in mind, that he holds in your regard another relation, viz., that of a most just and impartial judge, who judges without favour, or exception of persons, according to every one’s works; hence, you should spend the short period of your passing sojourn here below in a reverential awe and fear of offending him.

Another motive to stimulate them to sanctity of life, “and if you invoke as
Father,” as you daily do in the Lord’s prayer, “Our Father who art in heaven.”  “Without respect of persons,” for the meaning, and application of these words (see Rom 2:11). “Converse in fear;” similar is the exhortation (Philippians 4:12). “During the time of your sojourning here.” The word, “sojourning,” conveys the idea of strangers or pilgrims traveling through a strange land, and such is truly our condition, while traveling through this vale of tears towards our heavenly country. Hence, though God be a father, whom we should love, he is also a just judge, of whom we should have a reverential fear.

1Pe 1:18  Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, as gold or silver, from your vain conversation of the tradition of your fathers:

And you can form an idea of the great rigours of his justice, should you not lead holy lives, from the great price paid to ransom you, and to enable you to become saints. For, you have been redeemed, not your fathers: with corruptible gold or silver—the most valuable of earthly possessions—from the vain and useless ceremonial observances, handed down to you by your fathers;

” Knowing that you were redeemed,” &c. This is an additional motive for
sanctity of life. They were “redeemed,” and their ransom effected, “not with
corruptible gold and silver,” which are the most valuable of earthly possessions; “from your vain conversation of the tradition, &c.,” that is, from the observances of the legal and ceremonial law, handed down to them from their fathers, but which were “vain,” of no effect, for really cleansing their consciences from sin and justifying them. The legal ceremonies were useless for conferring justice, while the Scribes and Pharisees added many mandates, even opposed to God’s law (v.g.), the tradition referred to Matthew 15:6, about giving to the temple, what was necessary for the support of their parents. The Apostle wishes, in those verses, to show, that as God has so valued our souls, as to give for their ransom the blood of his Son, he will exercise, as a just judge, the utmost rigour, if we undervalue this great gift, and ruin these souls so dearly purchased, by not following a course of sanctity.

1Pe 1:19  But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb unspotted and undefiled,

But, with the precious blood of Christ, of whom the Paschal lamb, which should be free from all spot and defilement, offered up among the Jews, was an exact type and figure.

“But, with the precious blood of Christ;” it is called “precious,” being the blood of God, a person of infinite dignity. “As of a lamb;” as, means, that he was like a lamb, both in innocence of life and patience in suffering.  “Unspotted and undefiled,” is allusive to the Paschal lamb among the Jews, which should be without blemish, (Exodus 12:5), and was an exact type of Christ, who was a victim, which was “holy, innocent, &c.” (Hebrews 7:26). Can anything give us so exalted an idea of the value of immortal souls in the eyes of God, or stimulate us so strongly to co-operate in their salvation, as these words of the Apostle, “Redempti pretioso sanguine Christi! “Woe to us, if either through neglect and indifference in regard to those under our care, or, through positive scandal, we cause the blood of a God to have flown in vain, for immortal souls! “Better for us that a mill-stone were tied about our neck and we were drowned in the depth of the sea.”

1Pe 1:20  Foreknown indeed before the foundation of the world, but manifested in the last times for you:

Who was predestined from eternity to ransom us; however, it was only in the last sage of the world, upon which you have fallen, that he has been fully manifested, and all the circumstances of redemption fully made known, for your peculiar advantage.

“Fore-known,” that is predestined, “before the foundation.” In Greek,  προ καταβολης, “before casting the foundation of the world,” that is to say, from eternity. ” But manifested in the last times.” Christ made his appearance on this earth, and displayed the mysteries of his redemption, in the last stage of the world; “for you,” Jews, to whom the kingdom of God was first announced, or “for you,” who live in this last age, who are partakers of redemption, and are in a special manner bound to make a return of love; each one can appreciate to himself the passion of. Christ.—”dilexit me et tradidit semetipsum pro me.”—(Galatians 2:20).

1Pe 1:21  Who through him are faithful in God who raised him up from the dead and hath given him glory, that your faith and hope might be in God.

Who through his grace and merits, have faith in God, who raised him from the dead, and conferred glory on him, that your faith and hope might be firmly founded on God.

“Who, through him,” through his grace and merits, “are faithful in God.” In the ordinary Greek, believe in God; the Vatican MS. supports the Vulgate; from God’s grace alone faith can come. “Who raised him from the dead;” the raising of Christ from the dead, although common to the three Persons of the adorable Trinity, being an act of power, is, by appropriation, ascribed to God the Father.  “And hath given him glory;” the glory of Christ commenced in his Resurrection, and was continued in his Ascension, in the mission of the Holy Ghost, in the preaching of his gospel, &c., so that he was declared the Lord of angels and of men, of heaven and earth, and received that renown which he had before the world was— (John 17:5). “That your faith” (which would be vain, if Christ had not risen, 1 Cor 15:5)—”and hope, might be in God;” for, by rising from the dead, has given us a sure hope and earnest of being one day raised with him, our glorified head, to a glorious and immortal life.

1Pe 1:22  Purifying your souls in the obedience of charity, with a brotherly love, from a sincere heart love one another earnestly:

Having, by obedience to the precepts of the law, of which charity is the plenitude, purified you hearts, through the grace of God’s holy spirit, love each other ardently and perseveringly, as brothers, with a sincere brotherly love, and from a pure heart.

From verse 17, to this, may be included in a parenthesis, in which the Apostle turns aside from the moral exhortation commenced verse 13 to enlarge on the blessings of man’s redemption, “purifying your souls in the obedience of charity.” In the Greek, in the obedience of truth, the meaning of which will be, having purified your hearts through faith in God’s truths. Similar is the passage (Acts 15:9) “fide purificans corda eorum” (faith purifying the hearts of them). In the ordinary Greek are added here the words through the spirit; they are not, however, found in our Vulgate, nor in the Vatican MS.

“With a brotherly love.” In Greek, εις φιλαδελφιαν ανυποκριτον, unto a brotherly love without hypocrisy. According to which the meaning would be: having purified your hearts by obedience to faith, through God’s spirit, so as to promote and advance a sincere brotherly love.

“From a sincere heart.” In the ordinary Greek, εκ καθαρας καρδιας, from a pure heart. The word “pure” is not found in the Alexandrian or Vatican MMS. From the Greek words above quoted, it is clear, the word “sincere” or without hypocrisy, ανυποκριτον, should be joined not with “heart,” as in our English version, but with “brotherly love.” The meaning of the entire verse comes to this: that having purified their souls and affections, by the observance of the entire law, and having particularly in view to advance in brotherly love, they should continue to entertain a pure and ardent love for one another. Alas! where is there any other precept of our blessed Redeemer so shamefully violated as this peculiar one, which he emphatically calls his own—”This is my precept, that you love one another”?

1Pe 1:23  Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but incorruptible, by the word of God who liveth and remaineth for ever.

This brotherly love, which you should have for one another, is grounded on the spiritual regeneration you have all received in common, for, you have been born again, and received a new spiritual existence, not from a principle, or seed of corruption, but from the seed of incorruption, and that is the word of God, who liveth and endureth for ever.

“Being born again not of corruptible seed.” In these words, he shows the chief grounds on which their pure and persevering brotherly love is founded. They are brethren, by a new spiritual generation, having received a new essence and existence, not from any human principle or corruptible seed (qui non ex sanguinibus, neque ex voluntate carnis, neque ex volintate viri—John 1:13~Who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man), “but from an incorruptible seed”— (sed ex Deo nati sunt~but of God, concluding John 1:13), this seed is “the word of the living and ever enduring God.” What is meant by this “word” is a matter of dispute with Commentators; some understanding by it, the word of revelation, the gospel preached to them; or, rather, the faith and preventing graces of God, consequent on hearing the preaching of the gospel. All these dispositions of faith, joined with hope and penance, being placed in the soul, serving as the seed of the new life, God infuses sanctifying grace, and thereby bestows a new spiritual existence of which the word of God was the seed. Others understand by it the form of the sacrament of Baptism—”I baptize thee in the name of the Father, &c.”—which, being added to the matter or element, constitutes the sacrament of regeneration, accedit verbum ad elementum et fit sacramentum—St. Augustine (the phrase comes from the tractate 80:3 on John: the word is added to the element and there results the sacrament). The former opinion, referring it to the word of revelation, which is the seed of faith, and the other dispositions, that precede the infusion of sanctifying grace, appears the more probable.

“The word of God who liveth and remaineth for ever,” may be also rendered from the Greek, λογου ζωντος θεου και μενοντος, which (word) liveth and remaineth for ever. The latter signification is, however, included in the former; for, if God remains for ever, so shall his word, which is his seed.

1Pe 1:24  For all flesh is as grass and all the glory thereof as the flower of grass. The grass is withered and the flower thereof is fallen away.

In your first birth, you were begotten of a corruptible seed; for, according to the prophet Isaiah, every man is as frail and corruptible as grass, and all his glory as transient and fleeting as the flower of grass; the grass withers and its flower falls away (see Isa 40:6). Hence, as man viewed according to his earthly origin, with all his glory passes away, the seed from which he springs must be corruptible.

He proves the first part of the assertion implied in verse 23, that in their first, or carnal birth, they were born of a corruptible seed (“being born again not of corruptible seed.”) This he shows from the prophet Isaiah 40:6, “all flesh is as grass;” by “flesh” is meant human nature, or, man viewed according to his earthly or carnal generation; then, every man, viewed in this respect, is as frail and corruptible “as grass,” and, consequently, the seed from which he was begotten, or, the principle of his human generation, was corruptible.

“And all the glory thereof as the flower of grass,” that is, all the celebrity, fame, and honours, which dazzle and attract the eyes of men, are as nought, passing away, like smoke and vapour.

“The grass is withered and the flower thereof,” its frailest part, thus, an apt image of all earthly and human grandeur, “is fallen away.” Oh! what an idea is here conveyed to us of the uncertainty and instability of all human honours and enjoyment. They are likened by the Spirit of God to ” the flower of the grass,” the frailest thing that exists— ” homo sicut faenum dies eius tamquam flos agri sic efflorebit, quoniam spiritus pertransivit in illo et non subsistet et non cognoscet amplius locum suum —(Psalm 103:15-16). Man’s days are as grass, as the flower of the field so shall he flourish. For the spirit shall pass in him, and he shall not be: and he shall know his place no more.

1Pe 1:25  But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel hath been preached unto you.

But the seed from which you derive you second generation is incorruptible; for, according to the same prophet, “the word of the Lord remains for ever.” Now, the word referred to by Isaias, is the same that was preached to you, and the same that has been the seed of your spiritual regeneration.

From the same passage of Isaiah, he proves, that the seed from which we have derived our second, or spiritual generation, is incorruptible; for, in Isaiah it is said ” that the word of the Lord endureth for ever.”—(Isa 40:8). Now, the word which, according to Isaiah, endureth fer ever, is that, “which by the gospel has been preached to you;” and this same is the word or seed of which you have been spiritually begotten, and have derived your new spiritual existence by sanctifying grace. The “word,” of which we are spiritually begotten, most likely refers to the word of God’s revelation, from which we conceive faith—the first grace in the order of justification, and the first of the dispositions consequent on which, as a seed, God infuses the form of a new spiritual existence, viz., sanctifying grace. The conclusion which the Apostle wishes us to draw from this incorruptibility of the principle of our new birth is, that our charity and love for our brethren (verse 22) should correspond with the qualities of this principle, that it should be constant, enduring, persevering, pure, and holy.

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One Response to Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on 1 Peter 1:17-25

  1. Pingback: Commentaries for the Third Sunday of Easter, Year A | stjoeofoblog

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