“Unto you therefore which believe he is precious” (I Peter 2:7).
We shall now have a glimpse of the crown jewels of the Christian. Peter uses one adjective frequently and conspicuously, viz., the word precious. Seven times this word is found in these two epistles, and once we meet the same thought in other words — of great price.
Let us first get these seven texts before us:
Chapter 1:7 — The trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, etc.
Chapter 1:19 — But with the precious blood of Christ.
Chapter 2:4 — A living stone… chosen of God, and precious.
Chapter 2:6 — A chief corner-stone, elect, precious.
Chapter 2:7 — Unto you therefore which believe He is precious.
Chapter 3:4 — The ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price, that is, very precious.
Second epistle, chapter 1:1 — Like-precious faith with us.”
And, last of all — Chapter 1:4 — Exceeding great and precious promises.
The text, Unto you therefore which believe He is precious, differs from the rest, for, in the original, we find not an adjective but a noun — Unto you therefore which believe he is the precious one, or, the preciousness, i.e., the one object of inestimable value. Among all this cluster of precious thing one stands central, that is, Jesus; and if these are crown-jewels in the diadem of the disciple, there is one jewel whose brilliance outshines all the rest — The Pearl of Great Price.
The text furthermore suggests, that all the precious things that belong to the child of God cluster about Him. They only serve to show us the different characters, or the relations, which Christ sustains to the disciple, the various sides and angles of this one priceless Crown-Jewel!
In the experience of disciples, first of all we come to the precious Blood which is the price of our redemption. Jesus Christ finds us slaves to the law and its penalty, to sin, guilt, and condemnation; and the first thing He does is, to deliver the slave and captive. There was only one ransom sufficient for the slave, whose life was forfeited by sin, and that was to give another life for that forfeited life; and, because the Blood is the Life, Christ’s Blood was shed; for the giving of His Blood was the giving of His life. He gave His life for us. No other ransom would redeem the slave; no other price would satisfy the demands of a broken law, would expiate the guilt of sin, would answer to the penalty of evil-doing; and so this precious Paschal Lamb of God was slain for us, and his blood was sprinkled on the side-posts, and the upper door-posts of the house, that we might hide behind the blood-stained doorway. A wonderful Ransom that was! It not only delivered us from the bondage of the law and penalty, but from the power and dominion of sin; it freed the slave, and made him a son; it redeemed the victim and criminal, and set him in the high places of the family of God, reconciled and restored. So Jesus Christ is precious, first, because of the precious Blood He shed; the first aspect of his preciousness is that which He presents as the Redeemer of sinful souls, who restores and reconciles us to God, and sets the slave in the household as a son and heir.
The second aspect of this preciousness of Christ is that He becomes the chief corner-stone. For, it is not enough for the slave to be redeemed, for the penalty of sin to be put away — beyond pardon, forgiveness, reconciliation, there must be the building up of holy character into the image of God. And so every redeemed slave that becomes a son of God is built up into the likeness of the Father. Every builder needs first a foundation and a corner-stone. Other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. There is no necessity for another corner-stone, for here is Christ, scoffed at and scorned by unbelievers, but the chosen, chief and only corner-stone, the living corner-stone. Deliverance from sin is not complete until you are made pure, for it is only the pure in heart that shall see God. You must, as a new-born babe, feed on the sincere milk of the Word until you grow thereby and become a man, able to feed on the strong meat which alone befits a strong man, and develops him into his full stature and strength.
There is a peculiar expression found in connection with this corner-stone; sometimes it is called, as by the old prophets, the head-stone of the corner (Psa. 118:22, etc.) i.e. the chief corner-stone, or the stone of the angle. The head-stone is manifestly not the corner-stone; it is the stone laid on the top and not at the bottom of an edifice; and the chief stone of the corner may refer as well to the chief stone of the upper corner as of the lower corner of the structure. If the figure be that of a pyramid, there is a corner-stone whose angles determine all the lines of the pyramid, and there is another head-stone of the corner which is laid on the apex of the pyramid to complete it. Possibly these mysterious expressions of Scripture refer to both. Jesus Christ is the corner-stone, laid beneath our character and life, but He is also the head-stone, laid at the apex of our life to complete and finish it. He is the author and finisher of our faith, that is, He begins it and He completes it.
In the ancient Olympic games, the stadium was an ellipse or circle, and the starting point was also the goal; instead of running from one end of the race-course to another, in a straight line, the racer passed round the curve and came back to the same point whence he started. Jesus Christ is the author and the finisher of our faith, because we start from Him, and we come back to Him. The same thought is suggested here. He is the corner-stone, because we begin to build on Him; He is the head-stone because we finish building in Him; and from the time that the first stone is laid at the corner till the last stone is laid, with shouts of rejoicing, it is Jesus Christ all the way from bottom to top, from beginning to end. So he is the preciousness to the builder of character, and life, and destiny, for he inspires and completes our effort. He lies beneath us as an everlasting rock, and when we have finished and done all we can do and the best we can do, he crowns and consummates and completes the structure as the very stone that lies at the top of all. What a beautiful thought this is! Christ is not content to redeem a slave or even to make him a son; He will never leave him till He has made him perfect in the likeness of God.
The third aspect of the preciousness of Christ is His precious promises. He is the Promiser of all good. As His precious blood redeems; as the precious stone of foundation and of completion regulates the building of character and life, so Christ is the source of our access to, and appropriation of, the precious promises of God.
Upon this head it is well to expand somewhat. The Word of God is here brought to our attention in the light of its exceeding great, glorious and precious promises. The promises present only one aspect of that Word, for there are in it precepts or commandments, warnings and invitations, instructions and admonitions; but Peter takes this one particular feature of the Word of God and separates it for our special thought — The exceeding great and precious promises. His mind was probably on the Land of Promise that was the type of the promises of the Word of God, and which God would have his people survey, enter into, and take possession of, as the present Rest of the people of God.
How are you to make these promises your own? Keep before you the thought of a land. Suppose some poor man in this congregation should learn that there had been left to him a large and valuable estate. He had never seen it, or thought of its possession, but suddenly, by some legacy, this great tract of territory, with its buildings and its woodland and all its resources, becomes his own. How would he make that property practically his possession? As soon as his title was established he would go and examine it for himself; see what there was in the estate, where the woodland was, and what kind of wood grew there, and to what uses it could be put; he would see where the garden spots lay for the culture of all sorts of fruits and of flowers. He would want to know what water there was to irrigate the soil and make it fruitful, and whether there were any mines of coal or metal, especially of gold and silver, to be worked; in other words, there would be first an investigation of the land, and then there would be an attempt to utilize or make serviceable what the land contained.
In some such way we are to take possession of the Promises found in the Word of God. We are, first, to search the Scriptures, to find out what is in them; even to dig down into their depths for the precious hidden truths that they contain; we are to turn over their soil that the sweetest fruits and flowers possible may be developed by the cultivation of our knowledge of the Word. We are to find out what there is in the Bible that is meant for us, and then make it useful in our lives, our character, our service.
Suppose an apothecary shop in which are gathered all the various remedies from the vegetable, the mineral, and the animal world, that can be applied to the treatment of disease; suppose also a community cursed with all forms of sickness and bodily infirmity; and that there is a remedy on these shelves and in these vials for every ill to which flesh is heir. He who is to use that apothecary shop to a purpose must first know what is there, and then how it ought to be applied to human disease, infirmity, and weakness. God’s precious Word is the great apothecary shop of the universe, with the Divine medicine for every spiritual ill, need, and infirmity. Or it may he considered as God’s great banqueting hall, with food and drink for every hungry and every thirsty soul; or as God’s great armoury with the full armour of God — offensive and defensive weapons for the warrior in the fight ; or as God’s great workshop with an implement for every child of God that would do effective work in the Master’s service. The Bible is the great resource of the Christian. We need to know what is in it, and then lay hold on what it contains, and appropriate it.
In this way this Book of God becomes to a disciple the most precious book in the world. It is well to have one Bible for constant use, so well made and bound, that it will not easily come to pieces. Every believer needs one Bible as his constant companion, which may be filled with his own private, personal, marginal notes made by his own pen. Most precious will such a particular Bible become, because, in every circumstance of trial, temptation, sorrow, conscious guilt, conscious need, he will go to this one book, and find something in it that is exactly adapted to himself, and will note on the margin the date, the day, the month, and the year, when each particular promise has been sanctified to his good; and if he gets into circumstances of peculiar trial and trouble, he will again search this dear Book of God and look at the entries on the sacred leaves, which indicate where God has enabled him to dig down and find mines of gold for his conscious poverty, or to appropriate some precious Word of God in times when his need was especially great. I would rather lose everything else I have in the world, than the one Bible which has been the companion of many years, and which is thus full of my own sacred memoranda. And the blessed thing about this is that there is not a man, woman, or child that cannot have one Bible that is just as precious, and for which all the wealth in England would not be a sufficient price.
In one’s own Bible it may also be well to indicate the texts that have been specially blessed to other souls. For instance, when George Muller was working to build up his orphanages in Bristol, — when he had the beginnings of his buildings, but very few orphans themselves — and afterwards when he needed yet larger buildings for the great work that he felt must be done, he was one day on his knees in prayer to God, and he opened at the eighty-first Psalm, and tenth verse, which may be marked as Muller’s text — Open thy mouth wide and I will fill it. And he says that from that time he has been asking great things from God, and expecting great things from God, and has not been disappointed.
When Mr. Moody began his work in America, timid, uneducated, opposed, maligned, and sometimes persecuted, he needed peculiar strength from God to help him meet his difficulties; and one day he was reading in the fiftieth chapter of Isaiah, at the seventh verse, and these words he took as the motto of his life from that time forth, For the Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed. That text is Moody’s text. When he started his great institutions in Northfield and in Chicago for the training of young men and women in Christian life and service, the whole undertaking was one of faith and prayer. He had no money back of him to sustain these great institutions, which cost in Northfield alone £100,000, and in Chicago about as much more; and he found in Isaiah 27:3 another motto for those institutions, I the Lord do keep it; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day.
When Luther was in the midst of the Great Reformation, and the Word of God was assailed on every side, he found in the hundred and nineteenth Psalm at the eighty-ninth verse, the words which have since been known as Luther’s text, For ever, 0 Lord, thy word is settled in heaven; i.e. far beyond the reach of all disturbing causes.
Paul found, in Habakkuk 2:4, the text which he repeats more frequently than any other in his writings, The just shall live by his faith. That is “Paul’s Text.
“Carey’s text was Isaiah 54:2-3, Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes; for thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left, etc. And so I might give you a thousand texts, that have been known as the texts of individuals, because they have supplied special the inspiration and the strength for their Christian effort.
Suppose you are in need of food and raiment, and you want comfort. You turn to Matthew 6:33, Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Or to Philippians 4:19, My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. You are in circumstances of temptation, and you turn to I Corinthians 10:13, There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. You are in circumstances of peculiar trial through sorrow, and you turn to I Peter 4:12, Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partaker: of Christ’s sufferings, that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. You are undertaking to preach the gospel in the midst of the destitute and degraded of the earth, and you need help. You turn to Matthew 28:19, Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, and, Lo I am with you alway even unto the end of the world. Perhaps you are discouraged and disappointed about your work — it seems to you to be vain — and you turn to I Corinthians 15:58, Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord. Or you are approaching the dying hour, and your heart gives way to anguish, and again you turn to Psalm 23:4, Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. And these examples could be multiplied by the hundred thousand.
Nothing is more astonishing than that, with such a land of promise which we are bidden to enter and take possession of, we do not even know what is there, much less appr6priate it to ourselves. No doubt there are professing disciples even in this great congregation that spend more time over the daily newspapers than over the Word of God, and who know more of the current news than of the exceeding great and precious promises in this Book. May God help His believing children to understand that every word of promise here is for them, because the precious blood of Christ has been applied to their redemption, and they have chosen Him as the foundation stone and the capstone for the building of character and life. Find out what is in this land; dig down into its depths; explore its forests and timberlands; seek out its garden spots, well watered as the garden of the Lord; grow fruits and flowers for your table and your dwelling, and build the timber into your homes, and decorate yourselves with the gold and the silver and the precious gems. Let us know what is in the Word of God, and compel other people to see that we do know what precious promises are in it. Think of having such a celestial treasure, and then going about, with heads bowed down as a bulrush, as though there were no riches of glory in the inheritance of the saints!
Trial of your faith
Let us cast a rapid glance at the other precious things to which little reference has been made. The trial of your faith, etc. In the Bible even trial fires are treated as precious; and yet, if there is anything from which a man shrinks, it is from contact with the flame. To be burnt represents as terrible agony as any to which a human being can be subjected, though happily it is often brief. One anguish may possibly surpass it, crucifixion, to which the Lord of Glory gave himself that he might show his love, in that He endured the most terrible suffering.
And yet trial fire is precious. Metals, that are not purified, are worth little for manufacture. The ore out of the great mines is worthless for ordinary purposes, until ground to powder, and until the metal has been separated from its alloy. God thinks so much of His children that He must get the dross out of their character, the pure metal separated and purified from all its surroundings and foreign admixtures, and so He kindles a fire and puts the disciple in the crucible and melts him down by those fires, which are sometimes very hot, until the dross is released and rises to the surface and is skimmed away. When he looks down into the crucible and sees in the metal His own face reflected, He knows that the dross is all removed; and he removes it from the fire, and moulds the metal for honourable purposes and makes it into chosen vessels. Malachi says of Jesus Christ, that, He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver. Why not stand? Because in the purification of metals by fire, the refiner sat by to watch for the precise moment when the metal is purified. In the great iron foundries, in making Bessemer steel, the process is watched through a spectroscope, in which the changing colours of the flames show exactly when the metal is completely ready for its uses.
When the flame reaches a certain shade of colour then the great crucible is turned upside down, released from the fires, and the metal is poured into its moulds. He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver. The Divine Refiner sits down by the crucible, watching intently to see just when the fire has done its full work and when the metal should be removed from the flames.
God puts you in the crucible because you are so precious in His sight. He sits down by His crucible, and watches the progress of your purification, and when He sees that you are made like unto Himself, He releases you from the fire. There will not be a pang, or a pain, not be an instant of sorrow or anguish after the perfect work has been accomplished.
Meek and quiet spirit
The ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. The inmost obstacle to holy character is the disposition, or temper, where envy, and jealousy, and malice, and uncharitableness hide. The great impulse which controls our tongues, our conduct, comes from our disposition. The word means that to which we are disposed, as fire toward the sun, or water toward its level.
To that inmost place no stranger penetrates; it is known only to ourselves and to Almighty God. Would you be precious in God’s sight, and wear the only ornament that God cares for? It is not plaited hair, nor silks and satins, nor broadcloth and doe-skin, nor gold and gems. For these He cares nothing. One gem alone is bright to God, and like His own Pearl, of great price; it is a spirit meek, i.e., unselfish, and quiet, i.e., peace-loving and peace-making! the soul that has conquered all wrong dispositions, out of which has been rooted up whatever interferes with the peace, and the purity, of other souls! The disposition is the stronghold of evil. It is comparatively easy to shape the speech, to avoid falsehood, and malice; but the last thing to be changed is the disposition, or temper — the tendency to be easily provoked, to misconstrue the motives of others, to speak quickly and impatiently, to be despotic, and arbitrary, and overbearing, to be fault-finding and petulant — all the thousand forms of evil temper, that unhappily are often nourished and cherished, even in Christian bosoms!
Like precious faith
The like-precious faith. That forms a proper conclusion to this series. We have seen the precious blood that redeems, the precious corner-stone and capstone of the character, the precious land of promise, and the precious trial of faith, the preciousness of the meek and the quiet spirit. What is the like-precious faith, but the faith that in all disciples is alike? How precious is that bond of union between all God’s dear people, the world over. Jesus Christ is the hub of the wheel, and all the spokes, although separated at the circumference, meet in the hub. Christ is the Sun of righteousness, and all the rays, however dispersed, meet in the Sun. There are millions of believers on the face of the earth, that we never saw, but who hold the same precious faith with us, and if we met them to-day we should love them and they would love us, and we should feel that we were all bound to one Christ. Brought up in other lands, their hearts would at once be knit to yours as though you and they had been reared in the same land, in the same house, and under the same father’s care.
There are Episcopalians, Congregationalists, Methodists, Presbyterians — disciples that differ from you in some things, but those things in which they and you agree are far more numerous and infinitely more precious than those in which you and they differ. When we all meet in the presence of God, alike redeemed, our differences will all have passed away, and our agreements will be seen to have constituted the like-precious faith of all true children of God. Believers sometimes, upon platforms, discuss matters that are very trifling, split theological hairs, and draw nice distinctions and discriminations; but when those very controversialists get down on their knees together they pray exactly the same theology! When true believers pray and praise their dialect is the same always, so that, if you should take the prayers and the hymns of true disciples from the Cross of Christ till now, you would find no essential difference as to the truths to which have been held and which have practically ruled the life.
Whatever may be the distractions that divide God’s people, blessed be His name! we have one like-precious faith, for we hold to one redeeming Blood, one corner-stone and capstone, one inheritance of promise, one final Purification from sin, one Divine ornament of the meek and quiet spirit, one Saviour who is the infinitely precious One. We shall come, by-and-by, where we shall see all truth in the same light, and the errors and the mistakes of this life will have passed away.
But, remember, He is the Precious One, only to those that believe. It is by faith that we are redeemed by that precious Blood, built on that corner-stone, finished with that capstone, tried as by fire and made pure, made. partakers of these promises, decorated with that meek and quiet spirit, and bound to all others who hold like-precious faith. How much hangs on believing! Who of you all will by faith accept this Precious One, and to-day begin to find out how all other precious Crown-Jewels become your own only by first possessing this Pearl of Great Price?
From “The Heights of the Gospel” by A.T. Pierson (1893). This page Copyright © 2000 Peter Wade. The Bible text in this publication, except where otherwise indicated, is from the King James Version. This article appears on the site: https://www.peterwade.com/. Check out our Bookstore.