(I Peter 1:3-5)
God the Father is not here viewed absolutely but relatively, that is, as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord Himself is contemplated in His mediatonal character, that is, as the eternal Son vested with our nature. As such, the Father appointed and sent Him forth on His redeeming mission. In that capacity and office the Lord Jesus owned and served Him as His God and Father. From the beginning He was engaged in His Father’s business, ever doing those things that were pleasing in His sight. by God’s Word He was regulated in all things. Jehovah was His “portion” (Ps. 16:5), His “God” (Ps. 22:1), His “All.” Christ was under Him (John 6:38; 14:28): “the head of Christ is God” (1 Cor. 11:3). In a covenant way, too, He was and is the God and Father of Christ (John 20:17), not only so while Christ was here on earth, but even now that He is in heaven. This is clear from Christ’s promise after His ascension: “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God…” (Rev. 3:12, ital. mine). Yet this official subordination of Christ to God the Father in no wise militates against nor modifies His essential equality with Him (John 1:1-3; 5:23; 10:30-33).
Because the Father of Our Surety, He Is Our Father
It is to be carefully noted that praise is here rendered not to “the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ” but of “our Lord Jesus Christ.” In other words, God’s relationship to us is determined by His relationship to our Surety. He is the God and Father of sinners only in Christ.
The title “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” is the peculiar and characteristic Christian designation of Deity, contemplating Him as the God of redemption (Rom. 15:6; 2 Cor. 11:31; Col. 1:3). When an Israelite called on Him as “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,” he recognized and owned Him not only as the Creator and moral Governor of the world, but also as the covenant God of his nation. So when the Christian addresses Him as “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” he acknowledges Him as the Author of eternal redemption through the incarnate Son, who voluntarily took the place of subserviency to and dependence upon Him. In the highest meaning of the word, God is the Father of no man until he is united to the One whom He commissioned and sent to be the Savior of sinners, the sole Mediator between God and men.
The language in which God is here worshiped explains how it is that He can be so kind and bounteous to His people. All blessings come to the creature from God. He it is who gave them being and supplies their varied needs. Equally so, all spiritual blessings proceed from Him (Eph. 1:3; James 1:17). The Highest is “kind unto the unthankful and to the evil” (Luke 6:35). But spiritual blessings issue from Him not simply as God, nor from the Father absolutely, but from “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In what follows, the apostle makes mention of His abundant mercy, of His begetting the elect to a living hope, and of an inheritance that infinitely transcends all earthly good. And in the bestowment of these favors God is here acknowledged in the special character in which He confers them. If it be asked, How can a holy God endow sinful men with such blessings? the answer is, as “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is because God is well pleased with the Redeemer that He is well pleased with the redeemed. The work of Christ merited such a reward, and He shares it with His own (John 17:22). All comes to us from the Father through the Son.
His Abundant Mercy, the Cause of God’s Gracious Choice
Let us ponder its ascription, which is found in the phrase “his abundant mercy.” Just as God did not elect because He foresaw that any would savingly repent and believe the Gospel—for these are the effects of His invincible call, which in turn is the consequence and not the cause of election—but “according to his own purpose” (2 Tim. 1:9), neither does He regenerate because of any merits possessed by the subjects thereof, but solely of His own sovereign pleasure (James 1:18). His abundant mercy is here set oven against our abundant demerits, and to the degree that we are sensible of the latter shall we be moved to render praise for the former. Such is our woeful case through sin that naught but Divine mercy can relieve it. Give ear to the words of C. H. Spurgeon:
No other attribute could have helped us had mercy refused. As we are by nature, justice condemns us, holiness frowns upon, power crushes us, truth confirms the threatening of the law, and wrath fulfils it. It is from the mercy of God that all our hopes begin. Mercy is needed for the miserable, and yet more for the sinful. Misery and sin are fully united in the human race, and mercy here performs her noblest deeds. My brethren, God has vouchsafed His mercy unto us, and we must thankfully acknowledge that in our case His mercy has been abundant mercy.
We were defiled with abundant sin, and only the multitude of His loving kindnesses could have put those sins away. We were infected with an abundant evil, and only overflowing mercy can ever cure us of all our natural disease, and make us meet for heaven. We have received abundant grace up till now; we have made great drafts upon the exchequer of God, and of His fullness have all we received grace for grace. Where sin hath abounded, grace hath much more abounded… Everything in God is on a grand scale. Great power—He shakes the world. Great wisdom—He balances the clouds. His mercy is commensurate with His other attributes: it is Godlike mercy, infinite mercy! You must measure His Godhead before you can compute His mercy. Well may it be called “abundant” if it be infinite. It will always be abundant, for all that can be drawn from it will be but as the drop of a bucket to the sea itself. The mercy which deals with us is not man’s mercy, but God’s mercy, and therefore boundless mercy
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope.” Let us begin this chapter with a continuation of our examination of the ascription of this doxology. God the Father is here viewed as the covenant Head of the Mediator and of God’s elect in Him, and is thus accorded His distinctive Christian title (see, for example, Eph. 1:3). This title sets Him forth as the God of redemption. “Abundant mercy” is ascribed to Him. This is one of His ineffable perfections, yet the exercise of it—as of all His other attributes—is determined by His own imperial will (Rom. 9:15). Much is said in Scripture concerning this Divine excellency. We read of His “tender mercy” (Luke 1:78). David declares, “For great is thy mercy” (Ps. 86:13); “thou, Lord, art… plenteous in mercy” (Ps. 8 6:5). Nehemiah speaks of His “manifold mercies” (Neh. 9:27). Listen to David describe the effect that meditating upon this attribute, as he had practically experienced it, had upon his worship: “But as for me, I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy: and in thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple” (Ps. 5:7). Blessed be His name, “for his mercy endureth for ever” (Ps. 107:1). Well then may each believer join with the Psalmist in saying, “I will sing aloud of thy mercy…” (Ps. 59:16). To this attribute especially should erring saints look: “according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions” (Ps. 5 1:1).
God’s General and Special Mercy Must Be Distinguished
It must be pointed out that there is both a general and a special mercy. That distinction is a necessary and important one, yea, a vital one; for many poor souls are counting upon the former instead of looking by faith to the latter. “The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works” (Ps. 145:9). Considering how much wickedness abounds in this world, the discerning and contrite heart can say with the Psalmist, “The earth, O LORD, is full of thy mercy. . .” (Ps. 119:64). For the good of our souls it is essential that we grasp the distinction revealed in God’s Word between this general mercy and God’s special benignity to His elect. by virtue of His eminence as a gift of God, Christ is denominated “the Mercy promised to our fathers” (Luke 1:72, ital. mine). How aptly does the Psalmist declare, “Thy mercy is great above the heavens” (Ps. 108:4; cf. Eph. 4:10); for there is God’s mercyseat found (see Heb. 9, especially vv. 5, 23, 24), upon which the exalted Savior is now seated administering the fruits of His redemptive work. It is thither that the convicted and sin-burdened soul must look for saving mercy. To conclude that God is too merciful to damn any one eternally is a delusion with which Satan fatally deceives multitudes. Pardoning mercy is obtainable only through faith in the atoning blood of the Savior. Reject Him, and Divine condemnation is inescapable.
This Mercy Is Abundant Because It Is Covenant Mercy
The mercy here celebrated by Peter is very clearly a particular and discriminating one. It is that of “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” and it flows to its favored objects “by [means of] the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (brackets mine) It is between those two phrases that we find these words firmly lodged: “who according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope.” Thus it is covenant mercy, redemptive mercy, regenerating mercy. Rightly is it styled “abundant mercy,” especially in view of the Bestower. For this abundant mercy issues from the self-sufficient Jehovah, who is infinitely and immutably blessed in Himself, who would have incurred no personal loss had He abandoned the whole human race to destruction. It was of His mere good pleasure that He did not. It is seen to be “abundant mercy” when we view the character of its objects, namely, depraved rebels, whose minds were enmity against God. It also appears thus when we contemplate the nature of its peculiar blessings. They are not the common and temporal ones, such as health and strength, sustenance and preservation that are bestowed upon the wicked, but spiritual, celestial, and everlasting benefits such as had never entered the mind of man to conceive.
Still more so is it seen to be “abundant mercy” when we contemplate the means through which those blessings are conveyed to us: “by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” which necessarily presupposes His incarnation and crucifixion. What other language but “abundant mercy” could appropriately express the Father’s sending forth of His beloved Son to take upon Himself the form of a servant, to assume to Himself flesh and blood, and to be born in a manger all for the sake of those whose multitudinous iniquities deserved eternal punishment? That Blessed One came here to be the Surety of His people, to pay their debts, to suffer in their stead, to die the Just for the unjust. Therefore, God spared not His own Son but called upon the sword of justice to smite Him. He delivered Him up to the curse that He might “freely give us all things” (Rom. 8:32). Thus it is a righteous mercy, even as the Psalmist declares: “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other” (Ps. 85:10). It was at the cross that the seemingly conflicting attributes of mercy and justice, love and wrath, holiness and peace united, just as the various colors of the light, when separated by a natural prism of mist, are seen beautifully blended together in the rainbow—the token and emblem of the covenant (Gen. 9:12-17; Rev. 4:3).
Meditation on the Miracle of the New Birth Evokes Fervent Praise
Let us consider the incitement of this doxology, which is found in the following words: “which [who] according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope.” It was the realization that God had quickened those who were dead in sins that moved Peter to bless Him so fervently. The words “hath begotten us” have reference to their regeneration. Later in the chapter the apostle describes them as having been “born again” (v. 23) and in the next chapter addresses them as “newborn babes” (1 Peter 2:2). A new and a spiritual life, Divine in its origin, was imparted to them, wrought in their souls by the power of the Holy Spirit (John 3:6). That new life was given for the purpose of forming a new character and for the transforming of their conduct. God had sent forth the Spirit of His Son into their hearts, thereby communicating to them a holy disposition, who, as the Spirit of adoption (Rom. 8:15), was inclining them to love Him. It is styled a begetting, not only because it is then that the spiritual life begins and that a holy seed is implanted (1 John 3:9), but also because an image or likeness of the Begetter Himself is conveyed (1 John 5:1). As fallen Adam “begat a son in his own likeness, after his image” (Gen. 5:3), so at the new birth the Christian is “renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (Col. 3:10).
In the words “begotten us again” there is a twofold allusion: a comparison and a contrast. First, just as God is the efficient cause of our being, so He is also of our wellbeing; our natural life comes from Him, and so too does our spiritual life. Secondly, the Apostle Peter intends to distinguish our new birth from the old one. At our first begetting and birth we were conceived in sin and shapen in iniquity (Ps. 51:5); but at our regeneration we are “created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph. 4:24). by the new birth we are delivered from the reigning power of sin, for we are then made “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). Henceforth there is a perpetual conflict within the believer. Not only does the flesh lust against the spirit, but the spirit lusts against the flesh (Gal. 5:17). It is not sufficiently recognized and realized that the new nature or principle of grace of necessity makes war upon the old nature or principle of evil. This spiritual begetting is attributed to God’s “abundant mercy,” for it was induced by nothing in or from us. We had not so much as a desire after Him: in every instance He is able to declare, “I am found of them that sought me not” (Isa. 65:1; cf. Rom. 3:11). As believers love Him because He first loved them (1 John 4:19), likewise they did not become seekers after Christ until He first sought and effectually called them (Luke 15; John 6:44; 10:16).
This begetting is according to the abundant mercy of God. Mercy was most eminently displayed here. For regeneration is the fundamental blessing of all grace and glory, being the first open manifestation that the elect receive of God’s love to them. “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:4, 5).