Written Once…Lived Forever: Joy Unspeakable

To be a disciple of the Lord Jesus involved cost. Peter could not but cry, “Lo, we have left all, and have followed Thee” (Mk 10:28) when confronted by the actions of a man who was not prepared to incur that cost. But whether Jews asserted that he and the other disciples had abandoned the inheritance which was the hope of Israel, or whether the adversary impressed on him the “loss” of his inheritance in the fishing business, Peter knew that what he had gained was much greater than either of these.

Believers have “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven …”(1 Pet 1:4). This inheritance cannot be lost. As it is incorruptible, decay cannot destroy it; being undefiled, sin cannot touch it; it does not fade away, so time cannot diminish it; it is reserved in heaven, therefore the adversary cannot attack it. But in addition to the inheritance being reserved for them, they are being “kept” for the inheritance. It can never be taken from them. It should be noted that whereas the inheritance is “reserved” in heaven a stronger word is used of the saints. They are “kept.” The same word is used by Paul when he wrote of Damascus being “kept … with a garrison” (2 Cor 11:32). There was no need to use such a strong word when referring to the inheritance reserved in heaven because, as has been observed, it is beyond the reach of Satan. Peter’s readers, however, were in the world where the Evil One could touch them, but they could not lose what the Lord had provided because He set a garrison around them. The enemy could not break in and rob them as he broke in and robbed Adam and Eve of Eden’s bliss.

Little wonder then that saints will “greatly rejoice” in that which the Lord has provided. Let us take heed to their example and appreciate something of the greatness of our inheritance that will cause us also to be rejoicing Christians!

Before the believer enters fully into that inheritance, however, he must face the sufferings and trials of life. These are for a season, for they are passing. They are “if need be” in that they have a purpose. They are manifold, in that they are plenteous. They cause heaviness, so they are pressing. Against this background, Peter’s readers love the Lord Whom they had not seen and “rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.”

The word “unspeakable” is unique to this epistle. The joy that they had in the Lord could not be expressed in words. They might speak of it and muse on it. Daily they could consider Him and His work. However, amidst the problems and difficulties which they faced, they possessed a joy so deep that no human language was capable of expressing it.

It is remarkable that this word is used by Peter, as he was rarely, if ever, at loss for a word. The fact that in every list of disciples in Scripture Peter is named first indicates that he was regarded as a leader amongst them, and their chief spokesman. This was recognized by those who were responsible for collecting the temple tribute money when they came to Peter and asked “Doth not your Master pay tribute?” (Mt 17:24). It was Peter who in haste rebuked the Lord when He had told them that He would go to Jerusalem to “suffer many things…and be killed, and be raised again the third day” (Mt 16:21-22). He had no problem finding the words. On the Mount of Transfiguration Peter doubtless voiced the feelings of the other two disciples present when he said, “Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles … ” (Lk 9:33). Again these words came readily to his lips. Reference has been made already to the fact that it was Peter who uttered what others may have been thinking as they saw a man walk away from the Lord, not prepared to take up his cross. When the Lord Jesus asked the question “But whom say ye that I am?” it was Peter who answered without delay, using choice, accurate, well-chosen words: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16). In the upper room, with the shadow of the Cross cast over the evening, as the Lord Jesus washed the disciples’ feet it was Peter who asked, “Lord, dost Thou wash my feet?” (Jn 13:6). Despite the solemnity of the hour, Peter still stated what was in his heart.

Of all the disciples, therefore, Peter had not found any circumstance, whether it be the glory of the Transfiguration, the dark shadows of the upper room, surprise at the Lord’s statement regarding His death, or the sadness of seeing a man turn his back on the Lord, that left him lost for words. But now, even Peter cannot find language to express the joy that was in his soul as he thought of the One in Whom he believed. Rejoice he did, and that “full of glory.” “Their faith enables them to pass beyond the present suffering to the joy which belongs to the subsequent glories … their joy is glorified because it is an earnest of the glory which shall be revealed” (Expositor’s Greek Testament). Because their joy is heavenly it cannot be expressed in terms of the language of earth. It is unspeakable not because of any lack of ability of Peter and his readers to express themselves, but due to the inadequacy of human lips to describe the heavenly state. When it came to describe being “with Christ” even Peter’s well-known eloquence failed!

And so it is with us. We have not seen Him but the Spirit has given us a spiritual view of Him and we love Him. In our hearts there is joy, beyond description by the most eloquent of earth, which anticipates the coming joy that will be ours when we see Him and are like Him. Let us today enjoy the indescribable!