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- 1 Peter
The Preacher’s Complete Homiletic
ON THE GENERAL EPISTLES
I-II Peter, I-II-III John, Jude
OF ST. JOHN THE DIVINE
By the REV. ROBERT TUCK, B.A.
Author of the Commentaries on Hebrews and James
FUNK & WAGNALLS COMPANY
LONDON AND TORONTO
ON THE BOOKS OF THE BIBLE
WITH CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES,
INDEXES, ETC., BY VARIOUS AUTHORS
PREACHER’S HOMILETICAL COMMENTARY
HOMILIES FOR SPECIAL OCCASIONS
Church Seasons: Advent, 1 Peter 4:7; 2 Peter 3:1-7; Revelation 1:9; Revelation 22:20-21. St. Thomas’s Day, 1 Peter 1:8. Christmas, 1 John 4:9; 1 John 5:20. Lent, 1 John 3:3; Revelation 2:7. Good Friday, 1 Peter 3:18; 1 Peter 4:1; 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10; Revelation 1:5; Revelation 5:12. Easter, Revelation 1:17-18. Ascension Day, 1 Peter 1:3. Whit Sunday, 1 John 2:20. All Saints’ Day, Revelation 7:9-10.
Holy Communion: 2 Peter 3:11; 2 Peter 3:18; 1 John 1:3; 1 John 3:1; 1 John 3:13-17; 1 John 3:24; Jude 1:21.
Missions to Heathen: Revelation 11:15; Revelation 14:6-7; Revelation 22:17. Bible Society, 2 Peter 1:16-21; Revelation 1:1-3; Revelation 14:6-7.
Special: Ordination, 1 Peter 5:1-4. Workers, 1 Peter 2:12; 1 Peter 4:1-2. Baptism, 1 Peter 3:21. Confirmation, Revelation 2:4. Marriage, 1 Peter 3:1-6. Women, 1 Peter 3:1-6. Harvest, Revelation 14:13-16; Revelation 15:0; Revelation 17:0 -
20. Death, 2 Peter 1:11; 2 Peter 1:14-15; Revelation 14:13; Revelation 21:7. Close of year, Revelation 21:5.
THE FIRST EPISTLE GENERAL OF PETER
IT is generally accepted that the apostle Peter was the author of this first epistle, and indeed this may be admitted as beyond reasonable dispute. But when he wrote it, where he wrote it, and for whom he wrote it, can only be conjectured. Much might be settled if we could be sure that St. Peter visited, and for a time resided in, Rome. What seems to be clear is, that the epistle was written before the destruction of Jerusalem, A.D. 70; and a very probable date is A.D. 64, immediately before the Neronian persecution. The epistle mentions Babylon as the place of the author’s residence at the time; but Babylon may be a figurative name for Rome. Babylon is, in a mystical way, put for Rome by Papias. Those addressed in the letter are the “dispersed” in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, but many of the churches in these provinces were founded by St. Paul, and are known to have contained Gentile converts; and some of the counsels of the epistle have distinct application to Gentile-Christian, rather than Jewish-Christian conditions, so we must understand the apostle to address the Christian Churches generally, but to write as the Apostle of the Circumcision, with special interest in the Jewish members. The difficulties which St. Paul met with from the Judaising teachers would be more serious in relation to the Jewish than to the Gentile sections of the Churches; and it was, therefore, a distinct support of St. Paul’s position, that the Apostle of the Circumcision should send to the Churches of the “Dispersion,” independently, precisely the same teachings and counsels. Perhaps the most striking thing in this epistle is, the moral support which it virtually, though not openly, gives to the teaching of the Apostle of the Gentiles. There is no more difference between St. Paul and St. Peter than between St. Paul and St. James.
SIMON PETER—A CHARACTER-STUDY
Simon Peter is, in every way, the most prominent of the personal disciples of the Lord Jesus. His companion disciples, and even John his friend, make but a vague and indistinct impression upon us. The only man whom we seem to know, until St. Paul appears upon the scene, is this man Peter. There must have been something in his natural disposition and character which our Lord immediately recognised, and in which He saw the possibilities of a noble life and noble service. But Peter’s character is not an easy one to estimate, because the things which lie on the surface of his story, and are evident to the casual observer, are not the revealing things, they are only indications of the weak sides of a really strong man. And yet to one who is skilful in reading human character, Peter’s weaknesses are the suggestion of his strength, and they set the character-reader upon searching for the noble things that must have been in the man who could be so foolish, and so weak. Impulsive he was; he constantly made mistakes by speaking before he had thought. But a man must have something in him to be impulsive; there are energy and enterprise in the man who speaks at once, and he will learn by-and-bye wisdom and self-restraint.
The life-story of Peter should be well before the mind, in its completeness, and in its details, when an effort is made to appraise his character. It is so easy to misjudge a character when only certain actions are taken into the purview. Every man has a right to demand that his character shall be estimated in the light that his entire life throws upon it. Every man who has energy at all does some foolish things sometimes, just as Peter did, and just as David did; but the man’s life can never be read aright by him who keeps his eye fixed exclusively on those few foolish things. Even the great Moses sometimes spake unadvisedly with his lips; and the apostle Paul had to apologise for unguarded speech. Peter’s life as a whole will be found to reveal the good things of his nature, the great possibilities which did get cultured into a noble life of noble service. When we commune with the almost sanctified Peter of these epistles, we easily forget, or at least put into their proportionate place, the little weaknesses and mistakes which, almost always, leaned to virtue’s side.
We know the name of Peter’s father; it was Jona, or Jochanan, represented by our John. Tradition gives the name of his mother as Joanna. The family belonged to the western Bethsaida, which is identified as the modern Ain et Tabigah, near Chorazin and Capernaum. As the father is never introduced in the narrative, it is assumed that Peter and Andrew his brother were early left orphans, and were brought up by Zebedee and Salome with their two lads James and John, Peter thus beginning in early life that personal friendship with John, which proved such a power for blessing to the end of his days. The four young men received the ordinary Jewish education, which was mainly, if not exclusively, concerned with the Scriptures, and could not fail to excite in their minds a great interest in the coming of the long-promised Messiah. The four eventually became partners in the business of fishermen, and the energy and promptitude of Peter soon brought to him the foremost position as leader. When he is introduced in the gospels, Peter was residing at Capernaum, with his wife and wife’s mother, and he was in very tolerable circumstances, his social status not being at all represented by that of the fisher-folk of the western world.
With his daily companions, he had been much excited by the appearance of John the Baptist; he had evidently submitted to his rite and enrolled himself among his disciples. But Peter was not with Andrew and John on that memorable day when the sight of Jesus seemed to inspire John the Baptist, and led him to cry out, “Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world.” Andrew at once thought how deeply interested his brother would be in their discovery of the Messiah. He sought him out, and brought him to Jesus. In a moment, He who “knew what was in man,” read this man, and fixed his estimate of his character in one significant word, “Thou shalt be called Cephas”—the Rock-man.
The four companions returned to their business, and some time elapsed before Christ called them to personal attendance upon Him. This He did in connection with the miraculous draught of fishes, bidding them follow Him, that He might make them fishers of men. From this time Peter seems to have been in daily, unbroken contact with His Master; becoming passionately attached to Him, wholly devoted to Him, and almost jealous of Him, unable to bear anything that seemed a slight to Him, or even to hear Him speak in what seemed a hopeless way about Himself. A natural leader himself, he always seemed to expect that Jesus would say and do just what he would say and do if he were Jesus. That enthusiastic admiration for Jesus provides the explanation of many of Peter’s impulsive acts, and confessions, and mistakes, such as his walking on the water, acknowledging the Messiahship, resisting the idea of Christ suffering, asking to have tents built on the Mount, and professing such brave things in the upper room. He did not know his sides of weakness and peril; he had to learn what those were by bitter and humiliating experiences, in Gethsemane, and in the Judgment Hall. But he recovered himself in a way that told how really firm, and strong, and rock-like his nature was; and when he had received his full restoration from his Divine Lord, he started upon a new career—not yet quite free from his weaknesses, but marvellously developed in self-restraint—naturally leader of the apostolic company, chosen to preach the first gospel sermons, to endure the first persecutions for Christ’s sake, and to open the door of gospel privileges for the free admission of believing Gentiles as well as Jews.
Traditions have gathered round his later story. He is said to have founded the church at Antioch, and to have been an evangelist, carrying the glad tidings even to distant Parthia. Wholly uncertain traditions associate Peter with Rome. There is no historical record of any kind to prove that he was ever in that city. He is said to have been martyred there; and though we can have no confidence in the legend of his death, it beautifully rounds off the brief sketch of Peter’s life which has been given. When Nero began his persesecutions, the disciples urged Peter to flee, and he left the city by the Appian Way. A little way beyond the Porta Capena he saw his Master’s form, and he asked him, “Lord, whither goest Thou?” and from His lips there came these words, “I go to Rome to be crucified yet again.” The apostle felt the rebuke, turned his steps back, and was soon afterwards taken and thrown into the Tullianum, or Mamertine prison. There, in what is now the crypt-like chapel of S. Pietro in carcere, he converted his gailors, and a spring of fresh water burst out of the ground that he might baptize them. The day of execution came, and St. Peter, whose wife had suffered martyrdom before him, and had been strengthened by his exhortations, was taken to the height of the Janiculum, or Transtiberine region, and, on the spot now marked by a small circular chapel in the churchyard of S. Pietro in Montorio, suffered the punishment which the Romans inflicted on slaves and outlaws and barbarians, and was nailed to the cross. He desired, in the intensity of his humility, something that would make his death more ignominious and shameful than his Master’s, and at his own request he was crucified head downwards. So at last he gained the martyr’s crown. When all was over, the body was interred in the catacombs outside the city on the Appian Way—probably in those known as the Catacombs of S. Callistus (after Plumptre).
We can divide Peter’s life into three periods for the more careful examination which is necessary if we would estimate his character aright:—
1. His personal relations with the Lord Jesus.
2. His grievous and humiliating fall.
3. His devoted service as chief apostle.
With the first period of Peter’s career kept before the mind, we may inquire: I. What led to his selection by our Divine Lord for discipleship and apostleship? The selections which God makes for service are always based on His recognition of abilities, or character, or latent possibilities. Divine selections as mere acts of Divine sovereignty are not illustrated in any Scripture instance, and it is not honouring to God to assume that He ever acts on what in man we call self-will. There are grounds of wisdom and good judgment for every Divine action. The basis on which selections are made are shown plainly in many prominent cases, in order that we may fully recognise the Divine rule which works in every case. Men are as precisely fitted to the smaller places of service as we can see that they are to the greater and more prominent ones. To every disciple Jesus can say, “Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you.” Abraham was selected as the new race-head on account of his character. The root principle, the key-note, of faith in the one unseen God was the recognised fitness for his mission. Moses was selected for his position of natural leadership on account of the organising and ruling abilities with which he was endowed; and David was anointed for a future kingship because, though he was but a youth, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance, there were in him the possibilities, which the discipline of life would develop into an unusual regal efficiency. It must be true of each one of the twelve first disciples of the Lord Jesus. They must be regarded as distinctly selected men, chosen on a sufficient basis of insight and judgment. And this must even be true of Judas Iscariot. The records preserved concerning these twelve men are so slight that we cannot be said to know any of them thoroughly, and some of them we scarcely know at all, and we cannot therefore, with any detail, set forth the ground of selection in each case. But we can sufficiently recognise their leading characteristics, so as to form them into three very distinct groups. Art has endeavoured to reproduce the individuality of these twelve men, but its creations show how imperfect our knowledge of their character, their personnel, is. Art has to depend on their offices, their relations, and the Church traditions preserved concerning them.
Leonard Limousin executed a series of enamels for the church of St. Peter at Chartres. The twelve are there represented with the following insignia; St. Peter with the keys, as commissioned (according to Roman Catholic ideas) with the power to bind and to loose; St. Paul with a sword, as a soldier of Christ, armed with the “sword of the Spirit”; St. Andrew with a cross shaped as the letter X, the form of the cross on which he is supposed to have been martyred; St. John with a chalice, in allusion to the words, “Are ye able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” (Matthew 20:23). St. James the Less with a book and a club, in allusion to the supposed manner of his death. St. James the Elder with a pilgrim’s staff, a broad hat with scallop shells, and a book, he being regarded as the patron of pilgrims. St. Thomas with an architect’s square, as patron of architects and builders. St. Philip with a small cross, the staff of which is knotted like a reed, and indicates the traveller’s staff, and marks the apostle as the preacher of Christ crucified to distant nations. St. Matthew with a pike (or spear). St. Matthias with an axe. St. Bartholomew with a book and a knife. St. Simon with a saw. These indicating the different modes of their death, according to the legendary accounts.
The three groups into which the twelve men naturally divide, each group containing four men, have been skilfully explained by T. T. Lynch. 1. There are four men who were born leaders. These may be called the Boanergic Group, and the type is given in Peter.
2. There are four men who were born doubters. This may be called the Critical Group, and the type is given in Thomas.
3. There are four others who were born men of business. This may be called the Practical Group, and the type is given in Judas.
Our Lord recognised this born leadership in Peter at once, on the occasion of His first introduction to him. Oftentimes we, in a very striking way, form immediate impressions of those with whom we are casually brought into contact; but we constantly have to correct those first impressions as we become more intimate with those whose characters we thus hastily judge. But the Divine Lord not only read character quickly; he read it truly, so that His impressions never needed any after correction.
What, then, did Jesus at once see in Simon? What was revealed to Him at once as the key-note of Simon’s character? It may very well be that his face was a strong one, and the pose of his body indicated physical energy and vigour. He was evidently a man all alive, who delighted in activity and enterprise, and by the force of his energy was carried into the foremost place in whatever work he undertook. It was this that Jesus at once saw, and sealed by calling him the “Rock-man.” It was not his impulsiveness or his unsteadiness—these are the things which most impress us, who are so quick to see the evil—it was the active moral strength of the man, that showed him to be a man worth disciplining for noble service. Our Lord saw a man who was firm, vigorous, steadfast; who took a strong hold of things, and gripped tight. Lücke describes Simon’s character well, as “that firmness or hardness of power which, if not purified, easily becomes violence.” Dean Plumptre gives a very fair estimate, though he scarcely can be said to appraise worthily that strength of character in which lay such great possibilities. He says: “Through all the scenes of his life we see the natural character of the man breaking out ever and anon, and showing its evil and its good. He is foremost in his confession, and the first to retract; he alone throws himself into the waves to join the loved Form that he saw through the darkness of the night, and then, his faith failing him, begins to sink; prominent in all questionings and murmurings, impetuous, zealous, but also wavering and inconstant; in years a man, but in character a wayward boy, needing the education of a Divine Guide.”
Impulsiveness is certainly a main characteristic of Simon Peter. But impulsiveness may either be the sign of a weak nature, and then it is mere restlessness; or it may be the sign of a strong nature, and then it is energy and enterprise. It is usual to think of Peter as impulsively weak; he should be thought of as impulsively strong, decided, resolute, and in danger of becoming merely stubborn. He could make prompt and quick decisions, and, like all such men, though usually right, he sometimes made terrible mistakes. Jesus saw in him exactly the nature that needed discipline, that was worth disciplining, and that could be developed into the foremost man, the “Rock-man,” in the spiritual kingdom that He was about to establish.
That selection of Peter has its lessons for us. The secret still of selection for service in Christ’s Church is the Divine Master’s insight of our characters and possibilities.
1. We wonder why some men are put in positions of high trust. The Master saw possibilities of fitness.
2. We wonder why we are not put in positions of high trust. The Master’s estimate of us differed from our estimate of ourselves.
3. We wonder why we are in the positions that we are. The Master discerned our fitness, and we should be happier men if we fully accepted His decisions concerning us. To men we are only what we seem to be. To ourselves we are only what we feel to be. To Christ we are what we may become; and He proposes to train the possibilities.
II. What brought round to Peter his time of testing and peril?—The story of his failure and fall needs to be read between the lines, and with a good deal of sympathetic consideration. Two things must be kept in mind:
(1) His intense, enthusiastic, almost extravagant attachment to Christ; and
(2) that spirit of leadership—that natural power of ruling—which even strove to make Jesus go Peter’s way. The truth is, that it was very hard indeed for Peter to be, and to keep, second to Jesus. He was constantly making up his mind what Jesus ought to do, and how He ought to do it. And Jesus did not go Peter’s way. It was very hard for a man with the disposition of Peter to be compelled to keep second. And we can hardly wonder if, in the prolonged fight, he did sometimes fail and fall. He must have struggled again and again with himself to keep faith in Christ as he did. And that last great strain time came when he was bodily over-wrought, when he was annoyed, disappointed, angry with himself, angry with everybody else. Nothing was going “according to his mind.” He had been reproved by his Master before the other apostles in the Upper Room; he was annoyed at his falling asleep in Gethsemane, after having made such protestations of devotion; and he had again come under the severe reproof of his Master when he slashed away so impulsively with his sword in the time of the arrest. If ever a man was in a bad mood, Peter was. Many a man, feeling as Peter did that day, would have gone away and sulked. Being strong, not weak, Peter did not do that, but followed the arresting party, and gained entrance into the high priest’s palace, resolutely determined to see the end. There, caught at unawares, he denied with oaths and curses. Only a strong man could fall so terribly as Peter did that day.
And we may learn:
1. That the providential discipline of every life is adjusted to character.
2. That the greatness of a moral fall is no proof of the exceptional badness of a man. It may only tell of a strong nature which calls for severe remedies.
3. For most of us the wonder of life is, that God succeeds in accomplishing so much sanctifying by such mild testings, such limited afflictions, and so few falls.
III. What gave Peter his power and place and influence in the Early Church?—For the foremost place and power Peter gained at once when his Master passed from mortal vision among the clouds of Olivet. He simply took it, and nobody ever thought of disputing his right, or rivalling his claim. Neither St. Paul nor St. John ever presumed to take the first place. It belonged to Peter. He was facile princeps. In the Upper Room he led in the matter of filling the vacant apostleship. At Pentecost he stepped forward to explain the mysterious signs. He opened the door of the gospel to the Gentile believers.
But it was not just that man who had been found by his brother and led to Jesus and given the Cephas name. It was that man, and with all his natural characteristics still strong upon him. But it was that man after he had come through the humiliating, disciplinary experiences of life. It was that man after he had been for some time in the Christ-school—that school in which man learns the supreme lesson of self-restraint, the mastery and wise use of his own powers. He had his work when he was made ready for the doing of it. “When thou art converted”—with the second, the Christian conversion—“strengthen thy brethren. Recovered from a self-revealing fall; a humbled and gentle and sympathetic man—‘Feed My lambs.’ ” That is the great secret of power still, the secret of Christ’s own power, for “the Captain of our salvation was made perfect through suffering,” perfectly efficient for His sublime and blessed work—the bringing on of many sons unto glory.
Learn two lessons:
1. Have you nothing to do for God? (It is not so, but are you thinking that it is?) Then you may fear that there is nothing in you that is worth disciplining into efficiency.
2. Have you high trusts for God noble places, almost overwhelming responsibilities? Then there must be possibilities in you which your Divine Master has recognised, which make you worth all the stern, all the humiliating, all the afflictive discipline which you may have to undergo. “Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered.” It was worth while training such a man as Peter.
PETER’S EARLIER TEACHINGS
It is not merely a matter of interest to inquire how far St. Peter was consistent with himself, or how far he had gone in intellectual apprehension and spiritual appreciation of the Christian truth; it is distinctly helpful to the proper understanding, and to the skilful homiletic treatment, of his epistle that we should know what points of the Christian truth first arrested his attention, absorbed his interest, and found expression in his ministry as the first gospel preacher. This subject has been skilfully treated by the Rev. Owen James, and his chief points may be presented.
When Jesus died the Christian religion had no outward form or organisation. During His life He taught new truths, set up new ideals, awakened new aspirations, and established new hopes; but He did not organise His followers into a society separate and distinct from Judaism. After the resurrection, during the forty days, He continued His instruction on points bearing especially on the nature of the heavenly kingdom.
The process of giving an external organisation to Christianity may be said to have begun on the day of Pentecost. This process was a gradual one—was, indeed, a growth. In this growth we can easily distinguish five phases:—
1. A doctrinal growth, i.e. a growth in the apostles’ understanding of Christianity.
2. A numerical growth, i.e. an increase in the number of those who held Christian beliefs.
3. A separative growth—i.e. a process by which the Christians were expelled from the Jewish body, and organised into a new and distinct body.
4. A structural growth, i.e. a process by which this new Christian body developed within itself its own functions, and its own organs.
5. A dispersive growth, i.e. a process by which the Christian society not only came into existence, but also reproduced itself in every part of the Roman empire.
Thus there was a growth in the individual; from one individual to another; a separation of these individuals into a class; structural growth within the class; a multiplication of the class throughout the world. These processes were, of course, independent, and each was in part the effect, and in part the cause, of all the others.
The doctrinal growth was from Peter, through Stephen to Paul and John. It has thus its four stages: Petrine, Stephanie, Pauline, and Johannine.
Peter was a Jew. He shared in the Jewish hopes and prejudices, conformed to the Jewish ritual, and lived a Jewish life. His idea of the Messianic kingdom was that in form it would be earthly and Jewish. The crucifixion dispersed all the expectations of Peter, and overwhelmed him with despair. But the resurrection, the intercourse and meditations of the forty days, the ascension, and the outpouring of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, were events whose logic reset his views. He saw that the Jewish nation had crucified in the person of Jesus its Lord and Messiah. Peter has not ceased to be a Jew. But he is a Jew who believes that the Messiah has already come, that the nation, not being prepared for Him, killed Him, and that for this reason He has, for the present, gone back to heaven. When Peter declared this publicly there was great consternation. The multitudes cried, “Brethren, what shall we do?” That is, How shall we avert the consequences of our unpreparedness for the Messiah, and our consequent rejection and crucifixion of Him? They are commanded to do two things:
1. “Repent ye.”
2. “Be baptized, every one of you, into the name of Jesus the Messiah.” He does not use the word “Repentance” in the modern metaphysico-theological sense. He tells the Jews simply that they must resolve to cease from their wicked doings, and to give scrupulous obedience to the law, as faithful Jews. That was one thing they must do. Then they were to be baptized into the name of Jesus, upon the basis of their conviction and avowal that He was the Messiah. He requires, therefore, the acceptance of Jesus as Messiah, and a formal expression of this acceptance by baptism.
The repentance, the naming of Jesus as Messiah, and the baptism into this name, were with a view to two objects—the remission of sins, and the bestowal of the Holy Spirit. Remission of sins is here used in its objective and not in its subjective sense. Peter is not thinking of that Divine act in which God acquits man of sin. He is thinking rather of averting the calamitous consequences of sinning, and he has a special series of calamities in his mind.
Shortly after the Day of Pentecost Peter addressed the multitudes that had assembled in Solomon’s porch. Here, again, repentance, turning again, blotting out of sin, are pre-requisite, and upon them is conditioned the coming of the seasons of refreshing. The exhortations of the second address are given from a different point of view. In the first address the main object in view is to avert the destruction which the Messiah will inflict on those unprepared for Him. In the second address the main object in view is to secure the speedy return of the Messiah.
Addressing the Sanhedrin, Peter’s point is that Jesus of Nazareth, whom the Sanhedrin had crucified, was the true Messiah, the only Messiah which the nation would ever have; that God had raised Him from the dead; and that in His name the lame man was healed.
Again addressing the Sanhedrin, Peter says in closing: “Him as Prince and Saviour did God exalt at His right hand to give repentance to Israel and remission of sins.” That is, God raised Jesus, who was a Prince and Saviour, unto His right hand in order to give to Israel time and opportunity for repentance and forgiveness. Rather than destroy the nation at once because of its rejection of the Messiah, God had raised the Messiah unto His right hand in order that the nation might be brought to repentance, and through repentance to the forgiveness of sins.
Recapitulating the four addresses of Peter recorded in the first part of the Acts, we learn, according to the above exposition:—
1. That Peter was a true and faithful Jew.
2. That in his mind the Messianic kingdom was earthly and political, but based on pure morality and fervent piety. The benefits of the kingdom were to be in part worldly, and in part spiritual. The Holy Spirit was to be poured out on all classes of Jews. On the other hand, the Messiah was to destroy with a terrible destruction the immoral, the impious, and the hostile to Himself among the nation.
3. The Messiah had already come, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.
4. The nation, not being prepared for Him, had crucified Him.
5. God had raised Him from the dead, and had exalted Him to a place at His right hand in heaven.
6. The crucifixion, death, and resurrection of the Messiah had for their efficient cause the sins of the people; for their formal cause the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God; but concerning their final cause, Peter is silent. That is, Peter mentions no purpose that God had in His counsel that the Messiah should be a suffering one.
The Messiah had been exalted to heaven not only because the people were unprepared for Him, but also in order to give the nation time and opportunity to become prepared for Him.
8. When the nation should be sufficiently prepared, the Messiah would again appear to establish the kingdom and destroy the unprepared remnant.
9. Preparedness for the Messiah produced an individual and a national result:
(1) For the nation it accelerated the setting up of the Messianic kingdom with all its national blessings.
(2) For the individual it effected a removal from a hostile class to a friendly class, from a class that was to be destroyed to a class that was to be blessed; it averted the destruction and secured the salvation which the coming of the Messiah brought. In other words, preparedness for the Messiah resulted to the individual in the forgiveness of sins, and the bestowal of the Holy Spirit.
10. This preparedness consisted in reformation of moral and religious conduct (repentance); in naming Jesus as Messiah (faith); and in being baptized into this name (confession). The import of this baptism is threefold; it expressed acceptance of Jesus as Messiah, it was a formal committal of self to Jesus as Messiah, and it changed the class, of the baptized. It was a confession, it was a pledge, and it identified the confessing and pledging person with the disciples. He became a disciple by this very act. This was the mark that classified him outwardly.
11. This preparedness was to be produced by the disciples through their testimony and preaching, and through the confirming of their testimony by the Holy Spirit.
Such seem to have been the beliefs of the Christians during the early Petrine period.
ST. PETER’S ACQUAINTANCE WITH ST. PAUL’S EPISTLES
At some time or other in the later period of St. Peter’s life, we must think of him as coming into contact for the first time with what must have been a new treasure of wisdom and knowledge, equivalent almost to a new apocalypse of truth. During the thirty years or so that had passed since the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, the two, St. Peter and St. Paul, had but seldom met. True, St. Peter had once heard in brief outline the substance of the gospel which St Paul preached to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:2). True, he had publicly recognised his teaching and his work; but after this there had been an interval of separation and distrust, for a time even of actual antagonism, brought about by ignorance and misrepresentation. During all these years the only time in which he listened to St. Paul’s voice was when he spoke in sharp reproof at Antioch. We have no reason to think it likely that any of St. Paul’s epistles had at that time come within his reach. But now, in his old age, he came in contact with Silvanus, who for years had been St. Paul’s companion, who was joined with him in the salutations to the churches of Thessalonica, who possibly acted as his amanuensis in writing the Epistle to the Romans. From him, therefore, St. Peter may well have obtained a copy of some, at least, of the great epistles in which the teaching of the Apostle of the Gentiles has come down to us for an everlasting possession. Can we not picture to ourselves the flood of new feelings and thoughts which would rush in upon his soul as he sat and read them? Delight to find a heart that beat so entirely in unison with his own, loving Christ as he himself loved Him, a truth essentially the same, though presenting here and there different phases, and including some things hard to be understood—a new warmth of affection towards the “beloved brother Paul,” who, when they last met, had reproved him so sharply—wider thoughts, it may be, than he had before known as to the mystery of Christ, and the hidden symbolism of the types and shadows of the law—all these are traceable in his epistles; and this also, the influence of the teaching of St. Paul on the mind of St. Peter, would well repay a distinct and full inquiry.
With such fruits fresh gathered into the garner of his old age, with a mind illumined at once by a long experience and by the guidance of the Spirit of Truth, soaring far above the strife and contention with which party and faction had sought to identify his name, looking back upon the past, to the days when his Lord had been with him upon earth, and he saw His glory, and listened to His words, looking forward to the time as already near when he would have to put off this tabernacle, as that Lord had showed him—all the fear, and vacillation, and self-confidence of the natural man, the Simon Bar-Jona, having passed away—the true Peter, at last worthy of his name, sends forth the great encyclical epistles, which were then the stay and bulwark of the Church against the hosts of dark and dangerous errors, and which continue to give light to all seekers after truth, and comfort to all penitents and mourners.—Dean Plumptre.
ST. PETER’S MINISTRY IN ROME
The most that can be said of the evidence for this is that it leaves it fairly probable that St. Peter ended his life at Rome. Of the twenty-five years of his Episcopate, and of his having thus been the first of a long line of Pontiffs, there is not the shadow of any evidence till we come to Eusebius himself, who states that Peter followed Simon Magus to Rome in the reign of Claudius (A.D. 41), and there defeated him. He does not give the details of the defeat, but wraps them in a vague rhetoric. The true source of the Petrine legend are, accordingly, not to be found in the early fathers of the church, nor in any local tradition of an earlier date than the latter part of the second century. Their starting point is found in the elaborate apocrypha of the Ebionite heretics.—Dean Plumptre.
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18