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INSPIRATION TO CHRISTIAN GROWTH
CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES
2 Peter 1:1. Simon.—The Greek MSS. give Symeon; see Acts 15:14. A servant and an apostle—Compare 1 Peter 1:1, “an apostle,” and Jude 2 Peter 1:1, “a servant.” Like precious faith.—See 1 Peter 1:7; 1 Peter 1:19. This appears to be addressed to Gentile Christians, as called to share in Christian privilege with the Jews. Through.—ἐν; inclusive; that by which they were surrounded, the element of their spiritual existence. “In the justifying grace,” the righteousness which God has provided for us in Christ. God and our Saviour.—Not as two persons. τοῦ Θεοῦ ἡμῶν καὶ σωτῆρος. The single article τοῦ applies to both θεοῦ and σωτῆρος: “Our God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.”
2 Peter 1:2. Knowledge.—ἐπιγνώσει. Increasing—ever-increasing—knowledge; see 2 Peter 3:18. Our Lord.—That is, of Jesus as our Lord.
2 Peter 1:3. Divine power.—τῆς θείας δυνάμεως. The personification of this means the power of the Holy Spirit, who is personally the author of the new creation. Life and godliness.—The new soul-life, and its fitting expression in earthly life and relations. Godliness is a tone and character on conduct. To glory and virtue.—Margin R.V. “by His own glory and virtue.” By the exercise of the same attributes to which we are to refer our call.
2 Peter 1:4. Exceeding great.—τὰ μέγιστα: the greatest, as concerning the greatest things. Partakers of the Divine nature.—Compare 1 Peter 1:23. “A participation in the moral perfections and communicable attributes of the Godhead.” The Christian is thought of as receiving, upon faith, a new, Divine life, which makes him kin with God.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—2 Peter 1:1-4
Christian Provisions, Privileges, and Promises.—The first epistle of Peter was directly addressed to the “elect who are sojourners of the Dispersion,” in the provinces of Asia Minor, but there is no such limitation in the second epistle, which has a general character, and a wider application to all who share in the “common faith.”
I. The person who writes.—The authorship of St. Peter has been disputed, but the difficulties of the denial of his authorship are greater than those which connect with its acceptance. The Petrine character of both the thoughts and the language is evident to every unprejudiced reader, and the differences may find a simple and natural explanation in the supposition of a different amanuensis. The Greek form of the name Symeon is to be preferred here. In the opening words of the first epistle, St. Peter does but call himself “an apostle of Jesus Christ”; but in this epistle he imitates St. Paul, and unites the terms—“servant and apostle” (Romans 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Titus 1:1). The word “servant” carries the more precise meaning of “bond-servant,” or “slave.” The union of the two terms suggests the union of service with authority, which was the characteristic of the apostleship. The service of the Lord Jesus, to which St. Peter was bound, was the service to the people which the Lord Jesus wanted to have rendered. And the authority was not a merely official right, but that kind of authority which is always given by first, precise, and complete personal knowledge. Apostolic authority is indicated in 1 John 1:1. These are the permanent features of all healthy Christian ministry. It is the service of men, because the heart is loyal and devoted to the service of Christ. It is service with the authority that comes with first hand, full, and precise knowledge, more especially when it is the knowledge of personal experience.
II. The persons addressed.—“Them that have obtained a like precious faith with us.” Sharers in a faith which is not said to be always the same in character, but which always had the same quality and the same object. “All believed the same precious mysteries.” We need not think that St. Peter refers exclusively to the apostles. It would be quite in harmony with his manner to refer to the association of the Gentiles with the Jews in the Christian faith. He himself had opened the door to the Gentiles, and they had become fellow-heirs with the Jews in Christian privilege. The object of faith is not here said to be the person of Christ. It is a characteristic of St. Peter that he traced salvation back to God, as its first cause, and regarded Christ as the Mediator, or agent, by whom the Divine purpose was outwrought (see 1 Peter 1:21). The expression, “the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ,” sets before us God’s righteousness in saving men from their sins by Jesus Christ, which is the final object of faith, and which the apostle Paul so fully dwells upon. (Some writers suggest that the righteousness here referred to is only “fairness” in giving gospel privilege to Jew and Gentile alike.)
III. The blessing invoked.—“Peace be unto you!” is the familiar Jewish blessing. “Grace and peace” is the characteristic Christian blessing. The addition of the word “grace” brings in the gospel peculiarity. To all men God gives “peace”; on sinful men He bestows His grace. “By grace are ye saved.” This is familiar; but the peculiarity of St. Peter’s blessing lies in his idea of the way in which the “grace and peace” will come to us. It is through knowledge. Not, of course, mere head-knowledge. Experimental knowledge. The Petrine setting reminds us of the remarkable words of our Lord’s intercessory prayer: “And this is life eternal, that they should know Thee the only true God, and Him whom Thou didst send, even Jesus Christ.”
IV. The provisions made.—“All things that pertain unto life and godliness.” It is important to see that the religious life is never given to any one in a matured condition. Sometimes truth is so imperfectly stated that we get the impression that the new man is created in us fully grown, as Adam was made a full-grown man. Conversion is supposed to be enough, and the converted man is fully saved. Nothing could be more unscriptural. The new man is born in us a babe; all we need assure ourselves of is independent breath and a cry. Abundant provisions are made for its nourishment and growth; and they all range round Jesus Christ, and the spiritual and experimental knowledge of Him. The terms “life” and “godliness,” if they were not intended to mean, may at least suggest to us, the two spheres, the inner life of feeling, and the outer life of conduct and relations. The “glory and virtue” is misconceived as something to which we are called. The idea of the verse is, that our Lord’s own glory and virtue, the inspiring example of His own beautiful and gracious life, are a perpetual call to us to culture soul-piety and practical goodness.
V. The promises given.—This must be restricted to such promises as bear upon our effort to live the godly life. Not the general promises scattered through the sacred Word, but the specific promises which are associated with calls to Christian duty and culture. Such as were spoken by Christ; such as are found in the epistles. It may be shown that they are
(3) adapted; and
VI. The life shared.—“Through these ye may become partakers of the Divine nature.” The idea seems to be this: the culture of the soul is a culture into ever fuller communion with Christ, involving ever fuller communications of Christ’s life and grace. And as the life flows more freely, there is more complete deliverance from the fleshly life, and consequently more and more freedom from the temptations and corruptions of the world. Or, to express it in another way, the full life of love to God in Christ insures full mastery over the life of lust.
SUGGESTIVE NOTES AND SERMON SKETCHES
2 Peter 1:1. Message to Gentile Christians.—“Like precious faith with us.” Not that all had an equal amount of faith, which would scarcely be possible; nor that their faith gave all an equal right to salvation, which the Greek could scarcely mean; but that all believed the same precious mysteries (compare 1 Peter 1:7). It is delicately implied that “we as well as you have had it allotted to us; it is no credit to us; we are not superior to you.” “Us” may mean either the apostles or (more probably) the first Christians, as distinct from those converted later, i.e. Jewish as distinct from Gentile Christians. This shows that Gentile converts are chiefly addressed in this epistle as Jewish were in the first epistle. Gentiles would be more likely to be doubters respecting Christ’s return to judgment than Jews, who were well acquainted with Hebrew prophecies on the subject. Gentiles also would be more likely than Jews to fall into the excesses denounced in the second chapter, which bear a strong resemblance to the catalogue of heathen vices given by St. Paul in Romans 1:0. The idea that Christians are the antitype of the chosen people is prominent in St. Peter’s writings (compare ch. 2 Peter 2:11; 1 Peter 1:10). Note that no particular Churches are mentioned. The second epistle is more “general” or “catholic” in its address than the first. Here again we have a mark of independence. A writer personating St. Peter, and referring to the former letter, would probably have taken care to make the address of the second letter tally exactly with that of the first.—A. Plummer, M.A.
Precious Faith.—God’s righteousness here is His fairness. He has no respect of persons, and hence has given to all Christians, early or late, Jew or Gentile, a “like precious faith.”
1. The nature and origin of precious faith.
(1) It originates with God.
(2) It comes through man’s ministration.
(3) It is the effect, act, and evidence, of a renewed state of mind.
2. A few of the properties of such a faith.
(1) It is essential to the existence of the Christian character.
(2) It is used to denote the whole household of God.
(3) It appears in Christian ordinances.
3. A caution as to its appropriation.
4. Its necessity and importance.—J. Stevens.
What is Faith?—Faith is a grace wrought in the soul of a sinner by the Holy Spirit, whereby, being emptied of all opinionative thoughts of his own righteousness, strength, and fulness, he is enabled to look to Christ, to betake Himself to Him as his only Saviour, to receive Him, to rest and rely upon Him for the remission of his sins, for a righteousness to justify him in the sight of God; for strength to enable him to perform duty, to follow after holiness, and to encounter spiritual enemies; and for eternal life when his work of faith and labour of love is ended, and when he comes to finish, with joy, his course. This is the Scripture notion of saving faith; and it has God for its fundamental and principal object, as He is a God of truth, reconciled to sinners; but it has Christ for its immediate object, for it is only by His mediation that a sinner can come to God.—A. Taylor.
2 Peter 1:4. Divine Assimilation.—“Partakers of the Divine nature.” The text suggests—
1. That the Divine nature is the source and standard of all perfection.
(1) God is an eternal, infinite, and self-existent Being.
(2) He is both remote from and independent of His works.
(3) He is absolutely perfect.
(4) He is an emotional and communicative Being.
2. That man can partake of that nature. We become partakers of it when we
(1) receive Divine ideas;
(2) are made holy;
(3) have eternal life;
(4) are made happy in God.
3. That the process of becoming a partaker of the Divine is most Divine.
(1) The substratum—the mental and moral natures of man.
(2) The Divine medium—the Atonement.
(3) The causation—the Spirit.
(4) The Divine instrumentality—the promises.
4. That such a participation sublimates man. It augments
(1) The Divinity;
(2) the sublimity;
(3) the spiritual development of life.—C. Briggs.
Promises.—Here, not the promises of the Old Testament, that Christ should come, or even promises in general, but precisely the promises of the New Testament, that Christ should come again. “The certainty of Christ’s return to reward the righteous and punish the wicked is one of the main subjects of the epistle.” Promises are distinct from prophecies. These only declare what shall be, but promises declare that what shall be, shall be in special adaptation to us, and shall be provision for the supply of our highest and best needs. However promises in relation to the one special matter of Christ’s coming again may have been in St. Peter’s mind, we may be permitted to see the general truth, that God has always dealt with His people by drawing them on to the future, and giving them present assurances on which they may rest their faith, and feel inspired for present activity. It may even be said of all Christians, as it can be said of Abraham: they have nothing but promises; they live upon promises. Nothing is ever realised here that can in any sense be said to exhaust the promises. Indeed, their partial fulfilments never satisfy; they do but reveal to us the inexhaustible fulness of the promises.
I. Then what do these promises rest upon?—How is it that we can be so confident about them, and can willingly keep them for our cheering, though they are unfulfilled? The answer is not merely this: We have them in the Word. It is this: They reveal to us Him in whom we trust. They reveal Him in His relations, Him in His thoughts and purposes. And in our best moods we rise superior to the shapings of the promise, and rest ourselves in the Faithful Promiser. To have God who promises is far better than to have God’s promises.
II. What of the present do the promises cover?—The most remarkable direct personal revelation that ever comes to a Christian is perhaps the discovery that no need ever arises in his life that has not been thought of by God, and met with a promise in precise adaptation. Let but a Christian get into any night of affliction, and at once the whole heaven seems alive with stars of promise, concerning his things.
III. What of the future do the promises assure?—We easily forget things pledged for our future when it is borne in upon our hearts that God pledges Himself by the promises to be our God for ever and ever. Here or yonder the soul’s only rest is in God Himself, the Faithful Promiser.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 1
2 Peter 1:3. Our Life-Picture.—“At an artist’s reception one day,” says H. W. Beecher, “I saw a picture of a mountain sunrise, and I wondered at its marvellous depths, richness, and splendour of shade and colour, till the artist told me how he had toned down the picture and softened its colouring in its subdued harmony of tint; and I thought how often our life was growing to be like that picture of a mountain sunrise. God’s unseen band is before the easel, sketching here and shading there. The life-picture looks to us unfinished, fragmentary and imperfect now, but each new joy-light, each sorrow-shade is toning it down with all its gloom and glory into harmony with God’s great ideal. He will frame it at last in such a setting of events as he chooses, and we shall find in the great gallery above that the light has been in the right place, and the shadows too.”
CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES
2 Peter 1:5. Beside this.—“Yea, and for this very cause,” “on this very account.” Diligence.—Or earnestness; putting heart into effort. Add.—Better as R.V., “in your faith supply.” Adding to is not the idea of the Greek. “Each element of the Christian life is to be as an instrument by which that which follows is wrought out.” Knowledge.—Here, “moral discernment.”
2 Peter 1:6. Temperance.—General self-management. Patience.—As self-control in temper. Godliness.—The right tone on all conduct; or it may mean, as it certainly includes, right disposition towards God.
2 Peter 1:7. Charity.—τὴν , general and universal love for men as men.
2 Peter 1:8. Barren, etc.—ἀργοὺς, idle, not using effort; ἀκάρπους, not attaining results. Knowledge.—See 2 Peter 1:2-3.
2 Peter 1:9. Blind.—Self-blinded, closing his eyes to the light. μυωπάζων, contracting the eyelids, as one who cannot see clearly. Was purged.—And therefore stands pledged to the new life.
2 Peter 1:10. Never fall.—Better, “stumble.” A step short of falling. “The man who has acquired these graces has his path freed from many stumbling-blocks, and his vision cleared to see and avoid the rest.”
2 Peter 1:11. Ends the first main section of the epistle.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—2 Peter 1:5-11
2 Peter 1:5-9. The Proper Response to Christian Privilege.—The apostle has been reminding his readers of the Christian promises and privileges. Such reminders are always the basis on which is laid some earnest call to duty. In 2 Peter 1:5, the apostle says, “beside this”; or better, “on this very account.” R.V. “Yea, and for this very cause.” Because of the promises and privileges, you should give diligent attention to making a worthy response in spiritual growth. Growth in Christian life is the prominent point of the teaching of this epistle. Perhaps St. Peter felt that his Christian life had witnessed a very remarkable growth, and that in this he was an ensample to the believers. He seems to sum up what he would most anxiously impress in the closing words of this epistle: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.” The R.V. helps to the proper understanding of this passage. It is not “Add to your faith virtue,” but “With your faith supply virtue.” Do not be content with any one Christian grace, and do not exaggerate the importance of any one, but try to nourish harmoniously the complete, all-round Christian life and character. It is as if St. Peter had said, “You will surely find that each grace gained helps you to gain the other graces; and that every new grace, or improved grace, improves, and helps to perfection the other graces.” The proper response for us to make to promise, and privilege, and indeed to our own pledge, is precisely this all-round and harmonious growth in Christian graces. What things are necessary, then, to the proper making up of the Christian character, and the Christian life?
1. Faith is pre-supposed; both as the belief which is the beginning of right relations with Christ, and as the daily faith or trust, which is very breath of the Christian life. A Christian only lives so long as he keeps his trust.
2. Virtue. Not purity, or chastity, which is a later association with the term. In Pagan ages virtue meant valour, courage; and this, filled with the Christian spirit, is the firmness, conscious strength, and good cheer, that come of firm, established Christian principle. It is really moral stability which brings a sense of sufficiency for every good work. This virtue led St. Paul to say, “I can do all things in Him who strengtheneth me.”
3. Knowledge. Apostles never exaggerate, as we are apt to do, the importance of mere head-knowledge. But it is quite as true that they urge with much earnestness the intelligent apprehension of revealed truth. The more practical form of knowledge is, however, most prominent in their minds; it is the “wisdom” of the Book of Proverbs, which means “moral discernment,” cultured skill in the actual ordering and ruling of our lives. Knowing how to behave ourselves in the house of God, and everywhere else. Not mere head-knowledge, but what may properly be called life-knowledge, the basis of good self-ruling.
4. Temperance. Not mere abstention from anything, drink or lust; but wise management of self, so that there never shall be any excess. The power to strike the “happy mean” always. The skill that keeps from any form of excitement that tends to put us off our balance, and make us lose our self-control. Abstinence may be the best thing under given circumstances, but it is not the absolutely best thing. To use without abusing is altogether nobler than not to use at all. The saintly man is not the man who gets away from the world, but the man who, staying in the world, is not of it; never lets it master him.
5. Patience. Christian patience is waiting, but it is much more than waiting; it is endurance, which means a waiting that involves strain and trial. It is bearing a burden while you wait. It is that spirit which is only attained when life is apprehended as a sphere of moral discipline, the methods of which cannot now be fully understood, but the issues of which are absolutely assured, and the conduct of which is wholly in all-wise and all-loving hands.
6. Godliness. Better seen as God-likeness. Then it can at once be apprehended that, if it is to be something really practical, it must be likeness to “God manifest in the flesh.” It must be the persistent endeavour to fashion our lives after the Christ-pattern, not by way of any mere servile imitation of incidents or actions, but in a noble way of giving sway and influence to the same principles, and motives. And to ensure “God-likeness” involves the deepest interest in the human life of the Lord Jesus, and such near fellowship with Him that we readily change into His image.
7. Brotherliness. “Love of the brethren.” The power and the skill that may enable us to fix and arrange all our human relationships aright, and keep them right. There may be a direct reference to our relations with those who have like precious faith with us; our brethren and sisters in Christ Jesus.
8. Charity. R.V. “love.” It may be doubted whether we can wisely lose the word “charity,” which, for Bible readers, does not mean “almsgiving,” but “considerate helpfulness of one another.” And we want a word to express that, which is one of the essential features of the Christly life. Charity expresses the “beautiful” in Christian relations, as no other word can do. If the very close relations between these things be observed, it will be fully recognised that the getting of any one of them becomes a direct help to the gaining of the others. They are links of a chain, and if one link be drawn close, the others will surely be drawn nearer. The truth to present forcibly is, that Christian character is a whole. You see it is when you see it perfectly presented in Christ. We can never be satisfied with our own characters while the possible whole is unrealised. We can never be satisfied with one-sided and imperfect developments in those to whom we minister in Christ’s name. We must desire their all-round and harmonious growth. And the grace is at our command for nourishing in ourselves, and in others, that all-round growth.
SUGGESTIVE NOTES AND SERMON SKETCHES
2 Peter 1:10. Making Sure our Calling.—The doctrines of predestination, Divine grace, and effectual calling, have a strong basis in human conviction. Whatever his forms of belief may be, every saved man cherishes the assurance that he was called of God, and led to make choice of God. There are two factors in human redemption: the moving of Divine grace toward us, the response of our hearts to it; and both are essential. The order of the words “calling and election” is not our usual order. We say “election and calling” (Romans 8:29-30). St. Peter may have meant by “election,” here, man’s act of choice. Then he may be representing Christian hope on both its sides: God’s calling and man’s choosing.
I. Our calling and election needs to be made sure.—Not to God. It does need to be realised by ourselves, and demonstrated to others. There is a great difference in individuals as regards Christian assurance. Some have no confidence throughout their lives. Assurance partly depends on natural disposition, partly on surrounding circumstances and influences. Religious experience is too living a thing to be squared to any system. The kind of relation that health bears to the work and pleasure of life, an assured interest in Christ bears to our Christian living and labouring. The assurance of our calling bears directly—
1. On the activity of Christian life. “Not barren or idle,” as ground bringing forth nothing. Illustration: Conviction of call on the old prophets made them active. Noah kept busy at his Ark under the power of strong convictions. St. Paul says, “Woe is me if I preach not the gospel;” “Now, then, we are ambassadors for Christ.” In him was a noble restlessness of activity, based on strong conviction.
2. On the fruitfulness of the Christian life. “Nor unfruitful.” “Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit.” Fruitage of Christian knowledge. Real rooting in Christ is never afraid of growing in knowledge. There is sometimes more attention given to rooting than to fruiting; then the religious life is apt to weaken into mere sentiment.
3. On the hopefulness of Christian life. They that fail are “blind”—cannot see afar off. Plain human vision can see little beyond this present life. Strong confidence gets us upon the Delectable Mountains, and helps us to hold the telescope, and see visions of the far-away. Much of the joy of Christian living depends on the hopefulness which pierces into the future.
4. On the responsibility of Christian life. “Forgotten that he was purged.” If a man is purged, it is manifestly as a preparation for a clean, new life. “Ye are washed, ye are sanctified.” Life gains its full responsibility as the sphere in which Christ can be glorified, when we can say, “I am a purged, washed, redeemed man.”
5. On the security of the Christian life. “Shall never fall.” Illustrate from experience of Christian ministers. God’s call is just what keeps them from despair in the strain-times of life. There are similar experiences in private life.
6. On the final triumph of Christian life. “So an entrance ministered abundantly.” A most unworthy feeling sometimes gets possession of Christian professors. They think they may get at last just inside the gate; satisfied with being “almost saved,” “saved so as by fire,” “scarcely saved.” Holy Scripture never encourages such feelings, because they usually represent a false humility. It urges us rather to aim at getting right close up to the throne. The Christian ought to go into heaven as a ship enters harbour after voyage, with yards manned, and flags hanging along every rope. If it be so important that we should have and keep a well-grounded hope, the question remains—
II. How can the assurance of our calling and election be maintained?—“Give diligence.” It is a matter requiring active pursuit. We must not idly wait for some Divine impressions. God’s witness comes to workers. Yet we may pursue it wrongly. We shall
(1) if we fall back on past experience; or
(2) if we merely nourish religious feelings. The true direction is given by St. Peter (2 Peter 1:5-7). These terms describe growth—the growth which is the sure sign of life. Plant: its life is shown by its growing. Child: its health and vigour are evidenced by its growing.
1. True assurance comes out of growth in godly character. One grace is to be added to another. A lower grace is to rise and be developed into a higher.
2. True assurance comes out of growth in practical godly living. Ever more complete subjection of all life to the sway of holy principle. Ever holding more and more of life under godly control. Up to the light you have, follow on, and you will find that, as you grow, assurance grows; you will “keep your calling and election sure.”
2 Peter 1:10-11. Christian Diligence.—How eagerly we catch the last words of dying friends! In the fourteenth verse of this chapter St. Peter says, “Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me.” The warm-hearted apostle, who through good and evil report had faithfully preached the gospel for many years, and had led very many souls to peace and joy, was about to enter within that veil which hides the “great majority” from mortal sight, and to join the “spirits of just men made perfect” in their eternal rest. With such a change at hand, it is no wonder that such an earnest and loving entreaty runs through this epistle. With the last moments of his life he strove to minister to the saints by stirring them up with the holy reminiscences of the past. What a worthy termination to the life of one who had left all things to follow the Master! Let the thought that our text formed a part of the last message St. Peter delivered to the Church, influence us to give the more earnest heed to his words. The expansion of the Christian virtues forms a part of the exhortation. We have a chain of eight links to forge. “And besides this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.” Out of the Christian temper these holy virtues grow, but their cultivation requires diligence. Our text is a resumption of the passage under another figure—that of entering service, and perseverance in duty. This duty is stimulated by the twofold promise of present safety and future glory.
I. The duty which is enjoined.—“Give diligence to make your calling and election sure.” Negligence would have endangered the safety of their position. They were in possession, and they were exhorted to conserve every blessing and maintain a good profession. The subject has two branches, indicating two important steps in the experience of the saints.
1. Your calling. This word is frequently used by St. Paul. “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called” (Ephesians 4:1). It is by invitation we enter the service of Jesus Christ. “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus.” The source of the invitation is Divine,—“For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” Two things are implied: the gracious invitation of the gospel, and the willing acceptance of it by us. Let us seize on these important points, that we may fully realise our calling. The gospel is a call from God. We have turned every one to his own way, and have forsaken the way of peace. Notwithstanding our apostasy, the gracious Lord has stretched forth His hands to a stiff-necked and a gainsaying people. The first step in redemption is from the throne: the rebels are asked to return and sue for peace. Under the old Dispensation the proclamation ran: “Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else.” Under the Christian dispensation the proclamation was renewed and intensified: “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” The mission of Jesus was not only to declare the merciful nature of God, but also to use every legitimate means to induce the sinner to seek God’s favour. The Advent brought in a life more replete than any other, which embodied all the elements of influence and attraction. The Ambassador of peace sought, by a full exposition of the terms of mercy, to influence sinners to accept their salvation. The parable of precept; by example and deed, yea, and by suffering and death, our blessed Lord put forth the invitation. His first great work was to seek the lost, to bring the offer of redemption home to the heart and conscience of man. The gospel is that representation, and its ministers are the ambassadors who cry, “Hear His voice, and harden not your hearts as in the day of provocation.” The sum and substance of their mission is contained in the memorable words of St. Paul: “Be ye reconciled to God.” But this is not all; we are called into the service of God, which is a course of life in harmony with the call. To accept the invitation is to make the life of Christ our example. We are called to repentance, to faith, to prayer, to holiness, and to service. The first response of the penitent is: “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” Those who accept the invitation engage to enter the service of Christ, and give Him their time, talent, and substance. This is our calling.
2. Your election. The term “election” in the writings of St. Paul generally means the pre-determination of God to save mankind through Jesus Christ. But St. Peter, in the text, uses the word in the sense of “acceptance.” It is simply an extension of the meaning which the word “calling” contains. The servant is chosen, or approved of, after a trial of his services. This is a step forward. The first step is taken in answer to the sovereign will of God, through His mercy by Jesus Christ; but the second step is a movement in our own soul. The new birth is exhibited by the life which follows it. The new heart circulates the vital element through the whole man.
3. Such a station demands diligence. We do not at once ascend to the higher grade of faith, but must work out our salvation through fear and trembling. The climax of Christian experience is reached by a persistent effort of holy living. Diligence in the study of God’s Word will bring the assurance of truth. Diligence in following the example of Christ will give a conscience void of offence. Diligence in the spiritual exercise of communion with God will give the evidence of the Spirit, testifying with our spirits that we are the children of God. Diligence in loving efforts to establish the kingdom of Christ in this world will bring the assurance of service. Every step forward brings us nearer the promised land. The higher objects of the Divine life are attainable, not by spasmodic effort, but by faithfulness to trust. The cross comes before the crown, and labour before rest. The example of Jesus will lead us onward and upward, until we reach the highest point in holiness and consecration. Let us lay aside every hindrance to run with patience the race set before us. The certainty that “if ye do these things ye shall never fall,” stimulates action, for all the steps of faith are firm, and all the aspirations of hope are sure. There never will be any unfaithfulness in the Master; He will not discharge His faithful servants. If we are true to our Father’s faith till death, we shall maintain the course, and get the crown. Those who have put their hand to the plough must not look back. It is by looking forward we make the straight furrow. Those who are in the fold will share its blessings world without end. They will never fall into unbelief or temptation, but will stand, firmly fixed on the Rock of Ages.
II. The prospect which cheers.—In looking upward there is to be seen the object for which all labour, and its possession.
1. Everlasting kingdom. “Wherefore we receive a kingdom that cannot be moved.” The ultimate triumph of truth, and the universal reign of righteousness, are looming in the distance. The vision is full of encouragement. From one mind the law will go forth to rule all men; and from one heart love will flow to bless mankind. The kingdoms of this world change, but Messiah’s rule will run parallel with the ages. “Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and Thy dominion endureth for ever.” Founded upon His immutable nature, and directed by His own inexorable counsel, His reign cannot be shaken by time or destroyed by sin. The gates of hell will not prevail against it. We are looking forward towards universal order, when the foundation of the government shall be laid in the affections of its subjects. Its organisation will be complete, and its boundaries commensurate with the habitable parts of the earth. To our labour of love and work of faith, this is the goal. Once established, the gospel will continue its hold on all believers, and supply them with unabatable joy. There will be no more sin, and no more curse. The kingdom will be lighted up by the presence of Jehovah, and no unclean thing will enter it. This, then, is that consummation for which the ages are in travail, and to which Christian effort will give birth.
2. Abundant entrance. The vision is that of the gate of the golden city, thrown widely open. It seems as if he saw the victorious army returning from the battle-field, receiving an ovation from the citizens. The result of Christian service is contemplated, and the joy that shall follow. The consummation of hope, and the realisation of the objects of faith, will flow into the soul abundantly. Abundant will be the gratification at seeing the victories of the cross. Jesus will be crowned “Lord of all.” Abundant will be the welcome to the pilgrims of the night: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant”; and unstinted will be the congratulation when they enter the joy of their Lord. They will evermore reign with Christ in life. Such will be the end of prayer, such the reward of patience. Each worker will receive his penny, and each martyr his crown. The termination of the struggle will be the beginning of real and eternal life. Work, then, until the Master come with His reward to each faithful servant. Work, before the night cometh; work diligently to obtain the Master’s approval now, and His joy hereafter.—Weekly Pulpit.
2 Peter 1:11; 2 Peter 1:14-15. What Faith Makes of Death.
I. The representation of death as a putting off the tabernacle.—There is, of course, a reference to the warning which the apostle received from his Lord “signifying what death He should die.” He had learned that in his old age he should be seized and bound and led “whither he would not.” In all probability the language of our verse would be more accurately represented if we read for “shortly” suddenly—the apostle’s anticipation not being so much that his dissolution was impending as that his death, when it came, would be sudden—that is to say, violent—and therefore he seeks to warn and prepare his brethren beforehand. The expression seems to blend the two figures, that of a tabernacle—or tent—and that of a vesture. As the apostle Paul, in like manner, blends the same two ideas when he talks of being “clothed upon with our house which is from heaven,” and unclothed from “our earthly house of this tabernacle.” To such small dimensions has Christian faith dwindled down the ugly thing, death. It has come to be nothing more than a change of vesture, a change of dwelling. Now, what lies in that metaphor? Three things I touch upon for a moment. First of all the rigid limitation of the region within which death has any power at all. It affects a man’s vesture, his dwelling-place, something that belongs to him, something that wraps him, but nothing that is himself. This enemy may seem to come in and capture the whole fortress, but it is only the outworks that are thrown down; the citadel stands. The organ is one thing, the player on it is another; and whatever befalls that has nothing to do with what touches him. Instead of an all-mastering conqueror, then, as sense tells us that death is, and as a great deal of modern science is telling us that death is, it is only a power that touches the fringe and circumference, the wrap-page and investiture of my being, and has nothing to do with that being itself. The “foolish senses” may declare that death is lord, because they “see no motion in the dead.” But in spite of sense and anatomist’s scalpels, organisation is not life. Mind and conscience, will and love, are something more than functions of the brain; and no scalpel can ever cut into self. I live, and may live, and—blessed be God!—I can say shall live, apart altogether from this, bodily organisation. Whatever befalls, it is only like changing a dress, or removing into another house. The man is untouched. Another thing implied in this figure—and, indeed, in all three metaphors of our text—is that life runs on unbroken and the same through and after death. If the apostle be right in his conviction that the change only affects the circumference, then of course that follows naturally. Unbroken and the same! The gulf looks deep and black to us on this side, but, depend upon it, it looks a mere chink which a step can cross, when seen from the other. Like some of the rivers that disappear in a subteranean tunnel, and then emerge into the light again, the life that sinks out of sight in the dark valley of the shadow of death will come up into a brighter sunshine beyond the mountains, and it will be running in the same direction that it followed when it was lost to mortal eye. For just as the dying Stephen knew his Master again, when he saw Him standing in the glory, we should know our dear ones after they had passed through this change; for all the sweetness and all the love would be there still, and nothing would be gone but the weakness that encompassed them, and the imperfection that sometimes masked their true beauty. The same in direction, the same in essence, uninterrupted through the midst of the darkness, the life goes on. A man is the same, whatever dress he wears. Though we know that much will be changed, and that new powers may come, and old wants and weaknesses fall away with new environment, still the essential self will be unchanged, and the life will run on without a break, and with scarcely a deflection. There is no magic in the art of death which changes the set of a character, or the tendencies and desires of a nature. As you die so you live, and you live in your death and after your death the same man and woman that you were when the blow fell.
II. Death is further spoken of as a departure. “I will endeavour,” says the apostle, “that ye may be able after my decease.” The word for “decease” here is a very unusual one, as, no doubt, many of you know. It is employed with reference to death only twice in the New Testament, once in the text, and once in the account of our Lord’s Transfiguration, where Moses and Elias are represented as speaking with Him “of the decease that He should accomplish at Jerusalem.” You may observe that immediately after the last of my texts, the apostle begins to speak about that Transfiguration, and makes definite reference to what he had heard there; so that it is at all events possible that he selects the unusual word with some reference to, or some remembrance of, its use upon that occasion in the narrative of one of the evangelists. Again, it is the word which has been transferred into English as Exodus, and may possibly be here employed with some allusion to the departure of the children of Israel from the land of bondage. Now, looking at these three points, the literal meaning of this word, its employment in reference to the deliverance from Egypt, and its employment in reference to the death of Christ, we gather from them valuable considerations. This aspect of death shows it to us as seen from this side. Like the former, it minimises its importance by making it merely a change of place—another stage in a journey. We have had many changes already; only this is the last stage, the last day’s march, and it takes us home. But yet the sad thoughts of separation and withdrawal are here. These show us the saddest aspect of death, which no reflection and no consolation of religion will ever make less sad. Death, the separator, is, and must always be, an unwelcome messenger. He comes and lays his bony hand upon us, and unties the closest embraces, and draws us away from all the habitudes and associations of our lives, and bans us into a lonely land. But even in this aspect there is alleviation, if we will think about this departure in connection with the two uses of the word which I have mentioned. A change of place; yes! an Exodus from bondage; as true a deliverance from captivity as that old Exodus was. Life has its chains and limitations, which are largely due to the bodily life hemming in and shackling the spirit. It is a prison-house, though it be full of God’s goodness. We cannot but feel that, even in health, and much more in sickness, the bondage of flesh and sense, of habits rooted in the body, and of wants which it feels, weighs heavily upon us. By one swift stroke of Death’s hammer, the fetters are struck off. Death is a Liberator, in the profoundest sense; the Moses that leads the bondsmen into a desert it may be, but to liberty and towards their own land, to their rest. It is the angel who comes in the night to God’s prisoned servant, striking the fetters from his limbs, and leading him through the iron gate into the city. And so we do not need to shiver and fear for ourselves or to mourn for our dear ones, if they have passed out of the bondage of “corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God.” Death is a departure which is an emancipation. Again, it is a departure which is conformed to Christ’s “decease,” and is guided and companioned by Him. Ah! There you touch the deepest source of all comfort and all strength:
“Christ leads us through no darker rooms
Than He went through before.”
And the memory of His presence is comfort and light. What would it be, for instance, to a man stumbling in the polar regions, amidst eternal ice and trackless wastes, to come across the footprints of a man? What would it be if He found out that they were the footprints of His own brother? And you and I have a Brother’s steps to tread in when we take that last weary journey from which flesh and sense shrink and fail.
III. The last aspect of these metaphors is that one contained in the words of our first text: “an entrance ministered abundantly.” The going out is a going in; the journey has two ends, only the two ends are so very near each other that the same act is described by the two terms. Looked at from this side, it is a going out; looked at from the other side, it is a coming in. The smallest faith that unites a man’s heart with Jesus Christ makes him capable of receiving so much of salvation as is contained in the bare entrance into the kingdom; but every degree of faith’s increase, and every degree of faith’s enrichment, makes him more capable of receiving more of God in Christ, and he will get all he can hold. So every deed here on earth of Christian conduct, and every grace here on earth of Christian character, has its issue and its representative in a new influx of the glory, and a more intimate possession of the bliss, and a more abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom.—Selected.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 1
2 Peter 1:7. Brotherly Kindness.—Two fishermen, a few years ago, were mending their nets on board their vessel on one of the lakes in the interior of Argyleshire, at a considerable distance from the shore, when a sudden squall upset their boat. One of them could not swim, and the only oar which floated was caught by him that could swim. His sinking companion cried, “Ah, my poor wife and children, they must starve now!” “Save yourself; I will risk my life for their sakes!” said the other, thrusting the oar beneath the arms of the drowning man. He committed himself instantly to the deep, in danger of perishing for the safety of his companion. That moment the boat struck the bottom, and started the other oar by their side and thus both were enabled to keep afloat till they were picked up.
2 Peter 1:10. Who are the Elect?—You have heard of the senator relating to his son the account of the book containing the names of illustrious members of the Commonwealth. The son desired to see the outside. It was glorious to look upon. “Oh, let me open it,” said the son. “Nay,” said the father, “it’s known only to the council.” Then said the son, “Tell me if my name is there.” “And that,” said the father, “is a secret known only to the council, and it cannot be divulged.” Then he desired to know for what achievements the names were inscribed in that book. So the father told him; and related to him the achievements and noble deeds by which they had eternised their names. “Such,” said he, “are written, and none but such are written, in the book.” “And will my name be there?” said the son. “I cannot tell thee,” said the father; “if thy deeds are like theirs, thou shalt be written in the book; if not, thou shalt not be written.” And then the son consulted with himself, and he found that his whole deeds were playing, and singing, and drinking, and amusing himself; and he found that this was not noble, nor temperate, nor valiant. And as he could not read, as yet, his name, he determined to “make his calling and election sure.” And thus, “by patient continuance in well-doing, the end is crowned with glory, honour, immortality, and eternal life.”—Rev. E. P. Hood.
2 Peter 1:10. Preparing for Eternity.—I have read somewhere—I think it was of Bonaventura—that in one of his sermons he described himself as in a dream, beholding a vast valley of rocks covered with workers, or those who were supposed to be working. Some wrought, and as they wrought, they shaped pieces of stone. Every piece of stone was shaped to exactly the same proportions, squared to exactly the same shape. “And I saw,” said the dreamer, “and behold while they wrought, invisible, white-winged angels stood by, and they took each piece of stone and bare it, and built of them a palace in the fair kingdoms among the mansions of light. And I noticed others who were idle, lying, sleeping in the valley of rocks; but I noticed that invisible, dark living spirits were by them while they slept—not to receive the hewn stones, but themselves excavating, and shaping, and bearing them away to build homes in the dark vaults of lost being. Then I knew that these stones were hours. And I knew that our hours are building our future eternal homes; that as they are passed here, so shall we be for ever.—Hood.
2 Peter 1:11. The Abundant Entrance.—We may take an illustration from a vessel returning after a long voyage, and being received and welcomed by expectant friends. She has been, let us suppose, absent for years has been toiling and trafficking in every sea—touching at the ports and trading in the markets of many lands; she is approaching at last her “desired haven” the harbour from which she set out, whence loving thoughts went with her as she started on her perilous way, and where anxious hearts are now wishing and waiting for her return. She is descried in the distance: the news spreads; all is excitement; multitudes assemble; pier and quay, beach and bank, are crowded with spectators, as the little craft pushes on, and every moment nears her destination. There she is!—worn and weather-beaten, it is true, covered with the indications of sore travel and long service, and with many signs of her having encountered the battle and the breeze. But all is safe! Her goodly freight is secure and uninjured; her profits have been large; the merchandise she brings is both rare and rich. She is coming along over a sunny sea, leaping and dancing as if she were alive. Her crew are on the deck, and, with straining eyes and palpitating hearts, are looking towards the shore. A soft wind swells the sails; the blue heavens are bending over the bark, as if smiling on her course, while the very waves seem to run before her, turning themselves about with conscious joy, clapping their hands, and murmuring a welcome! How she bounds forwards! She is over the bar! She is gliding now in smooth water, is passing into port, and is preparing to moor and to drop her anchor for the last time! While she does so there comes a shout from the assembled spectators—the crowds that witness and welcome her approach—loud as thunder, musical as the sea! Gladness and greeting are on every hand. Eloquent voices fill the air. The vessel has received “an abundant entrance;” her crew have been met with sympathetic congratulations, are surrounded by eager and glad friends, hailed with enthusiasm, embraced with rapture, and accompanied to their home with shouting and songs!—Rev. T. Binney.
Entrance Ministered.—The phrase “an entrance shall be ministered” is an expressive and a striking one; what can be the meaning of it? The English word supplying no satisfactory answer to this question, we naturally turn to the word employed in the original, and by this we are unequivocally directed to a usage which was anciently prevalent on the Greek stage. Without pretending to any extensive knowledge of theatrical amusements as they are conducted among ourselves, it may, I suppose, be safely observed that the scenery and the performers tell the whole story of the plot, and that an acted drama has not now any auxiliary explanation. It was not so in ancient Greece. There, besides the scenery and the actors, was placed at the side of the stage a small body of persons who took no part in the play, but at various points of its progress recited, or sang, a few sentences auxiliary to it; either announcing persons of distinction, explaining some intended action, or bewailing some tragical occurrence. This group of persons was called the chorus, and upon this word chorus is distinctly formed the verb which is here employed by the apostle when he says “an entrance shall be ministered” into the heavenly kingdom. One critical observation only requires to be made. At different periods of Grecian history the word to which I am referring appears to have had different significations. More anciently, and primarily, the word ἐπιχορηγέω signified to lead, or conduct, the chorus, while less ancient writers employ it to denote one who provided the expenses of the chorus. I hold myself quite at liberty to take the more ancient, and the undoubtedly primary meaning of the word, as the only one which is at all suitable to the apostle’s purpose. And his meaning cannot, I think, be less than this: that as in a dramatic performance persons of distinction were honourably introduced by the chorus, so the entrance of a saint into heaven shall be “ministered,” or chorused. It shall not be the mere addition of one to the number of its inhabitants, not an obscure or unnoticed admission, as merely granted, but an entrance announced with gladness and accompanied with honour. To proceed yet a step farther, the apostle tells us that to some “an entrance shall be ministered abundantly.” Keeping in view the general idea before us, the conception suggested by this very expressive word, “abundantly,” it is not difficult to realise. State pageants vary in their degrees of splendour. Always befitting the royal dignity, on some occasions as when the personage introduced is of extraordinary rank, they are more especially gorgeous, every contrivance of courtly ingenuity being put into requisition to make the ceremony correspond with the dignity of the one party, and to express the regard of the other. In such a case an introduction may be said—to take up the phraseology of the text—to be “ministered abundantly.” And the idea conveyed to us cannot be less than this, that among believers in Jesus there are some whose entrance into heaven shall be more especially honourable—whatever those honours may be, of which all that can be said is that the eye hath not seen them, the ear hath not heard them, neither hath the heart of man conceived them.—Rev. John Howard Hinton, M.A.
CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES
2 Peter 1:12. Present truth.—Not some particular phase of truth, but the truth which you have and hold.
2 Peter 1:14. Showed me.—The reference cannot be to John 21:18, as John’s gospel was written later than the epistle. It may, however, be to the incident narrated in that gospel.
MAIN HOMILETICS ON THE PARAGRAPH.—2 Peter 1:12-15
Completing a Life-Work.—St. Peter could not fail to realise how important to the young Christian Churches was his own personal influence, and his authoritative teaching, as well as those of St. Paul. It is singular that he makes no reference to his friend St. John, and we can only conclude that at this time St. John had not found the opportunity for setting forth in writing his womanly, mystical conceptions of the person and gospel of Christ. It was befitting that St. Peter should make provision for the continuance of his life-influence, and that he should comfort his disciples with the assurance that he would have this in mind. In a sense the necessity was specially laid on St. Peter, as the most prominent of the apostles. But it is a duty which should be duly considered by every good man, and especially by every good teacher. No man has any right to allow his influence to be a merely temporary and passing thing. He ought to do all that in him lies to make it permanent. The relation of the apostolic developments of the Christian truth to the original revelations of those truths in the Person, teaching, and work of the Lord Jesus, needs very careful consideration. More especially in view of the fact that on the revelation rests the absolute Divine stamp, but on the developments only a Divine assistance, which worked through the particular knowledge, and peculiar characteristics, of individual minds; so that we have respectively the Petrine, Pauline, and Johannine settings of the truth. And St. Peter is in no way to blame if, in his anxiety for the preservation of Christ’s truth, there blended an anxiety to preserve also the Petrine stamp upon it. It would have been an unworthy thing if St. Peter had cherished the idea of founding a Petrine school or sect; but a man may be jealous about conserving the particular settings of truth which have been revealed to him, and have come to him with power.
I. Christian truth, and thought, and life, may become too dependent on individuals.—The controversies of the Christian ages would have been mildertoned if the various settings of truth could have been dissociated from their authors, and considered simply upon their merits. Personal feeling comes in when we think of Cerinthus, and Arius, and Augustine, and Calvin, and Wesley, and there is a kind of jealousy for the system, out of respect to the man. Sectarianism, in nine cases out of ten, has grown out of the personal influence of some man. That is a perfectly legitimate force—one which God abundantly uses for the spread of His truth. But the response to it often becomes exaggerated and excessive, and men accept on the authority of the man rather than on the evidence of the truth. Following particular men is one of the grave weaknesses of our time. When a Christian life is really no more than personal attachment to an individual, and repeating after him, it is placed in the gravest peril when that man’s influence is removed. So often the man has come to stand in front of the Christ.
II. Because of this undue dependence, Christian teachers are often removed by death or otherwise.—We can easily see that the prolonged influence of individuals must grow perilous. When pastors continue into old age in the same church, there are certain serious evils which become rife. If Calvin or Wesley, or any other leader, had lived on, how surely they must have been mischief-makers to the Church! And so often in smaller spheres, popular men carry people away, wisely and well, or otherwise, but always at the peril of quiet, sober Christian thinking and Christian living. And God’s providence is always actively at work for their removal at fitting times. It is for the world’s good that apostles die. Their work can only be for a while. It is for the Church’s good that her thought-leaders and her popular leaders never stay very long in any one sphere. Sectarianism may be useful, but exaggerated sectarianism would not fail to secure the Church’s moral ruin.
III. The truth of all true teachers abides when they have passed away.—No living seeds of truth sown in the souls of men ever really fail. It may very well be that we fail to recognise the fruitage. It often is a fruitage in life, in character, in triumph over sin, in good cheer, in comfort, in the soul’s renewed power. We err in thinking so much of the results of Christian teaching and influence in the purely intellectual spheres. And yet, what every man has truly taught surely goes to make up the whole of truth for the ages. Time does, indeed, try all settings of truth, and relegate some that seemed for a time very prominent, to the background and obscurity. And it is singular to notice how the spheres of Christian truth that interest men are constantly changing, and so what seemed to be lost settings of truth come into view and power again, and when they come are often unrecognised, and so they are freely talked of as the fresh discoveries of the new age. Every true teacher may honourably show an anxiety that the truth given to him to teach should be preserved; and this is best done by committing it to writing, as St. Peter did. Out of the writings the personal element soon fails, and the opinions and views come to stand on their own merits alone. Beginning with the holy gospels, what a splendid heritage of Christian literature has come to us! But this is not so fully recognised as it should be—the literature of each age belongs to each age, is adapted to each age, and fades with its age; but the literature of the next age is really its resurrection—its thoughts and truths re-translated, re-dressed, and re-expressed, to fit the moods of the new generation. The apostles and their immediate successors live on in every age. They have gone. Age after age their successors, too, have gone; but their teachings, a thousand times translated and adapted, are the Church’s possessions to-day. And what is true of them is true of every man to whom is given grace to put a personal stamp on any side or aspect of the revealed truth of God. Dead—he lives.
SUGGESTIVE NOTES AND SERMON SKETCHES
2 Peter 1:12. The Present Truth.—This is a suggestive phrase. There is a present truth for every age—that which God emphasises by His providence, which history emphasises by human need, and which doctrine emphasises by the extremes of error. In this day the present truth which is of supreme importance is the supernatural. The drift is towards naturalism in philosophy and materialism in practice. We must lay stress on the Divine and supernatural element in the Word of God, the nature of man, the history of the race, and the work of the Spirit.
I. As to the Word of God.—We must assert its inspiration and infallibility. Inspiration must be more than genius, or illumination which depends on internal consciousness, while inspiration has external attestation of prophecy and miracle. Any theory of inspiration that leaves out infallibility, destroys the value of the Bible as God’s book, for it takes away the court of final appeal. Reason and conscience are ordinarily safe guides, but when they err we need an infallible standard by which to correct their variations, as the best watch needs to be adjusted by God’s celestial clock.
II. As to the Divine image in man.—It is defaced, but not effaced, like a shattered mirror whose fragments still reflect your image. Development is at bottom a denial of the descent of man from God, and substitutes his ascent from the oyster. To make a man a mere animal leaves gaps unfulfilled—the beginnings of life, consciousness, intelligence, conscience. Moreover, it leads to the caste spirit, to the undervaluation of man as man, and the erection of barriers to human progress, and begets carelessness of his condition. It classes dogs and Hottentots together, and led the French governor of the isle of Bourbon to rank the Malagasy with asses.
III. As to the hand of God in history.—To make history atheistic is to make humanity anarchistic. If human history is but an accident or a fate, then, as there is no God in it to rectify it, man’s only hope is to right his own wrongs. To believe in a Providence behind human affairs leads to patience and long-suffering; but if there be no adjusting power, why consent to injustice? The alarming developments of Society to-day, which threaten all government with ruin, are direct results of infidel teaching.
IV. As to the Spirit of God.—Reformation is not regeneration. Transformations of character and communities which are radical and permanent are the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Nothing less than creative power can be equal to a new creation; and for the highest success in any true work for God and man, the Spirit of God is a necessity. Genius, learning, and philanthropy, come to their limits. The moral and spiritual nature of man refuse to yield until some mightier force is at work than man can bring to bear.—Homiletic Magazine.
CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES
2 Peter 1:16. Fables.—Legends, myths. With special reference to the narrative of the marvels of the Transfiguration. Coming.—Whether this looks backward or onward is not quite clear. It is best limited to the Transfiguration. Eyewitnesses.—And so have a personal sense-testimony to render.
2 Peter 1:19. Word of prophecy.—Not probably to be confined to things foretold. Remember how, in his addresses, and in his first epistle, St. Peter freely made appeal to Old-Testament Scriptures as proving or supporting his teachings. It is important to realise how devout Jews regarded the Old Testament.
2 Peter 1:20. Private interpretation.—Special. Those who interpreted must no more be self-willed than those who wrote. No man wrote save in the power of the Holy Ghost, and no man must venture to interpret save in the same power of the Holy Ghost.
2 Peter 1:21. Render, “But being borne on by the Holy Ghost, men spake from God.” The idea is that men did not speak out of their own hearts, but as they were commissioned by God. St. Peter’s anxiety concerns the mischievous, self-willed influence of the false teachers, with whom he is about to deal in the next chapter.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—2 Peter 1:16-21
The Apostolic Testimony.—In the salutation of this epistle Simon Peter distinctly calls himself an “apostle” of Jesus Christ; and here he puts himself with the other apostles, and testifies of the veritablenesss of the witness which they made on the basis of their own knowledge and experience.
I. It was clear and emphatic—This is implied in the assertion that it was not vague, uncertain, and untrustworthy, like the “cunningly devised fables” with which the popular ear was tickled. “By this term probably some elements in the doctrine of the false teachers are alluded to; something analogous to the ‘feigned words’ of 2 Peter 2:3. There is reason for believing that the particular elements in their teaching thus incidentally condemned were of Jewish origin. If this conjecture be correct, then St. Peter is here dealing with errors similar to those condemned by St. Paul (1 Timothy 1:4; 2 Timothy 4:4; Titus 1:14—the only other passage in which the word ‘fables’ occurs). And in this case much light is thrown on some of the marked peculiarities of this epistle and that of St. Jude—viz., the fondness of both writers for the oldest, and sometimes the most obscure, passages of Old Testament history, as well as for some strange portions of uncanonical apocryphal tradition. They were fighting these seducers with their own weapons; difficult passages of Scripture and tradition, which these men had worked up into a system of pernicious mysticism, St. Peter and St. Jude proved to be altogether of a different meaning, and to tell against the very doctrines that they were employed to support” (A. Plummer, M.A.). The most effective way in which to show the clearness of the apostolic testimony is to contrast the gospels with the foolish and demoralising stories of the so-called apocryphal gospels.
II. It was based on strong conviction.—They themselves absolutely believed what they recorded or declared, and showed their conviction by giving up all, and enduring all, for the sake of their testimony. They were consequently more than officials who do a duty, and more even than prophets, who were mediums for conveying a message. They were convinced men, who put their own hearts into their testimony. And it is absolutely essential to all effective Christian ministry, that the speaker should have the “accent of conviction.”
III. The conviction was based on personal experience.—St. Peter suggests much that was common to himself and the other apostles who were in the daily fellowship of Jesus Christ; but he refers precisely to the one experience which he was privileged to share exclusively with James and John. The Transfiguration may be treated as St. Peter’s special personal experience and testimony, since he was the sole spokesman of the occasion. The precise interest of the Transfiguration lies in its being the most sublime revelation of the innermost mystery of Christ’s person and mission,—one great point of suggestion there being the necessity and spiritual mystery of the Redeemer’s sacrificial death. St. Peter did not repeat something heard; nor even something conveyed to his mind in dream, or trance; nor even something studied from a book. He claims accurate knowledge through personal experience, and in gaining that experience the full activity of all his human powers and faculties. Compare the declaration of St. John: “That which was from the beginning, that which we have heard, that which we have seen with our eyes, that which we beheld, and our hands handled, concerning the Word of Life” (1 John 1:1).
IV. The experience absolutely assured the righteousness of Christ’s personal claim.—They were “eye-witnesses of His majesty.” This may be illustrated by the results of the wine-making at the marriage in Cana of Galilee. “This beginning of His signs did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory: and His disciples believed on Him.” We need to see more clearly that all the experiences of Christ’s fellowship which the apostles had brought impressions of Him; not just of His power, or His wisdom, or His goodness, but of Him, in whom so evidently dwelt “all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.”
The Witness of Prophecy to Christ.—The explanation of this reference to prophecy needs first to be given, and Plummet’s note is suggestive of every important point. “We have, as something more sure, the prophetic word, as a second proof of the truth of my teaching respecting Christ’s coming. The expression ‘the prophetic word’ occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. ‘The Scripture’ given as quoted by Clement of Rome, is quoted again in the so called Second Epistle of Clement (ch. 11) as ‘the prophetic word.’ The quotation in both cases is probably from some uncanonical book of prophecies. Here the expression means the whole body of prophecy respecting the subject in hand; but the meaning of the whole sentence is not quite clear. It may mean—
1. That the Transfiguration has made prophecies more sure, for we who were there have thus witnessed their fulfilment. In this case, however, we should have expected something more than ‘and’ to introduce the statement, such as ‘and hence,’ ‘and thus,’ ‘whereby,’ etc. Or it may mean—
2. That in the prophetic word we have something more sure than the voice from heaven. Here a simple ‘and’ is natural enough; and the word of prophecy is suitably compared with the voice from heaven. But how can the word of prophets be more sure than the voice of God? In itself it cannot be so; but it may be so regarded
(1) in reference to those who did not hear, but only heard of, the voice from heaven.
(2) In reference to the subject in hand. (a) For the readers of this epistle, the many utterances of a long line of prophets, expounded by a school of teachers only second to the prophets themselves, might easily be ‘more sure’ evidence than the narrative of a single writer; and ‘if they heard not Moses and the prophets, neither would they be persuaded’ by the report of a voice from heaven. (b) The Transfiguration, though an earnest of Christ’s future glory, was not so clear a promise of it as the express words of prophecy. If this latter interpretation be right, we have another form of authenticity. A forger would be likely to magnify his own advantage in hearing the voice from heaven over the ordinary proofs offered to every one, In any case, the coincidence with 1 Peter 1:10-12 must not be overlooked.” Dealing generally with the assertion made concerning the trustworthiness of the characteristic Old-Testament writings, consider—
I. Prophetic Scripture.—St. Peter clearly has in mind writings of an anticipative character, which foretold events that would occur in the future. The term is sometimes made to include the historic and didactic features of Scripture, but here reference must be to writings which have relation to the coming Messiah. And it must always be borne in mind that Jews found references to Messiah in very many mere side-allusions, which our logical Western minds compel us to free from any such relation. Indeed, the severer criticism of our day tends to put serious limitation upon the long-recognised number of Messianic passages.
II. Its source.—Distinctly, the impulse and guidance of the spirit of God. The spirit, as the inspiration of prophecy concerning Messiah, should be carefully distinguished from the Holy Ghost as the witness and seal, dwelling in Christian believers. There are dreams of poets, visions of a golden age; but these may not be compared with the prophetic portions of Scripture, which are distinctly revelational, and designed to confirm faith in the Divine ordering of human affairs, with a view to redemptive issues.
III. Its limitations.—It is buried in current human history, or in figures understood only in particular ages, and must therefore always be dealt with in a large, general, and suggestive, rather than precise way.
IV. Its precise mission.—It had an immediate mission. It was to cheer hearts and keep up hope. It was a lamp in the night which must stay and brighten the house until the daylight streamed in at the windows. Its interest to us lies in what it was, and what it did, rather than in what it is. What kept the world’s faith alive is always important.
V. Its interpretation.—It must not be conducted on any private lines, but according to principles of interpretation laid down. The idiosyncracics of individuals have wrought sad havoc in the treatment of God’s Word.
SUGGESTIVE NOTES AND SERMON SKETCHES
2 Peter 1:19-21. Lock and Key.—St. Peter had been speaking of the proofs which he and his brother apostles had received of our Saviour’s power and greatness. After a reference to the Transfiguration, he comes to the proof from prophecy. He says, a prophecy is like a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawn. As men burn a candle during the night to give light, so was God pleased to set up the lamp of prophecy in the world, to save mankind from being left in total darkness during the ages before the coming of Christ. The prophecies were designed to preserve a sense of God’s goodness, and a recollection of His promises, to keep hope alive in the world, and to awaken men to the expectation of some great mercy, which God was preparing for His people and would bring to light in due time. When Christ came, the prophecies acquired a new use; they became, perhaps, the strongest of the outward proofs, the most striking of the external testimonies to the truth of our Saviour’s mission. Their testimony is so sure, because not of private interpretation; that is, the prophecies did not refer merely to the events of the time and place when they were spoken; but pointed far onward into futurity, and had a grander reference and application to the Son of God. The prophet himself did not always fully understand his prophecies. He spake as he was moved by the spirit of God; he gave utterance to the threats and promises which God put into his mouth. But how those threats and promises were to be fulfilled, neither he nor his hearers knew. So that the prophecies were like a door with a curious lock or secret spring to it. Till the secret of the spring is found out, till the right key is given, we may puzzle ourselves as long as we please, but we shall never open the door. If you saw half a dozen doors with as many locks to them, so new and strange that not a smith in the country could make a key to fit any one of them, and if a man then came with a key which fitted all these different locks, and opened all the six doors, could you doubt that his was the right key? This is just the kind of proof which the prophecies afford of the truth and Divinity of Jesus. The weight of this proof rests on two simple facts: one is, that the prophecies were written many hundreds of years before the birth of Christ. The other is, that Jesus died the death related in the New Testament. Compare, then, such writings as Psalms 22:0 and Isaiah 53:0, with the account of our Saviour’s trial and crucifixion in the gospels, and any unprejudiced man must admit that the early writers were taught of God. Illustrations may be fully taken from the chapter in Isaiah. Four assertions are made in it:
1. Messiah was to be made answerable for a sum that was required.
2. He was to be taken off by an oppressive or unjust sentence.
3. He was to be dumb and patient before his Judges 4:0. He was to be brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and to be cut off for the sins of God’s people. These are extraordinary assertions, yet they are all fulfilled in Jesus; so accurately, and in so many points, that the agreement cannot be accidental. Therefore, in Jesus we have the true key for the prophetic lock; and Isaiah, who foretold all these things so many hundred years before, must assuredly have spoken, as St. Peter says, not of his own will, but as he was moved by the Holy Ghost.—A. W. Hare, A.M.
2 Peter 1:19. Prophecies Fulfilled in Christ.
I. The prophets themselves in reference to Christ.—
1. Every one of them had in his day a good name and character at stake.
2. Still they were not afraid, nor slow, to venture their names upon mysterious oracles.
3. This is the more remarkable since they did not themselves fully understand what they prophesied.
4. The reason for this is, that they were rendered confident by God.
II. Christ Himself in reference to the prophets and their prophecies.—
1. His birth.
2. His betrayal.
3. His condemnation and crucifixion.
4. His miracles.
5. His various sufferings.
6. His ministry—its nature and success.—R. Philip.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 1
2 Peter 1:19. Promises of The Word.—Like the aurora borealis shining on the frosty and sombre sky, tinging it with beautiful colours, and relieving it with brilliant rays, the promises of the gospel shine in tints of light and smiles of love over the cold and gloomy night of trouble.—T. J. Wright.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 2 Peter 1". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany