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2 Peter 1:1
Simon Peter. "Symeon" seems to be the best-supported spelling in this place. The same form of the name is found in Luke 2:25 and Acts 13:1; it also occurs in Acts 15:14, where St. James refers to St. Peter's speech on the great question of the circumcision of Gentile Christians. It is the form always used in the Septuagint Version of the Old Testament. The old man's thoughts go back to his early years; he describes himself by the familiar name of his youth; he uses that Greek form of it which was most distinctively Jewish. But he joins with the old name, which spoke of Judaism, the new name which the Lord Jesus had given him—the name which describes him as a stone or rock, which indicates also his close connection with that Rock on which the Church is built, which is Christ. His names combine Hebrew and Greek, Jewish and Christian, associations. He is writing probably, as in his First Epistle, to Churches of mingled Jewish and Gentile elements. The first word of the Epistle supplies an argument for the genuineness of the Epistle. It is scarcely possible that an imitator, who was acquainted with the First Epistle (1 Peter 3:1), and shows, as some say, so much anxiety to identify himself with the apostle (1 Peter 1:12-60.1.18), would have announced himself by a name different from that used in the First Epistle, and would have adopted a form of the Hebrew name varying from that which occurs so frequently in the Gospels. A servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ. St. Peter, like St. Paul, describes himself as a servant, literally, "a slave," a bondman of Jesus Christ. We are not our own; we are bought with a price; we have work to do for our Master. St. Peter's work was that of a missionary, an apostle sent into the world to win souls for Christ (comp. Romans 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Titus 1:1; James 1:1; Jud James 1:1). To them that have obtained like precious faith with us. The word rendered "obtained" (τοῖς λαχοῦσιν) means properly "to obtain by lot," as in Luke 1:9. It is noticeable that one of the few places in which it occurs in the New Testament is in a speech of St. Peter's (Acts 1:17); its use here implies that faith is a gift of God. The word for "like precious" equally precious) is found only here in the New Testament; it calls to our memory the πολὺ τιμιώτερον of 1 Peter 1:7, and indicates a correspondence with the First Epistle. St. Peter addresses this Epistle simply to those who have obtained an equally precious faith "with us." By the last words he may mean himself only, or the apostles generally, or, possibly, all Jewish Christians. He is writing apparently to the same Churches to which his First Epistle was addressed (1 Peter 1:16 and 1 Peter 3:1); he says that their faith is equally precious with that of the apostles, or perhaps that the Gentiles have received the like precious gift with the chosen people. By "faith" he may mean the truths believed, as Jude 1:3; or, more probably, faith in the subjective sense, the grace of faith, which receives those truths as a message from God. Through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; rather, as in the Revised Version, in the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ. Some commentators, as Luther, Estius, etc., understand by "righteousness" in this place, the righteousness which God gives, as in Romans 10:3, etc. But this seems unsuitable here; for faith is not given in righteousness, but rather righteousness in faith. Others take righteousness as the object of the faith—"to them that have Obtained faith in the righteousness;" i.e., who are enabled to believe in God's righteousness and to trust in it. This seems a forced interpretation. It is better to take the preposition as meaning "in the working of God's righteousness," in the sphere of its operation, and to understand "righteousness'' as the attribute of God, his just and holy dealing with men. There is no respect of persons with God; in his righteousness he bestows the like precious faith on all who come to him, without distinction of race or country. According to the strict grammatical construction of the passage, "God" and "Saviour" are both predicates of "Jesus Christ," as in Titus 2:13. The First and Second Persons of the blessed Trinity are distinguished in the following verse, and this has led several commentators to think that the same distinction should be made here. It is true that the absence of a second article does not make it absolutely certain that the two words "God" and "Saviour" must be taken as united under the one common article, and so regarded as two predicates of "Jesus Christ;" but it furnishes at least a very strong presumption in favour of this view, especially as there is not here, as there is in Titus 2:13, any word like ἡμῶν to give definiteness to σωτῆρος (see Bishop Ellicott's note on Titus 2:13, and, on the other side, Alford's notes on both passages). The Lord Jesus is called "our Saviour" five times in this Epistle. The word does not occur in the First Epistle; but in St. Peter's speech (Acts 5:31) the apostle declared to the Sanhedrin that God had exalted Jesus "to be a Prince and a Saviour."
2 Peter 1:2
Grace and peace be multiplied unto you. The order of the words in the Greek is the same as in 1 Peter 1:2. The exact correspondence should be noticed. The writer of the Second Epistle, if not St. Peter himself, must have been attempting to imitate of set purpose the opening salutation of the First Epistle. Through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord; rather, in the knowledge. The knowledge of God is the sphere in which grace and peace are communicated to the soul; they cannot be found outside that sphere. "Full knowledge" (ἐπίγνωσις) may be regarded as the key-note of this Epistle, as "hope" is of the first. Ἐπίγνωσις is a stronger word than γνῶσις; it means "knowledge" directed towards an object, gradually approaching nearer and nearer to it, concentrated upon it, fixed closely upon it. So it comes to mean the knowledge, not merely of intellectual apprehension, but rather of deep contemplation; the knowledge which implies love—for only love can concentrate continually the powers of the soul in close meditation upon its object.
Comp. 1 Corinthians 13:1-46.13.13, where, after saying in 1 Corinthians 13:8 that "knowledge (γνῶσις) shall be done away," St. Paul continues, in 1 Corinthians 13:12, "Now I know (γινώσκω) in part, but then I shall know (ἐπιγνώσομαι) even as also I am known (ἐπεγνώσθην)." He contrasts our present imperfect knowledge with the full knowledge which the blessed will have in heaven, and which God now has of us, using the verb ἐπιγινώδκω of that fuller knowledge, as he had used γνῶσις of the imperfect knowledge. The word ἐπίγνωσις occurs several times in the Gospels, and is common in St. Paul's Epistles; it seems to imply a sort of protest against the knowledge that "puffeth up" (1 Corinthians 8:1), and especially against the knowledge "falsely so called" (1 Timothy 6:20), which was claimed by the false teachers, who were the precursors of the coming Gnosticism (comp. Colossians 1:9, Colossians 1:10; Colossians 2:2; Colossians 3:10). St. Peter had learned mere of the doings of these false teachers since he wrote the First Epistle, and this may perhaps be a reason for his frequent use of the word ἐπίγνωσις in the second. "Jesus our Lord" is a variation of the more common form, such as "the Lord Jesus;" it occurs only here and in Romans 4:24.
2 Peter 1:3
According as his Divine power; better, seeing that, as in the Revised Version. The construction is the genitive absolute with ὡς. The words are to be closely connected with 2 Peter 1:2 : "We need not fear, for God has given us all things that are necessary for our salvation; grace and peace will be multiplied unto us, if only we seek the knowledge of God." This is better than, with Huther and others, to make a full stop after 2 Peter 1:2, and to connect 2 Peter 1:3 and 2 Peter 1:4 closely with 2 Peter 1:5. The word for "Divine" (θεῖος) is unusual in the Greek Testament; it occurs only in two other places—2 Peter 1:4 and Acts 17:29. Hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness; rather, as in the Revised Version, hath granted. St. Peter does not here use the ordinary verb for "to give," but one (δωρέομαι) which in the New Testament occurs only in this Epistle and in Mark 15:45. "God hath given us all things for (πρός) life," i.e., all things necessary for life. By "life" St. Peter means the spiritual life of the soul; that life which consists in union with Christ, which is the life of Christ living in us. "Godliness'' (εὐσέβεια) is a word of the later apostolic age; besides this Epistle (in which it occurs four times) and a speech of St. Peter's in Acts 3:12, it is found only in St. Paul's pastoral Epistles; it means reverence, true piety towards God. Through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue; literally, through the full knowledge (ἐπιγνώσρως) of him that called us (comp. John 17:3, "This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God. and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent"). The best-supported reading seems to be that followed by the Revised Version, "By his own glory and virtue (ἰδίᾳ δόξῃ καὶ ἀρετῇ)." Bengel says, "Ad gloriam referuntur attributa Dei naturalia, ad virtutem ea quae dicuntur moralia; intime unum sunt utraque." All his glorious attributes make up his glory; ἀρετή, virtue, is the energy, the activity of those attributes. The other reading, also well supported (διὰ δόξης καὶ ἀρετῆς, "through glory and virtue"), would mean nearly the same (comp. Galatians 1:15; καλέσας διὰ τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ). God calls us through his attributes; his glorious perfections invite us, the revelation of those perfections calls us to his service. The word ἀρετή, with one exception (Philippians 4:8), occurs in the New Testament only in St. Peter's Epistles (see 1 Peter 2:9; 2 Peter 1:3 and 2 Peter 1:5). This is, so far, an argument in favour of identity of authorship.
2 Peter 1:4
Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises; rather, as in the Revised Version, whereby he hath granted unto us h is precious and exceeding great promises. Does the word "whereby" (δἰ ὧν, literally, "through which things") refer to the immediately preceding words, "glory and virtue"? or is its antecedent to be found in the more distant "all things which pertain unto life and godliness"? Both views are possible. God first granted unto us all things necessary for life and godliness; through those first gifts, duly used, he has granted unto us others more precious still. But it seems better to connect the relative with the nearer antecedent. It is through God's glory and virtue, through his glorious attributes and the energetic working of those attributes, that he has granted the promises. The verb (δεδώρηται) should be translated "hath granted," as in the preceding verse. The word for "promise" (ἐπάγγελμα) occurs elsewhere only in 2 Peter 3:13; it means the thing promised, not the act of promising. The order of the words, "exceeding great and precious," is differently given in the manuscripts; on the whole, that adopted by the Revised Version seems the best supported. The article with the first word (τὰ τίμια καὶ μέγιστα) has a possessive force, and is well rendered, "his precious promises." They are precious, because they will be certainly fulfilled in all their depth of blessed meaning, and because they are in part fulfilled at once (comp. Ephesians 1:13, Ephesians 1:14, "In whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance"). The word "precious" reminds us of 1 Peter 1:7, 1 Peter 1:19; the resemblance with 1 Peter 2:7 is apparent only, in the Authorized Version, not in the Greek. That by these ye might be partakers of the Divine nature; literally, that through these (promises, i.e., through their fulfillment) ye may become partakers. It is true that the verb is aorist (γένησθε), but it does not follow that, might be" is the right translation, or that the writer regarded the participation as having already taken place the children of light"). As Alford says, the aorist seems to imply "that the aim was not the procedure, but the completion, of that indicated; not the γίνεσθαι, the carrying on the process, but the γενέσθαι, its accomplishment." The end of God's gift is the complete accomplishment of his gracious purpose, but it is only by continual growth that the Christian attains at length to that accomplishment. St. Peter's words seem very bold; but they do not go beyond many other statements of Holy Scripture. At the beginning God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." St. Paul tells us that believers are now "changed into the same image from glory to glory" (2 Corinthians 3:18; comp. also 1 Corinthians 11:7; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10; Romans 8:29; 1 Corinthians 15:49, etc.). Christians, born of God (John 1:13; 1 Peter 1:23), are made "partakers of Christ" (Hebrews 3:14), "partakers of the Holy Ghost" (Hebrews 6:4). Christ prayed for us that we might be "made perfect in one" with himself who is one with God the Father, through the indwelling presence of the Holy Ghost the Comforter (John 17:20-43.17.23; John 14:16, John 14:17, John 14:23). The second person is used to imply that the promises made to all Christians (unto us) belong to those whom St. Peter now addresses. Having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust; literally, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world in lust. These words express the negative side of the Christian life, the former clause describing its active and positive side. God's precious promises realized in the soul enable the Christian to become partakers of the Divine nature, and to escape from corruption; the two aspects of the Christian life must go on simultaneously; each implies and requires the other. Bengel says, "Haec fuga non tam ut officium nostrum, quam ut beneficium divinum, communionem cum Deo comitans, hoc loco ponitur." The verb used here (ἀποφεύγειν) occurs in the New Testament only in this Epistle. It reminds us of St. Paul's words in Romans 8:21, "The creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption." The corruption or destruction (for the Word φθορά has both those meanings) from which we must escape has its seat and power in lust; working secretly in the lusts of men's wicked hearts, it manifests its evil presence in the world (comp. Genesis 6:12; 1 John 2:16).
2 Peter 1:5
And beside this, giving all diligence; rather, but for this very cause also. Αὐτὸ τοῦτο is frequently used in this sense in classical Greek, but in the New Testament only here. It refers back to the last verse. God's precious gifts and promises should stimulate us to earnest effort. The verb rendered "giving" means literally "bringing in by the side;" it is one of those graphic and picturesque expressions which are characteristic of St. Peter's style. God worketh within us both to will and to do; this (both St. Paul and St. Peter teach us) is a reason, not for remissness, but for increased exertion. God's grace is sufficient for us; without that we can do nothing; but by the side (so to speak) of that grace, along with it, we must bring into play all earnestness, we must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. The word seems to imply that the work is God's work; we can do very little indeed, but that very little we must do, and for the very reason that God is working in us. The word (παρεισενέγκαντες) occurs only here in the New Testament. Add to your faith virtue; literally, supply in your faith. He does not say, "supply faith;" he assumes the existence of faith. "He that cometh unto God must believe." The Greek word (ἐπιχορήγησατε) means properly to "contribute to the expenses of a chorus;" it is used three times by St. Paul, and, in its simple form, by St. Peter in his First Epistle (1 Peter 4:11). In usage it came to mean simply to "supply or provide," the thought of the chorus being dropped. So we cannot be sure that the idea of faith as leading the mystic dance in the chorus of Christian graces was present to St. Peter's mind, especially as the word occurs again in 2 Peter 1:11, where no such allusion is possible. The fruits of faith are in the faith which produces them, as a tree is in its seed; they must be developed out of faith, as faith expands and energizes; in the exercise of each grace a fresh grace must issue forth. Virtue is well described by Bengel as "strenuus animi tonus et vigor;" it is Christian manliness and active courage in the good fight of faith. The word "virtue" (ἀρετή), with the exception of Philippians 4:8, occurs in the New Testament only in St. Peter—in this chapter three times, and in 1 Peter 2:9, thus forming one of the kinks between the two Epistles. And to virtue knowledge. St. Peter here uses the simple word γνῶσις, discretion, a right understanding, "quae malam a bono secernit, et mali fugam docet" (Bengel). This practical knowledge is gained in the manly self-denying activities of the Christian life, and leads on to the fuller knowledge (ἐπίγνωσις) of Christ (1 Peter 2:8).
2 Peter 1:6
And to knowledge temperance; rather, self-control (ἐγκράτεια). The words ἐκράτεια ψυχῆς are the heading of a section in the Greek of Ecclus. 18:30, and are followed immediately by the maxim, "Go not after thy lusts, but refrain thyself from thine appetites." This self-control extends over the whole of life, and consists in the government of all the appetites; it must be learned in the exercise of that practical knowledge which discerns between good and evil. True knowledge leads on to self-control, to that perfect freedom which consists in the service of God; not to that liberty promised by the false teachers, which is licentiousness. And to temperance patience; and to patience godliness. The practice of self-control will result in patient endurance; but that endurance will not be mere stoicism; it will be a conscious submission of our human will to the holy will of God, and so will tend to develop and strengthen εὐσέβεια, reverence and piety towards God (see note on verse 3).
2 Peter 1:7
And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. The word for "brotherly kindness" (φιλαδελφία) is another link between the two Epistles (see 1 Peter 1:22; 1 Peter 3:8). "In your godliness," St. Peter says, "ye must develop brotherly kindness, the unfeigned love of the brethren;" for "every one that loveth him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten of him" (1 John 5:1). And as God is loving unto every man, and "maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good," so Christians, who are taught to be followers (imitators) of God (Ephesians 5:1), must learn in the exercise of love toward the brethren that larger love which embraces all men in an ever-widening circle. Thus love, the greatest of all Christian graces (1 Corinthians 13:13), is the climax in St. Peter's list. Out of faith, the root, spring the seven fair fruits of holiness, of which holy love is the fairest and the sweetest (comp. Ignatius, 'Ad Ephes.,' 14. Ἀρχὴ μὲν πίστις, τέλος δὲ ἀγάπη). No grace can remain alone; each grace, as it is gradually formed in the soul, tends to develop and strengthen others; all graces meet in that highest grace of charity, without which whosoever liveth is counted dead before God. Bengel says well, "Praeseus quisque gradus subsequentem parit et facilem reddit, subsequens priorem temperat ac perficit."
2 Peter 1:8
For if these things be in you, and abound; literally, for these things belonging to you and abounding make, etc. The word used here (ὑπάρχοντα) implies actual possession; these graces must be made our own; they must be wrought into our characters: then they will increase and multiply, for the grace of God cannot lie still, it must ever he advancing from glory to glory. They make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ; literally, they make you not idle nor yet unfruitful towards the full knowledge. The Greek word for "knowledge" is ἐπίγνωσις (on which see 2 Peter 1:2, and note there). Here we know only in part, we see through a glass darkly; but that imperfect knowledge should be ever growing, increasing in fullness and distinctness (see 2 Peter 3:18). The various graces of the Christian character, realized in the heart, will lead us on towards that fuller knowledge of Christ; if they are really ours, they will not allow us to be idle, they must bring forth the fruit of good works; and the life of righteousness by faith draws the Christian onwards in the knowledge of Christ: we learn to knew him by following him (comp. Philippians 3:9, Philippians 3:10; Colossians 1:10).
2 Peter 1:9
But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off; literally, for he to whom these things are not present is blind, short-sighted. We cannot attain to the knowledge of Christ without these graces, for he who has them not is blind, or, at the best, short-sighted, like one who blinks with his eyes when he tries to see distant objects, and cannot bear the full light of day. Such a man can only see the things which lie close around him—earth and earthly things; he cannot lift up his eyes by faith and behold "the land that is very far off;" he cannot "see the King in his beauty" (Isaiah 33:17). The word for "short-sighted" (μυωπάζων) occurs only here in the New Testament. And hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins; literally, having incurred forgetfulness of the cleansing from his old sins. St. Peter is apparently thinking of the one baptism for the remission of sin. Ananias had said to Saul, "Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins" (Acts 22:16); St. Peter himself had said, in his first great sermon, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins." Those who do not realize in the religious life that death unto sin of which holy baptism is the sign and the beginning, incur forgetfulness of the cleansing from sin which they then received; they do not use the grace once given for the attainment of those higher graces of which St. Peter has been speaking. The one talent once entrusted to them must be taken from them; they are idle and unfruitful, and cannot reach unto the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 1:10
Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence. The two first words, διὸ μᾶλλον, "wherefore the rather," are by some understood as referring only to the last clause; as if St. Peter were saying, "Rather than follow those who lack the graces enumerated above, and forget that they were cleansed from their former sins, give diligence." Μᾶλλον is not unfrequently used in this antithetical sense, as in 1 Corinthians 5:2; Hebrews 11:25. But it seems better to refer διό to the whole passage (Hebrews 11:3-58.11.9), and to understand μᾶλλον in its more usual intensive sense, "all the more," as in 1 Thessalonians 4:10, etc. Because God has bestowed such gifts on men, because the use of those gifts leads on to the full knowledge of Christ, therefore all the more give diligence. The word σπουδάσατε, "give diligence," recalls the σπουδὴν πᾶσαν, "all diligence," of 1 Thessalonians 4:5. The aorist seems, as it were, to sum up the continued diligence of daily life into one vivid description. This is the only place in which St. Peter uses the vocative "brethren;" he has "beloved" in the First Epistle (1 Peter 2:11) and in 2 Peter 3:1, 2 Peter 3:8. Both words imply affectionate exhortation. Two ancient manuscripts, the Alexandrine and the Sinaitic, insert here, "Through your good works (διὰ τῶν καλῶν ἔργων, or τῶν καλῶν ὑμῶν ἔργων)." To make your calling and election sure. Alford calls attention to the middle voice of the verb, "Not ποιεῖν, which lay beyond their power, but ποιεῖσθαι, on their side, for their part. But the verb must not be explained away into a pure subjectivity, 'to make sure to yourselves;' it carries the reflexive force, but only in so far as the act is and must be done for and quoad a man's own self, the absolute and final determination resting with Another." The calling and election are the act of God. All the baptized, all who bear the name of Christ, are called into the Church, but few comparatively are chosen, elect (ὀλίγοι δὲ ἐκλεκτοί, Matthew 20:16). We look, as it were, from far below up to the mysteries of God's sovereign government; we cannot read the list of blessed names written in the Lamb's book of life; we cannot lift ourselves to a point high enough to comprehend the secrets of God's dealing with mankind, and to reconcile the Divine foreknowledge and omnipotence with the free agency of man. But we feel the energy of that free agency within us; we know that Holy Scripture bids us to work out our salvation, and tells us of some who receive the grace of God in vain (2 Corinthians 6:1), or frustrate the grace of God (Galatians 2:21); and we feel that when the apostle tells us to make our calling and election sure, he means that we must try to realize that calling and election, to bring its solemn responsibilities and its blessed hopes to bear upon our daily life, to live as men who have been called into God's Church, who are elect unto eternal life, and so to ratify God's election by our poor acceptance. He calls us into covenant with himself; we answer, as the children of Israel said at Mount Sinai, "All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient" (Exodus 24:7). Our obedience makes the covenant sure to us; holiness of life is the proof of God's election, for it implies the indwelling presence of "that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance." For if ye do these things, ye shall never fall. "If ye do these things;" i.e., "If ye make your calling and election sure." "The plural shows that the apostle considered this making sure a very many-sided act" (Dietlein, in Huther). Others refer the ταῦτα, "these things," to the graces just enumerated. Ye shall never fall; literally, ye shall never stumble (οὐ μὴ πταίσητε). Πταίειν is "to strike one's foot against some obstacle," and so to stumble. St. James says, "In many things we offend (πταίομεν) all" (James 3:2). St. Peter here means to stumble so as to fall (Romans 11:11); while Christians "do these things," while they make their calling and election sure by holiness of life, they cannot stumble; it is in unguarded moments that they fall into temptation.
2 Peter 1:11
For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly; rather, as in the Revised Version, for thus shall be richly supplied unto you the entrance. The verb ἐπιχορηγηθήσεται looks back to ἐπιχορηγήσατε in 2 Peter 1:5, and "richly" to "abound" in 2 Peter 1:8. If we do our poor best in supplying the graces mentioned above, the entrance shall be richly supplied. St. Peter seems to imply that there will be degrees of glory hereafter proportioned to our faithfulness in the use of God's gifts here. The adverb "richly" is fitly joined with the verb ἐπιχορηγεῖν, which signifies properly to provide the expenses for a chorus. The article defines the entrance as the great object of the Christian's hope. Into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; rather, the eternal kingdom. Notice the exact correspondence of the Greek words here, τοῦ Κυρίου ἡμῶν καὶ Σωτῆρος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, with these in 2 Peter 1:2, τοῦ Θεοῦ ἡμῶν καὶ Σωτῆρος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, as a strong argument in favour of the translation, "Our God and Saviour Jesus Christ," in that verse.
2 Peter 1:12
Wherefore I will net be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things; rather, as in the Revised Version, wherefore I shall be ready. This reading (μελλήσω) is better supported than that of the T.R. (οὐκ ὀμελήσω). (For this use of μέλλειν with the infinitive almost as a periphrasis for the future, compare, in the Greek, Matthew 24:6.) The apostle will take every opportunity of reminding his readers of the truths and duties which he has been describing, and that because faith in those truths and the practice of those duties is the only way to Christ's eternal kingdom. Though ye know them, and be established in the present truth; better, as in the Revised Version, and are established in the truth which is with you. These words seem to imply that St. Peter knew something, through Silvanus (see 1 Peter 5:12), of those to whom he was writing; they were not ignorant of the gospel; now they had read his First Epistle, and earlier they had heard the preaching of St. Paul or his companions (comp. Romans 1:13). (For the word rendered "established" (ἐστηριγμένους), comp. 1 Peter 5:10; 2 Peter 3:16, 2 Peter 3:17.) St. Peter seems to have kept ever in his thoughts the solemn charge of the Saviour, "When thou art converted, strengthen (στήριξον) thy brethren" (Luke 22:32). For "the truth which is with you" (παρούση), comp. Colossians 1:6.
2 Peter 1:13
Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle; rather, as in the Revised Version, and I think it right. The natural body is but a tabernacle for the soul, a tent to dwell in during our earthly pilgrimage, not a permanent habitation. The word reminds us of 2 Corinthians 5:1-47.5.4, where St. Paul uses the same metaphor; and also of St. Peter's words at the Transfiguration, "Let us make three tabernacles." To stir you up by putting you in remembrance; literally, to arouse you in reminding. The phrase occurs again in 2 Peter 3:1. St. Peter's readers knew the facts of the gospel history; they needed, as we all need, to be aroused to a sense of the solemn responsibilities which that knowledge involves.
2 Peter 1:14
Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle; literally, knowing that swift is the putting off of my tabernacle. St. Peter may mean by these words either that his death was near at hand, or that, when it came, it would be sudden, a violent death, not a lengthened illness. So Bengel, "Qui diu aegrotant, possunt altos adhuc pascere. Crux id Petro non erat permisura. Ideo prius agit quod agendum est." Compare the use of the same word (ταχινή) in 2 Peter 2:1. St. Paul, in 2 Corinthians 5:1-47.5.4, speaks, like St. Peter here, of putting off a tabernacle or tent as we talk of putting off a garment. Alford quotes Josephus, 'Ant.,' 2 Corinthians 4:8. 2 Corinthians 4:2, where Moses says, "Since I must depart from life, I have thought it right not even now to lay aside my zeal for your happiness.'' The word used here for "putting off" (ἀπόθεσις) is one of the links between the two Epistles; it occurs also in 1 Peter 3:21. Even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath showed me; better, as in the Revised Version, signified unto me. The aorist points to a definite time. St. Peter is thinking of our Lord's prophecy, which St. John afterwards recorded (John 21:18); he could never forget that touching interview; he had already referred to it once in 1 Peter 5:2.
2 Peter 1:15
Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance; rather, but I will also give diligence that ye may be able at every time after my decease to call these things to remembrance. Of the two particles used here the δέ connects this verso with 2 Peter 1:13; the καί implies a further resolve. St. Peter will not only stir up the minds of his readers during his life, but he will give diligence to enable them to call to remembrance, after his death, the truths which he had preached. These words may refer simply to the present Epistle; but it seems more natural to understand them of an intention to commit to writing the facts of the gospel history; if this be so, we have here a confirmation of the ancient tradition that the Second Gospel was written by St. Mark at the dictation of St. Peter. The verb σπουδάσω is that used in verse 10, and should be translated in the same way; they must give diligence to make their calling and election sure. St. Peter, for his part, will give diligence to furnish them with a lasting record of the truths of Christianity. The adverb ἑκάστοτε, at every time, whenever there may be need, occurs only here in the New Testament. It is remarkable that we have here, in two consecutive verses, two words which remind us of the history of the Transfiguration, "tabernacle," and "decease" (ἔξοδος; see Luke 9:31). Then Peter proposed to make three tabernacles; then he heard Moses and Elijah speaking of the Lord's decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem. The simple unconscious occurrence of these coincidences is a strong proof of the genuineness of our Epistle; it is inconceivable that an imitator of the second century should have shown this delicate skill in adapting his production to the circumstances of the supposed writer. The last words of the verse may mean (and in classical Greek would mean) "to make mention of these things;" but the usual rendering seems more suitable here. St. Peter was anxious rather that his readers should have the truths of the gospel living in their memories, than that they should talk about them; that would follow as a matter of course: "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." Some Roman Catholic commentators think that this passage contains a promise that the apostle would still, after his death, continue to remember the needs of the Church on earth, and to help them by his intercessions; but this interpretation involves a complete dislocation of clauses, and cannot possibly be the true meaning of the words.
2 Peter 1:16
For we have not followed cunningly devised fables; rather, did not follow. The participle (ἐξακολουθήσαντες) is aorist. This compound verb is used only by St. Peter in the New Testament; we find it again in 2 Peter 2:2 and 2 Peter 2:15. Bengel and others have thought that the preposition ἐξ, from or out of, implies wandering from the truth after false guides; but probably the word merely means "to follow closely," though in this case the guides were going astray. Perhaps the use of the plural number is accounted for by the fact that St. Peter was not the only witness of the glory of the Transfiguration; he associates in thought his two brother-apostles with himself. The word μῦθοι, fables, with this exception, occurs in the New Testament only in St. Paul's pastoral Epistles. There is a remarkable parallel in the procemium of the 'Antiquities' of Josephus, sect. 4, Οἱ μεν ἄλλοι νομοθέται τοῖς μύθοις ἐξακολουθήσαντες. St. Peter may be referring to the "Jewish fables" mentioned by St. Paul (Titus 1:14), or to the stories about the heathen gods such as those in Hesiod and Ovid, or possibly to some early inventions, such as those ascribed to Simon the Sorcerer, which were afterwards to be developed into the strange fictions of Gnosticism. The word rendered "cunningly devised" occurs elsewhere in the New Testament only in 2 Timothy 3:15; but there a different part of the verb is used, and in a different sense. When we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. St. Peter can scarcely be referring to St. Paul or other missionaries, as the following words identify the preachers with the witnesses of the Transfiguration; he must be alluding either to his First Epistle, or to personal teaching of his which has not been recorded, or, just possibly, to the Gospel of St. Mk. St. Peter had seen the power of the Lord Jesus manifested in his miracles; he had heard the announcement of the risen Saviour, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth;" he had, like the rest of the apostles, been "endued with power from on high." By the coming (παρουσία) he must mean the second advent, the invariable meaning of the word in Holy Scripture. But were eye-witnesses of his majesty. The word for "eye-witnesses" is not the common one (αὐτόπται, used by St. Luke 1:2), but a technical word (ἐπόπται), which in classical Greek designates the highest class of those who had been initiated into the Eleusinian Mysteries. The choice of such a word may possibly imply that St. Peter regarded himself and his brother-apostles as having received the highest initiation into the mysteries of religion. The noun is found only here in the New Testament; but the corresponding verb occurs in 1 Peter 2:12 and 1 Peter 3:2, and in no other of the New Testament writers. Here again we have an undesigned coincidence which points to identity of authorship. The word for "majesty" (μεγαλειότης) occurs in St. Luke's description of the healing of the demoniac boy immediately after the Transfiguration (Luke 9:43), and elsewhere only in Acts 19:27.
2 Peter 1:17
For he received from God the Father honour and glory. The construction here is interrupted; the literal translation is, "Having received," etc., and there is no verb to complete the sense. Winer supposes that the apostle had intended to continue with some such words as, "He had us for witnesses," or, "He was declared to be the beloved Son of God," and that the construction was interrupted by the direct quotation of the words spoken by the voice from heaven ('Grammar,' 3:45, b). (For a similar anacoluthon, see in the Greek 2 Corinthians 5:6.) "Honour" seems to refer to the testimony of the voice from heaven; "glory," to the splendour of the Lord's transfigured Person. When there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory; more literally, when such a voice was borne to him. The same verb is used in Acts 2:2 of "the rushing mighty wind" which announced the coming of the Holy Ghost; and in 1 Peter 1:13 of "the grace which is being brought." It is repeated in the next verse. It seems intended to assert emphatically the real objective character of the voice. It was not a vision, a dream; the voice was borne from heaven; the apostles heard it with their ears. The preposition ὑπό must be rendered "by," not "from." The "excellent" (rather, "majestic," or "magnificent") glory was the Shechinah, the visible manifestation of the presence of God, which had appeared in ancient times on Mount Sinai, and in the tabernacle and temple above the mercy-seat. God was there; it was he who spoke. For the word rendered "excellent" (μεγαλοπρεπής) compare the Septuagint Version of Deuteronomy 33:26, ὁ μεγαλοπρεπὴς τοῦ στερεώματος, literally, "the Majestic One of the firmament;" where our Authorized Version gives a more exact translation of the Hebrew, "in his excellency on the sky" (see also the 'Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians,' Deuteronomy 9:1-5.9.29, where the occurrence of the same remarkable words, μεγαλοπρεπὴς δόξα, suggests that Clement must have been acquainted with this Epistle). This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Our translation makes these words correspond exactly with the report given by St. Matthew in his account of the Transfiguration, except that "hear ye him" is added there. In the Greek there are some slight variations. According to one ancient manuscript (the Vatican), the order of the words is different, and there is a second pen, "This is my Son, my Beloved." All uncial manuscripts have here, instead of the ἐν ᾦ of St. Matthew's Gospel, εἰς ὃν ἐγὼ εὐδόκησα. The difference cannot be represented in our translation. The construction is pregnant, and the meaning is that from all eternity the εὐδοκία, the good pleasure, of God the Father was directed towards the Divine Son, and still abideth on him. The same truth seems to be implied in the aorist εὐδόκησα (comp. John 17:24, "Thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world"). An imitator of the second century would certainly have made this quotation to correspond exactly with the words as given in one of the synoptic Gospels.
2 Peter 1:18
And this voice which came from heaven we heard; rather, and this voice borne from heaven we heard. The pronoun is emphatic; we, the apostles who had that high privilege. They heard the voice when it was borne (ἐνεχθεῖσαν; he repeats for emphasis the remarkable word of 2 Peter 1:17) from heaven, they heard it come from heaven. When we were with him in the holy mount. This description of the Mount of the Transfiguration supposes a knowledge of the history in St. Peter's readers; but it gives no support to the theory of a post-apostolic date. Mount Horeb was "holy ground," because God appeared there to Moses, because it was the scene of the giving of the Law. Mount Zion was a holy hill, because God had chosen it to be a habitation for himself; the Mount of the Transfiguration was holy, because there God the Son manifested forth his glory. God hallows every place which he pleases to make the scene of his revealed presence. This whole passage shows the deep and lasting impression which the Transfiguration made on those who were privileged to witness it (comp. John 1:14).
2 Peter 1:19
We have also a more sure word of prophecy; rather, as in the Revised Version, and we have the word of prophecy made more sure; or, we hare the word of prophecy more sure (than the testimony of the heavenly voice). The rendering of the Authorized Version is ungrammatical; we must adopt one of the other modes of representing the original. The second seems to be preferred by most commentators. Thus Archdeacon Farrar, translating the passage, "And still stronger is the surety we have in the prophetic word," adds in a note, "Why more sure? Because wider in its range, and more varied, and coming from many, and bringing a more intense personal conviction than the testimony to a single fact." But when St. Peter applied the epithet "surer" (βεβαιότερον) to the word of prophecy, does he mean in his own estimate of it, or in that of others? If he is speaking of himself, it is surely inconceivable that any possible testimony to the truth of the power and coming of the Lord Jesus Christ could be comparable with the commanding authority of the Divine voice which he himself had heard borne from heaven, and the transcendent glory which he himself had seen flashing from the Saviour's human form and bathing it in an aureole of celestial light. That heavenly voice had made the deepest possible impression on the apostles. "They fell on their faces," as Moses had done under the like circumstances, recognizing it as the voice of God. Peter had said, "Lord, it is good for us to be here;" and evidently all through his life he felt that it was good for him to dwell in solemn thought on the treasured memories of that august revelation. No written testimony could be "surer" to St. Peter than that voice from heaven. But is he rather thinking of the confirmation of the faith of his readers? He is still using the first person plural, as in 2 Peter 1:16 and 2 Peter 1:18; in this verse, indeed, he passes to the second; hut the retaining of the first person in the first clause of the verse shows that, if he is not still speaking of apostles only, he at least includes himself among those who have the word of prophecy; and to him certainly the testimony of that word, though sacred and precious, could not be "surer" than the testimony of the heavenly voice. To Jewish Christians the evidence of the prophets of the Old Testament was of supreme importance. Nathanael, the "Israelite indeed," was drawn to the Lord by the assurance that, "We have found him of whom Moses in the Law, and the prophets, did write." The Lord himself insisted again and again upon the testimony of the prophets; so did his apostles after him. Still, it seems difficult to understand that, even to Jewish Christians, the testimony of the prophets, however sacred and weighty, could be surer than that of those apostles who made known the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, having been eye-witnesses of his majesty; while to Gentile Christians the testimony of those apostles of the Lamb who declared "what they had heard, what they had seen with their eyes, what their hands had handled, of the Word of life," must have had greater power to convince than the predictions of the Hebrew prophets, though these predictions, fulfilled as they were in the Lord Jesus, furnish subsidiary evidence of exceeding value. On the whole, the more probable meaning of St. Peter seems to be that the word of prophecy was made more sure to himself, and, through his teaching, to others by the overwhelming testimony of the voice from heaven and the glory of the Transfiguration. He had become a disciple long before. His brother Andrew had first told him that Jesus was the Messiah; he himself, a week before the Transfiguration, had confessed him solemnly to be "the Christ, the Son of the living God? But the Transfiguration deepened that faith into the most intense conviction; it made the word of prophecy which spoke of Christ surer and more certain. It is not without interest that the writer of the so-called 'Second Epistle of Clement' quotes (chapter 11) from "the prophetic word" (προφητικὸς λόγος), passages which resemble James 1:8 and 2 Peter 3:4. Whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place. There is a parallel to the first clause of this in Josephus, 'Ant.,' 11:6, 12; to the second in 2 Esdr. 12:42. The word rendered "light" is rather a lamp or torch; our Lord uses it of John the Baptist (John 5:35). The word translated "dark" (αὐχμηρός) is found only here in the New Testament; it means "dry, parched, and so squalid, desert;" there seems to be no sufficient authority for the rendering "dark." God's Word is a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our path; the word of prophecy guides us to Christ. Until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts; literally, until day dawn through; i.e., "through the gloom." There is no article. The word for "day-star" (φωσφόροv, lucifer, light-bringer) is found in no other place of the New Testament; but comp. Revelation 2:28; Revelation 22:16. St. Peter seems to mean that the prophetic word, rendered more sure to the apostles by the voice from heaven, and to Christians generally by apostolic witness, shines like a guiding lamp, till the fuller light of day dawns upon the soul, as the believer, led by the prophetic word, realizes the personal knowledge of the Lord, and he manifests himself according to his blessed promises to the heart that longs for his sacred presence. He is the Bright and Morning Star, the Day-star, the Light-bringer; for he is the Light of the world—he brings the light, the full light of day. The prophetic word is precious; it sheds light upon the surrounding darkness—the darkness of ignorance, the darkness of the heart that knows not Christ; but its light is as the light of a torch or a lamp, compared with the pervading daylight which the felt presence of Christ sheds into those hearts into which God hath shined to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Some understand "day" here of the great day of the Lord. Against this interpretation is the absence of the article, and the fact that the last words of the verse seem to give a subjective meaning to the passage.
2 Peter 1:20
Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. By "knowing this first" (γινώσκοντες) is meant that we must recognize this truth as of primary importance, or, before we commence the study of prophecy; the phrase occurs again in 2 Peter 3:3. The literal translation of the following clause is, "that all prophecy of Scripture [there is no article] is not; all … not" (πᾶσα … ου)) being a common Hebraism for none, οὑδεμία; but the verb is not ἔστι, "is," but γίνεται, "becomes, arises, comes into being." The word for "private" is ἰδίας, "special," or commonly, "one's own" (see 1 Peter 3:1, 1 Peter 3:5; 1 Peter 2:16, 1Pe 2:22; 1 Peter 3:3, 1 Peter 3:16, 1 Peter 3:17). The word rendered "interpretation" is ἐπιλύσεως, which is found nowhere else in the New Testament; the corresponding verb occurs in Mark 4:34, "He expounded all things;" and Acts 19:39, "It shall be determined or settled." These considerations, strengthened by the context, seem to guide us to the following explanation: No prophecy of Scripture arises from the prophet's own interpretation of the vision presented to his mind; for it was from God that the prophecy was brought, and men spoke as they were borne on by the Holy Spirit. This view of the passage is also supported by the remarkable parallel in the First Epistle (1 Peter 1:10-60.1.12). The prophets searched diligently into the meaning of the revelation vouchsafed to them; they did not always comprehend it in all its details; they could not interpret it to themselves; the written prophecy arose out of the interpretation of the revelation supplied by the same Spirit from whom the revelation itself proceeded. Therefore the prophetic books of Holy Scripture are sacred and precious, and we do well in giving heed to them; though the day-star of the Lord's own presence, shining in the illuminated heart, is holier still. Other views of this difficult passage are: Prophecy is not its own interpreter; the guidance of the Spirit is necessary. Or, prophecy is not a matter for the private interpretation of the readers; only the Holy Spirit can explain it. But the explanation adopted seems most accordant with the Greek words and with the general sense of the context (compare St. Paul's teaching in 1 Corinthians 12:10). The gifts of the Spirit are divided as he will; to one man are given "divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues." Not every one, it seems, who had the first gift, had also the latter. Tongues and the interpretation of tongues were two distinct gifts. It may be so with prophecy and the interpretation of prophecy.
2 Peter 1:21
For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; literally, for not by the will of man was prophecy borne at any time. The verb is that already used in 2 Peter 1:17, 2 Peter 1:18, "was not borne or brought;" it refers not to the utterance of prophecy, but to its origin—it came from heaven. But holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost; literally, but being borne on by the Holy Ghost, the holy men of God spake; or, if we follow the Vatican Manuscript, "But being borne on by the Holy Ghost, men spake from God." We have again the same verb, "being borne on" (φερόμενοι); comp. Acts 27:15, Acts 27:17, where it is used of a ship being borne on by the wind. So the prophets were borne on in their prophetic utterance by the Holy Spirit of God. They were truly and really inspired. The mode of that inspiration is not explained; perhaps it cannot be made plain to our human understanding; all the points of contact between the finite and the Infinite are involved in mystery. But the fact is clearly revealed—the prophets were borne on by the Holy Spirit of God. This is not, as some have fancied, the language of Montanism. Prophecy is but a lamp shining in a dark place; it is not the day-star. Prophecy came not by the will of man; the prophets were moved or borne on by the Holy Ghost. But St. Peter does not say that their human consciousness was suspended, or that they were passive as the lyre when swept by the plectrum. Had this passage been written after the rise of Montanism early in the second century, the writer, if a Montanist, would have said more; if not a Montanist, he would have carefully guarded his words from possible misunderstanding.
2 Peter 1:1-61.1.4
I. ST. PETER'S DESCRIPTION OF HIMSELF.
1. His name. He wrote "Peter" simply in the First Epistle; he writes "Symeon Peter" now. Apparently he is writing to the same Churches as before; but it is a Second Epistle, he seems to know more of them—he gives his full name. That name contains the history of his soul: the first tells of his admission into the old covenant by circumcision; the second, of his admission into the new covenant through faith in Jesus Christ. He had passed through a great spiritual change; so had those to whom he was writing; they had been gathered, one by one, into the fold of Christ, some from heathenism, some from Judaism. His first name seemed to speak to his fellow-countrymen; he was a Jew, as they were; he bore the name of one of their old patriarchs. It means "hearing." God once heard the prayer of Leah, and gave her a second son; God had heard the prayers of Simon Barjona, had given him a new name, and had made him not only one of the living stones in the spiritual temple which he described in his First Epistle, but also one of those twelve foundations on which are the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb (Revelation 21:14).
2. His office. He described himself in the First Epistle as "an apostle of Jesus Christ;" he again claims the same high title; but here adds the lowlier name of "servant." Christ's ministers must learn of their Master, who is meek and lowly in heart; if his providence has set them in high positions, they need all the more the precious grace of humility; it is the only safeguard against the many temptations of earthly ambition. And they must remember that they are the bondservants of Jesus Christ; he has given them work to do for him. They must watch for souls, as men that must give account: woe is unto them if they preach not the gospel!
II. HIS DESCRIPTION OF HIS READERS.
1. What they are. They are believers. They had listened to the preaching of St. Paul and his companions. St. Paul had said, in his first sermon in Asia Minor, "By him all that believe are justified" (Acts 13:39); he and Barnabas, Silvanus, and Timotheus, and other holy men, had gone about preaching the gospel of Christ. Many souls bad been gathered in; they had obtained like precious faith with those who had preached the faith to them. That faith was now their lot, their inheritance, their most precious possession. Faith is the gift of God: let it be our most earnest prayer, "Lord, increase our faith." For faith is precious exceedingly, above all earthly price. Sight is precious; blindness shuts a man out from so much brightness and joy. Faith is spiritual sight: by faith the believer sees "him who is invisible" (Hebrews 11:27); he sees the promises afar off, and embraces them, and confesses that he is a stranger and a pilgrim on the earth. Spiritual blindness shuts a man out from all this bright and holy hope. "The world seeth me no more," the Lord said; "but ye see me" (John 14:19). Then faith is far more precious than sight; without faith we are blind, ignorant, lost. Christ is the Way, and without faith we cannot find that Way, the only Way to life eternal. And the faith of the humblest Christian now is equally precious with the faith of the holiest apostle; it is the gift of the same God. It has the same blessed, justifying influences; it leads on to the same blessed end, everlasting life with God in heaven.
2. How they became so. "In the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ." He was in the form of God; he took upon him the form of a servant; thus, taking our nature to cleanse it, dying in that nature to atone for our sins, he became our Saviour. And in his righteousness he became the Saviour of the world, "the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe:" he tasted death for every man. Jew and Gentile are alike invited; the gospel is to be preached to every creature; all that are weary and heavy-laden are called to come to him. And none that come are cast out; in the holy working of his righteousness they obtain from him that precious faith which justifies the true believer. It is only within the sphere of the working of that righteous love that we can gain this precious gift. "Lord, increase our faith."
III. THE GREETING.
1. The blessing invoked upon his readers. It is the old form of salutation which he had used in his First Epistle, word for word the same. He could express no holier wishes for them: what more can they need on whom the gracious favour of God abideth, who have received from him the blessed gift of peace? He prays again, as he had prayed before, that grace and peace may be multiplied; "men ought always to pray, and not to faint."
2. Where those blessings are to be found. "In the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord." "This is life eternal," the Lord Jesus said, "that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." There is no spiritual life, there is no grace and peace, outside the sphere of the knowledge of God. But the knowledge which is life is personal knowledge; not that external knowledge which may be gained from books; but inner spiritual knowledge gained by communion with the Lord in prayer and holy sacrament, in the daily life of faith and self-denial, in the constant adoring contemplation of the life and death of Christ, in the habitual effort to live unto the Lord and to do all to the glory of God. St. Paul might well count all things but loss for the excellency of this knowledge; for the grace of God flows abundantly into the soul that seeks this heavenly wisdom, and the peace of God that passeth all understanding keepeth the heart that longeth for this inner knowledge of God and his Christ.
3. Our warrant for expecting them. Grace and peace are very precious, above all that we can ask or think; we might shrink from asking for blessings so far above our deserts. But God hath called us, the invitation comes from him; freely of his own sovereign bounty he bids us come to him. He attracts us by his own glory and virtue, revealing to us his glorious attributes, manifesting his love and power in the ceaseless activity of his providence and his grace. Thus he kindles in the Christian soul the strong desire of the knowledge of God, he satisfies that desire by the revelation of himself; and through that full and holy knowledge, granted to them that hunger after righteousness, he gives them all things necessary for life and godliness—promises precious and exceeding great, precious beyond all price, inconceivably great in their grandeur and magnificence, and yet within our grasp, weak and helpless as we are, because the Divine power hath given them and the Divine word is pledged.
4. Their greatness. The gifts of God must be great and precious, worthy of the Giver; the blessings which come from the energy of the Divine power must be deep and sacred. They are twofold.
(1) Escape from corruption. The world is corrupt—it lieth in wickedness; it is lust, the sinful desire of the flesh, that hath corrupted the fair creation of God. And this corruption is all around us; we hear of its workings daily, we see its miserable defilement spreading everywhere; we feel its taint in our own souls. It is hard to escape from it. As God's angels once laid hold of the hand of Lot, and brought him out of the doomed city, and said, "Escape for thy life: escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed;" so now it is the Divine power only which can give us strength and resolution to escape from the many sins which do so easily beset us.
(2) The mountain to which we must escape is the mountain of the Lord's house, the place where his honour dwelleth. We can be saved from the corruption of the world only by being made partakers of a holiness not our own. "He that is born of God cannot commit sin, for his seed abideth in him." To be kept safe from sin, we need the abiding presence and growth of the heavenly birth; we need, as St. Peter tells us, to be made partakers of the Divine nature. This seems so lofty a state as to be above our reach. The promise of the Spirit is a promise precious and exceeding great; it seems sometimes so great that we cannot lift up our hearts to receive it. "Will God indeed dwell with man?" we say in our unbelief. "Can these poor bodies of ours become the temples of the Holy Ghost?" But we have his blessed word, his precious promise; and we know that he is the God of truth. We have the assurance of his holy apostles; we have the experience of thousands of his saints who have proved in their inmost lives the deep reality of this heavenly gift; and something of its blessedness, it may be, we have felt ourselves, though our sin and our want of perseverance have sadly grieved the Holy Spirit of God, and interfered with the free working of the new life within us. But "all things are possible to him that believeth." Let us believe his Word; he has given us the promises, that through them we might become partakers of the Divine nature. Let us trust him; let us only do what he bids us, giving diligence to make our calling and election sure; and, doubt it not, but earnestly believe, he will fulfill his holy promise: "We will come," saith the Lord; God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost, will come and evermore abide with those humble, happy souls who love the Saviour Christ and keep his Word.
1. Faith is precious exceedingly; the knowledge of God and of his Christ is eternal life. Let us earnestly seek those sacred treasures.
2. God has given us all things necessary for life and godliness. Let us thankfully accept his gifts and faithfully use them.
3. Would you realize that highest gift of all, to be made partakers of the Divine nature? Then "love not the world: .. the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, are not of the Father, but are of the world."
2 Peter 1:5-61.1.11
Exhortation to earnest effort.
I. OUR DUTY.
1. To use all diligence. God's Divine power is with us; he has granted us all necessary helps. But this, says the apostle, is the very reason why we should work all the more strenuously. It would be heartless work, if we had not the great power of God to help us; but he hath endued his Church with power from on high. This gift of power is the very ground on which the apostle bases his exhortations; the great argument, not for remissness and security, but for persevering, self-denying labour. God's power is fighting for us; we are told to bring in by the side of that almighty aid all our earnestness. It may seem strange to be bidden to put our weak trembling endeavours by the side of the strength of God; the two things are incommensurate: how can the Infinite and finite work together? But it is the teaching of Holy Scripture; the saints have proved its value in their daily lives. The work is God's work; he hath begum it; he will perform it unto the day of Jesus Christ; but just on that very ground we must work too, with fear and trembling indeed, but in trustful faith, out of love and adoring gratitude.
2. To go on from grace to grace. The first great gift of God is faith, that precious faith of which St. Peter speaks so warmly. Faith, St. Augustine says, is the root and mother of all virtues; St. Peter says the same. He tells us that in the life of faith, in the active energy of faith, we must furnish the attendant chorus of graces. The word which he uses implies that we must spare no effort, no expense; the Christian must be willing to spend and to be spent in order to provide that fair train of graces which is the meet adornment of the temple of the Holy Ghost. Faith, the first gift of God, cannot remain alone; it must work, and out of its active energies must issue virtue.
(1) Virtue is manliness, the holy courage which enables Christians to quit themselves like men in the service of the Captain of our salvation. In the midst of the assaults of temptation we need a resolute determination to do what is right in the sight of God, a steadfast strength of will to choose always the good part. This is the virtue of the Christian warrior, and this is acquired in the active work of faith; faith ever working, ever energetic, strengthens the soul: who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth? Hence faith leads on to virtue.
(2) With virtue comes knowledge. Courage and firmness may do harm unless they are directed by knowledge: true Christian virtue will lead on to knowledge. Irresolute men, double-minded and undecided, waver between right and wrong; they are constantly tempted into dangerous compliances with evil; they profess to hate sin, but they have a lingering love for it; and so they do not attain to that keen perception of good and evil which can be developed only in the active resolute conflict against the world, the flesh, and the devil. That holy discretion grows from Christian virtue, and it guides and informs the virtue from which it springs.
(3) Temperance. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil has its dangers. There is need of discretion to form a right judgment, and of virtue to remain steadfast in that judgment. The union of virtue and knowledge will bring in temperance, or self-control, which enables a man to govern his appetites, and to keep them under the sovereign rule of conscience. Without that self-control there is no unity of purpose. The Christian must strive, like St. Paul, to devote his energies to the one thing needful; and to do that he must keep under his body and bring it into subjection; he must check the tumult of earthly desire by the light of knowledge and the strength of virtue.
(4) Patience. Side by side with self-control comes patient endurance; he who controls his appetites will learn to endure hardness. Some of God's people have to wait for him in patient endurance, some to work for him in active labour. Both may serve him with equal faithfulness. It is not outward work in itself, but inner faithfulness of spirit, that wins the praise of God: the suffering Church of Smyrna is commended; the active Church of Ephesus is blamed (Revelation 2:1-66.2.11).
(5) Godliness. Faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, must help to strengthen and develop godliness. Godliness is the spirit of reverence, the holy fear of God. The godly man sets God always before him; the thought of God controls his whole life; his effort is to do all things in the name of the Lord Jesus, to live unto the Lord, to seek his glory only. This holy reverence for the felt presence of God can only be maintained in the life of faith and self-control; in the worldly life of mere pleasure and business it cannot flourish. God is the center of the devout life, the life of godliness; and to fix the eye of the soul on him we must learn the great lesson, "love not the world."
(6) Brotherly kindness. Out of godliness must flow the love of the brethren; for Holy Scripture tells us that "if a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar; for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" God's elect are knit together in one communion and fellowship; all loving their Father in heaven, they must for his love's sake love all who in virtue of the heavenly birth are made the children of God. There is no love truer and holier than that which lives in the communion of saints; the nearer they draw to the heavenly Father, the Fountain of all holy love, the more fervently out of a pure heart they love one another.
(7) Charity. Christian love must not be confined within the limits of the Christian Church. It is specially due, indeed, to those who are of the household of faith; but it cannot stop there. For it comes from God, who is Love, whose love is without limits in range and in intensity; and that love which his children learn of him must be, in its poor measure, like his love—it must not be cribbed and confined within conventional boundaries; it must continually increase in depth, and as it increases in depth it must increase also in extent. It will do so, if it is real and true; for it is a living thing, nay, the very life of the soul with God, and that life which it has of God involves the necessity of constant growth. Love is free, spontaneous, full of life and energy and warmth. All Christian graces meet in it; for it is the crown and center of the Christian character, the golden link that hinds together into one glorious whole all the fair adornments of those holy souls that have been created anew after the image of Christ.
II. REASONS URGING US TO THE ZEALOUS PERFORMANCE OF OUR DUTY.
1. The positive reason. If only we give all diligence, we must succeed, for the Divine power is with us; and when, by the help of that power working in and with us, those precious graces are made our own, they will not let us be idle or unfruitful. Love, the crown of all the rest, is not a mere sentiment; it is a force, an energy; it will not allow the Christian to be idle; it must work, and in its working it will bring us ever nearer to the full blessed knowledge of Christ, that knowledge which is eternal life, in comparison with which all the good things of this world are as dross, as very dung.
2. The negative reason. Without those graces men are blind; for faith, the first of them, out of which all the others spring, is the eye of the soul. He that hath not faith is spiritually blind; he is not blind to the outward objects which lie close around him,—those he can see; but the things that belong to his peace are hidden from his eyes. He cannot discern the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ; he cannot see the awful realities of the eternal world; he cannot discern the spiritual powers that are working even now in the Church—the Lord's body that is offered to the faithful in the Holy Communion (1 Corinthians 11:29), the grace of the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of baptism (1 Corinthians 12:13). Through that spiritual blindness he has incurred forgetfulness of the cleansing from his old sins; and it is not the outward washing of baptism that saves us, but the inquiry of a good conscience after God. He will not inquire after God who has received the grace of God in vain; his baptism will not profit him, for he is fallen from grace. Then let us give all diligence not to be idle or unfruitful, but to seek earnestly after those special graces which by the mighty working of the Divine power we may obtain of God.
III. FURTHER ENFORCEMENT OF THAT DUTY.
1. For present safety. St. Peter again urges us to earnest diligence, to the active use of the blessed means of grace. He uses the language of entreaty: "brethren," he says, in tones of affectionate appeal. He knows how hard it is to persevere, how much need we all have of encouragement and exhortation. God's exceeding great gifts, the danger of misusing them, the profit to be gained by faithfully using them,—all this, he says, should urge us on to continually increasing diligence. Such diligence, brought in by the side of the Divine power (2 Peter 1:5), working with that Divine power which alone is the source of our salvation, will tend to make our calling and election sure. While we are diligent in working out our own salvation, we feel God's working in us; doubts arise if we relax our energies. Satan suggests from time to time that miserable doubt, "If thou be a child of God."
If we listen to him and cease to trust in our Father's care, labouring more for the meat that perisheth than for that which endureth to everlasting life; or if we indulge visions of spiritual pride, and tempt God by putting ourselves into perilous positions to which he has not called us,—then the doubts increase and vex the soul. But humble, earnest work for God deepens the Christian's assurance of God's love and choice. "I follow after," said the holy apostle St. Paul, "if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus;" and again, "I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection, lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should he a castaway." Therefore give diligence; that very diligence is a sign of God's election. "No man can come to me," said the Lord, "except the Father which hath sent me draw him;" and it continually deepens our trustfulness in that electing grace. If we are bringing forth the sevenfold fruit which issues out of the root of faith, we may be sure that our faith is true and living. And we must try to live as men called of God and chosen unto everlasting life should live, in trustfulness and thankfulness, in the abiding sense of God's presence, in the persevering effort to please him in all things. The life of obedience and spiritual diligence tends to deepen continually the consciousness that the Divine power is with us, giving us all things needful for life and godliness, and so to make our calling and election sure. While we live thus we shall not stumble; for the godly consideration of our election in Christ doth not only "greatly establish and confirm the faith of eternal salvation to be enjoyed through Christ," hut doth also "fervently kindle love towards God;" therefore Christian men, while by God's grace they are enabled to keep the faith of their election in Christ steadfastly before their eyes, must walk religiously in good works, and will not fall unto sin. "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." So long as we abide in the grace of that heavenly birth, in the faith of our election unto everlasting life, so long we cannot sin. It is when we are off our guard, when we are not "as men waiting for their Lord," that we fall away. Then all the more we ought to "give diligence to make our calling and election sure."
2. For future blessedness. The entrance into Christ's eternal kingdom shall be richly furnished to those who use all diligence to make their election sure. While we are preparing our hearts by his gracious help, while we are striving to furnish the fair train of Christian graces to make that heart ready for him, we know that he is preparing a place for us in heaven, interceding for us, praying that where he is there we may also be. That entrance shall be richly furnished; with glory and with triumph shall the Christian soul enter into the golden city; there are the true riches—riches of blessedness beyond the reach of human thought, riches of knowledge, riches of holiness and joy and love in the unveiled presence of God, who is rich in mercy, rich in power and glory and majesty, rich in tender and holy and unspeakable love for his elect.
1. God's bounty should stir us to show our thankfulness in our lives. His gifts are great, so ought our diligence to be great.
2. Our hearts are the chosen temple of God; we must furnish that temple richly with Christian graces—its proper decorations.
3. By that holy diligence we are bidden to make our calling and election sure.
4. Let us earnestly strive to do so, looking forward in faith to the great reward.
2 Peter 1:12-61.1.21
Reasons for diligence in his apostolic work.
I. THE TIME IS SHOUT.
1. We need continually to be aroused. We may know all things necessary for salvation; we have known them, it may be, all our lives; we are firmly convinced of their truth; but we need to keep that knowledge vividly before our hearts, to bring it to bear upon the circumstances of our daily lives. Few of us have this recollectedness, this persevering watchfulness; we need constant exhortation. St. Peter's readers had the knowledge of the gospel; they had heard it from St. Paul and his companions. St. Peter gladly acknowledges it—exhortation is better received when it is expressed in kindly terms. But he has a duty to perform; he felt, like St. Paul, that he was a debtor both to Jews and Greeks; that he must do his utmost to preach the gospel of Christ, and to keep alive the flame of holy love in those who knew the truth. So he will take all opportunities of arousing those whom he is addressing; he will never relax his efforts as long as he lives; he knows that they will always need the word of exhortation; he knows that it will always be his duty to exhort them. St. Peter is an example to all Christian ministers. They must watch for souls; they must never weary in their work; at all times and in all places they should strive, sometimes by word, always by example, to arouse men to a sense of the momentous importance of the things which belong to their peace. They are never "off duty," as men are in other occupations; they should be always on the watch for opportunities of saving souls, of building up believers in their most holy faith, of comforting the feebleminded, of arousing the careless, of warning, guiding, encouraging, according to the needs of those with whom they have to do.
2. "The night cometh when no man can work." St. Peter looks forward to his death with sweet and holy calmness; he knew that it would be swift—the sharp death of martyrdom. He may have felt that it was near at hand; for he was an old man now, and the hour of which the Lord had spoken (John 21:18, John 21:19) could not be long delayed. He calls it the putting off of his tabernacle. His earthly body was but as a tent, perishable, temporary; the tent was old, worn out; it could not last long. The apostle knew, like St. Paul, that he had "a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens," and, knowing this, he could calmly await the dissolution of the earthly house of this tabernacle. But the approach of death, the thought that, when it came, it would be speedy, was a reason for more earnest work while there was time. It is good for us to keep the thought of our approaching death in continual remembrance, to accustom ourselves to reflect calmly and thoughtfully upon it. Such meditation throws a clear light upon the solemn meaning of our earthly life, on the deep importance of finishing the work which God has given us to do. Sometimes we can do that work all the better when the shadow of approaching death is falling upon us. Our testimony seems more real, deeper, and more convincing, when it comes from men who are on the point of departure, whose immediate future is in the world beyond the grave. The thought of coming death will make true Christians all the more eager to work for God; they wilt pray that Christ may be magnified in them, whether it be by life or by death; they will pray for a holy, peaceful death, not only for their own sakes, but also that others, seeing how Christian men can die, may be led to follow their faith. They will work for the salvation of souls even on their death-bed, and they will do what lies in their power to leave behind them a legacy of holy example and holy memories, or, it may be, of holy writings, which may benefit those who remain. To such holy souls death is a departure, an exodus, out of a life of sorrows into the land of promise, the heavenly Canaan. The Lord who died for them is with them when they die; he accomplished his decease at Jerusalem for them. His death hath destroyed the power of the king of terrors, and taken away the sting of death; his death was a departure out of humiliation into glory. He told Peter once that he could not follow whither he was going then, but that he should follow him afterwards. And so now it is his will that all those whom the Father hath given him should be with him where he is.
II. THE CERTAINTY OF THE TRUTHS OF THE GOSPEL.
1. They are not fables. There were many strange stories current, some among Jews, some among Gentiles; there were many legends, many myths. But the gospel history stands apart from all these in its unimpeachable truthfulness. It contains many wonderful works of power, many wonders of grace; it announces the future advent of our Saviour Jesus Christ. But all these are related with a simplicity which has the stamp of truth. The gospel speaks to us as with a voice from heaven; it awakens echoes in our hearts; it brings with it its own evidence.
2. They have the testimony of eye-witnesses. There were many eye-witnesses of the Lord's life and works—five hundred brethren at once had seen him after he was risen from the dead. But there were three who had received an august initiation into the holiest mysteries, who had been eye-witnesses of his majesty when the splendour of the Divine glory flashed through the veil of human flesh, and saints long ago departed from the world came to do him homage, desiring, as the blessed angels desire, to look into the mysteries of redemption, and to understand something of the blessed and awful meaning of his most precious death.
3. The direct testimony of God the Father. On the day of the Transfiguration sure and irresistible proof of the Saviour's Divine majesty was vouchsafed to eye and ear alike. That radiant glory came from God the Father; the highly favoured three had then a foretaste of the glorious vision which the blessed shall behold in heaven according to the Saviour's prayer, "Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me." That great sight was to prepare them for the awful agony that was to follow. God gives from time to time glimpses of the blessedness of heaven to his saints; the Saviour manifests himself to his chosen as he doth not unto the world. And sometimes those who are most highly favoured with the vision of his love are called to be in a special manner partakers of his suffering, to bear about with them in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus. But the three apostles did not only behold the glory as of the Only Begotten from the Father; a further heavenly witness was vouchsafed. A voice uttered by the excellent glory was borne out of the bright cloud to the transfigured Lord; it was borne along towards him, as if riding on the cherubim, flying on the wings of the wind; it came like a living thing, a strange startling reality, a voice such as no other man had heard except the holy Baptist. Borne along in majestic course, it came to the transfigured Jesus, and recognized him as the eternal Son. "This is my Son, my Beloved, in whom I am well pleased." None other than God the Father could have uttered that voice; the emphatic I (ἐγώ) announced his presence. He was well pleased in the adorable Son; ever from all eternity had the love of the Father beamed upon the everlasting Son of God. Now, in his incarnation, in his voluntary humiliation, the Father was well pleased; he had declared his good pleasure at the baptism, he declared it again at the Transfiguration. The Lord Jesus might be despised and rejected of men; he was owned by the Lord God Omnipotent as the Son of God most holy. And surely, as God was well pleased in him who humbled himself and became obedient even unto death, so he is well pleased now with those to whom the only begotten Son hath given power to become the children of God, when they abase themselves, when they learn of the Lord Christ humility and submission of will, and pray in his holy words, "Father, not my will, but thine be done." The chosen three heard that august voice as it was borne from heaven; they heard it, as the emphatic ἡμεῖς signifies, themselves, with their own ears; there was no room for doubt, no possibility of error. The voice was borne from heaven; it was borne to Christ; the three chosen witnesses heard it, as they were with him in the holy mount. We have their testimony, the testimony of eye-witnesses, who declare unto us that which they saw and heard. The witnesses were men whose truthfulness could not be impeached. They had nothing to gain in this world, but everything to lose; all were persecuted, two of them suffered the death of martyrdom. We may well thank God for the strength and certainty of the evidence of Christianity.
4. The testimony of prophecy. The Law and the prophets testified of Christ. The Lord himself appealed to that testimony when, "beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded the things concerning himself (Luke 24:27). All the varied testimony of all the prophets converges in the Person of Christ, and finds its fulfillment there. No other deliverer has arisen answering to ancient prediction; in the Lord Christ only meet all the voices of the prophets. Many recognized the power of this testimony in apostolical times: the eunuch who was reading the great prophecy of Isaiah when Philip drew near to his chariot; the multitudes who listened to the apostles as they persuaded them out of the prophets, witnessing, as they did again and again, that "all the prophets from Samuel, and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days." This testimony of the prophets, so convincing in itself, so especially weighty and sacred to Hebrew believers, was rendered surer by the most august and authoritative of all testimonies, the direct testimony of God the Father, given in the voice that was borne from heaven. None who heard that voice could entertain one moment's doubt that the Lord Jesus was indeed he "of whom Moses in the Law, and the prophets, did write."
5. The value and use of prophecy. It is good to give heed to prophecy, to study the prophetic Word. The external evidences of our religion are very helpful to inquirers after truth; ancient prophecy is an important factor of those external evidences. It is like a lamp that shineth in a dark place. The world is a dark dreary place; we could not find the strait path and narrow way that leadeth unto life without the guiding light of the holy Word of God. The heart is a dark place, gloomy, dry, and squalid, when it is not illumined by the Holy Spirit, of God. In that dark place the light of prophecy shineth. It guided the steps of many an anxious inquirer in the early days of Christianity; doubtless the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah led many thoughtful men, besides the Ethiopian eunuch, to the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. That chapter, like so much more of Old Testament prophecy, appeals to the deepest yearnings of the awakening heart, to the sense of sin, the feeling of need, the longing for atonement, the reaching forth of the soul for a personal Saviour. Prophecy is a "burning and a shining light," as John the Baptist was; his office was to lead men to Christ, to say, "Behold the Lamb of God!" Such is the office of prophecy. Its guiding lamp is precious; but more precious far to the individual soul is the revealed presence of that Saviour of whom all prophecy speaks. His presence, manifested according to his promise into the Christian heart, is the dawn of the spiritual day. He is the Day-star, the Light-bringer; for he is the Light, the Light of the world. Precious above all price is the clear brightness of that holy day; precious, therefore, is prophecy, as it guides us onward through the encircling gloom till the dawning of the day, and the rising of the Bright and Morning Star. And we shall value the guidance of prophecy the more when we consider the source from which it comes. The prophecies of Holy Scripture are not the result of human thought. The prophet did not himself unravel the mysteries of the future. It was not Joseph who interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh, or Daniel who interpreted the visions of Nebuchadnezzar. It was not for the prophet to interpret the revelation presented to himself. Interpretation as well as vision comes from God. "It is not in me," said Joseph: "God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace." "There is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets," said Daniel to the king. Prophecy came from heaven, like the voice which spake at the Transfiguration; it was borne to the prophet, as that voice was borne to the Lord. The holy men who uttered the prophecies were borne along by the Holy Spirit of God. God who spake at the Transfiguration is the God who spake by the prophets. Both forms of testimony come from him; both are sure and certain; the one makes the other surer.
1. St. Peter looked forward calmly to the approach of death; we should learn to do the like. He regarded the nearness of death as an incentive to earnest work; we should follow his example.
2. The external evidence of our religion is sure; we have the testimony of eye-witnesses, who themselves had the testimony of God. We have the testimony of prophets who were inspired by the Holy Spirit.
3. But the surest evidence to each individual soul is the manifestation of Christ, the Day-star, rising in the heart. "Hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us."
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
2 Peter 1:1
We have, in the career and the fame of St. Peter, an extraordinary instance of a man rising from obscurity to renown. A Galilaean fisherman became the leader of the college of apostles, and has for centuries been acknowledged by the whole of Christendom as one of its inspired teachers and counselors; whilst by a great part of Christendom Peter has been regarded as the chief human head and ruler of the Church, first in his own person, and afterwards by those considered to be his successors. It is certainly very remarkable in how very many respects Peter stands first among our Lord's apostles. Confining ourselves to the scriptural narrative, disregarding all traditions, and giving no heed to superstitious claims, we cannot but admit the many evidences of St. Peter's primacy.
I. PETER WAS THE FIRST AMONG THE LITTLE GROUP OF CHOSEN DISCIPLES ADMITTED TO WITNESS CHRIST'S GLORY. Peter was the first-mentioned of the three who saw the transfigured Son of man upon the holy mount; and it was he who, as the spokesman of the others, exclaimed, "It is good for us to be here."
II. PETER OCCUPIED THE SAME POSITION AMONGST THOSE CHOSEN TO TESTIFY OF THE SAVIOUR'S HUMILIATION AND AGONY. Ill the garden of Gethsemane, Simon was one of the same band of three whom Jesus kept near to himself; and his prominent action in his Master's defense is proof of his admitted leadership.
III. PETER WAS THE FIRST OF THE APOSTLES TO BEAR WITNESS TO THE LORD'S MESSIAHSHIP AND DIVINITY. It was his exclamation, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God," which called forth the Lord's approval and original blessing, "Blessed art thou, Simon," etc.
IV. PETER WAS THE FIRST TO PROCLAIM THE SAVIOUR'S RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD. Paul himself records that the risen Redeemer first appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. "The Lord hath risen indeed, and hath appeared unto Simon,"—such were the joyful tidings which circulated among the little company during the resurrection-day.
V. PETER WAS THE FIRST, AFTER THE DESCENT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO HIS FELLOW-MEN. Upon the Day of Pentecost he stood up, and in the name of the brethren published to the multitude the explanation of the marvelous events of that day. As the chief speaker and representative of the Church, he proclaimed, not only the facts of the Resurrection and the outpouring of the Spirit, but pardon and salvation through the redemption which Christ had wrought.
VI. PETER WAS THE FIRST AMONG CHRISTIAN CONFESSORS TO ENDURE AND TO DEFY THE RACE OF THE PERSECUTOR. The storm broke upon the loftiest oak of the forest. Peter was naturally selected by the enemies of the faith as its most public and powerful representative, that he might be made to feel their power. But his attitude and language proved that he was conscious of the presence and support of One mightier than all those who were opposed to him.
VII. PETER WAS THE FIRST AMONG THE TWELVE TO WELCOME BELIEVING GENTILES INTO THE CHURCH OF CHRIST. The case of Cornelius, the circumstances attending the "Council of Jerusalem," are sufficient proof of this. Although the "apostle of the circumcision," it is plain that Peter was in fullest sympathy with that Divine move-meat of expansiveness which was to represent Christianity as the religion for mankind, and Christ as the Saviour of the world.
VIII. PETER WAS THE FIRST CONCERNING WHOM IT WAS FORETOLD THAT HE SHOULD SUFFER A DEATH OF MARTYRDOM FOR THE LORD WHOM HE LOVED. Jesus himself forewarned him of the fate which was before him, and even signified what death he should die. He who counted it an honour to fulfill his Lord's will, and to proclaim his Lord's grace and love, when the time came, counted it a joy to share his Master's reproach and to bear his Master's cross - J.R.T.
2 Peter 1:3, 2 Peter 1:4
The bounty of God.
The lot of the primitive Christians whom the apostles addressed in their spoken and written utterances must, for the most part, have appeared to ordinary observers far from desirable. Not only were they drawn from the lowly and unconsidered classes of society, but they often had much to endure as a consequence of their reception of the gospel and their fidelity to Christ. Especially did they meet with the contempt of the great, on account of their adhesion to what the world deemed an unreasonable superstition, and with the hostility, now of a mob, and again of a governor, who attacked them with the weapons of persecution. Yet these primitive Christians took an independent view of their own position, and judged themselves very differently from the world's judgment. They were taught by their inspired instructors and counselors—as by St. Peter in this passage—to consider themselves objects of the Divine favour, recipients of the Divine bounty—nay, even partakers of the Divine life. Such an appreciation of their position and spiritual endowments might be deemed by their unenlightened and worldly neighbours mere fanaticism. But events proved that the Church of Christ was under no illusion in cherishing a profound conviction that all its true members were enriched with incomparable wealth, and called to a glorious destiny. High thoughts of privilege prepared for deeds of daring and of endurance; and the world which could not comprehend the Church's faith and claims was constrained to feel and to acknowledge the Church's power.
I. THE DIVINE GIVER.
1. His boundless power accounts for the plenitude and variety of God's bestowments upon his people. If we speak of him as "the Almighty," when considering his material creation and all its illimitable extent, and its teeming wonders, much more evidently is such an appellation justified when we turn to regard those higher manifestations of creative energy which are furnished in transformations wrought in the individual and the social life of man.
"'Twas great to speak a world from naught,
'Twas greater to redeem."
2. His wonderful generosity. The endowments of the Church arc said to be "granted" or "given." And this must have been so; for they are altogether beyond human acquirement, whilst nothing that man could do could earn such blessings. And when the sinfulness of the whole race of men is considered, the generosity which was expressed in the bestowment of such gifts upon such recipients must be acknowledged to be wonderful indeed.
II. THE SPIRITUAL GIFT. There are two parties to every gift, and in order to appreciate it, it is necessary to look at the gift in relation to him who gives and to those who receive.
1. Looked at on their Divine side, these gifts are the fulfillment of "promises precious and exceeding great." It would be absurd and sinful to suppose that what God bestows upon his creatures is flung to them in a momentary and capricious fit of liberality. As a matter of fact, from the earliest periods of human history, from the time of man's "fall," the revelation of God had been one intended to inspire hope of salvation; and the primaeval promise had been renewed, both by language and by symbol, from age to age. These promises might not always be fully understood, clear as they are to us when we read them in the light of their fulfillment. But they were glorious with a glory exceeding any human assurances of help and blessing. And the purport of them all was to reveal a Divine intention to provide spiritual blessings—knowledge, deliverance, and life—for a needy and a sinful race. Great as were the promises, the fulfillment was greater still. A Saviour was promised, and in the fullness of time a Saviour came; the incarnation and advent of Christ were the accomplishment of the predictions and the purposes of eternal wisdom and eternal love. The diffusion of the Spirit throughout a society which needed enlightenment and healing and fertilization was the accomplishment of some of the most striking and poetical prophecies of Old Testament Scripture.
2. Looked at on their human side, these Divine gifts include "all things that pertain unto life and godliness." A marvelously comprehensive description! Spiritual death and ungodliness prevailed in the world. And there was no human means by which their power could be destroyed and the salvation of men secured. But in the fulfillment of the Divine promises, in the mediatorial dispensation, in the coming of the Son of God, and of the Spirit of life and holiness, the amplest provision was made for the highest and immortal welfare of men. We may compare this declaration with the reasoning of Paul, who argues that he who spared not his Son, but gave him up for us all, will with him also freely give us all things.
III. THE MEANS BY WHICH THE DIVINE GIFT IS APPRECIATED BY THE HUMAN RECIPIENT.
1. There is a call, a summons, an invitation of God. Very fine, very elevating and encouraging, is St. Peter's representation of the method adopted by Divine wisdom to secure that the gift shall not be lost. It is "by his own glory and virtue" that God calls us to salvation, i.e., by an exhibition of his natural and moral attributes eminently fitted to reveal himself to our hearts, and to produce upon those hearts a deep impression, winning them to faith, devotion, gratitude, and love. The beginning of good must be, and is, a movement on the part of the Almighty Ruler and Saviour.
2. There is a consequent "knowledge" of our redeeming God, which the revelation makes possible to us, furnishing us with an object of knowledge. Such teaching as this is directly opposed to the agnosticism with which so many are content. Our Lord himself, in his intercessory prayer, laid the greatest stress upon the knowledge of himself and of the Father. Doubtless this is a knowledge of a higher kind than is our knowledge of nature; and it is far more powerful to affect the character, to mould the life. Yet it is knowledge which is within the reach of the lowliest and the least cultured. To know God in Christ is life eternal - J.R.T.
2 Peter 1:4
Partakers of a Divine nature.
Readers of classic literature are aware that, the cultivated pagans of antiquity broke down the distinction between the human and the Divine, by representing their emperors and other great men as taken after death into the rank of the gods. But this apotheosis was rather an exaltation in rank than an assimilation to, an incorporation in, a higher moral nature. The religion of Christ, on the other hand, evinces its immeasurable superiority to these human religions by representing the participation in the Divine as moral, and by holding out the prospect, not merely to a limited class, but to all who receive the gospel.
I. THE RESPECTS IN WHICH MAN MAY SHARE THE NATURE OF GOD.
1. This partaking is not in the natural attributes of Deity, such as omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience, which are incommunicable.
2. But in the moral attributes. Of these may be especially mentioned holiness, or the disposition and habit of loving and doing all things that are just and pure; and love, or the disposition and habit of seeking the true and highest well-being of all whom it is possible to benefit. It is a proof of the elevated conception of God which Christianity has introduced into the world, that these Divine attributes should occur to the mind as those most worthy of our admiration and imitation. And Christians must feel at once that, if these are wanting to the character, it is out of the question to pretend to trace assimilation to the nature of our holy and loving God.
II. THE CONSTITUTION IN VIRTUE OF WHICH MAN MAY SHARE THE NATURE OF GOD,
1. The human constitution is in complete contrast with that of the inferior animals, which may in their life carry out the purposes of God, but can only do this blindly and unintelligently. It is, says Kant, the prerogative of an intelligent being to act, not merely according to law, but according to the representation of law; i.e., to conceive, adopt, and voluntarily obey, the law.
2. Thus it is that man is endowed with a nature capable, through God's mercy, of acquiring the moral nature of his Divine Maker and Lord. Constituted as he is, fashioned in the likeness of God, man can, under heavenly influences, perceive the excellence of the moral attributes of his God, can admire and can aspire to them, can resolve and endeavour to participate in and acquire them.
III. THE PROVISION MADE WHEREBY THIS POSSIBILITY MAY BECOME ACTUAL. It is not to be supposed that, merely by aspiring, a man can share the nature of God, any more than by merely desiring to fly he can raise himself into the air and cleave it as with wings. An interposition of a supernatural character is necessary.
1. A condition and means by which this end may be secured is deliverance by the redemption of Christ from the corruption of the world. There is no harmony between the lusts of the world and the flesh, and the life of God. The Redeemer came in order to set men free from the power which debases and degrades—in order, as St. Peter says in the context, to enable men to escape from the corruption that is in the world by lust. And experience has shown that the mediatorial grace of Christ is able to effect what do human power can bring to pass.
2. The renewal and purification which are the work of the Holy Spirit of God are the moral power by which the participation in question is actually accomplished. He brings the life of the Eternal into our human nature, and pours that life through the whole being of the believing and grateful disciple of Christ, so that he becomes a new creature in Christ Jesus.
IV. THE GLORIOUS RESULTS OF PARTICIPATION IN THE DIVINE NATURE.
1. A Divine nature involves a Divine life. This is not a merely sentimental, or even a merely mystical and transcendental, change; on the contrary, it is a change actual, discernible, and progressive; a change by which its Divine Author is glorified.
2. A Divine nature involves an immortal life of blessedness. To live in God is to live in the fullness of joy, and to live thus for ever - J.R.T.
2 Peter 1:16-61.1.18
Witness to Christ.
The Divine Saviour was the theme of apostolic preaching. They, whom he himself commissioned for the purpose, published the tidings of their Lord's first advent as the object of human faith, and of his second and future advent as the object of human hope. Thus the "power and presence of our Lord Jesus Christ" was the great thought that inspired the apostles' minds, and animated them in their labours. And it was most natural and wise that, for their own sake and. for the sake of their hearers and readers, they should ever keep before their hearts, and should often mention in their discourse, those great facts concerning the Master upon which their new life and their new work were based. This accounts for the reference in this passage to the marvelous scene of Christ's Transfiguration.
I. THE WITNESS OF THE FATHER TO THE SON. On three occasions during our Lord's earthly ministry was the silence of heaven broken, and audible testimony borne by the Eternal to the "Son of his love." Of these occasions the Transfiguration was the most glorious and impressive. It was more than a majestic scene; it was an appeal to human intelligence and devoutness.
1. There was a voice from heaven. God chose an avenue which he himself had designed and fashioned, in order to reach the minds and hearts of men.
2. Expressed by this voice was the Father's personal relationship of affection towards Jesus. In his humiliation our Lord was acknowledged as the "beloved Son."
3. Witness was also borne to the complacency with which the Father regarded the Son, as fulfilling his will in the ministry and mediation he had undertaken.
4. The Transfiguration was justly regarded by the apostles as a bestowal upon their Lord of "honour and glory." Not that to them the outward splendor was everything; doubtless it was the symbol of a spiritual glory.
II. THE WITNESS OF THE DISCIPLES TO THEIR MASTER. This was a matter of fact, and is to us matter of history. Place and time are duly specified.
1. The disciples, who were serious and credible men, declared themselves to be eye-witnesses of Christ's majesty.
2. And ear-witnesses of the Divine attestation borne to him.
3. They expressly asserted that in this matter they were neither deceivers nor deceived. And, indeed, the case of their being either the one or the other is utterly incredible, is scarcely to be constructed by the imagination. They were not following cunningly devised fables; neither did they invent the incidents, nor did they adopt the inventions of others. In accepting the gospel narrative we build upon a sure foundation of fact.
III. THE PRACTICAL INFERENCE TO BE DRAWN BY THOSE WHO RECEIVE THIS TWO-FOLD WITNESS. Human nature is such that it is not possible for us to believe such facts as those which St. Peter here records, and not be affected by such belief in our spirit and our conduct.
1. As regards Jesus himself, whosoever receives the gospel is constrained to confess his power, presence, and coming.
2. As regards himself, he is bound to trust, love, honour, and serve the Saviour and Lord, who is thus made known to his spiritual nature by the revelation of the eternal Father, and by the testimony of his believing and devoted followers and apostles - J.R.T.
2 Peter 1:19
The lamp and the dawn.
Notwithstanding Peter's personal acquaintance with the Lord Jesus, and the abundant evidence which had come before him, during Christ's ministry, of his Master's duty and authority, Peter was far from disparaging the value of those attestations to the authority and sway of the Messiah-Prince to be found in the Scriptures of the Old Testament.
I. THE NIGHT OF TIME. The world is, apart from special illumination from above, a dark place. The human race, in this condition of being, are like wanderers in midnight gloom. Ignorance of what it most concerns us to know, sinful habits which cloud the reason and even corrupt the conscience, hopelessness as to the future beyond this brief mortal existence,—such are the elements of moral darkness. The gloom is not unrelieved, but it is real and undeniable.
II. THE LAMP OF REVELATION. The darkness of man's moral condition has been to some extent dispelled and scattered by the light which God himself has kindled in the minds of holy and devout men, and which they have shed upon their fellow-mortals' path. In them has been verified the grand saying of the poet—
''Heaven doth with us, as we with torches do,
Not light them for themselves."
The prophets, whose writings form a large part of the sacred volume, have rendered a service to humanity which in our day is inadequately acknowledged. Certainly they have introduced into human thinking and literature many of our sublimest conceptions of God, of morality, of society. And certainly they have done much to sustain the faith of men in a Divine rule, and to inspire the hope of men in a glorious future for the moral universe. Not only did they reveal the coming of the King whose way to empire should be through suffering and death; they revealed the prospect of a kingdom which has yet to be realized, and which is to secure the highest welfare of man and to exhibit the eternal glory of God.
III. THE DAYBREAK OF CHRIST'S KINGDOM. The lamp is well enough for the night; but how welcome and how precious to the watcher or the traveler is the break of day! The day-star, the light-bringer, shines with rays of lustrous promise. Then the gray dawn appears in the east, and reddens as the sunrise approaches. Soon the sun rises in his strength and floods the world with light. The process is a picture of what happens in the spiritual history of humanity.
1. What the day is deserves to be considered. It is the day of knowledge, of holiness, of "hope. Through the shining of the Sun of Righteousness, they who sometime were darkness are now light in the Lord.
2. Where the day shines is also matter of great interest. To St. Peter the glory of noontide splendour was still in the future. Certain it is that the kingdom of Christ, like the path of the just, "shineth more and more unto the perfect day." What we have hitherto seen has been the beauty and the promise of the morning. The full noontide splendour has yet to be revealed. But in indulging bright hopes for the world, for the destiny of our redeemed and regenerated humanity, let us not lose sight of the internal, the spiritual, the personal experience of enlightenment. St. Peter's hope was that "in your hearts" this day should dawn, and this day-star arise. We have to look not only without, but within. If the heart be dark as a cavern secluded in forest depths from every ray of the sun in heaven, of what avail for us is it that the world is bathed in spiritual luster?
1. Take heed to the lamp of prophecy, which does not cease to shine, and which is needed by every traveler through the night of time, to direct his feet into the paths of safety, wisdom, and peace.
2. Hail the promise of the morning, and look forward to the spiritual and perfect day. Of times and seasons we know but little; but this we know—"The Lord is at hand;" "The morning cometh." "Lift up, then, your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh."—J.R.T.
2 Peter 1:21
God's voice in the Bible.
The reference here is, of course, to Old Testament Scripture; but there is no reason for confining this assertion to any portion of Holy Writ. The Bible, as a whole, is a Divine utterance—Divine in its purpose, and Divine in its authority. A spiritual impulse moved the writers, and their speech accordingly was in reality the voice of God. This Divinity of meaning is discernible in the aim of the Scriptures.
I. THE BIBLE TEACHES MAN WHAT HE IS.
1. Everywhere in Scripture man is represented as a moral, spiritual, and accountable being. Other literature, properly enough, deals with man under other aspects of his nature—represents him as susceptible of emotions incidental to human relationships, as grief and joy, fear and hope; as capable of exertion, of self-denial, with a view to obtaining earthly objects. But every careful and discerning reader of Scripture feels that in every book of the volume human nature is depicted as moral, as affected, on the one hand, by temptation to a lower life, and, on the other hand, by stimulus and encouragement to a higher life; as capable of obedience and holiness, or of transgression and ungodliness. Never is man represented by the inspired writers as a mere animal, as a sentient nature moved, like the brutes, only by instinct and appetite. On the contrary, he is represented as akin to God, as dependent upon God, as responsible to God.
2. Everywhere in Scripture man is convicted of being sinful and guilty in character and habit. Such a state is, indeed, a violation of his original and proper nature; but the fact of human sinfulness cannot be concealed or palliated without injustice and flattery. It is this fact which accounts for very much of the contents of the sacred volume. This is the explanation of the Law, which is not for the righteous, but for sinners; and of the ceremonies and sacrifices of the old covenant, which symbolically set forth the impurity and depravity of man's heart and life. In this light we must read the history of the Hebrew nation, which occupies so large a part of the Old Testament. It is a record of Israel's faults, defections, and apostasy; and it is a record also of God's displeasure with sin, embodied in acts of chastisement, and especially in the afflictions which repeatedly befell the nation as a whole. Here, too, is the explanation of the fact that Scripture contains so many biographies of bad men, and of good men who have been tempted and have fallen into sin. The intention is to exhibit human frail, ties and errors, and to impress upon the mind of every reader the undeniable power and curse of sin. It would appear that the same purpose is subserved by the descriptions of the diseased and the demoniacs, which abound in the narratives of the evangelists.
II. THE BIBLE TEACHES MAN WHO GOD IS. The profound need and the pressing urgency and importance of such knowledge must be admitted by all, and are felt by those whose spiritual instincts are aroused to activity. And in nothing is the Bible more manifestly its own witness and evidence than in its incomparable and sublime revelation of God.
1. In Scripture the Personality of the living God pervades every book. Not only is there no pantheism and no polytheism; there is a pure and impressive theism throughout the sacred volume. Even those who deny to the Bible the character of a supernatural revelation, acknowledge the debt of humanity to the representation of monotheism given by the Hebrew prophets and apostles.
2. The righteous government and the holy character of the Eternal are set forth in the Bible, not only by means of statements, but by means of lessons conveyed in the form of history. His hatred of sin, in both private and public life, is effectively declared in his righteous judgments. His moral government is a great reality. In the Scriptures, the Divine Ruler is never exhibited as either indifferent to moral distinctions or capricious in his treatment of moral agents. None who acknowledges the authority of the Bible can expect to escape the eye or to evade the judgment of the righteous Governor.
3. God's interest in man, and his design for man's welfare, are portrayed in the Bible, as in no other professedly sacred and inspired book, and indeed as nowhere else in literature. From the opening pages of Genesis, where God is represented as walking and as speaking with men in the garden, down to the epoch of redemption, when "the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us," the Scriptures are full of evidence of the Divine interest in man's welfare. Whilst exhibiting the majestic dignity of the Eternal, in such a way as to call forth our reverence, the sacred volume beyond anything else makes God near to us, and leads us to feel that he is round about us in all our ways.
4. Especially does the Bible impress upon the mind of the reader the redemptive purposes of the Supreme; it shows him to be man's Saviour. His character is set forth as compassionate and merciful, and he is represented as using the means to give effect to his gracious intentions towards sinful man.
(1) In the Old Testament history we have proofs of this, especially in the deliverance of Israel from the bondage in Egypt, and in the restoration of Israel from the captivity in the East. These great events were both manifestations of God's mercy towards a nation, and prophetic anticipations of the greater deliverance in the future.
(2) For the New Testament is undoubtedly the fulfillment of the Old. What was done politically for a people was in Christ done morally and actually for the race. The Gospels and Epistles set forth before us Jesus as the Son of God and as the Saviour of mankind. "He that hath seen me," said Christ, "hath seen the Father;" and this has respect, not simply to his peerless character, but also to the mighty power and to the gracious purposes to which the world is indebted for the temporal deliverance and for the eternal hope - J.R.T.
HOMILIES BY C. NEW
2 Peter 1:2, 2 Peter 1:3
Increase of spiritual life dependent on the knowledge of God.
Our text strikes the key-note of the Epistle—the need of watchfulness against error. Scripture demands a clear knowledge of revealed truth. On this the maintenance of spiritual life depends; to swerve from Divine truth is to suffer spiritual loss.
I. A GREAT INCREASE OF SPIRITUAL BLESSING IS POSSIBLE TO THE BELIEVER. "Grace and peace" we may take as including all spiritual good. Grace is God's part therein; peace is man's. God's attitude towards us is grace; our attitude towards him, for that is the end of righteousness, is to be peace. Between these two lies all that pertains to life and godliness. And the apostle says this may be multiplied to the Christian.
1. Because of the great capacity of his nature. The life imparted in regeneration has almost unlimited possibilities; it is Heaven's germ, from which will be developed the pure and perfect spirit which will gaze on the face of God, and reflect his glory. The believer is joint-heir with Christ; where Christ is, he is to be. Heaven will be a constant advance into the character of God; that is the capacity of spiritual life in the soul, "filled with all the fullness of God."
2. Because God has already given us all things that pertain to life and godliness. The power which God is prepared to manifest towards his people is equal to that which raised Christ from the helplessness of the grave to the supreme dominion of the universe. And in what way, but in giving us all things that pertain to life and godliness? Who can enumerate what is included in that "all things"? We do not always realize that with Christ God has already "freely given us all things." True, he holds them still, but it is on our behalf.
3. Because what we receive is through the Divine glory and virtue. In the Revised Version the third verse reads thus: "He hath called us by his own glory and virtue;" and that is the ground of our hopes, and triumphs over our sense of ill desert. God's glory is his mercy, and it is set free to exercise itself by Christ in the atonement; and he finds there the reason why he should enrich us.
II. THIS INCREASE OF BLESSING DEPENDS ON THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD. God does not give us mature spiritual blessings, but rather supplies us with the means of acquiring them. When we can do anything to secure the answer to our prayers, God gives the answer by blessing our own efforts, and, apart from the effort, the answer does not come. He will not give spiritual enrichment to spiritual inaction. In answer to our prayers for grace and peace to be multiplied, God shows us how we may have it.
1. The means of spiritual increase is the knowledge of himself. Scripture invariably makes spiritual good to rest on the knowledge of God. For instance: Security—"They have escaped the corruptions of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." Peace—"Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace." Strength—"The people that do know their God shall be strong." Obedience—"Hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments." Love—"He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is Love." Our Lord Jesus Christ sums it up in one sentence, "This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent? But there is a difference between knowing about God, and knowing God, and the difference is vital; the one knowledge is fruitful, the other barren. There is a natural connection between the increase of knowledge and the increase of grace.
2. Knowledge quickens desire. We cannot know God without longing to possess more of him and of what he has to give; and that longing means prayer for more, which will be answered, and effort for more, which will be successful.
3. Knowledge increases faith. Faith being the hand by which we appropriate and so possess. Why do we not take God as our own, with a confidence nothing can shake? To a great extent because we do not know him—how real he is, how vast his love, how infinitely trustworthy his nature. If we only knew more of him, we should hold him in the embrace of a strong, restful assurance.
4. Knowledge tends to participation. Personal acquaintance with God must have incalculable results. We should have a new power constraining us to righteousness. The grace and peace of his own nature would reflect themselves in us.
III. THIS INCREASE OF KNOWLEDGE SHOULD BE THE BELIEVER'S AIM. The difference in spiritual stature comes from different degrees of spiritual knowledge: then how can we know God better?
1. Greater knowledge is granted as the result of obedience. Unless God reveal himself, we cannot know him; and he reveals himself to him who lives in his fear. Sin blinds and deafens us; to do wrong is to put ourselves further from the knowledge of God; to do right is to thin the veil that hides him from us. If you would know him, obey him.
2. Greater knowledge is granted as the fruit of study and fellowship. It is only in face-to-face communion with God, such as is possible through the teaching of his Word, that we can really know him; therein he speaks to us, and in prayer we speak to him.
3. Greater knowledge is granted as the end of Divine discipline. That we may know him is the object of many of our sorrows. Sickness is often God shutting the busy soul up to himself. Trouble is often God showing us how tender a Father he is. Darkness is often God compelling us to look up—
"Darkness revealing worlds of light
We never saw by day."
Presently the need of discipline will be ended, and from knowing God in part, we shall enter into his presence - C.N.
2 Peter 1:4
The sanctifying power of the promises.
The text is a continuation of the two previous verses; indeed, from the second verse to the eleventh is one paragraph. God has given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, whereby grace and peace may be multiplied to us, and we may be made partakers of the Divine nature, and have an abundant entrance ministered unto us into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
I. THE GREATNESS AND PRECIOUSNESS OF THE WORD OF PROMISE. Three facts determine the worth of promises—the value of the thing promised; the character of the promiser; and the conditions attached to it. And when we apply these to Scripture, and find that its assurances are of wonderful blessing, given by One who cannot fail, and that they require on our part only what the feeblest can fulfill, we understand well why the apostle calls them "exceeding great and precious promises."
1. The gift promised. Scripture does not so much contain promises; it is rather one great promise, God's Word of promise, Christ being the Gift promised. We shall never understand the promises by taking a text here and a text there, but only by pondering the whole volume as the revelation of Jesus; only thus can we have a true idea of the height, and depth, and length, and breadth of what God assures us of in his beloved Son. Look at him in any aspect, and, like the glittering facets of a precious stone, promises gleam on us from him at every point.
(1) Think, for instance, of the glory of his Person. The goodness, the grace, the majesty, the tenderness, the truth, embodied in him; and if he is ours (as he is), this alone is full of promise.
(2) The revelation of God which he is. He shows us God, so holy that he cannot pass by sin without atonement, though that atonement involved the sacrifice of himself. He shows us too the heart of God, telling us, when we pray, to say, "Our Father." Why, that one sentence involves the promise of all we need, all that God can give.
(3) The greatness of his work. He undertakes to be our Saviour in the threefold capacity of Prophet, Priest, and King; and his undertaking these functions is the assurance that he will fulfill them.
(4) The declaration of his will. Every purpose of Christ is a promise; it is Christ saying, "I will." And so also every command carries a promise of all grace needed for obedience to it.
(5) The. closeness of his relationship with his people. He, their Life and Head, and so having nothing which they shall not share.
2. The character of the Promiser. Each of God's promises is the expression of his loving-kindness to sinful men, and if his mercy could not rest till he had given them, it cannot rest till he has fulfilled them; going on giving, and giving, and giving, till his beloved can receive no more.
(1) He is unchanging. "I, the Lord, change not."
(2) He is able to fulfill his will. Omnipotence is behind each promise. "What he hath promised he is able also to perform."
(3) In every promise his honour is pledged. "It is impossible for God to lie." "He is faithful that hath promised." Read the promises, then, and scatter doubt by asking, "Hath he spoken, and shall he not do it?"
3. The conditions attached to the promise. The only conditions are—conscious need of the thing promised, and trust that for the Promiser's own sake it will be given. Need and trust are our capacity for receiving.
II. THE SANCTIFYING POWER OF THE PROMISES. The promises deliver us from the world's corruption, and work in us the image of God. Sanctification is something "put off" and something "put on." The "old man" is "put off," and the "new man" is "put on;" and this is said here to be effected by the promises, or by the Word of promise.
1. The Word of promise conveys the knowledge of what we may have. From the heights Of this sacred book all things lie beneath us, stretching away like a vast landscape into the dim horizon beyond which human sight cannot follow; and as we hear a voice saying, "All things are yours," surely nothing can deliver us from the bondage of the world as that can. One affection is only destroyed by another. Let the soul consciously possess better, and, depend upon it, it will turn away from the best that this world can give.
2. The Word of promise imparts the faith by which we receive from God. "Partakers of the Divine nature." Of how much of it? Of so much as exhausts the promise. "That ye might be filled unto all the fullness of God." Why, then, do we not receive it in that measure? Because God can only give according to the measure of our faith. Now, faith depends on the promises, it feeds on them, and thereby the soul's capacity to receive increases.
3. The Word of promise inspires the strength by which we conquer Satan. His effort is to make us doubt; that was his aim with Christ. He would take us back to the old bondage, and weaken the faith which holds us to God. Have we not often felt how doubt closes the heart to the incoming of the Divine nature? we can fight no more, but are led easy captives. Satan can deprive us of all, if he can only get us to doubt. Now, against that assault the promises are our refuge. God is in them; they are the utterances of his lips, the purpose of his heart; his resources and perfections are pledged to their fulfillment; there is perfect safety in trusting them; by them we can defy Satan and the powers of darkness. Between the bondage of corruption and the liberty of participation in the Divine nature is the Divine promise. Trust it, tread it without a fear; it will not give way beneath you, the adversary cannot follow you there, and on the other side is the beginning of heaven - C.N.
2 Peter 1:5-61.1.11
Personal diligence needed for sanctification.
The former verses say that God gives the knowledge of himself in the Word of promise, as the means by which grace and peace are to be multiplied; these verses say, to that must be added by you "all diligence."
I. WE HAVE HERE AN ENUMERATION OF CERTAIN GRACES OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. It begins with "faith" and ends with "love," and between these are two or three words which need attention. Next to "faith," "virtue" is mentioned; but "virtue" includes the whole group of graces, whereas Peter is thinking of something distinct. The classical meaning of the word is "manliness"—courage; so if we paraphrase it thus, we shall probably have the right idea. So with "knowledge," which is a different word to that rendered "knowledge" in the eighth verse, and here refers to "practical knowledge" or "prudence.'' "Temperance" is literally "self-control," and "godly reverence" is the idea in the word "godliness." "Faith, courage, prudence, self-control, patience, godly reverence, love of the brethren, love,"—that is the list.
1. These are all subsequent to faith. Faith is supposed. The Epistle is addressed to those who "have obtained like precious faith through the righteousness of God and our Saviour;" and these excellences come after faith, and in the Christian have a character of their own, which nature cannot produce, and are, indeed, as much above nature as Jesus was above the sons of men.
3. Many try to be holy without saving faith; it is a useless effort; only from faith can those spiritual graces spring whose crown is love to all.
2. Every grace needs to be supplemented by another. No grace can stand alone; the text seems to urge that. The word "add" is the same as in the eleventh verse, where it is translated "minister." Each grace needs to be ministered to by another. There is not one which, if it be alone, will not speedily become an evil. One grace is to wait on, to supplement, to protect, to perfect another. For instance, to faith ministers courage—courage to confess the Christ believed in; to courage ministers prudence, for if courage be not discreet, it is destructive. Beware of being men of one grace.
3. The believer is not to be contented till he has acquired all the graces. What a list this is! The leading features of a perfect character; and Scripture gives a plain command to the Christian to acquire these. And nothing can be more assuring than this command, for God does not call us to impossibilities; and he is prepared to supply what is needed for its attainment.
II. WE HAVE HERE A DEMAND FOR DILIGENCE TO POSSESS THESE GRACES. Diligence is the burden of the passage: "Giving all diligence, add;" and in the tenth verse, "Give diligence."
1. Diligence implies that spiritual increase requires personal effort. Speedy and spontaneous sanctification is what we should prefer, but that idea is not encouraged in Scripture. It is true growth is the law of life—life naturally increases to maturity, as Peter says, "Grow in grace;" but he also says, "Giving all diligence, add." If we cherish the idea that sanctification is given immediately, as pardon is given, by one surrender of the will, as it is said, this passage ought to disabuse us; it clearly affirms that sanctification is progressive, and demands constant endeavour.
2. Diligence is encouraged by the fact that God hath given unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness. The previous verses are, "His Divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness … whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises," etc.; when the next clause reads, "And for this very cause "(as the Revised Version has it), "giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue," and so on, we see what lies behind the diligence, what spurs it on, what sustains it. Sanctification is not human work, as it is sometimes supposed to be, when the need of effort is enforced, as though, redeemed by Christ, we have to sanctify ourselves—it is of God; yet it is through us, into our effort he will inspire his own Divine and victorious energy.
3. Diligence also involves that the increase of Christian graces comes from the personal culture of each. If the text were not in Scripture, but simply part of a sermon, it would be said to be mechanical and formal. It is to be feared the prominent features of our Christian character are often merely the result of natural disposition, or early training, or of circumstances beyond our control. Now, this passage claims that we do not leave it to accident what graces we shall have; it lays down a list of what is required of us, and bids us give all diligence to culture each. This is a discriminating, hourly, lifelong work.
III. WE HAVE HERE STRONG REASONS FOR THE PUTTING FORTH OF THIS DILIGENCE. Three reasons urged from the eighth verse to the eleventh, and they refer to past, present, and future.
1. The graces (which are the result of diligence) are the necessary means to spiritual wealth. The particular meaning in the eighth verse of the word "in"—"in the knowledge"—is shown in the Revised Version, where it reads, "unto the knowledge," and thus throws great light on the expression. The graces which come from a knowledge of Christ lead to a still greater knowledge of him—that is it. All the care we give to the culture of Christian graces leads, not only to the wealth of possessing them, but to the greater wealth of knowing Christ better.
2. The graces (which are the result of diligence) are the least that can be expected from one who is purged from his old sins. "He that lacketh these things is blind.… having forgotten that he hath been delivered from his old sins." That takes us back to the cross. It pleads our obligation to Christ, who laid down his life that we might be holy. The assurance of pardoned sin is the strongest stimulus to piety.
3. These graces are the only ground of assurance of entrance into heaven. Without them we may well doubt our election of God. Where calling and election are sure, ye shall never fall; but how can we be sure that we are among the called? Only by the fact that that to which they are called is being wrought in us. If we have a title to heaven, the spirit of heaven is already begun - C.N.
2 Peter 1:12-61.1.15
The saint's earnest endeavour to enforce spiritual truth.
At the close of Peter's life the corrupt heresies of the second and third centuries were threatened, and against these he would fortify the Church by making them "mindful" of the Word of God. The Church would be strong—strong to resist the encroachments of heresy, if established in the knowledge of God through Scripture. The apostle's work was nearly done, the end of his pilgrimage was in sight, but he could not rest till he had again urged the old theme; and he writes this second letter, which they might keep and read, and thus remember what he had said when he had passed away. The touching earnestness in these words is not so much that of Christ's servant (speaking by the Holy Ghost) as of his Lord, and the lessons it involves come to us with the authority of the throne.
I. THE SUPREME IMPORTANCE OF BEING ESTABLISHED IN DIVINE TRUTH. There are certain fundamental facts which are essential to salvation, and essential to the understanding of the rest; certain great doors, so to speak, without passing through which it is not possible to thread the winding corridors within, and gaze upon the glory of the inner shrine. I understand it to be these whose constant remembrance is here enforced. Earnest research after truth is part of the honour due to the God of truth. It were an error to confine ourselves to one set of truths, and still more to any one aspect of them; yet there are some which are the key-note to the others, and the main channels through which life flows to the believer, and we must be established in them, and we must endeavour to "have these things always in remembrance." "These things are written that we may know;" and not to know them intelligently were fatal, if not to salvation, at least to spiritual peace and strength and hope.
II. THE SAINT'S RESPONSIBILITY FOR THIS WITH REGARD TO THOSE HE LOVES.
1. The apostle recognizes that human teaching is a Divine agency. God can dispense with human teaching. His Spirit accompanies his Word; though there may be no instrumentality, that Word may be "the power of God unto salvation." But none the less has he made it incumbent on those who know the truth to teach it. Think of this in connection with parental teaching. On parents the primary obligation of teaching their children rests; let them do it day by day, patiently, systematically, prayerfully instructing them in those things which it most concerns them to know.
2. The apostle recognizes that this must be continued so long as opportunity lasts. "Ye know these things, and are established in the truth," he says, and yet he will not be negligent to put them always in remembrance; he knows that it is not so much the knowledge as the recollection of truth that is operative. We think that because we know the truth we can dispense with the study of it. That is a great error, and full of evil. It is not the truths that are stored away in the memory which serve us in the battle of life, but those which can be grasped in a moment; they are they which operate on our spirituality and become ceaseless means of grace. That is why we need to study Scripture day by day, if not that we may know it, at least that we may remember it. And if this be true of us, how much more is it true of those we teach—the children! We must sow the same ground again and again if we would reap a harvest.
3. The apostle recognizes that the teaching may abide when the teacher has gone. For the Word is "incorruptible;" the seed we sow has life in itself; and, so far from being dismayed when it springs not up at once, we should remember it is said, "That which thou sowest is not quickened except it die;" that "the harvest is the end of the world;" and that, though when we pass hence there is still no life in the hard soil, there is time for us to witness, from another shore, first the blade, then the car, and then the full corn in the car. Life's work continues after life, to many generations; we never know for whom or for what we work. Temptations are resisted today, and crises passed, and sorrows borne, through the power of principles enforced long years before by those who arc now employed in higher spheres. "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them." Many of us can say, "Amen." May those who come when we are gone, as they hear these words, think of us, and say, "Amen." And that they may, let us say with Peter—We will endeavour that they may be able after our decease to have these things always in remembrance. "We will endeavour;" yes, we can only endeavour. Paul plants, and Apollos waters, but God must give the increase.
III. THIS RESPONSIBILITY INTENSIFIED BY THE SHORTNESS OF ITS OPPORTUNITY.
"I will not be negligent … knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath showed me."
1. We cannot look calmly at death unless we have a sense of fidelity with regard to this. Calmness in the prospect of death can only be enjoyed by those who (like Peter, faithful to the end) are conscious that to their utmost they have been faithful to the opportunities of life. The evening of our days will be distressing (Christians though we be) unless we can look up and say (though the work seems poor indeed, and perhaps a failure), "O Father, I have glorified thee on the earth, I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do." But we may not even reckon on an evening to our days; our sun may go down while it is yet noon.
2. Immediate fidelity is demanded, in that death-bed exhortations may be impossible. "Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle," should rather read, "knowing that swiftly—by a sharp, quick stroke." Then what he does he will do quickly. If some of us knew what Christ might tell us, we should find that we also are to die thus swiftly. Have we done our work? Have we pleaded with those we love? Have we taught the children the great things of God's Word? Have we lived remembering that "there is no work, nor device, in the grave whither" we arc going?—C.N.
2 Peter 1:16-61.1.18
Certainty concerning Christ the secret of spiritual earnestness.
The apostle gives the reason for his earnestness in the passage before us, and certainty is the key-note of his utterance; He declares he knows what he enforces, that error has not been palmed on him for truth, that his eyes have seen and his ears have heard what he tells. Then our subject is—Certainty concerning Christ the secret of spiritual earnestness. Doubt and deadness go together, certainty and vigour; and in an age when doubt is so freely suggested, that it is almost in the air we breathe, and is sometimes thought to be a sign of wisdom, it ought to be useful to us to consider the need and possibility of certainty. It does not follow that certainty can be attained at once, nor that all doubt is to be condemned. Much doubt is temperamental, like that of Thomas (and Thomas was a disciple second to none in fidelity to Jesus), and much, again, means spiritual progress, leading to higher faith and deeper repose; but we need not remain in doubt. There is a reasonable basis for belief, some eternal rock at least, on which we can weather the storm, though mystery lies around us on every side. In this present state of limited vision we may expect this mystery.
I. CHRIST IS THE SUM' OF APOSTOLIC TRUTH. About what was the apostle certain? About Christ. He is here enforcing the need of spiritual truth; he is determined to live and die urging this truth, and in our text he sums up what this truth is. It is Christ. And that is equally the testimony of the Old Testament as of the New: what have they to say to us, but Christ? How that simplifies this book! how it shows what we are to come here to learn! One of the stumbling-blocks to the understanding of Scripture is that men come to it to learn what it is not intended to teach.
1. As Christ is the embodiment of Divine truth, the Bible is the revelation of Christ. That is what Peter in effect says here, the sum of the truth he urges—"the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ," that is, his Deity and Incarnation, the God-Man. In making Christ known Scripture necessarily touches on other subjects, for he is connected with every part of the Father's will, and he cannot be separated from them; there must be some reference to them, and this may be indistinct, leaving much to be known hereafter. But we may be sure there will be nothing indistinct in the great central theme of the revelation. It would be regeneration to some if they would be content to leave these minor matters unsolved, and, remembering that the object of this record is to make Christ known, would lend their powers to discover the certainty about him, and rest in that.
2. He is the revelation of the Father. "Who by searching can find out God?" but in Jesus we have God manifested. "The Word was God," and "the Word was made flesh." The revelation of Christ is the manifestation of the Godhead.
3. He is the filling up of every human need. For man's condemnation there is acquittal in him; for his sin there is the possibility of holiness; for his perplexity there is light; for his difficulties there is help; for his sorrows there is infinite love; for his fear of the future there are life and immortality. So perfectly can Christ raise us to the perfection of which our nature is callable, that it is said, "Ye are complete in him." The revelation of Christ is the satisfaction of men.
4. He is the end we are called to reach. For what were we made? Apart from him we know not. Do we fulfill our end in the toil and tears, the change and weariness, the fleeting pleasures and the lasting pains of three score years and ten? Is there nothing beyond this—nothing to which this may be but the development, nothing beneath it, whose blessedness shall justify our existence? God replies by revealing Jesus. His life and death and rising again, the work of his ascended life,—they are to raise us to likeness to himself: "We are predestined to be conformed to the image of God's Son." The revelation of Christ is the guide and hope of our being.
II. PERSONAL KNOWLEDGE IS THE GROUND OF CERTAINTY ABOUT CHRIST. Eye-witnesses, ear-witnesses, of what he is, therefore we know;—that is the ground of the apostle's assurance. There is here the suggestion of doubt concerning what was said of Christ. If we have sincere doubt about what is essential, it is better to face it and settle it, not to leave it to work its quiet mischief within us, or cast its shadow on our belief, but to look at it steadily, to turn on it the light of reason and truth, and satisfy ourselves that there is nothing in it. Some things it is not essential to know, and from their nature they are unknowable here; but of the mystery in what is essential, there is a solution somewhere, and to it God will not fail to guide the childlike spirit. There are three simple arguments which show it to be incredible that the doctrine of Jesus is a "cunningly devised fable." How could these unlearned men invent a fable surpassingly beyond what the world had ever heard, and so cunningly that for eighteen centuries it has deceived those who have tested it with the eagerness of settling life and death? Then how came this fable they had invented to change their own characters, and enable them to seal their testimony with their blood? Then how is it this fable has proved the regeneration of mankind, has become the world's hope, and is cleaved to with unwavering assurance by growing millions of the race? But notice how Peter meets the suggestion. He does not argue—he rests on what he himself had seen and heard. There was one season he ever remembered, when he was with his Lord in the "holy mount," and there came "such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Our certainty about Christ may have the same ground. At first we must depend on outside testimony for our knowledge of Christ; but when that has done most for us, there is a better assurance possible, personal fellowship with himself, that is the antidote to doubt about him. Let him work his work upon you, and you will smile at the suggestion that the "power and coming of the Lord Jesus" is a "cunningly devised fable."
III. CERTAINTY ABOUT CHRIST THE SECRET OF SPIRITUAL EARNESTLESS. Let us have no rest till we come to certainty about our Lord. We may be as certain that he is, and that he is the Saviour of sinners, and the Satisfaction of human needs, as we are of our existence. Then we shall be animated with earnestness in cleaving to him, in living for him; duty no more cold and hard, but joyous service for the Living One we love; the very sorrows that draw us to him tinged with joy; yea, death itself no longer dreaded because we see him waiting for us on the further shore - C.N.
2 Peter 1:19-61.1.21
Certainty about Christ the result of giving heed to the Divine Word.
Some to whom the apostle writes might object, that, if personal intercourse be the ground of certainty concerning Christ, Peter may well be certain; but what of them who have had no such personal intercourse? The apostle deals with that in the passage before us. Earnestness about spiritual things due to certainty about Christ is followed here by certainty about Christ the result of giving heed to the Divine Word.
I. PERSONAL POSSESSION OF CHRIST IS THE GREAT PROOF OF SPIRITUAL REALITIES. How are we to know that Christ is, that he is the Saviour, the Way to the Father? We have testimony, the testimony of this book, the testimony of those who have come under his saving power, the testimony of what we have seen of the effect of his religion on the world. And we should deem that sufficient in any other matter. But so great arc the issues of this, that the soul suggests to itself that in this evidence there may be a flaw; that in spite of it, Jesus and what he can do may be a figment, and it craves evidence which never can be questioned, that it may cast itself on him without a fear. That seems an impossible thing to ask, but it is not—it can be granted. There is a witness to Jesus which no reasoning can shake. "He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself."
1. To possess Christ is to know that he is. I have him, therefore I know he is; he has wrought his work on me, therefore I know what he can do.
2. To possess Christ is to possess the Revealer. If he dwells within us, the soul becomes a temple where he unveils his face and reveals his glory.
3. To possess Christ is to have that which throws light on spiritual things. We never see Divine love clearly till then, nor the sinfulness of sin, nor the beauty of holiness, nor the sweetness of the will of God, nor the meaning of redemption. Let us not wonder if we are dark till then; it must be dark "until the day dawn, and the Day-star arise in our hearts."
II. THE WAY TO POSSESS CHRIST IS BY GIVING HEED TO THE DIVINE WORD. The Day-star had arisen in the hearts of many to whom the apostle wrote. But what of those who would read this letter of whom that was not true—what could they do? For them the morning had not yet come; but they have a Lamp—"the Word of prophecy made more sure … as a lamp that shineth in a dark place." Let them take heed to that, and it will bring them to the dawn. "More sure:" more sure than what? The Revised Version shows how it ought to read. The Word of prophecy made "more sure" because it had been fulfilled. Many of the predictions in the Old Testament about Christ were vague and mysterious, but now that they had been fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth, their meaning and truth were apparent; they could now be read and pondered with a confidence not possible before.
1. Scripture is the revelation of Christ. He is not to be found in nature, though he is there, and gleams of his glory appear therein on every side; but they are only gleams, not himself. He is not to be known by imagination; he is far beyond man's thought, and to fashion a Christ for ourselves, according to what we think ought to be, is to bow before a god of our own creation. Nor is he to be known by our highest spiritual experiences apart from Scripture. For though it is in communion he makes himself known to us, even that is through the medium of Scripture, and in harmony with what Scripture teaches. We cannot know Christ till we come to Scripture.
2. To "give heed" to Scripture is to obey and trust him who is revealed therein. But before we can trust ourselves to Scripture, we must have reasonable evidence that it is trustworthy. We must know on what intelligible ground these books, written by so many writers, are rightly regarded as the Word of God. Well, the Old Testament is as it was in the time of our Lord. He recognized it as the Divine Word, made it the ground of his teaching, declared it the final authority, that "the Scripture cannot be broken." The principle which determines the New Testament is equally simple. Christ said that he had more to say than he said whilst he was with his servants, and that the Spirit of truth should come to guide them into all truth; that Spirit came, and under his instructions the apostles wrote many things. Those books, then, which can be proved to have been written by them, or to have had their sanction,—all such books (but only those) are brought together to form the New Testament, the apostles being the duly authenticated messengers of Christ, of whom he said, "He that heareth you heareth me." The sacred writers impressed their peculiarities on their several productions, but behind them all there was the Divine Mind directing. Sometimes it was only necessary that they should be guarded from error in relating facts with which they were familiar; sometimes they were instructed to write what they could not fully understand—things far above them, demanding direct illumination; but in any case they were subject to the control and teaching of the Holy Ghost. There is a marvelous unity in the Bible, which shows it to be the product of one Mind; and a marvelous power by which it carries regeneration with it, which shows it to be the work of him who only can re-create.
3. To obey and trust Christ as here revealed is to come to know him perfectly. Christ has promised to make himself known to the obedient. He says, "If a man love me, he will keep my words:… and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him."
III. THE DIVINE WORD ONLY YIELDS ITS SECRETS TO DIVINE INSPIRATION'. "No prophecy of the Scripture is of any private [literally, 'one's own'] interpretation." Do not go to Scripture attempting to understand it by your own power; make use of it if you are in the dark, but remember beforehand that, as the Holy Ghost inspired men to write it, he must inspire you to understand it.
1. That explains why human learning and an unteachable spirit cannot understand Scripture. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God … they are spiritually discerned."
2. And this suggests the kind of inspiration possible to us now. God inspires his people still, not indeed to write Scripture, but to understand and obey it. Had he intended to inspire all as he inspired the writers of Scripture, why should he have inspired them to write? Clearly that inspiration was to cease.
3. But then this just casts us in prayer for spiritual knowledge on the Holy Ghost. This book is the instrument of the Spirit of God; apart from him it can teach us nothing. Then before we search it, let us bow our heads reverently and say, "Lord, open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy Law."—C.N.
HOMILIES BY U.R. THOMAS
2 Peter 1:1, 2 Peter 1:2
Divine blessing by human channels.
I. THE TYPE OF MAN BY WHOM BLESSING COMES TO MAN. No one can take any thoughtful view of the book we call the Bible without learning how largely man is the channel of the Divine thought, the Divine emotion, the Divine grace. "Men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Ghost." And their individual manhood colours and tones their teaching. So that not alone by the writings of men, but by their lives—biographies that cluster round the Great Biography, either in resemblance or in contrast to it—men are taught, warned, comforted, stimulated, and, in a sense in which St. Paul uses the word, "saved" by man. In this passage is a type of the man by whom God blesses men.
1. In his manhood. "Simon Peter"—a name that recalls the story of his life, and discovers his temperament and unveils his ideal. The pearl is formed by some irritating substance causing discomfort, pain. So biography has its moral pearls. And St. Peter's is notable. There is pathos in the appeals of this letter, as we remember how "Peter went out and wept bitterly."
2. In his office. "A servant and an apostle." This is the right order: first a bondman; then a herald, eager and brave.
II. THE COMMON CONDITION ON WHICH MEN MUST RECEIVE THE CHIEF BLESSINGS OF GOD. Peter writes to those who "have obtained like precious faith." Their possession of that qualifies them to receive the blessings this salutation desires for them. "Like precious faith." "Like," not necessarily equal, but similar. "Precious"—a favourite word of Peter's, used about "stone," "promises," "blood," "faith;" having a double thought—costly and cherished. "In the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ." "Righteousness:" what is that? Well does Charnock say, "Without it his patience would be indulgence to sin, his mercy a fondness, his wrath a madness, his power a tyranny, his wisdom an unworthy subtlety." But this righteousness gives glory to all. As we know it in Christ
(1) it reveals itself;
(2) it vindicates itself;
(3) it communicates itself.
We cannot attain it or maintain it without Christ.
III. THE SUPREME BLESSING MAN CAN DESIRE FOR MAN. "Grace and peace" (already noted in the first Epistle). Peace, the growth of grace. "Be multiplied." These in large degree. "In the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;" better translated, "full knowledge." Peter would recall his Lord's words in the upper room: "This is life eternal, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent," From that knowledge, and that alone, will flow grace and peace - U.R.T.
2 Peter 1:3, 2 Peter 1:4
The beginning of soul-salvation.
These words, read in connection with what immediately follows (specially if we, following Ellicott and Farrar, place a period at the end of the second verse), distinctly predicate certain things about the beginning of soul-salvation.
I. GOD HAS GIVEN ALL THINGS NECESSARY for soul-salvation. Note:
1. The idea of soul-salvation. "Life and godliness." Observe the order. Vitality, then external piety.
2. The means of soul-salvation.
(1) Many: "all things." So that first there is no room for excuse; second, the "all" of God challenges the "all" of man.
(2) Divinely bestowed. "By his Divine power." What a use of infinite power—to save!
II. God calls the soul TO A KNOWLEDGE OF HIMSELF as the beginning of soul-salvation. The "all things" come to us:
1. Through the call of God. God is the great Caller. Whence? To what? How?
2. Through knowing him who calls us. Not knowing about him, but directly knowing him. Probably Peter again has a reminiscence of the Last Supper: "This is life eternal, to know thee."
III. God's call comes to souls BY THE REVELATION OF HIMSELF. "Called by his own glory and virtue." "Glory," majesty: what he is. "Virtue," energy: what he does. Both combined give the full revelation of God.
IV. God's call comes to souls WITH INSPIRING PROMISES. "Precious." Note Peter's frequent word, meaning rare, prized. "Exceeding great."
1. In their origin.
"The voice that rolls the stars along Speaks all the promises."
2. In their substance.
3. In the multitudes to whom they are addressed.
V. God's PURPOSE in soul-salvation is the HIGHEST we can conceive of. There is a twofold end.
1. "Escape the corruption that is in the world."
(1) "Corruption," deadly evil;
(2) "in the world," near, mighty;
(3) "through lust." No evil can harm except through our own evil desires.
2. The other and higher end, nobler than the negative one just mentioned, is "become par. takers of the Divine nature;" i.e., share in the very righteousness of God. Not mere forgiveness of sins, not mere remission of penalty, not safety from external perils, but the blessed and holy purpose of God's love accomplished in our restoration to the Divine image - U.R.T.
2 Peter 1:5-61.1.7
True Christian character.
This notable passage, growing very evidently out of what precedes and into what follows, has a wealth of instruction.
I. True Christian character CONSISTS OF MANIFOLD ELEMENTS. Here is a chain no link of which may be omitted, a structure no stone in which may be lacking, a body no member of which may be wanting.
1. Whether the general order is to be insisted on or not, it is certain that faith is the primary essential of the whole character. It is the root out of which all grows, the foundation on which all rests. To aim at the rest first, and this afterwards, is to stand a pyramid on its apex instead of its base. Belief is great, is life-giving.
2. Each of the other elements of character demands careful contemplation. "Virtue,"—manly vigour, making it impossible for the charge to be sustained that the devotional man is not necessarily a virtuous man. It is an element of character that will save a man from being a chameleon, catching the hue of every surrounding, or a moral mollusk with no backbone. "Knowledge,"—discernment, intelligence. "Thou shalt love … with thy … mind." "Temperance,"—all self-restraint; as Jeremy Taylor says, "reason's girdle as well as passion's bridle: "Patience,"—the silver side of the shield whose iron side is temperance,—endurance, meekness, continuance in well-doing. "Godliness,"—not the whole of piety, but fellowship with God, walking with God, being the "friend of God." "Brotherly kindness,"—the duty of equals to equals—simple, constant kindness. "Charity,"—better the great king-word, the dear home-word, "love;" the sunshine on the whole landscape of character, the Shechinah in the temple of character.
II. THE CULTIVATION of these manifold elements of character is AN URGENT CHRISTIAN DUTY. "Giving all diligence … add," etc.
1. They will not come as a matter of course.
2. They may be attained.
3. The methods of attaining them.
(1) Study of models.
(3) Fellowship with those that possess them, especially with the Christ - U.R.T.
2 Peter 1:8-61.1.11
The goal of Christian character.
If such a character as the preceding verses described is attained, three glorious results will follow.
I. SPIRITUAL VISION. Such a character leads "unto the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ." They that do the will shall know the doctrine. For what is promised here is:
1. "Full knowledge." That is the key-word of the apostle.
2. And full knowledge of the Supreme Object, the Lord Jesus Christ. Often we think if we knew more we should do better; here the teaching is, if we did better we should know more. Obedience is the organ of spiritual vision. "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." All else are "blind."
II. MORAL FOOTHOLD. "Give the more diligence to make your calling and election sure." Two aspects of the same fact—choice, and the result of choice. "Make sure,"—warrant, prove. "Never stumble." Peter had stumbled. Hence the pathos of his counsel. The near-sighted stumble. The moral vision depends on moral character.
III. SATISFACTION OF SOUL. This is the culmination and crown of Christian character. A life of Christian earnestness tends to, and ends in, this. "Entrance into the eternal kingdom." We are encompassed completely with its order, its beauty, its safety. "Richly supplied unto you"—a word that throws us back on the earlier word of exhortation. "Richly supply" Christian graces in your character, and God will "richly supply" Christian glories in your destiny. Your virtues must go out in a kind of festal procession, then your true glories will come to you in a kind of festal procession also - U.R.T.
2 Peter 1:12-61.1.14
An old man's aim.
I. AN AIM FOR THE HIGHEST GOOD OF OTHERS. Peter is desiring that "these things" should be remembered by others for their benefit and blessing. "These things" probably comprehend not only all the exhortations and promises the letter had already contained, but the great facts in the great biography to which ever and again, with the vividness of an eye-witness, Peter had referred.
II. An aim for the highest good of others AFTER HIS OWN DEATH. He would not simply be of service to those among whom he lived, whilst he was with them, but to them after he had lee this world, and to the generations afterward. All must exert posthumous influence; the true disciple of Christ cares intensely that that posthumous influence shall tell for good, and for good only.
III. An aim PURSUED WITH ALL THE MORE INTENSITY BECAUSE OF APPROACHING DEATH.
1. Peter felt death was near. The cords and skins of "the tabernacle" were loosening and shaking.
2. He had had a prediction from his Master about his death: "Another shall gird thee," etc. All this stimulated his eager zeal to do the most he could while he lived - U.R.T.
2 Peter 1:16-61.1.21
Threefold testimony to the truth of Christianity.
In laying out the grounds of his own faith, and the grounds, too, on which he would have his readers build their faith, St. Peter indicates the lines of a threefold evidence.
I. THE TESTIMONY OF THE APOSTLES.
1. They were "eye-witnesses"—a rare word, describing spectators who were admitted into the highest grade of initiation into mysteries. How true of Peter and James and John, with regard to the life of our Lord!
2. They were eye-witnesses of a wondrous revelation. "His majesty;" no one event only, though chiefly the Transfiguration.
3. They had heard a Divine voice. "The voice we ourselves heard." No hallucination: we all heard, we all saw.
4. The recollection of such vision and voice was forever sacred. "The holy mount." We know not its name, but it was to them for ever a consecrated height. Any spot becomes "holy" to the soul that has had there a deep sense of God's presence; has been awed by his greatness, touched by his love.
II. The testimony of THE EARLIER PROPHETIC WORD. "The word of prophecy." Does this mean "prediction" only? We think not.
1. That can scarcely be said to be more sure than the testimony of "eye-witnesses."
2. The usual scriptural use of the words "prophet" and "prophecy" is wider than that. "Take my brethren, the prophets." Are not Paul, John, Peter himself, New Testament prophets?
3. The significance of the words point to a wider meaning: "speak forth," or "speak for another." It tells of insight as much as of foresight.
4. The last verse covers the whole Scripture, not merely prediction, If the whole of Holy Scripture be thus meant, why is it called "more sure" than the oral testimony of witnesses?
(1) Because it is a more comprehensive record.
(2) More manifold authority.
(3) More able to be tested.
"Thy Word is tried." Concerning this "sure word of prophecy," this passage teaches:
(1) It is of wide application. "Not of private," that is, single "interpretation." Deals with principles, not merely with events.
(2) It is not a discovery, but a revelation: "No prophecy ever came by will of man," etc.
(3) It has a Divine Source: "Men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Ghost." "Borne along"—a strong word, denoting a ship before the wind.
(4) Is of great practical use. "A lamp shining in a dark [or, 'squalid and gloomy'] place;" a camp-fire in the desert.
(5) Must be observed. Christianity, as Dean Mansel says, is regulative rather than speculative. "Whereunto ye do well that ye take heed."
III. THE TESTIMONY OF CONSCIOUSNESS. This is the strongest of all.
1. In the best region: "In your hearts."
2. The outcome and end of all the rest: "Day-star arise." Better even than lamp is the Day-star. So much better is the knowledge of Christ as a power and presence on the soul than any other testimony.
(1) One is without, the other is within.
(2) One is passing, the other is perpetual.
(3) One is stationary, the other harbinger of eternal day.
Notice the signs of this dawn.
(1) What are they?
(2) Seek for them.
(3) Rejoice in them.
"My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning."—U.R.T.
Verses 1, 2
Address and salutation.
I. ADDRESS. "Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained a like precious faith with us in the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ." Peter seems to class himself with Jewish Christians in the personal designation "Simon," or, more probably, "Simeon Peter." His official designation is first (generally) a servant of Jesus Christ, and then (particularly) an apostle of Jesus Christ. The readers are designated, not with reference to locality (as in the First Epistle), but simply with reference to their Christian position. Peter writes on this occasion "to them that have obtained "—by lot, the idea is, i.e., not in their own power or of their own right (thus corresponding to "the elect" of the First Epistle). What they have obtained is faith, by which we should understand, not "the things believed," but the "subjective disposition of faith;" for it is faith in this sense that is the gracious possession proceeded upon in verse 5. It is a precious faith, both in the mysteries which are the object of it (centering in the Incarnation), and in the blessings which are appropriated by it (beginning with forgiveness of sins). It is "a like precious faith with us" that they have obtained. If Peter classes himself with Jewish Christians (as he seems to do in taking the designation Simeon), then it is the Gentile Christians who have a like precious faith with the Jewish, and it is they who are directly addressed in the Epistle, though Jewish Christians are included among the readers. This equal dealing is ascribed to "the righteousness of our God." This is in keeping with 1 Peter 1:17, and also with the sentiment uttered by Peter in connection with the admission of the Gentiles, as given in Acts 10:34 and Acts 15:9. The equal dealing is also ascribed to the righteousness of "our Saviour Jesus Christ" (who could not in this and in other places be so closely associated with God without being himself God). Jesus Christ is here regarded as the manifestation and demonstration of the impartiality of God: inasmuch as Saviour, he is Saviour for Gentiles and Jews, without any difference.
II. SALUTATION. "Grace to you and peace be multiplied in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord." By grace we are not to understand the attribute of graciousness, but rather the outgoing of graciousness as experienced by us. Peace is the result of the consciousness that we are not dealt with according to our own merit, but according to the merit of Another. Grace and peace are already enjoyed: what Peter wishes is their multiplication, for which there is room in the best. He looks for this multiplication in a particular way, viz. that of knowledge. It is the word which means appreciative, mature knowledge. It is a characteristic word of the Epistle. In view of the place that was afterward to be claimed for a false gnosis (insight into transcendental mysteries), it was well that Paul and Peter taught beforehand the place that was to be given to epignosis (with regard to which there is no mystification). Peter teaches here that grace and peace are only to be multiplied as an advance in Divine knowledge—the knowledge of God and of Jesus (thus again closely associated) as the manifestation of God. When we get to know bow gracious God is in Jesus, our peace is doubled, trebled, quadrupled. Peter thinks specially of a peace resulting from the fact that God has made Jesus our Lord, thus able to control all circumstances and influences that affect us. The thought of this Lordship is carried forward into the next verse, from which this is not properly dissociated - R.F.
The Christian virtues in their completeness.
I. FOUNDATION OF EXHORTATION.
1. Grant. "Seeing that his Divine power hath granted unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness." The grant has reference to life and godliness. The first of these words is to be understood of healthful condition; the other is to be understood of that supreme regard to God, on which healthful condition depends. The grant is not of life and godliness, but of all things that pertain unto life and godliness, by which we are to understand the gracious influences that have been liberated by Christ—the Holy Spirit in his manifold gifts, the benefit of Christian institutions. Who is to be thought of as the Granter here? The nearer reference is to Jesus our Lord, and it is not superfluous to say of him, as it would be to say of God, that it was his Divine power that made the grant. It was the Divine power of him who afterward became man that was exercised when man was created and was then granted all that was necessary for securing life by godly conduct. The requirements were greater when man fell. Jesus bore what man as involved in sin deserved, so as to be constituted our Lord with Divine power to grant unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness. When he has such power to grant, nothing can be wanting of what is needed for our spiritual prosperity and the production of a godly type of character.
2. Communication of the grant.
(1) Knowledge. "Through the knowledge of him that called us by his own glory and virtue." This is the second introduction of knowledge in the intensive sense. It is here regarded as the channel through which are communicated to us "all things that pertain unto life and godliness." Thus it is that knowledge is power. To know God is to have a way of being supplied with all that we need. It is to have an inexhaustible fountain of blessing. It is to feel the quickening and transforming power of his perfections. But it will be noticed that it is the knowledge of God under a particular aspect, viz. of him that called us. Weiss says, "appointed us to the consummation of salvation ;" but this is brought into view afterwards. Here it is what in God causes our calling. For "called us to glory and virtue" is a great blunder: it is "called us by glory and virtue," i.e., these in God. It was a desire to manifest himself, or a regard for his own glory, that led him to call us. That is the first declaration of the cause; the second declaration is that it was his virtue or moral excellence, on which his glory in calling us rests. It is the same word which is used in the plural in 1 Peter 2:9, translated "excellences." The singular here points us to the sum of all that is excellent in God, of which there comes to be glorious manifestation. "Praise him," says the writer of the hundred and fiftieth psalm, "according to his excellent greatness." It was the transcendent character of his excellence, for which it becomes us to praise him, that led to his calling such as we were. Archangelic excellence would have passed us by; but there was an excellence in God far above all created excellence that led to his making use of the vilest materials.
(2) The reflection of God in the promises. "Whereby he hath granted unto us his precious and exceeding great promises." It is through knowledge that the grant is communicated to us; it is well to have the grant also in definite written form, which we have in the promises. These promises are characterized as precious, which characterization more naturally comes first, as in the Revised Version. They contain all that we need of light for our minds, of solace for our hearts, of strength for our wills, of stimulus for our desires. They are not only precious, but exceeding great, i.e., precious in the superlative degree. It is in Ephesians that we are directed to God as "able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think." God has promised to open the windows of heaven, and pour us out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it. But let it be noticed that there is given an explanation of the promises being exceeding great in their preciousness. It is because they are granted by God's glory and virtue. They are, therefore, to be regarded as the reflection of what he is. They express all that he would bestow upon us—how, with his fullness, he would fill our emptiness, with his riches our poverty.
(3) Aim of the promises.
(a) Positively. "That through these ye may become partakers of the Divine nature."
The teaching here is not with regard to our God-like constitution ("For we are also his offspring"), but with regard to what with our God-like constitution we may become. The language employed is strong and peculiarly attractive to some minds. We are not to think of deification, or absorption into God. But let us form no mean conception of what, encouraged by the promises, we may become. By the nature of God we understand those qualities which exist in him in an infinite degree. We are to become, in the last result, partakers of the Divine nature; i.e., we are to have the same qualities up to our measure. Even now we can think the same thoughts, be thrilled with the same joy. "God becomes a real Being to us in proportion as his own nature is unfolded within us. True religion desires and seeks supremely the assimilation of the mind to God, or the perpetual unfolding and enlarging of those powers and virtues by which it is constituted his glorious image. The mind, in proportion as it is enlightened and penetrated by true religion, thirsts and labours for a God-like elevation. Let it not be inferred that we place religion in unnatural effort, in straining after excitements which do not belong to the present state, or in anything separate from the clear and simple duties of life" (Channing).
(b) Negatively. "Having escaped from the corruption that is in the world by lust." In the world we do not find that healthful action, those attractive forms, which God intended for society; we have instead diseased action, forms from which we are repelled. This corruption is in the world by lust, i.e., the prevalence of the lower over the higher principles of our nature. Where there is the inversion of the Divine order, society must go to corruption. From this corruption we have not entirely escaped, inasmuch as lust is not entirely subdued in us; but with our becoming in the last result partakers of the Divine nature, it will be our privilege to have escaped for ever from the blighting, putrefying influences that prevail in the world.
II. EXHORTATION TO CULTIVATION OF THE CHRISTIAN VIRTUES.
1. Condition of development. "Yea, and for this very cause adding on your part all diligence." There is a great improvement in the translation here. One idea which is brought out is that what we are to do is to be in answer to the Divine doing. Christ does his part in granting all things that pertain unto life and godliness, and through the knowledge of God, who promises all that is needful for our being partakers of the Divine nature; we are to bring in by the side of, i.e., contribute our part. It is also distinctly brought out that the Divine doing is no reason for our doing nothing, but the very opposite—a reason for our doing. What we have to contribute on our side is diligence, i.e., in connection with opportunities for the exercise of the Christian virtues which are to be named. This is only in accordance with analogy. God supplies the qualities of the soil and the heavenly influences; and the farmer supplies diligence. Because God sends the sunshine and the rain, man is to be up and doing, not allowing his opportunity to slip by; so because Christ is so liberal in granting, because the promises are precious in the superlative degree, for that very reason we are to bestir ourselves.
2. Order of development from faith.
(1) Virtue. "In your faith supply virtue." The faith is here regarded as already present. If we have not yet believed, what we have got to do is to cooperate with God in believing. "This is the work of God [required by God], that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." Faith is here specially to be thought of as the laying hold on the Divine power in Christ that grants, or the laying hold on the Divine promises. "Be not afraid, only believe," Christ said; that saying, however, is not to be pressed to mean that faith, undeveloped, is everything. We are here taught that faith is only the root, and it must be carried out into its proper development. There are seven virtues needed to make it complete; and there is a certain order in which they follow each other. The connection is closer than is brought out by the "add to" of the old translation. The proper connecting, words are "supply in," the idea being, in each case, of that which goes before being incomplete, unless there is supplied in it as its complement that which follows after. Beginning with faith, we have to supply in our faith virtue, which is to be understood in the special sense of moral energy, or "a strenuous tone and vigour of mind." Faith is leaning on God, or allowing God to work. When there is only that side of things, there is the quietism to which Madame Guyon gives expression, "I can no longer will anything." To quiet leaning on God, passivity under the working of God, there is necessary, as its complement, personal force.
(2) Knowledge. "And in your virtue knowledge." Let us suppose that we have supplied in our faith personal force: is that enough? Where there is a stopping at this, there is a zealotism, the expression of which is," Let us be on fire: let us only be forcible." But in forcibleness there must be supplied, as its necessary complement, knowledge. There is a different word here from what was formerly used. The idea is that there must be enlightened judgment—an apprehension in every moment of what is the right application of the force.
(3) Temperance. "And in your knowledge temperance." Let us suppose that we have supplied in our force knowledge: is that enough? Where there is a stopping at this, there is scientism, the expression of which is, "Let us have abundance of light; let us not be imposed on; let us know the right way of things." But in this knowledge there must be supplied, as its necessary complement, temperance, i.e., the subjection of our appetites, desires, affections, tempers, to knowledge, which is very difficult, seeing that we are strongly tempted from within to be guided, not by what we know, but by what is pleasing to us.
(4) Patience. "And in your temperance patience." Let us suppose that we have supplied in our knowledge self-restraint: is that enough? Where there is a stopping at this, there is a rigorism, of which the expression is, "Let us abstain; let us mortify self." But in this self-restraint there must be supplied, as its necessary complement, patience, which is a sustaining by self, or putting one's shoulder under the burdens, and especially the hardships of life.
(5) Godliness. "And in your patience godliness." Let us suppose that we have supplied in our self-restraint patience: is that enough? Where there is a stopping at this, there is a stoicism, of which the expression is, "Let us be insensible to pain; let us be heedless of difficulties." But in this patience there must be supplied, as its necessary complement, godliness, or a God-regarding, especially God-fearing, disposition, without which there cannot be subduedness, sweetness, or stay, in patience.
(6) Love of the brethren. "And in your godliness love of the brethren." Let us suppose that we have supplied in our patience godliness: is that enough? Where there is a stopping at this, there is a one-sided religiousness, of which the expression is, "Let us pray; let us attend conscientiously on the public means of grace." But in this godliness there must be supplied, as its necessary complement, love of the brethren, i.e., of those who are our brethren in Christ. "For he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" (1 John 4:20); "And every one that loveth him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten of him "(1 John 5:1).
(7) Love. "And in your love of the brethren love." Let us suppose that we have supplied in our godliness love of the brethren: is that enough? Where there is a stopping at this, there is a narrow-heartedness, of which the expression is, "Let us make the Christian circle our home; let us choose the society of those who have the same thoughts and the same hopes." But in this love of the brethren there must be supplied love or philanthropy—love for all that bear the Divine image and for whom Christ died.
3. Importance of development with reference to knowledge.
(1) Positively. "For if these things are yours and abound, they make you to be not idle nor unfruitful unto the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." By "these things" we are to understand the seven virtues which are to be supplied in faith. These are regarded as actually subsisting in us or belonging to us. There is a difference between their thus being in us and their abounding in us. There is a difference between an infant's finding of strength and the consciousness of a giant's strength. There is a difference between a rudimentary knowledge and a knowledge that can be effectually applied to every question of duty that comes up. There is a difference between the mastery of a single appetite and the full mastery of all our appetencies and tempers. There is a difference between a patience that is untried and a patience that can stand the severest test. There is a difference between a sense of the Being of God and the deepest awe in the realization of his perfections. There is a difference between a sense of brotherhood in Christ and the full flood of Christian brotherliness. There is a difference between an interest in a single case of reclamation and a large-hearted philanthropy. Given, then, that these virtues are not merely in us, but abound, they make us, literally, put us in a position, to be not idle nor unfruitful. If there are certain elements in a tree, they make it to be not idle; i.e., it discharges its functions, it puts forth fresh shoots and leaves and blossoms. And making it not idle, they also make it not unfruitful; i.e., in due season it is laden with fruit. So if these virtues are in us, and in abundant measure, they make us to be not idle; i.e., we do in the right manner. And making us not idle, they also make us not unfruitful; i.e., there are good results. The goal toward which we are to be fruitful is the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is not the knowledge that is mentioned as one of the seven virtues, but the mature knowledge that has been twice mentioned. It has been regarded as the means; now it is regarded as the end. Showing diligence in the practice of the seven virtues, we are to come to a rich appreciative knowledge of Jesus Christ (who interprets God to us). Paul takes our aim to be the being able "to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge." Peter brings into view the knowledge of Jesus Christ as our Lord, i.e., able in his surpassing power to accomplish all things for us.
(2) Negatively. "For he that lacketh these things is blind, seeing only what is near, having forgotten the cleansing from his old sins." We are to practice the virtues; for there is a great disadvantage in lacking them. The lacking here is not merely the not having them in abundance, but the not having them at all. James says that "faith without works is dead." Peter says here that "he who has not supplied the seven virtues in his faith, instead of appreciating Christ, he is blind," i.e., to his real worth. His idea of blindness he brings to this focus—that he is shortsighted. The word is taken from a certain contracting of the eyelids in order to see. He sees what is near, but does not see what is far off. The things of this world bulk largely in his eyes; the distant realities of the eternal world do not come within his vision. The explanation of this kind of blindness is his having lapsed. There was a time when he was baptized. Then he was regarded as cleansed from his old sins; and did not that seem to indicate a certain appreciation of Christ? But having forgotten his cleansing, Christ has not worth in his eyes.
III. RESUMPTION OF EXHORTATION.
1. Condition restated. "Wherefore, brethren, give the more diligence to make your calling and election sure." This is the only use of the address "brethren" in the Epistles of Peter. It indicates greater closeness and urgency in his exhortation. He proceeds in "wherefore the more" on the advantage of having the seven virtues in abundance, and the disadvantage of lacking them. What he exhorts them to is increased diligence. The tense used points to their making this diligence a lifelong thing. They were to give diligence with regard to their calling and election, i.e., by God into his kingdom, the latter word referring to the actual separation of the called from the world. This calling and election, looked at from the lower side, was a matter of uncertainty; they are exhorted to make it a matter of certainty to allow no doubt to rest on their interest in Christ and title to the kingdom. It is not said how they are to make their calling and election sure; but the very want of specification points to what was formerly specified, viz. the practice of the seven virtues; and this is confirmed by what follows.
(1) Negatively. "For if ye do these things, ye shall never stumble." In "for" there is a falling back on the condition. "Doing these things" may refer to making their calling and election sure; but it is to it as a multiform act, viz. as covering the practice or the seven virtues. If they did these things with due diligence, they would never make such a stumble as would prevent their entrance into the kingdom.
(2) Positively. "For thus shall be richly supplied unto you the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." It is here that there comes into view the full scope of the condition laid down. It is a condition upon which their interest in a kingdom depends. It is no mean kingdom; for it is the kingdom presided over by their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The kingdom of Christ is essentially the same in the present and in the future; but in its present outward conditions it is to come to an end, in its future conditions it is to be eternal. It is the entrance into the eternal kingdom that is here promised. Coming to a kingdom is usually celebrated; so the entrance here must be regarded as a glorious event. This entrance is a gift; and yet it corresponds to previous diligence. This is strikingly brought out in the form of the language. To those who have supplied the seven virtues in their faith it is promised that there shall be supplied unto them this glorious entrance. But stress is laid upon the kind of entrance. There is a difference between reaping sparingly and reaping bountifully. There is a difference between a righteous man's reward and a prophet's reward. There is a difference between being saved as by fire, and being saved with a golden reward or a silver reward or a reward to be compared to precious stones. So there is a difference between a bare entrance and an entrance that is richly supplied. The richly supplied entrance is only for those who have in the highest degree been diligent in the practice of the seven virtues. Let this highest prize be the object of our ambition. Let us not be content with a bare entrance; let us, by increased diligence, enrich the entrance that we are to have - R.F.
Putting in mind.
I. THE TIME OF PUTTING IN MIND.
1. Putting in mind as long as he was in this tabernacle. "Wherefore I shall be ready always to put you in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and are established in the truth which is with you. And I think it right, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; knowing that the putting off of my tabernacle cometh swiftly, even as our Lord Jesus Christ signified unto me." Because of the importance of the things dealt with in the previous verses, Peter declares that he would be ready always, i.e., would take every opportunity, to put them in mind of them. "In matters of such importance reminders can never be superfluous; wherefore they should never be troublesome" (Calvin). In one way there was not need for putting them in mind; for he bears testimony courteously to their knowing these things, and being established, i.e., having a firm standing, in the truth that was with them (not the present-day truth, as is suggested by the old translation). Feeling their importance himself, he thought it right to tell them the same things again and again, thereby to stir them up, i.e., to a due sense of their meaning. It is important to enlarge the circle of human knowledge—to get new thoughts, new facts, new combinations of facts; but it is a thousand times more important to have the complete realization of one or two things that we know. Even with those who knew and were established Peter laboured, by reiteration, to stir them up—to give them a deeper impression of a few simple gospel truths. He was resolved to stir them up by putting them in mind, as long as he was in this tabernacle. This is a familiar designation of the body in relation to the soul (in 2 Corinthians 5:1 it is "tabernacle-house"). The body is a covering to the soul; it keeps it from being exposed to the glare of the world. "Tabernacle" also suggests that which can be quickly taken down (in Isaiah 38:12 there is the association of death with the removal of a shepherd's tent); the connection of the body with the soul is not so close but that it can be quickly removed as a shepherd's tent. Peter was incited to action by the knowledge of what our Lord Jesus Christ had signified unto him. There is unmistakable reference to John 21:18, John 21:19. Our Lord, according to what is recorded there, signified to Peter that he was to die a martyr's death. Let Peter's language here be observed. There was to be not the striking of his tent, but still, not out of keeping with the idea of a tent as a temporary soul-covering, the putting of it off. And swift or sudden was the manner in which it was to be put off. We are not to think of the swiftness of death's approach (unless in the use of the present tense), but of death's swift work when it did come. He was to end his life by a violent death. Our Lord had signified to him that he was not to die soon; it was only when he became old that he was to stretch forth his hands, and another was to gird him, and carry him whither he would not. He was now old, without the assurance he had once had of living long; and as our Lord had signified to him that not much time was to be occupied in the putting off of his tabernacle, so long as he was in it he would let slip no opportunity of putting them in mind. "Teachers who are long sick can still feed others. The cross was not to permit that to Peter. So he sees to doing beforehand what required to be done" (Bengel).
2. Putting in mind as affected by his decease. "Yea, I will give diligence that at every time ye may be able after my decease to call these things to remembrance." "Decease" is literally "departure," which, from the context, we may take to be departure out of the tabernacle of the body. In view of what follows, it is to be remarked that both "tabernacle" and "decease" are words associated with the Transfiguration-scene. How were they to be provided for after his decease? He was to use diligence, that they would then be able, as occasion arose, to call these things to mind. We can think of Peter here reflecting the Divine thoughtfulness. The apostles were not to live alway; so God saw to the important things being put down in a permanent form in the New Testament. Peter, now an old man, was to die swiftly; so, as the servant of God, he was to see to the important things being put down in writing, that, as occasion arose, they might be able to call them clearly to mind.
II. PUTTING IN MIND WITH REFERENCE TO THE SUBJECT OF THE SECOND COMING.
1. The certainty of the coming. "For we did not follow cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." There are two important points to be noticed here. In the first place, Peter, writing in the name of the other apostles, declares that they were careful in what they admitted into the historical basis of their religion. They saw the putting forward of cunningly devised fables—stories without foundation in reality, cleverly concocted, so as to impose on the ignorant, and to keep up the influence of the priesthood or the false teachers. They did not follow this lead; but were careful to exclude all mythical elements, and to admit only well-established fact. In the second place, Peter and the other apostles made known unto the persons addressed the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The first exhibition of power was when Christ rose from the dead; its full exhibition was to be at the coming. It is true that in this Epistle there is no direct reference to the weakness and death of Christ; this is to be explained by the circumstances in which Peter wrote. There are times when we need to pass on from the humiliation, and to allow our minds to be occupied with the exaltation.
2. The attesting power of the Transfiguration to the coming.
(1) Eye-testimony. "But we were eye-witnesses of his majesty." The reference, as is seen from what follows, is to the Transfiguration. The three who were admitted as witnesses were Peter and James and John: they were admitted, while others were excluded. What they saw was not his ordinary earthly form, but that form transfigured—what is here called his majesty. "His garments,' according to the graphic account of Mark, "became glistering, exceeding white; so as no fuller on earth can whiten them." This remarkable manifestation, which was out of the ordinary course in Christ's earthly life, which was not for the common gaze, testified to the coming, inasmuch as it was to be regarded as the glorifying of Christ beforehand. It was Christ seen as he was to be after his ascension. It was Christ as he was afterwards seen by the prisoner of Patmos in his actually glorified condition.
(a) What was heard. "For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." In the original the verse begins, "for having received," and is interrupted before its close. The honour and glory from God the Father are to be associated with the voice, but with the voice as expressive of the majesty that was seen by the eye. The voice is represented as borne to him, not from, but by, the excellent glory, which is putting for God the excellent glory in which he dwells, so as to raise an impression of the magnificence of the scene. The voice was such as this, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." There is only a slight variation from the words given in Matthew, the effect of which is to present the good pleasure of the Father as on his beloved Son, so as to abide and not to leave him. This was fitted to encourage Christ in prospect of the decease which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem. As testimony to the coming, it is to be taken along with the change presented to sight. In that anticipation of glory was to be read how the good pleasure of God was to find manifestation.
(b) The hearing. "And this voice we ourselves heard come out of heaven, when we were with him in the holy mount." This helps to emphasize the reality of the voice. There was no possibility of deception; the voice was heard borne in upon them, borne in from heaven. There was present the condition of three witnesses, by which it is established as a fact. This also helps to connect the thought distinctly with the Transfiguration. The voice was heard when they, the three, were with him in the holy mount—the mount rendered holy by the association.
3. The attesting power of the prophetic Word to the coming.
(1) The greater attesting power of the prophetic Word. "And we have the Word of prophecy made more sure." The literal translation is preferable, "And we have more sure the prophetic Word." By "the prophetic Word" we are to understand the Bible, with special reference to what it has to say about the future in its connection with Christ. It must be recognized that a comparison is instituted. The comparison is not between the voice from heaven and the prophetic Word, but rather between the Transfiguration (with the accompaniment of the voice) and the prophetic Word in their attesting power to the second coming. The fact was significant; but there is greater satisfaction in having definite statements as to Christ's coming. It is the old prophetic Word that Peter seems to have in his mind; but we may regard it as elucidated and filled up by New Testament statements. From these statements we can have some conception of the scene. The Lord descends from his heavenly throne in majesty. The moment that the Lord descends, the archangel marshals his innumerable host, giving the shout of command with the living voice. Having marshaled his hosts to move in harmony with the descending Lord, he at a subsequent stage gives another shout of command, this time not with the living voice, but with the trump of God. At the trumpet-call the dead arise. The Christian dead, raised with reconstituted bodies, join the Christian living, whose bodies are transformed, making one company, and, caught up in the enveloping, upbearing clouds, they meet their descending Lord with the marshaled army of angels in the air. The Lord descends to earth; before him are gathered all nations, and, as Judge, he separates them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats. The wicked receive their desert; the righteous ascend in the triumphant retinue to heaven, to be for ever with the Lord.
(2) On account of its certainty we are to take heed to it. "Whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts." We do well to take heed to what the Bible says about the issues of life as connected with the coming of Christ. The prophetic Word is here compared to a ]amp, on account of the clear light it sheds. It is true of the Bible as a whole that it is as a lamp. "This lamp from off the everlasting throne mercy took down." The dark place in which it shines is the world. How dark would the world be but for the light it casts upon God and upon the future! It is to continue to shine until the day dawn, and the day-star arise. This bringing in of the full day is to be regarded as Christ's coming. Then the Bible, in its earthly form, will have served its purpose; it will give place to the great Teacher himself. The relation of all to that coming is not to be joyful; to some it will only be the time of exposure, the time of discomfiture and el consignment to darkness. But it is to come with a blessed certainty in the hearts of Christ's people. It is the beginning of a long bright day to them in the presence of their Lord.
(3) The ground of the certainty on account of which we are to take heed to it. "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of private interpretation. For no prophecy ever came by the will of man: but men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Ghost." The statement, declared to be of prime importance, that no prophecy of Scripture is of private interpretation, was long obscure; and Roman Catholic theologians took advantage of the obscurity to assert that its meaning is that Scripture can only be interpreted by the Church, and not by private Christians. There is now clearness as to its meaning, which is that the prophet did not proceed on his own private interpretation of things. For, it is added, no prophecy ever came by the will of man, i.e. originated in mere human determination. Men indeed spoke (and not always holy men, as in the case of Balsam); there was thus the exercise of the human mind to a certain extent, there was the human form in what they spoke, there were even individual characteristics brought out; but the higher causal account of it was that they spoke from God, and because they were borne along unresistingly by the Holy Ghost. There was thus, which is the point here, secured certainty, infallibility in what they spoke. We do well, then, to take heed to what they say to us, "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith."—R.F.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Peter 1". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent