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2 Peter 3:1
This Second Epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; literally, this Epistle already a second one I write unto you. The ἤδη ("already") implies that the interval between the two Epistles was not long. The expression "beloved," four times repeated in this chapter, shows the apostle's affectionate interest in his readers; and the word "second" forces us to make our choice between the Petrine authorship of the Epistle or the hypothesis of a direct forgery. In both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance; literally, in which, i.e., "Epistles;" the word "second" implied an allusion to a First Epistle. St. Peter repeats the words which he had used in 2 Peter 1:13, "I think it meet … to stir you up by putting you in remembrance." Mind (διάνοια) is the reflective faculty (see 1 Peter 1:13); that faculty should be exercised in holy things. The thoughts that pass through the Christian's mind should be holy thoughts; his mind should be pure. The word rendered "pure" (εἰλικρινής) occurs in Philippians 1:10 (where see note); the corresponding substantive is found in 1Co 5:8; 2 Corinthians 1:12; 2 Corinthians 2:17. It is said of things which can bear to be judged in the sunlight, and so means "pure, clear," or (according to another possible etymology) "unmixed," and so "genuine, sincere."
2 Peter 3:2
That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets. "That ye may be mindful" is represented by one word in the Greek (μνησθῆναι); compare the exact parallel in Luke 1:72. Great stress is laid on the word of prophecy in both Epistles (see 1 Peter 1:10-60.1.12 and 2 Peter 1:19). And of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour; rather, as in the Revised Version, and the commandment of the Lord and Saviour through your apostles. All the best manuscripts read ὑμῶν here. It is a remarkable expression; but Christ's apostles can be rightly called the apostles of those to whom they are sent, as being their teachers, sent to them for their benefit; just as the angels of God are called also the angels of Christ's little ones (Matthew 18:10). Compare also "the angels of the seven Churches" in the Revelation. St. Peter shows an intimate knowledge of several of St. Paul's Epistles, and of that of St. James; he is writing to the Churches addressed in his First Epistle, most of which were founded by St. Paul or his companions. We must therefore understand this passage, as well as verse 15 of this chapter, as a distinct recognition of the apostleship of St. Paul. The translation of the Authorized Version, "the apostles of the Lord and Saviour," involves a violent disturbance of the order; it seems best to make both genitives depend on "commandment:" "your apostles' commandment of the Lord;" the first genitive being that of announcement, the second of origin. The commandment was announced by the apostles, but it was the Lord's commandment. (For the double genitive, comp. James 2:1 and Acts 5:32. For the whole verse, see the parallel passage in Jud Acts 1:17.)
2 Peter 3:3
Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers. (For the irregular construction of γινώσκοντες, see Winer, 3:63, 2, a.) St. Peter has the words, "knowing this first," in 2 Peter 1:20, where he is speaking of the interpretation of prophecy; he repeats them now when referring to the scoffers who mocked at the long delay of the Lord's coming foretold by the prophets. (For "the last days," see note on 1 Peter 1:20.) The Revised Version has, "Mockers shall come with mockery." This represents the words ἐν ἐμπαιγμοπνῇ, found in nearly all the best manuscripts, which give emphasis to the expression after the Hebrew manner. The word ἐμπαιγμονή occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, and ἐμπαῖκται, scoffers, only in the parallel passage, Jude 1:18. Walking after their own lusts. Self-indulgence often leads to skepticism. This verse is quoted in a homily ascribed to Hippolytus.
2 Peter 3:4
And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? (comp. Malachi 2:17, "Where is the God of judgment?"). The Lord had prophesied of his coming; St. Paul had spoken more than once as if that coming were very near at hand (1 Corinthians 15:51; 2 Corinthians 5:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:15). Yet he came not. Already men were beginning to mock, and to question whether the long-delayed promise would ever be fulfilled. For since the fathers fell asleep; better, from the day that. By "the fathers" must be meant here the fathers of the Christian Church. St. Peter was writing more than thirty years after the Ascension. The first generation of Christians was rapidly passing away. Stephen "fell asleep" first, then James the son of Zebedee, the other James the Lord's brother, and many others who had looked, it may be, to see the coming of the Lord among those "which are alive and remain" (1 Thessalonians 4:17). But they had died, and he came not; and from the day of their death things went on as they were. Should men look for him still, the mockers asked, when the fathers looked in vain? The mockers adopted, in mockery, doubtless, the Christian phrase for death. The Lord first had said, "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth ;" then the holy Stephen "fell asleep;" and so "they which are asleep" became the recognized name for the dead in Christ. Death is like sleep; the holy dead rest from their labours. They "sleep not idly," for they are at home with the Lord, and they are blessed; but yet the quiet rest of Paradise, though "far better" than this earthly life, is sleep compared with the perfect consummation and bliss, both in body and soul, which the redeemed of the Lord shall enjoy at last in his eternal glory. All things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation; literally, all things continue thus, as they are, and as they have been from the beginning. There has been no sudden catastrophe; the world has gone on as it was; the laws of nature are still working with their changeless uniformity" (see a remarkable parallel in Clement, I, 23, which is important also as an independent proof that this argument of the scoffers is as old as the end of the first century).
2 Peter 3:5
For this they willingly are ignorant of; literally, for this escapes them of their own will. All things have not always been as they are; there have been great changes; there was once a great catastrophe; but this they willfully forget, Huther translates differently, "For, whilst they assert this, it is hidden from them that," etc. But this rendering seems forced and unsatisfactory, and gives a meaning to θέλω which it has nowhere in the New Testament. That by the Word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water. The Revised Version translates, That there were heavens from of old, and an earth compacted out of water and amidst water, by the Word of God. The mockers say that all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation. That creation itself was a great, a stupendous change, a mighty effort of the power of God.
St. Peter refers to it in words evidently derived from the Book of Genesis, not from any other sources, whether Greek, Egyptian, or Indian. There were heavens from of old (the word ἔκπαλαι occurs elsewhere only in 2 Peter 2:3). There was an earth formed or standing out of the water. The Greek participle here used is συνεστῶσα, literally, "standing together or consisting" (comp.Colossians 1:17; Colossians 1:17); it may be taken closely with both prepositional Clauses, "earth consisting of water and by means of water." Thales had taught that water was the beginning of things, the original element (πάντα ἐξ ὕδατος συνεστάναι); the narrative in Genesis represents water as originally overspreading all things: "The earth was without form [ἀόρατος, Septuagint], and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." We may therefore understand St. Peter as meaning that the earth was formed or compacted out of water, or out of those substances which the water at first held in solution; and that it is kept together in coherence and solidity by means of water. If, on the other hand, we regard the participle as closely connected with the second preposition only, the meaning will be that the earth, held together and compacted by means of water, rose up out of the water, and appeared above it, when God said, "Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear." It is possible, again, to understand the preposition διά locally, and to translate "amidst water." Comp. Psalms 136:6, "He stretched out the earth above the waters;" and Psalms 24:2, "He hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods." Of course, neither St. Peter nor Moses is speaking in the language of science; their object was, not to teach scientific truth, but to present the great fact of creation in an aspect suitable to our poor capacities. For the clause, "by the Word of God (τῷ τοῦ Θεοῦ λόγῳ)," comp. Hebrews 11:3, "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God (ῥήματι Θεοῦ)." St. Peter may be referring to the formula, "And God said," so constantly repeated in the account of the creation, or (what is really the same truth) to the fact that "all things were made by him [by God the Word], and without him was not anything made that was made."
2 Peter 3:6
Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished. The Greek for" whereby" is δἰ ὧν, literally, "through which things." The plural here presents some difficulty. The most obvious antecedents are "the heavens and the earth" of the last verse; but many commentators refer the relative to the twice-repeated "water." The meaning will be the same whichever view we take. "The fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened;" that is, the Deluge was brought to pass by means of the heavens, i.e., the waters that were above the firmament, and the earth, i.e., the waters that were below the firmament, which came from the earth as the waters first mentioned came from the heavens. Another possible view is that of Huther, who refers δἱ ὧν to the water and the Word of God. By the world here must be meant the world of living creatures. This is St. Peter's answer to the mockers: there had been one great catastrophe; there will be another.
2 Peter 3:7
But the heavens and the earth, which are now; rather, the heavens which are now, and the earth. The "now" does not refer, as some think, to any change wrought by the Flood, but distinguishes the present heavens and earth from the new heavens and new earth, which Christians are to look for (2 Peter 3:13). By the same Word are kept in store, reserved unto fire. Several of the better manuscripts have "by his Word," which, on the whole, seems to give the best meaning. The reading in the text may, indeed, be understood in a similar sense, "by the same Word of God;" otherwise it would mean that the original word of creation determined also the duration of the world and the means of its destruction. The words rendered, "are kept in store," are, literally, "have been treasured (τεθησαυρισμένοι εἰσίν)" (comp. Romans 2:5). It seems better to take the dative πυρί ("with fire," or "for fire") with this verb rather than with the following, as in the Authorized Version. If we take the first meaning of the dative, the sense will be that the world has been stored with fire, i.e., that it contains, stored up in its inner depths, the fire which is destined ultimately to destroy it. But the other view seems on the whole more probable; the heavens and the earth are stored up for fire or unto fire, i.e., with the purpose in the counsels of God of their ultimate destruction by fire. This is the clearest prophecy in Holy Scripture of the final conflagration of the universe; but comp. Isaiah 66:15; Daniel 7:10; Malachi 4:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:8. Such a doctrine formed part of the physical theories of the Stoics; it is also found in the 'Book of Enoch.' Against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. The participle "reserved" (τηρούμενοι) is best taken with this clause: "Reserved against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men."
2 Peter 3:8
But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing; literally, let not this one thing escape you, as especially important. That one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. "With the Lord" means in his sight, in his estimate of things (comp. Psalms 90:4, "A thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday"). Bengel finely says, "Dei aeoniologium (sic appellare liceat) differt ab horologic mortalium. Illius gnomon omnes homis simul indicat in summa actione et in summa quiete. Ei nec tardius nec celerius labuntur tempera quam ipsi et oeconomiae ejus aptum sit. Nulls causa est cur finem rerum aut protelare aut accelerare necessum habeat. Qui hoc comprehendemus? Si comprehendere possemus, non opus foret a Mose et Petro addi, apud Dominum." God is eternal: his thought is not, like ours, subject to the law of time; and even we can understand that one day, as the day of the Saviour's death, may have far more of intense action compressed into it, and far more influence upon the spiritual destiny of mankind, than any period of a thousand years. This passage seems to be quoted by Justin Martyr, the 'Epistle of Barnabas,' Irenaeus, and Hippolytus; but they may be referring to Psalms 90:1-19.90.17, though the quotations resemble the words of St. Peter more closely than those of the psalm.
2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness. The Lord here, as frequently in these Epistles, is God the Father; it is he only who knoweth that day and that hour (Mark 13:32). Some take the genitive τῆς ἐπαγγελίας with "the Lord," and translate, "The Lord of the promise is not slack." This is a possible connection, but, not so satisfactory as the ordinary rendering. (For the genitive with the verb βραδύνει, see Winer, 3:30, 6, b.) The latter clause may be understood, "as some think it, i.e., the delay of the judgment, to be slackness;" or better, perhaps, "as some understand the meaning of slackness." Men are slow in fulfilling their promises from various, often selfish, motives; the Lord's delay comes from love and long-suffering. But is long-suffering to us-ward; rather, to you-ward, which seems to be the best-supported reading; two ancient manuscripts give "for your sake." St. Peter has the same thought in the First Epistle (1Pe 4:1-19 :20); there he reminds us how the long-suffering of God waited while the ark was a-preparing; here he tells us that the delay of the judgment, at which unbelievers scoff, is due to the same cause. We note here an item of evidence for the common authorship of the two Epistles. Not willing that any should perish; rather, not wishing or desiring (μὴ βουλόμενος). The participle gives the reason of the Lord's delay; he hath no pleasure that the wicked should die (Ezekiel 18:23, Ezekiel 18:32, and Ezekiel 33:11). But that all should come to repentance. The G reek word for "come" (χωρῆσαι), occurs in the same sense in Matthew 15:17, εἰς μετάνοιαν … χωρήσας). Calvin takes it transitively, "willing to receive all to repentance." But the common translation is plainly right.
2 Peter 3:10
But the day of the Lord will come. The word ἥξει, will come, stands emphatically at the beginning of the clause; whatever the mockers may say, whatever may happen, come certainly will the day of the Lord. "The day of the Lord" meets us often in the prophets; it is usually associated with the thought of judgment (see Isaiah 2:12; Ezekiel 13:5; Joel 1:15; Malachi 3:2). In the New Testament it signifies the second advent of Christ (1Th 5:2; 1 Corinthians 1:8; Philippians 1:6; 2 Thessalonians 2:2). As a thief in the night. The best manuscripts omit here "in the night." St. Peter is evidently echoing the Lord's words in that great prophetic discourse on the Mount of Olives, which must have made such a deep impression upon the apostles. This illustration of the sudden coming of the thief is repeated not only by St. Peter here, but also by St. Paul (1 Thessalonians 5:2), and twice by St. John (Revelation 3:3 and Revelation 16:15). In the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise. The Greek for "with a great noise (ῥοιζηδόν)" occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, and is one of those remarkable poetic forms which are not unfrequent in this Epistle: the noun ῥοῖζος is used of the whizzing of arrows, of the rush of wings, of the sound of mighty winds or roaring waters. It may be understood here of the crash of a falling world or of the roar of the destroying flames. The word rendered "pass away" is that used by our Lord in the prophecy just referred to (Matthew 24:35; also in Matthew 5:18 and in Luke 16:17). And the elements shall melt with fervent heat. It is uncertain whether by "the elements" (στοιχεῖα) St. Peter means the four elements (in the old and popular use of the word), or the great constituent parts of the universe, the heavenly bodies. Against the first view is the assertion that one of those elements is to be the agent of destruction. But the word rendered "melt" means "shall be dissolved" or "loosed;" and it may be, as Bishop Wordsworth says, that "St. Peter's meaning seems to be that the στοιχεῖα, elements or rudiments, of which the universe is composed and compacted, will be loosed; that is, the framework of the world will be disorganized; and this is the sense of στοιχεῖα in the LXX. (Wis. 7:17; 19:17) and in Hippolytus, 'Philos.,' pages 219, 318. The dissolution is contrasted with the consistency described by the word συνεστῶσα in verse 5. The heavens are reserved for fire, and will pass away with a rushing noise, and, being set on fire, will be dissolved; the elements will be on fire and melt, and he reduced to a state of confusion; the earth and the works therein will be burnt up. There does not seem, therefore, to be any cause for abandoning the common meaning of στοιχεῖα, the elemental principles of which the universe is made." On the other hand, the word στοιχεῖα is certainly used of the heavenly bodies by Justin Martyr ('Apolog.,' 2. c. 5, and 'Dial. cum Tryphon,' c. 23); and the heavenly bodies are constantly mentioned in the descriptions of the awful convulsions of the great day. The objection that the word does not bear this meaning elsewhere in Holy Scripture is of little weight, as this is the only place in which it has a physical sense. The literal translation of the clause is, "The elements, being scorched, shall be dissolved." The word for "being scorched" (καυσούμενα) occurs in the New Testament only here and in verse 12; it is used by the Greek physicians of the burning heat of fever. The verb λυθήσεται means "shall be dissolved or loosened." The earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. By "the works that are therein" St. Peter seems to mean all the works both of God and of man, "opera naturae et artis" (Bengel). There is a very remarkable reading here (supported by the Sinaitic and Vatican and another uncial manuscript), εὑρεθήσεται, "shall be discovered," instead of κατακαήσεται, "shall be burned up." If we understand "the works that are therein" of man's works and actions, this reading will give a good sense. Or the clause may be regarded as interrogative, "Shall the earth and the works that are therein be found?" But the reading, "shall be burned up" is well supported, and suits the context best.
2 Peter 3:11
Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved; rather, seeing that all these things are being dissolved. The participle is present, and implies the certainty of the event foretold, and, perhaps, also that the germs of that coming dissolution are already in being, that the forces which are ultimately to bring about the final catastrophe are even now at work. Some of the better manuscripts read, instead of οὖν, then, οὕτως, thus: "seeing that all these things are thus being dissolved." What manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness? The Greek word for "what manner of persons" means literally, "of what country;" it seems to point to the great truth that God's people are fellow-citizens of the saints, that the commonwealth of which they are citizens is in heaven. The word for "to be" is the emphatic ὑπάρχειν, which denotes original, essential, continuous being. (On the word for "conversation" (ἀναστροφαῖς, behaviour, conduct), see note on 1 Peter 1:15.) Both this noun and the following are plural in the Greek, and therefore mean "in all aspects and forms of holy conduct and godliness." Some commentators connect these last words, "in all holy conversation and godliness," with the next verse: "looking in all holy conversation,'' etc. Some, again, understand this verse as asking a question, which is answered in the next; but the Greek word for "what manner of persons" (ποταπός) seems to be used in the New Testament as an exclamation only, not interrogatively.
2 Peter 3:12
Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God. The preposition "unto" is inserted without authority. The second participle σπεύδοντας is followed directly by the accusative, and is evidently transitive. In the Septuagint Version of Isaiah 16:5, σπεύδων δικαιοσύνην represents the "hasting righteousness" of our translation (comp. Pindar, 'Isthm.,' Isaiah 5:22, where σπεύδειν ἀρετάν means "to pursue virtue"). Here the translation "hastening" is most appropriate. The Father hath put the times and seasons in his own power; but as the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, so now he is "long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish;" and in his gracious mercy waits for the repentance of his chosen. St. Peter seems to represent Christians as "hastening the coming [literally, 'presence'] of the day of God" by working out their own salvation, and helping to spread the knowledge of the gospel (Matthew 24:14), and so rendering the long-suffering patience of God no longer necessary. The words imply also the duty of praying for that coming, as we do in the second petition of the Lord's Prayer, and in the Funeral Service, "Beseeching thee, that it may please thee, of thy gracious goodness, shortly to accomplish the number of thine elect, and to hasten thy kingdom." Compare St. Peter's speech in Acts 3:0, where he says, "Repent ye therefore … that so (ὅπως ἄν) there may come seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ" (verses 19, 20, Revised Version). This remarkable coincidence of thought furnishes an argument of considerable weight in favour of the genuineness of this Epistle. Another possible rendering of the word is "earnestly desiring," which is adopted in the text of the Revised Version, and is preferred by some commentators. Wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved. The Greek for "wherein" is δι ̓ ἥν, on account of which, i.e., on account of the day of God, or, what comes to much the same meaning, on account of the coming, the presence, of that day. Old things must pass away because of the coming of the day of God; the old order must give place to new. And the elements shall melt with fervent heat. The apostle repeats the striking words which he had already used in Isaiah 16:10, with a different verb. The Greek word for "shall melt" here is not λυθήσεται, as in Isaiah 16:10, but a stronger word τήκεται, are being melted, or wasted away. The tense is the prophetic present, implying a certain fulfillment. There is probably a reference to Isaiah 34:4, where the Septuagint rendering is Καὶ τακήσονται πᾶσαι αἱ δυνάμεις τῶν οὐρανῶν.
2 Peter 3:13
Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth; rather, but, according to his promise, we look for. The promise is that in Isaiah 65:17, "Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth" (see also Isaiah 66:22 and Revelation 21:1). St. John saw in vision the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah and St. Peter: "The first heaven and the first earth were passed away." It may be that, as the water of the Deluge was the baptism of the ancient world into a new life, so the fire of the great day will be the means of purifying and refining the universe, transforming it into new heavens and a new earth, making all things new. Our Lord's use of the word "regeneration," in Matthew 19:28, seems to favour this view. In the regeneration of the individual soul the personality remains, the thoughts, desires, affections, are changed; so, it may be, in the regeneration of the world the substance will remain, the fashion (σχῆμα) of the old world will pass away (1 Corinthians 7:31). But it is impossible to pronounce dogmatically whether the new heavens and earth will be a reproduction of the old in a far more glorious form, through the agency of the refining fire, or an absolutely new creation, as the words of Isaiah seem to imply. St. John, like St. Peter, speaks of a new earth, and tells us that that new earth will be the dwelling-place of the blessed. He saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven; the throne of God and of the Lamb (he tells us) shall be in it: "The tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them." The holy city, Jerusalem, which is above, is in heaven now; the commonwealth of which the saints are citizens is in heaven (Philippians 3:20). But heaven will come down to earth; the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be there; there his servants shall serve him. The distinction between earth and heaven will be abolished; for where God is, there is heaven. Wherein dwelleth righteousness (comp. Isaiah 60:21, "Thy people shall be all righteous;" also Isaiah lay. 25; Revelation 21:27; Romans 8:21).
2 Peter 3:14
Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things; rather, these things, the coming of the Lord, the restitution of all things, the new heavens and the new earth. Be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless; literally, give diligence (or, be earnest—the same word which is used in 2 Peter 1:10) to be found without spot and blameless in his sight in peace. Christians who look for the coming of Christ must earnestly strive to imitate their Lord, the "Lamb without blemish and without spot." In the word ἄσπιλοι, "without spot," we have a link with 1 Peter 1:19. The word for "blameless" (ἀμώμητοι) is found elsewhere only in Philippians 2:15. The dative αὐτῷ should be rendered, not "of him" or "by him," but "in his sight" or "before him." Peace is used in its fullest sense—peace with God and with man; the peace which Christ giveth; "the peace of God, which passeth all understanding." "In peace" was a common inscription on Christian graves.
2 Peter 3:15
And account that the long-suffering of our Lord is salvation. The apostle is referring to 2 Peter 3:9. Scoffers count the delay of the judgment slackness; the Christian should count it salvation; it is for the salvation of the elect that the judgment tarrieth. It is almost certain that by "our Lord" here St. Peter means the Lord Jesus, whom he describes by the same title in 2 Peter 3:18. Even as our beloved brother Paul also. The plural pronoun may be intended to imply that St. Paul was known to the Churches to which St. Peter was writing, and was beloved there. St. Peter addresses his readers as "beloved" four times in this Epistle; he here uses the same epithet of St. Paul. It comes naturally from his lips; but a writer of the second century would probably have used much stronger words of praise in speaking of one so much reverenced. According to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; rather, wrote to you (comp. Polycarp, 'Ad Philipp.,' Philippians 1:3, "One like me cannot equal the wisdom of the blessed Paul"). That wisdom was given mite him, as he himself says (1 Corinthians 3:10). If we ask to what Epistles of St. Paul is St. Peter referring, the passage which at once occurs to us is 1 Thessalonians 4:1-52.4.18 and 1 Thessalonians 5:1-52.5.28. This Epistle was probably known to St. Peter; there may be a reference to 1 Thessalonians 5:2 in 1 Thessalonians 5:10 of this chapter; and Silvanus, whose name St. Paul associates with his own in both Epistles to the Thessalonians, was with St. Peter when he wrote his First Epistle (1 Peter 5:12). But St. Peter's Second Epistle is addressed (primarily at least) to the same Churches to which the first was written (1 Thessalonians 3:1). We must therefore either say, with Dean Alford, that "our Epistle belongs to a date when the Pauline Epistles were no longer the property only of the Churches to which they were written, but were dispersed through, and considered to belong to, the whole Christian Church;" or we must suppose that the passages in St. Peter's thoughts were not in the Epistle to the Thessalonians, but in some of the Epistles addressed to the Churches of Asia Minor; as, for instance, Ephesians 1:4; Ephesians 2:8; Ephesians 3:9-49.3.11; Colossians 1:22; Colossians 3:4, Colossians 3:24; or, possibly Romans 2:4 and Romans 9:22, as there seem to be some reasons for believing that this last Epistle was addressed to the Church at Ephesus among others.
2 Peter 3:16
As also in all his Epistles. The true reading is probably ἐν πάσαις ἐπιστολαῖς without the article. The words, therefore, do not imply the existence of a complete collection of St. Paul's Epistles, but mean only "in all Epistles which he writes." Speaking in them of these things; that is, of the day of God, the end of the world, etc. St. Peter was acquainted with other Epistles of St. Paul besides those addressed to the Asiatic Churches. There are evident indications of his knowledge of the Epistles to the Thessalonians and Corinthians, as well as of that to the Romans. In which are some things hard to be understood. The manuscripts vary between ἐν οἷς and ἐν αἷς. The first reading would refer to the words immediately preceding—"these things;" "among the subjects on which St. Paul wrote there are some things," etc. The second would refer to "all his Epistles," and would mean that there are certain difficulties in St. Paul's Epistles generally. St. Peter does not tell us what difficulties were in his thoughts—whether St. Paul's teaching about "the man of sin," and "the day of the Lord," or his doctrine of justification by faith, and his assertion of Christian liberty, which might be perverted into anti-nomianism by such men as the false teachers censured in Romans 2:1-45.2.29. The word δυσνόητος, "hard to be understood," occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. Which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest; rather, the ignorant and unsteadfast. Both words are peculiar to this Epistle; the last occurs also in 2 Peter 2:14, the first here only in the New Testament. The verb also translated "wrest" (στρεβλοῦσιν) is found only here; it means "to twist with a windlass," and so "to strain, to torture, to distort." As they do also the other Scriptures. This passage is of the greatest interest, as showing that some of St. Paul's Epistles had by this time taken their place in the estimate of Christians by the side of the sacred books of the Old Testament, and were regarded as Holy Scripture. By "the other Scriptures" St. Peter means the Old Testament, and also, perhaps, some of the earlier writings of the New, as the first three Gospels and the Epistle of St. James. St. Paul, in 1 Timothy 5:18, quotes a passage which seems to come from Luke 10:7 as Scripture. Unto their own destruction; literally, their own destruction of themselves. The use of both adjective and pronoun intensifies the meaning (comp. Luke 2:1, Luke 2:12).
2 Peter 3:17
Ye therefore, beloved, seeing that ye know these things before. The pronoun "ye" is emphatic; others have gone astray; "continue ye faithful." The construction is participial, and there is no expressed object; literally, "knowing before," i.e., that false teachers will arise. Beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness; rather, as in the Revised Version, lest, being carried away … ye fall. It is interesting to notice that the word rendered "led or carried away" is used by St. Paul, in Galatians 2:13, of St. Barnabas, who, along with St. Peter himself, was then "carried away" with the dissimulation of the Judaizers. The word rendered "wicked," rather "lawless," is used elsewhere in the New Testament only in Galatians 2:7. The word for "steadfastness" (στηριγμός) occurs only here.
2 Peter 3:18
But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Growth is necessary for steadfastness; we cannot persevere unless we continually advance in faith. Some, as Alford, take the genitive with "grace" as well as with "knowledge;" but this connection forces us to regard it first as subjective, then as objective—the grace which Christ gives, and the knowledge of which he is the Object—and so seems somewhat forced. St. Peter insists on the knowledge of Christ as essential for growth in grace, at the beginning, as at the end, of this Epistle. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. We notice the doxology addressed to Christ; it reminds us of the hymn which Pliny, in his famous letter to Trajan, says the Christians of Bithynia (one of the provinces mentioned in 1 Peter 1:1) were wont to address to Christ as to God. To him be (or is) the glory—all the glory which belongs to God, which we ascribe to him. "For ever" is, literally, "for the day of the age or of eternity (εἰς ἡμερὰν αἰῶνος)." This remarkable expression is found only here, and is variously interpreted. Bengel explains it as, "dies sine nocte, morus et perpetuus;" Huther as, "the day on which eternity begins as contrasted with time, but which day is likewise all eternity itself." Fronmuller quotes St. Augustine: "It is only one day, but an everlasting day, without yesterday to precede it, and without tomorrow to follow it; not brought forth by the natural sun, which shall exist no more, but by Christ, the Sun of Righteousness."
2 Peter 3:1-61.3.10
The certainty of the Lord's coming.
I. CONFUTATION OF SCOFFERS.
1. St. Peter's purpose in writing, He took a deep interest in the spiritual welfare of the Christians of Asia Minor; he felt a great affection for them; he calls them "beloved" four times in this chapter. We do not know whether he had ever seen them face to face. It may be that Silvanus had made known to him their circumstances, their dangers, their temptations. So he writes to them. In the First Epistle he comforts them in the presence of great persecution; in the second he warns them against the seductions of false teachers. He is an example to Christian ministers of diligence, of affectionate care for souls. He writes:
(1) To stir up his readers. Their minds, he says, were pure. They were single-hearted Christians; their religion was genuine, sincere. Nevertheless, it was well to stir them up. We all need to be aroused from time to time. We live on in the same way day after day; the daily prayers, the daily life, are ordered according to rule; there is danger of becoming lukewarm, formal, of acting from habit rather than from the conscious desire of pleasing God. Hence the need of exhortation. We ask God to "stir up the wills of his faithful people." It is he only who, by the power of his Spirit, can really arouse us; but he uses men as his instruments. He used the agency of St. Peter to stir up the minds of the Asiatic Christians.
(2) To remind them of the words of the prophets and apostles. He had urged the study of prophecy in the first chapter of this Epistle; he had dwelt upon the subject of prophetical inspiration in both Epistles; he was constantly referring to the prophets both in his speeches and letters. Christians ought to study the writings of the prophets; they ought to give heed to the Word of prophecy. So also they should be always mindful of the Lord's commandment given through the apostles. "God who in times past spoke by the prophets, hath in the latter days spoken unto us by his Son." The writings of prophets and apostles come from the same source—the inspiration of God; both have a message for us. It becomes us to be mindful of that message; to forget it is to be wanting in reverence and gratitude to him from whom the message comes. The commandment, delivered to us by the apostles, is in truth the commandment of our Lord and Saviour, who, as our Lord, has a right to our obedience, and, as our Saviour, has a claim upon our tenderest feelings of love and gratitude.
2. Scoffers will come. It has always been so; there have always been men who mocked at those who trusted in God. It was so with Lot in Sodom, with Isaac the heir of the promise, with the psalmist, with the Lord Jesus himself. Those of whom St. Peter speaks were men of sensual habits, walking after their own lusts. There is such a thing as honest doubt, like that of St. Thomas; there are men who would give the world to believe, if they could; their temperament, their education, their habits of thought, throw immense difficulties in their way; such men, we hope and trust, will be guided, sooner or later, to the truth. But in all ages a very large proportion of the prevalent skepticism has issued out of an ungodly life. Men have rejected the faith because they were unwilling to believe. The pure morality of the gospel offends the self-indulgent; it is a constant reproach to them; the teaching of Scripture concerning the judgment is repulsive to them; they try to keep such thoughts out of their minds. And, besides this, sin hardens the heart; a sensual life blinds the eye of the soul, and makes men incapable of appreciating spiritual truth. "The natural man [the ψυχικός, in whom the animal soul is predominant] receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Corinthians 2:14). Such men come with their mockery, saying, "Where is the promise of his coming? The fathers have fallen asleep; generation after generation has passed away. Christians have lived in expectation of the Lord's coming according to his promise; they have waited for him, but he came not; they are in their graves. Are men still to pass their lives in waiting for an advent which seems to be continually receding? All things continue thus, as they are, and as they have been; the laws of nature work on in their changeless uniformity. Where is the promise?" These men took the Epicurean view of the Deity. God might have created the world; he might have called into being the forces which are working in the universe. But now, they thought, he leaves those forces to their mutual action and reaction upon one another; he does not interpose either in the natural world or in the affairs of men; he leaves all to the silent rule of law. The teaching of Holy Scripture is directly opposed to this form of agnosticism. "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work," said the Lord Jesus to the Jews. "In him we live, and move, and have our being," said St. Paul to the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers, as well as to the men of Athens generally. God sustains the universe from day to day, from hour to hour, with his continued agency. Without his support the world would fall into ruin; without his providence the order of society would collapse. The laws of nature are but observed uniformities, sequences of cause and effect; they are not forces; they have no life, no power; they are the expression of the Divine will. God changeth not; and those laws which he has impressed upon the material universe exhibit the hand of the Creator, they too are changeless within the sphere of the all-controlling will of God. He can suspend their operation, for he is the Lord God omnipotent; but as a rule his working is uniform, continuous. If it were not so, the world would be a scene of disorder—all its rare beauty would be lost, life in its present conditions could not be sustained, society would be impossible. That uniformity which is the result of the wisdom of God must not be made an argument against the providence of God. He works in the uniformities of the laws of nature as certainly as in disturbances of those uniformities. There have been such disturbances; the uniform course of nature has been broken by Divine interpositions on a great scale.
3. The answer to the scoffers. All things have not always continued as they are. For:
(1) Creation itself was the introduction of a vast change; it was a mighty interposition of Divine power. "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." We are not concerned here with the scientific interpretation of phenomena. The Bible was not intended to teach us that knowledge which men may by patient labour obtain for themselves, but to reveal to us the relations between man and God, so far as those relations are within our comprehension, and to show us the duties which arise out of those relations. We are not told how many ages, or what processes of evolution, may have their place between the second and the third verses of the first chapter of Genesis. It is the great fact of creation which is forcibly declared in those emphatic words with which the first of the sacred books begins. "By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear." This is the great truth: "By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth." It was he who said, "Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear." The scoffers willfully forget this; even if they do not formally deny the possibility of creation, they shut their eyes to it, and forget that he who made the world can also destroy it, that the great change of creation may be preparatory for other changes as great in the future.
(2) One such catastrophe was the Deluge. The earth, which God had once pronounced to be "very good," had become corrupt, and was filled with violence. Then God brought in the Flood upon the world of the ungodly. By his Word "were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened." "And all flesh died that moved upon the earth." That awful visitation was a warning of coming judgments. All things did not go on in the same unvarying course as the scoffers said. When all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth, then God interposed in his awful justice, and the earth was, by a baptism of water, restored and purified, prepared for a new beginning.
(3) All things will not always continue as they are. By God's Word the heavens and the earth were made at the first; by his Word they are now maintained in being. But as the old world contained in itself the element which swept away the ungodly race of men, so the world that now is contains in itself the agent of its own destruction. It is stored with fire; there are stores of fire hidden within it, which are to work the last most awful change, which are to destroy the present order of things, and by their purifying and refining power to work, as by a baptism of fire, the regeneration of the universe into a new life. And it is stored up for fire, reserved unto the day of judgment, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven in flaming fire. That great day is presented to us in Holy Scripture as a day of terror with surroundings most awful and overwhelming. It will be a day of destruction to the ungodly; it will sweep them into utter death—that death of the soul which is so much more dreadful than the death of the body, for it is death eternal, a state of separation from the life of God, separation from light and joy and love, felt in all its blank and utter misery. Then all things will not continue as they are; he who made the world at the first, he who interposed when that world had become corrupt, and swept away the wicked with the waters of the Flood,—he will come again, but this time "in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ." The mockers may mock; but the Word of God abideth; it must be fulfilled—he will surely come.
II. EXPLANATION OF THE DELAY OF THE JUDGMENT.
1. With the Eternal time is not. We think under the laws of time; time is an essential element in our thought—we cannot think without recognizing it. It is not so with God; the thought of God is not subject to the law of time. He is eternal; past, present, and future are all within the sphere of his immediate knowledge. To him one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. To him that inhabiteth eternity the longest time that human thought can conceive is but as a speck. Even we can understand that real life is measured not by mere time, but by action. How much of life was there concentrated in the three years of our Lord's ministry, those years filled full with works of love and holy teaching! while, on the other hand, the seventy years or more of many men pass by in careless living, in listless idleness, without energy either of thought or action, without any good results either for themselves or for others. It is thought, love, action, that measures life, not the hand of the clock, not the mere lapse of hours and years. "He, being made perfect in a short time, fulfilled a long time" (Wis. 4:13).
2. The Lord is long-suffering. The delay does not mean indifference; it does not mean that the Lord heedeth not the conduct of men. The ungodly say, "Tush, God hath forgotten: he hideth away his face; he will never see it." But it is not so. The delay of the judgment comes from a far different reason. God is not willing that any should perish. Alas! men do perish in their sins; the day of judgment is the day of perdition of ungodly men. But it is not of God; it is of their own willfulness and obstinacy; they bring upon themselves swift perdition. God has bestowed on man the awful gift of power to choose good or evil; without that power there could be no moral action, no responsibility, no obedience, no holiness, no love; life without that power would be the working of a machine, not the energy of a creature made after the likeness of God. Man, alas! has too often abused that great and perilous gift, and has turned that which should have led to holiness into an occasion of sin; and "the wages of sin is death." But God hath "no pleasure in the death of the wicked;" his desire is that "all should come to repentance." Therefore he gives them time. "The goodness of God leadeth them to repentance" (Romans 2:4). We cannot enter into life without repentance, without a deep and real change of heart. "Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand," was the first sermon of John the Baptist, the first sermon of our Lord. "Repent, and be baptized every one of you … for the remission of sins," was the exhortation of St. Peter in his first great sermon. And God willeth that all should come to repentance; for "the Lord is loving unto every man;" and Jesus Christ our Lord "tasted death for every man." And "there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth." Therefore he gives us time. The delay comes from the long-suffering love of God. How sad that men should scoff at that which should be the ground of adoring gratitude!
3. But the day of the Lord will come. It must be so, for so it is decreed in the counsels of God. The mockers may mock in their mockery; they may ask in bitter sarcasm, "Where is the promise of his coming?" The Christian knows the answer; it is hidden in the secret purpose of God, in the mystic book sealed with seven seals, which none can open save the Lion of the tribe of Judah. But the day of the Lord will come—that we know, though we know not the time.
(1) Its coming is certain, sure as the Word of God; the Bible tells us it will come; our consciences bear witness also; the warning voice of conscience points forward to the coming of the awful day. And it will come suddenly, as the thief cometh—when men are not looking for it. Men will be living, as, alas! so many men are living now, heedlessly; eating, drinking, marrying, and giving in marriage, without a thought of God and the solemn future. Then, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, shall the sign of the Son of man be seen in heaven, and the archangel's trump shall sound. "Therefore take ye heed," saith the Lord, "lest that day come upon you unawares."
(2) And its coming is terrible. St. Peter's words bring vividly before our thoughts the awful scene—the crash of falling worlds, the roar of the destroying flames, the dissolution of the elements into chaos, the conflagration which shall burn up the earth and all that is therein. All the works that are therein, the palaces of kings, the fortifications of cities, the cathedrals and churches built for the worship of God,—all shall be involved in that one tremendous ruin. This is the apostle's answer to the scoffers.
1. Scoffers will scoff; men of science will point to the unchanging laws of nature. Neither sarcasms nor the hypotheses of scientific men can shake the Christian from his faith.
2. Therefore we must stir up one another and ourselves; we must keep the solemn words of Holy Scripture in our memories.
3. God has intervened in his judgments; he will intervene again.
4. God is long-suffering; but there must be a limit even to that long-suffering patience. The day of judgment must come; therefore repent while there is time.
2 Peter 3:11-61.3.18
I. THE DUTY OF PREPARATION.
1. Christians should look for the city that hath foundations. The cities of this world have no sure foundation, for the earth on which they are built must pass away; it has within itself the element which is to cause its dissolution; the germs of that dissolution are working even now. Then wise men must not lay up for themselves treasures upon earth; they must not live as if this changeful, dying world was to be their home for ever; they must set their affections on things above; they must remember that Christian men are citizens of the heavenly country, fellow-citizens with the saints. Therefore they must adopt the modes of life which are characteristic of that heavenly country; their conduct as they move about among men must be holy in all the relations of life; they must live in the habitual pursuit of godliness in all its aspects. These things are of true, lasting moment. The prizes of this world, even those which seem to us the greatest and most to be desired, are but vanity, vanity of vanities, compared with the great realities of the spiritual life.
2. They must live in the expectation of the Lord's coming. They must daily look for the presence of the great day, and by thus looking for it, and making ready for it, they must (St. Peter says, in the condescending language which Holy Scripture sometimes uses) hasten its coming. For that day cometh not till the chosen of God are safe. "Haste thee, escape thither," said the destroying angel to Lot; "for I cannot do anything till thou be come thither." So now "the lightnings of the judgment-day pause yet a while," stored in the armoury of God ('Christian Year: All Saints' Day'), till God's elect are numbered, till they are ready, not one of them lost, for their eternal home. Then there is a sense in which, very strange and awful though it may seem, Christians may hasten the coming of the day of God. When the bride hath made herself ready, when the work of repentance is wrought out in the hearts of God's people, when they have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb,—then the day of God shall come. Now the long-suffering of God waiteth, as it waited in the days of Noah. It is a holy and a blessed truth—he waits for us in his tender mercy; he is long-suffering, not willing that any should perish; his wrath does not strike at once the sinner in his sin. He is waiting now, giving us time; but that gracious waiting cannot be protracted for ever; the day of the Lord will come. It is our duty to do what lieth in us to hasten its coming, by the preparation of our own hearts, by stirring up others to repentance, and by our prayers. "Thy kingdom come," is our daily prayer, the prayer which the Lord himself puts into our mouths. "The kingdom of God" has more senses than one in Holy Scripture; but certainly one thing to which the Lord directs our prayers in those words is the coming of the day of God, when the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. This is to be our daily prayer; if we use it in thoughtful faith, it will fix our hearts upon our eternal home. The Church on earth prays, "Thy kingdom come;" in Paradise the souls under the altar cry with a loud voice, "How long, O Lord, holy and true?" (Revelation 6:9, Revelation 6:10). He will hear the prayer that goeth up to him day and night; he will avenge his own elect; the great day must come.
3. That day will be a day of terrors. Because of its presence the visible heavens will be on fire; they shall be dissolved. The earth and the heaven, in the vision of judgment that was revealed to St. John, fled away from the face of him who sat on the great white throne, and there was found no place for them. St. Peter, too, saw the awful scene presented to the eye of his mind—he uses the prophetic present—the elements are melting, wasting away, with fervent heat. Those startling words suggest thoughts of exceeding awe and terror: "Take ye heed; watch and pray."
4. But there will be a new home for the righteous. St. John heard the voice of him that sat on the throne saying, "Behold, I make all things new." God had promised this long ago by the mouth of his prophet Isaiah. He will surely fulfill his word. He will not leave his people desolate and homeless. He provided a city of refuge for Lot, when his old abode was destroyed by the fire of the wrath of God. So, out of the appalling conflagration of the dreadful day there will arise a new and blessed home for his elect. We look for new heavens and a new earth; and they shall abide for ever. As once the promise came to Noah that there should not be any more a flood to destroy the earth, so God hath promised that "the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the Lord." Heaven and earth shall then be very near, the one to the other; for the holy city, new Jerusalem, shall come down from God out of heaven; and the tabernacle of God shall be with men, and he will dwell with them. The commonwealth that is in heaven shall be established (so Holy Scripture seems to teach us) upon the new earth. It shall come down from heaven, having the glory of God; the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; there his servants shall serve him. Heaven will come down to earth; and so the new earth will become a part of heaven, very closely joined with heaven. God will dwell there with men, and they shall see him face to face, and live in that new earth the life of heaven; for it is the unveiled presence of God which makes heaven what it is, the abode of joy, and love, and holiness, and entranced contemplation of the Divine beauty. Into that city entereth nothing that defileth; righteousness dwelleth there. The earth that now is hath been defiled with many sins; it has been stained with blood, devastated by war and cruelty, polluted with sensuality and uncleanness. But the new earth shall be all holy. The refining fires of judgment will work a complete and everlasting change. The Deluge cleansed the old world, but only for a time; sin soon began to reassert itself. The fires of the great day will purely purge away all the dross, and leave only the refined gold. Righteousness shall dwell for ever in that new earth. The people of the holy city shall be all righteous; for they shall abide in the presence of him who is the Sun of Righteousness, and shall be made like unto him, for they shall see him as he is.
5. The need of earnest diligence. St. Peter has been warning us of the solemn future which lies before us—the most tremendous judgment, the destruction of the present order of things in the fires of the last day, the new heavens and the new earth which will be the eternal home of the blessed. These thoughts, he says, enforce upon us the necessity of diligence in the religious life. Men who really believe that after death cometh the judgment cannot live listlessly and idly. Many professing Christians, alas! live careless lives; but that carelessness evinces a practical unbelief. The momentous issues of the great day must stir the believer to earnest effort. St. Peter had urged the necessity of diligence in the first chapter; he urges it again in the last. Then he appealed to the grace of God, his gifts, his promises; the love of God, the blessed hope set before us, ought to arouse us to love and zeal. Now he appeals to the awful future, the judgment that is coming. Carelessness in the prospect of the judgment is nothing short of madness. Those whose faith is real must be diligent. "That day cometh as a thief:" how will it find us? What will be the state of those who are surprised in sin? Our hearts sicken in shuddering dread at the fearful thought. Then let us give diligence to make our calling and election sure. God's elect must be conformed to the image of his Son. His Son, the holy Lamb of God, was without blemish and without spot; so must his servants be. They must wash their robes, and make them white in the blood of the Lamb. "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin;" but it cleanseth only those who "walk in the light." Therefore let us be diligent to walk always in the consciousness of God's presence, in the light that streams from the cross. That light will show each spot and blemish that rests upon the soul; it will bring us to repentance and confession; and then God "is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Those who "follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth" are without fault before the throne of God (Revelation 14:5), for every fault has been washed away in the precious blood. Their sins once were like crimson, but now they are whiter than snow; they are clothed with the wedding garment, the white robe of righteousness; therefore they are found in peace. Christ is their Peace; he bath made peace through the blood of his cross. Those who abide in Christ have peace with God now, in the hour of death, and in the day of judgment. Such men account that the long-suffering of our Lord is salvation. They know that life is a sacred trust, that the time of probation is precious; and they will strive by God's gracious help to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling, knowing that the night cometh, in which no man can work.
II. THE DUTY OF LISTENING TO THE WARNINGS OF HOLY SCRIPTURE,
1. St. Paul had warned them. St. Paul had, by himself or by his companions, founded most of the Churches of Asia Minor. He had written Epistles to the Galatians, Colossians, and Ephesians, the last being probably a circular letter intended to be read in several Churches. At the date of St. Peter's Second Epistle many of St. Paul's writings must have become the common property of the whole Church, and thus the Christians of Asia Minor probably knew and read some of the Epistles which had been addressed to European Churches. St. Peter calls St. Paul his beloved brother; he recognizes the wisdom which had been given unto him. The two holy apostles had once differed from one another; now they were united in one faith and one love. St. Peter had overcome his old impetuosity, his old desire to be first; he had learned that precious grace of humility, which in his First Epistle he so earnestly inculcates. He does not remember that he had once been reproved by St. Paul; he thinks only of St. Paul's holiness and inspired wisdom; he is wholly above petty jealousies and resentments. Christians ought never to take offence, especially at well-intentioned rebukes; they ought to be thankful for them. Christians ought to rejoice at the graces vouchsafed to others—at their zeal, energy, love, at the success of their religious efforts. Envy, especially among Christians, is a hateful vice, a deadly sin. St. Peter, the first of the apostles, appeals to St. Paul, who was called last of all; he is an example of Christian humility. The two holy apostles taught the same great truths. St. Paul and St. Peter both press earnestly upon us the great danger of spiritual sloth; both warn us that the day of the Lord cometh suddenly, like a thief; both urge us to be watchful. Let us listen to those two holy men as they echo the solemn teaching of the great Master.
2. There are difficulties in St. Paul's writings. Men misrepresented the great apostle even from the beginning; they represented him as teaching, "Let us do evil, that good may come" (Romans 3:8). They distorted his doctrine of justification, and perverted it into antinomianism; though he himself had taught that the faith by which we are saved is "faith which worketh by love," and that faith which could remove mountains is nothing if it be alone, without charity. The false teachers, against whom St. Peter has been warning his readers, were probably among these perverters of the apostle's meaning. It is no wonder: "The letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life." There will always be in the visible Church men unlearned and unstable, untaught by the Holy Spirit of God who alone can guide us to the truth, and therefore without steadfastness, carried away with every blast of vain doctrine. Such men wrest to their own destruction, not only the "things hard to be understood" in St. Paul's Epistles, but Holy Scripture generally. For it is not the written Word that in the fullest sense saves the soul, but the Word of life, the Word that is living and powerful, the Lord Jesus Christ himself manifested to the believer. We may find him in the thoughtful, devout study of God's holy Word; but to find Christ, to win Christ, we must count all else as loss; we must forsake selfish aims, self-exaltation, self-indulgence, and follow in humility and earnest prayer the leading of the blessed Spirit. The written Word is a most precious gift; but no outward privilege can save us. Nay, awful as it seems, men may wrest it, and do wrest it, to their own destruction. Receive it in simplicity and faith, and it will save the soul. God reveals its deep holy meaning to babes in Christ. But if men with perverse ingenuity will use it as the weapon of party strife, and twist its sacred words to suit their selfish purposes, then it may—alas! that it should be so—increase their condemnation. "The letter killeth." Corruptio optimi pessima.
3. There is need of thoughtful watchfulness. False teachers distort the meaning of Holy Scripture; they wander far from the truth; they are self-willed, lawless, disobedient to the Law of God written in the heart, revealed in his Word. Therefore Christians must be on their guard; they must "not believe every spirit, but try the spirits, whether they be of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world." This conflict of opinions sometimes produces painful doubts and uncertainties; it is one of the trials of the Christian life.
4. And of growth in grace. God will reveal the truth to the babes in Christ. He will not leave the humble, faithful soul in darkness and perplexity. Only let a man earnestly pray for the grace of God; only let him strive daily to draw nearer to Christ, and to gain that inner knowledge of Christ Jesus the Lord, in comparison with which all things else are dross; and the light of the presence of Christ will surely dawn upon him, and in that light he will find a Guide to bring him to eternal life. For his is the glory now and to the day of eternity, and he is "able to save to the uttermost all who come to God by him."
1. "The fashion of this world passeth away." What country shall we belong to?—this dying world, or the eternal city?
2. The great day is at hand; we must look forward to it. We must prepare the way of the Lord; we must pray, "Thy kingdom come."
3. In the new earth righteousness dwelleth. Let us follow after righteousness; let us be diligent, "that we may be found in peace, blameless in his sight."
4. Let us study the Scriptures in faith and prayer, that we may grow in grace.
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
2 Peter 3:4
"The promise of his coming."
The principle which actuated these scoffers, leading them to irreligion and self-indulgence upon the ground that the promises and threats professing to emanate from Divine authority were unfulfilled, is the same principle which was embodied in the ancient proverb, "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil." It must be remembered that what is a promise to the loyal subject is a threat to the rebel. The second coming of Christ will be for the salvation of the righteous, but for the confusion of the impenitent offender.
I. THE MEANING OF THE PROMISE.
1. This is definite enough in itself, and has been and is firmly held by the whole Church. A sincere belief in the first advent of the Son of God leads to a belief in his second advent, as plainly foretold both by our Lord and by his apostles.
2. But, though definite in itself, the promise of Christ's second coming is by no means definite in circumstances or in time. This is apparent from the diversity of view prevailing upon these points in many periods of the Church's history. How and when Christ shall come are matters of secondary interest as compared with the fact that he shall come.
II. THE GIVER OF Tile PROMISE. The value of any promise depends upon the character of him by whom it is given, and not upon his character only, but also upon his ability and resources. Now, the promise in question has been given by a Promiser who is in the highest degree faithful and powerful, even by him who is eternal and unfailing Truth. The voice has been that of the Son, of the inspired prophets and apostles; but the counsel declared has been the counsel of the all-wise God.
III. THE DELAY IN THE FULFILMENT OF THE PROMISE. No doubt there has been a constant coming of the Lord Christ by his Spirit, both in judgment and rebuke, and also in mercy and deliverance. Yet the coming is still in the future. If the primitive Christians were in some instances impatient because their glowing hopes were not fulfilled, what wonder if, now and again—as for example in times of depression and in times of persecution—the hearts of the faithful have called for the appearance of the Redeemer, in fervent prayer, in ardent song! Can we be surprised if it has sometimes been lost sight of, that "with God one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day"?
IV. THE ABUSE OF THIS DELAY BY MOCKERS AND SCOFFERS. From the first such persons have asked," Where is the promise?" Unbelief has taken the form of ridicule. And, even worse, the fear of judgment has been to some extent cast off. Like the servants who, finding that their lord delayed his coming, began to eat, drink, and be drunken, and to abuse their fellow-servants, so the scoffers have flung aside every restraint, have spurned every check, and have abandoned themselves to the indulgence of their carnal lusts.
V. THE POWER AND INSPIRATION OF THE PROMISE. That which to one is the occasion of scoffing is to another the inducement to every Christian virtue. Faith rests upon the first advent; Hope stretches forth her hands towards the second advent. There may be mentioned among the fruits of this blessed promise:
1. Patient endurance of privations and sufferings which are known to be temporary.
2. Faithful fulfillment of the appointed stewardship, in preparation for the approaching account.
3. Quiet disregard of all the scoffs and mockeries of unbelievers - J.R.T.
2 Peter 3:8
The Eternal's independence of time.
In all likelihood this sublime statement was suggested by the language of the ninetieth psalm, "A thousand years in thy sight are as yesterday when it is past." It is a glorious conception of the Divine greatness which is in this passage brought before our minds; whilst at the same time it has a practical bearing of a most valuable character upon the conduct of human life.
I. THE GREAT TRUTH ASSERTED. Time is for man, not for God. We human beings have but a few years allotted to us as the period of earthly work; within the scant limits of those years we must do what we have power to do, or we must leave it for ever undone. This is not so with the Eternal He has the vast range of all human history in which to carry out his designs. The dispensations follow one another with no haste. The ages are the province within which God works.
II. THE APPLICATION OF THIS TRUTH TO IMPENITENT SINNERS. It cannot be otherwise than that those who defy God's authority should be affected by the deliberation with which the Almighty Ruler conducts his government.
1. Judgment deferred is made an excuse for perseverance in sin. If the Divine King were under the same restrictions as to time by which an earthly ruler is governed, the case would be otherwise. As it is, the withholding of retribution is misconceived. Yet judgment deferred is, in truth, not judgment reversed, but judgment delayed.
2. If the matter be regarded from the Divine side, another lesson comes to light. Judgment delayed is an opportunity for repentance. Long-suffering on God's part has this merciful significance. Time may teach when other instructors are disregarded; forbearance may be fruitful even when threatening is barren.
III. THE APPLICATION OF THIS TRUTH TO THE TRIED AND TEMPTED PEOPLE OF GOD. Sometimes deliverance deferred is made a ground for fear that deliverance may never come. But the Christian is appointed to learn that deliverance deferred is only deliverance delayed. The day of disappointment, of persecution, of seeming desertion, may appear to the afflicted like a year; the year may appear to be an age. But if the matter be regarded from the Divine side—as our text invites us to regard it—what a change comes over it! The distinction between a longer and a shorter period now almost vanishes. "What of the night? The morning cometh; and also the night." The rescue is near; the daybreak has already begun. Interposition is to be measured, not by years or by centuries, but by Divine purposes and promises.
APPLICATION. These considerations should check the arrogance of scoffers and unbelievers; and should sustain the faith, the courage, and the hope of the Church militant - J.R.T.
2 Peter 3:13
The abode of righteousness.
If the catastrophe which the apostle describes in the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth verses stood alone, it might well fill the mind of the believing reader with foreboding and with awe, and paralyze all his energies. But the inspired writer looks beyond the scenes of dissolution and destruction to the fair and beautiful visions which become clear to the eye of faith when enlightened with a heavenly ray.
I. THE SUBSTANCE OF THE CHRISTIAN'S EXPECTATIONS. Science sometimes foretells with some definiteness the future of the material universe, that is, so far as dissolution is concerned. According to a universal law of rhythm—so we are told—this earth shall be dissipated into atoms. But little is said upon scientific grounds of any process of reconstruction. Now, it is admitted that Scripture goes into no details with regard to the future. But, at the same time, whilst admitting the perishableness of all created things, revelation passes beyond the epoch of destruction, and assures us that what seems the end is not the end of all things. The old will certainly decay, but only to give place to the new. How this reconstitution is to be effected, we know not; yet that it shall be brought to pass is assured in the promise of "new heavens and a new earth."
II. THE MORAL CHARACTER OF THE CHRISTIAN'S EXPECTATION, If there is vagueness as to what is material, nothing could be more explicit than so much of the revelation as relates to the spiritual. It matters very little what are the visible and tangible accompaniments of a future state, if only its ethical character be satisfactorily determined. And this is done in the language, "wherein dwelleth righteousness." In such a revelation as this the judgment and conscience can peacefully rest. The contrast between the prevalence of unrighteousness on this earth, and the reign of righteousness in the reconstructed world, is striking in itself, and it furnishes a true satisfaction to the mind which by reason alone cannot confidently anticipate a change so blessed.
III. THE DIVINE BASIS OF THE CHRISTIAN'S EXPECTATION. This is no surmise of sagacity; it is no poetic dream. Our anticipation is "according to God's promise." Here is the all-sufficient justification. Building upon the assurances of him who cannot lie, we secure a firm foundation for our faith and hope. We know that what he has promised he is able to perform. In the region in question all created might is powerless; if the result is to be brought to pass, it must be by the exercise of omnipotence itself.
IV. THE PREPARATION FOR THE FULFILMENT or THE CHRISTIAN'S EXPECTATION. If we "look for" such a glorious future as these words suggest, our attitude must be other than mere hope. We shall cherish fortitude amidst ills that must soon pass away; we shall cultivate that habit of righteousness which shall be congenial to the state which we anticipate; and we shall seek that harmony with the Divine will that shall make us truly and for ever at home in every world of God - J.R.T.
2 Peter 3:14
Where our versions say, "Be diligent! ' or "Give diligence!" the original says, "Hasten!" Yet our word, implying choice, value, love, seems appropriate as a rendering of the Greek. Let the traveler speed him with diligence on his journey; let the ploughman hasten to furrow all the acres of his field; let the sailor diligently take advantage of every favourable wind, and beat to windward when need be, that he may reach the haven where he fain would be. And let the Christian, in like manner, be diligent in his Christian calling, ministry, and life.
I. THE SPHERE OF CHRISTIAN DILIGENCE.
1. Properly considered, this includes the whole life. There is no department of our lawful activity where negligence, remissness, indolence, are allowable. The boy in his school-work, the woman in her household, the man in his profession,—all are called to diligence.
2. Diligence is especially important in the achievement of Christian character. E.g., in the study of God's Word, in meditation upon Christ's gospel, in imitating Christ's example, in the use of all the means of grace. It is thus that we hope to realize the noble aim before us, to reach the stature of the perfect man in Christ. Such an aim can only be achieved by assiduity and perseverance.
3. Diligence should distinguish the efforts put forth to promote the welfare of our fellow-men. In all walks of Christian philanthropy and usefulness there is a loud call for something better than a languid interest or a fitful zeal.
II. THE METHODS OF CHRISTIAN DILIGENCE. Good things are worth seeking, and for the most part are not to be had without seeking. The following may be acted upon as rules justified by practical experience.
1. Study the biographies of zealous, successful, useful servants of God.
2. Ponder the searching and stirring maxims of the wise—especially those recorded in the Book of Proverbs.
3. Form seriously and deliberately, good resolutions for the conduct of life.
4. Pray, especially against the besetting sin (if such it be) of sloth.
5. And with prayer conjoin watchfulness, lest constantly recurring temptation to indolence prevail.
III. THE MOTIVES TO CHRISTIAN DILIGENCE.
1. Foremost among these must be placed the influence of Christ's love. What can be a stronger impulse in the mind of a true friend of Jesus than a clear understanding of the Saviour's sacrifice, and a warm response of affection and gratitude evoked by the love, pity, and self-denial of Immanuel? How can a friend of Jesus stand beneath his Master's cross, listen to his Master's dying groan, and then be indifferent and remiss in doing that Master's will?
2. The wish to resemble Christ will lead to diligence in the service of God. When we remember those words which revealed our Saviour's consecration, "I must work the works of him that sent me;" "How am I straitened until it [the baptism] be accomplished?" when we remember that it is recorded of him that he "had no leisure so much as to eat;"—how can we remain or become supine in the fulfillment of our life-mission?
"Our Master all the work hath done
He asks of us to-day;
Sharing his service, every one
Share too his Sonship may."
3. Be diligent in preparation for Christ's return. He will require an account from every one of his servants—the trustees of his precious gifts. Then shall the diligent, the faithful, be rewarded, and have praise of God. "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might."—J.R.T.
2 Peter 3:15
When the religion of Christ was first promulgated, there was on the part of many who embraced it an impatience with the state of things in the world, and an expectation of the end of the age and of the speedy return of the Saviour, for the deliverance of his people and the destruction of his foes. Both Paul and Peter found it necessary to restrain the impatience and to check the enthusiastic anticipations of their converts, and to impress upon them the marvelous forbearance of God. They aimed at showing that it was benevolence which chiefly prompted the manifestation of Divine long-suffering.
I. THE NATURE OF DIVINE LONG-SUFFERING. We know something of human patience and forbearance, and we have all been again and again indebted to these qualities for our opportunities of happiness and usefulness, But Divine long-suffering transcends all that has been displayed by men.
1. Long-suffering is different from mere goodness and bounty, i.e. the disposition to bestow benefits upon the needy and dependent.
2. And from pity or compassion, which is a sentiment of commiseration towards the wretched and helpless.
3. And at the same time it is, on the other hand, different from indifference to the evil conduct which is observed in men.
4. It is a kind of mercy. It involves a holy Superior and an offending subject. It is an emotion of the heart which prompts to the restraint of indignation; a principle of action which averts and withholds wrath and penalty, although these be abundantly deserved. God, in the exercise of long-suffering, beat's with the sinners whom he might justly doom, gives further opportunity for repentance, and waits for its signs.
II. THE OCCASION FOR DIVINE LONG-SUFFERING.
1. The sins of mankind have given occasion for the exercise of this grace upon the vastest scale. Scripture history abounds with instances of God's forbearance; e.g., in the time of Noah; when Israel rebelled in the wilderness; and when Israel afterwards so largely apostatized, etc. So has it been in the history of every nation, and in the history of the human race.
2. The sins of individual unbelievers and transgressors call for the forbearance of a gracious God. The young who live viciously and irreligiously, those in afterlife who forget God and give themselves to the pursuit of worldly aims, continue to live and to enjoy privileges only through the forbearance of Heaven.
3. The unfaithfulness of Christians is only tolerated by a long-suffering Lord. How otherwise could the frailties and infirmities which disfigure the religious life of multitudes be endured? If our God had not again and again borne with our imperfections, should we be still in the possession of opportunities and advantages so many and valuable?
III. THE MANIFESTATIONS OF DIVINE LONG-SUFFERING.
1. God refrains from judgment and condemnation.
2. God addresses faithful warnings, and summons to repentance as the clouds gather before the thunderstorm breaks. Expostulations are repeated: "How shall I give thee up?"
3. Promises and invitations are renewed.
4. Probation is extended, in order that further opportunity may be given for repentance. The mandate goes forth concerning the barren tree, "Let it alone this year also!"
IV. THE GRACIOUS INTENTION OF DIVINE LONG-SUFFERING. When the apostle writes, "is salvation," he means, "is intended to work salvation." God does not prolong our proving with a view to the increase of our guilt and chastisement, but for a purpose exactly opposed to this—in order, that is, that hardness may be melted down, that rebellion may cease and be followed by loyalty, that neglect and disregard of religion may give place to interest and to prayer, that the sinner may repent, the wanderer return, the careless be revived. The gift of Christ to man is the most glorious evidence of Divine long-suffering. This is a dispensation of mercy. To forbearance we owe our privileges, and to forbearance we shall be indebted for our final and everlasting salvation.
Great, indeed, is the guilt of those who despise and abuse the long-suffering of the Lord. Such there have ever been. "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil." But it is better that delay in judgment should be used as the opportunity of repentance, rather than that it should be abused as an excuse and an inducement for perseverance in sin - J.R.T.
2 Peter 3:18
The Apostle Paul is recorded to have enjoined his converts to "continue in the grace of God." And this is necessary to the Christian life, but it is not all that is necessary. To abide is not to be stationary. The Apostle Peter here instructs us that it is required of Christians that they not only continue in grace, but grow in grace.
I. THE DIVINE LAW OF SPIRITUAL GROWTH. It is well that the tree be planted in a rich and suitable soil; that there be room for its roots to strike forth as far as the most spreading of its goodly boughs; that it be by rivers of water, through whoso moisture it may be green; that the winds of heaven may freely rustle through its leafage, and may swing its lithe young branches to and fro. But to what end does the tree possess these advantages? Not that it may remain a tender sapling, not that having grown for a while it may be pollarded, or its growth so checked that it may remain a stunted deformity; but rather that, through all the rough yet kindly forces of nature, the tree may wax greater and stronger year by year; that its heart may be sound, its sap full flowing every spring; that it may "hang all its leafy banners out;" that its branches may give homes to the birds of the air, and shade to the beasts of the field; that its outline may be beautiful to the eye, and its fruit grateful to the taste. So is it the intention of God, and the duty of the Christian, that there should be spiritual growth. It is for those who dwell in the land of privilege, who enjoy the care of the heavenly Husbandman, upon whom are shed the soft influences of heaven, to profit by this fostering culture and these genial powers, to make constant and unmistakable progress in those graces which are the strength and beauty of the Christian life.
II. THE RESPECTS IN WHICH GROWTH IS TO TAKE PLACE. "The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree; he shall grow like the cedar in Lebanon." "Israel shall grow as the lilies." In such declarations the reference is evidently to spiritual progress.
1. In the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. By this expression we are to understand the grace of Christ as revealed, bestowed, and experienced. The grace in us is to be over against, in correspondence with, the grace which is in him. Christian character and excellences are the sign and the effect of spiritual participation in the favour of our Lord.
(1) In the number of Christian graces. These are enumerated in the first chapter of this Epistle. Let every reader ask himself—Am I possessed of the graces thus catalogued? or am I not painfully lacking in some one or more? Now, tile possession of one does not compensate the lack of another. There is room for supplying many deficiencies.
(2) In the strength of Christian graces. In degree every virtue is capable of development; and it is by exercise that the desired increase is to be attained. He who gives play and scope to his holy emotions shall find that they become purer and quicker. If righteous purposes and endeavours have room to act, they will gain in vigour and effectiveness.
(3) In the harmony of Christian graces. Symmetry of character is essential to moral perfection, as is physical symmetry to the perfection of bodily figure and features. Harmonious as well as vigorous development of the renewed nature should be the aim of all whose desire is to please God. Instances abound in which the possession of one excellence is presumed to compensate the absence of others. But to be bluntly honest and uncourteous, or to be discreet and untender; to be amiable but unable to resist evil influence,—is spiritual deformity. Whilst perfection is to be found in God alone, each follower of Christ aspires to grow up in all things unto him who is the Head. "Ye are complete in him." The tree which has been hindered from growing on one side fails in symmetry; it is the same with the disciple of Christ who has evidently failed in learning some of the Master's most essential lessons.
2. In the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul prayed, on behalf of the Colossians, that they might increase in the knowledge of God. And our Lord himself deemed this knowledge so important that he made it a petition of his great intercessory prayer that his disciples might "know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he had sent." Now, all human knowledge is susceptible of increase; and the Lord and Saviour in whom we trust is a theme, an object of knowledge, so vast as to be inexhaustible.
III. THE MEANS BY WHICH GROWTH IN GRACE IS ACHIEVED. As the plant needs soil, air, light, culture, in order that it may grow, as the body needs food and many and varied necessaries in order that the child may develop into the man, so are there conditions indispensable to spiritual progress. There it is for all who desire to advance in the Divine life, to discover and to use. The study of God's Word, the diligent attendance upon Church ordinances, constancy in prayer, faithfulness in work,—these are acknowledged "means of grace." The reading of biographies of great, good, and useful men may be mentioned as a subsidiary but valuable means to spiritual progress. And at the same time, it is important to observe and to avoid and strive against those hindrances to growth which in great variety beset us on every side, and by which very many have been injured, if not ruined.
IV. THE EXTENT AND LIMIT OF CHRISTIAN GROWTH. With regard to this world, such progress is intended to be lifelong. If growth be constant, it cannot matter to us at what precise stage of advance the earthly development comes to a close. Let death come when it may to the Christian who is making progress in Divine grace and knowledge, it cannot come inopportunely.
"It is not growing, like a tree,
In bulk, doth make man better be,
Or standing long an oak, three hundred year,
To fall a log at last, dry, bald, and sere;
A lily of a day
Is fairer far in May,
Although it fall and die that night—
It was the plant and flower of light.
In small proportions we just beauties see,
And in short measures life may perfect be."
Beyond this life, who can set a limit to such growth as is here inculcated? The scope is boundless and the opportunity is infinite - J.R.T.
HOMILIES BY U.R. THOMAS
2 Peter 3:1-61.3.9
The Divine commandment.
A careful study of this passage is necessary to a clear understanding of the apostle's meaning, and of the place of this urgent exhortation in his argument. For such a study it may be welt to gather up his teaching here round three points.
I. THE "WORD" OR "COMMANDMENT" HERE INTENDED. Concerning such we ask:
1. By whom is it proclaimed?
(1) "Spoken before by the holy prophets;" i.e., perhaps chiefly, though not solely, of the Old Testament. Forth-tellers as well as fore-tellers.
(2) "Your apostles;" i.e., those that brought you the gospel.
(3) "The Lord and Saviour." He is the Source; the prophets and apostles are but the channel.
2. How is it to be received?
(1) "Stir up your mind;" active intelligence.
(2) "Sincere" mind; unprejudiced intelligence.
(3) By way of "remembrance;" intelligence that recalls what has been revealed. Not a novelty, not a discovery.
3. What is it? The theme of both Epistles—Christ's coming.
II. THE OBJECTION OF MEN TO THIS "WORD" AND "COMMANDMENT."
1. What are the men who object? "Mockers with mockery." Not the troubled truth-seeker.
2. What is the spirit in which they object? "Walking after their own lusts." Strong unbridled desire is the explanation of their scornful unbelief.
3. What is the argument of this objection? "Where is the promise of his coming?" Not, where written? but, what has come of it? Since the fathers fell asleep it seems to lie like a dead letter.
III. THE THREEFOLD ANSWER TO THIS OBJECTION.
1. It arises from willful ignorance of history. There is the "Flood"—probably one among many, but the chief—of which tradition, science, the Bible, have much to say. And that Flood, and all coming destruction, is to be traced, not to a fortuitous concourse of atoms, but to "the Word of God."
2. It arises from fixing time as a condition of God's ways, as it is of man's. "One day," etc. Look at "the dial of the ages, not the horologe of time."
3. It arises from misreading the apparent tardiness of God. He is slow, but never late. What seems to us delay is not an interval of Divine neglect, but a period of Divine mercy, granting an opportunity for human "repentance."—U.R.T.
2 Peter 3:10-61.3.13
Destiny and duty.
This passage is woven to the preceding by a link so clear and close that there is no need for indicating it. But we proceed to notice—
I. THE CERTAINTY AND YET THE UNCERTAINTY OF THE PASSING AWAY OF THE PRESENT SYSTEM OF THINGS.
1. What will "pass away"? "Heavens;" i.e., firmament. "Elements;" not the forces we usually so name, because they include "fire," which is here the revolutionary force; but, according to Farrar and others, "the orbs of heaven."
2. How shall they "pass away"? "Dissolved," not destroyed. Fresh forms. Whether this be literal, as with the Flood, or wider and figurative, so as to include institutions, empires, and all that "the world" is to us, is an open question.
3. The certainty of all passing away. The fact is certain.
4. The uncertainty. The date is uncertain. "As a thief;" not as to wrongfulness, but unexpectedness. "At such an hour as ye think not is the true answer to all chronological theories about "the end."
II. THE GLORY OF THE FUTURE AFTER THAT STUPENDOUS EVENT HAS HAPPENED. It is not the catastrophe, or climax, but the prologue and dawn. It leads not to annihilation, but restoration and purification.
1. A new system of things. "New heavens and new earth." Fresh, in contrast to worn out. Scars and wounds all gone.
2. The true principle dominant in the new system—" righteousness." Probably not more material grandeur or loveliness than now, but pervaded with rectitude—man right with God, man right with man, man right with himself.
3. The permanence of this pervasive righteousness. Wherein "dwelleth." Not, as now and here, often an alien, frequently a stronger, at best a visitor; but the new system of things will be its home. That is
(1) its fitting,
(2) its happy,
(3) its permanent abode.
4. All this rests on a Divine "promise." This indicates
(1) God's pity;
(2) God's prescience;
(3) God's power.
The tones of this promise are manifold and harmonious, from Jonah down to Peter - U.R.T.
2 Peter 3:14-61.3.18
A tender concluding appeal.
In these words the apostle gets near, as a shepherd of souls tending the flock, to those whom he would bless.
I. lie MAKES THEIR DISCIPLINE A PLEA FOR REACHING A BLESSED IDEAL.
1. Their discipline. How much is involved in "these things"?
2. Their ideal. "Be found in peace, without spot, and blameless."
3. Their struggle. "Give diligence."
II. HE INDICATES THAT THE MYSTERY OF DELAYED JUDGMENT IS A MYSTERY OF DIVINE MERCY GIVING OPPORTUNITY FOR SALVATION.
1. This is taught by Paul.
2. This is affirmed again by Peter.
3. This is the clear teaching of Scripture, even though it has its things "hard to be understood."
III. HE WARNS THAT EVEN THE BEST MEANS OF BLESSING MAY BE PERVERTED TO HARM. The ignorant and unsteadfast wrest the Scriptures to their own destruction.
IV. HE SHOWS THE PERIL THAT COMES TO THE GOOD FROM EVIL MEN. "Carried away with the error of the wicked," etc.
1. Strong influence—"carried."
2. Great calamity—"fail."
V. HE PROCLAIMS THE METHOD AND HOPE OF TRUE SAFETY. "Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour." This is in harmony with his emphatic teaching: "Add to your faith virtue," etc.
VI. HE ASCRIBES PRAISE TO HIM WHO IS ITS RIGHTFUL OBJECT.
1. The glory is Christ's. "On his head are many crowns." Peter vies with Paul in passionate homage for his Lord.
2. The glory is Christ's now. Our obedience, our actual service, our praise, today.
3. The glory is Christ's for ever. There may be new systems of things, and these systems of surpassing grandeur; but his glory shall ever be the diadem on the very brow of the universe, the central sun amid all its constellations. For the moral evermore transcends the material. And he is for ever "the Lord our Righteousness."—U.R.T.
HOMILIES BY R. FINLAYSON
2 Peter 3:1-61.3.10
Fact of second coming, especially in its accompaniments.
I. AIM OF THE EPISTLE.
1. To stir them up by reminding them. "This is now, beloved, the second Epistle that I write unto you; and in both of them I stir up your sincere mind by putting you in remembrance." There is here the first of four designations of them as beloved in this chapter. It was already a second Epistle that he was writing to the same circle; not much time had elapsed since the writing of the First Epistle, which in all probability is that which has come down to us under that title. The aim of both Epistles was the same. It is expressed in accordance with language used in the first chapter of this Epistle. lie did not profess to be revealing to them new truths, but only to put them in remembrance of old truths. They had a sincere mind, i.e., open to the light. They would not therefore object to truths because they were old, or to their being re-stated, but would rather welcome being reminded of them, that they might be stirred up to a deeper sense of their importance.
2. To stir them up by reminding them of certain holy words. "That ye should remember the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and the commandment of the Lord and Saviour through your apostles." He first refers them to the words of the holy prophets, i.e., who wrote on holy themes, and under holy inspiration. He has specially in view the holy theme of the second coming. Their words spoken before had received striking, yet partial, fulfillment in the first coming; they would receive their complete fulfillment in the second coming. He also refers them to the commandment of the Lord and Saviour, than which surely nothing could be more binding. Christ first saves, and then commands: where is the teacher who is in that commanding position? He first teaches the fact of his second coming, and then he commands the corresponding life. "Watch therefore," says Christ: "for ye know not on what day your Lord cometh. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what watch the thief was coming, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken through. Therefore be ye also ready: for in an hour that ye think not the Son of man cometh." This commandment, having the highest authority, was delivered to them through their apostles, i.e., the apostles that had laboured among them. The chief of these thus echoed his Lord. "The day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night:… so then let us not sleep, as do the rest, but let us watch and be sober" (1 Thessalonians 5:2-52.5.7).
II. THE MOCKERS.
1. The time of their appearance. "Knowing this first, that in the last days mockers shall come with mockery." Peter refers to the advent of the mockers as of primary importance in its bearings. They were to come in the last of the days, by which we cannot understand simply the time immediately preceding the second advent. The last period is to be regarded as extending from the first advent to the second advent. During this period, as time went on, they were to come, and to come in character. In Hebrew style, it is said that the mockers were to come "with mockery"—with their mocking at holy things.
2. What they were to mock at. "Walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming?" What they were to say was to be determined, not by truth, nor by fact, but by prejudice, and by prejudice founded on their walking after their own lusts, i.e., their loose mode of life. In the first psalm those that "walk in the counsel of the ungodly" are next represented as "standing in the way of sinners," and then as "sitting in the seat of the scornful." So here those whose life cannot bear looking into, disliking the coming because it meant a check to them, are represented as saying, with an air of mocking triumph, "Where is the promise of his coming?" i.e., it has turned out to be vain and mendacious.
3. How they were to argue.
(1) Fact on which they were to base their argument. "For, from the day that the fathers fell asleep." By "the fathers" we are probably to understand the men of the first Christian generation. The promise was made to them, and they lived in hope of its being fulfilled in their day. But the day came when, without its being fulfilled, they fell asleep. There is an example here of the use of language from which there has been receding. Christians speak of their friends in Christ as falling asleep. The sentiment comes out in the word cemetery, which means "sleeping-place," with which we associate an awaking. The mockers, no longer in accord with Christianity, use Christian language. The fact on which they base their argument is not to be denied: the use which they made of it is taken up at 2 Peter 3:8.
(2) Argument drawn from uniformity. "All things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation." We are warranted in proceeding on the uniformity of nature—on the sun rising tomorrow as it has done today, and in days past. Nor is it surprising that scientific men should be more than ordinarily impressed with the fact of uniformity, by their researches into nature. Peter here prophesies that in the last days mockers would seek to turn the fact of uniformity against Christianity, and it has remarkably turned out as he prophesied. This is really the line that has been followed by many skeptics. They have said, "All things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation." On this ground Hume argued against miracles. "A miracle," he said, "is a violation of a law of nature: but the universal experience of ourselves, and of the whole human family, proves that the laws of nature are uniform, without exception." Strauss and his school have sought to establish, not merely the incredibility, but the impossibility, of miracles. Their argument bears against such a subversion of the present order of things as is connected with the second coming. They have thus unconsciously fulfilled prophecy.
III. CATASTROPHISM IS THE PAST. "For this they willfully forget, that there were heavens from of old, and an earth compacted out of water and amidst water, by the Word of God; by which means the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished." Peter, in putting his finger on catastrophism, refers to it as what they willfully forgot. It required an effort of their will to shut it out. The impression of the event, though it had taken place centuries before, had not died out. His reference to the Flood is introduced by a statement bearing on the way in which it was brought about. This is founded on the Mosaic account of creation. The first part of the statement refers to the bringing of the heavens into existence. There were heavens from of old, by the Word of God. This is the first thought of the Bible: "In the beginning God created the heaven." It did not exist from eternity, but was brought into existence by the creative word of God. The second part of the statement refers, not to the bringing of the earth into existence, but to its receiving its present form. An earth was compacted out of water, i.e., as material. The reference seems to be to the waters of chaos in the Mosaic record (Genesis 1:2). It was also compacted, not "amidst water," as it is unwarrantably in the Revised Version, but "by means of water," i.e., as the instrumental element. The reference seems to be to the gathering together of the waters into one place. Behind the water as material and instrumental element was the directing and potent Word of God. Having made this statement, Peter introduces the Flood as his answer to the mockers. The connecting words are," by which means." The use of the plural creates a difficulty. The most probable solution is that the reference is to the water and the Word of God. This is favoured by the latter being carried forward in the next verse. Water, let loose by God, flooded the then world, i.e., not the earth simply, but the earth as supporting its then inhabitants. There was catastrophism of the most impressive nature. There was (let the mockers note it) a mighty disturbance of uniformity. The world that then was perished.
IV. CATASTROPHISM IN THE FUTURE. "But the heavens that now are, and the earth, by the same word have been stored up for fire, being reserved against the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men." There is suggestion, not of their ceasing to be heavens and earth, but rather of there being still heavens and earth, only not such as we now see them. The Word of God has fixed the destiny of the new heavens and earth. There is catastrophism in store for them. They are here represented as stored up for fire. The agency is not far to seek, being in the heart of the earth. There is suggestion of the fire being needed for the new heavens and earth on account of the ungodly men that have defiled them. For their God-forgetting, God-defying life, they—when the appointed day comes—are to be adjudged to destruction. The heavens and earth that they have defiled are to be subjected, not to water (which is forbidden by promise), but to an agency more penetrative and subduing. The same Word that carried out the catastrophism of water is to carry out the catastrophism of fire.
V. THE DIVINE MODE OF RECKONING. "But forget not this one thing, beloved, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." This is Peter's answer to the suggestion in the argument of the mockers, "From the day that the fathers fell asleep." By addressing his readers as "beloved," he bespeaks their attention. He bespeaks their attention to a thing which they were in danger of forgetting. He bespeaks their attention to a thing which was principally to be considered. "Forget not this one thing." The language in which this one thing is expressed is an extension of what is found in Psalms 90:4, both sides being presented here. Peter teaches that our ideas of short and long in time are not to be applied to God's mode of reckoning. A day is what is short with us. We think of there being many, many days of life. But a day may be long with God. If we think of the days of creation, how much was crowded into each of them! If we think of the day on which the Flood came, how much characterized it! If we think of the last day of our Lord's Passion, how much affecting human history, and affecting angelic history, and affecting even God himself, was crowded into it! We are taught to think of a nation being born in a day. So we do not need to think of more than a day as required for the events that are to be included in the second coming. On the other hand, a thousand years is what is long with us. Men used to think of that as the limit of human life. But we cannot now think of our living a hundred years. But a thousand years may be a short time with God. "A thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night." There was a waiting for thousands of years before the arrival of man on the earth; and if thousands of years have to elapse before the winding up of human history, in the sure and effectual evolving of his purpose that may not be long to God.
VI. EXPLANATION OF SEEMING DELAY. "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness; but is long-suffering to you-ward, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." When a promise is made for a specified time, and is not fulfilled at that time, there is real delay there, the explanation of which may be found to be slackness. Such slackness cannot be attributed to God. There is apparent delay, and some, in the disappointment of their expectation, and in the working of unbelief, may say it is slackness; but that cannot be justified. It is said that "the Judge is before the door," which may be construed as an immediate coming. But the real meaning is that Christ is ready for judgment. Why, then, does he not come? The answer is that things are not ready for his coming. Christ's people are charged with making things ready for his coming, so far as they themselves are concerned, and so far as others are concerned; and they have not things in sufficient readiness. It is not, then, that God is slack concerning his promise, as though he were not sufficiently interested; it is, says Peter, that he is long-suffering to you-ward. He is bearing with Christian people in their dereliction of duty, in their slackness in performing their part. And not merely they, hat others, arc thought of by God. He does not wish that any should perish. It is not according to his heart that even one whom he has created, and for whom Christ has died, should remain in misery. This is a thought Which comes out strongly in the prophecy of Ezekiel. "Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die, saith the Lord God? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God." "Say unto them [that pine away in their sins], As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked." The positive side of the Divine wish is that all should come to repentance. He has not an interest merely in some, but in all. None can be happy in sin; it can only be pining away, as the prophet puts it. None can be happy without repentance, i.e., change of mind; but this change of mind he wishes for all. And it is not a mere wish, but it is a wish that has been manifested in the cross of Christ; and, in the operations of the Spirit, and in the workings of Providence, this is the end which is sought. Let us all respond, then, to the Divine wish which accompanies the Divine long-suffering.
VII. THE COMING CHARACTERIZED. "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up." By "the day of the Lord" we are to understand the day of Christ's glorious manifestation. The interest of that day will all center round his appearance and judicial action. The coming of the day is regarded with certainty. In the original "will come" has the emphatic position: "Will come the day of the Lord." Whether our thoughts are contrary to it, or whether we have not thoughts about it at all, it will come. Peter touches on the suddenness of the coming, in this echoing the Master, as Paul also did: "Will come the day of the Lord as a thief." He more than touches on an awe-inspiring association of the coming. There will be a general conflagration. It was said in prophecy that the heavens shall vanish away like smoke. Here it is said that they shall pass away with a great noise. This is to be explained by the clause which follows, which is to be taken with it. The elements, i.e., of which the heavens are composed, shall be dissolved with fire. The noise, then, is the rushing sound of the destroying fire, or the consequent crash. The conflagration is to embrace the earth: "The earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up." The works must be understood as including man's works. Some works long outlive the workers. It is hoped that some works of art may survive for centuries. But, however long they survive, they will at last be burnt up. That teaches us that there is what is higher than art. And we need not wonder at this being the destiny of man's works on earth, when it is to be the destiny of even God's works on earth. Lift up your eyes to the heavens in the stillness of night, or look upon the earth beneath bathed in the sun-light of a summer day: can it be that catastrophism shall reign wherever your eyes rest? can it be that the wild, all-devouring element of fire shall lay hold on all this material fabric? So prophecy tells us that it will be. It will come, the day of general conflagration - R.F.
2 Peter 3:11-61.3.18
Duty in view of second coming.
I. REFERENCE TO GOD IN OUR CONDUCT. "Seeing that these things are thus all to be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy living and godliness?" The catastrophe that is to accompany the second coming is here put down in time present in the original, to raise an impression of its certainty: "Seeing that these things are thus all dissolved." If the conclusions of some scientific men are to be accepted, this is literally true, inasmuch as they say that there are processes going on which must end in the material fabric being worn out. It is in the condition of a clock that, if not wound up, must run out. The catastrophe thus vividly presented is here made a reason for our attending to ourselves. "What manner of persons," Peter exclaims, "ought ye to be in all holy living and godliness?" Holy living is the living of those who are set apart to the service of a holy God. Godliness points to this living as based on our relation to God. By the use of the plural in the original there is brought out the manifold workings and forms of a godly life. There is the feeling of dependence on God and of fear toward him, desire for the blessing from God and trust in him for the blessing, the feeling of love toward God for what he is and of gratitude toward him for his mercies, knowledge of God's will and the resolution to do his will,—all this finding expression in worship, self-command, and sacrifice for others.
II. ATTITUDE TOWARD THE SECOND COMING. "Looking for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God." This is the only instance of the day being called "the day of God." We must think of the Father ordering the day and its events, that the Son after his mysterious Passion may be magnified. "As the Father raiseth the dead and quickeneth them, even so the Son also quickeneth whom he will. For neither doth the Father judge any man, but he hath given all judgment unto the Son; that all may honour the Son, even as they honour the Father." Our attitude to the day of God is to be that of expectancy. We are to look for its coming or presence. We are to allow it to dwell in our minds, so as to call forth our earnest desire after it. The first Christians looked for it to come in their day. They were nearer the Divine intention than those who, because it may not be for thousands of years, do not think of it at all. But our attitude is also to be that of active preparation. The proper translation is neither "haste unto" nor "earnestly desire," but "hasten on." The idea of hastening on the coming is unusual; but it is remarkable that it is elsewhere expressed by Peter. "Repent ye therefore," he said to the assembly in Solomon's porch, "and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that so there may come seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord; and that he may send the Christ who hath been appointed for you, even Jesus: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things." It is thus Petrine and scriptural to think of the coming as an event which may be accelerated by our repentance and prayers and efforts for the diffusion of the gospel.
III. WHAT IS NECESSITATED BY THE SECOND COMING OUTWARDLY. "By reason of which the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat." It is said that the heavens are not clean in God's sight. The idea here is that even the heavens have been defiled, by reason of those who have lived under them, and upon the earth. Once Christ did not shrink from dwelling on this earth, being on his saving mission; but when he is to come in his judicial character, he is to be a consuming fire, at his approach, even to material things. It is said in Revelation 20:11, that from the face of him that sat upon the great white throne the earth and the heaven fled away, and there was found no place for them. So here it is taught that even the heavenly world is to be subjected to fire, not merely to the breaking up of its order, but even to the melting of its elements.
IV. WHAT IS LOOKED FOR AT THE SECOND COMING OUTWARDLY. "But, according to his promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.'' This is in accordance with Revelation 21:1, "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away." The most striking promise is in Isaiah 65:17, "For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered." The newness does not necessarily refer to the materials of which the present heavens and earth are Composed; these may be transformed so as to constitute new heavens and earth, just as our bodies are to be transformed so as to constitute new bodies. The new heavens and new earth are to correspond to newness of character—a correspondence of the outward to the inward never to be disturbed. It is said in Isaiah 66:22, "For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I shall make, shall remain before me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain." The expression of the idea here is, "wherein dwelleth righteousness"—has its permanent abode, from which it will never take flight. It will be a world where there is no superstition or infidelity, where there is a correct, bright conception of what God is, and a due appreciation of the work of Christ. It will be a world where there is nothing to interfere with social well-being, where jealousies and antipathies are unknown. "The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent's meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord! Is not, then, the institution of this order of things to be much thought of by us, and to be earnestly desired? We may regret that much that is beautiful in the present order of things is to vanish. Shall we never again look upon that beautiful sky, those beautiful landscapes, the beautiful flowers? But there is ample compensation in the higher beauty to which the present is to give place. When we have got the glorious resurrection-body, there will be no regret that we have left the present body behind. So when we see the new heavens and the new earth, there will be no regret that the former things have passed away. In their higher forms they will have a greater power of lifting the soul to God. The teaching of Peter regarding the heavens and earth agrees with what Paul teaches in the eighth of Romans, "For the creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but by reason of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God." Peter emphasizes fire as the liberating element; Paul simply notes the liberation. Peter, again, thinks of a fit abode for righteousness; Paul thinks of an abode that shadows forth the liberty of the glory of the children of God. There is use in looking forward to new heavens and a new earth. We feel that the present arrangement is not independent of God. He made it, and he can alter it. He can make a world suitable to a probationary state, and a world suitable to a state of attained righteousness, He can make a world suitable for his people in their present imperfect state, and a world suitable to them when he puts glory on them.
V. PERSONAL CONCERNS AT THE SECOND COMING. "Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for these things, give diligence that ye may be found in peace, without spot and blameless in his sight." We look for a great catastrophe at the end of time as that which has been certainly foretold. We do not look for that alone, but for that as introducing a great reconstruction in the production of new heavens and earth. This is connected with our seeing God on the day formerly referred to. Our personal anxiety must be to be found in peace on that occasion—to have God as our Friend, so that the catastrophe shall not reach us, and so that the new heavens and new earth shall be for our blessed and eternal abode. We can only expect this consummation by our being without spot and blameless. Spots and blemishes attract the fire of Divine judgment. This very earth and even the heavens have to be subjected to fire because they have been connected with man's sin. Let us not think, then, that we can stand in God's sight with hearts defiled. We must give diligence to have all spots and blemishes removed from us, in the use of the means of grace, in a constant recourse to the blood of Christ, in a constant endeavour to conform our life to the Divine will.
VI. INTERPRETATION OF PRESENT DELAY. "And account that the long-suffering of our Lord is salvation." In explanation of the delay of the second coming, it was said formerly that "the Lord is not slack concerning his promise, but is long-suffering." Here long-suffering is asserted of our Lord, apparently the Lord Jesus Christ, as the absolute Manifestation of the disposition of the Father. Here also there is connected with long-suffering its end, viz. salvation. Christ makes to us the offer of salvation; but he does not reject us so soon as we refuse his offer. He would teach us even from our experience of the bitterness of sin, he would disabuse our minds of false ideas of life, he would make us tired of a life of sin, he would make us turn in desire to a life of holiness. He has no quarter for sin; but he has patience for the sinner, he heaps mercies upon him; there is the continual mercy that he is not treated according to his desert. Thus by his continual goodness would he lead us to repentance, by his long-suffering he would compass our salvation, by his gentleness he would make us great. But for patience extended over years, Paul would never have lived to be a preacher of righteousness, and John Bunyan would never have lived to write the 'Pilgrim's Progress.' And so it is with the race as a whole. The offer of salvation has yet to be made to all. And even when the offer has been made, means have to be used to secure the acceptance of salvation. Therefore it is that the coming is delayed. Let us not, then, misinterpret the delay; let us not mistake what is long-suffering for slackness in promising, or indifference to sin.
VII. REFERENCE TO THE WRITINGS OF PAUL. "Even as our beloved brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given to him, wrote unto you; as also in all his Epistles, speaking in them of these things; wherein are some things hard to be understood, which the ignorant and unsteadfast wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction." Peter refers to Paul by whom, on one occasion, he had been withstood, as his beloved brother, i.e., not ministerial associate, but brother to the readers and to himself alike, and alike dear to them. He also recognizes him as possessing a wisdom which was not his own. Paul had written to the same circle on the subject of the coming. If we think of the Asiatic circle, we turn to the Epistle to the Ephesians. In it the nearest approach to what Peter has been saying is to be found in Ephesians 5:27, "That he might present the Church to himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." When Peter passes to other Epistles, we at once think of the Epistles to the Thessalonians. In these Paul expressly treats of delay in the second coming, and points out the attitude to be taken up. And this naturally suggests "some things hard to be understood." What he had in his mind was probably the revelation of the man of sin. Of other things hard to be understood in Paul's Epistles we may particularize the gathering up of all things in Christ, the doctrine of election especially as set forth in the ninth chapter of Romans, and the filling up of that which is lacking in the sufferings of Christ in Colossians. Peter notes the bad use made of these things hard to be understood, in common with other Scriptures, by the ignorant and unsteadfast, i.e., those who had not the essentials of Christian instruction, and did not hold to the Christian position once taken up by them. They "wrested them" as by a hand-screw, i.e., from their natural meaning to their own destruction. There is no support here to the Roman Catholic idea of withholding the Bible from the people. Because Scriptures, especially difficult Scriptures, are abused by the ignorant and unsteadfast, that is no argument against the good use of them by those who are exhorted in this same chapter to "remember the words spoken before by the holy prophets, and the commandment of the Lord and Saviour through the apostles." Let us, even when we (in company with Peter) do not thoroughly understand, humbly seek to get profit.
VIII. CAUTION. "Ye therefore, beloved, knowing these things beforehand, beware lest, being carried away with the error of the wicked, ye fall from your own steadfastness.'' What they knew beforehand was what Paul and Peter said about the second coming. The conclusion of the verse points especially to the foretold appearance of errorists before the coming. These were condemned by their lawless conduct. Let them not, then, as they valued his love in the gospel, be carried away with their error. They had firm footing; let them not be carried off their feet. Let them not be like Barnabas, the companion of Paul, who, when at the coming of some from James to Antioch, the Jews dissembled with Peter, he also was carried off his feet with their dissimulation (Galatians 2:13).
IX. PARTING COUNSEL. "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." A tree is not a complete reality at once; but from a beginning there is progress toward an end. So we are not complete beings at once; but from a beginning there is a progress intended for us toward the end of our being. There may be growth in a wrong direction: what we are here exhorted to grow in is what of Divine assistance as sinners we need in order to come to the goal of our being. "Grow in grace," which is to be taken as an independent conception. If we are not growing under gracious influence, then we have only a name to live. Our faith grows as it becomes more ample and conquering. Our love grows as it becomes more fervent and diffusive. Our hope grows as it becomes more calm and bright. We are to grow in self-abasement, in power of work, in power of concentrating the mind on the truth, in power to bear hardships and injuries. We are to grow especially in that in which we find ourselves to be deficient. We are further exhorted to grow in "the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." This is in keeping with the great importance which is attached to knowledge in this Epistle. It is that by which we grow. The knowledge which is thus nutritive is knowledge of Christ as opening up and dispensing the treasures of Divine grace, and as showing in his own life what grace would bring out in ours. Let us, then, have a worthy conception of Christ in our minds; it is upon this that our growth in grace depends.
X. DOXOLOGY. "To him be the glory both now and for ever. Amen." It is to Christ that the adoration is offered. To him be glory now; for it is to the knowledge of him that we owe all of grace that we have. To him be glory for ever, literally, "to the day of the age"—the day on which eternity, as contrasted with time, begins, and which is never to be broken up, but is to be one long day. To him we are indebted, as for all that we have now, so for all that we hope to have hereafter. Thus does the Epistle end without the customary salutations, simply with the carrying forward of Christ into our eternal life. It becomes every one who has followed out the thought of the Epistle to add his devout "Amen."—R.F.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Peter 3". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent