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ways of God, who must maintain His judgment conformably to the principles of good and evil in His government; and who will in nowise deny Himself in dealing with the enemy of our souls—if the righteous were saved with difficulty, what would become of the sinner and the ungodly? To join them would not be the way to escape these difficulties. In suffering as a Christian, there was but one thing to do— to commit oneself to Him who watched over the judgment that He was executing. For, as it was His hand, one suffered according to His will. It was this that Christ did.
Observe here, that it is not only the government of God; but there is the expression “as unto a faithful Creator." The Spirit of God moves in this sphere. It is the relationship of God with this world, and the soul knows Him as the one who created it, and who does not forsake the work of His hands. This is Jewish ground; God known in His connection with the first Creation. Trust in Him is founded on Christ; but God is known in His ways with this world, and with us in our pilgrimage here below, where He governs, and where He judges Christians as He will judge all others.
Chap. v. The Apostle returns to Christian details. He exhorts the elders- himself an elder; for it appears that, , among the Jews, this title was rather characteristic than official. (Compare ver. 5.) He exhorts them to feed the flock of God. The Apostle designates himself as one who had been a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and who was to be a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed. It was the function of the twelve to be witnesses of the life of Christ (John xv.), as it was that of the Holy Ghost to testify of his heavenly glory. Peter places himself at the two ends of the Lord's history, and leaves the interval devoid of all except hope, and the pilgrimage towards an end. He had seen the sufferings of Christ; he was to share His glory when He should be revealed. It is a Christ on the ground of faith who puts Himself in relation with the Jews. During His life on earth, He was in the midst of the Jews, although suffering there and rejected. When He shall appear, He will will again be in relation with the earth and with that nation.
Paul speaks differently, while, at the same time, confirming these truths. He only knew the Lord after His exaltation; he is not a witness of His sufferings; but he seeks for the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings. Paul's heart is bound to Christ while He is in Heaven, as united to Him above; and, although he desires the Lord's appearing, for the restitution of all things, he rejoices to know that he shall go with joy to meet Him, and shall return with Him when He is revealed from Heaven.
The elders were to feed the flock of God with a ready mind, and not as by constraint, nor for gain, nor as governing an inheritance of their own, but as ensamples to the Aock. Loving care was to be lavished upon it, for the sake of Christ, the chief Shepherd, with a view to the good of souls. Moreover, it was the flock of God which they were to feed. What a solemn as well as sweet thought! How impossible for any one to entertain the notion of its being his flock, if he has laid hold of the thought that it is the flock of God, and that God allows us to feed it.
We may observe that the heart of the blessed Apostle is where the Lord had placed it. “Feed my sheep," was the expression of the Lord's perfect grace towards Peter, when He was leading him to the humiliating, but salutary, confession, that it needed the eye of God to see that His weak disciple loved Him. At the moment that He convinced him of his utter nothingness, He entrusted to him that which was dearest to Himself.
Thus we see here that it is the Apostle's care, the desire of the heart, that they should feed the flock. Here, as elsewhere, he does not go beyond the Lord's appearing. It is at that period that the ways of God in government-of which the Jews were the earthly centre -- shall be fully manifested. Then shall the crown of of glory be presented to him that has been faithful, that has satisfied the Chief Shepherd's heart.
The young were to submit themselves to those who were older, and all to one another. All were to be clothed with humility: for God resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble. These are still the principles of His government. Under His hand, they were there
fore to humble themselves; they should be exalted in due time. This was to commit themselves to God. He knew what was needful. He who loved them would exalt them at the right time. He cared for them; they were to rest on Him, commit all their cares to Him.
On the other hand, they were to be sober and vigilant, because the adversary sought to devour them. Here whatever may be his wiles, however he may lie in wait for Christians-it is in the character of a roaring lion, one who excites open persecution, that the Apostle presents him. They were to resist him, stedfast in the faith. Everywhere the same afflictions were found. Nevertheless, the God of all grace is the Christian's confidence. He has called us to participate in His eternal glory. The Apostle's desire for them is, that, after they had suffered for a time, the God of grace should make them perfect, complete; should stablish and strengthen them, building up their hearts on the foundation of an assurance that cannot be shaken. To Him, he adds, be glory and dominion.
We see that the Christians to whom he wrote were suffering, and that the Apostle explained these sufferings on the principles of the divine government, with regard especially to the relation of Christians with God, as being His house; whether those sufferings were for righteousness' sake, or for the name of the Lord. It was but for a time. The Christian's hope was elsewhere; Christian patience was well-pleasing to God. It was their glory, if it was for the name of Christ. Besides which, God judged His house, and watched over His people.
The Second Epistle of Peter is even more simple than the first. Like those of Jude and John, it is written essentially with a view to the seducers, who, with large promises of liberty, beguiled souls into sin and licentiousness—denying the coming of Christ, and, in fact, disowning all #is rights over them. This epistle admonishes the same Christians, to whom the first was written, pointing out the characteristic features of these false teachers; denouncing them with the utmost energy; explaining the long-sufferance of God, and announcing a judgment which, like His patience, would befit the majesty of Him who was to execute it.
But before giving these warnings, which begin with chap. ii., the Apostle exhorts Christians to make their own calling and election sure-not evidently in the heart of God, but as a fact in their own hearts, and in practical life, by walking in such a manner as not to stumble, so that testimony to their portion in Christ should be always evident, and an abundant entrance be ministered to them.
These exhortations are founded, 1st, on that which is already given to Christians; 2ndly, on that which is future-namely, the manifestation of the glory of the Kingdom. In touching upon this last subject, He indicates a still more excellent portion--the bright Morning Star, the heavenly Christ Himself, and our association with Him before He appears as the Sun of Righteousness; 3rdly, we shall see that the warnings are founded also on another basis-namely, the dissolution of the heavens and the earth, proving the instability of all that unbelief rested upon, and furnishing, for the same reason, a solemn warning to the saints to induce them to walk in holiness.
The Apostle describes his brethren as having obtained the same precious faith as himself, through the faithfulness of Gode to the promises made to the fathers, for that surely is the force of the word righteousness in this place. The faithfulness of the God of Israel had bestowed on His people this faith (that is to say, Christianity), which was so precious to them.
Faith here is the portion we have now in the things that God gives, which in Christianity are revealed as truths, while the things promised are not yet come.
It was in this way that the believing Jews were to possess the Messiah, and all that God gave in Him—as the Lord had said, " Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. There are many mansions in my Father's house; I go to prepare a place for you.” That is to say, “You do not visibly possess God; you enjoy Him by believing in Him. It is the same with respect to me: you will not possess me corporeally, but you shall enjoy all that is in me, righteousness, and all the promises of God by believing." It was thus that these believing Jews, to whom Peter wrote, possessed the Lord: they had received this precious faith.
He wishes them, as was his custom,“ Grace and peace,' adding, “ Through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” It is the knowledge of God and of Jesus, which is the centre and the support of faith, that which nourishes it, and guards it from the vain imaginings of seducers. But there is a living power in this knowledge
- a divine power in that which God is to believers—as He is revealed in this knowledge to faith; and this divine power as thus given to us—that is to say, made efficacious for us and in us all that pertains to life and godliness. By the realizing knowledge of it which we possess, it becomes available and efficacious for all that appertains to life and godliness-“ The knowledge of Him who has called us by glory and by virtue.”
Thus, we have here the call of God to pursue glory · This passage may be translated “of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ;" and perhaps ought to be so rendered, since it speaks of the faithfulness of God to His promise. The Epistle to the Hebrews dwells also on the fact, that Jesus is Jehovah.