The Epistles of St. Peter and St. Jude Preached and Explained Part 13

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V. 1. _Simon Peter, a servant and Apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have attained like faith with us, in the righteousness which our G.o.d gives, and our Saviour, Jesus Christ._ Such is the subscription and the superscription of this Epistle, that we may know who writes it, and to whom he writes it, even to those who have heard the word of G.o.d and abide in the faith. But what sort of a faith is this? In the righteousness (says he) which G.o.d gives. Thus he grants justification to faith alone,--as St. Paul, also, in Rom. i. In the Gospel is that righteousness revealed which avails with G.o.d, which comes from faith; as it stands written: "The just shall live by faith." Thus St. Peter would admonish them that they should be armed, and not let the doctrine of faith be torn away, which they have now apprehended and thoroughly known.

And to this end he adjoins, _in the righteousness which G.o.d gives_, that he may separate from it all human righteousness. For by faith alone are we righteous before G.o.d; wherefore faith is called a righteousness of G.o.d, for with the world it is of no account; yea, it is even condemned.

V. 2. _Grace and peace be multiplied among you, through the knowledge of G.o.d and Jesus Christ our Lord._ This is the greeting usually prefixed to the Epistles; and it amounts to this: I wish you, in place of my service for you, to increase in grace and peace, and grow ever richer and richer in the grace which comes from the knowledge of G.o.d and the Lord Christ,--that is, which none can have but he who has the knowledge of G.o.d and Jesus Christ.

The Apostles, and the prophets also, in the Scripture, are ever setting forth the knowledge of G.o.d. As Isaiah, xi: "They shall not injure or destroy in my whole mountain, for the land is filled with the knowledge of G.o.d, as the land is covered with the water." That is, so overflowingly shall the knowledge of G.o.d break forth, as when a ma.s.s of water gushes up and rushes forth and swallows up a whole land.

Thence shall such peace then follow, that no one shall wrong another, or make him suffer.

But this is not to know G.o.d, that you should believe as the Turks, Jews, and devils believe, that G.o.d has created all things, or even that Christ was born of a virgin, suffered, died, and rose again; but this is the true knowledge, whereby you hold and know that G.o.d is thy G.o.d and Christ is thy Christ, which the devil and the false christians could not believe. So that this knowledge is nothing else but a true christian faith; for if you thus know G.o.d and Christ, you will then confide in them with your whole heart, and trust them in good and ill, in life and death. Such trust evil consciences cannot possess. For they know no more of G.o.d, except that He is a G.o.d of St.

Peter and all the saints in heaven. But as their own G.o.d they know Him not, but hold Him as their task-master and angry judge. To have G.o.d, is to have all grace, all mercy, and all that man can well receive; to have Christ, is to have the Saviour and Mediator, who has brought us to say that G.o.d is ours, and has obtained all grace for us with Him. This also must be implied, that Christ is yours and you are His, then have you a true knowledge. A woman that lives unmarried can well say that a man is a husband, but this can she not say, that he is her husband. So may we all well say, this is _a_ G.o.d, but this we cannot say all of us, that He is _our_ G.o.d, for we cannot all trust upon Him nor comfort ourselves as His. To this knowledge belongs also that which the Scripture calls _faciem et vultum domini_, the face of the Lord, whereof the prophets speak much; who ever sees not the face of the Lord knows Him not, but sees only His back,--that is, an angry and ungracious G.o.d.

And here you perceive, that St. Peter does not set himself particularly to write of faith, since he had already done that sufficiently in the First Epistle, but would admonish believers that they should prove their faith by good works; for he would not have a faith without good works, nor works without faith, but faith first and good works on and from faith. Therefore, he says, now, also:

V. 3. _According as His divine power (whatever serves for life and G.o.dliness) is abundantly given us._ This is the first point, where Peter essays to describe what sort of blessings we have received through faith from G.o.d, even that to us (since we have known G.o.d by faith) there is given every kind of divine power. But what sort of power is it? It is such power as serves us toward life and G.o.dliness; that is, when we believe, then we attain this much, that G.o.d gives us the fullness of His power, which is so with and in us, that what we speak and work, it is not we that do it, but G.o.d Himself does it. He is strong, powerful, and almighty in us, though we even suffer and die, and are weak in the eyes of the world. So that there is no power nor ability in us if we have not this power of G.o.d.

But this power of G.o.d which is in us, St. Peter would not have so explained, as that we might make heaven and earth, and should work such miracles as G.o.d does; for how would we be advantaged by it? But we have the power of G.o.d within us so far as it is useful and necessary to us. Therefore, the Apostle adjoins, and says, _whatever serves for life and G.o.dliness_; that is, we have such power of G.o.d that by it we are eminently favored with grace to do good and to live forever.

_Through the knowledge of Him who hath called us._ Such power of G.o.d, and such rich grace, come from no other source but from this knowledge of G.o.d; for if you count Him for a G.o.d, He will deal also with you in all things as a G.o.d. So Paul also says, I. Cor. i., "Ye are in all points enriched in every kind of word and knowledge, even as the preaching of Christ is made powerful in you, so that ye have henceforth no want." This is now the greatest thing of all, the n.o.blest and most needful that G.o.d can give us,--so that we are not to receive all that is in heaven and on earth; for what would it help you, though you were able to go through fire and water, and do all kinds of wonderful works, and had not this? Many people who perform such miracles shall be condemned. But this is wonderful above all things else, that G.o.d gives us such power, that thereby all our sins are forgiven and blotted out, death, the devil and h.e.l.l, subdued and vanquished; so that we have an unhara.s.sed conscience and a happy heart, and fear for nothing.

_Through His glory and virtue._ How does that call come, whereby we are called of G.o.d? Thus: G.o.d has permitted the holy Gospel to go forth into the world and be made known, though no man had ever before striven for it, or sought or prayed for it, of Him. But ere man had ever thought of it, He has offered, bestowed, and beyond all measure richly shed forth such grace, so that He alone has the glory and the praise; and we ascribe to Him alone the virtue and the power, for it is not our work, but His only. Wherefore, since the calling is not of us, we should not exalt ourselves as though we had done it, but render to Him praise and thanksgiving, because He has given us the Gospel, and thereby granted us power and might against the devil, death, and all evil.

V. 4. _Whereby are given unto us exceeding precious and great promises._ St. Peter adjoins this, that he may explain the nature and method of faith. If we know Him as G.o.d, then do we have through faith that eternal life and divine power wherewith we subdue death and the devil. Though we see and grasp it not, yet is it promised to us. We really have it all, though it does not yet appear, but at the last day we shall see it present before us. Here it begins in faith; though we have it not in its fullness, we have yet the a.s.surance that we live here in the power of G.o.d, and shall afterward be saved forever.

Whoever has this faith has the promise; whoever does not believe possesses it not, and must be lost forever. How great and precious a thing this is, Peter explains further, and says:

_So that ye by the same might become partakers of the divine nature, while ye flee from the corrupting l.u.s.ts of the world._ This we have, he says, through the power of faith, that we should be partakers and have a.s.sociation or communion with the divine nature. This is such a pa.s.sage that the like of it does not stand in the New or Old Testament, although it is a small matter with the unbelieving that we should have communion with the divine nature itself. But what is the divine nature? It is eternal truth, righteousness, wisdom; eternal life, peace, joy, happiness, and whatever good one can name. Whoever then becomes partaker of the divine nature, attains all this,--that he is to live forever, and have eternal peace, delight and joy, and is to be perfectly pure, just, and triumphant over the devil, sin and death. Therefore St. Peter would say this much: As little as any one can take away from G.o.d, that He should not be eternal life and eternal truth, just as little shall any one take it away from you.

Whatever one does to you he must do to Him, for whoever would crush a Christian must crush G.o.d.

All this, that word, the divine nature, implies, and he also used it to this end, that he might include it all; and it is truly a great thing where it is believed. But, as I said above, this is merely instruction, in which he does not lay down a ground of faith, but sets forth what great, rich blessings we receive through faith; wherefore he says, that ye shall have all if ye so live as to prove your faith, whereby ye flee worldly l.u.s.ts. So he speaks, now, further:

V. 5. _Give then all your diligence, and add to your faith, virtue._ Here St. Peter takes up the admonition, that they should prove their faith by good works. Since such great blessing is bestowed upon you through faith (he would say), that ye really have all that G.o.d is, do this besides: be diligent, and not sluggish; add to your faith, virtue; that is, let your faith break out before the world, so as to be zealous, busy, powerful, and active, and to do many works; let it not remain idle and unfruitful. Ye have a good inheritance and a good field, but see to it that ye do not let thistles and weeds grow upon it.

_And to virtue, discrimination._ Discrimination or knowledge is, in the first place, that one should manifest an outward conduct, and the virtue of faith, in accordance with reason. For we should so far bridle and check the body, that we may be sober, vigorous, and fitted for good works; not that we should torture and mortify ourselves as some famous saints have done. For though G.o.d is likewise opposed to the sins that remain in the flesh, yet does He not require that for this reason you should destroy the body. Its viciousness and caprice you should guard against, but yet you are not to ruin or injure it, but give it its food and refreshment that it may remain sound and in living vigor.

In the second place, discrimination means that one should lead a life carefully exact, and act with discretion in regard to outward things, as food and things of that sort,--that one should not act in these things unreasonably, and that he should give his neighbor no provocation.

V. 6. _And to discrimination, temperance._ Temperance is not only in eating and drinking, but it is regularity in the whole life and conduct, words, works, manners; that we should not live too expensively, and should avoid excess in ornament and clothing; that none come out too proudly, and make too lofty a show. But in regard to this St. Peter will not fix any rule, measure, or limit, as the Orders have prescribed for themselves, who have wished to do all by rule, and have framed statutes which must be exactly observed. It is a thing not to be tolerated in Christendom, that men should require by laws that there be a common rule on _temperance_; for people are unlike one to another; one is of a strong, another is of a weaker nature; and no one in all things is at all times situated as another.

Therefore every one should see to himself how he is situated, and what he can bear.

_And to temperance, patience._ Thus would St. Peter say: though ye lead a temperate and discreet life, ye are not to think that ye shall live without conflict and persecution. For if ye believe, and lead a fair christian life, the world will not let it alone; it must persecute and hate you, in which you must show patience, which is a fruit of faith.

_And to patience, G.o.dliness._ That is, that we in all our outward life, whatever we do or suffer, should so conduct ourselves that we may serve G.o.d therein, not seeking our own honor and gain, but that G.o.d alone may be glorified thereby; and that we should so demean ourselves that men may take knowledge that we do all for G.o.d's sake.

V. 7. _And to G.o.dliness, brotherly love._ In this St. Peter obliges us all to extend a helping hand one to another, like brethren, so that one should protect another, and none hate nor despise nor injure another. This is also an evident proof of faith, whereby we show that we have the G.o.dliness of which he has spoken.

_And to brotherly love (charity), common love._ Common love extends to both friend and enemy, even to those who do not show themselves friendly and brotherly towards us. Thus St. Peter has here comprehended in few words whatever pertains to the christian life, and whatever are the works and fruits of faith, discretion, temperance, patience, a G.o.d-fearing life, brotherly love, and kindness to every one.

V. 8. _For if such dwell richly in you, it will not permit you to be idle or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ._ That is, if ye do such works, then are ye on the right path, then do ye have a real faith, and the knowledge of Christ becomes active and fruitful in you. Therefore see to it that ye be not such as beat the air. Restrain your body, and act toward your neighbor even in such a manner as ye know that Christ has done toward you.

V. 9. _But to whomsoever such is wanting, he is blind, gropes with the hand, and has forgotten the purifying of his former sins._ Whoever has not such a preparation of the fruits of faith, gropes like a blind man here and there, rests in such a life that he knows not what his state is, has not real faith, and has of the knowledge of Christ nothing more than that he can say he has heard it.

Therefore he goes along and gropes like a blind man on the way, in an unconscious life, and has forgotten that he was baptized and his sins were forgiven him, and is unthankful, and is an idle, negligent man, who suffers nothing to go to his heart, and neither feels nor tastes such great grace and blessing.

This is the admonition which St. Peter gives to us who believe, to urge and enforce those works by which we shall evidence that the true faith is in us. And, besides, this ever remains true, that faith alone justifies; where this then is present, there works must follow.--What follows further, now, is meant to strengthen us.

V. 10. _Wherefore, dear brethren, give so much the more diligence to make your calling and election sure._ The election and eternal foreknowledge of G.o.d is indeed in itself sure enough, so that man does not need to make that sure. The calling is also effectual and sure. For whoever hears the Gospel, and believes thereon, and is baptized, he is called and saved. Since we then are also thereunto called, we should apply so much diligence (says Peter), that our calling and election may be a.s.sured with us also, and not only with G.o.d. This is now such a mode of scriptural expression as St. Paul uses, Eph. ii., "Ye were strangers to the covenant of promise, so that ye had no hope and were without G.o.d in the world." For although there is no man, neither bad nor good, over whom G.o.d does not reign, since all creatures are His, yet Paul says he has no G.o.d who does not know, love, and trust Him, although he had his being in G.o.d Himself.

So here, also; although the calling and election are effectual enough in themselves, yet with you it is not yet effectual and a.s.sured, since you are not yet certain that it includes you. Therefore St.

Peter would have us make such calling and election sure, by good works.

Thus you see what this Apostle attributes to the fruits of faith.

Although they are due to our neighbor, that he may be benefited by them, still the fruit is not to be wanting, that faith may thereby become stronger, and do more and more of good works. Besides, this is quite another kind of power from that of the body, for that grows weary and wastes away if it is used and urged somewhat too far: but as to this spiritual power, the more it is used and urged, the stronger it becomes; and it suffers injury if it is not exercised.

For this reason did G.o.d introduce Christianity at the first in such a manner as He did, driven and tried by the wrestling of faith, in shame, death, and bloodshed, that it might become truly strong and mighty, and that the more it was oppressed the more it might rise above it. This is St. Peter's meaning in this place, that we should not let faith rust and lie still, since it is so ordained that it is ever made more and more strong by trial and exercise, until it is a.s.sured of its calling and election, and cannot fail.

And here is also a bound set as to how we should proceed with reference to election. There are many light-minded persons who have not felt much of the power of faith, who fall in this matter, stumbling upon it; and they trouble themselves at first with it, and by reason would satisfy themselves whether they are elected, so that they may be a.s.sured whereon they stand. But desist from this, at once; it is a thing that cannot be apprehended (grasped). But if you will be a.s.sured, you must reach it by the way which St. Peter here strikes out for you. If you choose another for yourself, you have failed already, and your own experience must teach you so. If faith is properly exercised and tried, then are you at last a.s.sured of the fact that you cannot fail, as now further follows:

_For if ye do these things ye shall never fall._ That is, ye are to stand fast, not stumble nor sin, but go onward thoroughly upright and active, and all shall go well with you. But if you would set it right by your reasonings, the devil will soon throw you into despair and hatred of G.o.d.

V. 11. _And so shall an entrance be ministered unto you abundantly, into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ._ This is the way by which we enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, no one should propose, by such dreams and reasonings concerning faith as he has invented in his heart, to enter therein. There must be a living, active, tried faith. G.o.d help us! How have our deceivers written, taught and spoken against this text, yet whoever has even the least measure and only a spark of faith, shall be saved when he comes to die.

If you would pry into this matter, and in this way attain such faith quickly and suddenly, you will then have waited too long. Yet you are to understand well, that they who are strong have enough to do, although we are not to despair even of such as are weak, for it may indeed well happen that they shall endure, though it will be sorely and hardly, and will cost much striving; but whoever carefully sees to it in his life, that faith is invigorated and made strong by good works, he shall have an abundant entrance, and with calm spirit and confidence go into that life to come, so that he shall die comfortably, and despise this life, and even triumphantly go on, and with gladness hasten to that. But those, who would come in otherwise, shall not enter thus with joy; the door shall not stand open to them so wide; they shall, moreover, not have such an abundant entrance, but it shall be, narrow and a hard one, so that they tremble, and would rather their life-day should be in weakness, than that they should die.

V. 12. _Wherefore I will not be negligent to remind you always of such things, although ye know them, and are established in this present truth._ That is the same that we also have often said, although G.o.d has now let such a great light go forth through the revelation of the Gospel, so that we know what true christian life and doctrine is, and see how all Scripture insists upon it, yet this (light) we are not to neglect but use daily, not for doctrine, but for the sake of remembrance. For there is a twofold office in the christian church, as St. Paul says, Rom. xii.: "If any one teaches, let him wait on teaching; if any one admonishes, let him wait on admonition." To teach, is when any one lays down the ground of faith, and sets it forth to those who have no knowledge of it. But to admonish, or as Peter here says, _to remind_, is to preach to those who know and have heard the matter already, so that they are seized hold of and awakened, in order that they should not be heedless, but go onward and prosper. We are all beladen with the old sluggard load, with our flesh and blood, that chooses for ever the byroad, and keeps us ever subject to its load, so that the soul easily falls asleep.

Therefore we are ever to urge and shake it, as a master urges his servants, lest they become sluggish, although they know very well what they should do; for while we must pursue this course for our temporal support, far more must we do it in this case in spiritual matters.

V. 13. _For I count it proper, so long as I am in this tabernacle, to awaken and remind you._ Here St. Peter calls his body a tabernacle wherein the soul dwells; and it is a phrase like that where in the first Epistle he speaks of the body as a vessel or an instrument. So St. Paul also speaks, II. Cor. v.: "We know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were broken down, that we have a house built by G.o.d, a house not made with hands, eternal in heaven, and for the same we long earnestly, for our dwelling which is from heaven. For as long as we are in this tabernacle we earnestly long," &c. Also, "but yet we are consoled and know that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord, but we have far greater desire to be out of the body and to be at home with the Lord." There the Apostle Paul speaks also of the body as a house, and makes two homes, and two sojournings. So Peter speaks here of the body as a tabernacle wherein the soul rests, and he makes it mean enough; he will not call it a house, but a hut or pent-house, such as shepherds have. Great is the treasure, but small is the house in which it lies and dwells.

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The Epistles of St. Peter and St. Jude Preached and Explained Part 13 summary

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