Through Silvanus, whom I regard as a faithful brother, I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.
I. NOTICE REGARDING THE LETTER.
1. The bearer. "By Silvanus, our faithful-brother, as I account him, I have written unto you briefly." Peter has written at considerable length, and yet, in comparison with the crowding of thoughts on his mind, briefly, being able to be brief because he had so qualified a messenger in Silvanus. This Silvanus or Silas is a link between Peter and Paul. He was associated with Paul in the writing of the two letters to the Thessalonians. He had assisted Paul in the founding of the Churches here addressed. This associate and assistant of Paul's Peter accounted a faithful brother. As he had been faithful in past services to the Churches, he would also be faithful in this.
2. Aim. "Exhorting, and testifying that this is the true grace of God: stand ye fast therein." "He proposed an exhorting and a testifying, both in close connection with each other, as- the immediate juxtaposition of the ideas shows. The occasion of them lay in this, that the readers, as professing Christians, had to endure severe afflictions through the slanders of the heathen. In view of the dangers lying therein, the apostle was careful, on the one hand, to exhort them to patience, by directing their minds to the future inheritance, as also to the continuance in holiness, and to a conduct towards each other and towards the heathen, such as would lead the latter to see how groundless their slanders were; and, on the other hand, that his exhortation might not be without a firm basis, to assure them that a state of suffering was the true Divine state of grace" (Huther). Having stated his aim, he also exemplifies it. Having testified to their standing in the true grace (we. may understand through Pauline preaching, which thus agreed with Petrine preaching) he exhorts them to stand fast therein.
1. The Church in Babylon. "She that is in Babylon, elect together with you, saluteth you." It is significant of the widespread activity of Peter that he was at this time writing from Babylon. He was attracted to this city (changed from what it had once been) by the number of Jews that were resident there· Christianity had found a congenial soil among them; and now, on the occasion of Peter writing to the elect Churches of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia the co-elect Babylonian Church sends greeting to them.
2. Mark. "And so doth Mark my son." As Timothy to Paul, so was Mark to Peter, his son, i.e. convert, companion, helper. It was to the house of Mary the mother of Mark that Peter went when he was miraculously delivered from prison; it is pleasing to see the old friendship kept up. Thus associated, we can scarcely think of Mark writing his Gospel without consulting with Peter.
3. Mutual salutation. "Salute one another with a kiss of love." What Paul calls the holy kiss, Peter calls the kiss of love, i.e. Christian brotherly love. When this Epistle was read aloud in open assembly, at the close of the reading, the men were to kiss each other, and the women, sitting apart, were also to kiss each other. The fraternal kiss, with which every one, after being baptized, was received into the particular community - which the members bestowed on each other just before the celebration of the communion, and with which every Christian saluted his brother, though he never saw him before - was not an empty form, but the expression of Christian feeling; a token of the relation in which Christians conceived themselves to stand to each other. It was this, indeed, which in a cold and selfish age struck the pagans with wonder; to behold men of different countries, ranks, stages of culture, so intimately bound together; to see the stranger who came into a city, and by his letter of recognition made himself known to the Christians of the place as a brother beyond suspicion, finding at once among them, to whom he was personally unknown, all manner of brotherly sympathy and protection (Neander).
III. BENEDICTION. "Peace be unto you all that are in Christ." Christ said, "Peace be unto you." The addition made by Peter to the Master's words defines the range within which he invokes peace. Let none that are in Christ want the peace of the Divine forgiveness, of the Divine keeping. - R.F.
Silvanus.I. THE IMPORTANCE OF SUBORDINATE WORK. A chief man "accustomed to pull the stroke oar," yet content in his relation to an apostle to occupy a lower position. Silvanus could not write letters like Peter, but he could carry them when written. Those who can do great work in the Church are but units, those who are fitted for subordinate work millions. It is difficult to say what is important and what subordinate. The tiny rivet is just as important as the piston. The folks in the rear looking after the supplies, of whom one never reads in the despatches, are just as essential as those in the front. Be not too proud to be subordinate. Silvanus was content to be a satellite of somebody all his life long.
II. THE IMPORTANCE AND OBLIGATION OF PERSISTENTLY DOING OUR WORK THOUGH NOBODY TAKES ANY NOTICE OF IT. Silvanus did not sit still with his "hands in his pockets" simply because nothing was said about him, no notice taken of him. Keep "pegging away," noticed or unnoticed. This man did so through years of oblivion. And yet after all his services were noticed: we are talking about them nineteen centuries afterwards.
III. AN EXAMPLE OF A CHARACTER WE CAN ALL EMULATE. "A faithful brother." A great genius, a wise philosopher, an eloquent preacher? No, a faithful brother. It may be a foolish brother, but faithful. We can all emulate that, whatever our opportunities. If we are faithful, men will know where to have us, will know we shall not shirk obligation, will not scamp our work.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Exhorting and testifyingI. In that the apostle testifieth by sound arguments that they were in the right way, note that IT IS NEEDFUL FOR EVERYONE TO KNOW AND BE WELL ASSURED OF THE RELIGION HE PROFESSETH, THAT IT IS THE TRUTH OF GOD, for there be many religions, yet but one truth; miss that, and perish. We must not go by guess in our religion.
1. This rebukes those that take occasion, because there be so many religions, therefore they will meddle with none, but take their ease and tarry till all agree.
2. It rebukes those that profess a religion, as all do, but know not whether it be truth or not, and have no ground from the Word for the same.
3. As it is our duty to testify and prove our religion, so it is yours to know and acknowledge it, that if an angel should come and inform you otherwise, you might not give ear to him.
II. THEY THAT KNOW THE TRUTH OUGHT SO HIGHLY TO ESTEEM IT, AND BE SO THANKFUL TO GOD FOR IT, AS THEY NEVER SUFFER THEMSELVES TO BE REMOVED THEREFROM, whether for hope of gain or fear of trouble, etc. We must buy the truth, nor sell it.
III. In that the apostle takes such care with those that now stood in the truth to hold them therein, note that IT IS A HARD MATTER FOR THOSE TO HOLD OUT STEADFAST THAT HAVE BEGUN TO DO WELL, for our heart is deceitful, the devil is subtle and strong, and there are also many seducers, many baits, many discouragements, etc.
IV. In that his Epistle consists in testifying by sound reasons for the confirmation of their judgments, and then of the exhortation for the whetting on of their affections, note that BOTH PARTS ARE NECESSARY TO PREACHING, THE ONE STILL TO ACCOMPANY THE OTHER. People must make use and account of both, regard doctrine for knowledge, and suffer exhortation for practice.
I. PETER'S TESTIMONY. Now there is a very beautiful, though not to superficial readers obvious, significance in this testimony. "This is the true grace of God." What is meant by "this"? Not merely the teaching which he has been giving in the preceding part of the letter, but that which somebody else had been teaching. Now these churches in Asia Minor to whom this letter was sent were in all probability founded by the Apostle Paul, or by men working under his direction. And here Peter puts his seal on the teaching that had come from his brother apostle, and says, "The thing that you have learned, and that I have had no part in communicating to you, this is the true grace of God." We have an interesting evidence, all the stronger because unobtrusive, of the cordial understanding between the two great leaders of the Church in apostolic times. But, apart altogether from that thought, note two things — the one the substance of this witness bearing, and the other Peter's right to bear it. As to the substance of the testimony — "grace" is properly love in exercise towards inferior and sinful creatures. And, says Peter, the inmost significance of the gospel is that it is the revelation of such a love as being in God's heart. Another meaning springs out of this, That same message is not only a revelation of love, but it is a communication of the gifts of love. And the "true grace of God" is shorthand for all the rich abundance and variety of the sevenfold perfect gifts for spirit and heart which come from faith in Jesus Christ. Thus this gospel of the Divine Christ that died for our sins, and lives to give His Spirit to all waiting hearts — this Is the true grace of God. It is very needful for us to keep in view always that lofty conception of what this gospel is, that we may not bring it down to the level of a mere theory of religion, nor think of it as a mere publication of dry doctrines. Further, what right had this man to take this position and say, "I testify that this is the true grace of God"? He was no great genius; he did not know anything about comparative religion, which is nowadays supposed to be absolutely essential to understanding any one religion. Well, there are two or three answers — one peculiar to him, and others common to all Christian people. The one peculiar to him is, as I believe, that he was rightly conscious that Jesus Christ had bestowed upon him the power to witness, and the authority to impose his testimony upon men as a word from God. In the most inartificial and matter-of-course way Peter here lets us see the apostolic conception of apostolic authority. We Christian people have a right to authority based on personal experience. If we have plunged deep into the secrets of God, and lived closely in communion with Him, and for ourselves have found the grace of God, His love, and the gifts of His love coming into our lives, then we too have a right to go to men and say, "Never mind about me; never mind about whether I am wise or foolish. I do not argue, but I tell you I have tasted the manna, and it is sweet; I have drunk of the water, and it comes cool and fresh from the rock. One thing I know — that whereas I was blind, now I see." If we testify thus, and back up our witness with lives corresponding, some who are wholly untouched by a preacher's eloquence and controversialist's arguments will probably be led by our attestation to make the experiment for themselves.
II. Further, notice PETER'S EXHORTATION. According to the right rendering, the last clause is, "in which stand fast." The translation in the Authorised Version, "in which ye stand," gives a true thought, though not the apostle's intention here. For, as a matter of fact, men cannot stand upright and firm unless their feet are planted on the rock of that true grace of God. It is no use talking to men about steadfastness of purpose, stability of life, erect independence, resistance to antagonistic forces, unless you give them something to stand upon. And the only standing ground that will never yield, nor, like the quicksand with the tide round it, melt away — we do not know how from beneath our feet, is "the grace of God." However, that is not what the Apostle Peter meant. He says, "See that you keep firmly your position in reference to this true grace of God." The text exhorts us against ourselves and against the temptations of the world, which are always present with us, and are far more operative in bringing down the temperature of the Christian Church and of its individual members than any chilling that arises from intellectual doubts. And how are we to obey the exhortation? Well, plainly, if "this" is the revelation of God in Jesus Christ, "the true grace of God," which alone will give stability to our feet, then we "shall not stand fast" in it unless we make conscious efforts to apprehend, and comprehend, and keep hold of it in our minds as well as in our hearts. Again, try to keep heart and mired in contact with it, amidst distractions and daily duties. Try to bring the principles of the New Testament consciously to bear on the small details of everyday life. Be sure that you desire, and put yourself in the attitude of receiving, the gifts of that love, which are the graces of the Christian life. And when you have got them apply them, "that you may be able to withstand in the evil day; and having done all, to stand."
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
The true grace of GodI. THE ECONOMY OF THE GOSPEL IS, THROUGHOUT ITS CONSTITUTION AND INFLUENCE, A GRAND DISPLAY OF DIVINE GRACE.
1. We must first direct you to the announcements of the gospel as to the methods by which blessings are meritoriously secured.
2. We have also to direct you to the announcements of the gospel as to the influence by which blessings are actually imparted.
3. We are also to notice the announcements of the gospel as to the nature of the blessings themselves which are enjoyed.
4. We must also notice the announcements of the gospel as to the extent to which these blessings are to be diffused.
II. THE ECONOMY OF THE GOSPEL, AS A GRAND DISPLAY OF DIVINE GRACE, IMPRESSES IMPORTANT DEMANDS UPON ALL TO WHOM IT IS PROCLAIMED.
1. The gospel, as "the true grace of God," should be cordially believed.
2. The gospel, as "the true grace of God," must be steadfastly adhered to.
3. The gospel, as "the true grace of God," must be zealously diffused.
I. THERE ARE THOSE WHO EXPECT ULTIMATE SALVATION ON THIS PRINCIPLE, THAT GOD FROM HIS GREAT GOODNESS WILL OVERLOOK SIN, AND DECLINE TO PUSH IT AS A MATTER OF COURSE. This is an opinion which hardly any of you will avow, and perhaps none of you will advocate. Yet it is congenial to the corrupted mind, has been not only adopted, but argued by others, and, there is reason to fear, is secretly entertained by very many. "The sinners of My people say," is the testimony of God concerning the Jews in the time of Amos, "the evil shall not overtake or prevent us." And, again, saith God by Zephaniah, "The men that are settled upon their lees say in their hearts, The Lord will not do good, neither will He do evil." And, at an earlier period of their history, this is represented by Moses as language which might be justly ascribed to them, though equally indicative of cattishness and of impiety, "I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, and add drunkenness to thirst." Such impunity, indeed, would be amazing "grace" on the part of God — i.e., free favour to the guilty. But is it "true grace"? Is it such grace as can be imputed to Him without impiety? Assuredly not. It is totally incompatible with His revealed characters. For if He be "the Lord, the Lord God merciful and gracious, longsuffering and slow to wrath, abundant in goodness," it is also testified of Him that He is "abundant in truth, and will by no means clear the guilty." It is irreconcilable with the dictates of right reason; for, as the poet says, "A God all mercy is a God unjust." And it is opposed to the honour and interests of the Divine government. What would be the consequences? How fearful, how sweeping, how disastrous!
II. There are many who would not be thought to adopt this hypothesis of necessary impunity to the unbelieving and impenitent transgressors of every class, arising from the goodness of God, AND YET CONCEIVE THAT HE WILL ACCEPT OF EXTERNAL RITES AND OBLATIONS, OF RELIGIOUS FORMS AND OBSERVANCES, AS A COMPENSATION FOR THE NEGLECT OF DUTY, AND FOR THE VIOLATION OF HIS HOLY LAW. Upon this principle, it is obvious, every institute of paganism is constructed. Nay, the Jews, who ought to have known better things, were impressed with this belief. Accordingly, amid the perpetration of their crimes and the denunciations of their prophets, they cried out, not only without trembling apprehension, but with boastful confidence, "The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are we!" And is there not reason to fear that there is too great a leaning to forms, under the clearer light of the gospel, and among all parties of Christians? Do you not see, from day to day, some of one class, for example, though sunk in carelessness or addicted to vice, deluding themselves with the hope that penance and prayer, the confession and the mass, rites and ceremonies the most frivolous and unintelligible, can atone for guilt, propitiate God, and save the soul? Nay, among the disciples of a purer faith and simpler institute, may we not detect an undue dependence upon the mere ceremonial of service? Now were Jehovah to accept of appearances instead of realities, of forms instead of actual services, and of heartless obedience instead of holy conduct, this might be accounted grace indeed. But is it such grace as we dare impute to God? Is it "true grace"? Is it such that you would venture to rest your eternal all upon it? I hope not. And if you did you would act a part the most foolish, and entirely contrary to the most explicit testimonies of Scripture. The very question is proposed, and the answer given, in the Book of Micah (Micah 6:6-8).
III. But, abandoning the hope of salvation exclusively by external rites, there are some who think that this is TO BE ATTAINED BY HUMAN OBEDIENCE ALONE, AND BY SUCH OBEDIENCE AS MAN CAN RENDER IN HIS PRESENT SINFUL AND IMPERFECT STATE. That God prefers the obedience of life to mere ecclesiastical rites is certain. But the obedience of man — in its best form, you know — is greatly defective. How little is there of enlightened view, how little of holy principle, how little of filial love, how little of disinterested regard, how little of Godlike aim, is there in the services of the best! Verily they are sinfully imperfect in every view. Were God, then, to condescend to accept these sinful and imperfect services as the ground of hope, how liberal, how generous would He appear! But would this, I ask, be "true grace" — grace such as we may ascribe to Him, and as the Scriptures represent to be the principle of His moral government? Unquestionably not. Can God accept that which is greatly or altogether without holy principle, without godly spirit, without honourable aim? Much more, can He render immortality as the recompense of obedience so essentially and criminally defective?
IV. Some, however, conceive that, though they dare not depend upon their own righteousness alone, yet, AS AIDED AND SUPPORTED BY THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF CHRIST, IT MAY JUSTLY BECOME THE GROUND OF THEIR HOPE, AND BE CONSIDERED AS THE TRUE GRACE OF GOD. And were this foundation conceded, were this plea admitted, there would be grace on the part of God — grace in the appointment of the Saviour — grace in the obedience and atonement of the Saviour, and grace in the acceptance of human merit (if so proud a name may be attached to so poor a thing), as the price of "eternal redemption." But this is not the "true grace" of God; for, I ask you, where in Scripture is our Saviour's righteousness spoken of as only a secondary thing, subordinate to human worth? Where is it represented under the degrading character of a make weight, of a certain supplementary provision to human infirmity, of a sort of accessory to human goodness, of an authorised appendage to human merit? Is it not, on the contrary, uniformly asserted to have done all — to have, in the emphatical language of the prophet, "finished transgression, made an end of sin, made reconciliation for iniquity, sealed the vision, and confirmed the covenant?"
V. Finally, there are those who, rejecting this heterogeneous admixture, and every other ground of dependence that is human, RELY FOR ACCEPTANCE AND SALVATION SOLELY UPON THE GRACE OF GOD, AS IT "REIGNS THROUGH THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF CHRIST UNTO ETERNAL LIFE." This is the view given in Scripture. Hear how the Apostle Paul speaks on this subject, in a way greatly analogous to the passage before us, and calculated to throw light upon it: "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God." This is, indeed, "the true grace of God" — the grace of redemption pure, and free, and rich, and high, and infallible: pure, without any intermixture of human merit; free, springing from the sovereign good pleasure of Jehovah alone, and from no necessary impulse of His nature, or controlling necessity or incidental exigency of His government; rich, exceedingly abundant in every respect, applicable to all, adequate for each, and fraught with the noblest blessings to our fallen race; high, grand in its conception, glorious in its character, admirable in its provisions, heavenly in its results; infallible, on which we may rest without the fear of disappointment, and in which we can rejoice without the dread of delusion. In particular, this is the only plan of salvation which places the Divine generosity in the most unexceptionable and attractive light, while it satisfies justice, condemns sin, secures the honours of the Divine law, extends the reign of goodness, and brightens the glories of the moral empire of God.
(John Mitchell, D. D.)
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