For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,…
I. THE GREAT OBJECT OF THE CHRISTIAN HOPE. The true rendering is not "the glorious appearing," but "the appearing of the glory." There are two appearings — that of "the grace of God," and that of "the glory." These two manifestations are paralleled in many respects, as is shown by the very fact that the same word is employed in reference to both, but they differ substantially in this, the aspect of the Divine character manifested, by each. The one is like the silver moon flooding all things with silvery and gentle light; the other is like the flash of the lightning from one side of the heavens to the other. Both the manifestation of the grace and that of the glory are given through the same medium. Jesus Christ is the means of making the grace visible; and Jesus Christ will be the means of making the glory visible. And these two appearances are connected in such a manner that the former is evidently incomplete without the latter. As certainly as the cradle at Bethlehem required the open grave and the ascension from Olivet, so certainly does the ascension from Olivet require the return to judgment. The past has in it one great fact, to which the world must turn for light, for leading, for life. And that past fact, like an eastern sky that flings its colouring into the furthest west, irradiates the future and points onwards to His return again. So that past fact and its companion yet to be are like two great towers on opposite sides of some fathomless abyss, from which stretch the slender rods which are sufficient to bear the firm structure on which we may tread across the gulf, defiant of the darkness, and find our way into the presence of God.
II. THE CHRISTIAN ANTICIPATION OF THE APPEARING. "Looking," says the apostle, "for that blessed hope." How comes he to call it blessed? If it be a flashing forth of the Divine glory, and if it be, as it distinctly is, a coming to judge the earth, there must be much about it which will touch into activity not unreasonable fears, and may make the boldest and the truest shrink and ask themselves the old question, "Who shall stand when He appeareth?" But Paul here stretches out the hands of his faith, and the yearnings of his desire to it. Whence conies this confidence? It comes from the power of love. How beautiful it is, how merciful, and how strange that the very same yearning after bodily presence, the same restlessness in separation, and the same fulness of satisfaction in companionship, which mark the lower loves of earth, can be transferred wholly to that higher love! This hope is blessed because of the power of the assurance which we all may have that that coming can bring no harm to us. "Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness before Him at the day of judgment." It is blessed because the manhood which is thus lifted to participate in and to be the medium of manifesting to a world the Divine glory, is our manhood; and we shall share in the glory that we behold, if here we have trusted in the grace that He revealed. "He shall change the body of our humiliation that it may be fashioned after the likeness of the body of His glory." And the hope is blessed because, in contradistinction to all earthly objects of hope, it is certain — certain as history, certain as memory. It is as secure as treasures that we keep in the cedar presses of our remembrances. It is also blessed because, being thus certain, it is far enough in advance never to be outgrown, never to be fulfilled and done with here. So it outlasts all others, and may be laid in a dying hand, like a rosebud clasped in cold palms, crossed on each other, in the coffin; for not until we have passed the veil shall we receive the hope. He will come to the world; you and I will go to Him; either way, we shall be forever with the Lord. And that is a hope that will outlast life and death.
III. THE TEACHING OR CORRECTION WHICH STRENGTHENS THE HOPE. The fact that the first manifestation is of an educational and corrective kind is in itself an evidence that there is another one to follow. For the very idea of training implies that there is something for which we are being trained; and the very word "correction" or "discipline" involves the thought of an end towards which the process is directed. That end can be no less than the future perfecting of its subjects in that better world. God does not take the rough bar of iron and turn it into steel and polish it and shape it and sharpen it to so fine an edge, in order that He may then break it and cast it "as rubbish to the void." You will find in prehistoric tombs broken swords and blunted spears which were laid there with the corpses; but God does not so break His weapons, nor is death the end of our activity. If there be discipline there is something for which the discipline is meant. If there be an apprenticeship there is somewhere work for the journeyman to do when he has served his articles and is out of his time. There will be a field in which we shall use the powers we have acquired here; and nothing can bereave us of the force we made our own, being here. Grace disciplines, therefore there is glory. Again, our yielding to the grace is the best way of strengthening our hope of the glory. The more we keep ourselves under the influences of that mighty salvation that is in Jesus Christ, and let them chasten and correct us, and submit our inflamed eyes to their healing pains, the more clearly will they be able to see the land that is afar off. Telescope glasses are polished in order that they may enable the astronomer to pierce the depths of the heavens. Diamonds depend for their brightness on the way in which they are cut, and it is poor economy to leave some of the precious stones on the mass, if thereby its reflecting power and its radiance be diminished. God cuts deep and rubs hard, in order that He may brighten the surface and the depth of our souls, that they may receive in all its purity the celestial ray, and flash it back in varied colours. So, if we would live in the buoyant hope of the manifestation of the glory, let us docilely, prayerfully, penitently, patiently, submit ourselves to the discipline of the grace.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,