“Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle.” In the First Epistle he calls himself an apostle only, but here a bond-servant, putting himself alongside of others serving the same Lord amid the apostasy of the last days. There is no clerical assumption here, only a servant getting down to help others (Matt. 20:27, 28), teaching what a servant should be and do. “Righteousness through our Saviour-God.” “Grace and peace multiplied through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” Peter often speaks of our “Lord and Saviour” (see chap. 1:11; 2:20; 3:18). Here the titles are divided, and something ascribed to each. “Precious faith in the righteousness of our Saviour-God.” It is not that we have got faith, or that we have merely been “made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21): both are true, but they do not exhaust the passage. You have faith that God is a righteous God, and Jesus Christ a righteous Saviour. All that has been done is in righteousness. He has saved us, lifted us up from the gate of hell, made us sons of God and heirs of grace and glory, all in righteousness. His love is in perfect light; John 3:14, telling God’s righteousness, is as true as John 3:16, telling His love. So also in regard to our standing. In righteousness God has made us sons, put us in association with Christ, to be with Him and like Him for ever. Higher than that we cannot be; further it was not possible for God to go. But there is another side. There is kingdom truth as well as church truth. If Christ is to reign so are we to reign with Him, and there will be such a thing as having “an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom” (v. 11). In this also righteousness will appear. In your higher standing as God’s child I shall see how He has loved you, and called you by His grace. In your lower standing as the servant of Christ, I shall see by the brightness of your crown, how far you have responded to His call, and in what measure you have been identified with Christ and obedient to Him as Lord, in the world. Much is made of the former among saints, little of the latter, but it is equally true and most solemn. The “crown of righteousness” will tell to all, how far I have been rejected with Christ, and made it my aim here to please Him. If I mix up with what He hates and shirk the cross, it will all come up in the day of His judgment seat. Later on, when He comes to earth “in righteousness He doth judge” (Rev. 19:11). All is in righteousness and perfect light. “The righteousness of our Saviour-God,” “Grace and peace multiplied”: both in full measure, in abundance, “through the knowledge of Jesus our Lord.” “Saviour” first, “Lord” next. Our first knowledge of Him is as Saviour, but we do not end there, but go on to learn of Him as our Lord.
Verses 3, 4.—“According as His Divine power hath given unto us all things.” What a cluster of blessings we find here! Men leaving a small legacy multiply words. God in giving large bequests uses few. Let us consider them well. “Divine power” implies how we get them. All spiritual blessings are ours in Christ (Eph. 1:3), but only what I draw from Him is actually mine. “Divine power,” as we learn in 1 Peter 1:5, operates through faith grasping what God has given. “All things that pertain unto life and godliness.” Many are satisfied to have eternal life, but this is only the beginning. God would have us take possession of the “all things” He has given us. “Called us to His glory and virtue.” He called us, and is calling us still. Wherever we go, whatever we do, however we are placed, see that you can look up and say, “My God, Thou knowest I am here by Thy call.” If you cannot, then you have no right to be there. Called to two things: “His own glory and bravery”: the latter refers to Christ down here, the former to Christ up there. Our first look at Christ on the Cross suffering for sin gives salvation. Our first look at Christ on the throne gives peace. Our second look at the Cross teaches what He suffered for righteousness, in obedience to God (Phil. 2:8; 1 Peter 2:21). Our second look to the throne shows what He has received as a recompence (Heb. 12:2; Phil. 2:9). Christ on earth was a brave Man. He suffered, yet He stood. The world calls those brave who kill and capture others, but in heaven’s account that man is brave who stands firm for God, even when men despise and hate, fearing neither the world’s threats nor drawn away by its applause. True bravery is to follow Christ. “If any man serve Me let him follow Me, and where I am, there shall also My servant be; if any man serve Me, him will My Father honour” (John 12:26). It is implied that to serve and follow Christ, will bring dishonour in the world. Therefore you must bear it bravely. And to cheer us on He says, “My Father will make up for it, you shall be with Me in honour and glory.” It is as we respond to His call, that we get actual possession of the “all things” which God has given us in Christ. “Whereby”—the word is plural, by these things—“are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises.” By the Divine call to bravery and glory these are given us. Such is the force of the passage. No promise in particular is mentioned; the call itself implies that He will supply all we shall need to obey it fully. When the Lord said to His disciples “Let us go to the other side,” they ought to have been sure that in spite of storm and waves He would bring them there. When He calls us to follow Him to the Cross, to be brave and stand for God, the promise that He will give strength is implied. So also when He says “Where I am there shall My servant be,” it is implied that God will bring me through, that everything requisite to bring me there in triumph is mine. “That through these, ye might become partakers of the Divine nature.” We would pause over this amazing statement. How wonderful that God should pick us up who were the scum of creation, and beget His own nature in us, fitting us to enter into communion with Himself, to be His companions, to share His thoughts, and to worship Him. Fishes cannot do that, neither can angels. Unconverted men have two natures—beastly and devilish; the Christian, has three, he has been made partaker of a Divine nature, but the flesh remains. The saint in glory will only have the Divine nature and the human: free from sin, conformed to Christ. To reproduce Himself fully in those by nature so vile, is the greatest work of redeeming grace. By that call and these promises, He is forming His own nature in us. The first spark we receive the moment we believe: “born out of God,” “born of the Spirit,” “born through the Word of God”; but it is capable of development, and grows as we obey His call to bravery here and glory there, and feed on the promises, increasing in the knowledge of God.
“Having escaped the corruption that is in the world through desire.” The moment you got that new life and tasted of the love of God, you were spoiled for the world. If you love the world or the things of the world, the love of the Father is not enjoyed in your soul (1 John 2:16). When “the lust of other things” (Mark 4:19), is allowed to creep in, the new nature is hampered and hindered. Do not therefore grasp the world or seek after its pleasures, but “grasp eternal life” (1 Tim.6:11-12), that which is real and abiding. Be “a grasping man,” not for the gold that perisheth, but letting all that men esteem go, grasp the life which is real. Each day you live tells upon you for eternity, making you more God-like, or more carnally minded and spiritually lean.
Verses 5-7.—These verses show us the path our God would have us tread, and the encouragements to walk in that path. Seven things are to bud out of faith. “Add to your faith virtue”—supply in your faith, bravery, manliness Faith as it grows is to blossom, and lo! bravery is found in it. If you believe in Christ, you will require the bravery to follow Him, So bravery comes first in the list after faith. There is a list in Gal. 5:22, giving “the fruit of the Spirit” in contrast to “the works of the flesh “(verse 19), so here we have the path of the saints contrasted with the way of the religious world. Peter tells us how we are to be separate from wickedness and gather to Christ, keeping the Chief Shepherd ever before us. To follow Him fully, to cleave to Him closely will require bravery. “And in the bravery, knowledge” —not zeal apart from God’s way, but guided in every step by the Word of God. “In the knowledge, self-control; and in the self-control, endurance.” There are the same tendencies in our flesh to get puffed up as in others, hence the need of self-control (Phil. 4:5) and endurance to go on (Heb. 10:36) living for, serving and suffering for Christ. “In the endurance, godliness; and in the godliness, brotherly kindness; and in the brotherly kindness, love”—not charity, which is an entirely different thing. Note the place “brotherly love “has in the list. It is not immediately after faith. Bravery that stands true to Christ in separation from evil, and from all that the Word of God calls me out from, even if some of my brethren are still mixed up with it, comes before “brotherly love.” True love will never connive at sin, or be an accomplice in it, for the sake of showing love or manifesting unity. God’s way is separation first, unity next. Two well-known passages tell this order of God. “For both He who sanctifieth (or separateth) and they who are sanctified (or separated) are all of one” (Heb. 2:11). “Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy Word is truth.” “I in them and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one” (John 17:20). First, He takes us out of the world— then He sends us back into it. So also the brotherly love springs out of bravery, knowledge and endurance: there is no other way. Briefly, I pass on to the encouragements in this path.
Verse 8.—“For if these things be in you and abound, they make you that ye shall be neither idle nor unfruitful in the knowledge our Lord Jesus Christ.” We are left here to be workers, but not to invent ways and multiply agencies of our own to attract the eyes of men. “If these things”— the faith, the bravery, the knowledge, &c, be in you “they make you.” The saint who progresses in this path, adding, and steadily going on in the ways of the Lord Jesus, is in God’s estimation not “idle.” The usual tendency is to shut the eyes to a great deal of evil, in order to do a great deal of good: to keep silent regarding certain kinds of sin, lest the door for service should be closed; whereas God’s way is, stand aloof from evil, go on in God’s path, and you are not idle. And be it ever remembered, that in the day of Christ, it will be faithfulness not success that will be commended and rewarded (2 Tim. 2:5, Luke 19:17). God’s way and the world’s are exactly opposed. There are three encouragements. Observe their beautiful order. After the first, there is a glance at those not adding, of whom you may almost stand in doubt. After the second, a warning in regard to the flesh in ourselves. Then comes the grand, the gorgeous encouragement at the last. There is no need of warning, then. In verse 9, it is assumed that not to go on, is to go back. In the things of God there can be no standing still. Not to be growing, is to be declining. There may be nothing outwardly wrong, nothing in the conduct to arrest a conscience not sensitive, but inward torpor or non-enjoyment of God. It is assumed that the one here described is born again, really God’s child. The allusion is to Lot, who got trammelled in Sodom. He prospered in the world, became a great man, but had leanness in his soul. “He that lacketh these things is blind”; like Samson after he had lain in Delilah’s lap. First, the eyes are contracted wilfully to God’s truth; evil is condoned, trifled with; then the conscience loses its sensitiveness, and the backslider practically forgets the cleansing “from his old sins.” Things he would have shuddered at doing just after his conversion, when the Cross was full in view, and the conscience keen, he can do now, aye, and defend them too; for when one goes wrong in practice, he must alter his doctrine to suit his ways. Only by walking in the fear of God, can we maintain a conscience sensitive to evil, and be saved from becoming blind to God’s truth.
Then follows a second encouragement—“Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure.” Here the word, as in verse 5, “give diligence” is repeated, for the subject there is still before the Apostle. “To make your calling and election sure.” How can we do that? Has not God called and chosen His people before the foundation of the world? How then can we make these sure, if God has already done it? We can to ourselves, as a matter of enjoyment; not Godward, but manward and experimental. By adding and progressing in the ways of God, our calling and our hope become dearer, heavenly things become nearer, the glory brighter, the far-off clearer, in striking contrast to the one who closes his eyes, who cannot see afar off, and forgets even what he learned at his conversion. “If ye do these things ye shall never trip.” What an encouragement! To go on adding, doing, following, is the only way to be preserved from tripping, which all are naturally disposed to, and which the declining, backsliding soul is sure to do. And then the third and final encouragement, “For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom.” The word “ministered” here, is the same as “add” in verse 5, showing there will be a corresponding reward for each step of advance in the path of faithfulness to God down here. What a solemn thing this makes life to be! How it should nerve us to live for God and make it the business of our life to please Him! The compensation is eternal; not like man’s, which is but for a few years at most. “The everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” Not in the family or in the Church; there grace has given us our places, and made us equal, but in the Kingdom our place will be determined by the measure of our identification with Christ, and our faithfulness to Him while here below. And, oh! to remember, that all the honours won in roughing it here, and being sneered at for cleaving to Christ and His truth, will be eternal there. But if the crown is to be worn there, it must be won here. Let it be ours to covet this “abundant entrance,” and so go on as to have it “ministered” or “added “to us.
Verses 12, 13.—“Wherefore I shall not be negligent.” How intensely in earnest he was, not to teach them something new, but ready always to put them in remembrance of what they knew and were established in, as something they had received from God. He knew well that his day of service was to be short, that he would soon “put off his tabernacle,” and cease to serve the saints of the wilderness as the Lord had shewed him. But he would so serve his Master and diligently reiterate the truth among the saints, that after he had died a martyr’s death for that truth, they would remember his words, and cleave to the Lord and to His Word. Few are called to die as Peter died, but all are called to hold fast the truth and walk in separation from evil, whether they get the scorner’s sneer or the martyr’s stake.
The word here used by Peter in speaking of his death is very beautiful: “After my decease”—literally, my exodus. It is the word used by the evangelist in describing the scene of the Transfiguration, which Peter clearly alludes to here. Moses and Elias “spake of the exodus which He should accomplish at Jerusalem” (Luke 9:31). Moses did not end his course fully: he died in the wilderness: he “spake unadvisedly with his lips” (Psa. 106:33), and was hindered from entering Canaan. Elijah did not finish his course: he dared to accuse the people of God (1 Kings 19:14, 18), and had to anoint his successor. But Jesus “finished” the work His Father gave Him to do (John 17:3), and Peter here looks forward to the end without fear, even though he knew his would be a death of ignominy and pain. Historians say he asked to be crucified with his head downwards, as he was unworthy to die as his Master died. Be that as it may, he could look forward to that death as the “putting off” his tabernacle. He knew it would be to him the sweet release of being “absent from the body” to be “at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:9). The coming of the Lord is the proper hope of the believer, but in Peter’s case there was a special revelation that he would die a martyr’s death.
Verses 17-18.—“We have not followed cunningly devised fables.” It is no fable that Christ is coming, that He will reign and His saints with Him: it is a grand reality, the light and glare of which is intended to gladden the heart and shine on the path we tread. “The power and coming”—the kingdom and presence of the Lord Jesus. It is an allusion to the scene on the mount of Transfiguration, which was a prophecy to the eye as well as to the ear of Peter, and those with him. It shows the Son of Man in His glory, with His heavenly saints around Him, as represented by Moses and Elias; some, like the former, having died and been raised, while others like the latter had been caught up without tasting death. His earthly people, like Peter, James and John, will be under the beams of His glory on earth, yet within sight and hearing of the glory above, High above all in “the excellent glory,” God testifying “This is my Beloved Son.” God will head up everything in Christ (Eph. 1:10), in whom He is well pleased: so well may we. Is He not enough to fill the heart? What room is there for any other? His love and His glory are ours. How they ought to sway and affect our hearts! Then from this transfiguration scene, this panorama of the coming kingdom, the apostle quickly passes to the “more sure word of prophecy.” Why is this? The answer is, because that beloved Son, that coming King is meanwhile to be rejected. The world is to disown Him, and the word of prophecy, which embraces the entire Scriptures, is what tells us of this rejection. The written Word is to be our guide, not the opinions of men. “Whereunto ye do well that ye take heed.” Not only read it, but heed it; let it reach and affect the heart. Prophecy shews the condition of the world, unveils its false religion, marks out its course and end. “As a lamp that shineth in a dark place.” The “lamp,” the “star,” and the “day “are all mentioned here. The lamp is for the night, which set in when Christ was rejected. Especially does “the darkness” (Eph.6:13), refer to the religious condition of the world as ruled by Satan its “Prince” (John 12:31). The second chapter of this Epistle tells of the ecclesiastical, and the third of the infidel darkness of the world. Let us get our estimation of the world from the “lamp” of God’s truth, and not from the high talk of professors, who speak of the world’s progress and gradual conversion. The “Star” is Christ’s coming for His people, the “Day” His appearing with them to the world. In keeping with this the New Testament ends with Christ presented as the “The Bright and Morning Star” (Rev. 22:20), while in the Old it is “The Sun of Righteousness” arising (Mal. 4:4), Our hope is to see Him before the world, therefore let us “watch and be sober,” which two words accord exactly with the “lamp” and the “star.” Some would read “Whereunto ye do well that ye take heed in your hearts,” making the words between a parenthesis, but I believe we have it just as the Holy Ghost designed. The power of the truth of His coming for and with us, is to be so shining in the heart till it is weaned from all around, and occupied with all above. As the light of morning breaks on the mountain top ere yet it shines in the valley, so we, in communion with God, and in separation from the world, will be full of the light and brilliancy of the morning, before it breaks, a joy of which the world in darkness knows nothing.
Verse 20.—“Knowing this first, that no prophecy is of any private interpretation.” One part must not be separated from another, or from Christ, but taken as part of a whole, the purpose of which is to attest the glory of Christ. The voice of the Father heard on the mount and the testimony of the Spirit though the prophets, alike bear witness to Christ. Nor can they be isolated, or detached from each other, or from Christ of whom all these holy men of God spake as they were “Borne along by the Holy Ghost,” whose delight it ever is to exalt Christ. What a beautiful word! “Borne along by the Holy Ghost.” Full of their theme, they were “borne along by the Holy Ghost” in telling it out, yet these inspired words and especially the coming glories of Christ are sneered at and treated as “fables” by many religious professors and preachers of the present day.