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i. The Pauline Epistles.
These are not in their chronological order; probably the earliest is I. Thessaibnians, and the latest that to the Hebrews. The subscriptions are not authentic.
a. ROMANS. This Epistle is a summary of God's dealings with mankind, from the first adoption of one portion to closer connexion with Him, i.e. to sonship and inheritance of a promise. This election of a particular family is illustrated by a master-potter selecting out of his bed of clay one portion for his choicest fabrics, meet vessels 58 for the master's highest use: the particular clay was selected because of its freedom from flaw, and the rest rejected because tainted with flaws; but not rejected absolutely, since it has a position in the household, useful, but less honoured. The absence of flaw is lack of worldliness or irreligion; its excellence is the possession of unquestioning faith—a special capacity for receiving the Divine impress, to be moulded at God's will, and so convey to others, by precept and example, the Divine standard of perfection, and the revelation of the truth. This was the peculiar quality seen by the Omniscient in the character of Abraham, which led to his call and adoption. Hence he became the "Father of the Faithful," and the "Friend of God." But it was a quality not transmitted by bodily generation; nor were the privileges accorded to Abraham, and promised to his seed, an inheritance descending by hereditary right, but resumed by God, the Giver, at each decease, and re-awarded at His decision, who "looketh on the heart." Hence "they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children" of God; i.e. "they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God" (ix. 6–8). Acceptance by God is the reward of faith; by it Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, were adopted; from want of it, Ishmael, Esau, and the three eldest sons of Jacob were rejected, and finally the whole Jewish nation, the Gentiles being received instead, through faith. Because of unbelief the former were broken off, and the latter stand by faith.
Summary. I. Sinfulness of the human race: (a) of the heathen (i.); (b) of the Jews (ii.): (c) Comparison of Jews and Gentiles. II. The Plan of Salvation explained (a) in theory (iii.); (b) by illustration (iv., v.). III. Its value: (a) union with Christ (vi.); (b) as servants of Christ (vi.); (c) supplying defects of the Law (vii.). IV. Justification by Faith: (a) Christian's duty and privilege; (b) cause of rejection of some, election of others, of Abraham's seed; (c) blindness and final rejection of the Jews. V. Development of truth (xii.–xv.). VI. Personal communications (xv.–xvii.).
It was probably written from Corinth, A.D. 58, and sent by Phoebe (xvi. 1, 2).
CORINTHIANS. Two Epistles are addressed to this Church, which included not only those who lived at Corinth, but in the adjacent towns of Achaia (the upper portion of the Morea, along the coast of the Gulf of Lepanto). Paul passed eighteen months at Corinth during his second missionary tour, visiting the neighbouring cities, and establishing Churches in them. Corinth was the great centre of commercial traffic on the overland route from Rome to the East; and also between Upper and Lower Greece. It possessed the only good harbour in that quarter, and as it was the shortest and safest route, small vessels were dragged across the isthmus, larger ones transhipped their cargoes, and hence all the trade of the Mediterranean flowed through it, so that "a perpetual fair was held there from year's end to year's end;" to which were added the great annual gatherings of Greeks at the "Isthmian Games" (to which Paul alludes, 1 Cor. ix. 24–27). Hence it was proverbial for wealth, luxury, and profligacy. Its population, and that of Achaia, was mainly foreign, formed of colonists from Cæsar's army, and of manumitted slaves (e.g. Tertius, Quartus, Achaicus, Fortunatus, &c.), settlers from Asia Minor, returned exiles from the islands, and at this time a large influx of Jews lately expelled from Rome (Acts xviii. 2).
Paul's preaching in the synagogue was acceptable till he boldly testified that Jesus was the Messiah, when persecution set in, he was ejected from the community, brought before the Roman governor, and set up a rival Church. His disciples were mostly of the lower orders, partly Jews, but mainly Roman freedmen and heathen Greeks, who became enthusiastic admirers of the apostle. Here he wrote the latter or both of his two Epistles to the Thessalonians, and one to the Romans; immediately after which he returned to Ephesus, and was succeeded in his mission by Apollos, who likewise made many converts. The latter was imperfectly instructed in Christianity, but was well versed in the Jewish Scriptures, and very eloquent. There arose two factions,—a Jewish, clinging to a Pharisaic attachment to the Law; a Gentile, prone to push evangelical freedom to licence: while keeping the right faith, claiming to indulge in even heathen licentiousness. They joined freely in heathen sacrificial feasts; degraded the Holy Communion into a festive banquet; women threw off the usual eastern veil of modest attire; and the Greek love of intellectual speculation and discussion ran riot on sacred subjects, till appeals on Christian disputes were brought before heathen tribunals, and morality was scandalized by even incestuous intercourse.
Under such corruption, during three years, factions attained a formidable height. Paul was defamed by the Jewish party, and rumours of alarming disputes reached him, followed by a letter full of inquiries on matters of morality and doctrine, brought by a deputation of freedmen. Paul had already despatched thither Timotheus, but now writes the First Epistle to the Corinthians from Ephesus (A.D. 57), instead of going to them, as he intended, because he deemed it his duty to stay for the great Pan-Ionian Festival to Diana, held that year at Ephesus.
Summary. I. Reproof of the Factions: contrasting human and Divine wisdom, his own simple preaching with the assumption of his followers, and the proper relation of teachers and disciples (i.–iv. 20). II. Intercourse with Heathens: (a) Incest; (b) Law-suits; (c) Church discipline (iv. 21–vi. 20). III. Answer to the Letter of the Corinthian Church: (a) Marriage; (b) Heathen feasts; (c) Public worship. 1. Male and female head-dress; 2. The Lord's Supper; 3. Exercise of spiritual gifts; 4. Unity and uniformity (vii.–xiv. 40). IV. Resurrection of the Dead: the future state the aim and end of Christian life (xv.). Conclusion: of a personal nature.
This was called for by the effect of the first. In the interval occurred the riot at Ephesus (headed by Demetrius), and Paul's expulsion. Timothy and Titus had both been sent to Corinth, and at Troas he waited their return in vain, till he was bowed down with anxiety and evil foreboding. Titus at last brought sufficiently cheering accounts: the Church, as a whole, had bowed to its "father's" reproofs; the incestuous man had been expelled and brought to repentance; the Gentile licence had been restrained; confidence between the Church and its founder had been restored; but the Judaizers had been reinforced by some bearing "letters of commendation" from some higher authority, and now were arrogant in their supremacy. This Epistle expresses two conflicting emotions: 1.Thankfulness for the removal of evils; 2. Indignation at the arrogance of his opponents.
The former Epistle is a careful and systematic intellectual treatise; the latter is unguarded, expressing the natural feelings of a warm heart.
Summary. I. Its Occasion: A narrative of events, and assurance of his confidence (i., ii.). II. His Apostolic Mission: (a) Its source (iii., iv.); (b) Its difficulties (iv. 7–v. 10); (c) Its motive 59 (v. 11–vi. 10). III. Intercourse with heathen (vi. 14–vii. l). IV. Collection for fellow-Christians (viii., ix.). V. His self-vindication (x.–xiii.).
GALATIANS. This Epistle is one of a set on doctrinal subjects, which should be read together—viz, those to Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews,—since they clearly define the relation of Jews and Gentiles to the Church of Christ, and form one whole treatise, each alone being incomplete. It also has affinity with those to the Corinthians, as it vindicates the writer against the defamation of Judaizers.
Galatia was inhabited by hordes of northern Gauls, who poured down into Asia (B.C. 300), conquered it, and settled there; but being enervated by luxurious food and climate, were gradually driven inland to the central mountain fastnesses of Asia Minor. The people were first barbarian, then mingled with Greeks, tempered by Greek civilization, and finally subjugated by Romans (B.C. 189). Enriched by the constant traffic of Armenian caravans to the Hellespont, many Jews settled there for trading purposes; and the inhabitants were a mixture of Scythian, Greek, Roman, and Hebrew. Paul traversed the country on his second journey, where he was detained by illness (Gal. iv. 13, 14), and converted many Jews and Greeks (iii. 27, 28). He visited it again on his third journey (Acts xviii. 23). Originally worshippers of those who were no gods (iv. 8), they were converted to Judaism (iv. 9), then by Paul to Christianity (iii. 1, 2), and again relapsed into Judaism under the teachers that remained after his visit (iv. 21–31). The Epistle was written from Ephesus, about A.D. 57, to prevent this lapse into Judaism. It resembles that to the Romans in the contrast therein presented between the righteousness by the Law and Justification by Faith.
Summary. I. Narrative. The apostle's own conversion, and conflict against Judaism (i., ii.). II. Argument, based on Old Testament history, shewing how the Law was preparatory to the Gospel (iii., iv.). III. Practical Exhortation, to use the liberty of the Gospel for the cultivation of true godliness.
EPHESIANS. The inscription of this letter to the Ephesians is doubtful, and it is thought to have been either a circular, of which copies were sent to many adjacent churches, or to have been intended to be circulated amongst several (see Col. iv. 16). Ephesus was to Asia, as Corinth to Greece, the great port to which flowed the commerce of E. and W. Its inhabitants were equally noted for licentious and luxurious life, and for cultivation of magical arts, and fanatical worship of Diana (the personification of exuberant natural production). Her temple was one of the wonders of the world for its magnificent structure, and extravagant enrichment. It was the great treasury of Pan-Ionia, and the centre of their worship and nationality, as that of Solomon was to the Jews; But a three years' sojourn there by the apostle broke its power, till the annual festival brought about a temporary reaction (Acts xix.).
This Epistle was probably written about A.D. 62, when Paul was prisoner at Rome. It was not evoked by any relapse or special errors, but was written to establish those who had left heathenism, contrasting their present higher life with their previous degradation. Its summary of Christian revelation as the foundation of spiritual life is couched in language both fervent and sublime.
Summary. I. Doctrinal, (a) Thanksgiving for their call; (b) Enumeration of Christian privileges (i., ii.); (c) The mystical union between Christ and His Church, drawn out first by revelation, and then by prayer.
II. Practical. An exhortation to make their life conformable to their profession, (a) By the unity with which the Spirit of Christ brings them to Him, casting out all feelings leading to discord; (b) By the purity of Christ, whose example they must follow; (c) By the example of His obedience, the mutual forbearance of all in their respective relations of life.
PHILIPPIANS. Philippi, a chief city in Macedonia, N. of the Archipelago, was the scene of the last struggle of the Roman republic against despotism, where Brutus and Cassius, defeated by Augustus and Antony, committed suicide. Hence it became a Roman "colony," with full rights of citizenship, governed by Roman magistrates and laws,—Rome in miniature. The Jews were few, and had no synagogue, but were allowed a small chapel outside the gate, in a secluded spot by the river's bank. Here Paul and Silas converted Lydia, came into contact with heathen Paganism (the worship of evil spirits), were scourged and imprisoned, which led to the jailer's conversion, and the founding of a faithful Christian community.
The Epistle was written during Paul's first imprisonment at Rome (Acts xxviii.), in answer to expressions of sympathy, and a substantial gift sent by Epaphroditus, who had a dangerous illness at Rome. It is a letter of grateful affection mingled with personal sorrow; of joy on their behalf, of gloom at the ingratitude of others; of anxiety also as to his own future, caused probably by the increased rigour of his incarceration.
Summary. I. Prayer for their advancement in grace (i. 1–12). II. Effects of his imprisonment, and his future prospects (i. 13–30). III. Exhortation to follow the example of Christ (ii. 1–18). IV. Personal matters (ii. 19–30). V. Warnings against Judaizers (iii.). VI. Personal appeals (iv. 1–7). VII. Final exhortation and commendation (iv. 8–23).
COLOSSIANS. Nothing is known of the foundation of the Church at Colosse, a chief city of Phrygia; but the Christians there were in danger of relapse, from a tendency to asceticism, Judaism, and angel-worship. Paul sets before them the majesty and all-sufficiency of Christ, as the source of all spiritual blessings. Christian perfection is attained by the practical realisation of this truth influencing the daily life. The attention is fixed upon the Person of Jesus Christ, whose sacrifice completes the typical offerings of Judaism, crucifies the old man with his affections and lusts, while the Resurrection unfolds a new life in Him, elevating the soul above earthly objects more effectually than mere mortification of the flesh to quench out the emotions of the heart, according to a Stoic philosophy. The Epistle was probably written about A.D. 62, during Paul's imprisonment at Rome.
Summary. I. Thanksgiving for their faith, hope, and charity, with a prayer for their spiritual progress (i. 1–15). II. The supremacy and glorious pre-existence of Christ through all eternity, and His reconciliation of humanity to God the Father by His own Resurrection and Ascension to the right hand of power (i. 16–29). III. A stimulus to advance in the knowledge of Christ by the apostle's own example and eager desire for their perfection, and by reference to the privileges of membership with Christ; and a warning against false teaching which endangered them (ii.). IV. Moral and spiritual effects of their participation in Christ's resurrection, both generally and in various social relations (iii.). V. Concluding address to the whole Church, and special salutation and messages from individuals (iv.).60
THESSALONIANS, I. and II. These Epistles were addressed to a Church in Northern Greece, where Paul on his second journey had suffered persecution (Acts xvii. 1–10). Thessalonica (Saloniki), anciently called Thermè, but re-named after the sister of Alexander the Great by her husband Cassander, who restored it, was the chief metropolis of Macedonia (a region extending N. to the Danube, E. to the Black Sea, W. to the Adriatic, S. to Achaia). The most populous city of that division of Europe, and its greatest port, it was to the W. what Ephesus was to the E., and Corinth to Southern Greece. Situated on the sea-margin of a vast plain, watered by numerous rivers, halfway between the Adriatic and Hellespont, at the entrance of the pass into the Macedonian plains, a busy commercial centre, with a constant tide of traffic ebbing and flowing, abroad by sea, inland by the two arms of Roman road, it was a fit centre of evangelization, as "from thence the word of the Lord sounded forth (as from a trumpet) not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place" (1 Thess. i. 8). Here was the chief colony and chief synagogue of the Jews (and at this day there are 80,000 Jews there). Here Paul and Silas shewed their unhealed stripes inflicted at Philippi (1 Thess. ii. 2), and for three sabbaths preached Jesus as the promised Messiah (Acts xvii. 2, 3). The Jews, failing in controversy, resorted to violence, roused a mob of vagabonds from the docks, assailed the lodgings of the apostle, and dragged its owner (Jason) before the rulers.
From Epistle I., written soon after from Athens, and sent by Timothy, we learn:—The apostle's primary success and unflinching courage in preaching; not flattering, but warning; not self-asserting, but displaying a blameless example; entreating, exhorting, rebuking; his self-support by manual labour. His converts were principally from idolatry (i. 9), but partly Jewish proselyte women of rank and influence (Acts xvii. 4).
Summary. I. Paul's gratitude for their eager acceptance of the Gospel, and fidelity in maintaining it; encouraging them under persecution by his own example. II. Practical exhortations: (a) against their besetting sin; (b) encouraging the cultivation of Christian virtues (iv., v.). III. Consolation to those bereft of friends, by unfolding the glories of speedy resurrection, and transformation to a glorified body.
This Epistle was probably written from Corinth, after Paul received an answer to the first, to correct an erroneous impression gained from the vividness of his picture of the resurrection; viz. that it was near at hand, which led to a neglect of practical duties.
Summary. I. Affectionate commendations, and exhortations to perseverance. II. Answer to false anticipations of the Second Advent. III. Appeal for their prayers, and practical precepts for their guidance.
HEBREWS. The greatest weight of testimony favours the opinion that Paul was the author (though probably Luke was the writer) of this Epistle. It was probably composed by the former when in very strict custody, either at Cæsarea, or at Rome (A.D. 62–64), just before his martyrdom (2 Tim. iv. 6), when denied writing materials; and dictated by him to Luke, who then committed it to writing from memory. Some think we have only a Greek translation of an original Hebrew text. It was addressed specially to those Aramaic Christians of Palestine, who were exposed to severe persecution from their fellow-countrymen, who adhered to the expected return of visible glory to Israel. Brought up in fond reminiscence of the glories of the past, they seemed in Christianity to be receding from their peculiar privileges of intercommunion with God, as a favoured people. Angels, Moses, the High Priest, were superseded by Jesus, the peasant of Nazareth; the Sabbath by the Lord's Day, the. Old Covenant by the New; while temple and sacrifices were obsolete. What, they asked, did Christianity give in their place? And the writer answers, Christ; i.e. God for their Mediator and Intercessor: superior to Angels, because nearer to the Father; to Moses, because a Son, not a servant; more sympathising than the High Priest, and more powerful in intercession, because He pleads His own blood. The Sabbath is but a type of the Rest in heaven, the New Covenant is the fulfilment of the Old. Christ's atonement is perfect and eternal, and Heaven itself the true Jerusalem, of which the Church is the temple, whose worshippers are all advanced into the Holy of Holies.
Thus the exceptional ministration of angels is superseded by the continuous ministration of man.
The legislative ministration of Moses is perfected by the Divine Lawgiver.
The typical sacrifice of the High Priest by a real sacrifice of a Priest of a higher order.
The indirect communion with God is supplanted by the direct union of God and man in Christ, and the communion of the Head with His body, the Church.
This Epistle completes the trilogy with those to the Romans and Galatians.
Summary. A. Doctrinal Portion, shewing the superiority of the Christian to the Jewish Dispensation (i.–x. 18). I. Because its Author is superior (a) to Angels, and in Him humanity is exalted above them (i.–ii. 18); (b) to Moses, because of (1) His position: He is the Builder, Son, Master, of the house; Moses part of, a servant in, the house; (2) His acquired inheritance, viz. perfect eternal rest in heaven, instead of imperfect transitory rest in Canaan (iii.–iv. 13); (c) to the Aaronic High Priest, (1) as to His Office; (2) as to His nature; (3) as to His vocation (iv.–v. 10). A Digression of practical exhortation (v. 11–vi. 20). (d) To the Primeval High Priest of superior dispensation (vi. 21–vii. 28). II. Because the Old Covenant was imperfect, being incapable of making its members perfect. Comparison of the typical and real sacrifice of atonement, illustrated by the service of the sanctuary, compared with that of the Christian Sacrifice (viii. 1–ix. 19). B. Practical Portion, (a) Warning against relapse into Judaism; (b) encouraging to peace and holiness; (c) inculcating practical, duties; (d) Conclusion. Special advice to individuals (probably catechumens).
i. b.Pastoral Epistles.
I. To TIMOTHY, the son of a Greek father and Jewish mother (Eunice), Converted and circumcised by Paul at Iconium (Acts xvi. 31 The First Epistle was probably written immediately after Paul's release from his first imprijonment, to counteract the Judaizing influence so strongly at work everywhere against Paul's more liberal views of Christianity; and also to guide and encourage Timothy in the duties of his Office, laying down rules of Church organisation for all times.
Summary. I. Controversial (i.), Recalling the charge committed to Timothy, and Paul's claim to his allegiance; contrasting the truth with the false teaching of Judaizers. II. Practical (ii. 1–i. 2). (a) Injunctions as to public worship generally, regarding both men and women. (b) Qualifications of ministers, and demeanour of their wives and families; (c) Special advice to Timothy himself 61 (iv.); (d) Directions respecting communities of widows, and presbyters (v.); (e) Of servants. Ill. Doctrinal (vi. 3–21). Special charge to Timothy to peace, holiness, self-denial, steadfastness, humility, and to the promotion of almsgiving.
II. TIMOTHY. This Epistle was written (A.D. 66) from Home, in the interval between one trial of the apostle before the Emperor, and that at which he was condemned to death (iv. 16, 17). He viewed his case as desperate (iv. 16), and his martyrdom as imminent (iv. 6–8); and he entreats Timothy to come to him at once (iv. 9, 21), to be with him at his last trial. It has all the tone of a farewell letter to a loved friend; full of love (i. 1–5), encouragement (i. 6–ii. 15), warning (ii. 16–iii. 9), adjuration (iv. 1–5), concluding with personal matters (iv. 6–22).
The Epistle furnishes a noble view of the consolation afforded by Christianity in the midst of suffering, and face to face with death. It alludes to a few otherwise unknown incidents of the life of Paul, between his two imprisonments; also of Timothy, viz. the falling away from the former of some Asiatic converts of note (i. 15); the injury done him by Alexander, mentioned in Acts xix. 33; the lapse of Demas (iv. 10); his reconciliation with Mark (iv. 11); another visit to Corinth and Miletus (iv. 20), and probably Troas (iv. 13); and Timothy's presence with him on his first journey (iii. 11); the names of his grandmother and mother, and his consecration by Paul (i. 5, 6).
TITUS, a Greek by birth, was consecrated by Paul, and was the first Christian convert who was not circumcised, but was taken by Paul to Jerusalem to try the matter, when the Council decided against its necessity (Gal. ii. 3; Acts xv.). It is not known when the Church in Crete was founded, but it is probable that it was after Paul's first imprisonment, on his way to Asia, and that he then left Titus in charge of it. His position was one of peculiar difficulty: the people had sunk into gross immorality, instability, and lying. Paul advises his deputy upon the course he should take. The Epistle resembles the first to Timothy, was probably written about the same time, and gives a condensed code of instruction on doctrine, morals, and discipline.
Summary. I. Apostolic salutation. II. Church Organization: (a) Qualifications of elders, &c.; (b) Suppression of false teachers (i.); (c) The Christian character of aged men and women, young of both sexes, and servants (ii.). III. Personal advice to Titus (iii.).
c. Special Epistle, to an individual.
PHILEMON was an inhabitant of Colosse, of some considerable distinction, whom Paul had converted (ver. 19). He was a "fellow-labourer," probably only as a zealous layman, though some have thought the expression implies that he was ordained. His slave, Onesimus, had run away from him to Rome, having, perhaps, been guilty of misappropriation of his master's goods (ver. 18). Falling into Paul's hands, he was converted to Christianity, reclaimed to his duty, and sent back to his master with this letter of reconciliation. It is remarkabfe for its delicacy, generosity, and justice. The apostle maintains civil rights (even of slavery), maintaining that Onesimus, though under the liberty of the Gospel, is still the slave of Philemon, and justly liable to punishment for desertion. The damage caused by his absconding Paul takes upon himself, playfully using his name "Onesimus" profitable, both to thee and to me) urging his suit for pardon. As the returning slave was the bearer also of the Epistle to the Colossians, it was probably written at the same time (A. D. 62), near the close of Paul's first imprisonment at Rome.
ii. Catholic Epistles.
JAMES the Less, brother, or near relation, of our Lord, an apostle, had the oversight of the Church at Jerusalem (Acts xv. 13), where he remained until his martyrdom (A.D. 62). This Epistle, generally attributed to him, shews evident tokens of a degeneracy in the tone of Jewish Christians, to whom it is addressed, stimulating them to the exercise of higher principles. It reproves the prevailing vices of his countrymen,—hypocrisy, presumption, censoriousness, love of riches; and insists that true faith necessitates good works. It is remarkable for its eminently practical nature, the homeliness and aptness of its illustration, and the bold, plain-spoken rebukes of the wealthy oppressors of the poor. It was probably written near the close of his life, and is addressed to the whole "twelve tribes."
Summary. I. On sincerity, and patience in afflictions (i. 1–15). II. Against hypocrisy and self-deceit (i. 16–27). III. Against adulation of the rich, and contempt of the poor; against false charity and spurious faith (ii.). IV. On the duty of ruling the tongue, and cultivating peace. V. Warning against the corruption of the world, and the attempt to serve both God and mammon, by the consideration of the uncertainty of life (iv.). VI. Against Covetousness, impatience, oaths; with encouragement to mutual confession of faults, intercession, and holiness.
I. PETER. Simon Peter, son of Jonas, a fisherman at Bethsaida, was one of the foremost apostles, by whom three thousand were converted on the Day of Pentecost (Acts ii.), and the first Gentile family admitted by baptism into Christianity (Acts x. 47, 48). He is said to have preached to the Jews scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, i.e. the countries of Asia adjacent to the Black Sea, to whom he addressed this Epistle from Babylon, probably about A.D. 63. Its general design was to comfort them under afflictions.
The First Epistle.
Summary. I. The necessity, use, and transitory nature of earthly trials (i. 1–12). II. An exhortation to walk worthy of their vocation, and to follow the example of Christ, who died to purchase their glorification (i. 13–ii. 10). III. Practical advice as to their duty in various relations of life, e.g. as citizens, slaves, husbands, wives, &c. (ii. 13–iii. 8). IV. An exhortation generally to unanimity, peaceableness, sanctifieatiori; with a warning of the Second Advent, enforced by a reference to the previous judgments of God on those who neglected the preaching of Noah (iii. 9–iv. 19). V. Practical exhortation to pastors on their duties.
The Second Epistle.
II. PETER. This Epistle was written when he apprehended his death (i. 14), and also not long after the former Epistle. It is also addressed, no doubt, to the same persons. Its date is generally supposed to be AID. 65. It is valuable, as containing the last words to his converts of one of the original Twelve, and for certain personal traits, such as the mention of the Transfiguration by an eye-witness (i. 17, 18), and the commendation of Paul and his Epistles (iii. 15, 16).
Summary. I. An exhortation to persevere in faith and good works, by an assurance of the reality of the glorification of Christ as the pattern man, accepted by God, and the Messiah of prophecy (i.). II. Warning of the certainty of punishment on impenitent sinners, by reference to past history, e.g. the Flood, overthrow of Sodom (ii. 1– 10). III. Warning against false teachers, by the example of Balaam (ii. 11–22). IV. The certainty 62 of the Second Advent, and its warning (a) to the godly, (b) to the wicked (iii.).
I. JOHN. The tract called the First Epistle of John seems rather to partake of the nature of a doctrinal discourse, addressed to believers generally, but more particularly to Gentiles in Asia Minor, probably in the neighbourhood of its chief city, Ephesus.
Its date is uncertain. Some place it before the destruction of Jerusalem, others towards the end of the first century, thinking it bears marks of combating the Gnostic heresy. Its aim seems to be to establish the true doctrine concerning the Person of Christ, as to His Divine and human nature, and that true communion with Him necessitates a holy life. The chief grace inculcated in this and the two following Epistles is love.
Summary. I. The true nature of fellowship with God, who is Light and Love, requiring purity and holiness (i.–ii. 27). II. The blessings and duties of sonship. The privilege of adoption demands the corresponding duty of conformity to Christ, the true Son (iii.–iv. 6). III. The essential bond of fellowship and sonship is love, both to the Father and to one another (iv. 7–v. 18).
II. JOHN. This Epistle contains only thirteen verses, eight of which are found in substance in the First. It was probably written about the same time, but it is addressed "to the Elect Lady" (thought by some to mean the Church), and "her children;" or to "the Lady Electa," a person so called for her eminent piety. They are exhorted to persevere in love, faith, and godliness, and to beware of false teachers.
III. JOHN. A short address, of a similar kind, to "the well-beloved Gaius," of whom nothing certain is known, though he is supposed to be identical with the one named in Rom. xvi. 23, and 1 Cor. i. 14. He is commended for his hospitality and piety; warned against the ambition and malice of Diotrephes (one in authority); and his friendly offices are besought for Demetrius.
This Epistle is remarkable for the quotation of an otherwise unrecorded saying of Enoch (ver. 14), and a tradition of a dispute between Michael the archangel and Satan regarding the body of Moses (ver. 9). Its date, place, and occasion, are unknown; but it seems to denounce the same false teachers as those rebuked in 2 Pet. ii., and in very similar language; warning them by the example of the fallen angels, of Cain, the impenitent in the times of Noah, of the wicked cities of the plain, of Korah, and Balaam; asserting the certainty of the future judgment and punishment of the wicked.
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