10. De qua salute exquisierunt et scrutati sunt prophetee, qui de futura erga nos gratia vaticinati sunt;
11. Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.
11. Scrutantes in quem aut cujusmodi temporis articulum significaret qui in illis erat Spiritus Christi; prius testificans ventufas in Christum afflictiones, et quee sequuturae erant glorias;
12. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.
12. Quibus revelatum est quod non sibi ipsis, sed nobis ministrabant haec, quae nunc annunciata sunt vobis per cos qui vobis praedicarunt evangelitum, per Spiritum sanctum missum e coelo; in quae desiderant angeli prospicere.
He hence commends the value of salvation, because the prophets had their minds intensely fixed on it; for it must have been a great matter, and possessing peculiar excellency, which could have thus kindled in the prophets a spirit of inquiry respecting it. But still more clearly does God's goodness toward us shine forth in this case, because much more is now made known to us than what all the prophets attained by their long and anxious inquiries. At the same time he confirms the certainty of salvation by this very antiquity; for from the beginning of the world it had received a plain testimony from the Holy Spirit.
These two things ought to be distinctly noticed: he declares that more has been given to us than to the ancient fathers, in order to amplify by this comparison the grace of the gospel; and then, that what is preached to us respecting salvation, cannot be suspected of any novelty, for the Spirit had formerly testified of it by the prophets. When, therefore, he says that the prophets searched and sedulously inquired, this does not belong to their writings or doctrine, but to the private desire with which every one boiled over. What is said afterwards is to be referred to their public office.
But that each particular may be more evident, the passage must be arranged under certain propositions. Let the first then be this, -- that the Prophets who foretold of the grace which Christ exhibited at his coming, diligently inquired as to the time when full revelation was to be made. The second is, -- that the Spirit of Christ predicted by them of the future condition of Christ's kingdom, such as it is now, and such as it is expected yet to be, even that it is destined that Christ and his whole body should, through various sufferings, enter into glory. The third is, -- that the prophets ministered to us more abundantly than to their own age, and that this was revealed to them from above; for in Christ only is the full exhibition of those things of which God then presented but an obscure image. The fourth is, -- that in the Gospel is contained a clear confirmation of prophetic doctrine, but also a much fuller and plainer explanation; for the salvation which he formerly proclaimed as it were at a distance by the prophets, he now reveals openly to us, and as it were before our eyes. The last proposition is, -- that it hence appears evident how wonderful is the glory of that salvation promised to us in the Gospel, because even angels, though they enjoy God's presence in heaven, yet burn with the desire of seeing it. Now all these things tend to shew this one thing, that Christians, elevated to the height of their felicity, ought to surmount all the obstacles of the world; for what is there which this incomparable benefit does not reduce to nothing?
10 Of which salvation Had not the fathers the same salvation as we have? Why then does he say that the fathers inquired, as though they possessed not what is now offered to us? The answer to this is plain, that salvation is to be taken here for that clear manifestation of it which we have through the coming of Christ. The words of Peter mean no other thing than those of Christ, when he said,
"Many kings and prophets have desired to see the things which ye see, and have not seen them." (Matthew 13:17.)
As then the prophets had but a limited knowledge of the grace brought by Christ, as to its revelation they justly desired something more. When Simeon, after seeing Christ, prepared himself calmly and with a satisfied mind for death, he shewed that he was before unsatisfied and anxious. Such was the feeling of all the godly.
11. And what they inquired is pointed out when he adds, Searching what, or what manner of time There was a difference between the law and the gospel, a veil as it were being interposed, that they might not see those things nearer which are now set before our eyes. Nor was it indeed proper, while Christ the Sun of righteousness was yet absent, that the full light should shine as at mid-day. And though it was their duty to confine themselves within their prescribed limits, yet it was no superstition to sigh with a desire of having a nearer sight. For when they wished that redemption should be hastened, and desired daily to see it, there was nothing in such a wish to prevent them patiently to wait as long as it pleased the Lord to defer the time. Moreover, to seek as to prophecies the particular time, seems to me unprofitable; for what is spoken of here is not what the prophets taught, but what they wished. Where the Latin interpreters render, "of future grace," it is literally, "of the grace which is to you." But as the meaning remains the same, I was not disposed to make any change.
It is more worthy of observation, that he does not say that the prophets searched according to their own understanding as to the time when Christ's kingdom would come, but that they applied their minds to the revelation of the Spirit. Thus they have taught us by their example a sobriety in learning, for they did not go beyond what the Spirit taught them. And doubtless there will be no limits to man's curiosity, except the Spirit of God presides over their minds, so that they may not desire anything else than to speak from him. And further, the spiritual kingdom is a higher subject than what the human mind can succeed in investigating, except the Spirit be the guide. May we also therefore submit to his guidance.
The Spirit of Christ which was in them First, "who was in them," and secondly, "testifying," that is, giving a testimony, by which expression he intimates that the prophets were endued with the Spirit of knowledge, and indeed in no common manner, as those who have been teachers and witnesses to us, and that yet they were not partakers of that light which is exhibited to us. At the same time, a high praise is given to their doctrine, for it was the testimony of the Holy Spirit; the preachers and ministers were men, but he was the teacher. Nor does he declare without reason that the Spirit of Christ then ruled; and he makes the Spirit, sent from heaven, to preside over the teachers of the Gospel, for he shews that the Gospel comes from God, and that the ancient prophecies were dictated by Christ.
The sufferings of Christ That they might bear submissively their afflictions, he reminds them that they had been long ago foretold by the Spirit. But he includes much more than this, for he teaches us, that the Church of Christ has been from the beginning so constituted, that the cross has been the way to victory, and death a passage to life, and that this had been clearly testified. There is, therefore, no reason why afflictions should above measure depress us, as though we were miserable under them, since the Spirit of God pronounces us blessed.
The order is to be noticed; he mentions sufferings first, and then adds the glories which are to follow. For he intimates that this order cannot be changed or subverted; afflictions must precede glory. So there is to be understood a twofold truth in these words, -- that Christians must suffer many troubles before they enjoy glory, -- and that afflictions are not evils, because they have glory annexed to them. Since God has ordained this connection, it does not behove us to separate the one from the other. And it is no common consolation, that our condition, such as we find it to be, has been foretold so many ages ago.
Hence we learn, that it is not in vain that a happy end is promised to us; secondly, we hence know that we are not afflicted by chance, but through the infallible providence of God; and lastly, that prophecies are like mirrors to set forth to us in tribulations the image of celestial glory.
Peter, indeed, says, that the Spirit had testified of the coming afflictions of Christ; but he does not separate Christ from his body. This, then, is not to be confined to the person of Christ, but a beginning is to be made with the head, so that the members may in due order follow, as Paul also teaches us, that we must be conformed to him who is the first-born among his brethren. In short, Peter does not speak of what is peculiar to Christ, but of the universal state of the Church. But it is much fitted to confirm our faith, when he sets forth our afflictions as viewed in Christ, for we thereby see better the connection of death and life between us and him. And, doubtless, this is the privilege and manner of the holy union, that he suffers daily in his members, that after his sufferings shall be completed in us, glory also may have its completion. See more on this subject in the third chapter of the Epistle to the Colossians, and in the fourth of the first Epistle to Timothy.
12 Unto whom it was revealed This passage has been strangely perverted by fanatics, so as to exclude the fathers who lived under the law from the hope of eternal salvation. For it does not deny that the prophets usefully ministered to their own age, and edified the church, but teaches us that their ministry is more useful to us, because we are fallen on the ends of the world. We see how highly they extolled the kingdom of Christ, how assiduous they were in adorning it, how diligently they stimulated all to seek it; but they were by death deprived of the privilege of seeing it as it now is. What else then was this, but that they spread the table, that others might afterwards feed on the provisions laid on it. They indeed tasted by faith of those things which the Lord has by their hands transmitted to be enjoyed by us; and they also partook of Christ as the real food of their souls. But what is spoken of now is the exhibition of this blessing, and we know that the prophetic office was confined as it were within limits, in order that they might support themselves and others with the hope of Christ, who was to come. They therefore possessed him as one hidden, and as it were absent -- absent, I say, not in power or grace, but because he was not yet manifested in the flesh. Therefore his kingdom also was as yet hid as it were under coverings. At length descending on earth, he in a manner opened heaven to us, so that we might have a near view of those spiritual riches, which before were under types exhibited at a distance. This fruition then of Christ as manifested, forms the difference between us and the prophets. Hence we learn how they ministered to us rather than to themselves.
But though the prophets were admonished from above that the grace which they proclaimed would be deferred to another age, yet they were not slothful in proclaiming it, so far were they from being broken down with weariness. But if their patience was so great, surely we shall be twice and thrice ungrateful, if the fruition of the grace denied to them will not sustain us under all the evils which are to be endured.
Which are now reported to you, or announced to you. He again marks the difference between the ancient doctrine and the preaching of the gospel. For as the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel, having a testimony from the law and the prophets, so also the glory of Christ, of which the Spirit testified formerly, is now openly proclaimed. And at the same time he hence proves the certainty of the gospel, because it contains nothing but what had been long ago testified by the Spirit of God. He further reminds them, that under the banner of the same Spirit, by his dictation and guidance, the gospel was preached, lest they might think of anything human in this case.
Which things the angels desire to look into It is indeed the highest praise to the gospel, that it contains treasures of wisdom, as yet concealed and hidden from angels. But some one may object, and say that it is not reasonable that things should be open and known to us which are hidden from angels, who always see the face of God, and are his ministers in ruling the church, and in the administration of all his blessings. To this I answer, that things are open to us as far as we see them in the mirror of the word; but our knowledge is not said to be higher than that of angels; Peter only means that such things are promised to us as angels desire to see fulfilled. Paul says that by the calling of the Gentiles the wonderful wisdom of God was made known to angels. for it was a spectacle to them, when Christ gathered into one body the lost world, alienated for so many ages from the hope of life. Thus daily they see with admiration the magnificent works of God in the government of his church. How much greater will their admiration be, at witnessing the last display of divine justice, when the kingdom of Christ shall be completed! This is as yet hidden, the revelation of which they still expect and justly wish to see.
The passage indeed admits of a twofold meaning; either that the treasure we have in the gospel fills the angels with a desire to see it, as it is a sight especially delightful to them; or that they anxiously desire to see the kingdom of Christ, the living image of which is set forth in the gospel. But the last seems to me to be the most suitable meaning.