But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.
This is the only place in this letter where the readers are addressed as "beloved." The especial tenderness of the appellation follows very beautifully and significantly upon one of the sternest and solemnest warnings which Scripture contains as to the impossibility of those who were first enlightened, "if they shall fall away," being renewed again to repentance, and as to the rejection, and cursing, and destruction of the barren and profitless ground. It is as if the writer had felt that after these dark and terrible thoughts he must soften his voice still more, and make haste not only to show how affection had dictated the warning, but also how joyful confidence in his brethren was present throughout it. The writer assumes, as understood and inspired by all to whom he is speaking, that what he calls "salvation" never comes into any man's hand or heart alone. This great gift never draws near singly. That precious stone is always set in a cluster of little stones around it. This angel of God never enters unattended by the virgins, her companions following her. There is ever a courtly dance of graces and fair figures that pass into the heart, and sweep in unison through the life which has received salvation. And what are these inseparable accompaniments; these continual companions of this central gift? The context distinctly bears the answer. They are all the things which the writer includes in the "herbs brought forth meet for the husbandman." All the things which he includes under another figure, in "your work and labour of love." That is to say, a fruitful Christian life of joyful obedience, of manifest issues, of a supreme love to God, which flashes out into all kinds of gentleness and amiabilities towards others, and has other regions, often nobler, in which it manifests itself. These are the companions, "the things which accompany salvation." All that lustrous beauty and radiant completeness of human character is treated here as being a secondary and a consequent thing. The queen is salvation; they that follow her are all these great and beautiful things. Which is just to say, if a man wants to be good let him begin by taking for his own God's great gift of forgiveness and acceptance in Jesus Christ. What would you think of a master who said he bad found out a new way of architecture, and he was about to begin building a house at the chimneys? It would be about as wise as the man that seeks, by painful effort, which effort I would be the last to say a word to despise, to make his life full of these beauties of conduct and character without having laid the foundation with Christ, who is the only foundation. If you take and plant some aromatic shrubs, hitherto unknown, upon some bare and sandy down, a whole fleet of bees and butterflies will come, drawn to the blossoms, that never were seen there before. And so if, and only if, we have in our hearts by faith in Jesus Christ, that tree of immortal life and manifold fragrances, round it will buzz and hover, and from it will draw honey and sustenance, all manner of fair and flying things, else and otherwise strangers to our spirits.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.