The Efficacy of the Promises
2 Peter 1:3-4
According as his divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness…

What is the "whereby" with which the passage commences? designating, as it appears to do, some channel of communication. There are here several antecedents to which the "whereby" may be grammatically referred; but, without examining a variety of critical opinions, it appears to me the most obvious course to take the concluding words, "glory and virtue," as the antecedent which we are in search of; "the knowledge of Him that has called us to glory and virtue; whereby" — that is, through which glory and virtue — "are given to us exceeding great and precious promises." We are called to glory and to virtue — to a warfare that is full of honour, but at the same time full of difficulty, requiring much wisdom and vigour in the combatant. If we obey this calling, and throw ourselves into the conflict, then the struggle in which we are engaged will be the best witness that we are the elect of the Most High. Having this witness, we possess an assurance that the promises of the Bible are spoken specially to ourselves. Now, having thus cleared up the connection between the text and the context, it still remains that I vindicate the description that is here made of the promises given in the Bible. Yet, can this be necessary? If there be a spiritual solicitude for which the Bible contains not a word in season; if there be a doubt which is left without a message to disperse it; if there be an anxiety which is passed by without a whisper to soothe it; and if there be a tear which it dries not; then I will give up the description, and pronounce it overdrawn. But in nothing has God so manifested His wisdom as in the precision with which His Word meets the wants of His people. It were idle to attempt to descend into particulars. Exceedingly great are the promises of the Bible; great in their sweep, for they leave no circumstance unattended to; great in their power, for they bring all the magnificence of eternity to bear on the solicitudes of time. And precious are the promises, as well as great. He who can appropriate them has blessings which no arithmetic can reckon, a security which no contingency can shake, and a help which never can be without use. But there is no need that I insist further on the character that the text gives of the promises. Those who have proved them acknowledge them to be "exceeding great and precious"; they who have proved them not, want, alas! the spiritual ardour by which their character is to be discerned, and are therefore not to be convinced by the most elaborate description. We all profess to believe that once on the earth the spectacle was exhibited of the human nature adopted into union with the Divine. There was the perfect instance of one of our race being made partaker of the Divine nature: I need scarcely add that the instance will stand for ever by itself; and that the sense in which we alone can share in the nature of God differs from that in which Christ Jesus had share. He had it in essence — we in conformity; He by being God — we only by being renewed after the image of God. The Greek might more strictly be rendered "partakers of a Divine nature," and not of the Divine nature. Now, the point which yet remains to be investigated, is the agency of the promises in effecting such a change; for, you will observe, that whilst partaking of the Divine nature is the result, the promises are the means through which it is brought about. "Exceeding great and precious promises, that by these ye might be partakers of the Divine nature." The machinery exhibited in the Bible when a spiritual transformation is in question, is the influence of the Holy Ghost, the Third Person of the blessed Trinity. We may be assured, therefore, that when any other machinery is brought on the stage, we are to understand that it is effectual, not through its inherent energies, but only through its being actuated by that Agent. The promises in themselves have no power to animate; but if I believe in the promise, then the promise becomes a quickening thing; and that which as spoken was merely sound that melted into air. is now a radiant star which rules me and guides me by the brilliancy of its light. We shall take for granted, in all we say of the power of the promises, that the power is derived from faith, and faith from the Holy Ghost; and we go on to show in the first place the power which promises wield over men in ordinary things, and in the second place, the influence which they exert over Christians in particular. If you took a rapid survey of the various classes and occupations of men, you would find that almost every one is submitting himself to the power of promise. If you enter the crowded marts of commerce, or pass through the courtly circles of ambition, or sit with the student in his secluded chamber, or accompany the dissolute into the haunts of pleasure, the same pursuit is in each case carried on; they are all hunting after some fancied good, which, though it may cheat them at last, engages them at present. Some busy spirit has been whispering into the ear of every man whom you meet, that if he will but follow this course, or that course, he shall attain the object of his desire. And the greatest marvel is, that although the experience of successive ages has shown there is a lie in each of these promises, they nevertheless attain the same credit as ever. If it could, however, come suddenly to pass that an arrest was put on this circulation of promise, there would be an instant standstill in the busy scenes of human occupation. And I need hardly point out how amplified would be the power of promise if there were anything like an assurance of fulfilment. If men can do such things on chance, what will they do on certainty? Now I turn from this rapid survey of the power which promise wields over men in general; and I ask you whether, if you turn the uncertainty of promise into certainty, you may not expect to find the power a thousand times greater which is wielded over Christians in particular? The defects in promise are here done away With; the result which is desired not only may take place, but shall take place. And if a promise, which is both indefinite in its terms and insecure in its pledges, be the efficient thing we have already described, who shall marvel that where the terms are the noblest, and the pledges are the strongest, it shall lead those who believe to work out their salvation with the fear and trembling of men who know themselves to have eternity at stake? I will seek, however, to dissect this point a little more nicely; for it is both of interest and importance. Escaping the pollution that is in the world, we account to be the same thing as being made partakers of the Divine nature. It is by escaping pollution, by withdrawing from the trammels and habits of sinfulness, that this partnership in the celestial character is procured; and if we can show that it is by the promises that pollution is escaped, it will follow that it is through the promises that conformity to the Divine nature is attained. But whether it be by promises or by threatenings that the work is commenced, assuredly it is by promise that the work is carried on. Is the believer disheartened when he considers the might of his spiritual enemies? the promise is kindly whispered, "God shall bruise Satan under thy feet shortly." He takes courage, and wrestles with the enemy. Is he confounded at the view of indwelling corruption? "God will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able to bear." Are kinsmen and friends alienated from him on account of his profession of godliness? What sustains him but this? — "When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up." Does prayer seem unanswered? "Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart." Do sorrows seem multiplied? "All things work together for good to them that love God." Is his progress in the life of faith scarcely perceptible? Where God hath begun a good work, He will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. You see, then, that promises are mighty engines in the hands of God's Spirit. It is by these souls are animated to prayer; it is by these they are prepared for warfare; it is by these they are warmed in love; it is by these they are cheered on in their way after holiness.

(H. Melvill, B. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:

WEB: seeing that his divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and virtue;

The Divinely Assimilating Force of Divine Promises
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