Scripture Notes

I.

Philippians 4:8; 1 Peter 2:9, etc.

The word translated "virtue" is only found five times in the New Testament - once in Philippians, once in 1 Peter, and three times in 2 Peter. Its meaning may best be gathered from a consideration of these passages. In Philippians 4:8, it keeps its primary signification of "goodness" or "excellence," and this is in entire harmony with its context, "whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue (any goodness or excellency), and if there be any praise, think on these things." The mind of the believer occupied with such things, and steadfastly excluding what is evil and defiling, will be preserved in the state suited for a growing knowledge of Christ, and for the exhibition of an increasing conformity to His likeness.

The same meaning is attached to the word in 1 Peter 2:9. In the "royal priesthood" there is an undoubted reference to the Melchizedek glory of our blessed Lord, which will be displayed in Him when He shall sit as a Priest upon His throne. (Zech. 6:13.) Of this the garments of the high priest of Israel - the garments for glory and for beauty (Exodus 28) - were the intended symbol. Through association in grace with Christ, believers share with Him in His exaltation and glories (Rev. 1:6); and knowing this by faith, in anticipation of their actual display in glory with our blessed Lord, they are reminded by the apostle that they are called upon, even while in the wilderness, to show forth His excellencies, the moral features of His perfections. In another aspect, it is the life of Jesus, of which Paul speaks, manifested in our bodies. (2 Cor. 4:10.) The next case gives a different use of the word. "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." (2 Peter 1:3.) Without discussing the translation, it may yet be said that "by" glory and virtue would be more exact. Assuming this, we have "glory" as the goal of our divine call, and "virtue" as the quality necessary for treading the path which leads to the goal. To understand this, it should be said that "virtue" was used also to indicate not only moral, but also human excellence, such as courage, energy, etc., and hence "manliness" as expressive of such traits of character. If, then, "glory" in this scripture is set before us as the end of the Christian path, seeing that this path runs through hostile territory, and is beset with enemies and difficulties, what is needed for perseverance in it is spiritual courage, or energy of spiritual life, and this is precisely what "virtue" here means. So also in v. 5, having faith, the very next thing required by us is this spiritual energy or courage, to press onwards, so that we may be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, lest otherwise we fall into a cold, indifferent, and backsliding condition.

II.

Revelation 1:17, 18.

Undoubtedly the words "the first and the last" are a divine title, and yet, as the following clause shows, it is "He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore." To borrow another's language, "He lays His right hand on John, declares Himself the first and the last, Jehovah Himself, but withal the Same that died in love, and has complete power over death and Hades; the Deliverer from it, not the Subjector to it." It is not that Jehovah, the self-existent One, died - though grammatically it so reads - for this was impossible. But the truth is, He who died was - blessed be His name for ever! - Jehovah, yea, God manifest in the flesh. Therein lies the mystery of the unity of His Person; for while as the eternal Son, the second Person of the Trinity, He was, and always will be, unchangeable, immutably the same; as having become man, He is "one blessed Person, God and man, the man Christ Jesus." Even in saying this much, the Lord's own words need to be remembered, "No man knoweth the Son but the Father." The Person of the Son is thus inscrutable. To cultivate increasing intimacy with Himself is ever permitted to the humblest believer; but he has nothing more to learn concerning His Person. "Christ is God, [and] Christ is man, are facts for faith realized in the simplest soul"; and the more they are realized, the more will the heart overflow with praise and adoration.