Things and Persons, Here and Hereafter
2 Peter 3:11-18
Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in all holy conversation and godliness,…

I. AN IMPORTANT CLASSIFICATION: "Things" and "persons."

1. Things. We call the visible universe the great system of things. We need sometimes to remember that they are things only. The uplifted mountains which awe us with their sublimity are simply things. The animal and vegetable creations belong to the same category. There are endless varieties of life, instinct, structure, and form; but all are things. The possessions on which men so much pride themselves, and which attract such consideration from their fellows, are things, and nothing more. Our very bodies, so closely related to ourselves — inseparably united with us for this life — are yet not ourselves. They are but things. Youthfulness, elasticity, and bloom; age, debility, and decay, are not ourselves, nor our friends; they are things only — frail and changing things.

2. Persons. Persons are endowed with intelligence and will; they discern both right and wrong; they love and loathe. What a tremendous prerogative, to be a person! What high fellowship! God is a Person. So are angels. Man is the image of his Maker. What a pinnacle of danger is this! What a fall is possible from hence! Things exist for persons, not persons for things. Creation is for God, not God for creation. Nature, like the Sabbath, is for man, not man for nature, not man for the Sabbath. The popular philosophy of our day reverses this order. Its practical teaching is, that persons exist for things. As long as you court men, not for what they are, but for what they have, you put things above persons. In the Divine intention things are subordinate to persons. Business, riches, competence, poverty, are tests of men. They are instruments of education and discipline. None of these things are for themselves; they are ordained for persons — for the development of the mind and conscience and heart of man. The solemn question about every one is — ought to be now — will be hereafter — not, What has the man made by business? but, What has business made the man? The world's creed is — Man exists for business, not business for man. The same perversion is visible in the misuse of the human body. One needs sometimes to ask, Which is the man, the body or the soul? The outer man is designed to be the hourly test of the inner man. The end of the thing is answered, when the intellectual, moral, and spiritual habits of the person inhabiting and using it are expanded and perfected. The husk is shed when stem and leaf appear.

II. AN INSTRUCTIVE CONTRAST: "Things "shall be "dissolved"; "persons" must continue "to be."

1. "Things" shall be "dissolved." The globe is but our larger habitation, and, like the body which we occupy, it will not survive its uses. It is not "shall be dissolved." It is, "are being dissolved." Future events are close to the vision of the seer. There is something of the remotest future in every immediate present. "We all do fade as the leaf." The elements of death, to which we must succumb at the last, work in us through childhood, youth, and maturity. So, too, the seeds of the final ruin are sown in the world now, and grow from hour to hour.

2. "Persons" continue to be. "Persons" cannot "dissolve." The consciousness of existence and the sense of responsibility are indestructible. They may be bedimmed, but not extinguished. The intellectual and moral energies of the soul are a fire which may be buried, and, for a while, be constrained to smoulder; but, uncovered to the air, it will break forth once more into dazzling flame. Ah! what changes persons can pass through, and still remain the same! What differences there are between childhood and age, and yet the individual continues as before! A man may so alter his earthly condition that the past may become a dream, and will no more be realised in the present. He may modify and even cancel all the judgments which he ever held, and may reverse all his moral principles and religious hopes. But not even a suspicion will ever cross his mind to confuse the unquestioned conviction that, as a person, he is unaltered and the same. Life and death, the grave and judgment, heaven and hell, immortal activity and endless years will never bedim the individuality of a single soul. Personality in every deathless spirit shall stretch in a line of unwavering light to all eternity.

III. A SOLEMN INFERENCE: "Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be."

1. Ye ought to live in the hallowed discharge of all duty towards God and man.

(1) "In all holy conversation." The word is plural, "conversations." As usual in our version, conversation means conduct. The plural indicates no particular conduct, but all conduct without exception.

(2) "And godliness." The plural occurs here also, "godlinesses." Godliness is all thought, feeling, and conduct which are possible to a man towards God. This is man's action towards heaven, as the former is man's action towards earth. Penitence for sin; faith in Christ, whose blood was shed; the eager pursuit of the Holy Spirit's grace, that godliness with you may be likeness to God; these and all emotions, resolutions, and actions which can cleanse the conscience, pacify the heart, and refine the character, are to distinguish men who recognise that "all things are dissolving," that "persons" are immortal, and may be for ever blessed.

2. In the holy fulfilment of all duty to man, and in the sacred enjoyment of all hallowed privilege from God, ye are to expect the grand consummation, and by the same conduct to hasten it on.

(1) "Looking for the coming of the day of God." The word means watching and waiting. It is looking, not doubtfully, but in expectancy. This state of mind is the fruit of "all holy conversations and godlinesses." It cannot be projected by a wish. It can no more be extemporised in the Christian life than can an elaborate Corinthian capital or an ethereal group of sculpture be flung off and finished with a blow. Languishing piety and increasing worldliness will not attain it. If you would reap the harvest, you must sow the seed, and protect the rising growth from all blight and injury.

(2) "And hasting the coming of the day of God." "All holy conversations and godlinesses," not only create the state of expectancy, but in the design of the Almighty they bring on the day. The great system of "things" is passing to dissolution, let holy "persons," who will mount above the ruin and live for ever, hasten the blissful hour.

(H. Batchelor.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,

WEB: Therefore since all these things will be destroyed like this, what kind of people ought you to be in holy living and godliness,

The Influence of Belief in Tire Coming of the Day of God
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