Commentaries of Origen (Cont.)
Book XII. (Cont.)
14. In What Sense the “Keys” Are Given to Peter, and Every Peter. Limitations of This Power.
And after this let us see in what sense it is said to Peter, and to every Peter, “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat_16:19) And, in the first place, I think that the saying, “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven,” is spoken in consistency with the words, “The gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” (Mat_16:18) For he is worthy to receive from the same Word the keys of the kingdom of heaven, who is fortified against the gates of Hades so that they do not prevail against him, receiving, as it were, for a prize, the keys of the kingdom of heaven, because the gates of Hades had no power against him, that he might open for himself the gates that were closed to those who had been conquered by the gates of Hades. And he enters in, as a temperate man, through an opened gate – the gate of temperance – by the key which opens temperance; and, as a righteous man, by another gate – the gate of righteousness – which is opened by the key of righteousness; and so with the rest of the virtues. For I think that for every virtue of knowledge certain mysteries of wisdom corresponding to the species of the virtue are opened up to him who has lived according to virtue; the Saviour giving to those who are not mastered by the gates of Hades as many keys as there are virtues, which open gates equal in number, which correspond to each virtue according to the revelation of the mysteries. And perhaps, also, each virtue is a kingdom of heaven, and all together are a kingdom of the heavens; so that according to this he is already in the kingdom of the heavens who lives according to the virtues, so that according to this the saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” (Mat_3:2; Mat_4:7) is to be referred, not to the time, but to deeds and dispositions; for Christ, who is all virtue, has come, and speaks, and on account of this the kingdom of God is within His disciples, and not here or there. (Luk_17:21) But consider how great power the rock has upon which the church is built by Christ, and how great power every one has who says, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” so that the judgments of this man abide sure, as if God were judging in him, that in the very act of judging the gates of Hades shall not prevail against him. But when one judges unrighteously, and does not bind upon earth according to the Word of God, nor loose upon earth according to His will, the gates of Hades prevail against him; but, in the case of any one against whom the gates of Hades do not prevail, this man judges righteously. Wherefore he has the keys of the kingdom of heaven, opening to those who have been loosed on earth that they may be also loosed in heaven, and free; and shutting to those who by his just judgment have been bound on earth that they also may be bound in heaven, and condemned. But when those who maintain the function of the episcopate make use of this word as Peter, and, having received the keys of the kingdom of heaven from the Saviour, teach that things bound by them, that is to say, condemned, are also bound in heaven, and that those which have obtained remission by them are also loosed in heaven, we must say that they speak wholesomely if they have the way of life on account of which it was said to that Peter, “Thou art Peter;” (Mat_16:18) and if they are such that upon them the church is built by Christ, and to them with good reason this could be referred; and the gates of Hades ought not to prevail against him when he wishes to bind and loose. But if he is tightly bound with the cords of his sins, (Pro_5:22) to no purpose does he bind and loose. And perhaps you can say that in the heavens which are in the wise man – that, is the virtues, – the bad man is bound; and again in these the virtuous man is loosed, and has received an indemnity for the sins which he committed before his virtue. But, as the man, who has not the cords of sins nor iniquities compared to a “long rope or to the strap of the yoke of a heifer,” (Isa_5:18) not even God could bind, in like manner, no Peter, whoever he may be; and if any one who is not a Peter, and does not possess the things here spoken of, imagines as a Peter that he will so bind on earth that the things bound are bound in heaven, and will so loose on earth that the things loosed are loosed in heaven, he is puffed up, not understanding the meaning of the Scriptures, and, being puffed up, has fallen into the ruin of the devil. (1Ti_3:10)
15. Relation of the Former Commission Given by Jesus to the Disciples, to His Present Injunction of Silence. Belief and Knowledge Contrasted.
“Then enjoined He His disciples that they should tell no man that He was the Christ.” (Mat_16:20) It is written above that Jesus sent forth these twelve saying unto them, “Go not into any way of the Gentiles,” (Mat_10:5) and the other words which are recorded to have been said to them when He sent them to the apostleship. Did He then wish them when they were already discharging the function of Apostles to proclaim that He was the Christ? For, if He wished it, it is fitting to inquire why He now at all commands the disciples that they should not say that He was the Christ? Or if He did not wish it, how can the things concerning the apostleship be safely maintained? And these things also one may inquire at this place, – whether, when He sent away the Twelve, He did not send them away with the understanding that He was the Christ? But if the Twelve had such understanding, manifestly Peter had it also; how, then, is he now pronounced blessed? For the expression here plainly indicates that now for the first time Peter confessed that Christ was the Son of the living God, Matthew then, according to some of the manuscripts, has written, “Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no man that He was the Christ,” but (Mat_16:20) Mark says, “He charged them that they should tell no man of Him;” (Mar_8:30) and Luke, “He charged them and commanded them to tell this to no man.” (Luk_9:21) But what is the “this”? Was it that also according to him, Peter answered and said to the question, “Who say ye that I am.” – “The Christ, the Son of the living God?” (Mat_16:15, Mat_16:16) You must know, however, that some manuscripts of the Gospel according to Matthew have, “He charged.” (Mat_16:20) The difficulty thus started seems to me a very real difficulty; but let a solution which cannot be impugned be sought out, and let the finder of it bring it forward before all, if it be more credible than that which shall be advanced by us as a fairly temperate view.45 Consider, then, if you can say, that the belief that Jesus is the Christ is inferior to the knowledge of that which is believed. And perhaps also there is a difference in the knowledge of Jesus as the Christ, as every one who knows does not know Him alike. From the words in John, “If ye abide in My word, ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,” (Joh_8:31, Joh_8:32) it is plain that belief without knowledge is inferior to knowing; but that there is a difference in the knowledge of Jesus as the Christ, as all who know Him do not know Him equally, is a fact self-evident to any one who gives even a very little consideration to the matter. For who would not acknowledge, for example, that Timothy, though he knew that Jesus was the Christ, had not been enlightened to such an extent in the knowledge of Him as the Apostle had been enlightened? And who would not also admit this – that though many, speaking the truth, say about God, “He has given to me a true knowledge of things that are,” yet they will not say this with equal insight and apprehension of the things known, nor as knowing the same number of things? But it is not only in respect of the difference of knowing that those who know do not know alike, bat also according to that which is the source of the knowledge; so that according to this he who knows the Son by the revelation of the Father, (Mat_16:16) as Peter is testified to have known, has the highest beatitude. Now, if these views of ours are sound, you will consider whether the Twelve formerly believed but did not know; but, after believing, they gained also the rudiments of knowledge and knew a few things about Him; and afterwards they continued to advance in knowledge so that they were able to receive the knowledge from the Father who reveals the Son; in which position Peter was, when he was pronounced blessed; for also he is pronounced blessed not merely because he said, “Thou art the Christ,” but with the addition, “the Son of the living God.” Accordingly Mark and Luke who have recorded that Peter answered and said, “Thou art the Christ,” but have not given the addition found in Matthew, have not recorded that he was declared blessed for what had been said, nor the blessing which followed the declaration of blessedness, “Thou art Peter,” (Mat_16:18) etc.
16. Gradual Growth in Knowledge of the Disciples
But now we must first investigate the fact that they were declaring other things about Him as being great and wonderful, but did not yet proclaim that He was the Christ, lest the Saviour may not appear to take away from them the authority to announce that He was the Christ, which He had formerly bestowed upon them. And perhaps some one will support an argument of this kind, saying that on their introduction into the school of Christ the Jews were taught by the disciples glorious things about Jesus, so that in due season there might be built upon these as a foundation the things about Jesus being the Christ; and perhaps many of the things which were said to them were said to all who virtually believed; for not to the Apostles alone did the saying apply, “Before governors and kings also shall ye be brought for My sake for a testimony to them and to the Gentiles;” (Mat_10:18) and perhaps also not to the Apostles absolutely, but to all who were about to believe the word, “And brother shall deliver up brother to death,” (Mat_10:21 etc.); but, “Whosoever shall confess Me,” (Mat_10:32 etc.), is said not specially to the Apostles, but also to all believers. According to this, then, through that which was said to the Apostles an outline was given beforehand of the teaching which would afterwards come to be of service both to them and to every teacher.
17. Reasons for That Gradual Knowledge.
And likewise he who holds that the fact that He was Christ had been formerly proclaimed by the Apostles when they heard the saying, “What I tell you in the darkness, speak ye in the light, and what ye hear in the ear proclaim on the housetops,” (Mat_10:27) will say, that He wished first to give catechetical instruction as it were to those of the Apostles who were to hear the name of Christ, then to permit this, so to speak, to be digested in the minds of the hearers, that, after there had been a period of silence in the proclamation of something of this kind about Him, at a more seasonable time there might be built up upon the former rudiments “Christ Jesus crucified and raised from the dead,” which at the beginning not even the Apostles knew; for it is written in the passage now under consideration, “From that time began Jesus to show unto His disciples that He must go unto Jerusalem” (Mat_16:21) and suffer this and that. But if now, for the first time, the Apostles learn from Jesus the things that were about to happen unto Him, namely, that the elders will plot against Him, and that He will be killed, and that after these things, on the third day, He will rise from the dead, – what necessity is there for supposing that those who had been taught by the Apostles concerning Jesus knew them before, or that although Christ was announced to them He was announced to them by way of an introduction which did not clearly elucidate the things concerning Him? For our Saviour wished, when He enjoined the disciples to tell no man that He was the Christ, to reserve the more perfect teaching about Him to a more fitting time, when to those who had seen Him crucified, the disciples who had seen Him crucified and risen could testify the things relating to His resurrection. For it was the Apostles, who were always with Him and had seen all the wonderful things which He did, and who bore testimony to His words that they were words of eternal life, (Joh_6:68) were offended on the night on which He was betrayed, – what do you suppose would have been the feelings of those who had formerly learned that He was the Christ? To spare them, I think, He gave this command.
18. Jesus Was at First Proclaimed by the Twelve as a Worker and a Teacher Only.
But he who holds that the things spoken to the Twelve refer to the times subsequent to this, and that the Apostles had not as yet announced to their hearers that He was the Christ, will say that He wished the conception of the Christ which was involved in the name of Jesus to be reserved for that preaching which was more perfect, and which brought salvation, such as Paul knew of when he said to the Corinthians, “I determined not to know anything among yon save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (1Co_2:2) Wherefore, formerly they proclaimed Jesus as the doer of certain things, and the teacher of certain things; but now when Peter confesses that He was the Christ, the Son of the living God, as He did not wish it to be proclaimed already that He was the Christ, in order that He might be proclaimed at a more suitable time, and that as crucified, He commands His disciples that they should tell no man that He was the Christ. And that this was His meaning, when He forbade proclamation to be made that He was the Christ, is in a measure established by the words, “From that time began Jesus to show unto His disciples how that He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders,” and what is annexed; (Mat_16:21) for then, at the fitting time, He proclaims, so to speak, to the disciples who knew that Jesus was Christ, the Son of the living God, the Father having revealed it to them, that instead of believing in Jesus Christ who had been crucified, they were to believe in Jesus Christ who was about to be crucified. But also, instead of believing in Christ Jesus and Him risen from the dead, He teaches them to believe in Christ Jesus and Him about to be risen from the dead. But since “having put off from Himself the principalities and the powers, He made a show of them openly, triumphing over in the cross,” (Col_2:15) if any one is ashamed of the cross of Christ, he is ashamed of the dispensation on account of which these powers were triumphed over; and it is fitting that he, who both believes and knows these things, should glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which, when Christ was crucified, the principalities – among which, I think, was also the prince of this world (Gal_6:14) – were made a show of and triumphed over before the believing world. Wherefore, when His suffering was at hand he said, “Now the prince of this world has been judged,” (Joh_16:11) and, “Now shall the prince of this world be cast out,” and, “I, if I be lifted from the earth, will draw all men unto Myself;” (Joh_12:31, Joh_12:32) as he no longer had sufficient power to prevent those going to Jesus who were being drawn by Him.
19. Importance of the Proclamation of Jesus as the Crucified.
It is necessary, therefore, to the proclamation of Jesus as Christ, that He should be proclaimed as crucified; and the proclamation that Jesus was the Christ does not seem to me so defective when any of His other miracles is passed over in silence, as when the fact of His crucifixion is passed over. Wherefore, reserving the more perfect proclamation of the things concerning Him by the Apostles, He commanded His disciples that they should tell no man that He was the Christ; and He prepared them to say that He was the Christ crucified and risen from the dead, “when He began “not only to say, nor even to advance to the point of teaching merely, but “to show” (Mat_16:21) to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, etc.; for attend to the expression “show”; because just as sensible things are said to be shown so the things spoken by Him to His disciples are said to be shown by Jesus. And I do not think that each of the things seen was shown to those who saw Him suffering many things in body from the elders of the people, with such clearness as was the rational demonstration about Him to the disciples.
20. Why Jesus Had to Go to Jerusalem.
“Then began He to show;” (Mat_16:21) and probably afterwards when they were able to receive it He shewed more clearly, no longer beginning to show as to those who were learning the introduction, but already also advancing in the showing; and if it is reasonable to conceive that Jesus altogether completed what He began, then, some time, He altogether completed that which He began to show to His disciples about the necessity of His suffering the things which are written. For, when any one apprehends from the Word the perfect knowledge of these things, then it must be said that, from a rational exhibition the mind seeing the things which are shown, the exhibition becomes complete for him who has the will and the power to contemplate these things, and does contemplate them. But since “it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem,” (Luk_13:33) – a perishing which corresponds to the words, “He that loseth his life for My sake shall find it.” (Mat_10:39) – on this account it was necessary for Him to go to Jerusalem, that having suffered many things in that Jerusalem, He might make “the first-fruits” (1Co_15:20) of the resurrection from the dead in the Jerusalem above, doing away with and breaking up the city upon the earth with all the worship which was maintained in it. For so long as Christ “had not been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of them that are asleep,” (1Co_15:20) and those who become conformed to His death and resurrection had not yet been raised along with Him, the city of God was sought for below, and the temple, and the purifications, and the rest; but when this took place, no longer were the things below sought for, but the things above; and, in order that these might be set up, it was necessary that He should go unto the Jerusalem below, and there suffer many things from the elders in it, and the chief priests and scribes of the people, in order that He might be glorified by the heavenly elders who could receive his bounties, and by diviner high-priests who are ordained under the one High-Priest, and that He might be glorified by the scribes of the people who are occupied with letters “not written with ink” (2Co_3:3) but made clear by the Spirit of the living God, and might be killed in the Jerusalem below, and having risen from the dead might reign in Mount Zion, and the city of the living God – the heavenly Jerusalem. (Heb_12:22) But on the third day He rose from the dead.46 in order that having delivered them from the wicked one, and his son,47 in whom was falsehood and unrighteousness and war and everything opposed to that which Christ is, and also from the profane spirit who transforms himself into the Holy Spirit, He might gain for those who had been delivered the right to be baptized in spirit and soul and body, into the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, which represent the three days eternally present at the same time to those who by means of them are sons of light.
21. The Rebuke of Peter and the Answer of Jesus.
“And Peter took Him and began to rebuke Him, saying, God be propitious to Thee. Lord, this shall never be unto thee.” (Mat_16:22) To whom He said, “Get thee behind Me, Satan; thou art a stumbling-block unto Me; for thou mindest not the things of God but the things of men.” (Mat_16:23) Since Jesus had begun to show unto His disciples that He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things, Peter up to this point learned the beginnings of those things which were shown.48 But since he thought that the sufferings were unworthy of Christ the Son of the living God, and below the dignity of the Father who had revealed to him so great things about Christ, – for the things that concerned His coming suffering had not been revealed to him, – on this account he took Him, and as one forgetful of the honour due to the Christ, and that the Son of the living God neither does nor says anything worthy of rebuke, he began to rebuke Him; and as to one who needed propitiation, – for he did not yet know that “God had set Him forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood,” (Rom_3:25) he said, “God be propitious to thee, O Lord.” (Mat_16:22) Approving his purpose, indeed, but rebuking his ignorance, because of the purpose being right. He says to him, “Get thee behind Me,” (Mat_16:23) as to one who, by reason of the things of which he was ignorant and spake not rightly, had abandoned the following of Jesus; but because of his ignorance, as to one who had something antagonistic to the things of God, He said, “Satan,” which in the Hebrew means “adversary.” But, if Peter had not spoken from ignorance, nor rebuked the Son of the living God, saying unto Him, “God be propitious to thee, Lord, this shall never be unto Thee,” Christ would not have said to him, “Get thee behind Me,” as to one who had given up being behind Him and following Him; nor would He have said as to one who had spoken things adverse to what He had said, “Satan.” But now Satan prevailed over him who had followed Jesus and was going behind Him, to turn aside from following Him and from being behind the Son of God, and to make him, by reason of the words which he spoke in ignorance, worthy of being called “Satan” and a stumbling-block to the Son of God, and “as not minding the things of God but the things of men.” But that Peter was formerly behind the Son of God, before he committed this sin, is manifest from the words, “Come ye behind Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Mat_4:19)
22. Importance of the Expressions “Behind” and “Turned.”
But you will compare together His saying to Peter, “Get thee behind me, Satan,” (Mat_16:23) with that said to the devil who said to Him, “All these things will I give Thee if Thou wilt fall down and worship me”, (Mat_4:9) “get thee hence,” (Mat_4:10) without the addition, “behind Me;” for to be behind Jesus is a good tiling. Wherefore it was said, “Come ye behind Me and I will make you fishers of men.” (Mat_4:19) And to the same effect is the saying, “He that doth not take his cross and follow behind Me is not worthy of Me.” (Mat_10:38) And as a general principle observe the expression “behind”; because it is a good thing when any one goes behind the Lord God and is behind the Christ; but it is the opposite when any one casts the words of God behind him, or when he transgresses the commandment which says, “Do not walk behind thy lusts.” (Ecclesiasticus 18:30) And Elijah also, in the third Book of Kings, says to the people, “How long halt ye on both your knees? If God is the Lord, go behind Him, but if Baal is the Lord, go behind him.” (1Ki_18:21) And Jesus says this to Peter when He “turned,” and He does so by way of conferring a favour. And if therefore you will collect more illustrations of the “having turned,” and especially those which are ascribed to Jesus, and compare them with one another, you would find that the expression is not superfluous. But it is sufficient at present to bring forward this from the Gospel according to John, “Jesus turned and beheld them – ” clearly, Peter and Andrew – “following, and saith unto them, What seek ye?” (Joh_1:38) For observe that, when He “turned,” it is for the advantage of those to whom He turned.
23. Peter as a Stumbling-Block to Jesus.
Next we must inquire how He said to Peter, “Thou art a stumbling-block unto Me,” (Mat_16:23) especially when David says, “Great peace have they that love Thy law, and there is no stumbling-block to them.” (Psa_119:165) For some one will say, if this is said in the prophet, because of the steadfastness of those who have love, and are incapable of being offended, for “love beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things, love never faileth,” (1Co_13:7, 1Co_13:8) how did the Lord Himself, “who upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up all that be bowed down,” (Psa_145:14) say to Peter, “Thou art a stumbling-block unto Me”? But it must be said that not only the Saviour, but also he who is perfected in love, cannot be offended. But, so far as it depends on himself, he who says or does such things is a stumbling-block even to him who will not be offended; unless perhaps Jesus calls the disciple who sinned a stumbling-block even to Himself, as much more than Paul He would have said from love, “Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I burn not?” (2Co_11:29) In harmony with which we may put, “Who is made to stumble, and I am not made to stumble?” But if Peter, at that time because of the saying. “God be propitious to Thee, Lord, this shall not be unto Thee,” (Mat_16:22) was called a stumbling-block by Jesus, as not minding the things of God in what he said but the things of men, what is to be said about all those who profess to be made disciples of Jesus, but do not mind the things of God, and do not look to things unseen and eternal, but mind the things of man, and look to things seen and temporal, (2Co_4:18) but that such still more would be stigmatized by Jesus as a stumbling-block to Him, and because stumbling-blocks to Him, as stumbling-blocks to His brethren also? As in regard to them He says, “I was thirsty and ye gave Me no drink,” (Mat_25:42) etc., so also He might say, “When I was running ye caused Me to stumble.” Let us not therefore suppose that it is a trivial sin to mind the things of men, since we ought in everything to mind the things of God. And it will be appropriate also to say this to every one that has fallen away from the doctrines of God and the words of the church and a true mind; as, for example, to him who minds as true the teaching of Basilides, or Valentinus, or Marcion, or any one of those who teach the things of men as the things of God.
24. Self-Denial and Cross-Bearing.
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, If any man wills to follow after Me,” etc. (Mat_16:24) He shows by these words that, to will to come after Jesus and to follow Him, springs from no ordinary manly courage, and that no one who has not denied himself can come after Jesus. And the man denies himself who wipes out by a striking revolution his own former life which had been spent in wickedness; as by way of illustration he who was once licentious denies his licentious self, having become self-controlled even abidingly. But it is probable that some one may put the objection, whether as he denied himself so he also confesses himself, when he denied himself, the unjust, and confesses himself, the righteous one. But, if Christ is righteousness, he who has received righteousness confesses not himself but Christ; so also he who has found wisdom, by the very possession of wisdom, confesses Christ. And such a one indeed as, “with the heart believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth maketh confession unto salvation,” (Rom_10:10) and bears testimony to the works of Christ, as making confession by all these things of Christ before men, will be confessed by Him before His Father in heaven. (Mat_10:32) So also he who has not denied himself but denied the Christ will experience the saying, “I also will deny him.” (Mat_10:33) On this account let every thought and every purpose and every word and every action become a denial of ourselves, but a testimony about Christ and in Christ; for I am persuaded that every action of the perfect man is a testimony to Christ Jesus, and that abstinence from every sin is a denial of self, leading him after Christ. And such an one is crucified with Christ, and taking up his own cross follows Him who for our sakes bears His own cross, according to that which is said in John: “They took Jesus therefore and put it on Him,” etc., down to the words, “Where they crucified Him.” (Joh_19:17, Joh_19:18) But the Jesus according to John, so to speak, bears the cross for Himself, and bearing it went out; but the Jesus according to Matthew and Mark and Luke, does not bear it for Himself, for Simon of Cyrene bears it. (Mat_27:32; Mar_15:21; Luk_23:26) And perhaps this man refers to us, who because of Jesus take up the cross of Jesus, but Jesus Himself takes it upon Himself; for there are, as it were, two conceptions of the cross, the one which Simon of Cyrene bears, and the other which Jesus Himself bears for Himself.
25. Reference to the Saying of Paul About Crucifixion with Christ
Moreover in regard to the saying, “Let him deny himself,” (Mat_16:24) the following saying of Paul who denied himself seems appropriate, “Yet I live, and yet no longer I but Christ liveth in me;” (Gal_2:20) for the expression, “I live, yet no longer I,” was the voice of one denying himself, as of one who had laid aside his own life and taken on himself the Christ, in order that He might live in him as Righteousness, and as Wisdom, and as Sanctification, and as our Peace, (1Co_1:30; Eph_2:14) and as the Power of God, who worketh all things in him. But further also, attend to this, that while there are many forms of dying, the Son of God was crucified, being hanged on a tree, in order that all who die unto sin may die to it, in no other way than by the way of the cross. Wherefore they will say, “I have been crucified with Christ,” and, “Far be it from me to glory save in the cross of the Lord, through which the world has been crucified unto me and I unto the world.” (Gal_2:20; Gal_6:14) For perhaps also each of those who have been crucified with Christ puts off from himself the principalities and the powers, and makes a show of them and triumphs over them in the cross; (Col_2:15) or rather, Christ does these things in them.
26. The Less of Life; and the Saving of It.
“For whosoever would save his own life shall lose it.” (Mat_16:25) The first expression is ambiguous; for it may be understood. in one way thus. If any one as being a lover of life, and thinking that the present life is good, tends carefully his own life with a view to living in the flesh, being afraid to die, as through death going to lose it, this man, by the very willing to save in this way his own life will lose it, placing it outside of the borders of blessedness. But if any one despising the present life because of my word, which has persuaded him to strive in regard to eternal life even unto death for truth, loses his own life, surrendering it for the sake of piety to that which is commonly called death, this man, as for my sake he has lost his life, will save it rather, and keep it in possession. And according to a second way we might interpret the saying as follows. If any one, who has grasped what salvation really is, wishes to procure the salvation of his own life, let this man having taken farewell of this life, and denied himself and taken up his own cross, and following me, lose his own life to the world; for having lost it for my sake and for the sake of all my teaching, he will gain the end of loss of this kind – salvation.
27. Life Lost to the World is Saved.
But at the same time also observe that at the beginning it is said, “Whosoever wills,” but afterwards, “Whoso shall lose.” (Mat_26:25) If we then wish it to be saved let us lose it to the world, as those who have been crucified with Christ and have for our glorying that which is in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world is to be crucified unto us and we unto the world, (Gal_6:14) that we may gain our end, even the salvation of our lives, which begins from the time when we lose it for the sake of the word. But if we think that the salvation of our life is a blessed thing, with reference to the salvation which is in God and the blessednesses with Him, then any loss of life ought to be a good thing, and, for the sake of Christ must prove to be the prelude to the blessed salvation. It seems to me, therefore, following the analogy of self-denial, according to what has been said, that each ought to lose his own life. Let each one therefore lose his own sinning life, that having lost that which is sinful, he may receive that which is saved by right actions; but a man will in no way be profited if he shall gain the whole world. Now he gains the world, I think, to whom the world is not crucified; and to whom the world is not crucified, to that man shall be the loss of his own life. But when two things are put before us, either by gaining one’s life to forfeit the world, or by gaining the world to forfeit one’s life, much more desirable is the choice, that we should forfeit the world and gain our life by losing it on account of Christ.
28. The Exchange for One’s Life.
But the saying, “What shall a man give in exchange for his own life,” (Mat_16:26) if spoken by way of interrogation, will seem to be able to indicate that an exchange for his own life is given by the man who after his sins has given up his whole substance, that his property may feed the poor, as if he were going by that to obtain salvation; but, if spoken affirmatively, I think, to indicate that there is not anything in man by the giving of which in exchange for his own life which has been overcome by death, he will ransom it out of its hand. A man, therefore, could not give anything as an exchange for his own life, but God gave an exchange for the life of us all, “the precious blood of Christ Jesus,” (1Pe_1:19) according as “we were bought with a price,” (1Co_6:20)“having been redeemed, not with corruptible things as silver or gold, but with precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot,” even of Christ. (1Pe_1:18, 1Pe_1:19) And in Isaiah it is said to Israel. “I gave Ethiopia in exchange for thee, and Egypt and Syene for thee; from what time thou hast become honourable before Me thou wast glorified.” (Isa_43:3, Isa_43:4) For the exchange, for example, of the first-born of Israel was the first-born of the Egyptians, and the exchange for Israel was the Egyptians who died in the last plagues that came upon Egypt, and in the drowning which took place after the plagues. But, from these things, let him who is able inquire whether the exchange of the true Israel given by God, “who redeems Israel from all his transgressions,” (Psa_130:8) is the true Ethiopia, and, so to speak, spiritual Egypt, and Syene of Egypt; and to inquire with more boldness, perhaps Syene is the exchange for Jerusalem, and Egypt for Judaea, and Ethiopia for those who fear, who are different from Israel, and the house of Levi, and the house of Aaron.
29. The Coming of the Son of Man in Glory.
“For the Son of man shall come in the glory of His own Father with His angels.” (Mat_16:27) Now, indeed, the Son of man has not come in His glory; “for we saw Him, and He had no form nor beauty; but His form was dishonoured and defective compared with the sons of men; He was a man in affliction and toil, and acquainted with the enduring of sickness, because His face was turned away, He was dishonoured and not esteemed.” (Isa_53:2, Isa_53:3) And it was necessary that He should come in such form that He might bear our sins (Isa_53:4) and suffer pain for us; for it did not become Him in glory to bear our sins and suffer pain for us. But He also comes in glory, having prepared49 the disciples through that epiphany of His which has no form nor beauty; and, having become as they that they might become as He, “conformed to the image of His glory,” (Rom_8:29) since He formerly became conformed to “the body of our humiliation,” (Phi_3:21) when He “emptied Himself and took upon Him the form of a servant,” (Phi_2:7) He is restored to the image of God and also makes them conformed unto it.
30. The Word Appears in Different Forms. The Time of His Coming in Glory.
But if you will understand the differences of the Word which by “the foolishness of preaching” (1Co_1:21) is proclaimed to those who believe, and spoken in wisdom to them that are perfect, you will see in what way the Word has the form of a slave to those who are learning the rudiments, so that they say, “We saw Him and He had no form or beauty.” (Isa_53:2) But to the perfect He comes “in the glory of His own Father,” (Mat_16:27) who might say, “and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (Joh_1:14) For indeed to the perfect appears the glory of the Word, and the only-begotten of God His Father, and the fulness of grace and likewise of truth, which that man cannot perceive who requires the “foolishness of the preaching,” in order to believe. But “the Son of man shall come in the glory of His own Father” not alone, but “with His own angels.” And if you can conceive of all those who are fellow-helpers in the glory of the Word, and in the revelation of the Wisdom which is Christ, coming along with Him, you will see in what way the Son of man comes in the glory of His own Father with His own angels. And consider whether you cad in this connection say that the prophets who formerly suffered in virtue of their word having “no form or beauty” had an analogous position to the Word who had “no form or beauty.” And, as the Son of man comes in the glory of His own Father, so the angels, who are the words in the prophets, are present with Him preserving the measure of their own glory. But when the Word comes in such form with His own angels, He will give to each a part of His own glory and of the brightness of His own angels, according to the action of each. But we say these things not rejecting even the second coming of the Son of God understood in its simpler form. But when shall these things happen? Shall it be when that apostolic oracle is fulfilled which says, “For we must all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things dope in the body, according to what he has done, whether it be good or bad?” (2Co_5:20) But if He will render to each according to his deed, not the good deed only, nor the evil apart from the good, it is manifest that He will render to each according to every evil, and according to every good, deed. But I suppose – in this also following the Apostle, but comparing also the sayings of Ezekiel, in which the sins of him who is a perfect convert are wiped out, and the former uprightness of him who has utterly fallen away is not held of account – that in the case of him who is perfected, and has altogether laid aside wickedness, the sins are wiped out, but that, in the case of him who has altogether revolted from piety, if anything good was formerly done by him, it is not taken into account. (Eze_18:21-24) But to us, who occupy a middle position between the perfect man and the apostate, when we stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, (2Co_5:10) there is rendered what we have done, whether good or bad; for we have not been so pure that our evil deeds are not at all imputed unto us, nor have we fallen away to such an extent that our better actions are forgotten.
31. The Simpler Interpretation of the Promise About Not Tasting of Death.
“Verily I say unto you there be some of them that stand here that shall not taste of death.” (Mat_16:28) Some refer these things to the going up – six days after, or, as Luke says, (Luk_9:28) eight days – of the three disciples into the high mountain with Jesus apart; and those who adopt this interpretation say that Peter and the remaining two did not taste of death before they saw the Son of man coining in His own kingdom and in His own glory. For when they saw Jesus transfigured before them so that “His face shone,” etc., “they saw the kingdom of God coming with power.” (Mar_9:1) For even as some spear-bearers stand around a king, so Moses and Elijah appeared to those who had gone up into the mountains, talking with Jesus. But it is worth while considering whether the sitting on the right hand and on the left band of the Saviour in His kingdom refers to them, so that the words, “But for whom it is prepared,” were (Mat_20:23) spoken because of them. Now this interpretation about the three Apostles not tasting of death until they have seen Jesus transfigured, is adapted to those who are designated by Peter as “new-born babes longing for the reasonable milk which is without guile,” (1Pe_2:2) to whom Paul says, “I have fed you with milk, not with meat,” (1Co_3:2 etc.) Now, too, every interpretation of a text which is able to build up those who cannot receive greater truths might reasonably be called milk, flowing from the holy ground of the Scriptures, which flows with milk and honey. But he who has been weaned, like Isaac, (Gen_21:8) worthy of the good cheer and reception which Abraham gave at the weaning of his son, would seek here and in every Scripture food which is different, I think, from that which is meat, indeed, but is not solid food, and from what are figuratively called herbs, which are food to one who has been weaned and is not yet strong but weak, according to the saying, “He that is weak eateth herbs.” (Rom_14:2) In like manner also he who has been weaned, like Samuel, and dedicated by his mother to God, (1Sa_1:23, 1Sa_1:24) – she was Hannah, which is, by interpretation, grace, – would be also a son of grace, seeking, like one nurtured in the temple, flesh of God, the holy food of those who are at once perfect and priests.
32. Standing by the Saviour.
The reflections in regard to the passage before us that occur to us at the present time are these: Some were standing where Jesus was, having the footsteps of the soul firmly planted with Jesus, and the standing of their feet was akin to the standing of which Moses said in the passage, “And I stood on the mountain forty days and forty nights,” (Deu_10:10) who was deemed worthy to have it said to him by God who asked him to stand by Him, “But stand thou here with Me.” (Deu_5:31) Those who really stand by Jesus – that is, by the Word of God – do not all stand equally; for among those who stand by Jesus are differences from each other. Wherefore, not all who stand by the Saviour, but some of them as standing better, do not taste of death until they shall have seen the Word who dwelt with men, and on that account called Son of man, coming in His own kingdom; for Jesus does not always come in His own kingdom when He comes, since to the newly initiated He is such that they might say, beholding the Word Himself not glorious nor great, but inferior to many among them, “We saw Him, and He had no form or beauty, but His form was dishonoured, defective compared with all the sons of men.” (Isa_53:2, Isa_53:3) And these things will be said by those who beheld His glory in connection with their own former times, when at first the Word as understood in the synagogue had no form nor beauty to them. To the Word, therefore, who has assumed most manifestly the power above all words, there belongs a royal dignity which is visible to some of those who stand by Jesus, when they have been able to follow Him as He goes before them and ascends to the lofty mountain of His own manifestation. And of this honour some of those who stand by Jesus are deemed worthy if they be either a Peter against whom the gates of Hades do not prevail, or the sons of thunder, (Mar_3:17) and are begotten of the mighty voice of God who thunders and cries aloud from heaven great things to those who have ears and are wise. Such at least do not taste death.
45 Or, which he may regard as mediocre.
46 Or, putting a comma after Jerusalem, but that on the third day He might rise.
47 See xi. c. 6, p. 434.
48 These three sentences are supplied from the old Latin version, as at this point there is a hiatus in the mss.
49 Reading προευτρεπισός, as the Vetus Inter.