James Richards (1767-1843) on 2 Peter 2:1

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism   in 2 Peter 2:1 (and Jude 4)


We draw the same conclusion from 2 Peter ii. 1, where the Apostle speaks of some who privily bring in damnable heresies, denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. You have already heard the opinion of Calvin upon this text. And though our brethren of another school have often nibbled at it, and applied to it the various arts of criticism, still it stands as firm as the pillar of Hercules against the sentiment that Christ died for his people only.

If wicked men deny the Lord that bought them, doubtless they were bought, and bought by the price of that blood which alone is an adequate ransom for the soul.

But we are told that the Lord that bought them was not Jesus Christ, and of course, that they were not bought with his blood. Who, then, was this Lord, and how did he buy these wicked men? Why, the Lord is God the Father, the Sovereign Ruler of the world, and he bought these men as Jehovah bought the Israelites, when he delivered them from the bondage of Egypt. But when was this interpretation first introduced? Can it be found in any of the ancient scholiasts or glossaries? Its modern date shows its origin; that it has been resorted to, not from its obvious agreement with the words, but from the necessity of the case. It has been seen that the old interpretation would be fatal to a certain theory; the words of the Apostle, therefore, must speak something else than what the Church from the beginning has supposed them to speak.

But let us hear the defense of this novel interpretation. The word in the original, translated Lord, is despotes, and not Kurios, the more common appellation of Jesus Christ. This word, it is said, signifies Supreme Ruler, and is thus applied to God in several places in the New Testament. True; but is it not also applied to Christ, and even to men who sustain the relation of master to others as their servants? Whom does the Apostle mean by despotes in 2 Tim. ii. 21, where he says, “If a man purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified and meet for the master’s use?” Whom does Jude mean by despotes in a passage strikingly parallel with that under consideration, where he speaks of “certain men crept in unawares, who were of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, even our Lord Jesus Christ” as it should be rendered. The best lexicographers tell us that this word has the force of dominus among the Latins, and may be applied to God as the Supreme Ruler, to Jesus Christ as the great Head of his Church, or to any head or master of a family. Nothing is therefore more futile than the attempt to escape the obvious construction of this passage by a criticism upon the word despotes, which in this very place, Schleusner tells us, is applied to Jesus Christ. But if God, the Supreme Ruler of the world, is here designated by despotes, I should like to know a little more definitely how he has bought these wicked men, who privily bring in damnable heresies? Will you say he delivered them from the bondage of corruption? This neither the text nor the context declares. But if it were so, what was the price which he paid for their deliverance? When he bought the Israelites, he paid a price for them, and a heavy price it was; he gave Egypt for them–Ethiopia and Sheba for a ransom. Was there anything to correspond with this, when he bought the false prophets and false teachers spoken of in this text? According to our judgment, there was never a harder shift to blunt the edge of plain and pointed Scripture testimony. But we need not wonder, because as long as this text stands in the Bible, unperverted, it is entirely fatal to that scheme which contends that Jesus Christ was a sacrifice for the elect only.

Let me draw your attention to a single remark more. This important passage has always been considered as parallel with that in Jude, already mentioned. There is a striking resemblance in all the important points of character attributed to these wicked men by the two sacred writers, and an equally striking analogy in their doom. But what did they do, besides turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, and leading a life of brutal sensuality? What did they do which in a peculiar manner irrevocably sealed them to perdition? Why, they denied the despotes, and by despotes Jude manifestly intends the Lord Jesus Christ.

James Richards, Lectures on Mental Philosophy and Theology (New York: Published by M.W. Dodd, 1846), 325-327. [Some spelling modernized; italics original; and underlining mine.]

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