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Caton's Commentary on the Minor Epistles Caton's Commentary
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Caton, Nathan Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Peter 1". Caton's Commentary on the Minor Epistles. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ ntc/ 1-peter-1.html. 1916.
Caton, Nathan Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Peter 1". Caton's Commentary on the Minor Epistles. https://studylight.org/
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To comfort and strengthen the suffering Christians living in those regions mentioned in the first verse was the main design of Peter in writing this Epistle. To accomplish these objects in rugged sentences containing thoughts that blaze and burn, in a few words the writer first alludes to their conversion, and the incalculable cost thereof upon the resources of heaven. For therein is exhibited the great love of the Father in the gift of his Son, without which their conversion would have been impossible. Next their attention is called to the sublime grandeur of their relationship to God, which by their conversion was inaugurated. He calls their attention to the fact that they were begotten again into a lively hope by the resurrection of Christ; that by their conversion they became heirs to an unfading and incorruptible inheritance. This hope ought to be great strength to them in time of trial. All trials soon end. Trials should be regarded by them as tests of their faith. As gold is purified by melting, so trials improve the faith. Firmness under trial not only resulted in good to the sufferer, but had an effect upon the world for good; besides, the sufferer would be rewarded with great honor when Christ should come. They would be rewarded at that time. He then calls their attention to the fact that while they had not seen the Master, they had loved him and rejoiced in him, relying upon his promises, being assured that by and through him they would receive the reward. This salvation was so great and of so much importance that prophets desired to look into it, and even the angels were inclined to seek into its mysteries; Christ had suffered and was seated at God's right hand, and, following his example in doing the will of God, they might expect to be rewarded as he was. He then passes to earnest exhorta-tion, to hope for the blessings brought to their attention through Christ. These were to be heired by them if faithful. To avoid lusts and imitate God's holy character, and to fear God in consid-eration of the fact that there was to be a judgment to so act he reminds them that that purchase was not by silver and gold, but by the precious blood of Christ. He tells them that they had purified their hearts by obeying the gospel. He hoped they would love one another as brethren, with pure hearts; that they were born of incorruptible seed, namely, God's word, and all thus became God's children. There should be no difference among them as to high or low; that the highest title of earth would fade as a flower, but the higher station is that attained by all who love and obey the Lord, for they will continue to abide throughout eternity.
Verse 1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ.
In the very outset the author of this Epistle gives his name Peter. Around this name many sacred memories are entwined. The Lord himself chose the writer hereof, and selected him as the one who should first announce the gospel of peace to the awe-stricken Jew at Jerusalem and to expectant Cornelius and his invited guests, thus opening the doors of Messiah's kingdom to both Jew and Gentile. Yet the writer truthfully and modestly calls himself "an apostle," not "the apostle." He claims no pre-eminence over others. He is only one among the chosen ambassadors. All are equally clothed with authority. No one of the dozen is the superior of the other. Each is the Lord's minister and the Lord's sent. Each is to be without succession and with-out the power of substitution. All this is plainly deducible from the modest declaration of the apostle. Whom it may hurt or how bad the wound, we have no concern. This is clearly the mind of the Spirit, and that is all in which we are interested.
To the strangers scattered.
The Revised Version has, "Elect who are sojourners," while the Syriac uses this language : "Elect and sojourners who are dispersed." In any event, if the persons addressed were at a distance from the home of their nativity, they were strangers and among strangers, and while remaining away from their former residences they were sojourning whither they had gone, and so long as it appears that they were in different places, they were scattered or dispersed. That they were elect is evident in the character of the letter written to them, and in the way and manner the writer accosts them.
Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia.
These are geographical divisions, provinces of Asia Minor, as then arranged by the authority of the Roman Empire. From the labors of the apostle Paul, as we gather the history thereof from the Acts of the Apostles and from Paul's many epistles, the gospel had been proclaimed in these provinces, and churches established. In some of the provinces more than one congregation existed, for Paul speaks of the churches of Galatia. ( Gal_1:2 ). Peter most probably writes to the believers composing these various congregations, Jewish believers specially, and Gentile believers incidentally. I express myself thus for the reason that the gospel is intended for all alike, no discrimination being therein made, and while Peter was to go specially to the circumcision (that is, the Jew) and Paul specially to the uncircumcision (that is, the Gentile), these addressed ones were gathered from both classes, which Peter evidently knew, and it is certain that he could not comfort, admonish and exhort the one without at the same time reaching and benefiting the other.
Verse 2 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God.
Around this word "elect" have swept the wildest winds of religious controversy, and the gale is not in the least abated at the mention of the term "foreknowledge." While this is all true, I can see but little cause for the humble, teachable disciple of Christ to be in the least disturbed. The honest, sincere and prayerful study of God's revealed will leaves the student in no perplexity whatever. Elect means chosen. Who does the choosing? God. Who is chosen? Man. What is the procedure? It is set forth clearly in the gospel. Does the chosen one have anything to do in bringing about the result wherein the relationship is established ? Yes, he is required to hear and obey. It must be plain to every reflecting mind that if the gospel of Christ, commanded to be proclaimed to the world, embraced the con-ditions upon which salvation is suspended, that when these conditions were performed then and in that case those obey-ing were chosen or elected. To state it differently, in obey-ing the conditions of salvation the obedient one is thereby pardoned of all past sins, and stands before God as one of his chosen. Such a one is elect. He has complied with all the terms upon which his election was suspended. This gospel of Christ, containing the terms upon which this election was suspended, was according to the foreknowledge of God.
According to the foreknowledge of God.
Looking back from the time when the Epistle was writ-ten to that period when our merciful Father conceived in his infinite wisdom the scheme of human redemption. Everything connected with the gospel plan of salvation is in strict accord with God's purpose determined in the past ages, that in the age in which Peter wrote, and in the age in which we live, it is said truly and correctly to be fore-knowledge. God's conception and knowledge were many ages before he saw fit in his infinite wisdom to make the same known to the children of men in his revealed will the Bible. God has made known to us in these last days how we may become his elect. The how was known to him ages before. This was his foreknowledge, or, if you prefer the expression, his predetermined purpose. Now, this is all there is of it. No mystery whatever to perplex or annoy any one who will humbly content himself with what God has seen fit to reveal.
Through sanctification of the Spirit.
To sanctify is to set apart. Sanctification is, therefore, the setting apart. The spirit is to be sanctified or set apart. Now, since the. Savior has said that we hear with the ears and understand with the heart, it is plain that something must be heard before there can be a setting apart. Now, the gospel is heard, then understood, then believed. Setting apart, or sanctification, which is the same thing, is the result of belief. Belief in action is obedience. Obedience is followed by pardon. Pardon, or the forgiveness of sins, brings about, or results in, the elect state. It is by obedience we are baptized into Christ, and, being in Christ, are new creatures. All such are elect.
Grace unto you.
To the elect, Peter wishes not only a continuance of God's gracious favors and the peace he can bestow, but he earnestly desires these favors and peace to be multiplied when he contemplates the fearful ordeal through which they must pass.
Verse 3 Blessed be God.
The writer breaks forth in this ejaculation of thank-fulness to God for the exhibition of his mercy to the chil-dren of men. It is called an abundant mercy ; that is, an overflowing mercy, a great mercy. It is a marvelous mercy that God should beget us again to a lively hope a living hope, not a dead hope. Being begotten of God, we are his children, and as children we have this living hope a glorious hope of a blessed, eternal existence by or through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. By the resurrection of Christ from the dead, his divinity is demon-strated, and on this our hope is based.
Verse 4 To an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled.
Here the apostle describes that for which we hope, and he adds to the same the fact that the elect are heirs. The word "inheritance" conveys the idea of heirship. Think of it, ye elect heirs of God, joint-heirs with Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit, by the pen of Peter, uses no superfluous or misleading words. Notice, then, we are begotten again unto a lively or living hope, not only to an eternal existence, but we as the elect are heirs to an inheritance, and that inheritance is described as, first, incorruptible; second, as undefiled, and, third, as unfading. What a glorious hope ! What a weighty incentive to fidelity to the cause of Christ! Here let our progress be slow and observant.
This is, imperishable. The grandest achievements of human genius give way to the withering touch of time. So of everything in this earth-life. This we all know by obser-vation. Now, in bold contrast to this, in Christ we are assured that our divine inheritance as the elect is not thus liable to decay, but is imperishable.
That is, it is unstained by sin. What a stimulus to the struggling saint in his earth-life when he knows assuredly that, when once in possession of his divine inheritance, he reaches a condition in which he is above the power of sin.
Fadeth not away.
The divine inheritance of the elect has and possesses a beauty that is imperishable; possesses absolute perma-nence. The fountain of immortal youth is there, and in all the universe of God to be found there, and there alone.
Reserved in heaven for you.
The Syriac has it, "Which is prepared for you in heaven." How forcibly the glorious promise of the Master is here brought to our notice : "In my Father's house are many mansions : if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself ; that where I am, ye may be also" ( Joh_14:2-3 ).
Verse 5 Who are kept by the power of God.
Kept; that is, guarded. God, by his revealed will, has made provisions by which his elect are kept or guarded or defended against the prince of evil and all of his instru-mentalities, through their faith.
Final salvation or deliverance. This is the evident thought from the language that follows: "Ready to be revealed in the last time." Some maintain that this referred to a salvation or deliverance when Jerusalem should be destroyed. This destruction the Savior foretold. ( Mat_24:16 .) This is true, and the prophecy can only apply to those Jews living at Jerusalem at the time the same should be destroyed by Titus. By observing the admonition of the Savior, the Christian Jews would escape, and their salvation or deliverance from destruction be assured. Here, however, Peter addresses Jews in dispersion and not those in Jeru-salem.
Verse 6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice.
That is to say, in the living hope you have of this final salvation you are exceedingly glad, although it is true that now for a little time you are in heaviness ; that is, you are sorry, or undergoing sorrow brought about by the afflictions with which you are visited. I take it that these brethren were at this time being persecuted on account of their faith. The expression "if need be," indicating a necessity, which appears both in the Common and Revised Versions, is somewhat confusing. The idea intended to be conveyed is possibly more apparent in the Syriac version, which reads: "Wherein ye will rejoice forever, notwithstanding ye at the present time are pressed a little by various trials that pass over you."
Verse 7 That the trial of your faith.
"Manifold temptations" of the sixth verse are here referred to as trials of faith. Persecutions by stripes, imprisonment and death are the severest tests of one's fidelity to the cause of Christ. Maintaining loyalty through-out these trials, enduring without faltering, shows unmis-takably steadfastness in the faith. Gold is tested and refined by fire. Faith tested by trials enduringly is more precious than gold in this: Gold itself will perish, but the faith that endures will eventuate in praise to God and honor and great glory to the victor at the appearing of the Mas-ter, when he comes to make up his jewels, crown the obedient and take his ransomed home to their inheritance.
Verse 8. Whom, having not seen, ye love.
These dispersed ones had not seen the Savior while he was here on earth, and did not, at the time Peter wrote, see him with the human eye, yet they believed in him, and all accounts given by the apostles of him, and trusted him and relied unwaveringly upon his promises and the blessed hope of the gospel, and, so believing, were enabled to rejoice in the Captain of their salvation with a joy which was inex-pressible and full in anticipation of the glory which should be their crown on the appearing of the Lord.
Verse 9 Receiving the end of your faith.
The result you so greatly desire, the recompense or reward for your fidelity; that inheritance heretofore men-tioned. That is, the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.
Verse 10 Of which salvation the prophets have inquired.
As the ages passed, God, from time to time, by words through the prophets and by their hands, exhibited types and symbols relating to the coming Christ and the salvation through the gospel for the world which the same prophets did not comprehend. They inquired and searched diligently while they prophesied of the grace that was to be given. They themselves desired further light concerning the things they spoke.
Verse 11 Searching what or what manner of time.
Now, the Spirit of Christ that was in these prophets caused them to testify that the Christ would come, and of his sufferings and the consequent glory that should follow, both to the Christ and to the children of men. And yet they knew not in what character he would appear, nor the time of his appearance. It is very certain that the king the Jews expected bore no resemblance to the Jesus who did come. And the reason why they did not receive him when he did come was because they did not understand the prophecies concerning him. And the reason they did not understand the prophecies was because the prophets were not permitted to make their utterances plainer.
Verse 12 Unto whom it was revealed.
The prophets were taught that the things of which they spake concerning the coming One were to be in the future, therefore they, in so predicting, were not ministering unto themselves, but for future generations.
But unto us they did minister.
Now, we in this age have the benefits of the labors, predictions and ministry of the prophets in the things they predicted. How ?
Which are now reported to you.
The coming of the Savior, his earth-life, his teachings, his wondrous works, his tragic death, his resurrection and ascension, the descent of the Holy Spirit, the establishment of his kingdom in the world, his invitation to all to become the subjects of his rule, the conditions upon which this rela-tionship may be established and the blessed promises assured by a loving Father all these are reported to you. By whom?
By them that have preached the gospel unto you.
Peter evidently refers to the labors of the apostle Paul and his colaborers, and it is within the range of judicious inference to say that Peter himself also is here included in the "them" of this verse ; but whoever did the preaching had the assistance of the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven. It is certain, therefore, that the report of these preachers made to the world in the proclamation of the gospel was attested by miracles and wonders, and in the exercise of spiritual powers and gifts. These miracles were the attestations of Heaven to the truthfulness and reli-ability of the divine message, and all were but the realization of the prophetic word.
Which things the angels desired to look into.
The declaration is plain. The predicted coming and suf-fering of the Christ, the setting up of his kingdom and the nature of the salvation to be offered to man were mysteries too profound for the angels even to comprehend. These remained mysteries until God, in his infinite wisdom, saw fit to make a full revelation of his divine purpose. There is another thought I have at this point which is better expressed by Dr. Macknight, thus : "If our salvation and the means by which it is accomplished are of such impor-tance as to merit the attention of angels, how much more do they merit our attention who are so much interested in them!"
Verse 13 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind.
While the expression is rugged, it is striking and bold, and characteristic of its author. The metaphor is drawn from eastern customs. The angel that delivered Peter from prison said to him : "Gird thyself, and cast thy garments about thee" ( Act_12:8 ). We gather, then, that in that country and age garments were worn loose, and needed to be girded for convenience, so that a journey might be made without interference from the drapery. The persons addressed understood the figure. Now, as the loins are girded to strengthen them, and to prevent encumbrance from the flowing garment, so gird the loins of your mind. The faculties of the mind want to be prepared, so that all the powers thereof can be brought into activity. There must be no clinging drapery of vice, but every faculty must be placed on proper objects, and all the passions held in sub-jection and governed by the divine will And this is girding the loins of the mind. Paul, in his letter to the church at Ephesus, said : "Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth" ( Eph_6:14 ). And the Master gave similar advice in these words : "Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning" ( Luk_12:35 ).
Hope to the end.
The exhortation is based upon the certainty of the reward at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Knowing the Lord will come again, and the crown of life will be bestowed upon the faithful, the apostle urges the continuance and con-stancy in hoping to the end. The end; that is, until the struggling saint shall lay his armor down at the hour of death death of the body.
Verse 14 As obedient children, not fashioning your-selves.
Recognized as children that is, children and heirs as set forth in verse 4. And more than children obedient children ; you must not fashion yourselves as you once did. You well remember that before you became children you followed a course of conduct and conversation fashioned after the world. The course then pursued by you was evil. Your present course must not be so fashioned, but fashioned after the teachings you now receive as obedient children.
In your ignorance.
Your course of evil, while you had no information of the demands of the divine Father upon the children of men, was the result of your ignorance ; that is to say, you were ignorant of the divine requirements as to your course. Now, this can not be wholly applicable to a Jewish Christian. In his case he had knowledge of the one true and living God, and under the economy under which he was reared he learned that God required him to lead a holy life. Those commentators who claim that this Epistle was written to Jewish Christians only seem to have overlooked the plain teaching of this verse.
Verse 15 But as he which hath called you is holy.
God called you. God is holy. Now, as you are called of God, and are his children, God is your Father. Every obedient child seeks to please, and, as far as in him lies, strives to be like that Father in character and conduct. His obligation and duty is to be holy, for these rest upon the relationship which subsists between father and child.
In all manner of conversation.
The holy character is to be exhibited in everything you say or do ; your whole manner of living, your behavior in every respect. In all this you must seek a close imitation of the divine model.
Verse 16 Because it is written, Be ye holy, for I am holy.
I take this to be a quotation from Lev_19:2 , which reads: "Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, Ye shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy." Twice before, God had uttered the same thought, in chapter 11: and in verses 44 and 45. In the latter verse occurs the expression: "Be holy, for I am holy." Mere verbal differences in quotations may be expected, as the prime object is always to advance and make prominent the thought only. Heathen deities were by their devotees regarded as patrons and practicers of every species of vice. The influence upon the worshipers would necessarily, there-fore, be pernicious. Their morals would be corrupted, since they imitated their vile gods. Like god, like man. In strong contrast with all this, we, as Christians, have a different worship enjoined upon us, and which is to be observed by us. God being far removed from all evil, and being the author of all moral excellence, imitation of his lofty and holy character is enjoined upon his intelligent creatures for their good here, and as a necessary preparation for an entrance into, and the enjoyment of, his presence in the world to come.
Verse 17 And if ye call on the Father.
The idea is, if God is called on as Father, which would follow as a matter of course if we be his children, then we should pass the time in fear. To call on the Father is to worship him as he directs. To observe his commands, doing just what he requires, and in the way he has enjoined, is exhibiting the fear mentioned by the apostle. Nothing less is the fear of God. What does Peter say of this Father, upon whom we, as children, are to call ? "Who without respect of persons." God regards not the race or station of men. He judges them by their acts; by what they do and say; by their works. Peter's utterance at the house of Cornelius obtrudes itself upon our attention at this point: "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons. But in every nation he that fearth him and worketh right-eousness is accepted with him" ( Act_10:34-35 ).
Pass the time of your sojourning here in fear.
While living here on earth, before passing away in death, the common lot of all, we should pass the time in fear. This time of sojourning embraces the whole period of the natural life. In fear. Of this we have already spoken; but a thought or two more will not be amiss. Now, fear of what? The apostle has just spoken of God's impartial judgment. Evidently, therefore, he means that our conduct here in this life must always be such as will pass safely that impartial judgment. Acting with constant reference thereto is acting in fear. As we have said before, doing what he requires is the acceptable way to show fear.
Verse 18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed.
This is as much as to say that the parties here addressed did know, for the sense is, since ye know how they were redeemed. The apostle states the manner of their redemp-tion first negatively, and afterwards affirmatively. Redemp-tion from what? The answer given is, from your vain con-versation ; that is, your foolish behavior, vile course of life. From whence came this vain conversation? From tradition handed down by their fathers. Now, from this they were not redeemed by corruptible things, that is, things that perish, and the most precious things known to man are named silver and gold. Even these, however important in the affairs of life, could not accomplish the redemption of man. However powerful in the estimation of the world, they are wholly inadequate to redeem.
Verse 19 But with the precious blood of Christ.
Here the manner of the redemption is stated affirma-tively. Negatively, not with gold or silver ; affimatively, with the precious blood of Christ. Under the Jewish economy a sacrifice had to be without blemish. (See Lev_22:21-23 .) So the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, is the means by which redemption is had, atonement is made. It behooves not the true follower of the Lord to stagger at this point, nor to philosophize as to how this precious blood could procure this redemption. It is enough for the trusting soul to know that the all-wise Father so ordained and announced the fact to be, and trustingly it ought to be accepted. The New Testament writers with a singular unanimity recognize and refer to Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God. "The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" ( Rev_13:8 ).
Verse 20 Who verily was foreordained.
Christ as the sacrifice was foreordained. In the purpose of God as the sacrifice was determined upon, was appointed as the center and the soul of the scheme of human redemp-tion. This appointment was made before the foundation of the world.
Manifest in the last times for you.
While the sacrifice of Christ was foreordained, it was not made manifest that is, the sacrifice did not take place at the time it was so foreordained until the end of the Mosaic economy. The Christ then died, then shed his blood. On Calvary's cross the sacrifice took place, the offering was made. This sacrifice was made for the whole world. All may, if they will, receive the benefits of this atonement. It is to be accepted and appropriated in the manner God has speci-fied, and in no other way.
Verse 21 Who by him do believe in God, who raised him up from the dead.
Who by him that is, by Christ do believe in God. Now, this can not be said of the Jew. He believed in God before Christ came. Of the Gentile, however, it can be truly said. It was through the gospel preached, and through this channel only, that the Gentiles were made believers in the. God that raised up Christ from the dead ; and that he not only raised him from the dead, but gave him glory by seating him at his own right hand, and constituted him both Lord and Christ; and, in addition to this, he gave him all author-ity, so that he now rules as King in and over the entire universe of God.
Your faith and your hope might be in God.
The result to the believer in this glorification of Christ is the assured foundation upon which rest both his faith and his hope faith in Christ, hope of eternal life. Faith is essential to salvation. Ultimate salvation is God's gift, God's promise. These, we are here assured, are founded in the power and word of God. This power, and the veracity of this promise, we have demonstrated to us in the resur-rection of Christ from the dead.
Verse 22 Seeing ye have purified your souls.
This purification here referred to is moral, and includes the pardon of their sins, and, further, the living of a pure, chaste and holy life.
In obeying the truth.
The apostle tells them how the leading of pure lives was by them accomplished. It was in obedience to the truth, obeying the commands of the gospel. It is through the Spirit, because the word of truth comes to the world of mankind through that instrumentality, and is inseparable from it. In fact, the entire gospel age is the ministration of the Spirit.
Unto unfeigned love of the brethren.
The purity of their lives had reached to that extent that their affection for the brethren was sincere, and not a mere pretense. This all being true, the exhortation of the apostle comes with irrestible force : "See that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently." That is, in sin-cerity of heart ; love them continually. This love enjoined is the same in kind we find in the church of Jeruselem, when our author was in prison. "But prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him" ( Act_12:5 ). On this point Dr. McKnight's description is worthy of commendation. He says: "Peter's description of Christian love is excellent. It springs up in a heart purified by truth through the assistance of the Spirit. It is sincere in its operation. It is unmixed with carnal passions, and it is permanent."
Verse 23--Being born again, not of corruptible seed.
This may, and does, no doubt, refer the parties addressed back to their conversion. This is compared to a birth. Such a result is produced from an adequate cause life first, birth afterward. Life is implanted by seed. The apostle says the seed was not corruptible, but incorruptible, and immediately adds "by the word of God" The cause is adequate ; life is produced. God's word is living, and of course can impart life. God's word is in the gospel, and the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. This, heard and understood, moves to a new life, and birth follows. By obedience, born again.
Liveth and abideth forever.
God's word ever lives, for it is eternal, as God is eternal. Quotations from the sacred volume are wholly unnecessary. The thought is too plain.
Verse 24 For all flesh is as grass.
To make the declaration that God's word is living and eternal to stand out with more boldness, the apostle presents by the way of contrast, a quotation from the prophet Isa_40:6-8 . Everything pertaining to man is weak like the grass, and his highest earthly glory like the flower of the grass. The grass withers and the flower falls. So man in his best estate, with all his earthly achievements, quickly decays. He is soon gone. James uses to some extent the same illustration. ( Jam_1:11 .)
Verse 25 But the word of the Lord endureth forever.
The contrast brought forward in the former verse is now plainly seen. While man is like the grass, and his decay is certain, it is far different with the word of the Lord. That Word endures, abides, remains forever.
And this is the word by which the gospel is preached.
They had heard this gospel. It was preached to them by Paul and his assistants, and it may also be gathered that Peter desired them to understand that it is the same Word proclaimed by all the apostles of the Lord, himself included.