What Manner of Persons?

LET US REJOICE in the marvelous grace, the unmerited favor that God has extended us; to reveal himself and his dear Son to us through an understanding of his Word and of his grand purposes. Looking into these things, rejoicing in them, and being encouraged as we encourage one another, may we press along in the narrow way, serving truth and righteousness, and endeavoring to be sanctified by the truth and by the Spirit of the Lord.

You will recognize the setting of the words of our topic, “What Manner of Persons?” as coming from the pen of the Apostle Peter recorded in II Peter 3:11. These words were written to have meaning in our time, because Peter is actually speaking of this end of the age. However, it was another time of trouble when the Apostle Peter wrote this at the beginning of the Gospel Age. Since a new age was beginning and the old Jewish Age was ending, Israel’s polity as a nation, was deteriorating. Their age of special favor from the Lord had ended, and their rejection of their promised Messiah, Christ Jesus our Lord, had begun their dispersion. They were already in heavy bondage under Roman rule, and we know from history that the time was approaching ever closer when Rome would send her legions to Israel under Titus, as happened in A.D. 70—A.D. 73. The city of Jerusalem was taken, and the walls were broken down.

Then, beginning with that period of time, until around A.D. 130—135, the Romans finally banished the Jews from the land. They could not return under pain of death, and the great scattering or dispersion of the nation of Israel to the far corners of the earth proceeded. History only records it, but it occurred in fulfillment of God’s Word. In our day, Israel is being regathered into their own land once again, also in fulfillment of God’s Word.

Peter’s Words Especially Appropriate Today

When the Apostle Peter wrote these words they were appropriate, but they are more appropriate now because he was speaking of our day, as we will discover. “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation [conduct or behavior], and godliness.” These words could be considered as having been written to us personally, and we should try to apply them in our own lives. What manner of persons ought WE to be in all holy behavior and godliness?

In opening this third chapter, Peter’s words were these: “Beloved, I now write unto you; in which I stir up your minds by way of remembrance.” He addressed them as ‘Beloved’! We see by this expression the Apostle Peter’s devotion to the brethren and his desire to help them, to admonish them, to encourage their faithfulness; he desired to stir them up to a greater understanding that would help them to stand in an evil day, and give them the strength to withstand the trials which would come to them.

Peter continued to call their attention to the words of the prophets, and by identifying the time in which they would apply, he indicated that the words are indeed appropriate in our day. “Knowing this first,” he said, “that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming [or presence]? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” The world did not then see their time of God’s visitation, at our Lord’s First Advent. Israel did not recognize Jesus as their promised Messiah; and the world at large is not apprised to the larger issues that are at stake in our day, in our society, as a result of the Lord’s Second Advent.

We see and appreciate that the best and the noblest efforts of the most sincere of Earth’s leaders are but at best temporary efforts. For until the condemnation to death is removed and the opportunity for life is extended—until Satan is bound and the kingdom is established in glory with a righteous administration from top to bottom in both heaven and in earth, and a program of enlightenment and instruction is in operation—there will be no permanent improvement in Earth’s society. “When Thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.” (Isa. 26:9) A process or program of instruction in righteousness, not cut short by death, will continue until they are able, under the favorable climate of that kingdom, to walk up the highway of holiness. They will then be able to enjoy what God had in mind for the human family from the beginning—a full dominion of earth—as full and complete a dominion of earth as God’s dominion is of the Universe! This is our Heavenly Father’s glorious purpose!

Peter then called attention to the first world before the Flood which passed away—the heavens and the earth, the world’s spiritual and social orders, that were of old. (II Pet. 3) He told how this present heavens and earth, that has been under the domination of Satan, and in which evil has predominated, would also pass away. This is the point at which Peter’s words continue, and ask the question, “What manner of persons ought we to be” since we have knowledge of what is coming upon the earth. Knowing these things, “looking for and hasting unto the day of God, wherein the heavens [the present ecclesiastical order], being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements [the present social order] shall melt with fervent heat?” He continues, “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” The word dwelleth, we find in Strongs’s Concordance, has the thought of ‘permanently dwelling’. Yes, the new righteous social order will be an everlasting kingdom. It will be the world’s first real opportunity for life and peace, health and joy, and which will only come when righteousness comes first.

Just think of the changes which will occur when this whole present arrangement is reversed, and, instead of growing older each year, man’s flesh shall return to the days of their youth! (Job 33:25) You and I will have the privilege, if faithful now, of seeing that occur, and of assisting in that glorious work with our Lord and Savior. From beyond the veil, from the heavenly station, we will become ‘workers together with God’ in a much more grand and lasting sense than we can be now, in fulfilling his glorious purpose for the blessing of all the families of the earth.

By faith we accept these things and endeavor to order our lives, seeking to be ‘that manner of persons’ who would be in harmony with God’s glorious purposes. We desire to submit to our experiences in order that we can best be prepared for a place in his kingdom to share with our Lord and Savior, and with all the faithful that have gone before us, in the glorious work of the fulfilling of God’s gracious promises.

This faithful apostle, Peter, now grown old in the Father’s service, manifested his love for the brethren in his words to them. Turning to I Peter 1:12-15, we read these words in which he spoke concerning the prophets, saying, “Unto whom it was revealed that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the Gospel unto you with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.”

Since Peter says, ‘unto us’, let us include ourselves in his words: “Wherefore, let us gird up the loins of our minds, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto us at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not fashioning ourselves according to the former lusts in our ignorance; but as he which hath called us is holy, so let us be holy in all manner of conduct and behavior.” What an encouragement these words are to us! What an invitation! What holy instruction and admonitions he gave us! It was because Peter loved his brethren. He realized that they knew all of these things, but he wanted to stir up their minds, that they might be reminded of the glorious and righteous purposes of God.

Our Lord, An Example of Great Humility

In John’s Gospel, the 13th chapter, this testimony is given of our Lord as he observed that final Passover and instituted the Memorial with his apostles: “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.”—John 13:1

We appreciate Jesus’ wonderful example, when at the Last Supper, he washed the disciples’ feet. His trial and crucifixion lay only hours before him, but he was not wasting his time fretting about his own welfare, or what pleasures he might enjoy during his last little bit of time allotted to him here upon the earth. No, he was thinking of what he could do best to help his disciples whom he dearly loved, for whom he was dying, as well as for the world, and showing his love even toward those who were putting him to death. When Jesus had finished washing the feet of his disciples, he put on his garments, sat down with them, and said unto them, “Know ye what I have done for you. Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.”—vss. 13-15

In answering the question posed by three of his disciples, as to which of them would be greatest in the kingdom, Jesus pointed out to his disciples that those who desired to be great in the kingdom must be the servant of all. They must have the same spirit of sacrifice and service that he was personally demonstrating to them in the washing of their feet. This one who was the Son of God, this one who was perfect, this one who was superior in every way to them, was bent on sacrifice and service to them, and to all mankind.

The apostles had not yet received the benefits of his ransom sacrifice. At this juncture, Jesus had not died and been raised again. The Holy Spirit had not been sent upon them; they were yet in their sins—unjustified. He had called them his ‘friends’ because they had exhibited the faith of Abraham. He did not call them ‘brethren’ because they were not yet sons of God. No, not yet; but nevertheless he loved them, and he loved them to the end and manifested these things to them, not only by word, but by his example.

Many Wonderful Men Have Lived

You may have heard about some of the great people who have graced the earth with their lives, some who may not have known anything about the divine plan of the ages, but who have evidenced a spirit of service in their lives. One wonderful photograph was taken of Albert Einstein when he was at Princeton University. It showed him coming around the corner of one of the University buildings, with his hair flying in the breeze, his coat flapping, eating an ice-cream cone! Here was a man of superior intelligence, one who understood mathematical concepts far in advance of the mass of mankind’s view of scientific matters. No doubt this great man was raised up of the Lord to forward the increase of knowledge in fulfillment of God’s prophecies of our day. His humble philosophy was reflected in his words, “Try not to become a man of success, but rather a man of value.” How true it is that if we render any service profitable or useful to the community and beneficial to mankind, we should never be ashamed of that labor or that work.

There was Fritz Kreisler, a great violinist. He never charged much for his concerts. He explained the reason for this: “It is a talent. It was given to me.” His wife said, “We don’t charge great prices for our concerts; it might keep a slice of bread from someone’s mouth; or keep them from having a home, or proper things for their children.” It will be wonderful when we, if faithful, have the privilege of calling forth from the tomb people like that, who will be in the forefront of their communities, willingly and gladly assisting the world of mankind, making sacrifices for others.

Have you read what George Washington, America’s first President, said? His words were: “Rejoice not in the adversity of another, even though he be your enemy.” That statement represents a high standard of behavior. There have been a multitude of wonderful people who lived and died on this earth—of most of those lives we are unaware. But, if we are faithful we will have the privilege of sharing with our Lord in calling forth many just like them; to go in the forefront of the work of the kingdom, following after the Ancient Worthies.

In John 15:11, our Lord said, “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” In the fourth verse, he exhorted them, saying, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, and ye are the branches; he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me [severed from me, or apart from me] ye can do nothing.” We have found this to be a true statement, have we not?

Yes, not until we come into Christ through unreserved consecration, and are accepted in the beloved by the Heavenly Father, justified, and spirit-begotten, can we ‘bear fruit’ by remaining in him. He continued, in John 15:7, to say, “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.”

Again we are reminded of Peter’s question: “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought we to be?” (II Pet. 3:11) Since we know of the glorious things to come, and now we see around us the full effects of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and the great need for Christ’s kingdom; since we long for and pray for that great time when the benefits of righteousness will be made so plain, we have a great responsibility in how we conduct our lives. Let us not only continue to pray for the kingdom blessings that the world needs so much, but let us bear the fruits of righteousness in order that we will be fit for dispensing the promised blessings.

The World Needs the Kingdom

The Lord knows that the world needs Christ’s kingdom. That is why he arranged for it. And he has told us so much concerning it, because he wants us to know about it in advance of the world. We have the privilege of continuing to send forth his Word of truth in a meager way at this time. But, in due time, he wants all mankind to know and to recognize their great need of his promised kingdom and its overwhelming blessings of life, joy, and peace, through righteousness. Mankind will then recognize our loving Father’s glorious character. Only then can they come to love God and his dear Son, as you and I have come to love them and, therefore, desire to serve them, and be blessed in so doing.

In John 15:12, the apostle continues to record Jesus’ words for us: “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you.”

No, he did not call them ‘brethren’ yet, or ‘sons’ of God. No, Jesus was very accurate, because it was not yet time for him to use those words of close kinship. They had not yet received the benefit of the application of the merit of his ransom price, which he provided when he obediently finished his sacrifice upon the cross. No, they could not be called brethren, or sons of God until Jesus was raised from the dead to present the merit before his Heavenly Father’s throne. The value provided by the willing sacrifice of his perfect human life which provided redemption for Adam and his entire race.

When God raised him from the dead, Jesus had the merit of his sacrifice in negotiable form. He appeared in the presence of God to satisfy the demands of justice. As in the Tabernacle type, after the animal was slain, the blood representing the life poured out was taken in and sprinkled on the Mercy Seat in the Most Holy, thus satisfying justice and making reconciliation between God and man for another year.

So our great, glorified High Priest appeared in the antitypical Most Holy, in heaven itself, there to appear in the presence of God for the Church. (Heb. 9:12,24) His sacrifice, however, differed from the Tabernacle type in that it was a satisfaction not just for a year, but for all time. Jesus understood these things and his words were in complete conformity to them in every instance. We, too, must choose our words carefully to accurately state matters as they are.

The “Family Likeness”

Let us consider the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 8:28,29. “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” And what is this purpose? The apostle answers, “Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate [or predetermine] to be conformed to the image of his Son that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” In families, there is generally what we call a ‘family resemblance’. Jesus was the firstborn Son in this divine family, among many brethren who were to be conformed to his image. They were to have a family resemblance or character likeness to the firstborn Son. Of course we cannot actually be perfect like Jesus, because of our fallen human nature, but we must strive to be like him to the best of our ability.

“Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? He that hath a pure heart, and clean hands.” This cleanliness is reckoned to us because we are covered by the robe of Christ’s righteousness. May the Lord help us to walk worthy of his love and blessings.

Peter exhorts us along this line to examine our lives in order to become more worthy of his love. One important concept we should be cultivating is to be concerned always with the common good, as was our elder brother. This is Godlike, and Christ like. Our Heavenly Father is not self-seeking, he does not think of what is good for himself, and then act accordingly. No, he is willing to be longsuffering and endure this nighttime of evil, because he knows it is for mankind’s everlasting good. Is our first reaction when something is said or done: ‘How will it affect me?’ Well, if it is, do not be discouraged, because that is a natural tendency of the fallen flesh. But the New Creature is endeavoring to transform itself—to divorce itself from the fallen tendencies of the flesh—and to be like its Lord and Savior.

The Apostle John wrote: “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and everyone that loveth is begotten of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.”—I John 4:7

If we love one another we will be thinking of what is best for one another, and not simply what might be most convenient for ourselves. When we think of Christ’s ministry and of what he did for others, we realize that he went about doing good, healing all manner of diseases. He worked tirelessly, foreshadowing the glorious work of the kingdom and its blessings for all mankind. His thoughtfulness for his disciples at the time he was taken from them, can be seen in how he endeavored to prepare them for their loss. His thoughtfulness for his mother even while he was suffering excruciating pain upon the cross, also indicates his selflessness. One of the things that we appreciate so much about our Lord Jesus is that he is now more glorious and thoughtful than ever!

After his death and resurrection, the disciples were in a state of turmoil. They knew not which way to turn and so they went back to fishing. In one instance they had toiled all night and caught no fish. They were still out in their ship when Jesus appeared on the shore. He told them to put the net down on the right side, and there were so many fish in it that they could hardly bring it in. We read in John 21:9: “As soon then as they were come to land they saw a fire of coals there and fish laid thereon and bread.” Jesus was there on shore waiting for them, having cooked the fish, and prepared the bread. “Jesus cometh and taketh bread and giveth them and fish likewise.”—vs. 13

Jesus, although now an exalted divine being, had not changed a bit! He was with them there on the shore of Galilee serving them natural food. He who held the position of sitting at the right hand of the Majesty on high had the same humble, serving spirit as before, and would be so henceforth, and forever, eternally!

This is the character that he has called us to develop, and has given us the opportunity, the strength, and the help to attain. In order to accomplish this, we must learn to think of what is best for others, and to forget our own aims and desires. We should be seeking those things which are the blessings of Zion collectively. God is doing this at all times. He is always providing for the needs of all his creatures. We cannot be different from our Father if we wish to be his children and to have this family likeness. Thus we will express our appreciation, our obedience, and our thankfulness to him for being such a splendidly magnanimous God.

Motivation Is Most Important

Jesus said in Luke 14:27: “Whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” Taking up his cross and following him includes loving less our aims and ambitions for ourselves, and even for our families. This does not mean that we do not love our families—no, of course not, but we have to establish our priorities. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt. 6:33) In fact, when we put God first, we find we love our families more all the time, because we are becoming more Godlike and Christlike.

What we think and say and do is not the most important aspect in our lives, but, rather, why we think and say and do what we do. The Apostle Paul was certainly correct when he said that the Word of God was “sharper than any two-edged sword” dividing between marrow and bone. (Heb. 4:12) The following of the precepts of the Word of God gets down to the matter of character development in the image of our Master. This work begins right in our new mind, which is all we actually have of the New Creature, and is where the Christian’s battlefield is.

We have been told: “Sow a thought, reap an act; sow an act, and reap a habit; sow a habit, and reap a character; sow a character, and reap a destiny.” We know these things, but “Happy are ye if ye do them,” Jesus said. This is where sanctification of heart and mind is being worked out, every day of our lives. Opportunities to seek the common good are everywhere. May the Lord help us to put these things into practice.

In Proverbs 16:28, we are told, “A froward man [one who stubbornly goes on in his own willful way], soweth strife.” We do not want to sow strife; instead, we wish to be peacemakers. We want to follow in the steps of Jesus, and to be wise as serpents, harmless as doves, meek as lambs, bold as lions, but always in keeping with that which would be pleasing to our loving Heavenly Father, and our Lord.

Mistakes Cannot Be Corrected Until Recognized

In Proverbs, we have this counsel given us, and we desire to heed it that we might be better prepared for a place in God’s glorious kingdom. We read, “Ponder [consider] the path of thy feet and all thy ways shall be ordered aright.” (Prov. 4:26, Margin) “My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. … For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh. Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. … Ponder the path of thy feet and all thy ways shall be ordered aright.”—vs. 20

Again we read, “The ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord, and he pondereth all his goings.” (Prov. 5:21-23) God is watching to see what is motivating us and how diligently we are considering others. Jesus said, “I am the way the truth and the life. No man cometh to the Father but by me.” (John 14:6) We must be like our great forerunner and be willing ‘workers together with God’.

“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” (Prov. 28:13) We really should want to be aware of our faults. The first step in the solution of any problem is to know that a problem exists. And we know that we can go to the Lord in prayer to receive the strength to overcome. By effort we can make progress toward being conformed to his image in our minds and hearts and characters. By God’s grace we can be successful in our endeavors. Since it is God who is working in us, we can be conformed to the image of his dear Son. May the Lord continue to work in us.


It would be folly for us if we did not heed the instruction of the Lord and learn the lessons along the way that he knows we need. (Ps. 48:13) Israel was spoken of as being ‘stiffnecked’ because they were disobedient to the Lord, and did not learn the lessons he patiently endeavored, time and again, to teach them. About them, and others, Solomon wrote: “He that being often reproved hardeneth his neck shall suddenly be destroyed and that without remedy.” (Prov. 29:1) This text is there for the benefit of those who are on trial for life at the present time. Those to whom the Heavenly Father has made glorious promises are expected in return to learn his lessons.

If we have an experience where things do not work out as we might hope or think they should, then that is an opportunity for self-discipline, for trust in the Lord and in his overruling providences. It is an opportunity for us to take the matter to him in prayer. After all, it is one of his ways to draw us closer to him by these very experiences. It is one of his ways to prepare us for an honored place in his glorious divine family. What a transcending thought, that we should be called to his eternal glory!

The Apostle Peter calls this to our attention. We read, “The God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen and settle you.” (I Pet. 5:10) And in the 4th verse, “When the Chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” Yes! It will be ours for all eternity! We will have a permanent dwelling place in the family of God!

We cannot conceive of there being a more interesting privilege offered throughout all eternity. Since he has offered us the best that he has to give, is it surprising that he would expect of us the best that we have to give? May the Lord help us to be faithful. “What manner of persons ought we to be, seeing that we know these things” beforehand? Jesus said, “If ye know these things, happy are ye if you do them.”

May our loving Father help us to finish our course faithfully, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

So live, that when thy summons comes to join
   The innumerable caravan, which moves
To that mysterious realm, where each shall take
   His chamber in the glorious halls of light,
Thou go not, like the quarry slave, at night,
   Scourged, to his dungeon; but, sustained and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave,
   Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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