Written at the end of
Peter’s life, his second epistle is a solemn warning about the perils of false
teachers. But if you are to build a wall against apostasy, the bricks must
first be sound.
2 Peter 1:1-2 NASB Simon Peter, a bond-servant and
apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind
as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: (2) Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the
knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;
scholars see some other possibilities, the testimony of the ancient church
is that this was written by Peter, the apostle. The “who” of the author is
important to us:
- He describes
himself as a bond-servant (Greek doulos, or slave) of Christ. There is no sense in this
of being the high and mighty Pope; rather, just another servant of our
- He then reminds us
that it is his privilege to serve as an apostle, appointed by the Lord, an
eyewitness of the Resurrection. The point is one of authority – and it
takes authority of an apostle to deal with apostasy.
- Perhaps more
important, he brings with him the personal authority of one who has seen
the Transfiguration and the Ascension – an eyewitness to the glory of God.
To whom does Peter
address this letter? The phrase is difficult to translate; the King James says
it is addressed to those who have received “like precious” faith. We may see
- The faith itself is
precious, not to be treated lightly. Here is the pearl of great price.
Thus, he will argue later, it should not be tampered with.
- It’s the same faith
for the apostle as for the ordinary Christian. There is no “super faith”
for a select few; it is “the faith.” Thus defined, we can tell that there is
tolerance in Christian liberty – and there is apostasy.
This is not something
Peter invented, as we shall see in later lesson. No, we received this faith by
the righteousness of Christ. If he were not completely righteous, the
sacrifice on the Cross would have been of no effect. Peter describes Christ in
- Christ our God –
the one to be obeyed.
- Christ our Savior –
the one to be praised and thanked.
introduced himself, Peter provides the salutation customary in letters of the
time – his good wishes for his readers. Specifically:
- Grace and peace.
The word for grace (charis) means a gift; the root concept of peace is not the
absence of conflict but the resolution of conflict. By God’s gift on the
Cross we are given peace with God – we are reconciled.
- We have this; he
blesses us in that he prays it will be multiplied. We are not given a static
blessing, but rather one which grows as we mature in Christ, as we shall
How is this
multiplication performed? By knowledge! Despite the modern tendency to “check
your brain at the door, God wants your heart,” Peter gives us the key to such
increase as being knowledge.
Note, please, that
this is not the knowledge of some systematic theology textbook.
The knowledge in question is the knowledge of Christ. To know him better each
day is to grow in grace and peace.
2 Peter 1:3-7 NASB seeing that His divine power has
granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true
knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. (4) For by these He has granted to us His precious
and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped
the corruption that is in the world by lust. (5)
Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply
moral excellence, and in your
moral excellence, knowledge, (6) and in your knowledge, self-control, and
in your self-control,
perseverance, and in your
perseverance, godliness, (7) and in your godliness, brotherly
kindness, and in your
brotherly kindness, love.
If you will glance at
verse three, you will see that Christ’s divine power is the source of everything pertaining to life and godliness.
Life, as given here, means biological life.
This is not some vague, gaseous spiritual life of no relevance to us today,
but rather the earthy life we live. How are we to live it? In godliness, also
translated as piety. That’s right, we are to be pious in this life! Have you
ever heard such a thing? Well, you have now.
A pious life? How
could I possibly attain such a thing? I’m not a monk, or a priest, or some
sort of super-Christian. But remember – there is no separate kind of faith for
the “super-Christian.” It’s the same for all; apostle and ordinary Christian.
We attain this (I say again) through the knowledge of Christ. In particular,
Peter points out two things about Christ that we should know:
- His glory – the
Greek is doxa, from which we get our word “doxology.” Glory is that which is
praiseworthy in Christ; therefore we are to find the things for which we
should praise him. This might be one reason we are to sing hymns and
spiritual songs to him.
- His excellence –
older translations use the word “virtue.” It is a neglected concept, but
it should not be. He is our model; the imitation of Christ our rule of
The effect upon the
Christian is remarkable. We have been “great and precious” promises, so great,
in fact, that they are summed up in the idea that we have become partakers in
the divine nature. We share, in some way, not just the attributes of God, but
his essence. This is so strong in the true Christian that Peter phrases it
“having escaped” – note the tense – the lusts of the world.
So, then, what are we
to do about this? Get to work, taking what God has done and amplifying it,
adding to it what we can. Specifically,
- Goodness – the same word for virtue used
to describe Christ.
- Knowledge – the Greek is gnosis, meaning the ordinary kind of
knowledge acquired by study. “Study, to show yourself approved, …”
- Self control
translated temperance, it means that moderation in which all things are
kept under control so that the lordship of Christ may show in everything
– there is no
good word to translate this; but it means something like “dogged
- Godliness – perhaps better translated
piety. No one wants to thought pious these days – it’s not hip, cool and
with it. Which says something about what it takes to be a real Christian,
kindness – the
affection in family relations; sometimes we can forgive anyone but those
related to us. Hence the command.
- Love – the usual use of the word, as
in unconditional, forgiving love.
An old illustration
might serve. It is as if Christ has given you a mansion – and tells you to
furnish it well. The mansion is our salvation; the fruits above are the
furniture and curtains.
to the Kingdom
2 Peter 1:8-11 NASB For if these qualities are yours and are
increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true
knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (9) For he
who lacks these qualities is
blind or short-sighted,
having forgotten his
purification from his former sins. (10)
Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His
calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will
never stumble; (11) for in this way the
entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be
abundantly supplied to you.
Note the connection,
please, in verse 8. It is not just that these qualities make you useful, or
fruitful. It is that they make you useful and fruitful in the knowledge of
Christ. “I believe, that I may understand.” We all want knowledge to underlie
our faith, but we sometimes forget that faith is necessary to understanding.
Why? Because God will not reveal himself to one who does not believe, but
reveals himself in proportion to our belief.
And if you don’t?
You’ve forgotten your forgiveness, your purification. This takes to make you
ungrateful, which makes you less forgiving (forgiven little? Forgiven much?)
It gives Satan a handle on your life, especially when you sin again. Worst,
you soon cease to praise the Lord – and therefore you do not recognize him for
who he really is.
So work on it!
Deliberately seek to grow those virtues.
If you do, you
receive the kingdom in abundance. Salvation is no longer just a fact but a
fact of life. The resurrection of the dead goes from faint doctrine to fervent
hope. Eternal life comes near to you; death ceases to hold such terrors.
If you do, you are
assured of a rich welcome into the kingdom of heaven; as John Wesley put it,
you will enter the gates of heaven “in full triumph.” Go in like one who has
one the crown, not like one who barely escaped.
This letter is about
apostasy and false teaching. It might seem that Peter hasn’t touched that
topic yet. But he has. The first defense a Christian has against apostasy is
the knowledge of Christ. Knowledge of doctrine? That’s good, but first things
first – the knowledge of Christ. If you have it, that fruit in your life will
be ever increasing, and this produces triumph in the Christian life.
P. T. Barnum said
that “you cannot cheat an honest man.” In the same sense, you cannot deceive a
well trained Christian – one who knows Christ fully. You may not be able to
name the heresy, but you’ll be able to smell it.
 With the curious
exception of Chyrsostom, who somehow took Symeon Peter as different from Simon
 See Romans 14.
 The Greek word is the
root of our word “plethora.”
 Nor, for that matter,
any of these lessons.
 Greek zoe, from which we get our
 See Ephesians 5:19 and
 The NIV and other
“phrase for phrase” translations, and paraphrases, put this in a future tense.
Word for word translations (e.g., NASB, KJV) use this tense. The literal usage
is “having escaped.” It does not appear to make a difference at first glance,
but the point is important. If you’d like to know why, look up
in any encyclopedia.
 “Like stink on a paper
mill – always there” – Montague Hipple II. (Described as the first
characteristic of a good salesman.) Greek hupomone.