The Latter Epistles – 2 Peter 1

Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours:
Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.  For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election.  For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have.  I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me.  And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.
For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.  He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”  We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.
We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.  Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things.  For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

  • 2 Peter 1:1-21

Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments

2 Peter 1: 1‘precious faith’: “Note the phrase, ‘to those who … have received a faith as precious as ours.’  Think of that!  Christians today are tempted to think of the apostles as mighty men of superhuman faith.  Notice, however, that the apostles never thought of themselves that way.  The weakest believer holds in his or her hands all the power that the mightiest saint ever possessed.  That’s the theme of Peter’s opening chapter.”

  • Ray C. Stedman, Adventuring Through the Bible

2 Peter 1:4 ‘God became flesh’: “God never compromises and comes halfway down.  God stays the God that He is.  This is the God we adore – our faithful, unchangeable Friend whose love is as great as His power and knows neither limit nor end.  We don’t want God to compromise.  We don’t want God to wink at our iniquity.  We want God to do something about it.
“What did He do about it?  He came down and became flesh and became both God and man, sin excepted, in order that by His death He might remove everything out of the way so that man could come back.  He couldn’t come back if Christ had not come and died.  And now because He came and died, He removed every moral obstacle out of the way so man can come home.
“Peter, approaching it from another direction, says that God has left us the promises of the gospel, ‘that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature.’  What does that mean?  It means that when the sinner comes home, repents and believes on Christ savingly, God implants in the heart of that previous sinner some of His own nature.  And then the nature in God and the nature in the sinner are no longer dissimilar, but are one.  The sinner is home and the dissimilarity is gone; the unlikeness is removed.  The nature of God implanted in man now makes it morally proper that man and God should have fellowship.
“Without compromising Himself in any way, God now receives the returning sinner and puts a deposit of His own nature and life in that sinner.  That’s what the new birth is.  It’s not joining a church, not being baptized, not quitting this or that bad habit, though everybody will quit his bad habits.  The new birth is an implantation of divine life.”

  • A. W. Tozer, The Attributes of God I

2 Peter 1:5 ‘make every effort’: “People are not saved by their efforts.  But, on the other hand, grace saves no one to make him like a log of wood or a block of stone.  Grace makes people active.  God has been diligently at work with us; now we must diligently work together with him.  It is not our will that accomplishes our salvation, yet it is not accomplished without our will.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

2 Peter 1:5-7 ‘supplement your faith with …’: “As we have seen a mason take up first one stone and then another and then gradually build a house, so are we Christians to take first one virtue and then another and then another, piling up these stones of grace upon one another until we have built a palace for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

2 Peter 1:8-11 ‘honored by abundant reward’: “To be barren is to be inactive, indolent, and useless (cf. Titus 1:12; James 2:20-22).  With these virtues increasing in one’s life (vv. 5-7), a Christian will not be useless or ineffective.  When these Christian qualities are not present in a believer’s life (vv. 5-7), he will be indistinguishable from an evildoer or a superficial believer.  But when these qualities are increasing in a Christian’s life, there is the manifestation of ‘the divine nature’ within the believer.  A professing Christian who is missing the virtues mentioned above, is, therefore, unable to discern his true spiritual condition, and thus have no assurance of his salvation.  The failure to diligently pursue spiritual virtues produces spiritual amnesia.  Such a person, unable to discern his spiritual condition, will have no confidence about his profession of faith.  He may be saved and possess all the blessings of verses 3 and 4, but without the excellencies of verses 5-7, he will live in doubt and fear.
“Peter piles up the words to bring joy to the weary Christian’s heart.  An abundant entrance into eternal heaven is the hope and reality for a Christian who lives a faithful, fruitful life here on earth.  Peter’s point is that a Christian who pursues the listed virtues will not only enjoy assurance in the present, but a full, rich reward in the future life (cf. 1 Cor. 4:5; Rev. 22:12).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary

2 Peter 1:12 ‘remind you of these things’: “We are not merely to preach new truths of God that people do not know, but we are also to preach the old truths with which they are familiar.  The doctrines in which they are well established are still to be proclaimed to them.  Every wise preacher brings forth from the treasury of truth things both new and old – new, that the hearers may learn more than they knew before, and old, that they may know and practice better what they already know in part.  We need to have the truth constantly sown in our hearts and watered by the Holy Spirit that it may grow and bring forth fruit.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

2 Peter 1:12-21 ‘spiritual welfare’: “Peter is especially concerned about his readers’ spiritual welfare because he knows that he is approaching the end of his life.  Peter’s promise that he will see to it that they remember his teaching (v. 15) is probably a reference to the Gospel of Mark, which early Christian tradition claims was sponsored by Peter himself.
“Peter next shows how reliable this body of truth is.  It is ‘eyewitness’ material (v. 16).  It was epitomized by the transfiguration, something that was an anchor for Peter’s faith.  The word of the prophets, at first only oral, was ‘made more certain’ in the prophecy of Scripture (v. 20).  It should be heeded like a light in darkness until Christ returns.  ‘Prophecy’ is a revelation from God in the broadcast sense, not merely a ‘foretelling.’  ‘Scripture’ here pertains principally to the Old Testament but extends to the New Testament in light of the context and such statements as 3:16.  God brings it about, not the prophet. The Holy Spirit moves the prophet as wind propels a ship.  The impulse and movement come from God, the prophet (like a pilot) fully and consciously participates.”

  • Walter A. Elwell, editor, Baker Commentary on the Bible

2 Peter 1:16 ‘seeing the greatness’: “Jesus. The man.  The bronzed Galilean who spoke with such thunderous authority and loved with such childlike humility.
“The one who claimed to be older than time and greater than death. …
“Have you seen him?
“Those who first did were never the same.
“’My Lord and my God!’ cried Thomas.
“’I have seen the Lord,’ exclaimed Mary Magdalene.
“’We have seen his glory,’ declared John.
“Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked?’ rejoiced the two Emmaus bound disciples.
“But Peter said it best.  ‘We saw the greatness of Jesus with our own eyes.’”

  • Max Lucado, God Came Near

My Thoughts

I love what Ray Stedman said in that we have the same precious faith that the apostles had.  Adding to that, Jesus said that the apostles saw with their eyes, and we have an even greater faith in that we have not seen.  Why then do we not have the power?  Why is there a disconnect?  Are we as James wrote, doubting, double-minded?

And then we come to the virtues: goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection, and love.  As Peter lays it out, there is a natural order to these, but I have seen greater progress in myself in these virtues in a jumbled order.  Eugene H. Peterson translated / paraphrased the list and wrote that they were mutually supportive of each other.  This would mean that we might not make much headway with the first three until we started making progress with the last four, and all must be developed as virtues within us at the same time.  In whatever way this passage was meant to be interpreted, these virtues are hard to work on.  They are hard to evaluate within yourself, unless you clearly know that one is lacking, or two.

I kind of like the Eugene Peterson model.  I have worked on the knowledge virtue all my life, but to apply that knowledge, it takes the other six virtues, in one portion or another.  But before I think I am making progress on five of the other six, I feel I keep falling further behind on godliness.  It is nearly impossible as I struggle with self-control or whine while persevering or struggle to love someone who makes every effort to be unlovable.  When you see your struggles in those areas, how could you ever feel that you are becoming more godly?  Of the virtues, I struggle with a few of them, maybe all, but the humbling one is godliness.

Yet, Peter gives us no means of opting out.  No picking and choosing.  Without those virtues, we will not grow.  Without growing as a Christian, we will be ineffective, and worse, we will continue to stumble.

Then Peter talks about leaving the churches a reminder.  The Baker Commentary suggests this is the book of Mark.  In addition, Peter has written the two letters.  Of course, the Baker Commentary also points out that as the New Testament writers refer to Scripture, they mean the Old Testament Scripture, but it extends to the New Testament.

The knowledge of Scripture is very important, but the virtue of knowledge goes beyond book learning and delves heavily into applied knowledge, and higher orders of knowledge, from simple remembering, understanding and applying to analyzing and evaluating.  Yet, I withhold the top level of knowledge, creation, in that God creates, and only He can provide revelation through prophets, as Peter ends this chapter in discussing.

And we need to understand that acting as a prophet, is simply proclaiming what God has revealed within you.  We can all, those that have God in our hearts, prophesy.  Prophecy is not just foretelling the future.  In giving our personal testimony as to how God has revealed things within us and how we accepted Jesus as our Savior is a form of prophecy.  A personal testimony can be the means for each of us to shine a little light into the darkness.  And at the present time, there is a lot of darkness.

And even if we make a statement and then wonder where it came from and then two years later, what we said actually happened, that does not make us a “Prophet.”  God used us to prophesy, kind of like the Old Testament moments where the Holy Spirit came upon someone and once his/her task was completed, the ‘prophet’ returned to a normal life.

Some Serendipitous Reflections

“1. If this step-by-step moral progression is a ladder, what is the building it is leaning against?  Do you feel like climbing, painting, or getting off?  Which building is your spiritual ladder leaning against?
“2. Of the seven qualities in verses 5-7, which two do you possess in the greatest measure?  How can you grow in one of the other qualities?  How can the group help?
“1. If you could have been with Jesus at one event in his life, which would you choose?  Why?
“2. If a non-Christian asked you to ‘prove’ the Scriptures are God’s Word, on what would you base your answer?
“3. How does that answer affect your Bible study habits? Your witness? Your lifestyle?”

  • Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups

The Serendipity Bible had this chapter divided into two sections for group study.

I found the first question odd, because I immediately went to a “spiritual ladder.”  I do not fully trust any manmade structure since all churches are flawed in one way or another.  As it is in salvation, our trust is in Christ alone.  Only to Him do I place my trust.  But eliminating that, what might the next thing be?

As for the first question 2, each person may have a hard time evaluating themselves.  On one hand, some may find themselves falling shorter than they actually are, while other people may think themselves masters of everything.  If you are studying this as an individual, the ‘group’ could be your Sunday school class or your church, especially if in a small group setting.

If you like these Thursday morning Bible studies, but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Thursday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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