David Guzik Commentary on the Bible
2 Peter 1
The Sure Christian Life
A. An encouragement to know God and what He has done for us.
1. (1) Introducing a letter from Peter, to believers.
Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:
a. Simon Peter: The Apostle here called himself Simon Peter. Perhaps, since he wrote this letter later in life, he didn't want to forget where he came from and that sometimes he was still more like the old Simon than the new Peter.
i. We remember that Simon was his given name at birth; Peter was the special name given to him by Jesus, to call this man to "rock-like" thinking and behavior.
ii. Some have said that Peter didn't write this letter because the subject and style is somewhat different than 1 Peter. Yet the purpose of the two letters is quite different. 1 Peter was written to encourage Christians under the threat of violent persecution; 2 Peter was written to warn those same believers of the danger of false teachers and harmful influences.
iii. "Convinced that the best antidote for heresy is a mature knowledge of the truth, Peter exhorts his readers to have a proper appreciation for prophecy, to live holy and godly lives while awaiting Christ's coming and to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord." (Kirby)
b. A bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ: The order of these titles is important. Peter considered himself first a bondservant, and then an apostle. His standing as a bondservant was more important to him than his status as an apostle.
c. To those who have obtained like precious faith: Peter wrote to those who had the same salvation he had experienced, which he called "a like precious faith." This faith was obtained, and not by the efforts of man but by the righteousness of our God.
i. "He tells us too, that faith is 'precious;' and is it not precious? For it deals with precious things, with precious promises, with precious blood, with a precious redemption, with all the preciousness of the person of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." (Spurgeon)
ii. Like precious faith probably speaks to the fact that the Jews and Gentiles enjoyed the same faith, and therefore the same benefits in Jesus. "God having given to you - believing Gentiles, the same faith and salvation which he had give to us - believing Jews." (Clarke)
d. Our God and Savior Jesus Christ: The grammar of the ancient Greek demonstrates that Peter said that Jesus Christ is our God and Savior. Peter clearly thought that Jesus was and is our God and Savior.
i. "The expression God and our Saviour is in a construction in the Greek text which demands that we translate, our God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, the expression thus showing that Jesus Christ is the Christian's God." (Wuest)
ii. "The grammar leaves little doubt that in these words Peter is calling Jesus Christ both God and Savior." (Blum)
2. (2-4) A greeting expanded into an understanding of the value of the knowledge of God.
Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
a. Grace and peace be multiplied to you: Peter indicated that grace and peace - those two most precious of gifts - are ours in the knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord. As we know God we gain these essentials foundations for salvation and living.
b. His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness: However, not only grace and peace - but also all things that pertain to life and godliness are ours through the knowledge of Him. Knowing God is the key to all things that pertain to life and godliness.
i. These things come to us through His divine power. "Divine power! What stupendous issues are grasped in that term, divine power! It was this which digged the deep foundations of the earth and sea! Divine power, it is this which guides the marches of the stars of heaven! Divine power! it is this which holds up the pillars of the universe, and which one day shall shake them, and hurry all things back to their native nothingness." (Spurgeon)
ii. We are willing to try almost anything except the knowledge of Him. We will trust in the schemes and plans of men instead of the knowledge of Him. We will try knowing ourselves instead of the knowledge of Him. We need to come to the same place the Apostle Paul did, when he said that I may know Him (Philippians 3:10).
iii. According to Blum, the ancient Greek word knowledge doesn't refer to a casual acquaintance. It means an exact, complete, and thorough knowledge.
c. Through the knowledge of Him: We come to knowledge of Him as we learn of Him through His Word, through prayer, and through the community of God's people. It is true that we need God alone, but God does not meet us only in our solitude but also in the community of His people.
d. Who called us: This knowledge of God comes to those who are called. It is knowledge, but it is not mere intellectual understanding or intuition. It is the knowledge that comes by experience - the experience God's people have of God Himself.
e. Who called us by glory and virtue: It is Jesus' glory and virtue that motivated Him to call us, and it is His glory and virtue that draw us to Him.
f. By which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises: This explains the value of the glory and virtue of God that calls us. By these He gave us exceedingly great and precious promises. This means that the promises of God are based upon His glory and virtue, and therefore perfectly reliable because God can never compromise His glory and virtue.
i. Psalm 138:2 reminds us that God honors His word even above His name. We never have to doubt any promise of God. Instead we should let God be true but every man a liar (Romans 3:4).
ii. For these reasons, God's promises are both exceedingly great (in the sense of being large and imposing), and they are precious, in the sense of being valuable. "Many things are great which are not precious, such as great rocks, which are of little value; on the other hand, many things are precious which are not great-such as diamonds and other jewels, which cannot be very great if they be very precious. But here we have promises which are so great, that they are not less than infinite, and so precious, that they are not less than divine." (Spurgeon)
iii. "It was of considerable consequence to the comfort of the Gentiles that these promises were made to them, and that salvation was not exclusively of the Jews." (Clarke)
g. That through these you may be partakers of the divine nature: This explains the value of these great and precious promises. Through these promises, we are partakers of the divine nature. Peter's idea is similar to Paul's idea of our glorious status as adopted sons and daughters of God (Galatians 4:5-7).
i. This is a remarkably generous and loving of God. He could rescue us from hell without even inviting us to be partakers of the divine nature. It shows how deeply God loves us and wants to share His life - indeed, even the divine nature - with His people.
h. Having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust: God is above and beyond the corruption of this world. It should also be that way with those who are the partakers of the divine nature. The corruption that is in the world expresses itself through lust - the ungodly desires of this world.
3. (5-7) How to live as a partaker of the nature.
But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.
a. Giving all diligence: We are partakers of the divine nature, but once we are made spiritual sons and daughters, growth in the Christian life doesn't just happen to us. We are supposed to give all diligence to our walk with the Lord.
b. Add to your faith virtue: We begin our life with God with faith, but faith progresses into virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love - love being the capstone of all God's work in us.
i. Add to your faith: Literally in the ancient Greek, "Lead up hand in hand; alluding, as most think, to the chorus in the Grecian dance, who danced with joined hands." (Clarke)
ii. The scope of the list demonstrates that God wants us to have a well-rounded Christian life, complete in every fashion. We can't be content with an incomplete Christian life.
iii. Of the word self-control, the Greek scholar Kenneth Wuest says the Greeks used this word self-control to describe someone who was not ruled by the desire for sex.
c. Giving all diligence: These beautiful qualities are not things that the Lord simply pours into us as we passively receive. Instead, we are called to give all diligence to these things, working in partnership with God to add them.
4. (8-9) How to use these qualities to measure our Christian walk.
For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.
a. If these things are yours and abound: If we have these things, and abound in these things, it is evident to everyone that we are not barren nor unfruitful in our knowledge of Jesus.
i. The words barren and unfruitful characterize the lives of many Christians, who lack these qualities because they lack in their knowledge of God, that is, knowing Him relationally in an increasingly fuller and deeper sense.
ii. Abound: Some may feel good that these qualities are seen in us from time to time. But Peter says they should abound in us.
b. He who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness: If we lack these things, it shows we have "eye trouble." We are shortsighted, unable to see God, only ourselves. This makes us virtually blind, showing we have forgotten that we were cleansed from his old sins.
i. "Such a man sees the things of time, and fails to discern those of eternity . . . he sees himself and his fellowmen, but not God. This nearsightedness is destructive of a true Christian experience, and therefore makes advance impossible." (Morgan)
ii. The reason for this condition is also stated; such a one has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. "That is to say, he has failed to respond to all the enlargement of life and vision which came to him when he received the cleansing of his nature at the very beginning of his Christian life." (Morgan)
iii. Perhaps this one has forgotten how bad he was, and how much he needed this cleansing. Perhaps this one has forgotten the great cost of this purging of sin's dirty stain. Perhaps this one has forgotten how great and complete the cleansing is, making a once guilty sinner now as pure and as white as snow (Isaiah 1:18).
5. (10-11) Making our call and election sure.
Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
a. Be even more diligent to make your call and election sure: This shows how we can be sure that God called us, and that we are His elect. It is by doing these things spoken of in 2 Peter 1:5-7 (faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love). As we see these things in our life, we know that our lives are becoming more like the nature of Jesus. It shows that we are being conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29).
i. It is possible for an unsaved person to do many moral and religious duties. But the "these things" Peter wrote of are matters of the heart, and should be evident in anyone born again. Simply said, if we are called, if we are elect, then we are born again - and if we are born again, it shows in the way that we live.
ii. "It will be asked however, why is calling here put before election seeing election is eternal, and calling takes place in time? I reply, because calling is first to us. The first thing which you and I can know is our calling: we cannot tell whether we are elect until we feel that we are called. We must, first of all, prove our calling, and then our election is sure most certainly." (Spurgeon)
b. For if you do these things you will never stumble: In pursuing these things we keep from stumbling. Continual growth and progress in the Christian life is the sure way to keep from stumbling.
c. Entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ: Peter here reminded his readers of the great reward of a calling and election made sure. They would enter heaven gloriously, not as through fire (1 Corinthians 3:15).
i. "There are two ways of entering a port. A ship may come in, waterlogged and crazy, just keep afloat by continual working at the pumps; or it may enter with every sail set, her pennon floating at the mast-head. The latter is what the apostle desires for himself and those who addresses. He desired that an entrance abundant should be ministered unto them." (Meyer)
ii. F.B. Meyer also wrote that the idea of an "abundant entrance" was really a choral entrance. The idea was of a Roman conqueror coming into his city, welcomed by singers and musicians who would join him in a glorious, happy procession into the city.
iii. "Will your entrance into heaven be like that? Will you enter it, save so as by fire, or to receive a reward? Will you come unrecognized and unknown, or be welcomed by scores and hundreds to whom you have been the means of blessing, and who will wait you?" (Meyer)
B. The need to be reminded.
1. (12) Peter explains why he writes about things they have heard before - the basics of Christian living.
For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth.
a. For this reason: Peter just wrote about the promise of entrance into the everlasting kingdom of God (2 Peter 1:11). Because coming to that kingdom is so important, it is helpful and necessary for Peter to remind you always of the basics of the Christian life.
b. I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know: Even though his readers did know the truth, in light of what was at stake - their eternal destiny - it was worth it to go over these ideas again and again.
i. A sports team going for the championship will practice the same fundamentals over and over again. They do this, even though they know the techniques, because they want the victory.
ii. For this reason, Christians should never get tired hearing the basics of the Christian life. We should rejoice every time Jesus Christ and His gospel and plan for our lives is preached.
c. Established in the present truth: Established is the same word translated strengthen in Luke 22:32, when Jesus told Peter "when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren." Here, Peter fulfilled that command of Jesus. He would establish and strengthen us by reminding us of the basics of the Christian life.
2. (13-14) The urgency in Peter's heart.
Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me.
a. I think it is right: Because of what is at stake, Peter knew it was right to remind people constantly, especially because he knew that the days of his earthly life were soon coming to an end.
b. Shortly I must put off my tent: Peter considered his body no more than a tent. A tent is a temporary place to live. Tents should be taken care of, but you wouldn't invest large resources into fixing up a tent. You save your real resources for a more permanent place to live. Our more permanent place to live is heaven, and we should invest more in heaven than in our tent - our physical body.
i. How did Peter know that shortly I must put off my tent? Perhaps it was because Peter was simply getting old. Perhaps it was because the flames of persecution were getting hotter around him. Church history tells us that Peter did die a martyr, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed him (John 21:18-19).
ii. This shows that Peter believed that the prophetic words of Jesus were to be fulfilled literally. Jesus showed Peter that he would die a martyr, and he believed it - even if he might have wished it were only symbolic.
3. (15) Peter prepares for the future.
Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease.
a. I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder: Peter put this reminder in a letter, so the people of God would have a constant reminder even after his departure.
b. After my decease: Peter seemed aware of the significance of the passing of the apostles and the need to preserve the authoritative teaching of the apostles and prophets. This, the written teaching of the apostles and their associates, is the foundation of the church (Ephesians 2:20) preserved by God for all generations.
C. The sureness of apostolic testimony.
1. (16-18) The evidence of the transfiguration.
For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.
a. We did not follow cunningly devised fables: Peter solemnly declared that the testimony of the apostles - testimony they endured torture and gave their lives for - was not based on clever fables or even half truths, but on eyewitness testimony; that they were eyewitnesses of His majesty.
i. Fables translates the ancient Greek word mythos. Some people think the Gospel and the Biblical record are just ancient myths. They may admire their power as myths, but Peter rightly insisted that his message was no myth. It was history, seen by eyewitnesses.
ii. We can reliably reconstruct historical events from the testimony of eyewitnesses, who must be checked for truthfulness. The apostles and writers of the New Testament have been checked for centuries and have been found truthful.
b. Eyewitnesses of His majesty: When did Peter eyewitness the majesty of Jesus? There were many occasions, but one probably stuck out in his mind: the transfiguration of Jesus, recorded in Matthew 17:1-8, Mark 9:1-9, and Luke 9:28-36. We know this because Peter quoted here what God the Father said to Jesus at the Transfiguration: "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
i. At the transfiguration, Jesus was transformed in glory before the apostles, not merely changed in outward appearance. The effect was extremely striking; Jesus became so bright in appearance that it was hard to look at Jesus. He shined like the sun (Matthew 17:2).
ii. One may say that this shining glory was not a new miracle, but a pause in an ongoing miracle. The real miracle was that Jesus, most of the time, could keep from displaying His glory.
c. This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: At the transfiguration the Father spoke from heaven to declare His approval of and joy in God the Son. As Peter wrote this, we sense the words were still ringing in his ears because at the transfiguration he made the mistake of making Jesus equal with Moses and Elijah, who appeared along with Him.
i. Those words from heaven were important because Jesus had just told His disciples that He would have to be crucified and His followers would also have to take up their cross to follow Him (Mark 8:31-38). His disciples needed this word of assurance to keep their confidence in Jesus and needed to hear that Jesus was still well pleasing to the Father, even though He said He would be crucified.
ii. The words from heaven also clearly put Jesus above the Law and the Prophets. Jesus was not merely another or even a better lawgiver or prophet. Jesus was and is the beloved Son.
iii. Essentially, the voice from heaven was a rebuke to Peter (Mark 9:7). Yet what was once a rebuke became a sweet memory.
iv. Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus because they represented those caught up to God (Jude 9 and 2 Kings 2:11). They represented the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah). Moses and Elijah also are connected with prophecy, having a strong connection to the witnesses of Revelation 11:3-13.
d. And we heard this voice which came from heaven: It was awesome for Peter and the disciples to see the transfigured, glorified Jesus. It was awesome for them to hear this voice . . . from heaven. Yet the experience itself did not transform their lives. Only being born again by the Spirit of God did that, giving them boldness beyond measure. The transfiguration was awesome, but it was a passing experience until they were born again.
2. (19) The evidence of fulfilled prophecy.
And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts;
a. And so we have the prophetic word confirmed: Peter's experience at the transfiguration was amazing. But the testimony of God's word about Jesus was even more sure than Peter's personal experience. The fulfillment of the prophetic word confirmed is a certain, reliable testimony of the truth of the Scriptures.
i. "Taken according to the common translation, it seems to say that prophecy is a surer evidence of Divine revelation than miracles; and so it has been understood." (Clarke)
b. Which you do well to heed: When we consider the prophetic testimony to Jesus, we do well to heed it. There are at least 332 distinct Old Testament predictions regarding the Messiah that Jesus fulfilled perfectly. The combination of this evidence together, from a simple statistical perspective, is absolutely overwhelming.
i. Professor Peter Stoner has calculated that the probability of any one man fulfilling eight of these prophesies is one in 100,000,000,000,000,000 (10 to the 17th power). That number of silver dollars would cover the state of Texas two feet deep. Stoner says that if you consider 48 of the prophecies, the odds become one in 10 to the 157th power.
c. As a light that shines in a dark place: No wonder Peter could say that the prophetic word is confirmed, and that it is as a light that shines in a dark place, something we should cling to until the day dawns and Jesus returns.
3. (20-21) Principles for prophetic assurance.
Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
a. No prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation: Even in Peter's day enemies of Jesus twisted Old Testament prophecies, giving them personal and bizarre meanings attempting to exclude Jesus from their fulfillment. But Peter says that prophecy is not of any private interpretation; its meaning is evident and can be confirmed by others.
i. Though Peter here spoke of prophecy of Scripture, the same principle is true for the gift of prophecy today. There must be sober confirmation of any prophetic word, and that not through another prophetic word but through the Scriptures. In the gift of prophecy, God never speaks to only one person, and always provides confirmation.
b. Prophecy never came by the will of man: It is wrong and invalid to twist prophecy to our own personal meaning, because prophecy does not come from man but from God. It does come through holy men of God - but only as they are moved by the Holy Spirit.
i. "Far from inventing the subject of their own predictions, the ancient prophets did not even know the meaning of what they themselves wrote. They were carried beyond themselves by the influence of the Divine Spirit, and after ages were alone to discover the object of the prophecy; and the fulfillment was to be the absolute proof that the prediction was of God and that it was of no private invention." (Clarke)
c. As they were moved by the Holy Spirit: According to Green, the ancient Greek word translated "moved" has the sense of carried along, as a ship being carried along by the wind or the current (the same word is used of a ship in Acts 27:15, 17). It is as if the writers of Scripture "raised their sails" in cooperation with God and the Holy Spirit carried them along in the direction He wished.
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