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Bible Commentaries

Ironside's Notes on Selected Books

2 Peter 1

Verses 1-21

Chapter One - The Blessings Bestowed Upon Believers Through The Righteousness Of God

As we begin our consideration of this Second Epistle it is well for us to remember that it is in the nature of a final message from Christ’s venerable servant, the Apostle Peter, who wrote in view of his forthcoming martyrdom, in order to warn believers of the oncoming flood of error and apostasy which was to sweep over Christendom, and which would necessitate real confidence in God and His Word on the part of those who were to be called upon to meet such disturbing conditions.

In a very blessed way the Spirit of God first puts before us the blessings that are ours as Christians, and the importance of growing in grace and in the knowledge of Christ that we may have strength to stand against the evils threatening the Church.

Blessings Received And Growth In Grace

“Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, according as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue: whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1-11).

Peter addresses himself to the same scattered saints as mentioned in his first letter, but without indicating them according to the lands of their dispersion, as before. But verse 1 of chapter 3 (2 Peter 3:1) makes it clear that this second letter was sent to the same persons as the first one.

He simply writes to them as those “that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.”

Verse 1 (2 Peter 1:1) Note the word “precious,” which we have seen is one of frequent occurrence in his letters. He writes of faith through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ. This stands out in remarkable contrast to the theme so frequently dwelt upon by the Apostle Paul-“The righteousness which is of God by faith” (Philippians 3:9). This expression refers to that righteousness which God imputes to all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, who has met every claim of the throne of God in regard to the sin question. But Peter dwells on an altogether different aspect of things: since Christ has died for all men, God, in His righteousness, has opened the door of faith to everyone who desires to enter. It would be unrighteous of God to refuse to save anyone who desired to avail himself of the result of the work of the cross. The very righteousness of God demands that faith be extended to all men. This is the very opposite of what some High Calvinists teach. They would have us believe that faith itself is a gift which God grants only to a limited number; that all men have not faith because it is not the will of God that they should have it. This is the very opposite of the teaching of the Holy Scriptures. God desires that all men should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. The reason that some men have not faith is that they will not give heed to the Word, and “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). Where men are ready to hear, God can be depended upon to see that they obtain this precious gift of faith. It would be unrighteous in Him to do otherwise.

In the second verse we have again the apostolic salutation, in which Peter prays that grace and peace might be multiplied unto the believers through the full knowledge, or super-knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ our Lord. This is a completeness of knowledge which only the Holy Spirit Himself can give. It is interesting to observe how frequently Peter uses mathematical terms in both his Epistles. The word “multiplied,” for example, is found not only here but also in 1:2 of the First Epistle (1 Peter 1:2), where it is used in a similar connection. There is an abundance of grace and peace available for all who rest in simplicity of heart upon the testimony God has given. His divine power has bequeathed to us everything that is necessary for spiritual life and piety, but this can never be divorced from the knowledge of Him who has called us, not exactly to glory and virtue, but by His glories and virtues. In other words, it is as we become better acquainted with God revealed in Christ that we grow in grace and become more like Him with whom our souls are occupied.

In verse 1 (2 Peter 1:1) the Apostle is speaking of precious faith; in verse 4 (2 Peter 1:4) he reminds us that God has given us His surpassing great and precious promises. As we lay hold of these and dare to act in accordance with them we, who have been born again by believing the gospel, manifest the divine nature in our practical lives, having thus found deliverance from the corruption into which the whole world has been brought through lust: that is, through unlawful desire; for the word “lust” should never be limited simply to fleshly concupiscence, but includes covetousness and every sort of yearning after that which God, in His infinite love and wisdom, has forbidden. As we thus act upon the truth of the Word we will be prepared for that which follows in verses 5 to 7 (2 Peter 1:5-7). Here again, according to our Authorized Version, Peter writes from a mathematical standpoint as he tells us of the graces that should be added to our faith. A better figure perhaps is that of a growing tree: an acorn, for instance, falls into the ground; the seed germinates, strikes its roots downward, and its branches shoot upward; and that acorn becomes an entire oak-tree with all its various parts. Faith is like the acorn-a living faith, that should characterize us as devoted Christians. So Peter says, “Have in your faith virtue.” The virtue of which he speaks here is not simply chastity, as some might think, but it is really valor, which is the outstanding virtue of a soldier, and we are called to be soldiers of Christ. Then he adds, “And in virtue knowledge.” There can be no proper growth without a deepened understanding of spiritual realities. “In knowledge temperance,” or self-control. A Christian who gives way to evil tempers, or careless habits of any kind, is not growing in grace in self-control. “In temperance patience”-that which enables one to endure without complaining, even though exposed to circumstances that are very distasteful to the natural man. “In patience godliness,” which is really “God-likeness,” or true piety, as we have seen in considering the First Epistle. In godliness we will have brotherly kindness-consideration for all who belong, through the grace of God, to the Christian brotherhood. Last of all he adds, “In brotherly kindness charity,” or “love.” This is the full fruitage of faith, for Paul tells us that faith worketh by love (Galatians 5:6).

If these things are found in a believer, and that not in scanty measure but in abundance, the effect is to make him neither idle nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our Authorized Version renders it, “Neither barren nor unfruitful/’ but these terms are synonymous as ordinarily used. “Idle” or “inactivity” is a better rendering of the original than the word “barren.” One who does not manifest these fruits of faith is designated here as blind, or myopic. He is unable to discern spiritual things; and though once truly born of God, he forgets the sins from which he has been purged and is likely to lapse into them again, thus coming under the government of God because of failure to go on with the Lord.

Peter concludes this exhortation in verses 10 and 11 (2 Peter 1:10-11) by urging those to whom he writes to give diligence to make their calling and election sure; that is, in the sense of manifestation. No one has any reason to believe that one is numbered among the elect of God unless he is characterized by faith which brings forth fruit unto God; but where this is true there will be constant victory over tendencies toward evil, “For if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.” A promise is given that the final result will be an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Observe, it is not an entrance into heaven as such that is here put before us. Heaven is the Father’s house, and to that all believers have exactly the same title; it is the home of the Father’s children, and the weakest and feeblest of saints will be as welcome there as the strongest and most useful. But the everlasting kingdom is another sphere: it speaks of reward, and our place in the kingdom is determined by our devotion to Christ in this scene.

The Hope Of The Coming Kingdom

In verses 12 to 14 (2 Peter 1:12-14) Peter refers to what the Lord had told him concerning his martyrdom.

“Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth. Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath showed me”(2 Peter 1:12-14)

Jesus had made it very plain, in speaking to Peter on that morning by the seaside when He publicly restored him to the place of apostleship, that in his old age he should die for Christ’s name’s sake. Many years had passed since that memorable conversation, and Peter was now well advanced in years. He knew he could not remain much longer in this world; therefore, he was desirous of leaving behind what written ministry he could in order that the saints might be helped by it and established in the needed truth for the present hour of testing.

Notice how he puts it in verse 12 (2 Peter 1:12), “Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth.” He was not writing to young believers who were ignorant of the precious things of which he desired to remind them. But he knew the value of repetition because of the fact that we forget so easily. He considered it suitable or important, therefore, as long as he remained in his fleshly tabernacle-that is, in his body, to stir up the saints by bringing these things to their remembrance. And he knew well that in a very short time he would be obliged to put off his tabernacle in accordance with what the Lord Jesus had revealed to him. Observe that he had no thought of going to sleep in his tabernacle as some modern materialists, masquerading under the Christian name, would have us believe. While alive on the earth Peter himself, the real man, dwelt in the body which he calls his tabernacle; when death came he would move out of the tabernacle, and, as Paul puts it, go home “to be with Christ; which is far better” (Philippians 1:23). A comparison of this passage with 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 will prove most illuminating in connection with the truth concerning the believer in life and in death. Scripture leaves no room whatever for the doctrine of the sleep of the soul, but only the sleep of the body until the Lord Jesus returns, when the dead will be raised and the living changed (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17).

We have seen already that these two Epistles of Peter’s were linked with two great experiences in his life during the earthly ministry of our blessed Lord. We have considered the first one in connection with the Lord’s declaration as to the building of His Church upon the truth that He was the Son of the living God. Now Peter refers to that other great experience which took place on the Mount of Transfiguration.

“Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance. For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to Him from the excellent glory, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with Him in the holy mount”(2 Peter 1:15-18).

Guided by the Holy Spirit, Peter was unfolding truth which the Lord could use in after days for the comfort and sanctification of believers. He speaks of his own death as an exodus. The word rendered “decease” is really the same as the title of the second book of the Old Testament. This agrees with what we have pointed out already. At death Peter would be moving out from the body and going into the presence of the Lord. In view of the imminence of this event he endeavored to make certain things clear which would be for the enlightenment of the saints. He denies having followed cunningly devised fables when he and other inspired apostles had made known the power and the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. They were eyewitnesses of His majesty when, on the Mount of Transfiguration, He was metamorphosed before them, and the glory from within shone out through the very raiment which He wore. Moses and Elijah appeared with Him at that time, as we know, and spake of His decease which He was to accomplish at Jerusalem. When Peter suggested making three booths or tabernacles that they might tarry there, a cloud covered the scene, and a voice came from the Excellent Glory, saying, “This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). This was not a dream, nor was it the effects of a wrought-up imagination; but Peter said, “This voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with Him in the holy mount.” It was there that God vouchsafed to Peter, James, and John a view of the kingdom in miniature. They beheld the Lord as He will yet be when He returns to take His great power and reign.

What they saw and heard on the Mount confirmed the word of prophecy given in the Old Testament. To that, Peter refers in the closing verses.

“We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: knowing this first, diat no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost”(2 Peter 1:19-21).

As we have it in the opening clause of the nineteenth verse in the Authorized Version we might suppose that Peter was telling us that the word of prophecy was even more sure than the Father’s voice or the glory that the disciples beheld; but that is not exactly what he says. We might better read, “We have also the word of prophecy confirmed, and to this prophetic word believers do well to take heed in their hearts, for the lamp of prophecy is as a light that shineth in a dark place.” It is intended by God to illumine our paths and give light in our souls until the day dawn, and the day star arise at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is all important, then, that we give heed to that which has been revealed in the prophetic scriptures; but on the other hand, we need to be careful lest we take some of these scriptures out of their connection and endeavor to interpret them according to specific incidents, rather than in accordance with the entire plan of God, as revealed in His Word. No prophecy of the Scripture is of its own interpretation; none can be fully understood apart from the rest. Rome takes this condemnation of any private interpretation as forbidding the individual believer to study the Word of God for himself and being guided by it directly, rather than through the interpretation put upon it by the church and its councils. But it is not that at all that Peter had in mind, but rather the folly of taking some portion of the prophetic Word and endeavoring to apply it to some special circumstances, while failing to note its context and its connection with the general trend of prophecy as a whole. This is a snare to which many students of prophecy have been exposed, and numbers of them have failed at this very point. It means much to see that prophecy is one whole, and “known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18); and “the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved (or borne along) by the Holy Ghost.” While it has not pleased Him to give in any Old Testament book a complete unfolding of the future concerning the glorious kingdom of Messiah and the events leading up to it, yet by searching the writings of all the prophets and comparing scripture with scripture one is able to see, with at least a measure of clearness, the wonderful harmony of the prophetic Word and the marvelous way in which God is unfolding that purpose of the ages, which will result eventually in heading up all things in Christ, when, in the dispensation of the fulness of times, He will be manifest as King of kings and Lord of lords.

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Bibliographical Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on 2 Peter 1". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. 1914.