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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

2 Peter 1


A.M. 4070. A.D. 66.


(1,) The apostle salutes those Jews and Gentiles who had obtained true faith, prays for, and reminds them of its attendant blessings, 2 Peter 1:1-4 .

(2,) He encourages and exhorts them to add to their faith the vigorous exercise of various other graces from a consideration of the happy issues thereof, 2 Peter 1:5-11 .

(3,) He intimates his resolution to help them as much as possible in their spiritual concerns before his approaching decease, 2 Peter 1:12-15 .

(4,) He confirms the doctrine of Christ’s second coming, from the Father’s testimony on the mount; and refers, for a more direct proof of it, to the inspired writings of the prophets, 2 Peter 1:16-21 .

Verse 1

2 Peter 1:1-2. To them that have obtained Not by their own works, but by the free grace of God; like precious faith with us The apostles; the faith of those who have not seen being of the same nature, value, and virtue, equally precious, with that of those who saw our Lord in the flesh; εν , in, or through the righteousness of God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ That is, faith in, and received through, the mercy (in consistence with the justice) of God the Father, and in and through the obedience unto death of our Saviour Jesus Christ. This is according to the common translation. “But on what authority,” says Macknight, “our translators have rendered του θεου ημων και σωτηρος , of God and our Saviour, I know not.” The literal translation of the clause undoubtedly is, Faith in, or through, the righteousness, (namely, both active and passive,) of our God and Saviour, which is at once a principal object of saving faith, and that through which alone the justice of God is satisfied, and saving faith conferred upon us. Some, however, are of opinion that the relative our, in the first clause, though omitted in the second, is to be understood as repeated. The reading would then be, the righteousness of our God, and of our Saviour. But the propriety of this construction is justly questioned. Grace and peace See on 1 Peter 1:2; through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord Through the experimental, practical knowledge of the Father and of the Son, (who, as appears from the order of the original words, are both here intended,) even that knowledge which is communicated by the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, (see Matthew 11:27; Ephesians 1:17; 1 John 5:20,) and in which consisteth our eternal life, John 17:3, where see the note.

Verses 3-4

2 Peter 1:3-4. As his divine power hath given us all things There is a wonderful cheerfulness in this exordium, which begins with the exhortation itself; that pertain to life and godliness To the present natural life, and to the continuance and increase of spiritual life, termed here godliness; through the knowledge The divine and saving knowledge; of him Christ; that hath called us to glory Eternal glory hereafter, as the end; and to virtue Or holiness, as the way leading thereto. Or fortitude, one particular branch of holiness, (frequently meant by the word αρετη ,) may be here intended, as it is by the same word, 2 Peter 1:5. The original phrase, however, δια δοξης και αρετης , is literally, by, or through glory and virtue; that is, as some understand it, by his glorious power; or the glorious and powerful effusion of the Spirit, as Whitby understands the words. Whereby By means of which glorious power, or illustrious seal set to the declaration of the gospel; or, as some would render δι ων , for the sake of which things; that is, that we might attain to this glory and virtue; are given unto us great and precious promises Namely, the promises of the gospel, which he calls great and precious, because the things promised are the grandest that can be conceived by the human mind, and infinitely more valuable than any present enjoyments or expectations: promises of the pardon of sin, of acceptance with God, of his peculiar favour, adoption into his family, and being treated as his sons and daughters; favoured with liberty of access to him, and intercourse with him; with direction in difficulties, protection in dangers, succour in temptations, comfort in troubles, a supply of all our wants, and an assurance that all things shall work for our good; promises of the Spirit of adoption, of regeneration and sanctification, to be sent into our hearts as a pledge and earnest of our future felicity; and, to crown the whole, the promise of everlasting life, felicity, and glory. Both the promises and the things promised, which follow in their due season, are here intended; that by these By the consideration of, and faith in, these true and faithful promises, and the great and glorious blessings exhibited in, and ensured to, true and persevering believers thereby, you might be encouraged and induced to renounce the world and sin, with every corrupt inclination and affection, design and desire, and be made partakers of the divine nature Of a new, holy, and heavenly nature, derived from God, through the influence of his Spirit renewing you in his image, and giving you communion with himself so as to dwell in God, and God in you; having escaped the corruption that is in the world The corrupt customs and habits, principles and practices, that are found in worldly men, εν επιθυμια , through desire, namely, irregular and inordinate desire, the desire of unlawful things, or the immoderate desire of things lawful, that fruitful source of sin and misery.

Verse 5

2 Peter 1:5. And besides this Besides your renouncing the corruption that is in the world, you must increase in all the graces of God’s Spirit, and in the virtues to which they naturally lead. Or, as αυτο τουτο is rendered by some learned critics, (the particle εις being supposed to be understood,) for this purpose, or for this very reason, namely, because God hath given you such great blessings; giving all diligence Or, showing all earnestness, and making all haste, as σπουδην πασαν implies. The word παρεισενεγκαντες , rendered giving, literally signifies, bringing in by the by, or over and above; implying that God works the work, but not unless we are earnest and diligent. Our earnestness and diligence must follow the gift of God, and will be followed by an increase of all his gifts. Add to And in, or by, the promises of God, and his other gifts, the graces here mentioned: superadd the latter without losing the former. The Greek word επιχορηγηαστε properly means, lead up as in a dance, one of these graces in, by, or after the other in a beautiful order. Add to ( εν , in, or by) your faith that evidence of things not seen, termed before, the knowledge of God and of Christ, the root of all Christian graces; virtue Or, courage; amidst all the difficulties, dangers, trials, and troubles you meet with, exercise that courage, or fortitude, whereby you may conquer all enemies and oppositions, and execute whatever faith dictates. In this most beautiful connection, each preceding grace leads to the following: each following tempers and perfects the preceding. They are set down in the order of nature, rather than the order of time: for though every grace bears a relation to every other, yet here they are so nicely ranged, that those which have the closest dependance on each other are placed together.

The propriety of the apostle’s exhorting those to whom he wrote, to add courage to their faith, will more clearly appear, if we recollect that, in the first age, the disciples of Christ were frequently accused before the heathen magistrates of being Christians, and that, “on such occasions, it was incumbent on them to acknowledge it, notwithstanding they exposed themselves thereby to every species of persecution; because, by boldly professing their faith, they not only encouraged each other to persevere in their Christian profession, but they maintained the gospel in the world. Accordingly Christ solemnly charged all his disciples to confess him before men, and threatened to inflict the severest punishment on those who denied him, Matthew 10:32-33.” Macknight. And even in the present state of the world, true and vital religion will always, more or less, meet with opposition from the carnal and wicked, and will frequently expose those who possess it to no little persecution, especially in some countries; if not to imprisonment, and the spoiling of their goods, yet to contumely, reproach, revilings, and various insults; so that it is still necessary, if we would prove ourselves the genuine followers of Jesus, that we should add to our faith courage, or fortitude and firmness of mind, that we may stand in the evil day, and war a good warfare. And to your courage, knowledge Wisdom, teaching you how to exercise it on all occasions. The word may include also a general knowledge of the doctrines, precepts, and promises of the gospel, and of the whole nature and design of Christianity; as also an acquaintance with the principal evidences of its truth and importance: for, without a full persuasion of these, our courage must want its proper support, and will desert us in the day of trial.

Verses 6-7

2 Peter 1:6-7. And to knowledge, temperance This virtue consists in a confirmed habit of ruling all the affections, passions, and appetites of our nature in a proper manner, by placing our affections on proper objects; by restraining our angry, peevish, envious, and unholy tempers, and by using moderation in gratifying our appetites. Christian temperance, indeed, includes the voluntary abstaining from all pleasure which does not lead to God, extending to all things inward and outward, and implying the due government of our thoughts and imaginations, as well as of our desires and designs. It is the using the world properly: so to use all outward, and so to restrain all inward things, that they may become a means of what is spiritual; a scaling-ladder to ascend to what is above. Intemperance is to abuse the world. He that uses any thing below, looking no higher, and getting no farther, is intemperate. He that uses the creature only so as to attain to more of the Creator, is alone temperate in all things, and walks as Christ himself walked; and to temperance, patience Bear as well as forbear; sustain as well as abstain; take up your cross, as well as deny yourself, daily; and the more knowledge you have, do this the more: the more steadily and resolutely renounce your own will; submit to, and acquiesce in, the will of God; and indulge yourself the less. Knowledge puffeth up; and the great boasters of knowledge, the Gnostics, were those that turned the grace of God into wantonness, being lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God, and of course effeminate and unprepared to encounter any opposition, or to endure any hardship on account of truth and a good conscience. But see that your knowledge be attended with temperance, and your temperance with patience; and to patience, godliness Its proper support; a continual sense of God’s wisdom, power, and goodness; of his holiness, truth, justice, and mercy; of his presence and providence, with a reverential, awful, filial, and loving fear of, and confidence in him. Otherwise your patience may be pride, surliness, stoicism; but it will not be Christianity. And to godliness, brotherly kindness Sullenness, sternness, moroseness, are not consistent with genuine godliness. Sour godliness, so called, is of the devil. Of Christian godliness it may always be said:

“Mild, sweet, serene, and tender is her mood,

Nor grave with sternness, nor with lightness free;

Against example resolutely good,

Fervent in zeal, and warm in charity.”

And to brotherly kindness, love The pure and perfect love of God and of all mankind. The apostle here makes an advance upon the preceding article, brotherly kindness, which seems only to relate to the love of Christians toward one another.

Verse 8

2 Peter 1:8. For if these things be in you This faith, this courage, this knowledge, &c. Not if they be understood and professed by you merely, but if they be in you, experienced in your hearts, and evinced in your lives; and abound Increase more and more, otherwise you fall short; they make you They cause; that ye shall neither be barren Or rather, slothful, as αργους signifies; nor unfruitful Cumberers of the ground; or taking pains to do good, but without success, your efforts being fruitless through your want of one or other of these graces. But these graces, possessed by you and kept in lively exercise, will neither suffer you to faint in your minds, nor be without fruit in your lives. Observe, reader, if there be in us less faithfulness, less watchfulness and care, less tenderness of conscience, less fervour of spirit, and diligence in working out our salvation: and serving God, and his cause, and people, since we were pardoned, than there was before; less outward obedience to the law of God, and less zeal and conscientiousness in doing his will, and glorifying him in and with our body and spirit, which are his, than when we were seeking remission of sins and regenerating grace, we are both slothful and unfruitful in the knowledge of Christ That is, in the faith, which in that case does not, cannot work by love.

Verse 9

2 Peter 1:9. But he that lacketh these things And does not add them to his faith; is blind With respect to spiritual things. The eyes of his understanding are again closed; he hath lost the evidence of things not seen; he no longer sees by faith God reconciled to him in Christ. Inward and outward holiness being the natural fruit of the knowledge of Christ, the person who pretends to have that knowledge, and yet does not aspire and labour after that holiness, is blind with respect to the nature of true Christianity; and cannot see afar off Namely, the things of another world, but only the things of this world, which are present. The word μυωπαζων signifies literally, he is pur-blind. He has lost sight of the precious promises: perfect love and heaven are equally out of sight. Nay, he cannot now see what he himself once enjoyed, having, as it were, forgot that he was purged, &c. Greek, ληθην λαβων του καθαρισμου των παλαι αυτου αμαρτιων , having forgotten the purification from his former sins; not remembering, or not having a proper sense of what he himself felt when his past sins were forgiven him, and he was first assured of his acceptance with God. “The apostle’s expression here, in which he alludes to baptism, together with Ananias’s words to Paul, (Acts 22:16,) Arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, is thought by many to imply, that in baptism the guilt of former sins is washed away. But Paul himself hath taught the sound meaning of Ananias’s words, (Hebrews 10:22,) Having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Besides, Peter, in his first epistle, tells us expressly that baptism is not the washing away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God, in which respect it resembles circumcision, which is not that which is outward, but of the heart, by cutting off all irregular passions and appetites. The washing in baptism, therefore, is not a real, but an emblematical washing of the sinner from the guilt of his sins.” Which emblem, as it contains a promise of pardon, so it is realized to all truly penitent sinners, who believe in Christ with their hearts unto righteousness, and to none else. See Macknight.

Verses 10-11

2 Peter 1:10-11. Wherefore Considering the miserable state of these apostates; the rather That you may not be destitute of these things, but be fruitful in all graces and virtues; brethren St. Peter nowhere uses this appellation, in either of his epistles, but in this important exhortation; give diligence Namely, by the exercise and increase of the fore-mentioned graces. The word σπουδασατε means also be in earnest, and make haste, the matter being of infinite moment, and delays extremely dangerous. To make your calling and election sure Βεβαιαν , firm. As if he had said, God hath called you by his word, his providence, and his Spirit, to repentance, faith, and new obedience. By obeying this call, and turning sincerely to God, you became God’s elect or chosen people; even elect, through the sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience. See on 1 Peter 1:2. Now as you made your calling firm or effectual by obeying it: so make your election firm by enduring to the end, remembering the Lord’s words: Many are called, but few finally chosen. For if ye do these things If you thus give diligence, and are thus in earnest, without delay, to add the graces and virtues here inculcated to your faith, and to make your calling and election firm; ye shall never finally fall Nay, ye shall not fall, ποτε , once, or at any time, into known sin, so as to come under guilt, condemnation, and wrath; nay, ου μη πταισητε ποτε , ye shall not so much as stumble at any time. Stumbling-blocks will, indeed, be in your way, probably not a few, but you shall not stumble at them, much less shall you fall over them; but you shall proceed forward on your way with steadiness, alacrity, and joy. For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly Πλουσιως , richly, freely, and in the most honourable manner; into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour The kingdom of his eternal glory. You shall depart hence in peace and triumph, knowing that as soon as you are absent from the body you shall be present with the Lord; and you shall be received as with a cordial welcome, and shall sail, as it were, into that blessed harbour with a full gale of consolation and joy.

Verses 12-14

2 Peter 1:12-14. Wherefore Considering the evil consequent on the want or neglect of these graces, and the benefit which will arise from the exercise of them; since everlasting destruction would be the consequence of your lukewarmness and sloth, and everlasting glory will be the fruit of your earnestness and diligence, I will not be negligent, &c. Therefore he wrote another letter so soon after the former; to put you in remembrance of those things, though, as I am aware, you already know them in a great measure, and are established in the present truth The truth which I am now declaring; yea, I think it meet Δικαιον , just or reasonable, as long as I am in this tabernacle Or tent. See on 2 Corinthians 5:1. How short is our abode in the body! how easily does a believer pass out of it! To stir you up To seek an increase of all Christian graces, and to practise all the Christian virtues; by putting you in remembrance That they are necessary to your entrance into Christ’s kingdom; knowing As if he had said, I am the more earnest in this, because I know that I must shortly put off, &c. That my death is soon to happen; even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath showed me By an express prophecy; meaning the revelation which Christ made to him, John 21:18-19. And it is not improbable that Christ had showed him by a late revelation that the time was now drawing nigh.

Verse 15

2 Peter 1:15. Moreover I will endeavour By writing these things in this epistle, and by every other means in my power, while it pleases God to continue me among you; that ye may be able Through frequently reading what I here write; after my decease to have these things always in remembrance “The apostle’s care in this was highly commendable; because the most important truths, if they are not remembered, have no influence on the mind. The gradation in this passage is beautiful. He proposed to put the brethren in remembrance of some revealed truths, with which they were acquainted; he proposed to do this, not once or twice, but always, as long as he lived; nay, he proposed [by leaving this written testimony among them] to put them in remembrance of these things after his death. Wherefore the ministers of the gospel, following Peter’s example, ought to insist most on the things which are of most importance to their people, although they are already well instructed in them, the influence of truth depending not so much upon the knowledge, as upon the frequent recollection of it.” Macknight.

Verses 16-18

2 Peter 1:16-18. For These things are worthy of being always remembered and regarded; for we have not followed cunningly-devised fables Like those common among the heathen, but things infallibly true and infinitely momentous; when we made known unto you the power The evidences and demonstrations which we gave of his divine power; (in the miracles which he wrought, whereby he demonstrated himself to be the Son of God;) and coming of our Lord Jesus Namely, that the promised Messiah was already come, and that Jesus of Nazareth was he. Or his second coming to raise the dead, to judge mankind, and to introduce his people into his eternal kingdom, might be chiefly intended. But it may be observed, if what the apostles have advanced concerning Christ had not been true, if it had been only of their own invention, then, to have imposed such a lie on the world, as it was in the very nature of things above all human power to defend, and to have done this at the expense of life and all things, only to engage the whole world, Jews and Gentiles, against them, would not have been cunning, but the greatest folly that men could have been guilty of. But were eye-witnesses of his majesty At his transfiguration, which was a specimen of his glory at the last day. For he received from God the Father divine honour and inexpressible glory Shining from heaven above the brightness of the sun; when there came such a voice from the excellent glory From the Shechinah, as the Jews termed that glorious appearance which was a symbol of the presence of Jehovah; This is my beloved Son, &c. See notes on Matthew 17:2-5. This voice we heard Namely, Peter, James, and John. St. John was still alive when Peter wrote this; when we were with him in the holy mount The mount made holy by that glorious manifestation, as mount Horeb was of old by the peculiar presence of God, Exodus 3:4-5.

Verse 19

2 Peter 1:19. We have also Peter speaks here in the name of all Christians, a more sure word Than that voice from heaven, or any particular revelation, not in itself, but more satisfactory to us, as being less liable to be mistaken; of prophecy He means the prophecies of the Old Testament concerning the Messiah, which, one being consistent with another, and connected together, might properly be represented as one and the same word of prophecy. Some are of opinion that the apostle intended no comparison in this place, but that the comparative is used for the positive, and that his words were only intended to signify a very sure word of prophecy, or prophetical word; and it is certain that there are many instances in the New Testament of a similar kind, in which, though the comparative degree is used, the positive or superlative is evidently intended. Others assert, with much truth and propriety, that the series of prophecies contained in the Old Testament concerning Christ, when explained in the light of the New Testament, is a much clearer proof of Jesus being the Messiah, than any single miraculous fact, such as Christ’s transfiguration was. Whereunto Unto which chain of prophecy concerning the conception and birth, the character, doctrine, miracles, sufferings, death, resurrection, ascension, and exaltation of the Messiah, with the erection and establishment, the extent, prosperity, and duration of his kingdom, and his second coming to raise the dead, and judge the world in righteousness all evidently accomplished in Jesus of Nazareth, ye do well to take heed In order that your faith, instead of being shaken by the objections of the enemies of the gospel, may be more fully confirmed; even as unto a light Λυχνω , a lamp, that shineth in a dark place The whole world anciently was indeed a dark place with respect to the knowledge of divine things, except that little spot, Judea, where this light shone; until the day should dawn Till the full light of the gospel should break through the darkness. As is the difference between the light of a lamp and that of the day, such is that between the light of the Old Testament and that of the New. Or the apostle meant by these words, that those to whom he wrote should attend to these prophecies concerning the Messiah, and compare them with the facts attested by the apostles and evangelists concerning Jesus of Nazareth, till their minds should be more fully enlightened by the word and Spirit of God; and the day-star should arise in their hearts. Till the Lord Jesus, the bright and morning star, (Revelation 22:16,) should be more fully revealed in them. Or “till the Holy Spirit should discover to their souls the glory and excellence of the gospel, and by his sanctifying and comforting influences give them the dawning of heaven in their hearts; and till the knowledge of Christ, and the experience of his power, truth, and love, had formed within them an assurance and anticipation of the light, holiness, and felicity of the saints in the presence of their glorified Saviour, even as the morning-star preceded and ushered in the rising sun and the perfect day.” Scott. Who adds, that nothing can be more manifest than that the day-dawn and day-star are spoken of as arising in the hearts of true Christians, and that no external evidence of the divine origin of Christianity is meant, nor even that internal evidence of the divine inspiration of the Scriptures which they contain in themselves, arising from the excellence of their doctrines, precepts, promises, &c. But the expressions must mean what is internal in our own experience. “The unnatural and far-fetched interpretations of those who oppose this conclusion, serve only to confirm the author in his judgment. This inward demonstration of the truth of Christianity would render the external evidences less necessary to those who enjoyed it; as they could no longer doubt of it when they saw the glory, and tasted the comfort of it, and experienced the truth and power of it in their hearts, and manifested it in their conduct.”

Verses 20-21

2 Peter 1:20-21. Knowing this first That you may not rashly or ignorantly put a sense upon any part of the prophetic writings, not intended by the Divine Spirit which dictated them; that no prophecy of the Scripture No prediction contained therein; is of any private interpretation Greek, ιδιας επιλυσεως , an expression of which various interpretations have been given, but only two of them shall be here noticed; namely, Doddridge’s, who renders it, of private impulse, or original; and Macknight’s, who reads, of private invention. But certainly no such sense can, with propriety, be forced upon the words: and why should it? Why should not the literal signification of them be acquiesced in? namely, that given in our translation. For surely no prophecy of Scripture, and hardly any doctrine, precept, or promise thereof, will or can be properly or fully understood by any man, let his natural abilities be what they may, without supernatural light from God, without the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, Ephesians 1:17. For, as the apostle argues, 1 Corinthians 2:11; 1 Corinthians 2:14, (where see the notes,) as a man could not understand the things that belong to human nature, if he had not a human spirit in him, so the things of God, divine things, knoweth no man, clearly and fully, but by the illumination of the Spirit of God, which must be sought by sincere, fervent, importunate, persevering prayer. In other words, No man’s private natural reason will enable him to understand the Scriptures, and the truths which they contain, properly and fully, and especially to relish, love, and delight in them, without the guidance of that Spirit which dictated them. And if this be true respecting the Scriptures in general, it is particularly so with regard to the prophetic writings; for prophecy especially came not of old by the will of man Of any man’s own will or pleasure. No true prophet either prophesied when he pleased or what he pleased. But holy men of God The penmen of the sacred Scriptures; spake Uttered their predictions or recorded them; as they were moved by the Holy Ghost By an extraordinary impulse of the Divine Spirit, whose organs only they were in declaring what he was pleased to suggest to them; and what he moved, and enabled them to communicate, he must enable us to understand and profit by.

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Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Peter 1". Joseph Benson's Commentary. 1857.