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Bible Commentaries

Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

2 Peter 1

Verse 1

Observe here, 1. The author and penman of this epistle, described by his name, Simon Peter, the former given at his circumcision, the latter by Christ, upon the occasion of his confession, Matthew 16:18; by his condition, a servant; by his office, an apostle by the author of his office, Jesus Christ.

Here note, That Christ only has an authoritative power to make apostles, ministers and dispensers of his word; a derivative power from Christ the governors of the church have; but such as have not now their call from Christ immediately, (which it is presumption to expect, and if any pretend to it, let them shew it by their miracles) or mediately from the officers of his church, are usurpers of the sacred office, and they cannot pray in faith themselves for a blessing upon what they do, nor can the people expect it, I never sent them, (says God) therefore they shall not profit this people at all. Jeremiah 23:32

Observe, 2. The persons described to whom this epistle is directed, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us. To such as had obtained faith, precious faith, like precious faith with the apostle of Christ; like for its nature and quality, though not for its measure and degree; and alike precious in regard of its object, Christ; in regard of its subject, the heart; in regard of its act, which is acceptance and consent to the terms of the gospel covenant; in regard of its effects and precious fruits, peace with God, peace with conscience, victory over the world, and the like. We see then that the faith of the poorest believer is as precious as the richest, and that the weakest believer has the same precious faith with the strongest: and if it be alike precious, it shall be alike permanent and persevering.

Observe, 3. The meritorious cause of this their precious faith, the righteousness of Jesus Christ: Through the righteousness of God, even our Saviour Jesus Christ. All grace is derived to us through Christ, for the sake of his righteousness, sufferings, and satisfaction: and as all grace is derived from him, and for his sake conferred, so all our good, that little service we do for God, is accepted through him, and owned for his sake. And if so, then Jesus Christ is really God; for the righteousness of a creature cannot justify me in the sight of God; there is no appearing before God for any creature in a creature-righteousness.

And farther, if so, then it is not faith that justifies and saves, but the righteousness of Christ, upon which faith is grounded, Ephesians 2:8 By grace ye are saved effectually, through faith instrumentally. The brazen serpent healed not the eye that looked on it; yet without looking upon it, no help from it, no healing by it.

Verse 2

The person saluting, and the parties saluted, were mentioned in the former verse; here we have the salutation itself, 1. The matter of it, Grace and peace; grace to free us from God's wrath, and reinstate us in his favour; peace to quiet our own consciences, and reconcile us to ourselves.

Observe,2. The measure of it, grace and peace be multiplied; they had both grace and peace already, yet the apostle prays for the farther increase of them; there is no complete perfection in grace attainable in this life. The best of saints must be multiplying and increasing their stores; for they are but imperfectly perfect, when at the best.

Observe, 3. The means for multiplying grace and peace, through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Learn, That the knowledge of God, in, by, and through our Lord Jesus Christ, is the special mean of multiplying grace and peace in our hearts; and indeed there is no comfortable knowledge of God, but in and through Christ, This is life eternal , &c John 17:3. Out of Christ God is a revenger, in Christ a reconciled Father.

Verse 3

In these words our apostle shews, what reason they had to believe and hope, that grace and peace should be multiplied unto them, namely, because almighty God had already given them all things which conduced to make them holy in this life, and happy in the next, by the knowledge of Christ.

Others, by life and godliness, understand all things conducing to the reservation of natural life, likewise of grace here, and glory hereafter; and whereas it is said they were called to glory and virtue, by glory understand the honour of being Christians; by virtue, the good life that becomes Christians. To both these they were called with a glorious calling, as being attended with the glorious effusion of the Holy Ghost. If by glory and virtue be understood grace here, and glory hereafter, it shews our privilege, that we have both at present in a way of incoation, and shall ere long enjoy both in a way of consummation; and and it points out also to us our duty, we must have virtue, if we would have glory; if we be not like Christ, we can never love him, nor may we ever expect to live with him.

Verse 4

Whereby, or by whom, that is, through the knowledge of Christ in the gospel, God has given to us all things conducing to our present and future happiness; and, amongst the rest, the precious promises of the gospel, which so directly tend to make men partakers of the divine nature.

Note here, That the promises of the gospel are the Christian's great and precious treasure; greatness and goodness are then most shining, when they meet in the same subject, but such a glorious conjunction is rarely found, either in persons or things; rarely are great men good, or good men great; pebbles are great, but not precious; pearls are precious, but not great, But the promises are both for quantity exceeding great, for quality exceeding precious, and that in respect of the author of them, God; the foundation of them, the blood of Christ: the manner of their dispensation, they are freely given; the means whereby they are apprehended and applied, precious faith, and exceeding precious the promises are in regard of the end of them, which is to make us partakers of the divine nature, not of the essence, but qualities of the divine nature, which enable us, in some measure, to resemble God; as the seal doth communicate its signature, but not its substance; so in the work of regeneration God doth not impart his essence, but infuse holy principles and gracious habits into the soul, whereby the Christian resembles him.

Learn hence, That the great end and effect of the promises, and the proper influence and efficacy which they ought to have upon the hearts and lives of men, is this, to make them partakers of the divine nature, and to render them daily more like unto God; Having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

Here note, 1. That the world is full, very full, of corruption, sin, and temptation; by reason of the lust of men, they rub their leprosy upon each other, and by the contagion of a bad example, infect and poison one another.

Note, 2. That by being made partakers of the divine nature, through the influence of the promises, we escape the pollution of fleshly lusts, which the world is defiled with, and would defile us by.

Verse 5

The apostle spends the former part of the chapter in comforting, this in exhorting; he told us before what God had done for us; he tells us now, what we must do for ourselves; it is not fit that heaven should take all the pains, and we none; we must give diligence, all diligence.

Besides this, that is, besides what God has given us, and done for us, let us take care to be daily adding to our stock and store.

Adding to our faith, virtue; that is, all good works in general, without which faith is dead, or dying; and fortitude, or holy courage, in doing our duty in particular.

To virtue, knowledge: that is, a more exact knowledge of your duty, and a farther increase in it; for knowledge is the light, without which the Christian cannot see to do his work.

And to knowledge must be added temperance, which subdues the violence of our unruly passions and appetites, and does reduce those rebellious powers under the government and dominion of reason and religion.

And to temperance, patience under all wrongs and sufferings whatsoever; an impatient man under affliction is like a Bedlamite in chains, raving against God and man.

To patience, godliness, a conscientious regard to all the duties of the first table; let the fear of God restrain you from sin, the love of God constrain you to duty.

And to godliness, brotherly kindness, or a fervent love to all Christians, as being our brethren and fellow-members in Christ, and this for grace sake.

And to brotherly kindness, charity; that is, to all mankind, as proceeding from the same stock, having the same nature, and subject to the same necessities with ourselves; let there be found with you a desire and endeavour to do all the possible good you can to every one.

Learn and observe form the whole, That there is a concatenation both of graces and duties, they must not be separated, they will not live single; where there is one grace in sincerity, there is a constant care to secure all the rest; and where a Christian, for conscience sake, performs one duty, he will make conscience of all the rest; the duties of both tables are religiously observed, both as an argument of his sincerity, and as an ornament to his holy profession.

Verse 8

To encourage Christians to grow and improve in the fore-mentioned virtues and graces, our apostle here lays before us, 1. The great advantage of such a proficiency and growth; If these things be in you and abound, that is, the fore-mentioned graces, they will both cause you, and evidence you not to be barren and unfruitful in your profession of Christianity and faith in Christ: the exercises of divine graces are the best evidenves of our being made partakers of the divine nature.

Observe, 2. The miserable state of those whose faith is not fruitful in good works; He that lacketh these things, that is, who doth not live in the exercise of the afore-mentioned graces, is spiritually blind, and really destitute of that knowledge which he pretends to, blinded by his passions and lusts, and sensual affections, and sees not the great end and design of Christianity, forgetting that in baptism he solemnly vowed all this, and that he was sacramentally washed from his old sins.

Verse 10

As if our apostle had said, "See that in the diligent exercise of the afore-named graces, and in the daily practice of the afore-mentioned duties, you make your calling and election, which are sure in themselves, sure to you; for so doing, you shall never fall or miscarry eternally."

Here note, That it is their own calling and election which Christians are called upon to make sure, not another's; we must leave their case and state to God that searches the heart; we cannot know the hearts of others, it is well if we know our own: Make your calling and election sure.

Learn, 1. A Christian may be assured of his own salvation. 2. Assurance of salvation requires all diligence. 3. That assurance of salvation deserves all diligence. 4. That the way to make our election sure, is first to make our calling sure.

Verse 11

There are four sorts of persons spoken of in scripture:

1. Some are said to be far from the kingdom of God, afar off from God, as Heathens and Infidels, who know not God.

2. Others are said not to be far from the kingdom of God, Mark 12:34, who yet will never come there.

3. Others are scarcely saved, saved with great difficulty, so as by fire, with much dross of error in judgment, and corruption in life.

4. Others are said to have an abundant entrance administered to them into the everlasting kingdom, and these are the fruitful Christians, who are daily adding to their graces, and going from strength to strength: These shoot the gulph of death in the holy triumph of their grace; they enter the harbour of heaven with a plerophory, a full sail, with full assurance of faith and hope. Thus will the fruitful Christian have both a more comfortable passage to, and also a more ample reward in heaven.

Verse 12

Observe here, 1. The persons to whom the apostle gave the foregoing exhortation to progressiveness and proficiency in holiness, they were knowing persons, yea, established persons, they were both informed and confirmed in the truth; but were they knowing, yet they wanted farther information: were they established, yet might they want farther confirmation.

It is a very dangerous notion that some have taken up, that a Christian in this life may live above ordinances, and outgrow counsels and exhortations, as if he need not hear, or pray, or the like. St. Peter thought otherwise; these were grown Christians to whom he writes, yet he tells them three several times together here, in four verses, that he would not be negligent to put them in remembrance, even of those things which they knew already.

Observe, 2. The exemplary diligence and industry of the apostle in his ministerial work, together with his constancy therein, as long as I am in this tabernacle: that is, as long as I live in this world, I will endeavour to keep the heavenly flame of love and zeal burning very lively upon the altar of your hearts.

Observe, 3. The motive or consideration provoking him to this diligence, and that is, the certainty of his approaching dissolution, I must shortly put off this tabernacle, as my Lord hath shewed me.

Where note, 1. He calls his body a tabernacle in regard of its moveableness and fraility, and in opposition to that house made without hands, eternal in the heavens.

Note, 2. How familiarly our apostle speaks of death, I must put off this tabernacle; he makes no more of putting off his body by death, than a man does of putting off his clothes at night.

Note, 3. The necessity of putting off the body, I must, I may, and I must shortly; intimating, that how strong soever the affections and inclinations of souls are to the fleshly tabernacles they now live in, yet they must put them off, and that speedily.

Note, 4. How the consideration of the certainty and suddenness of St. Peter's removal by death did excite and provoke him to the utmost industry and diligence in his ministerial work, where he lived; the apprehensions of approaching death must quicken to utmost diligence.

Lastly, that ministers must never give over pressing known truths as long as they live, that their people may have them in remembrance after their decease; I will endeavour that after my decease you may have these things always in remembrance.

Verse 16

Our apostle comes now to exhort them to constancy in the faith of the gospel, assuring them that himself and his fellow-apostles had not followed artificially devised fables, when they made known to them the coming of Christ in the flesh, and that he was truly, and in very deed, the promised Messias; for that he himself, with James and John, were with Christ upon mount Tabor, as eye-witnesses of his transfiguration, where and when he received in his human nature a communicated splendor, and God the Father from heaven, the seat of the magnificent glory, pronounced him to be his well-beloved Son, in whom he is well-pleased.

Learn hence, that God the Father's testimony from heaven, concerning his Son Jesus Christ, did effectually bring honour and glory unto Christ, and is a great obligation upon us to faith and obedience to him; He received from God the Father honour and glory, attesting him to be his well-beloved Son.

Learn, 2. That there was as much assurance given of the certainty of Christ's being the promised Messias, and of the truth of the evangelical doctrine, as the world could reasonably desire. Men can humanly be certain of nothing more than what they perceive by their senses, which are the proper judges of all sensible objects; now no satisfaction of this kind was wanting to the world concerning our blessed Saviour and his miracles: The apostles attesting what they had heard, what they had seen with their eyes, and their hands had handled of the word of life, 1 John 1:1

Verse 19

Observe here, That the Scriptures, or written word of God, are a more sure word to us than any voice from heaven, or revelation whatsoever; not that there was any uncertainty in the Lord's voice uttered from heaven at Christ's transfiguration, but because that transient voice was heard only by three, and might be mistaken or forgotten; whereas the Holy Scriptures are a standing and authentic record, and a most sure ground for faith to build upon; and accordingly our apostle tells them, they should do well to attend unto the written word, that is, the Scriptures of the Old Testament, as unto a light that shined in that dark time, until, by considering those ancient prophecies, and comparing them with what Christ hath done and suffered, they might find the day dawning upon them, and the morning star, the Holy Spirit, arising in their hearts, so enlightening and convincing them, that no more doubts or scruples should be left in them, concerning this great truth, attested by a voice from heaven, and confirmed by the writings of the prophets, namely, that Jesus is the true and promised Messias, and really the Son of God.

Learn hence, That the written word of God is a surer word, more to be depended and relied upon than any voice from heaven, though attested by the greatest and most eminent apostle, and consequently to be more heeded and regarded by us; nay, farther, the sanctifying operation of the Holy Spirit in and upon the hearts and lives of sincere and serious Christians is a more certain and indubitable evidence of their salvation, than if an angel should come from heaven on purpose to tell them that they should certainly come thither; for the testimony of an angel, at the highest, is but the testimony of a creature; but the testimony of the sanctifying Spirit is the testimony of God himself; it is therefore the sure word that we are to attend unto; and that revelation of God's will, being final, is and ought to be attneded to, before any pretended or real revelations whatsoever: We have a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, &c.

Verse 20

These words are understood variously.

1. Some interpret them thus; That no part of the holy Scripture was written by any private impulse, incitation, or motion, by no suggestion of men's own private spirits, but they gave out to us what the Holy Ghost gave in to them; nor did they prophesy according to the will of man, that is, when they would, or what they would, but they spake by the instinct and impulse of the Holy Ghost. The words shew what authority the penmen of the Holy Scriptures had to write what they did, and why we should be so careful to take heed to what they wrote.

Learn hence, That it is a very great principle, yea, one of the first principles of our faith, that the Scriptures are the very word and will of God, written not by any private spirit, but dictated by the Spirit of God, and consequently are no part of them of human invention, but all of divine inspiration, for which reason great respect is due to them, and we shall do well to take heed to them.

2. Others understand the words thus: That no prophecy of scripture is to be expounded as speaking only of those persons whom the speaker first intended and meant, according to the speaker's proper prviate thought, for the holy men of God were moved by God's Spirit to speak those words which signified more than they designed, or always meant and understood themselves; as for instance, David often speaks in the Psalms words true of himself and Solomon, but the Holy Ghost pointeth at Christ, who was typified by those persons; and whether David meant more than himself and Solomon, it is certain the Holy Ghost meant more; so if Josiah be meant in Isaiah 53:1 as some would have it, it is evident that he was but typical, and that the Holy Ghost meant Christ and his sufferings ultimately; so that it is plain that the Scripture prophecy receives its full sense from the Spirit, and not from the speaker; and must not be appropriated narrowly to those private men, by whom, or of whom they were proximately meant by the speaker.

3. Others understand the words after this manner, namely, that no private person must take upon him the interpretation of Holy Scriptures, but refer all to the church: Hence Estius infers, "That the reformed and their pastors must not interpret the Scriptures, but the Catholic church only." To which we reply, that as no private persons, so likewise no church, may presume to interpret Scripture according to their own mind, nor make their private sense to be the sense of Scripture, but to seek understanding from God, who shews the meaning of the word by the word, (comparing Scripture with Scripture), and by his Spirit leads good men into the knowledge and understanding of it; knowing this, that 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 man of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

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Bibliographical Information
Burkitt, William. "Commentary on 2 Peter 1". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. 1700-1703.