STUDY FIFTEEN: 2PETER 1:1-11

© Rosemary Bardsley 2018

A. INTRODUCTIONS

Read 2Peter 1:1,2. From these verses:
How does Peter introduce himself?

How does Peter introduce Jesus? [You should find 4 different titles of Jesus.]

 

 

 

How does Peter introduce his readers?

 

How does Peter express the value of Christian faith?

 

What does Peter say about ‘grace and peace’?

 

Peter introduces himself as ‘a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ’. As a ‘servant’ he holds himself under the authority of Christ, committed to do the will and work of Christ. As an ‘apostle’ he recognizes the high commission entrusted to him by Christ, and the heavy responsibility given to him and the other apostles to establish the church and lay down the apostolic foundation of truth entrusted to them by Jesus Christ. Along with the other foundational apostles [comprised of the faithful eleven, plus Matthias added in Acts 1, plus Paul added in Acts 9 by God] Peter had this unique, unrepeatable role. While a few others are called ‘apostle’ – Barnabas [Acts 14:14] and Andronicus and Junias [Romans 16:7] – they are not understood to be foundational apostles, but were apostles in the sense of our contemporary ‘missionary’. [‘apostle’ is from the Greek apostello – I send, while ‘missionary’ is from the Latin mitto,missum – I send.].

Peter introduces Jesus with four titles:

Jesus is ‘Christ’, that is, the Messiah – the Anointed One: long-promised, and anointed by God to accomplish God’s eternal plan of salvation.

Jesus is ‘our God’. This is one of the few places where the New Testament states in a straight-forward manner, that Jesus is God. This is a massive and radical claim, in line with the many claims that Jesus made about himself.

Jesus is ‘our ... Saviour’. Although we think immediately of Jesus’ sin-bearing, saving death on the cross (and it is not wrong to think of that), this is also an affirmation that Jesus is God. The Old Testament clearly states that God is the Saviour, indeed, the only Saviour [Isaiah 43:11; 45:15,21]. If Jesus is indeed Saviour, and he is, then he is also God.

Jesus is ‘our Lord’. Yet another affirmation that Jesus is God – the sovereign God, the Creator and owner of all things, to whom everyone is accountable.

For further on the question ‘Is Jesus God?’ click here.

About Christian faith Peter says:

It is ‘precious’, that is, it is valued, honoured, esteemed. Peter has already expressed in his first letter that the blood of Christ, which purchased our salvation, is ‘precious’ [1Peter 1:19; different word, but same root]. If the purchase price is extremely valuable, then the thing purchased is also extremely valuable. Peter has also told us that Jesus Christ himself is ‘precious’ [1Peter 2:4,6,7].

[For further on this precious faith click here.

It is something that is ‘received’ – it is therefore something that is given to us. The Greek word used is not the normal word for ‘receive’, but the word used to refer to the casting of lots. In other words, this ‘faith’ was allotted to us by God. We did not get it as a result of our own efforts, but totally independent of our efforts and merit.

It is identical for all who have received it. Peter calls it ‘a faith as precious as ours’, [‘like precious faith with us’ KJV]. The faith his readers have received is the same precious faith that was received by the apostles [the ‘us’]. There is no distinction, no elite, no inferior/superior division. All, whether leaders of God people, or God’s people, have the same precious faith.

It is received ‘through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ’. And here it is good to pause and ask the question ‘What is this ‘righteousness’ of Christ, who is our God and Saviour, that Peter mentions here?

Check these references to the righteousness of Christ, or the righteousness that is from God. What do they teach?
Note: The Greek word – dikaiosune – is variously translated ‘righteousness’, ‘justice’, ‘justification’. It is related to the verb – dikaioo – to justify, to declare not guilty, to acquit. They are legal words, not moral words.
Matthew 3:15

 

Matthew 5:16-20 [you might have to think about this one]

 

Romans 1:17

 

Romans 3:21-26

 

Romans 4:3-6

 

Romans 9:30-10:4

 

1Corinthians 1:30

 

Philippians 3:9

 

This ‘righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ’ is the righteousness of Christ credited to those who believe in him: His totally innocent life, and his death in which he himself fully bore our guilt and its legal penalty. At all points in his life and in his death, he fulfilled the righteousness required by God’s law.

What Peter says about ‘grace and peace’:
Firstly, Peter mentions the amount of grace and peace: ‘in abundance’. That is, unlimited, more than enough.

Secondly, he tells us how this ‘grace and peace in abundance’ is acquired. And here we meet a bit of a puzzle: every person who has genuinely believed in the Lord Jesus Christ actually has already received God’s grace; and every such believer has already been established in a permanent relationship of peace with God, through Jesus Christ. The enmity, the alienation has been banished forever and reconciliation has been accomplished, all by Jesus Christ. All this grace and peace are the believer’s permanent possession.

But ignorance of the effective saving death of Christ means that many genuine believers do not know that grace, not merit, is now the basis of their relationship with God. Nor do they realize that peace has already been established. So, sadly, they live their lives for Christ, without the surpassing joy that God’s grace and peace is meant to produce. Guilt still hounds them. Uncertainty of their salvation troubles them.

Hence Peter’s prayer: ‘grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. The more we get to know him the greater our realization, appreciation and enjoyment of grace and peace will be. But if we hold ourselves back from getting to know him better through the written word of God, if we despise studying the Scripture and listening to those he has gifted as teachers, then the impact of his grace and peace will be minimal, not abundant. We will still be saved, but we will have robbed ourselves of the present enjoyment and liberation of that salvation.

 

B. PROVISION, PROMISES, PURPOSE, PROBLEMS AND PRACTICE - 1:3-11

Read 2Peter 1:3-11. From these verses answer these questions:
What attributes of God are mentioned in these verses?

 

What do these verses tell us God has done to or for us?

 

How important is our knowledge of God? Check here.

 

What two things has God given us?

 

Why has he given these two things to us?

 

What does Peter tell us to do?

 

Why reasons does Peter give for his commands? (several reasons)

 

 

 

What does Peter say about our knowledge of God? (two different things)

 

B.1 God’s promises – verses 3 and 4
In these verses:

[1] Peter draws our attention to three attributes of God: His power. His glory. His goodness.
Think of these three aspects of God’s being. What do you think of when you hear these three terms:
God’s power.

 

God’s glory.

 

God’s goodness.

 

[2] Peter refers to God’s proactive role in our salvation: he speaks of God calling us [verse 3 & 10] and God choosing us [‘election’ in verse 10]. But not only has God called and chosen us, he also equips us to live as his children:

By his divine power he has given us everything we need for life and godliness.

Through his glory and goodness he has given us his very great and precious promises.

Through these promises we may participate in the divine nature and escape the world’s corruption.

Think on these two opposite impacts of God’s promises. Suggest what Peter means by each one.
‘participate in the divine nature’

 

‘escape the corruption in the world’

 

Just as in verse 2 Peter taught that grace and peace come through our knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, so here in verse 3 he teaches us that everything we need for life and godliness comes through our ‘knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.’ Whereas in verse 2 our knowledge of God and of Jesus is the source of our assurance and joy in our salvation, here in verse 3 our knowledge of God is the source of all that we need to live as his child in the world.

There is a very important truth tucked away in verses 3 and 4 that we could very easily overlook: That it is through God’s very great and precious promises that we become increasingly more like him and increasingly less like those still in the world.

Usually, when Christians want to improve their behaviour they look at the commands of Christ or the apostles; or, sometimes, at the example of heroes of faith in the Bible.

Usually, when pastors want to encourage godly Christian living in their congregations, they similarly preach on the commands.

But Peter points us to God’s glory and goodness through which God has given us great and precious promises to enable us to increasingly live as his children.

What promises is Peter thinking about?

There are many promises in God’s word, and Peter does not say which ones in particular he is speaking of.

Study the promises in these verses. Suggest how they help us to become more and more like Jesus and less and less like the unbelieving world.
Matthew 28:20

John 8:31-36

John 14:18

John 15:5

John 16:13-15

Romans 6:11-14

2Corinthians 3:18

Ephesians 2:1-10

Colossians 2:13-15

1Peter 1:3-9

1Peter 2:9-12

1John 3:1-3

B.2 Our responsibility – verses 5 to 11
Peter has made it clear that God has given us everything we need to live for him in this world. But this does not happen without our involvement. As John McArthur Jnr has indicated in the title of one of his books ‘Faith Works’. Faith alone saves, but truth faith expresses itself in works of obedience.

Read verses 5 to 11.
What two phrases urge us to be actively involved in God’s transforming work?

 

What does Peter write as reasons why we should be so actively involved?

 

What does Peter say slackness on our part points to?

 

Peter is very strong in encouraging us to be actively engaged in God’s progressive transformation of our lives. He says ‘make every effort’ and ‘be all the more eager’. These phrases indicate a very strong commitment to obedience. Salvation by grace through faith apart from our obedience, does not mean that we can be slack in obedience. Obedience does not save us, it is never enough to satisfy God’s holy standard. We will always fall short. Nevertheless, our commitment to obey Christ, although it is never perfect, is an expression of our acknowledgement/confession that Jesus Christ is Lord. That confession is proved genuine by our submission to him and his commands.

It is through faith we are saved. But Peter commands us to add to faith a list of virtues. In this his instructions parallel what Paul wrote in a number of his letters.

Read these verses. What does Paul encourage believers to do?
Romans 12:1,2

 

Galatians 5:16-25

 

Ephesians 5:1-21

 

Colossians 3:5-15

 

 

Peter’s understanding of the importance of obedience to Christ’s commands also parallels what James and John have to say.
Read James 2:14-26. What is James opinion of those who claim to believe in Jesus Christ yet do not express that belief in obedience?

 

 

Read 1John 2:3-6, 9-11; 3:6,7-10,15; 4:8. According to John’s letter, what proves our claim to know and believe in Christ genuine?

 

 

Jesus himself also made similar statements.

Read these verses. How did Jesus express this truth that the evidence of true faith is obedience?
Matthew 7:21-23

John 14:15

John 14:23,24

John 15:9,10

 

All of this makes it very clear that faith that is not accompanied by growth in obedience is simply not what the Bible means when it speaks of ‘faith’.

What Peter tells us to do
In this section of his letter Peter tells us to ‘add’ certain qualities to our faith. He indicates [verse 10] that the development of these qualities in our lives will confirm our claim to have faith, and therefore prove to us that we are indeed saved.

Read verses 5-7. What does Peter tell us to add, and what do each of these qualities mean?

 

 

 

Looking at these qualities
In this section each of these qualities is discussed.

‘goodness’. The word is arete. It is used only three other times in the New Testament, two of them also in Peter’s letters. It means excellence, virtue, praise, goodness – it is not a weak, insipid thing, but a strong energetic quality that is evident to others. In Philippians 4:8, Paul includes it in his descriptions of the things that we should focus on. In 1Peter 2:9 Peter says that the purpose/result of our new identity as God’s holy people, is that we should declare the arete of him who called and saved us. In 2Peter 1:3 Peter states that Christ called us by his own glory and arete. This is the quality that Peter tells us to add to our faith, this quality of strong, obvious, energetic goodness that is seen in Jesus Christ.

‘knowledge’. In verses 2, 3 and 8 Peter uses word epignosis when referring to our knowledge of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ. Here in verses 5 and 6 he uses the word gnosis. In the New Testament gnosis refers to knowledge of spiritual truth. Epignosis is a strengthened form of the word gnosis; it refers to a fuller or exact knowledge that involves the one who knows in the person or object known. Thus it is more powerful personal knowledge, while gnosis is only knowing the facts about a person or object, epignosis includes both knowledge of the facts and a personal involvement in that knowledge. It is knowledge that has had a personal impact. So Peter, having already referred to this, is here in verse 5 commanding us to ‘add’ more knowledge, that is more facts. [The word translated ‘add’ is epichoregeo – which means to fully supply.] There will never be a time when we have exhausted the truth about God and the Lord Jesus Christ. There will always be more to know. For this reason Peter, in 3:18 commands us to ‘grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour’, using again this word gnosis. We are to be ‘life-long-learners’, and as our gnosis (our knowledge of facts about Jesus) increases, so also should our epignosis (our personal knowledge of him and its impact on us) increase.

‘self-control’. This is exactly what is says – self-control. It is the opposite of being out of control; it is also the opposite of being controlled by alcohol, by evil spirits, or by our own sinful lusts (as the false teachers were of whom Peter speaks in the next chapter.) The KJV has the word ‘temperance’, a word that means ‘moderation’ and ‘self-restraint’. Paul lists self-control as one of the ‘fruits of the Spirit’ in Galatians 5:23. And this is one of the places where we can notice that the things that are listed as fruits of the Spirit are also things that elsewhere we are commanded to do. The Spirit produces these things in our lives as we co-operate with him by obeying the commands of God. Hence Paul also tells us not to quench, not to work contrary to, the working of the Spirit within us [1Thessalonians 5:19].

‘perseverance’. This word – hupomone – refers to patient endurance. It is keeping going when the going is tough. It is hanging in and hanging on when there is pressure to give in and give up.

Look at the following verses. Each has this word, hupomone. What is the context in which this perseverance, this patient endurance is seen, expressed, commanded or developed?
Luke 8:15

Luke 21:12-19

Romans 5:3

2Thessalonians 1:4

James 1:3,4

Revelation 1:9

Revelation 2:2,3

Revelation 13:10; 14:12

‘godliness’. W.E.Vine explains that eusebia is derived from eu + sebomai, and ‘denotes that piety which, characterized by a Godward attitude, does that which is well-pleasing to Him.’ The eu means ‘good’ or ‘beautiful’. The sebomai – means to revere, to adore; it is a reference to our reverence and devotion to God, and thus includes a sense of worship. Peter has already told us that God has given us ‘everything we need for life and godliness’ [1:3, same word]. And in 3:11, having spoken of the return of Christ and the judgement that will then fall, encourages us to pursue holy behaviour and godliness [same word]. In urging us to add ‘godliness’ he is pointing us to that kind of living that has reverence for and devotion to God at the back of all its choices, its attitudes and its actions.

‘brotherly kindness’. The word is philadelphia – brotherly love, love of the brothers (fellow believers). Peter is here commanding us to add love of our fellow believers. We are to have a family feeling of kinship and belonging with our fellow Christians – that tender affection that characterizes family relationships. [This kind of loving is never used in commands telling us to love God.]

Check these texts. What do they say in explanation of this same quality?
Romans 12:10

1Thessalonians 4:9,10

Hebrews 13:1

1Peter 1:22

 

‘love’. Here the word is agape. This is the word most frequently used for God’s love for us. The related verb – agapao – is the only verb used when we are commanded to love God. It is the kind of love that is bigger than feelings; it is the result of a decision, a deliberate choice, a commitment. Like God, it loves the unlovely; indeed, it loves even the enemy.

About this ‘love’ Vine and Hogg have written:

‘Christian love, whether exercised toward the brethren, or toward men generally, is not an impulse from the feelings, it does not always run with the natural inclinations, nor does it spend itself only upon those with whom some affinity is discovered. Love seeks the welfare of all, Romans 15:2, and works no ill to any, 13:8-10; love seeks opportunity to do good to “all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of the faith,” Galatians 6:10.’ [Quoted in Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, WE Vine.]

B.3 Why is all of this important? – 2Peter 1:8-11
In verses 8-11 Peter explains why it is important for us to ‘make every effort’ to add these qualities to our faith in an ever increasing measure.

They will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of Jesus Christ (8).

Their absence exposes a defective understanding and a defective memory of spiritual truth (9).

Their presence provides proof that a person has indeed by called, chosen, and, therefore, saved by God (10).

Their presence thus proves that the person has genuine faith and will never fall (10).

Their presence, by confirming the integrity of a person’s faith in and knowledge of Christ, also confirms that they will be in Christ’s eternal kingdom (11).

If we are eager (verse 10) to confirm, prove, that our faith in Christ is genuine, we will be doing as Peter instructs us in verse 5-7 – ‘make every effort to add to your faith ...’

Go back to the beginning of section B.2. Read the scripture verses listed from Paul, James, John and Jesus. Then answer or discuss these questions:
[1] What do these verses, and 2Peter 1:5-11, teach about people who say they believe in Jesus but make no effort to obey his commands?

 

[2] Is it possible for a person to truly believe in Jesus, yet show no evidence over time that the Holy Spirit is gradually changing them?

 

[3] What is it that proves that our faith in Christ is genuine?

 

[4] Explain this statement in terms of the roles of faith and obedience: We are saved by faith alone, but true faith is never alone.

 

[5] Is it honest to assure a person that they will be in Christ’s eternal kingdom, when, although they claim to believe in Christ, there is no observable evidence in their lives that they actually do?