Devotional: 2 Peter 1:1-21
The first thing that I notice in this first chapter is that it seems that Peter is addressing a slightly different group from the one he wrote to in his first letter. The first time he wrote, he addressed the letter to “the sojourners of the Diaspora”. This letter, written 2 or 3 years later, is addressed to “those who have received a faith equal to ours”. This leads me to believe that his audience this time is made up of more Gentile believers than Jewish. Whether Jew or Gentile, we all come to a relationship with God through Jesus Christ by faith (Romans 1:17, 3:22, 10:10). I think that Peter is making this clear in the way he has worded this salutation.
I also think this group is more Gentile than Jewish because Peter seems to be (in verses 2 and 3 especially) emphasizing the knowledge of God. Jewish believers already had a knowledge of the One True God when they put their trust in His Son. The word translated “God” here according to Strong’s Concordance is “theos”. This word was used to denote “a god or diety” in the polytheism of the Greeks. It was appropriated by Jews and retained by Christians to denote “the one true God.” In Hebrew this word comes from the two words “Elohim” and “Jehovah” (indicating, in order, His power and preeminence, and His self-sustained existence). The word translated “knowledge” comes from a word that means “recognition, i.e. (by implication) full discernment, acknowledgement, complete comprehension after the first knowledge of a matter. It is bringing one to be better acquainted with something known previously, a more exact viewing of something beheld before.” Think of it as a deepening comprehension of Who God is and what He has done through Jesus Christ. Again, every truster in Christ should be experiencing a deepening of their relationship with (their knowledge of) God in Christ, but with the idea of their having “the same” faith as Peter and the Apostles being emphasized combined with the emphasis on growing in knowledge of God and Jesus, I still think that this letter was written to a primarily Gentile audience.
Verse 3 reminds me of 1 Corinthians 1:4-9. We have been given everything we need to live out our gratitude to God for what He has done for and in us. His power, glory and virtue have given us His precious and magnificent promises. It is through these promises that we have become partakers of His divine nature. “Partakers” is from a word that means “a sharer; i.e., associate” or “having in common”. We have become sharers or associates in His divine nature. This makes me think of John 17:20-23, Romans 7:4, 1 Corinthians 1:30, Ephesians 1:11 (among other verses speaking to our being united with Christ). Not that we are gods, but that God now lives in us and works through us via the Holy Spirit as a result of our putting our trust in Christ’s redemptive work on the cross.
Verse 5: because of these promises God has given to us by His power, “glory and virtue” (“the manifestation of His divine power” according to Strong’s), Peter calls his audience to make every effort to “fill out” their trust. Make every effort to add “intrinsic moral goodness or excellence” to your trust. Add “a seeking to know, investigate” spiritual Truth to that moral excellence. Add “applying what you learn” to that knowledge you gained. Add “cheerful [or hopeful] endurance” or “abiding under” to the application of spiritual Truth. Add acts that stem from a Godward attitude (that stem from a desire to please Him) to that hopeful endurance. Add brotherly love to your desire to please God. Add agape love (God’s unconditional love) to brotherly love. I notice that exhibiting God’s kind of love is the final goal of this growth, or “filling in” our trust. This reminds me of Philippians 1:9-11. I also notice that these attributes seem to correspond to the fruit of the Spirit: love, patience (cheerful endurance or abiding under), goodness (moral excellence), self-control. Adding these to our Biblical knowledge is not something we need to perform (like a 1, 2, 3 checklist), but something that happens in us as we yield to the Holy Spirit, our ultimate Bible Teacher.
God saved us for a reason. Ephesians 2:10 tells us “10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Here in verses 8-11, Peter is stressing that if we are not growing in our trust, “working out our salvation” (Philippians 2:12-13: allowing our inner trust to be more and more outwardly visible in our actions), we are failing to fulfill the purpose God made us for. Not only that, but if we are not growing in our trust, our gratitude will diminish. Not only will we “become idle and unfruitful”, but we will drift from our safe Rock and forget the extent to which we have been forgiven (ALL our sins have been forgiven in Christ, past, present and future). I wonder if this comes into play with those Christians who use the idea that they “not perfect” because they are “just sinners, saved by grace”? I think that they use this as an excuse not to be living out inner changes to the point that they believe their own hype and think that forgiven sinners is all they are. While it is true that we are saved by grace, should we be focusing on our “status” as sinners or on our status as “new creations in Christ”? I think that this verse (9) points to the fact that we need to see ourselves as God does. He sees us enveloped in Christ, covered in His righteousness (Romans 6:11, Ephesians 1:13, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Romans 8:1). If we forget how much we are forgiven, we will cease to be grateful, and our desire to please God will dwindle.
“Calling” means “invitation”. “Election” means “choosing”. Verse 10 sounds like Peter is saying that we have to make an effort to make our invitation to be chosen a sure thing. I think he is saying that. Not that we are “saved” by our own works, but because without spiritual growth, we tend to wither away in our trust, and forget what God paid for our redemption and for us to be new creations in Christ. We need to keep on responding to God’s invitation, to keep on “choosing to be chosen”. Faith is not a noun, but a verb. Peter is reminding his readers of this, not because he thinks that they have forgotten, but because he wants to continue to stir up their trust in Christ as long as he is alive to do so (verses 12-15).
Verses 16-21: Here we have Peter’s own testimony concerning seeing Christ Jesus transfigured, revealing His glory and majesty (Matthew 17:1-2). Because of this experience, Peter says that he, James and John have even greater confidence in the prophetic writings. They have been given to us as a “lamp shining in a dark place”. This reminds me of Psalm 119:105. Peter makes it clear that the prophecy we find in Scripture did not spring up out of the prophet’s own understanding, nor did the prophets come up with the prophecies on their own. Prophecy is the result of the Holy Spirit moving in the hearts and minds of men, directing them to speak words from God Himself.
Putting this together, I see that spiritual growth is vital in our lives. Knowledge of Scripture, and the application of it in our lives is what drives this growth. However, without the Holy Spirit teaching us, causing God’s words to come alive in us, growth will not happen. Just like it was important to Peter to stir up his readers to remember God’s ultimate promise, life in Christ’s eternal kingdom, and to keep on responding to God’s invitation (choosing to be chosen), I think it is important for us to “stir up one another to love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24).
Devotional reading to be shared on September 23rd: 2 Peter 2:1-22