2 Peter Bible Study (Building Faith)

2 Peter 1:1-4, God’s Great and Precious Promises

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You have been given the power to live a transformed life. When we come to Jesus in submission, there is a radical transformation that is to slowly begin to change who we are. It is not an overnight process. I think too often people think that when coming up from the waters of immersion for the forgiveness of sins that a magic wand will have been waved over us and we will no longer sin or have evil desires. New Christians quickly learn that this is not the case. Many quickly give up on God rather than beginning the transformation process. The first chapter of 2 Peter helps us see the nature of this transformation.

1 Simeon Peter, a slave and an apostle of Jesus Christ: To those who have obtained a faith of equal privilege with ours through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. (HCSB)

Introduction

The author of this letter is the apostle Peter. It is interesting that he uses his given name, Simeon, and the name the Lord Jesus gave him, Peter, as a compound name. This may indicate that Peter is writing again to a Jewish audience, since Simeon is a Jewish name. He calls himself a slave and an apostle. Peter is totally owned and devoted to Jesus and has been sent on a mission by Jesus (apostle) in preaching the good news.

The recipients of this letter are not clearly identified. Rather than describe the location of these Christians, Peter describes the blessings of these Christians. The first verse of chapter 3 tells us that this is Peter’s second letter to these recipients. It is possible that Peter has written another letter to a different audience that has not been preserved for us and this is the second letter. However, I believe it more likely that this is Peter’s second writing to the same recipients of 1 Peter. If this is the case, then Peter is writing to Jewish Christians who had been exiled from Rome to various provinces in Asia Minor, which is modern day Turkey.

It is interesting to notice that Peter quickly breaks away from the standard form of first century letters. We would expect to have a letter containing author, recipients, salutation, thanksgiving, the body of the letter, concluding remarks, and greetings. Most of these aspects are missing. All that we have is the author’s name and the recipients, but even the recipients are not clearly identified. The rest of the form of a letter is missing. This gives us a strong reason to believe that this writing is not a letter dealing with specific problems with a narrow focus, but a broadly given sermon to all Christians, similar to the book of Hebrews.

Faith of Equal Privilege

Peter describes Christians as those “who have obtained a faith of equal privilege with ours through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” There are many questions that are raised by this statement as we try to understand what Peter is saying. Peter says that these Christians have obtained a faith of equal privilege with the apostles. The question that is debated is this: is Peter discussing “the faith,” that is, the revealed teachings and word of God, or our personal faith, that is, our belief in Jesus. For a number of reasons, I believe Peter is writing about the faith, not about our belief in Jesus. (1) The faith fits better with the context that God has given us all we need for life and godliness. (2) The faith fits better with the scope of the letter in fighting false teachings with the faith you have received from the apostles. (3) The faith parallels Jude 3 where they are exhorted to contend earnestly for the faith. (4) Scholars say that the word translated “obtained” is a rare word which means “to receive by divine will” (only used three other places). Our personal faith is not given to us directly by God. If so, verses 5-8 would be in conflict with such a teaching since Peter will instruct Christians about their responsibility toward building their faith. Rather, the faith (the revealed word and will of God; the gospel) has been given by divine will. We have received the faith, the revealed will of God, through God’s will.

This revelation of equal standing, equal honor, and equal privilege with the apostles. What we have received grants the same honor and privileges. The idea is that there is no need to turn to false teachings thinking that you have not been granted something valuable and honorable. We have the revealed word of God. This word of God grants us great honor and privileges that are equal to the honor and privileges of the apostles. We all have equal standing before God.

How is this possible? Peter states that we have this faith of equal privilege through the righteousness of Jesus. The faithfulness and obedience of Jesus enable us to have an equal standing and privilege before God.

Verse 2 contains a standard salutation, but with a view toward the message of this letter. Grace and peace comes through the knowledge of God and our of Jesus our Lord. This verifies our view that Peter is writing about the faith, the revealed word of God. God has revealed himself through his word that we are able to have grace and peace multiplied to us through knowing him.

3 For His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.

There are three things to notice in verse 3. First, the source of what is necessary for such a life is “his divine power.” It is through God that we have the blessings and abilities that Peter is going to speak about. Our own devices do not lead us life. Our own actions lead us to sin and death. But God has done given us what we needed through the righteousness of Jesus.

Second, let’s notice the goals. We have been given everything we need for life and godliness. This is the focus of Peter’s teaching. God gives the Christian everything needed for life and godliness. This is not speaking about eternal life alone. We have everything we need for true living, to have the good, blessed life while on the earth. When Jesus was on the earth, he spoke what we call the beatitudes in which who spoke about what a blessed person does. The idea of “blessed” is lasting satisfaction and joy is those who serve in reverence and duty toward God. Everyone in this world is looking for happiness and the good life. God says that he has given everything we need to fill the void in our lives and have the good, satisfied life now. The NIV translation is probably correct in combining the two concepts, stating that we have been given everything we need for a godly life. We have everything we need to fulfill our duty toward God.

Finally, we can have this godly life through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and excellence. This life is in God. Peter H. Davids says, “Thus the knowledge of Jesus, which was the basis of the reception of the equally honorable faith, is the means by which he, by his divine power, gives one all that is needed for a godly life” (Pillar NT Commentary, p. 170). Knowing God is imperative according to Peter. Everything we need for this good, godly life comes through knowing him.

Do we truly know Jesus or do we merely know about Jesus? It is not enough to simply know the scriptures, the faith that has been delivered once for all time. Millions of people know the scriptures. There are thousands of scholars who know the scriptures to a degree that we could never dream to attain. But that knowledge does not lead them to life and godliness. This knowledge demands getting to know the scriptures for the purpose of having a relationship with God. The scriptures are not to be a mere academic pursuit. The knowledge of him who called us is to transform our lives, molding our hearts and changing our actions for the godly life.

God has called us to this kind of living. God has called us to the godly life. God did not do any of this for our own glory and excellence. We are stained with sin and our lives are completely impure. God did not give us these things because we were deserving by our actions in any way. Rather, God gave us everything for life by his own glory. He did this because of his goodness and excellence. It is all based upon the faithfulness and righteousness of Jesus. Jesus did the work to make all of this possible.

4 By these He has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desires. (HCSB)

It is by God’s glory and excellence that we have been give great and precious promises. These promises again relate to the faith which has been delivered to us. Notice that Peter does not identify the contents of the promises. Instead, he points out the effect of these great and precious promises. There are two benefits of God’s promises.

First, we are able to be partakers in the divine nature. It is a picture being joined to God and not to the world. This image pictures a changed, transformed life. God has given us everything we need to move closer to God. Sin separated us, but the righteousness of Jesus has allowed us to come close to God. This is a fantastic picture of what is available for us.

Second, we are escaping the corruption of world because of evil desires. Notice that we are not escaping the world. The answer to dealing with sin is not to isolate ourselves from the world. Rather, we flee the corruption of the world. We are working to be partakers and sharers in the divine nature and avoid corruption that comes from our desires in the process.

Concluding Thoughts:

The faith that we have received from God grants us equal privilege, status, and honor with the apostles because of the obedience and faithfulness of Jesus.

God has given us everything we need to have the good life now. God has given us everything we need to live faithfully to him. Knowing God through his word and developing a relationship with him is where true living can be found. True living is not in materialism and worldliness.

God has given us precious promises that enable us to share in the divine nature and escape the corruption of the world. Join yourself to God and not to the world.

All of these promises and blessings, which are found in the once for all time delivered faith, has been made possible by God’s glory and excellence, not by our own actions.

You are invited to be joined to God and share your life in him today. You are invited to find true living today. You are invited to begin the life transformation process today. Everything you need is found in the word of God, which teaches us how to draw near to God and how to fight our sinful desires.

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