Studies in 2 Peter: 2 Peter 1:1-4 The Gracious Gifts of God

Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (2 Peter 1:1-4 ESV)

Peter begins his second epistle at the best place to begin: with God. In these four introductory verses, Peter focuses our attention on the gracious nature of our giving God. As we enter into the study of this letter we are to concentrate on three foundational gifts of God.

First, we have obtained faith by the righteousness of Jesus Christ who is God and Savior.[1] Believers have been given faith- it is not something they worked up from within themselves (Eph. 2:8-9). They did not obtain faith through their own efforts or strength, but through God’s favor alone (Calvin). This faith has fallen to believers by the righteousness of Christ who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30).

Secondly, believers are given everything they need for life and godliness. Believers have not just been given new life, but are given everything they need to sustain this new life. Often this verse is used to teach dependence upon Scripture: this is an unfortunate leap.

Knowledge is an important theme in 2 Peter. Already in verse 2 the apostle states that grace and peace are multiplied to us in the knowledge of God and Jesus. In verse 3, we find everything we need for life and godliness in the knowledge of God. Knowledge is to be added to our faith to prevent us from becoming ineffective, unfruitful, nearsighted, and blind (1:5-9). Peter wrote this letter to keep certain things in the mind of believers (1:12, 13, 15). He is not a propagator of myth, but of knowable truth (1:16). Believers must know the true nature of Scripture in order to stand against irrational false teachers who forsake what they once knew to be true (1:20; 2:12, 21). While these false teachers are deliberately ignorant of the judgment of God, believers must not be ignorant of the patience of God (3:5, 8). Knowing the destiny of all creation (3:17) and that God knows how to deliver the righteous (2:9) arms the believer to grow into even greater grace and knowledge of Jesus our Lord and Savior (3:18).

Scripture is obviously an indispensible element in our knowledge of God: Peter teaches as much in 1:19-21. Yet we must be careful to say what the Holy Spirit says and not what we think preaches better. Peter does not say we have been given everything we need for life and godliness in Scripture. Everything we need for life and godliness comes from knowing the one who called us to his own glory and excellence. It is not from knowing data, even inspired and inerrant data, that we find everything we need for life and godliness. We find everything in knowing a person. Eternal life does not come from knowing Scripture, but from knowing God and Christ (John 17:3). Godliness does not come from knowing Scripture, but from knowing Jesus in his death and resurrection (Phil. 3:8-12).

It is all well and good to say that God is not known apart from Scripture. That is true. But when we say everything we need for life and godliness is in Scripture, we can miss knowing the God of Scripture. Biblical faith and biblical knowledge are not primarily intellectual in nature but are primarily personal in nature.

Thirdly, believers have been given precious and very great promises. By “very great” Peter is not speaking of the amount of promises, but their value (cf. NASB “precious and magnificent promises”). The promises Peter explicitly are those centering on God’s promise of the return of Jesus and the renewal of creation (2 Peter 3:4, 9, 13). How is it that through the promises of God we share in his nature and escape the corruption of sin? Peter answers that question in 3:11, “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness?” Living in the light and knowledge of God’s promise to send his Son to punish wickedness and reward righteousness; to destroy that which is corrupted by sin and replace it with that which is perfect; motivates the believer to let go of the things of the world and pursue the things of the new heavens and earth in which righteousness dwells (3:13, cf. 2 Cor. 7:1; Titus 2:11-14; 1 John 3:2-3).

In these four verses Peter outlines how the gifts of God encompass the entirety of a believer’s existence. God has granted us faith- the genesis of eternal life. God has granted us everything for life and godliness- the sustaining of eternal life. God has given us precious and magnificent promises- carrying us through to the enjoyment of eternal life.

[1] It is debated among some whether or not the phrase “our God and Savior Jesus Christ” attributes deity to Jesus. There is nothing textually that indicates Peter might mean anything else. Any refusal to acknowledge that this text calls Jesus “God” is not textually, grammatically, or contextually based: it is prejudicially based. As Charles Bigg comments, “If the author intended to distinguish two persons, he has expressed himself with singular inaccuracy.” 2 Peter 1:1 identifies Jesus as God.

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