Studies in Hebrews, 1 & 2 Peter
39. 2 Peter 1:1-12 – Plan for Spiritual Success
The second letter of Peter is written “to those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours” (verse 1). This could apply to Christians anywhere, so Peter’s letter is called a general epistle (sometimes called a catholic epistle, after the Greek word katholikos, meaning "according to the whole"), because it was not written to a specific church.
We are familiar with Paul’s teaching that we receive righteousness by faith in Christ. Peter has turned this around to say that we receive faith through the righteousness of Christ. Because Christ is good, he has made it possible for us to have the faith that we need to accept him. We have a relationship with God only because of his mercy.
Peter then greets the readers: “Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” (verse 2). Peace comes from knowing God, as he is revealed to us in Jesus.
Peter begins the next verse by saying, “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life.” All of salvation is a gift, through knowing Christ —“ through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (verse 3).
Through God’s glory and goodness, Peter says, “he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (verse 4). The gift of salvation not only shows the goodness of God, it also shows his glory — it shows that he is worthy of worship.
What aspects of the divine nature may we participate in? Love, joy, peace, goodness, holiness and eternal life. Salvation involves not just future life, but also power in the present to escape the sinful desires that used to control us. This self-control is not a requirement for salvation, but a benefit of salvation. In Christ we are freed from sin so we can walk in his righteousness.
Since God has given us his power, Peter advises us to “make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love” (verses 5-7). These do not necessarily come in this sequence, of course — we grow in all of these areas at the same time without ever reaching perfection in any.
Then Peter gives us this promise: “For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (verse 8). Yes, if we are growing spiritually, the knowledge that God gives us will not go to waste. He teaches us and strengthens us so that it will make a difference in our lives.
“But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins” (verse 9). If we aren’t trying to improve, then we will be unproductive. The knowledge of God’s grace and mercy should cause us to want spiritual growth and to want to please the one who saves us.
Since God has saved us and given us spiritual strength, Peter exhorts us: “Make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (verses 10-11). Peter does not say what will happen if we fail — he simply exhorts us to be diligent. Our effort will be richly rewarded.
Peter knows our weaknesses and the need for frequent reminders. Yet, he does not want his exhortation to come across as an insult, so he comments: “I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body” (verses 12-13).
Things to think about
- How does spiritual strength come from knowledge about Christ? (verse 3)
- What aspects of the divine nature do I desire the most? (verse 4)
- Do my imperfections make me try harder, or make me quit trying?
- Am I annoyed when preachers remind me of things I already know? (verse 12)