This is a chapter from my upcoming book, Study Notes on the Epistles of Peter.
2 Peter 1
(1) Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:
That Peter mentioned he was a servant of Jesus Christ before saying he was an apostle is evidence that he had been growing in grace (Lk. 22:24-26; 2 Pet. 3:18).
Peter wrote to those who had obtained like precious faith with he and the other Jewish apostles. Most commentators link verse 1 to Romans and talk about being made righteous by faith alone. However, Peter did not say “to them that have obtained the righteousness of God through their precious faith.”
The faith that he is referring to is the apostle’s doctrine (Acts 2:42; Jam. 2:1; Jude 3). That it was obtained through the righteousness of God means that it was based on the “way of righteousness” (2 Pet. 2:21) which is revealed in the “word of righteousness” (Heb. 5:13). He calls it “precious faith” because it is only obtained by a remnant in Israel (Lk. 18:8).
Peter used the word “precious” (rare and of great value) 7 times in his epistles.
- Trial of faith (1 Pet. 1:7)
- Blood of Christ (1 Pet. 1:19)
- Christ (1 Pet. 2:4-7)
- Faith (2 Pet. 1:1)
- Promises (2 Pet. 1:4)
(2) Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,
Grace and peace are not exclusive to this present age. There are degrees of grace and peace (they can be multiplied) available to the kingdom saints on the basis of their knowledge of God (Dan. 11:32; Jn. 17:3).
Peter is not distinguishing Jesus Christ from God. The righteousness and knowledge of God is only found in Jesus Christ because He is God.
By Divine Power
(3) According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:
(4) Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
The theme of an epistle is often found in the opening passage. Peter opens and closes this epistle with a reference to the knowledge of God (2 Pet. 1:1-4; 3:17-18). The word “knowledge” occurs 7 times in this epistle, and in all forms, it is referred to 16 times in just three chapters. Peter is not talking about a mere mental knowledge, but a spiritual knowledge that must be fruitful (2 Pet. 1:5-9) and based on the truth of the scripture (2 Pet. 1:16-21). Otherwise, they are in danger of falling and not entering the everlasting kingdom (2 Pet. 1:10-11).
In the opening passage Peter exhorts his brethren on the basis of God’s power (vv.3-4) to add seven things to their faith (vv.5-7) that they might make their calling and election sure (vv.8-11).
The calling and election concern the everlasting kingdom that God promised Israel. Under the gospel of the kingdom a man is justified by his faith. Therefore, his faith must be tested and proven by works (Jam. 1:22; 2:24). They must have true righteousness that starts within and makes them fruitful without to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:20; 7:21, 24-27). Some will have a more abundant entrance than others based on their works (Matt. 16:27; Rev. 22:12). In this present age we are justified by the faith of Christ the moment we believe the gospel of the grace of God (Gal. 2:16).
Peter starts off by reminding the little flock that God has given them everything they need for life and godliness. Spiritual life (the divine nature) must precede and produce godliness. These things are given unto them by divine power through the knowledge of God (Jn. 17:3). God has called them to glory and virtue in His everlasting kingdom (1 Pet. 1:7), but they must be diligent to make that calling sure.
The “exceeding great and precious promises” concern the things that pertain to life and godliness. Peter is referring to the promises of the new covenant (Heb. 8:6-13). One of the major promises of that covenant is that Israel will KNOW the Lord. The new covenant will not be made with Israel AS A NATION until the second coming of Christ, but the believing remnant will be living as a foretaste of it (Heb. 6:4-6; Jam. 1:18). God will use the chastening of the tribulation period to make Israel partakers of His holiness (Heb. 12:5-17).
The Body of Christ also has wonderful promises, but we must not read ourselves into this passage. The “us” in verse 3 is NOT the Body of Christ. Our calling and election are sure the moment we believe the gospel of the grace of God because we are SEALED with the Spirit who is the earnest of all God has promised us (2 Cor. 1:20-22).
As the little flock believes God’s precious promises by their precious faith, they will become partakers of the divine nature in their daily walk. Godliness is God living His life through His children. They have the divine nature (the Holy Ghost) by the new birth (1 Pet. 1:3, 23). They have escaped the corruption that is in the world through the knowledge of Christ (2 Pet. 2:20), but it is not enough for them NOT to participate in that corruption, they must also DO certain things. In other words, they must prove their faith by works.
Add to Your Faith
(5) And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
(6) And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
(7) And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
Peter used some mathematical terms in the opening passage. God’s grace and peace are MULTIPLIED to them that they might escape the corruption in the world (i.e., SUBTRACT) and ADD to their faith seven things that pertain to life and godliness. That these things are added to faith means that faith is the root of spiritual growth (1 Pet. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:18). Of course, these seven things are also found in Paul’s epistles to the Body of Christ. However, there is a difference between what Peter and Paul taught concerning the promises and warnings in regard to spiritual growth. Therefore, we had better rightly DIVIDE this passage (2 Tim. 2:15)!
- Virtue – moral excellence and courage
- Knowledge – of God and the scripture
- Temperance – moderation and discipline
- Patience – to endure suffering while waiting on God’s promises to be fulfilled (Heb. 6:11-12; 10:36; Jam. 5:6-11)
- Godliness (2 Pet. 3:11; 1 Jn. 2:6)
- Brotherly Kindness (1 Pet. 3:8-9)
- Charity – A quality of love demonstrated among brethren (1 Pet. 4:8)
Make Your Calling and Election Sure
(8) For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(9) But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.
(10) Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:
(11) For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
It is vital to understand that there are different callings and elections in the Bible and that election is not unto salvation but unto service (see notes on 1 Pet. 1:2). The Body of Christ is called by the gospel of the grace of God (2 Thess. 2:14) and our election in Christ is sure the moment we believe the gospel (1 Thess. 1:4-5). The basis of our assurance is the word of God. The little flock was called out of apostate Israel by believing the gospel of the kingdom, but their election (1 Pet. 1:2) as servants in the kingdom is not sure until they prove their faith by their works (Isa. 41:8-9; Matt. 22:14; 1 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 17:14). The basis of their assurance is works (1 Jn. 2:3; 3:18-19). Under the gospel of the kingdom fruit is not optional (Matt. 3:7-12; 7:15-23; Jn. 15:1-6).
- A Promise – Those who have these things abounding in them are fruitful in the knowledge of Christ and will therefore never fall but have an abundant ENTRANCE into the everlasting kingdom. Peter is talking about the kingdom that was PROMISED to Israel (Dan. 7:27). There is an emphasis in the Hebrew epistles on the danger of FALLING. God will keep them from falling (Jude 24-25), but they must be diligent to walk in His power.
- A Warning – Those who lack these things are in danger of falling into the error of the wicked (2 Pet. 3:17) because they are too blind to see all that God has promised and forgetful that they were purged from their old sins. Therefore, they will return to their old sins like a dog will return to its vomit (2 Pet. 2:22).
(12) Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them,and be established in the present truth.
(13) Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance;
(14) Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me.
(15) Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance.
The word “Wherefore” means for which reason. Because their entrance into the everlasting kingdom was based on doing these things, as a faithful elder (1 Pet. 5:1-4), Peter was not negligent to put them always in remembrance of them. As he neared the end of his earthly life, he spent the remainder of his days stirring up his brethren by putting them in remembrance of the things he had already taught them and in which they were established. Why did they need to be put in remembrance of truth in which they were already established? The truth that was in them must be stirred up to be always kept in the forefront of their minds. The apostle Paul also understood the importance of helping the brethren keep the truth in remembrance (1 Cor. 4:17; 1 Tim. 4:6; Phil. 3:1).
The “present truth” that the little flock was to be established in was based on PROPHECY (Acts 3:21, 24). The present truth that the Body of Christ is to be established in is based on a great MYSTERY (Rom. 16:25) that was hid from the prophets and first revealed to Paul (2 Tim. 2:15). There were two different groups of believers in the transition period (Gal. 6:15-16).
The “present truth” refers to the truth that was present with them (“obtained like precious faith”). It is the truth that he was writing to them about in this epistle which is based on the words of the OT prophets and the commandments of the 12 apostles (2 Pet. 3:1-2). Although the kingdom was promised to Israel long ago and awaits future fulfillment, it is present truth that will never change. By putting the truth in writing, the little flock could always keep it in remembrance after Peter was gone (Heb. 11:4, application). There was no apostolic succession.
Peter knew his death was near because of what Christ had told him (Jn. 21:17-19). The Greek word for “decease” is exodos which is also translated “departing” (Heb. 11:22). Death is a departure (Gen. 35:18; Phil. 1:23; 2 Tim. 4:6), not a cessation of existence (Lk. 9:31; 23:43). Peter knew his soul and spirit would be temporarily separated from his earthly tabernacle until the resurrection (Matt. 19:28).
Since Peter died before the kingdom was established on the earth, why did Christ say some of the apostles would not taste death until they saw Him coming in His kingdom (Matt. 16:13-28)? Peter, James, and John did see the majesty of Christ on the mount of transfiguration (Matt. 17:1-8).
Eyewitnesses of His Majesty
(16) For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
(17) For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
(18) And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.
That Peter spoke of his impending death (vv.12-15) may have perplexed his readers since he had been preaching that the kingdom was at hand (Matt. 16:28; 1 Pet. 4:7). Peter reassured them that his message concerning the power and coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to establish His kingdom on the earth was no cunningly devised fable as the scoffers claim (2 Pet. 3:3-4). Peter was an EYEWITNESS of it. The kingdom was postponed, but not CANCELED.
A More Sure Word
(19) We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:
(20) Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
(21) For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
The little flock did not need such an experience to know the kingdom was still coming. Even more SURE than the real experience that Peter, James, and John had on the mount of transfiguration is the written word of God (Acts 1:3). Seeing Christ in His kingdom glory and hearing the voice of the Father must have been an amazing experience, but it was temporary, and it was for a select few. The scripture is an eternal record that can be searched daily. Yet, most people would rather have a supernatural experience than study the supernatural scripture (1 Cor. 14:20; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). That is why they are so easily deceived (2 Cor. 11:14). In this present age, God is using His written word, and not visions, dreams, and signs.
Although they were in a dark world, they had the light of the word of God (Ps. 119:105; Prov. 6:23). They must take heed to the word of prophecy until it is fulfilled when the day of the Lord dawns (Mal. 4:1-3). The day star (Num. 24:17; Lk. 1:76-78; Rev. 2:26-28; 22:16) arising will be a blessing to the godly remnant of Israel (Isa. 60:1-3). The KJB calls Jesus Christ the “day star” and the “morning star.” That the ESV calls Lucifer the “day star” and the NIV calls him the “morning star” (Isa. 14:12) proves the modern versions are satanic counterfeits of the Bible.
The prophecy of the scripture is not of human origination, but divine inspiration (2 Tim. 3:16). The Holy Ghost spoke the words of God through the prophets (e.g. 2 Sam. 23:2; Neh. 9:30; Ps. 45:1; Acts 1:16; 3:21). They were “holy men” because God set them apart as His mouthpiece. The prophets did not always understand what God said through them (1 Pet. 1:10-12). Prophecy proves the inspiration of scripture because only God can write detailed history hundreds of years in advance (Isa. 46:9-10). Inspiration is not limited to the original act of God speaking through a man, because it is the scripture (written words) that is given by inspiration of God, and the prophets did not always write the words with their own hand (e.g. Jer. 36).
Because the scripture is given by divine inspiration, no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation (Gen. 40:8; 41:16; Job 32:8). In the next chapter Peter warns of false teachers who base their heresies on private interpretations.
The Roman Catholic Church misinterprets this verse to uphold the awful lie that the scripture is not to be studied by the individual, but that their people are to look to them for the interpretation of scripture (cf. Acts 17:11; 1 Thess. 5:21). That false religious system has a corrupt Bible, uses the wrong methods of interpretation, and loves tradition more than the truth.
The word of God is a living Book that interprets itself to the Bible-believer who relies on the Spirit of God (Jn. 16:13) as he searches the scripture (Acts 17:11), compares scripture with scripture (1 Cor. 2:13), and rightly divides the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15).
When it comes to Bible prophecy, we must “first” of all know that no prophecy is of any private interpretation. Yet, many are guilty of giving prophecy a private interpretation because of their failure to rightly divide the word of truth.