Bible Notes Online - 2-Peter 1 - ESV

Introduction; the authenticity of the letter was doubted by some in the first few centuries. Its style is quite different from Peter's first letter. Yet, the letter accurately targets issues of doubt and error which became serious issues. The internal evidence also points us to Peter's authorship. It is suggested that, since there is no reference to suffering, in contrast to 1 Peter, that it was actually written first.

v1-4: The bases on which we can know and experience spiritual growth. We have much to encourage us in such growth, and we need to be aware of those things that would prevent growth.

v1: Peter identified with his readers, as in 1 Peter 5.13 "chosen together with you." Even though Peter had walked with the Lord, had seen His miracles, had heard His words, etc., he teaches that his own faith is no different from any other believer's. Each one has precious faith (1 Pet 1.7), precious because we trust in the One who is precious beyond measure.

v2: "Grace and peace," the frequent N.T. greeting. But these things are to be multiplied to us, as we grow in our knowledge of Christ. See also 3.16, Peter's final encouragement for us to grow in Christ.

v3: His divine power which promotes life and godliness. In Him we have everything we need to live godly, distinctive lives. These are remarkable words! We need only Him. Peter says that we have been "given" these things (also v4); such is the grace of God towards us.

We have received knowledge of Him, and we grow in that knowledge; eternal life is knowing Jesus Christ.

His own glory and goodness; He called us by His grace, not because of our needs.

v4: We have great and precious promises; this life in Christ is worth enjoying. Here is depth and fulfilment for us, here is security, for His promises cannot fail.

We become partakers of the "divine nature" sharing something of the character of Christ, as we become separate from the world around us with its desires and attitudes. We do not enter into identity or union with the divine essence, but we are transformed into the likeness and character of God in Christ. (This phrase is not easy to understand, and has caused much discussion.)

v5-11: Our spiritual growth is a proof of life in Christ.

v5: Make every effort; make a conscious decision to grow in spiritual character. Notice that God has provided all we need, and therefore we can press on to grow. We press on with confidence, and without condemnation. We are to grow in all things, in balance. To grow only in one aspect is unhealthy. We begin with faith, the first, essential foundation.

To faith we add goodness, virtue, integrity, righteousness. Virtue, or goodness – describing land that is fruitful. This is the good citizen, the person we want to know.

We add knowledge, getting to know Christ more; without this our righteousness can become self-righteousness or legalism. Such knowledge carries wisdom, and godly application. It is not mere theoretical head knowledge.

v6: We add self-control; the submission to the Spirit who indwells us. As a result, our emotions and motives are directed properly.

We add perseverance; patience with hope and courage; we press on, refusing to give up.

We add godliness; becoming like God, loving God. Here is devotion. We are not to be afraid of expressing our love and commitment to the One True God.

v7: Brotherly kindness; as character develops, we must have a concern for the family of God. Such is an essential mark of the Christian community.

Love; in Col 3.14, Paul suggests that this is the most important of all. We learn to love like God Himself does.

v8: Growth is essential for fruitfulness; and we will make an impact upon others.

v9: Some lack these things. This is possible for a Christian; we can neglect growth, we can forget our redemption, we can miss out on knowledge. Peter describes such as short-sighted, even blind.

v10: Spiritual growth, as described here, will make our calling and election sure, Phil 2.12.

v11: The promise of reward, 1 John 2.28; we will love His appearing.

v12: The need to be reminded of ‘basic truths,' even though the early Christians knew them and were established in them. We need to constantly grow, and the bases of growth must be always before us;

  • avoid complacency that says, "I do not need to grow;"
  • avoid pride that says, "I've arrived."

v13-14: Peter had a responsibility, while God gave him breath, to constantly teach these things. We are reminded of the shortness of life, "the tent of this body … I will soon put it aside."

v15: Some may have depended upon Peter as a great individual, 1 Cor 1.12. After his death, they had to remember the things he had taught, and learn to depend on God alone. Compare Judg 2.7, where the people departed from the Lord after the elders who had outlived Joshua died.

Elsewhere, Peter prepared the leaders, 1 Pet 5; here he sought to prepare the people as a whole.

v16-18: Peter's personal experience and eye-witness testimony. These were not "cleverly invented stories," they were fact; the apostles did not invent the person of Christ, or any aspect of His character.

Peter saw certain things;

  • eye witness of His majesty;
  • the voice from the Majestic Glory;
  • "we were with Him" on the mountain.

The unmistakable reference is to the transfiguration of the Lord Jesus;

  • no doubt that it really happened;
  • others were present with Peter, and would testify similarly;
  • the display of Christ's glory set Christ apart, not Peter or the others;
  • it was a proof of His resurrection, see Matt 17.9.

The divine approval of Christ, as at His baptism, and in John 12.28 shortly before His death. This one alone is "my Son."

Peter speaks of this event in three different terms. He says in verse 16:

"We have not made known to you the power (1) and coming (2) of our Lord Jesus Christ, following cleverly imagined fables, but having been eyewitnesses of his majesty", and in verse 17,

"For he received from God the Father honour and glory (3)…"

Now the three gospels which report the transfiguration give us these different aspects. If we turn to Mark 9, we find that the Lord says in verse 1, "There are some of those standing here that shall not taste death until they shall have seen the kingdom of God come in power." In Matthew 16, verse 28, it is, "There are some of those standing here that shall not taste of death at all until they shall have seen the Son of man coming in his kingdom." Thirdly, in Luke 9, verse 30, we find Moses and Elijah "appearing in glory". Peter speaks of these three marks, the power, the coming and the glory of the Lord, referring to the three different characters of the transfiguration in the synoptic gospels. (see: The Importance Of The Prophetic Word, by Arend Remmers)

v19: The prophetic word made more sure. We were not on the "sacred mountain," but we have the ‘better' revelation of the Scriptures, which already included Paul's letters (3.16). We must give more heed to the word of God, and not rely on the experiences of ourselves or of others. Since we have the scriptures, we are not left in doubt as to the mind of God, but we have a clear and infallible guide and rule. Such truth gives us real hope, "until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts." (Wording from Tyndale.)

v20: Scripture is not a prophet's interpretation, although it will bear the prophet's style. ‘Who can tell when a gracious illustration passes into a supernatural guidance? Who can tell when the perception of the thoughts and destinies of men arises from a devout meditation on Holy Scripture and an earnest contemplation of the ways and works of men and of nations, and when it is given by the direct revelation from God?’ (The Life of Savonarola, p71, William Clark)

v21: Scripture is all given by God;

  • its origin is not the will of man, but of God;
  • it is therefore reliable and authoritative;
  • God's Holy Spirit "carried along" (or drove) the writer.

The same Holy Spirit will give us understanding of what He has already written.