There comes a time when we consider what will happen after we’re gone. Two letters in the New Testament are written from this point of view; 2nd Timothy and 2nd Peter. Neither are wills or last testaments. But they do stress a kind of “if you don’t remember anything else, remember this” kind of message. For the next twelve weeks, we’re going to walk through 2nd Peter as he stirs up our “sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles.” (2 Peter 3:1-2, NASB95) Before we begin our walk, I encourage you to read the whole letter in one sitting.
Based on 2 Peter 3:1 it is apparent that Peter is writing to the same persecuted and struggling audience as 1st Peter. While 1st Peter endeavored to encourage his readers in their struggles, 2nd Peter encourages continued growth in Christ, contains warnings about false teachers, and points to the promise of the end of things. All of these are wrapped in the desire for his readers to remember and be “stirred up.”
Peter begins, “Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” (2 Peter 1:1-4, NASB95)
In a way, Peter is setting the table in verses 1-4 before he provides the meal. The remainder of the letter heavily leans towards the “do this” side of the ledger. But in these opening verses, the focus is on all that God has done and recognizes that we are simply receivers of grace. There are three times Peter points out God’s active giving.
Peter addresses those that “have received a faith the same kinds as ours.” Scholars are split if Peter is talking about the articles of faith (what we believe and practice) or the implementation of faith (consider Hebrews 11). Another way to label these are objective and subjective faith. In my thinking, Peter is considering both the received articles of faith and the stepping out of our comfort zone actions of faith.
We often miss the simple truth that Peter expressed. Faith is received. God gives it to us, we don’t create it on our own. To use Paul’s words in Romans 12:3 we have each received a measure of faith. What we do with faith and how it grows is a topic for another time. The important point is that Jesus grants us the faith to believe in Him.
Continuing his greeting Peter wrote, “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” There’s a lot here. Grace, peace, knowledge, divine power, life, godliness, true knowledge, His glory, and excellence. Our focus though is on “His divine power has granted us everything pertaining to life and godliness.”
This again is a statement of receiving something from God. Look at it this way. God has granted us everything we need to live out and towards the life we have in Him. Believing in Jesus is life itself and grants us an abundant, eternal, rich, and satisfying life. He not only grants life but its growth as we step further and further into Him which Peter calls godliness.
Peter twice mentions knowledge and we would be remiss not to touch on it. The false theology of the time held that the knowledge leading to God was hidden, only revealed to a few that knew the “secret handshake.” The Bible doesn’t profess or contain secret knowledge. Nature itself witnesses to the power and majesty of God to all that will listen. God’s message isn’t hidden, it just seems that way because of our sin induced blindness.
The third provision of God is an expression of His glory and excellence. Peter wrote, “For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” God has granted us His promises which circles us back to faith since faith is trusting in what God has said and promised.
Peter also provides a direction concerning these promises. That as we step in faith we walk towards being partakers of the divine nature and away from the corruption of the world. This again fits the “already, by not fully yet” model of this time before Christ returns. We are already partakers of the divine nature, but not yet fully realized (and won’t be until the end of the age). Now, we do need to be clear. The word “partakers” doesn’t mean we become a god but that we fellowship with His nature.
Think of it this way. Before Christ, we fellowshipped and partook of the world’s corrupt nature expressed through various lusts and desires. The air we breathed was laced with greed, self, and hatred. The “golden rule” was measured by possessions and power; how much “gold” we had. Having turned to Christ we now breath different air. Air graced with love, sacrifice, and mercy. The “golden rule” is measured by love for God and one another. We enter into that new air by God’s promises.
Most of the rest of 2nd Peter looks at “our part” and other important themes Peter wants his readers to remember before he leaves the scene. But take some time to breathe in what God has provided. Too often we get caught up in the busy-ness of doing faith that we forget to receive. We do on our own strength and neglect to rely on God’s strength. It’s good and vital to take the time to sit back, breath, and let the Holy Spirit refresh and renew our world-weary souls.