By Sam E. Stone
This second letter from the apostle Peter to the churches (see 3:1) was probably written around AD 67, not long before his death. Some consider it his “last will and testament.” Knowing what awaited him (John 21:18, 19), he was more concerned about the needs of other Christians than his own. False teachers were afoot seeking to mislead the believers. They needed a sure hope, one found only in Christ.
2 Peter 1:2-4
Only knowledge of Jesus provides grace and peace in abundance. In fact, everything we need for a godly life is available through him. If God grants everything, that doesn’t leave much else! No one can say, “I’m going to Heaven because of all the good I’ve done.” If God had not permitted us to learn of Christ and follow him, our future would be hopeless. But he has! Paul also emphasized the completeness of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16, 17).
William Barclay wrote, “Christ-ianity realistically faces man’s actuality, but at the same time sees no limit to man’s potentiality (see John 10:10). As one of the great early fathers said, ‘He became what we are to make us what he is.’”
2 Peter 1:5-9
Peter next lists seven qualities to be developed in every believer’s life. All are necessary. It is not a matter of working on the first three till you get them down, then starting on the fourth. These virtues overlap and all are important all the time. We begin by trusting and obeying Jesus, as explained in Scripture. True faith requires change, what has been described as “steady advance.” Moffatt quotes a saying that, “The Christian life must not be an initial spasm followed by a chronic inertia.” Growing in goodness is also essential.
Knowledge shows that simply affirming the facts is not enough. God’s children must grow. Later Peter explains the need to avoid myths and accept truth (2 Peter 1:6-10). Self-control calls on us to keep our impulses in check. Years ago a teacher in my home church explained temperance (King James Version) by saying, “Temperance is abstinence from that which is bad, and a moderate use of that which is good.”
This requires perseverance. Peter knew his readers would need to endure times of hardship. James wrote, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12, NIV 1984). Such patience is what lets us hold fast to Christian hope when it is contradicted (2 Peter 3:3) and sustain Christian truth when it is denied (v. 16).
The godliness Peter describes points the reader to live in harmony with the true and living God. His love then compels us to love others with mutual affection. The final attribute listed here is love. John describes real love as being evident in tangible deeds (John 13:34, 35;
1 John 3:17-20).
2 Peter 1:10-15
If you are God’s child, doing what he says is essential. Without Jesus, we have no hope. We will undoubtedly stumble and fall many times along the way, but we must always return to him (Hebrews 6:11; 10:35-37). Peter agrees with James. It is not the hearers of the law, but the doers who are justified (James 1:22). God’s truth leads to freedom and salvation (John 8:32). Peter knew his life would end soon, and he wanted to leave these words of encouragement for all who came behind him. He had only a short time left to live in the tent of this body. He knew he would soon put it aside. This beautiful picture of “folding up my tent” says it well. Paul used the same illustration (2 Corinthians 5:1-4). Peter wrote so that after his departure they would remember these things.
2 Peter 1:20, 21
Verses 16-19 are not in the printed text, but they serve as a reminder that Peter was an eyewitness of Jesus Christ. Peter affirmed all that the Old Testament Scriptures prophesied about him because he had seen it all firsthand. The prophets of old had all been inspired by God. They were not left to their own devices; instead the Lord guided them in what to say. So complete was their inspiration that, though human, they spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.