2 Pet 1:1-21  

What a way to start a letter, with this succinct overview of the Gospel and how it impacts the believer’s life.  It’s almost overwhelming in its scope.  But within this rich chapter lies a subtle reminder that is absolutely critical. In 3:1, Peter lays out his motivation and purpose in writing both of his letters—he wants to develop “a genuine understanding along with a reminder, so that they can remember the words previously spoken by the holy prophets and the command of our Lord and Savior given through your apostles.”  He begins with the past, writing to those who have obtained and received a very precious and valuable faith, the same kind of faith as the apostles received through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.  Then Peter follows with a subtle shift to the future as he prays that God’s “grace and peace be multiplied to you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”

There is also a subtle shift as the ramifications our initial embrace of knowing Jesus as Savior combine with the knowledge of Jesus as Lord as we enter, what verse 11 describes as, “the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”  But for Peter (who sounds a lot like Paul in Titus 1:1, where Paul identifies himself as a slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ—"to build up that faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness”), this shift from past to future begins to address his concern that they, and by extension we, have genuine understanding—now that we are saved, what are we called to, what are God’s expectations for us?  How do we grow in our knowledge of Jesus our Lord?

The answer lies in verses 3-4, in which we are called by Jesus’ own glory and goodness, and equipped by His divine power with everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him.  And we’ve been given these “very great and precious promises” because through them we are enabled to do two things—first, that we “may share in the divine nature”, and second, that we may “escape the corruption that is in the world because of evil desires.” What an incredible transformation!

Once we have a genuine understanding of this incredible calling, or as Peter puts it, “for this very reason,” we are exhorted to diligently focus every effort into adding all of these godly qualities to our faith—with the promise that if these qualities are ours and are increasing abundantly, they “will keep us from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  But a genuine understanding also leads us to a warning—if we lack these same things, if they aren’t present and growing in our lives, then we are blind in the present, short-sighted towards the future and have forgotten the cleansing received from our past sins.  Which is all the more reason, therefore, to make every effort to confirm our calling because ”if we do these things we will never stumble.”

These words of warning recall a similar warning that Jesus gives in the Parable of the Sower and the Seed in Mt 13.  The first seed was sown into a heart that heard but didn’t have a genuine understanding.  The second group of seed was sown into a heart described as rocky ground and ends up stumbling. The third group of seed was sown into a heart described as thorny and ends up without fruit—the same results that Peter gives in verses 8-10 if the godly qualities he lists aren’t present and increasing in our lives.  But the fourth group of seed fell on a good heart that both heard and genuinely understood, producing much fruit, growing these godly qualities.

But now Peter gets to the second purpose of writing—the reminder!  In verses 12-13, Peter subtly warns them and us by way of reminder, saying, “I’m going to continue to remind you of these things (what he said in the first eleven verses) even though you know them and are established in the truth you have.”  In other words, even though this isn’t an issue for you at present, the potential danger as well as its possibility is so real that my constant reminder is necessary.  The danger is taking things for granted, forgetting what the gospel has done in our lives and the fruitfulness that should be growing in our lives—losing our focus to know Him.

Reinforcing his concern, Peter says that “I consider it right, as long as I am in this bodily tent—to wake you up with a reminder.  Again, Peter sounds a lot like Paul in Rom 13:11-14, “Besides this, knowing the time, it is already the hour for you to wake up from sleep, for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed … But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no plans to satisfy the fleshly desires.”  Similarly, Jesus exhorted the sleeping disciples in the Garden to “Stay awake, and pray so that you won’t enter into temptation.  The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”  Finally, Peter, after calling on them to make every effort, commits himself in verse 15, “And I will also make every effort that you may be able to recall these things at any time after my departure.”

It is difficult when things are going well not to let our guard down, to think that we’re immune to danger, allowing self-confidence to creep in, losing our vigilance.  And so we have the reminder, “He has given us very great and precious promises, that through them we may share in the divine nature!”  What an exchange!  A heart of flesh for a heart of stone, the incorruptible seed for the corrupted.  This is the wonderful and good news of the Christmas season—that our Savior became like us, taking on our nature, so that we could become like Him, receiving His divine nature.  May we never lose our amazement at the wonders of His grace.

In light of His incredible gift, let us be diligent, let us make every effort, and as we are exhorted in Mk 13:32-37, “Now concerning that day (of Jesus’ return)… be alert (wake up), otherwise he may come and find you sleeping—what I say to you, I say to everyone—Be alert!”  Wake up!

by Mark Ott, Elder

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