1 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: 2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; 3 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. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust (NASB emphasis mine).
1 Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours: 2 Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires (NIV).
Fundamentally, false teachers attack the gospel of Jesus Christ. While the church today may be soft on such things, the apostles were not (see Acts 20:29-32; 2 Corinthians 11:2-4; Galatians 1:6-10). In chapters 2 and 3 of 2 Peter, Peter exposes the error of those false teachers who prey upon the churches. He focuses in chapter 1 on the positive dimension of the spiritual life, summarizing in verses 1-11 what the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about. In verses 12-21, Peter turns to the only source, and the only standard, for teaching and practice—the Scriptures as divinely revealed and authenticated to the apostles.
Our lesson will be restricted to the first four verses of chapter 1 in 2 Peter. In these verses, Peter distills for us the essence of the gospel. He indicates this is not just “his” gospel, but the gospel revealed through Christ, attested to by the Father, and consistent with the teaching of the apostles. To be able to recognize false teachers, we must first be crystal clear about the truth which they seek to undermine, pervert, and distort. Peter gives in these four verses the fundamentals of the gospel.
When the Lord Jesus left His disciples to ascend and be with His Heavenly Father, He left the apostles in charge. It was to them and through them that His Word was to be conveyed to others (see Matthew 16:19; John 14:26; 16:12-15; Hebrews 1:1-2; 2:1-4; 2 Peter 1:12-19; 1 John 1:1-4). In these first verses of his second epistle, Peter reminds his readers of just what the gospel is. These verses summarize the gospel according to Peter and the apostles, as opposed to the “new gospel” of the false teachers (2 Peter 2 and 3; see also Galatians 1:6-10; 2 Corinthians 11).
(1) Peter’s gospel is an apostolically defined gospel. Peter introduces his second epistle by identifying himself as an apostle (verse 1). Thus, the gospel he defines is the apostolic gospel. Defining the gospel was the mission of the apostles (Galatians 1:6-10; Ephesians 2:20; 3:5). When a “false gospel” is introduced, it is often by “false apostles” (see 2 Corinthians 11:13). The true gospel is the gospel “once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3).
(2) Peter’s gospel is the gospel of Jesus Christ, the gospel in which Jesus Christ is central. Man is not central in the first four verses of this epistle; the Lord Jesus Christ is central. It is His righteousness which saves us (verse 1). It is through knowing Him that grace and peace are multiplied to us (verse 2). It is His divine power which grants us everything necessary for life and godliness. True knowledge comes through Him who called us (verse 3). His precious and magnificent promises enable us to become partakers of the divine nature (verse 4).
The false gospels of the false teachers seek to turn us from Christ to something or someone else:
11 But I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity [of devotion] to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3).
1 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf, and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and [attaining] to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, [resulting] in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, [that is,] Christ [Himself], 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I say this in order that no one may delude you with persuasive argument. 5 For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ. 6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, [so] walk in Him, 7 having been firmly rooted [and now] being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, [and] overflowing with gratitude. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ (Colossians 2:1-8).
In these four verses, Peter presents the Lord Jesus as much more than a mere man. He is Peter’s Lord and Master, the One whom he serves (verse 1). He is not only a messenger of God, He is God. He has divine power (verse 3) and the divine nature (verse 4). He is God, “our God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (verse 1).20
(3) Peter’s gospel proclaims a salvation which rests on the righteousness of God, made available to sinful men in the person and work of Christ (verse 1). Man’s problem is his sin, his unrighteousness, which has brought him under the condemnation of a holy God (see Romans 3:23; 6:23). Peter writes here of the “corruption that is in the world through lust” (verse 4). No man can meet the divine standard of righteousness, for there is none righteous, not even one (Romans 3:10). God’s provision for sinful man is in Jesus Christ. He died in the sinner’s place, bearing the penalty for man’s sins. More than this, He offers the sinner His righteousness, so that we might be justified in God’s sight. This salvation is available to all who trust in Him, by faith (Romans 3:21-26).
(4) Peter’s gospel is the manifestation of sovereign grace. Nowhere is these verses does Peter speak of what we do to merit God’s salvation. He speaks of God’s grace and of His sufficient provision for our salvation in Christ. This passage has nothing to say about man’s contribution and everything to say about God’s perfection, power, and provision. The righteousness of which we partake is the righteousness of God in Christ which was bestowed upon us (verse 1). It was not that we sought after God (see Romans 3:11), but that God chose us, sought us, and “called us by His own glory and excellence” (verse 3).
Our salvation is a faith we have “received” (verse 1). The word “received” is the translation of a somewhat unusual term found only four times in the New Testament. It is an expression which gives no credit to the recipient of divine blessings. The term refers to a selection by the casting of lots. Note other passages where this term is used:
Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense (Luke 1:9-10, NIV, emphasis mine).
“Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it” (John 19:24, NIV, emphasis mine).
If one were elected to office by a landslide vote, the winner might take pride in his election. But when one wins the lottery, the winner is elated at the victory but should feel no sense of pride in the outcome. His winning had nothing to do with him, his merit, or his worth. It simply fell to his lot to win. So it is with our “reception” of the gospel. It was given to us by grace so we could take no pride in it (see Romans 3:27; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31; 4:7).
(5) Peter’s gospel is available to the whole world; it is not an exclusive gospel available only to the Jews. Peter writes that we have received “a faith that is of the same kind as ours” (verse 1). This unfortunately is not a very good translation, as one can see from the rendering of this text in other versions:
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 (2 Peter 1:1, KJV, emphasis mine).
1 Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours (2 Peter 1:1, NIV, emphasis mine).
The emphasis does not seem to be that the recipients of this epistle share the same kind of faith (as opposed to the false “faith” of the false teachers). The emphasis seems to be the quality of faith they share. The “us” would therefore seem to be (1) the apostles, (2) the Jewish saints, or (3) both. These Gentile saints are not second class citizens; they are full-fledged members of the household of faith, a truth Paul emphasizes in his epistle to the Ephesians:
11 Therefore remember, that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” [which is] performed in the flesh by human hands—12 [remember] that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both [groups into] one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, [which is] the Law of commandments [contained] in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, [thus] establishing peace, 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. 17 AND HE CAME AND PREACHED PEACE TO YOU WHO WERE FAR AWAY, AND PEACE TO THOSE WHO WERE NEAR; 18 for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20 having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner [stone], 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:11-22).
As seen in Acts 10 and 11, and again in chapter 15, this lesson did not come easily to Peter nor to the Jewish saints in Jerusalem.22 It is a lesson Peter momentarily forgot, one he was reminded of by Paul in Galatians 2:
11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he [began] to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. 13 And the rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how [is it that] you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews? 15 We [are] Jews by nature, and not sinners from among the Gentiles; 16 nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified. 17 But if, while seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have also been found sinners, is Christ then a minister of sin? May it never be! 18 For if I rebuild what I have [once] destroyed, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the Law I died to the Law, that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the [life] which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God; for if righteousness [comes] through the Law, then Christ died needlessly” (Galatians 2:11-21).
The gospel knows of no second-class citizens in the kingdom of God. This is because salvation is by grace and not of works. All men stand equal before God, because it is His righteousness in Christ which saves us and not our own righteousness.
(6) Peter’s gospel does not promise men everything they want or think they need; it does promise them all they truly need, in Christ (verse 2). The false teachers promise people what they want in the flesh:
1 I solemnly charge [you] in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season [and] out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but [wanting] to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths (2 Timothy 4:1-4; see also 2 Corinthians 2:17; 4:1-2; 2 Timothy 3:1-7; Jude 4, 16, 18).
The gospel turns men from sin to righteousness. Unlike the false teachers, who turn the grace of God into a pretext for sin (Jude 4), Peter speaks of salvation as a deliverance: “… having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust” (verse 4).
The “needs” of the flesh are deceptive and corrupt and can be characterized as “lusts.” Their end is corruption and death. False teachers speak of God as the great “need-meeter,” as the One who “is there for us,” eager and ready to satisfy our fallen desires. Peter speaks of God as all-sufficient who has made provision for all our true needs. The provisions of which Peter speaks are:
(7) The gospel Peter speaks of is a gospel which transforms men. Comparing the Peter we find in the Gospels and the new Peter we find in Acts and Peter’s epistles, we can readily see Peter was transformed by the gospel of which he writes. The man who once argued with his peers about who was the greatest now speaks of himself as a bond-servant of Christ (verse 1). The man who sought to rebuke his Lord and to prevent Him from suffering is now the man who writes of the glory of His suffering, and ours as well (see 1 Peter). The man who would not evangelize Gentiles (see Acts 10 and 11) and thought of Gentile converts as second-class saints (see Galatians 2:11-21) now speaks of them as equals (2 Peter 1:1). Peter indeed was not the same man we saw in the Gospels; Peter was transformed by the gospel.
The gospel did not just transform Peter; the gospel is the means by which God intends to transform every believer. It delivers us from the “corruption that is in the world through lust” and transforms us into the image of our Lord, so that we become partakers of His divine nature (verse 4). This is the teaching of Paul and John as well:
11 And He gave some [as] apostles, and some [as] prophets, and some [as] evangelists, and some [as] pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all [aspects] into Him, who is the head, [even] Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. 17 This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality, for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. 20 But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in [the likeness of] God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth (Ephesians 4:11-24, emphasis mine).
29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined [to become] conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren (Romans 8:29, emphasis mine).
2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is (1 John 3:2, emphasis mine; see also 2 Corinthians 3:18; 1 Peter 1:14-16).
(8) The gospel according to Peter leads to discipleship. The gospel is about man’s deficiencies and God’s sufficiency. It is about God’s provisions for life and godliness which men accept as a gift of grace, in Christ. Men contribute absolutely nothing to their salvation, for it is the work of God in Christ. While men may not strive to contribute to their salvation, they are challenged to strive to grow in their Christian walk as disciples of our Lord. The gospel of verses 1-4 is the basis for Peter’s charge in verses 5-7. God is the One who sets the lost and undeserving on the path of salvation. This path becomes for the believer a path of discipleship, where we diligently strive to please Him as we appropriate the resources He has provided.
The “false gospel” of the false teachers leads to a life of self-indulgence; the gospel of the apostles leads to self-discipline and self-denial. Those who have trusted in Him who died on the cross are those who are willing to take up their own cross to follow Him.
24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body (which is the church) in filling up that which is lacking in Christ’s afflictions (Colossians 1:24).
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, [it is] the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, that no one should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:8-10).
That which stands out clearly in our text is the deficiency of man and the sufficiency of God. Man is unrighteous; God is righteous and He offers righteousness to men in Christ. Man is corrupted by worldly lusts; God is holy and offers men the opportunity to become partakers in the divine nature. We have nothing God needs or wants from us regarding our standing righteously before Him. And we have nothing which God does not have and which He has not made available to us. The gospel is about our need and God’s provision, in Christ.
Closely related to the emphasis on man’s poverty and God’s provisions is the important role of knowledge. Knowledge is referred to in verses 2, 3, 5, 6, and 8. Whenever man departs from God and from divine revelation, he is ignorant. Ignorance is the opposite of knowledge, and it is deadly. Peter told the Jews that when they murdered and disowned the Holy and Righteous One, the Prince of life, they acted in ignorance (Acts 3:14-17). Likewise, the idolatry of the pagan Athenians was ignorant (Acts 17:23, 30). Paul speaks of the ignorant unbelief of the Jews (Romans 10:3) and of his own ignorance as a persecutor of the church (1 Timothy 1:13). Peter has written in his first epistle that ignorance is evident in conforming to one’s lusts, while implying that knowledge leads to obedience (1 Peter 1:14). Peter also indicates that the resistance of unbelievers springs from ignorance (1 Peter 2:15). Later in 2 Peter we are told that false teachers are willfully ignorant of the reality of divine judgment in history (2 Peter 3:5). Ignorance is not bliss; it is death.
The New Testament instructs us that the cure for ignorance is knowledge. Let us note the emphasis on knowledge in verses 2, 3, 5, 6, 8. I take this to be doctrinal knowledge, for it certainly is knowledge of God and knowledge from God. It is scriptural knowledge, and it is true knowledge as opposed to false knowledge. This is the knowledge that protects the believer from false teachers and their teaching.
This knowledge is also the means by which grace and peace are multiplied to us (2 Peter 1:2). Everything pertaining to life and godliness is granted to us through the knowledge of Him who called us (1:3). Knowledge is one of the virtues the Christian should diligently pursue (1:5, 6).
The knowledge of which Peter writes is the knowledge of God as taught by the divinely revealed Word of God. It is also doctrinal knowledge, a propositional knowledge. Some tell us they do not worship doctrine—they worship Jesus. But, apart from doctrine, we cannot know which Jesus we worship. The maturing Christian is marked by his knowledge of God through the Scriptures (see Ephesians 1:15-23; 4:13; Philippians 1:9; Colossians 1:9-10; 2:2; 3:10; 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Timothy 2:25; 3:7; Titus 1:1).
Knowledge can be perverted so that it becomes the enemy of love (see 1 Corinthians 8:1). Ideally, knowledge informs and regulates love (Philippians 1:9) and promotes godly living (Colossians 1:9-10). Godly teaching and instruction leads to love (1 Timothy 1:5). We also see from the Scriptures that knowledge of God leads to intimate fellowship with God:
10 That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death (Philippians 3:10).
I ask you, my friend, do you “know God,” or are you still ignorant? The way to know God is through His written Word and through the Word Incarnate, Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us about God, and the Lord Jesus revealed God to us in human flesh. He is God, manifested in human flesh; He died in our place and suffered the penalty for our sins. He is the righteous One who offers His righteousness to all who believe in Him, by faith. To know Christ is to know God and to have eternal life.
If you are a Christian, my question to you is a bit different. Are you growing in your knowledge of Christ? Do you know more of Him today than when you first believed? Is your walk with Him more intimate than before? Is there evidence of continued growth in your life? There should be. Our God is infinite, and our knowledge of Him in this life will never be complete. But we should be constantly growing as we feast on His Word and fellowship with other believers.
This message is about the gospel, as defined by Peter and the apostles. If you are a Christian, you may think you have already dealt with the gospel and therefore you do not have to consider this message. This is wrong thinking. The gospel is not just the truth we believe. It is not just the truth we proclaim to the lost. The gospel is the truth we live here on earth:
6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, [so] walk in Him (Colossians 2:6).
Because the gospel is the truth, it is under constant attack by Satan, by our culture, and by false teachers. Consequently, we are inclined to forget the importance of the gospel and slowly drift away from it. For this reason, both Peter and Paul felt it necessary to remind Christians about the central truths of the gospel. Peter writes in his second epistle:
12 Therefore, I shall always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you [already] know [them], and have been established in the truth which is present with [you.] 13 And I consider it right, as long as I am in this [earthly] dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 knowing that the laying aside of my [earthly] dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. 15 And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you may be able to call these things to mind (2 Peter 1:12-15).
And Paul writes to the Philippians:
This is one of the reasons we at Community Bible Chapel believe the Lord instructed us to remember Him weekly by commemorating His death at the Lord’s Table (see Luke 22:14-20; Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:17-34). May each of us be challenged to never allow this celebration to become routine or mere tradition. May the truths of the gospel never cease to warm our hearts, filling them with gratitude and praise toward Him who loved us and gave Himself for us. And may we grow in the “knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord 3 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” (2 Peter 2b, 3).
20 Even Barclay emphasizes the claim to Christ’s deity in this text: “The Authorized Version translates, ‘the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ,’ as if this referred to two persons, God and Jesus; but, as Moffatt and the Revised Standard Version both show, in the Greek there is only one person involved and the phrase is correctly rendered our God and Saviour Jesus Christ. Its great interest is that it does what the New Testament very, very seldom does. It calls Jesus God. The only real parallel to this is the adoring cry of Thomas: ‘My Lord and my God’ (John 20:28).” William Barclay, The Letters of James and Peter (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, [rev. ed], 1976. The Daily Study Bible Series, p. 294.
22 Barclay comments on the uniqueness of the name “Symeon” found only in 2 Peter 2:1 and in Acts 15: “What has this to do with the name Symeon, by which Peter is here called? In the New Testament, he is most often called Peter; he is fairly often called Simon, which was, indeed his original name before Jesus gave him the name of Cephas or Peter (John 1:41, 42); but only once in the rest of the New Testament is he called Symeon. It is in the story of that Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15 which decided that the door of the Church should be opened wide to the Gentiles. There James says, ‘Symeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name’ (Acts 15:14). In this letter which begins with greetings to the Gentiles who have been granted by the grace of God privileges of equal citizenship in the kingdom with the Jews and with the apostles Peter is called by the name of Symeon; and the only other time he is called by that name is when he is the principal instrument whereby that privilege is granted.” Barclay, p. 292.
23 The term Peter uses for “life” here is found 134 times in the New Testament in the King James Version. Of these 134 occurrences, hardly more than a half dozen speak of “life” in terms of physical, earthly life. Almost always they speak of “life” in its fullest sense--eternal life in Jesus Christ. And so Peter is here assuring us that the gospel is the promise of all that we need for true “life,” life in Christ. The following verses emphasize the eternal or spiritual dimensions of true life which comes from God by faith: Luke 12:15; 21:16-18; John 5:24-26, 39-40; 6:27, 33, 35, 54, 63, 68; 8:12; 10:10; 11:25; 12:25, 50; 21:30; Acts 2:28; 3:15; 5:20; 2 Corinthians 4:10; Galatians 6:8; Ephesians 4:8; Colossians 3:4; 1 Timothy 4:8; 2 Timothy 1:1; Titus 1:2; 3:7; James 1:12; 1 John 1:1, 2; 3:14, 15; 5:11, 12, 13, 16, 29; Jude 21; Revelation 2:7, 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 22:1, 2, 14, 17, 19.