Summary: Peter’s gospel. Perseverance depends on us working with God, the challenge is to be faithful
2 Peter 1.1-11
Do you remember the Hitler diaries which appeared a few years ago? Or what about those films of Bigfoot? Crop circles? The Da Vinci Code? All pretending to be something they are not. They are fakes masquerading as the genuine article. Peter in his second letter deals with fakes – in his case it is false teachers who claim knowledge of God but whose lifestyles betray them. You see for Peter, and the rest of the NT writers, there was no division between an internalised private faith and the outward public obedience of that faith. Faith was not a private matter to them and it should not be to us either. In this letter, written by the apostle Peter around 63-68AD, Peter directly addresses the consequences of knowing God. In fact on 11 occasions he speaks of ‘knowledge’ in relation to the Christian believer and God.
Verse 1 this is a normal opening to a letter of the first century. You have the author (Peter), his role (a servant and apostle of Christ) and the recipients (various believers). There is obviously an established relationship with these churches as can be seen in 3.1 where Peter writes about a previous letter he has sent to them, which may or may not have been 1 Peter. In verses 13-14 of chapter 1 and verses 1-3 of chapter 2 we can see that the reasons for this letter were that time was short, Peter knows his death is not far off and he wishes to remind the Christian believers of the basics of the faith and to warn them of the dangers of the false teachers who will tempt them to abandon the true gospel for a morally lax one which makes a division between belief and lifestyle practice. In chapter 2 we will examine more closely the false teaching and the consequences of that in the life of the false teachers and the believers if they embrace such a false gospel.
Verse 2 Peter’s concern for them is now expressed in this verse. He wants them to know and experience the continuing grace of God in their lives and the objective reality of peace which comes from such knowledge. Hence he writes both of ‘grace’ (connected with the unfailing love of God) and ‘peace’ be upon them – these two speak of the new covenant relationship with God in Christ. Peter wants them to have knowledge of God and Jesus – this knowledge is not just an intellectual knowledge but also a knowledge which they experience daily in their lives. For Peter, and the rest of the NT, there is not (and there should not be) a division between what the head knows of God and what the heart experiences of God. Knowledge of God is revealed in His Word and rooted in personal faith – both are important in NT Christianity – and therefore should be important in our lives also.
Verses 1-2 have brought greetings and salutations to the believers as well as introducing the purpose of the letter.
Verses 3-11 we have here a summary of Peter’s gospel – no doubt these 8 verses are really a summary of his teaching amongst the believers – if you look at the verses they form a series of headings for sermons. Peter is coming to the end of his life and these are the things he wants the Christians to remember (God’s grace, how to live for Jesus, the eternal kingdom that awaits us all), when he is gone. Peter tells them four things:
1 Christ has provided everything for salvation and life.
2 Christ has made precious promises to us
3 The Christian must know how to respond
4 Christ promises the Christian a rich welcome and inheritance
Verse 3 – Peter reminds the believers that they did not save themselves but that God in Christ called them by his divine power into a relationship with him. Jesus called them to himself and supplied (and continues to supply) everything necessary for the Christian life. He supplies all that is needed for life and godliness – which is the effectual calling of his people. This salvation and continuing grace has been given (note ‘given’) to them (and us) through the knowledge of Christ (both intellectual and experiential) and this calling came through the ‘glory and goodness’ of Christ. It is Christ who calls us into a new covenant relationship with God and it is Christ who sustains us in that relationship. This verse makes it clear to the believers, and to us, that it is all of grace – from calling, to knowledge to perseverance – it is all of Christ’s working in their lives and in ours.
Verse 4 Peter now tells them that ‘through these’ (Christ’s glory and goodness) the believers have received ‘precious promises from God.’ These precious promises have practical implications in their lives – namely purification from sin and a conversion from old ways of life to godliness. Hence at the end of this verse Peter speaks of sharing in the divine nature and of escaping from the evil desires of this world. Peter understands the battle that goes on in the daily life of a believer not to be corrupted by the evil/sinful desires of this world in which we live. Hence he reassures the believers that in Christ Jesus they have received all they need to remain faithful to Christ and to live lives that reflect their new standing before God. Maybe this morning we need that reassurance also.