The Agora
Bible Commentary
2 Peter

1 2 3

2 Peter 1

2Pe 1:1

See Lesson, 2Pe, overview.

SIMON PETER: The writer could hardly have stated his identity more clearly than he did in this verse. "Simon" was Peter's Hebrew name, and "Peter" is the Greek translation of the nickname Cephas ("Rocky," cf Mat 16:18). "Double names like 'Simon Peter' were common in the ancient Near East. Many people used both the name they were given in their native language and a Greek name, since Greek was so widely spoken" (Moo).

This is the only NT epistle in which the writer identified himself with a double name. Peter may have done this to suggest the two aspects of his life, before and after discipleship to Jesus Christ (WHGT). Peter called for discipleship in this letter and referred to the changes that it produces in Christians (eg, vv 4-11).

A SERVANT... OF JESUS CHRIST: There is only one Peter in the NT. He regarded himself first as a bond-slave (Gr "doulos") of Jesus Christ and secondarily as His apostle (cf Rom 1:1; Tit 1:1). This description emphasizes submission and dependence on their Lord. It is not a technical reference to a specific office, but characterizes their willing service of Christ, their divine Master. The same designation appears in the letters of James, 2Pe, and Jude. ("Bond-slave" is the NT equivalent of the OT "servant".)

Man's slave becomes free in Christ, and a freeman (like Paul) becomes Christ's slave (1Co 7:22).

The use of the term "slaves" also suggests the "redemptive" work of God in Christ: the Israelites were "slaves" in Egypt, who were "bought" or "redeemed" out of their slavery to become the "purchased possession" of the Father (Exo 15:16). (See Lesson, Redemption.)

APOSTLE OF JESUS CHRIST: Peter did not mention his apostolic authority in his salutation in 1Pe, but in this epistle he dealt with false teachers. His readers needed to remember that what they were reading came from an apostle and was authoritative.

Peter's "precious" things: trials (1Pe 1:7), blood of Christ (1Pe 1:18,19), the cornerstone (of Christ) (1Pe 2:4,6), Christ himself (1Pe 2:7), faith (2Pe 1:1), and the great promises (2Pe 1:4).

OUR GOD AND SAVIOR: Some mss have "our Lord (kyrios) and Saviour". But even if it be conceded that Jesus may here be referred to as "God", this need not mean that he is anything like the "second person" of the "Trinity". Rather, he is the perfect manifestation, in the flesh of humanity, of the Father who begat him: "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father... Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?" (Joh 14:9,10). See Lesson, Jesus as "God"?

HAVE RECEIVED: Lit, 'have obtained by lot' (sw Luk 1:9; Joh 19:24; cp Act 1:17). So is this chance only? Of course not. The Biblical ref is to the Urim and Thummim, by which divine decision is communicated.

2Pe 1:2

GRACE AND PEACE BE YOURS IN ABUNDANCE: The first half of Peter's benediction on his readers is identical with the one he gave in his first epistle (1Pe 1:2). Grace and peace were the typical greetings the Greeks and Jews used respectively. This probably suggests that Peter wrote this letter to a mixed audience of Christians as he did his former letter.

THROUGH THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD AND OF JESUS OUR LORD: Both grace and peace come to us through the full knowledge (Gr "epignosei") of God and of Jesus. The Greeks prided themselves on their knowledge, but Peter noted that knowledge of God and Jesus was the key to grace and peace (cf 2Pe 3:18). These blessings become ours as we get to know God intimately by reading His Word and abiding in Him. The false teachers could offer nothing better than this.

"In our day we are rightly warned about the danger of a sterile faith, of a 'head' knowledge that never touches the heart. But we need equally to be careful of a 'heart' knowledge that never touches the head!" (Moo).

2Pe 1:3

HIS DIVINE POWER HAS GIVEN US EVERYTHING WE NEED FOR LIFE AND GODLINESS: Meaning "a godly life." The resources of God's Spirit-derived Word are available to us through full knowledge (cf v 2) of Jesus Christ, namely through an ongoing relationship with him (cf Phi 4:13; Col 2:9,10; 2Ti 1:7). Peter's point was that there is nothing that all believers need to become more godly that God has not already made available to us. Some people, for various reasons, need more specialized help in dealing with the obstacles to godly living that they face, which psychology may provide. Nevertheless, no one can get along without God's provisions to make progress in godliness.

"We may have as much of God as we will. Christ puts the key of the treasure-chamber into our hand, and bids us take all that we want. If a man is admitted into the bullion vault of a bank and told to help himself, and comes out with one cent, whose fault is it that he is poor?" (MacL).

Believers are called to: liberty (Gal 5:13); blessing (1Pe 3:9); peace (1Co 7:15); and glory (2Pe 1:3).

2Pe 1:4

Promises = Gen 3:15; Adam and Eve desired to "participate in the divine nature" -- ie, to be like the Elohim.

Peter's "precious" things: trials (1Pe 1:7), blood of Christ (1Pe 1:18,19), the cornerstone (of Christ) (1Pe 2:4,6), Christ himself (1Pe 2:7), faith (2Pe 1:1), and the great promises (2Pe 1:4).

"Partakers" / "sharers": of root and fatness of olive tree (Rom 11:17), of spiritual things (Rom 15:27), of one bread (1Co 10:17), of sufferings and consolation (2Co 1:7), of God's promise in Christ (Eph 3:6), of inheritance of saints (Col 1:12), of heavenly calling (Heb 3:1), of Christ (Heb 3:14), of the benefit (1Ti 6:2), of the glory (1Pe 5:1), and of the divine nature (2Pe 1:4).

YOU MAY PARTICIPATE IN THE DIVINE NATURE: "Faith such as Abraham had, gives a believer a right to eternal life. Before he died he differed from all natural men, in that he was 'filled with the knowledge of the Deity's will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; and became 'a partaker of the divine nature' in a MORAL sense; in this sense also he was a spiritual man" (Eur 2:250).

AND ESCAPE THE CORRUPTION IN THE WORLD: Why such a dissonant phrase here, in a glorious and positive and elevated statement? Possible the writer has in mind Abraham and Lot (related to the great promises in Gen 12; 13) -- and this naturally leads him to think of Lot escaping the corrupt environment of Sodom (as in Gen 19).

THE CORRUPTION IN THE WORLD CAUSED BY EVIL DESIRES: "Banish for ever all thought of indulging the flesh if you would live in the power of your risen Lord. It were ill that a man who is alive in Christ should dwell in the corruption of sin. 'Why seek ye the living among the dead?' said the angel to Magdalene. Should the living dwell in the sepulchre? Should divine life be immured in the charnel house of fleshly lust? How can we partake of the cup of the Lord and yet drink the cup of Belial? Surely, believer, from open lusts and sins you are delivered: have you come forth from the lust of pride? Have you escaped from slothfulness? Have you clean escaped from carnal security? Are you seeking day by day to live above worldliness, the pride of life, and the ensnaring vice of avarice? Remember, it is for this that you have been enriched with the treasures of God. If you be indeed the chosen of God, and beloved by Him, do not suffer all the lavish treasure of grace to be wasted upon you. Follow after holiness; it is the Christian's crown and glory" (CHS).

2Pe 1:5

Vv 5-7: Spiritual growth calls for strenuous effort. Spirituality, then, is a choice. It does not come automatically or inevitably. We should not infer that before we can work on the third virtue we must master the second, and so on. This literary device simply arranges the virtues in a random order but presents them so each one receives emphasis. The total effect is to create the impression of growing a healthy tree, for example, in which several branches are vital.

"Peter was certainly a spiritual realist even if many modern theologians are not. He does not take it for granted that spiritual growth will occur automatically or inevitably. Indeed, the character development he thinks of cannot occur apart from the believer 'giving all diligence' toward that end (v 5). This does not mean, of course, that the believer does this all on his own. God supplies the basic resources and provides help along the way. But Christian growth will not occur apart from our diligent participation in the process. If we learn nothing else from this passage, we must learn this. We do not passively experience Christian growth, but actively pursue it!" (Hodges).

Add to your faith (the faith of Abraham) the virtue of Joseph; and to virtue the knowledge of Solomon; and to knowledge the temperance of Samuel; and to temperance the patience of Job; and to patience the godliness of Daniel; and to godliness the brotherly kindness of Jonathan, and to brotherly kindness the charity ('agape' = love) of John.

MAKE EVERY EFFORT: "While faith turns a sinner into a saint, obedience only will secure a saint's acceptance at the judgment seat of Christ; a disobedient saint will be rejected more decisively than even an unjustified sinner" (RR).

ADD: "To translate the word 'epichoreogesati' by the rather colourless 'add' is to expose one of the less inspired moments of King James' men. A 'choregos' was a worthy citizen who, when called upon by the state, would readily come forward with the cash to furnish a public occasion with a 'chorus'. From this the verb 'choregeo' came to describe any act of munificence freely offered over and above one's obligation. The more emphatic 'epichoregeo' underlines the liberality behind such fine uncalled-for public gestures. An admirable illustration is provided by the LXX use of this eloquent word in 1Ki 4:7,27 to describe how the tribes of Israel showed their loyalty to Solomon by their willingness to provide beyond their ordinary civic responsibilities for a lavish provision at the king's court... Thus it becomes clear that Peter's call is for a display of these lovely characteristics, not as a means to salvation, but as a glad acknowledgment before God and men that such salvation has been embraced with gladness and ever-growing thankfulness" (WPet).

FAITH: Notice that faith cannot be added; it is there at the beginning; it is the foundation for all else that follows.

GOODNESS: "Virtue" (KJV). "Moral excellence" (Gr "areten") is virtue or goodness (v 3; cf 1Pe 2:9). Moral purity and uprightness of character through obedience to God are in view. This term (Gr "arete") describes anything that fulfills its purpose or function properly. In this context it means a Christian who fulfills his or her calling (ie, Mat 28:19,20; etc).

KNOWLEDGE: "Knowledge" (Gr gnosis) refers to acquired information. In particular the Christian needs to know all that God has revealed in His Word, not just the gospel (cf Mat 28:19-20). "Gnosis" here is the wisdom and discernment which the Christian needs for a virtuous life and which is progressively acquired. It is practical rather than purely speculative wisdom (cf Phi 1:9).

It is certainly true that a form of knowledge must PRECEDE any faith, but Peter's stress here is on continuing to acquire FURTHER knowledge, about God's Word and God's purpose.

2Pe 1:6

SELF-CONTROL: "Self-control" (Gr "egkrates" = lit, 'holding oneself in') means mastery of self, disciplined moderation, controlling one's desires and passions (cf Pro 16:32; 25:28; Acts 24:25; 1Co 9:24-27; Gal 5:23; Phi 3:12-16; 1Ti 4:7-8; Jam 4:17). Many of the early Christian heresies taught that since the body was evil (they claimed) it was not necessary to curb fleshly lusts, only to think correctly. "Any religious system which claims that religious knowledge emancipates from the obligations of morality is false" (Hiebert).

PERSEVERANCE: "Perseverance" is the need to keep on keeping on in spite of adversity. It is patient endurance in holiness when we encounter temptation to give in or to give up (cf Rom 5:3,4; 15:4,5; 2Co 1:6; 6:4; Col 1:11; 1Th 1:3; 2Th 1:4; Jam 1:3). The Greek word ("hupomone") literally means to remain under something such as a heavy load. "Many folk have the wrong concept of what patience really is. They think it means sitting in a traffic jam on the freeway in the morning without worrying about getting to work. Well, that is not patience. It just gives you an excuse for being late to work. Patience is being able to endure when trials come" (McGee). The word, says HAW, describes "the tenacity of a bulldog, to doggedness of a weary cross-country runner, the cheerfulness of stricken cancer patient" (WPet).

GODLINESS: The Gr "eusebeia" refers to behavior that reflects the character of God (cf v 3; 2Pe 3:11; etc). It presupposes a desire to please God in all the relationships of life. It has been called "the practice of the presence of God".

2Pe 1:7

BROTHERLY KINDNESS: This expression of true piety toward God has its corresponding effect upon one believer's relationship toward another: love to God and love to neighbor are intended to go in tandem (Mark 12:30,31; John 13:34). Hence next in Peter's catalogue is "philadelphia" -- brotherly kindness, love of other believers. The knowledge of God leads to the love of other believers (1Jo 4:7-20). "Philadelphia" denotes the warmth of affection that should characterize the fellowship of believers.

LOVE: And that leads straight on to the heart of Christian living for Peter and for all NT writers: the exercise of "agape", the expression of Christian love to all. The Greek word is virtually unknown before the church consecrated its use to mean God's love revealed in Jesus Christ, and the Christian's grateful response to God in molding his or her attitude toward fellow believers. "Agape" is the queen of the virtues (cf 1Co 13) and denotes self-sacrificing action in behalf of another. This love flows from God who is Himself love ("agape" in 1Jo 4:8) and reaches the world (John 3:16; 1Jo 3:16).

2Pe 1:8

V 8 runs on smoothly from v 4, and vv 5-7 are a parenthesis (WPet).

IF YOU POSSESS THESE QUALITIES IN INCREASING MEASURE: Not necessarily the developing character as described in vv 5-7, but more esp the unmerited "very great and precious promises", received in faith, of v 4.

INEFFECTIVE AND UNPRODUCTIVE: "Barren" and "unfruitful". Part of a sustained allusion to those who originally received the great and precious promises: first of all, here, the barrenness of Sarah and Rebekah and Rachel. Then, continuing with the "nearsighted" and "blind" of Leah and Isaac, in v 9.

2Pe 1:9

NEARSIGHTED: Gr "myopazo". Such people show concern about living for the present with little regard for the future (cf Esau). James called this dead faith (Jam 2:17,26).

HE IS NEARSIGHTED AND BLIND: Cp with Book of Enoch: "And I saw the sheep till they departed from amongst the wolves; but the eyes of the wolves were blinded, and those wolves departed in pursuit of the sheep... And as touching all this the eyes of those sheep were blinded so that they saw not, and (the eyes of) their shepherds likewise; and they delivered them in large numbers to their shepherds for destruction, and they trampled the sheep with their feet and devoured them. And the Lord of the sheep remained unmoved till all the sheep were dispersed over the field and mingled with the beasts, and the shepherds did not save them out of the hand of the beasts. And this one who wrote the book carried it up, and showed it and read it before the Lord of the sheep, and implored Him on their account, and besought Him on their account as he showed Him all the doings of the shepherds, and gave testimony before Him against all the shepherds" (89:24,74-77).

AND HAS FORGOTTEN THAT HE HAS BEEN CLEANSED FROM HIS PAST SINS: Continuing the allusions from v 8... perhaps those who, like Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, forget in moments of danger or crisis, their regenerated states, and thus engaging in activities not in keeping with the grace that had been shown them: ie, in the courts of Pharaoh and Abimelech, and the household of Laban.

2Pe 1:10

MAKE YOUR CALLING AND ELECTION SURE: "In the race for life eternal, there are many things lawful enough in the abstract; but that viewed in relation to the object to be attained, are highly inexpedient, and to be 'laid aside', as Paul advises. It is a simple, and a safe and a reasonable, and a wise rule, and one that will give us much cause for joy at the last, to dispense with every habit or pleasure, or practice, or occupation, or friend that hinders our progress in the narrow way. This is but another way of saying what Christ said: 'If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out. It is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into the fire of Gehenna.' It is better to make our calling and election sure, at the expense of worldly friends and engagements and advantages, than to secure all these, in this present time, and find, at last, that we have cherished them at the expense of Christ's approbation, and have to pay for them with the loss of the kingdom of God" (SC 61).

2Pe 1:11

YOU WILL RECEIVE: Or "shall be ministered unto you" -- the sw "epichoreogesati" of v 5.

2Pe 1:12

SO I WILL ALWAYS REMIND YOU OF THESE THINGS, EVEN THOUGH YOU KNOW THEM: In view of what he had written to this point, Peter explained that he realized his previous words were a reminder to his readers, not new instruction. Vv 3-11 contain basic Christian life truth. His readers had heard this previously, but they, as all believers, needed a reminder of it periodically so they would not forget (v 9). "We must not glide lightly over Peter's concern about reminding the readers of already known and familiar truth. The history of the Church as a whole shows how careless the Church can be about clinging to divine revelation" (Hodges).

2Pe 1:13

REFRESH YOUR MEMORY: A rather somber allusion to the time when Peter "remembered" too late, that Jesus had told him that he would deny his Master (Mar 14:72). As if to say, 'Remember NOW... before it is too late!'

2Pe 1:14

I WILL SOON PUT IT [THIS BODY] ASIDE: Peter's earthly dwelling (lit, tent) was his physical body (cf 2Co 5:1,4). The Greek word "apothesis" means "a divesting," and it refers elsewhere of removing clothes (Acts 7:58). The Lord Jesus had told Peter that he would end his earthly life as a captive of some kind (John 21:18,19).

2Pe 1:15

AND I WILL MAKE EVERY EFFORT TO SEE THAT AFTER MY DEPARTURE YOU WILL ALWAYS BE ABLE TO REMEMBER THESE THINGS: Peter wrote this epistle so that after his death his exhortation contained in it would be a permanent reminder to his brethren. It was his "testament" (cf 2Ti). Peter regarded this letter as containing very important and helpful information for Christians. What Peter said of the value of this letter applies to the rest of Scripture as well. We too need reminders of what God has revealed. Mark's Gospel may also have been in Peter's mind when he wrote this. There is good evidence that Peter's preaching formed the basis of the second Gospel.

DEPARTURE: "Exodus", as in Luk 9:31; Heb 11:22. Cp Christ's words to Peter in Joh 21:18,19: " 'I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.' Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, 'Follow me!' "

2Pe 1:16

WE DID NOT FOLLOW CLEVERLY INVENTED STORIES WHEN WE TOLD YOU ABOUT THE POWER AND COMING OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST: The apostles had not preached myths to their hearers, as the false teachers to whom Peter referred later in this epistle were doing. The "cleverly invented stories" probably ref to the fancies and fables that fill the bulky volumes of the Talmud.

The "cleverly invented" is sw used to describe the machinations of Pharaoh's advisers in Acts 7:19.

For "coming", see Lesson, "Parousia".

BUT WE WERE EYEWITNESSES OF HIS MAJESTY: The apostles' testimony rested on historical events that they had observed personally. They had seen Jesus' power in action during His first coming as God's anointed Messiah. Jesus Christ's majesty appeared especially clearly on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mat 17:1-8). "Power" and "coming", together, signify "powerful coming" -- with emphasis on the fact that Jesus' coming was with power. This is the only explicit mention of the Transfiguration outside the Synoptic Gospels.

2Pe 1:17

Vv 17,18: The apostles' message was essentially that Jesus was the Christ (ie, God's promised Messiah; cf 1Jo 5:1). God had revealed this clearly at Jesus' transfiguration when He had announced that Jesus was His beloved Son (Mat 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35). Peter referred to that event to establish the credibility of his witness and that of the other apostles. The terms "honor," "glory, "Majestic Glory," and "holy mountain" all enhance the special event that was the Transfiguration.

The author is pointing out to his readers that the Transfiguration, to which the apostles bore witness, is a basis for the expectation of the Parousia.

2Pe 1:19

THE WORD OF THE PROPHETS MADE MORE CERTAIN: Gr "bebaioteron" = a legal term describing confirmation of a formal agreement. How confirmed? (1) by the personal witnesses of Peter, Paul, James, etc, (2) prophecies of the Lord's sufferings, already fulfilled, (c) portions of the Book of Revelation already being fulfilled, and/or (d) the help of Spirit-guided leaders in the Church, now making authoritative interpretation of prophecy more certain.

A LIGHT SHINING IN A DARK PLACE: "Dark place" is the Gr "auchneros" -- describing a squalid miserable place. Used in LXX as a synonym for the wilderness, or desert (1Sa 23:14,15; Heb "midbar"). This usage suggests that the "light", then, is the Shekinah Glory in the pillar of cloud and fire.

UNTIL THE DAY DAWNS AND THE MORNING STAR RISES IN YOUR HEART: Probably, until the coming of the Messiah, in power and glory (v 16; cp Rev 22:16), the believers should follow the lead of the prophets, as Israel was guided by the pillar of God's glory in the wilderness.

"Until I come": put this money to work (Luk 19:13); judge nothing (1Co 4:5); proclaim Lord's death (1Co 11:26); be sincere, without offence (Phi 1:6,10); listen to word (2Pe 1:19); hold fast (Rev 2:25).

"It is testified by the prophet, that 'the Lord God will surely do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.' This revelation is made that his people's faith may be confirmed and enlarged; and that in every generation they may know the times and seasons to which they stand related. Knowing the signs they are enabled to discern the times; and while consternation and dismay cause men's hearts to fail, they are courageous, and rejoice in perceiving the approach of the kingdom of God. This is the proper use of the prophetic word. It was thus that the ancients used it, and were enabled to live in advance of their contemporaries. This appears from the exhortation of the apostle who says, 'We have a sure word of prophecy, whereunto ye do well to take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place until the day dawn and the day-star arise...' Some were not unmindful of this exhortation, which is as applicable to us as to them; for the day has not yet dawned, nor has the day-star arisen" (Elp 289).

2Pe 1:20

INTERPRETATION: Gr "epilusis", from rt "luo" = to loose, or to explain. Or, poss, as RR: "origination", ie sending forth. "Epilusis" means more than just benign Bible study and exegesis -- it implies that some were "determining" the OT in a forceful manner (cp root verb in Act 19:39; Mar 4:34).

While it may be that we use this passage to prove that Scripture is inspired, Peter had another reason for making this point. He says that there is a relationship between the inspiration of Scripture and its interpretation. Because it is inspired we cannot interpret as we wish. Putting it another way, the fact that Scripture is inspired means that we have to let it interpret itself by reference to its different parts.

2Pe 1:21

The inspiration of Scriptures: 2Sa 23:2; Neh 9:30; Luk 1:70; Act 1:16; 3:18; 1Co 14:3; Eph 4:11; Heb 1:1; Jam 5:10.

MEN SPOKE FROM GOD...: "Peter's statement recognizes both the divine and the human element in the production of Scripture. Any balanced doctrine of the origin of Scripture must recognize both" (Hiebert).

CARRIED ALONG: KJV has "moved". Gr "phero" = to bear or carry along, as with an irresistible force (cp Act 27:15,17). "This use of 'phero' had become a kind of technical term in the early church to describe this divine force bearing an inspired writer along. Here are other examples of the same usage in Greek: Acts 2:2; Heb 6:1; 1:3; 1Pe 1:13; 2Pe 1:17,18; 2Jo 1:10" (WPet).

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