1 Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:
2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. – 2 Peter 1:1-4 ESV
In verse one of chapter three, Peter refers to a previous letter he had written: “This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved.” It is assumed that this second letter was written to the very same group he addressed in 1 Peter. This was a mixed congregation of both Gentiles and Jews who were spread throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. And Peter states his reason for having written both letters: “I have tried to stimulate your wholesome thinking and refresh your memory. I want you to remember what the holy prophets said long ago and what our Lord and Savior commanded through your apostles” (2 Peter 3:1-2 NLT). We’ll unpack that passage when we come to it, but suffice it to say, that Peter was trying to foster a deeper understanding of who Jesus was and how He had fulfilled all that the prophets had written concerning Him. He really was the Son of God, the long-awaited Messiah and the Savior of the world. And, once again, Peter refers to himself as one of His apostles. He had personally called and commissioned by the resurrected Christ, and given the task of taking the good news concerning Jesus to the Gentiles.
Peter addresses his letter to “those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours” (2 Peter 1:1 ESV). Paul is setting himself up as the standard of faith, but simply stating that faith is the common bond we all share. His faith, as an apostle, is no better or greater than that of anyone else. His audience shared a common faith, the same as himself and all the other apostles. And Peter makes it clear that this faith was made possible “by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1 ESV). The apostle Paul provides us with insight into what Peter is saying.
I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. – Philippians 3:9 NLT
For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. – Romans 10:3-4 ESV
Peter wants his readers to know that their faith is in the righteousness of Christ, not their own poor attempt at living righteous lives. They must continue to believe that their right standing with God is not based on their own human effort, but on what Christ accomplished for them on the cross.
And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption… – 1 Corinthians 1:30 ESV
Our faith is in the righteousness of Christ. And Peter, Paul, the rest of the apostles, the recipients of Peter’s letter, and every other individual who has placed their faith in Christ has no reason to think they earned their right standing with God. Paul went on to write, “so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord’” (1 Corinthians 1:31 ESV). And it is our growing understanding of the incredible gift we have received that will result in increased grace and peace. And that was Peter’s prayer.
May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. – 2 Peter 1:2 ESV
That grace and peace grows as our comprehension of God and the gift of His Son, increases in our lives. Rather than worrying and wondering about all that we must do for God, we are to be focused on what He has done for us through Christ. Our salvation was by faith, so is our sanctification – our growth in Christ-likeness. We don’t become more like Christ through human effort, but by faith in the transforming power of God made possible by His indwelling Holy Spirit. And Peter speaks of this power.
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness. – 2 Peter 1:3 ESV
Let that sink in. God has done it all. In his first letter, Peter pointed out that God had chosen them. Their salvation had been His doing, not theirs. God had sent His Son to die for them and God is the one who had chosen them to receive eternal life through His Son. And now, Peter reminds them that all that they will need for living godly lives on this planet comes from God. It comes “through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3 ESV). Godly living is directly tied to our knowledge of Christ. Paul writes, “For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ” (Colossians 2:9-10 NLT). In Christ, we have all we need for living godly lives. We don’t have to manufacture anything. We don’t have to muster up the strength to follow Christ’s example. All that we need comes from and through Christ, which is why Paul could say, “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13 NLT). Paul fully believed that reality. He lived by it. And he would not allow himself to fall back into the trap of trying to live out the Christian life through human effort.
20 My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die. – Galatians 2:20-21 NLT
And Peter says virtually the same thing, reminding his readers that God “has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (2 Peter 1:4 ESV). But what are those “precious and very great promises”? What has God communicated through His prophets and apostles that we can count on and place our hope in when it comes to experiencing an ever-increasing divine nature? One of those promises can be found in Peter’s earlier letter:
3 …because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, 4 and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. – 1 Peter 1:3-4 NLT
We have the promise of an eternal inheritance. It is based on the righteousness of Christ, not our own feeble attempts at living godly lives on our own. Not only that, God has promised to protect us by His power until that inheritance is fully realized.
God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see. – 1 Peter 1:5 NLT
God has promised to give us the “divine nature” of His Son. But it is a gift to be received, not to be earned. The only way we can become more like Christ is because we have “escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire”. In other words, we have been freed from captivity to sin. We are free not to sin, for the first time in our lives, because of what Christ has done for us. We can live godly lives. We are capable of living like Christ. “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life” (2 Peter 1:3 NLT). The point that Peter is trying to make is that our dependency upon God increases over time. He didn’t send His Son to die for us, so that we might then try to live for Him according to our own human effort. His power has been and always will be the key to our spiritual transformation. The apostle Paul points out the non-negotiable nature of this Christ-dependent life:
10 And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. 11 The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.
12 Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. 13 For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. – Romans 8:10-13 NLT
The Spirit of God lives in you. The same incredible power that raised Jesus back to life is available to us each and every day of our lives. But we must live according to that power, not the feeble, sin-marred power of our flesh. Peter wants his readers to look for God for everything they need. It has already been given to them in the form of the Holy Spirit. And it is theirs because of the righteousness imputed to them by Christ that led to their full acceptance by God. The Christian life is not about sinful man attempting to live up to some moral standard on his own in an ill-fated attempt to achieve divine status. It is the work of God. He called us. He saved us. And He is the one who will transform us. All by His divine power. As Paul put it, “I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 NLT).
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.