Notes on 2 Peter 1:1-9
by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)
2 Peter 1:1, KJV 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:
Simon Peter begins this letter by calling himself a servant (slave) and apostle of Jesus Christ. In his first letter he listed a number of regions or areas in Asia Minor, modern day Turkey, but in this letter he simply addresses it to believers everywhere. He also reminds them—and us—that faith comes through Jesus Christ God’s righteousness alone, nothing we did or ever have done.
2 Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,
He next gives a common greeting, wishing each believer would have grace and peace multiplied unto them. Peter had seen the Lord multiply fish and bread at least twice before, at the feeding of the Five Thousand and later the Four Thousand, and must have known that the Lord could also multiply grace and peace to each believer.
3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that (pertain) unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:
Note that Peter mentions godliness and glory in this verse. He’ll use them again in the next verses. He also speaks of how the Lord gave all things for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him.
4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
He uses the word “precious” again in this verse, the second time in this chapter alone. Then, he reminds the readers that the Lord gave great and precious promises.
5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
Several years ago, a pastor gave a Sunday evening series of messages, based on this and the next two verses, called “Lessons from a Math Teacher” because Peter used the word “add” several times. He starts by encouraging the readers to “give all diligence (probably, give it your very best)” to start with faith and add virtue and then knowledge. Note the order, how that faith is the foundation here and virtue comes next, followed by knowledge.
6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
“Temperance” has come to mean something different than in the 1600’s, when the King James Version of the Bible was translated. For a good number of years, “temperance” was associated with the avoidance of using alcoholic beverages-witness the “Women’s Christian Temperance Union” and similar groups
which tried to reduce, if not eliminate, alcoholic beverages. The word Peter used in this verse could be translated “self-control” per http://www.dictionary.com.
Again note the order: knowledge, then self-control. Paul had said “Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth (1 Cor 8:1)”. Also, knowledge is not necessarily the same thing as wisdom. After self-control, each believer is encouraged to add patience and then godliness. Peter might well have known how important each step was: in the garden, before Jesus was captured, Peter had enough self-control to keep his sword to himself but eventually he ran out of patience and struck, probably, the first person he saw. And he could not possibly have practiced “godliness” at that point—but see the first few chapters of Acts!7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
“Charity” was an older way of expressing love. Peter saves this quality for last, after adding several other qualities to “faith”. The reader is encouraged to study these qualities in more depth. Paul had also written in 1 Corinthians 13 that if he didn’t have “charity”—love—anything he did was worthless.8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make (you that ye shall) neither (be) barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is an often overlooked verse. When believers have these qualities and abound in them, they will not be barren nor unfruitful. Peter may have had in mind the Lord’s first parable in Matthew 13:3-9, and later explained by the Lord Himself in Matthew 13:18-23. Now Peter applies this figure of speech to those who have the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.9 But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.
Peter may have two different groups of people in mind. The unsaved could not possibly have the same qualities as believers. Some unbelievers may have similar characteristics, but not the same as those provided by the Lord to believers. That is one reason why the unsaved are blind and can see nothing.
The more likely view is that Peter is speaking to believers who, for whatever reason, have not “added” these qualities to their faith. For anyone to forget being purged or forgiven from his old sins is not something to be taken lightly. This may be a parallel to I Corinthians 3 where Paul told them that he had to feed them with milk, and not meat (stronger food), because they had not grown in the faith.
It still is a fearful question: have I ever forgotten that my sins were purged from me?
Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV)