2 Peter 1:1-4.
God's Foundation of Grace

Copyright © 2016, Dr. John W. (Jack) Carter.  All rights reserved.
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2 Peter 1:1a.  Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ,

Peter begins this second letter much like he does the first, in the customary form of a first-century Hellenistic letter with the identification of the sender and receiver.  However, like other letters in the New Testament Canon, the introduction contains far more important points than is typical for a secular personal letter as it uses similar forms in a meaningful, way.  As Peter provides his name, he identifies who he is using a self-description that lends authority to the messages to follow in this letter: a bond-slave and apostle of Jesus Christ.

Peter testifies that he is first a servant, doulos, or bond-servant/bond-slave, of Jesus Christ, a description also used by Paul.  A bond-slave is one who chooses to place himself under the complete and uncompromised authority of another to the point that theirs is a master-slave relationship.  This relationship would continue until the bond-servant has received from the Master the full reward for his faithful service, at which point the servant would be set free.  Peter demonstrates in his own life that this is the appropriate relationship between a person of faith and the LORD to whom bond-service is given.  This commitment frees the servant to serve His master without the compromise that would be necessary if he retained a submission to other authorities in his life.  Bond service is not an onerous task, and did not necessarily have any negative connotation to it.  First-century bondservants were often the highest educated and most skilled members of the family group and served as teachers and tutors.  However, a bond-slave was always fully submissive to the master, and answered to no one else. The state of a bond-slave is a metaphor for the relationship that the faithful are to have with their LORD, Jesus Christ.

Paul also describes himself as an Apostle.  The organized church that followed the first-century apostolic age tended to define an apostle as one of the twelve who were personally called by Jesus to follow Him, and often included the Apostle Paul.  The term used here referred to one who was called by the LORD Jesus to proclaim the gospel as it is taken from community to community.  Given this definition, a broader understanding of the term can be used to defend apostolic ministry and the work of those who are given a gift of apostleship.  This gift may apply to many church planters and missionaries today.

Of the books of the New Testament, the identification for the source of 2 Peter is probably characterized by more controversy than any other.  There is a stark contrast in the language used and in the manner that doctrinal points are presented between 1 Peter and 2 Peter.  The common grammar and passages that are shared between 2 Peter and Jude lead many to attribute both letters to the same source.[1]  Some of this controversy may simply be explained by our modern misunderstanding of how ancient letters were written.  It is easier to explain the differences by arguing that they were written by variant authors who used Peter’s name.  However, it is also well-defended that letters were commonly penned by a scribe who might be better trained in the literary arts, an amanuensis who simply took the narration of the author and penned the words in a complete and more formal manner than what was orally dictated.  John Mark or Silas are two possibilities as amanuenses that may have served Peter in this fashion on the first letter, as Silas also assisted Paul on several of his.  It is the opinion of this author that the source of this letter is Peter, the Apostle, surnamed by Jesus Christ and penned by an undetermined amanuensis.

2 Peter 1:1b.  to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:

Like his first letter, this letter is addressed to the church in general, without making a reference to a specific congregation.  Tradition holds that this was a general letter that was shared among several small church groups to help them address some important doctrinal issues that had caused them to fall into controversy.

Peter speaks first to the preciousness of faith.  This sensitivity to the importance of the gospel is something that may have become largely lost in the socially focused churches of today.  Faith for many has been reduced to an experience of “church” once a week with little thought given to the true value, consequences, and the necessity of the holiness of faith.  Peter recognizes that there is nothing in this world as precious as the salvation from eternal separation from God that has been graciously given to those who place their faith in God.  People of faith would gain much if they would appropriate for themselves this same deep sensitivity to the preciousness of faith, a sensitivity that would lead the believer to a deeper relationship with God as their faith becomes a continually greater priority in life.

Paul also speaks of righteousness.  The salvation that comes from faith is not given by God to those who are righteous, but rather to those who cannot possibly find righteousness because of their continual bent to sin and self-centered pride.  Salvation is found only in God’s righteousness.   When we understand our own unrighteousness we find there is no justification for the pride that would build one up to consider themselves better than someone else.  Faith is found in the humility of understanding God’s holiness, greatness, and righteousness that overwhelms our prideful thoughts and actions.

Since we cannot do anything on our own to obtain righteousness, because we can never succeed in living a truly righteous life, we understand that salvation is a gift given by God, not a reward for any work of our own.  It is a precious gift that the faithful must never take for granted.  It is a gift that should lead us, like Peter, to words of thanksgiving and praise.

2 Peter 1:2.  Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,

The first words of this greeting are literally identical to those of the opening of 1 Peter.[2]  We might add to the commentary on 1 Peter that the word grace, charis XE "charis" , is similar to a typical Greek greeting, and the word for peace, eirene, is a Greek transliteration of a typical Hebrew greeting.  By using these together, both Peter and Paul provide a form of a bridge between these two cultures. 

When these two words are used within the Christian context they have a meaning that is far more significant than that which the Greeks or Jews would gather from the similar, more commonly used words.  Peter is specifically referring to the grace that God demonstrated when He “reached down” through time and space to touch the hearts and lives of those who would turn to Him in faith.  This grace is not something that is experienced or fully understood by those who deny the Lordship of Christ. 

Likewise, the peace that Peter refers to is a deep and unique peace that comes from the assurance of salvation, a peace that transcends the chaos of this sinful world, again something that is not experienced or fully understood by those who deny Christ.  For these two benefits to be fully realized in one’s life, it is necessary to turn to God in faith.  Peter’s blessing is a call upon his readers to gain an ever growing realization of that grace and peace as they grow closer and closer to God in their personal relationship with Him.

Peter describes this growth as available to those who continue to gain a greater knowledge of God.  The word for knowledge, epignosis, refers to an intimate knowledge of another that comes from a deep and personal relationship.  Peter’s call upon His readers is that they would receive an ever-increasing blessing of the benefits of grace and peace as their relationship with God continues to grow.

2 Peter 1:3.  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:

The phrase of verse 2 continues into the phrase of verse 3, implying that the former is connected to the latter, with the latter verse exploring some of the benefits that are realized as faith grows.  We have done nothing to deserve these benefits (charis XE "charis" ) and we can realize a great amount of peace (eirene) from knowing that God has provided us with them.

Using a literary form that is similar to an Hellenistic decree,[3] Peter states that the LORD has given unto us everything that we need to know concerning the important things of life, and concerning how to live that life in a godly way.  Though some would try to confuse Trinitarian XE "trinitarian"  doctrine by dividing Christ and God into two separate persons, as one might do through a literal, non-contextual, reading of verse 2, Peter drives quickly home the deity of Christ and the unity of the Trinity when he refers to “His” divine power, no longer separating the persons of God.  There is one LORD (Hebrew, YAHWEH, Jehovah) and He is God.  Though we have seen the LORD through the Father, through the Son, and through the Holy Spirit, both Peter and Paul understand and taught that there is one LORD and He is God.  He is the Father, He is the Son, and He is the Holy Spirit.

Finally, Peter describes the purpose of His giving of us knowledge of life and godliness:  He has called us to a life that is characterized by glory and virtue.  God created mankind for one purpose:  to glorify Him.  Apart from Him, apart from the Holy Spirit, man has no interest or intent upon glorifying God, but rather spends his efforts in self-glorification, relegating his understanding of God to a system of his own, acceptable, design.  To reject the calling to glorify God is to reject God’s purpose for man.  God has given us these resources so that we are empowered to glorify Him.  God is characterized by uncompromised virtue, and the call upon man to glorify Him is also a call to imitate Him through the example of Jesus Christ, living a life of virtue, a virtue that can only be found in a life that is submitted to the power of the Holy Spirit.

2 Peter 1:4.  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.

Peter has just stated that God gives us all things needed for life.  The word, “whereby” links this promise to those who have placed their trust in the LORD.  To these He has given great and precious promises.  What are these promises?  Peter describes the context of these when he states that the faithful find themselves to be (1) partakers, or “partnership with God in the covenant”[4] and in so doing take upon themselves a part of (2) God’s divine nature.  "This divine nature does not refer to an abstract, divine essence or being, but to God’s dynamic character expressed in action in accordance with his promises. Being a fellow participant of this nature refers to taking part in the  realization of the “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells' "[5]  The nature of the faithful Christian becomes in concert with the nature of God.  God breathed an eternal soul into all people, so all have an eternal spirit, a part of man’s nature that separates him from every other being in this cosmos. 

However, when one comes to the LORD a second character of that nature is given:  submission to the Holy Spirit and the impact that His presence has on the believer.  God’s promises to those who receive the Holy Spirit include eternal salvation from the just penalty for their native unrighteousness.  By taking on this nature of God, one has “escaped” the penalty of sin that will be exacted upon the corrupt world, a world that is in rebellion against God.  This passage is in agreement with Paul’s testimony that his salvation is sure, and kept by God.  Salvation is a gift of God, not earned by the cessation of sin, but by one’s placing their trust in Him.  God’s promise to forgive unrighteousness destroys the ability of our natural bent for unrighteousness to separate the believer ever again.  The promise of salvation is arguably the greatest of the precious promises that God has made to those who place their faith and trust in Him.

God’s divine nature also includes His unconditional agape love that is in stark contrast with the conditional phileo and eros love of this corrupt world.  This same nature is made available to every believer, and maturity in the faith is characterized by an ever growing submission to this form of love.

This submission to the Holy Spirit and the appropriation of an agape love for others makes one more like the LORD than like the lost souls of this world.  In this way, truly faithful believers become more and more like Christ as they mature in their faith, in their relationship with Him, and in their understanding of God’s purpose for them.  This process of sanctification should be evident in each believer’s life as they become more and more like God (theiosis).  This is not to say that people will become gods (deification), but rather that they will share in some of the attributes of God’s divine nature.  This change in nature will cause these to be in dramatic contrast to the character of this lost world, and that disparity will be evident to all who choose to make any sincere observation.  If no such change takes place in the life of the believer, the voracity of their profession of faith comes into question.

By sharing in God’s nature, believers have escaped the world’s corruption in that they already belong to God.  However, at death or at the second coming of Christ, believers will completely escape this corruption when all sin and corruption is left behind.  It is difficult to imagine a world or an environment where there is no sin: a place where satan has no influence.  To be in such a place would be to escape all corruption.  To be in such a place is the experience that awaits all true believers following the final judgment.


[1] Mathews, Mark Dewayne. The literary relationship of 2 Peter and Jude: does the synoptic tradition resolve this synoptic problem?  Neotestamentica, 44 no 1 2010, p 66.

[2] 1 Peter 1

[3] Danker, Frederick William.  2 Peter 1: a solemn decree.  The Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 40 no 1 Jan 1978, p 66.

[4] Wolters, Albert M.  'Partners of the deity': a covenantal reading of 2 Peter 1:4.  Calvin Theological Journal, 25 no 1 Apr 1990, p 28

[5] Hafemann, Scott J.  'Divine nature' in 2 Pet 1,4 within its eschatological content.  Biblica, 94 no 1 2013, p 99.