In his second epistle the apostle Peter addressed himself to the
same believers-Christian Jews scattered throughout Asia Minor-as in his
first. This fact is not directly stated in the opening verses, but 2
Peter 3: 1 makes it quite apparent. In the salutation with which the
Epistle opens he simply describes them as those who had received a like
precious faith to himself "through the righteousness of God and our
Saviour Jesus Christ."
They had believed the gospel just as he had believed it, and such
faith wherever found in the heart is indeed precious. Still the
reference here is to the faith of Christianity which is precious beyond
all words. The Jews religion could not be called
a faith. It began with
sight at Sinai. It consisted in a law of demand coupled with a
of divine service and a worldly sanctuary" (Heb. 9: l)-which was a
shadow of good things to come. They had turned from this, which looked
like the substance but was only the shadow, to embrace the precious
faith of Christ which looks to unbelievers like a shadow, but which is
really the substance.
This precious faith has only come to us by the advent of the Lord
Jesus as Saviour, and He came as the demonstration of the righteousness
our God. The word "our" should be inserted as the margin
of a reference Bible will show, and it is worthy of being noted.
Writing as a converted Jew to converted Jews "our God" would signify
"Israel's God" who had displayed His righteousness in His faithfulness
to His ancient promises and intervened on their behalf, and on ours, by
the sending of the Saviour, as the result of which so precious a faith
Now the Lord Jesus who came as our Saviour, according to verse 1,
also is the Revealer by whom we have the true knowledge of God, as
verse 2 indicates and all grace and peace is enjoyed by us in
proportion as we really know God Himself and the Lord Jesus. Indeed it
is through the knowledge of our Saviour God that all things relating to
life and godliness are ours.
It will help to the understanding of this passage if you begin by noting that:-
1. Verse 3 and the first part of verse 4 speak of things which are given by the power of God to each and every believer.
2. The latter part of verse 4 gives us the object God had in view in what He has given.
3. Verses 5 to 7 indicate the way in which we are responsible to
work out into practical effect that which we have received, so that
God's object is reached. We are to be marked by expansion and growth.
That which "divine power" (verse 3) has given, our "diligence" (verse
5) is to expand.
What has divine power given to us? All things relating to life and
godliness. We have not merely received life but with it all these
things necessary that the new life may be manifested in practical
Christian living and godly behaviour. The Apostle does not stop to
specify the things given save to remind us that we have promises of an
exceedingly great and precious kind. He really uses in fact the
superlative word "greatest," for nothing could surpass the hopes of the
Christian which centre in the coming of the Lord. Still a few moments'
reflection might serve to remind us of
some of the gifts that
divine power has conferred upon us:-the Holy Spirit indwelling us, the
Word of God written for us, the throne of Grace opened to us, to name
but three. We have received however, not
some but ALL things
that have to do with life and godliness. Hence we are sent forth
thoroughly furnished. Nothing is lacking upon God's part.
All these things have reached us through the knowledge of God as the
One who has called us "to" or "by glory and virtue" (See margin). We
are of course called
to glory (See 1 Pet. 5: 10). Here the
point is that both glory and virtue characterize our call. We are
called to live in the energy of that glory which is our destiny and
end, and of that virtue or courage which will carry us through to the
These things, one and all, are ours that by them we might be
"partakers of the divine nature." Every true believer is "born of God"
and in that sense partakes of the divine nature (See 1 John 3: 9);
consequently he does righteousness and walks in love (See 1 John 2: 29,
1 John 3: 10). The meaning of our passage however is not that by the
things given to us we might be born again, for Peter was writing to
those who were already "born again" (1 Pet. 1: 23). It is rather that
by these things we might be led into a practical and experimental
partaking of the divine nature. In one word,
love is the divine nature and hence verses 5 to 7 depict the growth of the believer as culminating in love. "Charity" or
divine nature, is the ultimate thing. The believer whose heart is full
of the love of God is truly partaker of the divine nature, in the sense
of this passage.
All the corruption that is in the world is the fruit of lust. The
word "lust" covers all the desires which spring from man's fallen
nature. The law of Moses came in and imposed its restraint upon man's
fallen desires, but instead of the law really restraining lust the
lusts of men broke through the restraints of law and continued to
spread their corruption around. All the corruptions of the world
originate in man's fallen nature. We, believers, are brought to partake
in the divine nature, whence springs holiness, and hence we are lifted
out of and escape the corruption. In the strength of what is divine we
are lifted out of what is natural to us as sinners, and there is no
other way of escape than this.
Now note the words with which verse 5 begins.
"And beside this."
is to say, beside all that is freely conferred upon us by "His divine
power" there is needed something on our side. And that something is
The work, even in our hearts and lives as believers, is all God's
work, yet we must not because of that drop into a kind of fatalism as
though there were nothing for us to do. We must rather remember that it
pleases God to use human means in connection with much of His working,
and that He has ordained that the way to spiritual prosperity for each
individual believer should be by means of that believer's own spiritual
diligence. This is not surprising for it is quite in accord with what
we see in natural things. In the book of Proverbs we have divine wisdom
applied to natural things and there we read, "Seest thou a man diligent
in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before
mean men." (Proverbs 22: 29).
Hence with all diligence we are to add to our faith virtue and all
the other things enumerated in verses 5 to 7. Another version renders
it, "In your faith have also virtue, in virtue knowledge" &c. If
the former translation gives the idea of building, as though one were
adding brick to brick, the latter gives the idea of growth. The bud
upon the apple tree in the spring has within it in germ the luscious
apple that hangs in autumn time in the same spot. Yet in the production
of the apple many things have played their part, the sunshine and the
rain, and the life energies of the tree which have enabled it to suck
up from the soil the required moisture and other matter. Without the
life energy of the tree all else would have been in vain as far as the
production of an apple was concerned.
Now we are to be marked by diligent energy after this fashion. The
beautiful traits of Christian character which lie in germ in every
Christian are then expanded in us and in our faith is found virtue or
courage. If there be not virtue which enables us to stand out clear and
distinct from the world our faith becomes itself a very sickly thing.
In virtue we are to have knowledge. Virtue imparts great strength to
one's character, but except strength is used according to knowledge,
and that knowledge the highest and best of all-the knowledge of God and
His will-it may become a dangerous thing.
In knowledge we must have temperance, or moderation. If ruled by
knowledge only we may very easily become creatures of extremes. The
believer of great intellectual clearness may easily so act as to
imperil the welfare of his less discerning brethren, as Romans 14 and 1
Corinthians 8 show us. Hence the need of temperance.
In temperance we are to have patience, or endurance. We are bound to
be tried and tested. The believer of endurance wins through.
In patience, godliness, or piety. We learn to live in the
consciousness of the presence of God. We see God in our circumstances
and act as beneath His eye.
In godliness, brotherly kindness; for we are now able to adjust
ourselves fittingly in regard to our fellow-believers. We view them too
in relation to Christ and as begotten of God, and not according to our
whims and fancies, our own partialities, our likes or dislikes.
In brotherly kindness we are to have charity, or love; that is
divine love, the love that goes on loving the naturally unlovely, since
now the fountain of love is within and hence love has not to be excited
by the presentation without of what may appeal to one personally. The
believer who by diligent spiritual growth loves after this fashion is a
partaker of the divine nature in a very practical manner, and is
fruitful as verse 8 plainly declares.
These things, you notice, are to be
in us and abound. They are not like garments to be put
on us for then they might be put
occasions. Like fruit they are the product and expansion of the divine
life within, and if they abound in us they prove us to be neither
"barren"-or "idle"- "nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus
Idleness is the opposite to diligence. Which are we, idle or
diligent? Some Christians are very diligent in money-making and even
diligent in pleasure-seeking, but idle in the things of God. Is it any
wonder they spiritually languish? Others while paying the necessary
heed to their business or work are diligent in the things of God. No
one need be surprised that they spiritually flourish.
Verses 8 and 9 of our chapter present to us a strong contrast. The
diligent believer who grows spiritually, and in whom consequently the
fruit of the Spirit is found abundantly, is neither idle nor unfruitful
in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus. On the other hand, it is alas!
possible for a believer to be, temporarily at least, both idle and
unfruitful and to be consequently in the sad plight that verse 9
portrays. Such are blind and short-sighted, and their spiritual memory
The backslider of verse 9 is evidently a true believer. It does not say that he
never was purged from his old sins; much less does it say that having been once saved he is
now no longer purged from his sins; but that he has forgotten the purging of his former sins.
was, but he has forgotten it. We must distinguish, therefore, between
the backsliding of this verse and the backsliding referred to in
Hebrews 6, and in the parable of the sower (See, Luke 8: 13).
In Hebrews, the backslider is an apostate who falls away from the
Christian faith into such a repudiation of it as involves the
to himself the Son of God afresh, and his case is altogether hopeless.
In the parable of the sower, the backslider is one who receives the
word in the mind and emotions, without it ever penetrating to the
conscience. Such profess conversion, but without reality, and presently
fall away. Their case, though difficult, is not hopeless, for they may
subsequently be really and truly converted to God.
Here, however, it is the true believer, and, if any were disposed to
question whether these things could ever be true of such, we can point
to a sad episode in Peter's own history where he illustrated what he
states in this verse. Had we seen Peter's
blindness as to his own weakness on the night of the betrayal, had we seen him
into the most perilous position as he warmed himself by the fire amid
the enemies of the Lord, and then when entrapped by the maidservant,
breaking out into a painful exhibition of his former sins of cursing
and swearing, we should have seen how, for the moment at least, he had
forgotten how he had been purged.
And we certainly are no better nor stronger than Peter. How often have we each sadly illustrated verse 9?
Our preservation from it lies, of course, in that diligence to which
Peter exhorts us. The way not to go back is to go on. Having these
in us (verse 8) and
(verse 10) we shall be preserved from falling, and thus it will be
manifest that we are indeed the called and chosen of God.
How did the other disciples regard Peter after his disastrous
backsliding? Probably they feared for a moment that he might prove
himself to be a second Judas. Evidently they questioned if, indeed, he
were really one of themselves. Hence the special message, "Tell His
and Peter" (Mark 16: 7). They were not at all sure of his "calling and election."
To the earnest simple-hearted Thessalonian Christians, the Apostle
Paul wrote, "Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God." How did
he so confidently
know? Read the first chapter of the 1st
Epistle and see what amazing progress they had made in the short time
since their conversion. It was impossible, therefore, to doubt their
election. They had made it sure.
The vitality and fruitfulness which mark the diligent believer not
only give demonstration of his calling and election in the present, but
also are full of promise for the future. Ahead of us lies "the
everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ," and though
every Christian will enter that kingdom, it is the fruitful Christian
who will have an abundant entrance, as verse 11 makes plain.
The "everlasting kingdom" is not heaven. No one gains heaven as the
result of diligence or fruitfulness; nor do some gain an abundant and
others a meagre entrance there. There is no entrance into heaven save
through the work of Christ-a work perfect and available alike for all
who believe- so that all who enter at all enter in the same way and on
the same footing without distinction.
The everlasting kingdom will be established when Jesus comes again,
and in connection with it rewards will be given as the parable of Luke
19: 12-27 teaches us, There will consequently be great differences as
to the places that believers will occupy in the kingdom, and our
entrance into it may be abundant or the reverse. All will depend upon
our diligence and faithfulness. The remembrance of this will certainly
stir us to zeal and devotedness.
Knowing this, and knowing also how very easily and quickly we forget
even the things that we are well acquainted with, the Apostle Peter, as
a diligent shepherd of souls, reminded them of these things again and
again. They knew these things; indeed they were established in the
truth that had come to light in Christ-the
what they needed was to be "put in remembrance." How much more do we
need these reminders, the object being as Peter said,
"to stir you up."
Take note of this! We may listen to addresses or read articles which
contain no truth that is new to us. Let us not therefore despise them.
The main function of a teacher may be to instruct in the truth of
Christianity, truth which however old in itself, is largely new to
those whom he instructs. The main function of a pastor or shepherd is
to get at the hearts and consciences of believers, applying to them the
things in which they have been instructed, stirring them up and keeping
them in an exercised and watchful condition. Do not most of us need the
latter ministry more than the former? To practise more consistently
what we do know is probably for us a more urgent necessity than to
enlarge the area of our knowledge.
Now Peter looked on to the hour of his death The Lord Jesus had
hinted at his death and the manner of it, as recorded in John 21: 18,
19. By this time he knew that it was to take place shortly. Is it not
striking that Peter should
need to be told that he is going
to die? What a testimony to the fact that not death but the coming of
the Lord is really the hope of the Christian.
But see what use Peter made of this knowledge, and how he practised
the diligence which in this chapter he has pressed upon others. Verse
15 more literally translated runs:-"But I will use diligence, that
after my departure ye should have also, at any time [in your power] to
call to mind these things"-and then he goes on to enforce the reality
and certainty of the coming kingdom of which he began to speak in verse
11, without stopping to indicate just what he purposed to do. It is
very evident, however that what he purposed and accomplished under the
guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, was the writing of the
Epistle that we are now reading. By means of it we can now at any time
call to mind these things, though Peter's voice is long since silent.
Observe that there is here no mention of the rising up of a further
race of apostles or inspired men, no apostolic succession. What is
indicated as taking the place of the apostles is
Scripture-particularly the apostolic writings, in other words,
The New Testament. No
teacher can possibly speak with the inspired authority of Scripture. If
we neglect our Bibles, we shall listen to the best of men in vain.
We have just had our minds stirred up by the fact that diligence is
to have its reward when the day of the everlasting kingdom of our Lord
is come. Peter, however, was writing to people who had from the days of
their fathers cherished the hope of Messiah's kingdom, and who had
lived to see Him rejected and crucified. Were they tempted then to
wonder if after all the prophecies of His glorious and actual kingdom
embracing both earth and heaven were to be interpreted as but figures
of speech-glowing and poetic descriptions of what was after all but a
spiritual and invisible estate in heaven? It may well have been so, for
we are naturally creatures of extremes. People who once thought
everything of Messiah's promised advent in public glory and nothing of
His advent in humiliation, are likely, when convinced of His coming to
suffer, to think everything of that and nothing of His kingdom and
The power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ so long foretold in
prophetic testimony, is, however, no "cunningly devised fable," and
Peter is able to bear such a witness to its substantial reality as is
conclusive. In verses 16 to 18 he says to us, in effect, "The prophetic
testimony is true and the kingdom foretold is a substantial reality to
be displayed in its season,
for we have seen it already in sample form. He
alluded, of course, to the transfiguration scene recorded in three out
of the four gospels, and witnessed by himself, James and John.
Not many years ago a few men began to talk of a new kind of silky
fabric produced not from the cocoons of a caterpillar, but from
all things in the world! Folk were incredulous, it sounded like a
fable. Proof was soon forthcoming though, of a quite conclusive sort.
The stuff was produced in sample; not tons of it but ounces only. The
substantial reality of artificial silk was as fully proved then by
those ounces as it is now by the countless thousands of stockings
displayed in shop windows all over the world.
The glorious kingdom of our Lord Jesus has long ago been seen in
sample form by chosen witnesses. Indeed, the manifestation of it
appeared not only to their eyes, but to their ears also. They were
"eye-witnesses of His majesty," and also "this voice which came from heaven we
heard"-the voice which came from the "excellent glory" saying, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
Some may, however, wish to enquire in what way the transfiguration
scene was a sample of the "power and coming" of the Lord, and thus
confirmatory of His glorious kingdom? It was so, inasmuch as He was the
central and glorified Object of all. Saints enjoying a heavenly portion
were represented in Moses and Elijah. Saints upon earth were
represented by Peter, James and John. The heavenly saints associated
with Him, and entering intelligently into His thoughts in conversation.
The earthly saints blessed by His presence, though dazzled by His
glory. It was a sight of "the Son of man coming in His kingdom" (Matt.
16: 28); a sight of "the kingdom of God come with power" (Mark 9: 1); a
sight of "the kingdom of God" (Luke 9: 27).
The glorious and everlasting kingdom of the Lord Jesus is then a
blessed and substantial reality. It is certainly coming. We shall enter
into it as called of God to its "heavenly" side (2 Tim. 4: 18). The
question that remains to be settled is-in what way shall we enter it?
Will your entrance and mine be an abundant entrance? Shall we enter
like a trim and well-appointed ship entering port in full sail? Shall
we enter rather as a battered and tattered wreck? The answer to that is
going to be given by us each in the spiritual diligence or spiritual
sloth and carelessness that marks us day by day.
The transfiguration of the Lord Jesus was not only a special and
particular confirmation of the reality of His coming kingdom, but it
also in a general way was a confirmation of the whole prophetic
testimony of the Old Testament. This is what the opening words of verse
19 state, "and we have the prophetic word made surer" (N.Tr.). This is
not difficult to understand if we search the Old Testament and observe
how all its glowing predictions centre in the Messiah's Kingdom on
earth, so that to establish the reality of His glorious coming Kingdom,
was to establish the whole prophetic witness of the Old Testament.
These early Jewish Christians were perhaps somewhat inclined to
ignore Old Testament prophecy, as though it were superseded by the
developments as to the sufferings of Christ, so unexpected by them. The
Apostle Peter here assures them of its value and importance for it is
as a 'light [or, lamp] that shineth in a dark place." The word in the
original translated "dark" is one which means "squalid" or "filthy."
This world with all itsclever inventions and elegant splendour is only
a squalid place in God's estimation, as also in the estimation of every
Christian who is taught of Him. The only real light shed in the squalor
is that which comes from the lamp of prophecy. Men indulge in vain
imaginings as to the "millennium" which they will evolve from the
present filth. Such imaginings are just a Will-o'-the-wisp. The lamp of
prophecy brings us into the light of God's purpose and God's coming
work of both judgment and salvation, and it enables us to see the
squalor of the world that is, as well as the glory of the world to come.
We are to take heed to the light of the prophetic lamp "until the
day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts." "The day" is of
Christ's day-the day of His glory-then the lamp will
be no longer needed. Before the day dawns however the day star arises,
and before it actually arises, it is to arise in our hearts.
The "day" or "morning" star is an allusion to Christ coming for His
own, who wait for Him, before He appears publicly to the world as "the
Sun of righteousness." As the day star He is distinctively the
Christian's hope, and when the day star arises in a believer's heart,
that believer is in the joyful expectation of the coming of his
heavenly Saviour. We are to take heed then to the word of prophecy
until the day of Christ's glory dawns, and until we are led thereby
into the full enjoyment of our proper Christian hope, for New Testament
prophecy has brought into view that which was never mentioned in the
Old Testament. To put the matter into other words, the end of prophecy
is twofold:-First, to shed its beams in the darkness until the day of
Christ's glory actually arrives. Second, to conduct the believer's
heart meanwhile into the full realization and enjoyment of his proper
As a matter of fact many Christians fight shy of prophecy altogether
because, they say, it has become a mere battleground of rival schools
of interpretation amongst true Christians, and too often a kind of
hunting ground to the leaders of false religious systems, wherein they
pursue their heretical notions. There is all too much truth in this,
but the remedy is not to ignore prophecy but rather to take heed to it
well, paying all attention to the first rule for its proper use as
given in verse 20.
"No prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation" or,
more literally, "of its own interpretation." This does not mean as the
Romanists pretend that no private person has any right to concern
themselves as to what Scripture means, but only to trustfully accept
what the Romish "church," as represented by Pope or council, declares
its meaning to be. It is rather a warning against treating each
individual prophetic utterance as though it were by itself, a kind of
self-contained saying to be interpreted apart from the mass of
prophetic teaching. All prophecy is connected and inter-related and to
be understood only in connection with the whole. It was never uttered
by the will of man but by inspiration of the Spirit of God. He used
different men in different ages, but His one mind pervades it all. Each
individual prophetic utterance will only therefore be properly
understood and interpreted as it is seen in relation to the whole, of
which it forms a part.
If an artist in furniture designed an exceptionally fine wardrobe
and entrusted the work in twelve sections to twelve different joiners,
anybody who endeavoured to "interpret" any one of the resulted pieces
by itself would surely reach some strange
conclusions. No reliable or satisfactory interpretation would be found
until it was seen as related to the whole design. Thus it is with every
prophecy of the Scripture, and here is found the reason of the many
opinions and even heresies which we have to deplore.
Notice how inspiration is spoken of in verse 21. "Holy men of God"
spake and wrote "moved by" or "borne along by" the Holy Ghost. They put
their pens to paper under His power, hence He is the real Author of
what they thus wrote.