2 Peter 1:1-21

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The salutation identifies “Symeon [Simon, according to other manuscripts] Peter, a slave and apostle of Jesus Christ,” as the source for 2 Peter. In the capacity of a “slave” or servant, he was accountable to the Lord Jesus Christ in discharging his commission as an apostle, a disciple who had been specially “sent forth” to bear witness concerning him. Furthermore, being a “slave” of Jesus Christ was an unparalleled honor, for it signified belonging to him as his approved servant. No greater dignity could be granted to any human than to be in the service of the Son of God and, therefore, also in the service of his Father. (1:1; see the Notes section.)

Second Peter is not directed to any specific group of believers living in a certain area. It appears to have been intended for believers generally, to those who “have obtained [lancháno] a faith in the righteousness of our God and of [the] Savior Jesus Christ.” (1:1)

The Greek verb lancháno denotes to receive something by lot and could, in this context, signify to obtain by God’s will. The “faith” specifically centers on Christ, the surrender of his life for the human family, and what his Father accomplished through him. It is a “faith” that all believers share in common, being equal in honor with the apostles (literally “ours”) or with believing Jews as was Peter. It is a faith that is of like preciousness as that of Peter and so of no lesser value than his. (1:1)

The phrase “in the righteousness” has commonly be translated “through the righteousness” and could indicate that the faith of believers has come into the possession of all equally on account of the righteousness, justice, fairness, or impartiality of God and Christ. The Greek preposition en (“in”) could also be understood to signify “in the sphere” of divine “righteousness” or of impartial treatment. This faith came into the possession of believers when they heard the good news about Jesus Christ and responded to it. Through the proclamation of the message, the righteousness or impartiality of God and Christ were revealed, for the call or invitation to become God’s approved children and to share in the associated privileges and blessings came to be extended impartially to both Jews and non-Jews. Jesus Christ is the Savior, for through him believers, without partiality being shown to anyone, are delivered from sin and the condemnation of death to which sin leads. (1:1)

“Favor” or unmerited kindness embraces all the aid and guidance that God and Christ provide to believers, and “peace” is the inner sense of calmness and well-being that comes from the personal awareness of their compassionate concern and love. The prayerful expression is that believers come to experience gracious favor and peace to a greater extent “in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” To “know” God and the Lord Jesus Christ means to have an approved relationship with them. It also signifies adhering to God’s ways and the example and teaching of his Son. (Jeremiah 22:15, 16; Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46; 1 John 2:3-6; 3:5, 6.) When believers grow in their relationship with God and Christ, coming to know them better, they, in fuller measure, experience their gracious favor in the form of help and guidance and an inner calm and tranquility. (1:2)

“His divine power” could either be that of Jesus our Lord (the closest antecedent) or that of his Father (if the antecedent is “God”). Both meanings can be found in translations that contain an explicit rendering. “God’s divine power has bestowed on us everything.” (REB) “It was all given to us by God’s own power.” (CEV) “Jesus has the power of God, by which he has given us everything.” (NCV) Believers came to experience the working of divine power “through the knowledge of him who called [them] by his own glory and virtue.” This divine power became operative in the lives of believers through God’s spirit, motivating them to think, speak, and act in a manner that is divinely approved. Accordingly, it is divine power that has generously imparted to believers everything they need for “life and godliness.” They are empowered to live life as God would want them to live and to manifest a godly or reverential spirit in everything they do. (1:3)

In verse 3, extant Greek manuscripts read either “his own glory and virtue” or “through glory and virtue.” The reference could be either to the Father or to his Son, and this is reflected in translations. “It was all given to us by God’s own power, when we learned that he had invited us to share in his wonderful goodness.” (CEV) “Jesus called us by his glory and goodness.” (NCV) “God, in his power, has given us everything that we need for a life in true piety. He has done this by letting us recognize Jesus Christ, him who has called us in his glory and strength.” (Gott in seiner Macht hat uns alles geschenkt, was wir zu einem Leben in wahrer Frömmigkeit brauchen. Er hat es dadurch getan, dass er uns Jesus Christus erkennen ließ, ihn, der uns in seiner Herrlichkeit und Kraft berufen hat. [German, Gute Nachricht Bibel])

When the Father is regarded as the one doing the calling, then the knowledge about him may be understood as having been revealed through the Son. The Father’s own glory and virtue could include his marvelous attributes of love, wisdom, compassion, and justice or impartiality. His virtue or moral excellence could be understood of his being the source of everything that is good because of his being holy or pure in the absolute sense. The manuscript reading “through glory and virtue” could signify that the knowledge of the Father was made known by the “glory and virtue” or moral excellence of the Son, for he flawlessly reflected the image of his Father. (1:3; John 1:14)

If, on the other hand, the focus is on Jesus Christ as the one doing the calling, inviting humans to become his disciples (Matthew 11:28, 29), his miraculous works could be included in the manifestation of his “glory.” (John 2:11) Jesus Christ proved himself to be virtuous in every way. In his disposition, words, and deeds, he lived a life unspotted by sin, served others selflessly and, in expression of his love, surrendered his life for the human family. Those who gain knowledge of the Son of God, coming into a relationship with him as his disciples, have everything needed for the real life as devoted servants of his Father and for conducting themselves in a manner that is pleasing to him. The operation of divine power makes it possible for them to imitate Jesus Christ and thus prove themselves to be his Father’s obedient children. (1:3)

Through the “glory and virtue” of either the Father or the Son, humans have responded in faith. This has resulted in their coming into an approved relationship with the Son and, through him, with his Father. By reason of their response to the revealed “glory and virtue,” believers have been given “precious” and surpassingly “great promises.” These promises included coming to be united with Christ on his return as part of the sinless family of God’s children for all eternity. Being God’s children would mean sharing in all the associated privileges and blessings. No greater promises nor more valuable promises than these could be given to anyone. (1:4)

With seeming reference to the promises, verse 4 continues, “through these” believers would become “sharers of divine nature.” This could mean that, on the basis of the promises, they had the assurance of coming to be of like nature as Christ since his resurrection and ascension to heaven. Upon coming to be like Christ in the glorified sinless state, they would be able to reflect the image of his Father flawlessly. Based on the sure hope that these promises provide, believers have “escaped the corruption in the world” that has its source “in desire,” selfish craving, or lust. Their hope motivated them to purify themselves from worldly corruption or defilement and to live in harmony with their having been cleansed from sin on the basis of Jesus’ precious sacrifice. (1:4, 9; 2 Corinthians 6:18; 7:1; 1 Peter 1:18, 19; 1 John 3:2, 3.)

In order to remain free from the world’s corruption, believers need to continue to yield to the leading of God’s spirit. This calls for diligent personal effort in, or active cooperation with, the work of God, which work is promoting the continued growth of believers as reflectors of his glory by their praiseworthy disposition, words, and deeds. The introductory kaí autó touto dé (literally, “also same this, however”) has been variously translated (“with this in view” [NJB], “for this very reason” [NAB, NIV, NRSV], “because you have these blessings” [NCV]) and could relate to the promises believers have been given or to everything in which they have come to be and will be sharers, prompting them to be earnest about acting in harmony with the admonition that follows. (1:5)

On account of what they presently enjoy and have been promised, believers have good reason to exert themselves to conform ever more closely to the image of God. The thought of earnestness, diligence, or eagerness in this respect is expressed by the Greek term spoudé, which, in its basic sense, denotes “haste” or “speed.” Believers are to “apply all diligence” or to make every effort to add to their “faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge self-control, and to self-control endurance, and to endurance godliness, and to godliness brotherly affection, and to brotherly affection love.” (1:5-7)

It is not enough for individuals merely to have faith or belief in God and Christ. Believers need to have an active faith that finds expression in the life they live. So, to their faith, they should add virtue or moral excellence, being diligent about striving to conform their lives in keeping with the teaching and example of the Lord Jesus Christ. For one to be identified as a virtuous person would require that one live up to the highest possible standard of uprightness and be responsive to the needs of others. The “knowledge” that needs to be added to virtue is the knowledge that relates to God and Christ. Growth in this knowledge is evident from a believer’s making progress in reflecting to a greater degree the image of God in attitude, word, and action. (1:5)

“Self-control” must be added to knowledge, for knowing what is pleasing to God and Christ must be accompanied by action that is consistent therewith. Therefore, the believer must be earnest about seeking to bridle his passions and desires, not yielding to sinful inclinations. Endurance is to be added to self-control. The distress, pressure, or hardship to which believers may be submitted can last for a considerable period, requiring that they resist the temptation to give up under the strain or to free themselves from the difficult circumstances by divinely disapproved means. So, to be able to continue to exercise self-control, believers need endurance. While enduring difficult circumstances, they need to maintain piety, godliness, or a reverential spirit, not allowing themselves to become irritated, weary, or downcast because of what may happen to them by divine permission. With godliness added to, or combined with, endurance, believers will not become angry at God and Christ but will be able to see how their suffering can result in lasting spiritual benefits. Godliness will also make it possible for believers to pray for those who persecute them, continuing to desire that their persecutors might repent and come to be devoted disciples of Jesus Christ. (1:6)

Although forgiven of their sins, believers are not sinless. Some in the community of believers may at times manifest an offensive disposition, speak in a hurtful manner, or act inconsiderately or improperly. By adding “brotherly affection” to endurance, believers will be able to avoid becoming irritated to the point where they begin to harbor ill will or deep resentment toward fellow believers. Finally, “love” must be added to “brotherly affection.” This love is a selfless concern for the welfare of others regardless of their moral standing. It reaches beyond the community of believers and includes even those who may be hostile toward disciples of God’s Son. (1:7)

One’s adding virtue, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, brotherly affection, and love to faith results in a life that honors Christ and his Father. “For when these things exist and abound in you, they will keep you from being idle or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1:8)

The knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ would include recognizing his role as Savior, the one through whom humans can be delivered from sin and the condemnation to which sin leads. To know him would also mean having a relationship with him because of putting faith in him and living in harmony with his example and teaching. A believer’s knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ should lead to advancement in living an upright life and in doing positive good for others. When the faith of believers is combined with virtue, knowledge, endurance, godliness, brotherly affection, and love, being in their possession in a superabundant way, they will not be “idle or unfruitful.” They will be active in doing good, manifesting compassionate concern for others. Their lives will be productive of praiseworthy conduct. The evidence of their knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ will be clearly evident from their disposition, words, and deeds. (1:8)

If, however, a professed believer’s life revealed an absence of virtue, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, brotherly affection, and love, he would be “blind,” failing to recognize what it means to know Jesus Christ as his Lord whose example and teaching he is under obligation to follow. Choosing to be Christ’s disciple requires assuming the responsibilities associated with it. So one who fails to manifest the qualities that should distinguish believers would be closing his eyes (myopázo), which could signify a deliberate choice not to see what he should be doing. The Greek word myopázo has also been understood to mean to be “nearsighted,” the closing of the eyes being the action of nearsighted persons who squint in an effort to see something. Possibly “blindness” and “nearsightedness” function together to indicate that the individual is so nearsighted as to be blind. According to another meaning conveyed by an interpretive rendering, the individual “is blind or, at least, very near-sighted.” (German, Gute Nachricht Bibel) The failure to grow as a believer reveals the individual’s “forgetfulness of the cleansing from sins of old.” (1:9)

Upon putting faith in Jesus Christ and the forgiveness his sacrificial death made possible, the believer came to be cleansed from “sins of old” or from all past sins. In harmony with that initial cleansing, the individual should have exerted himself in becoming more like the Lord Jesus Christ in every aspect of his life. When not doing so, the professed believer would be one who had forgotten or completely lost sight of his past cleansing and what this required of him to remain divinely approved. Such a person would be in grave spiritual danger, the danger of losing out on the privileges and blessings to be granted to Christ’s disciples. (1:9)

Addressed as “brothers,” or members of the family of God’s children, believers are therefore urged to to be diligent about making their “call and election firm” so as not to lose out. They were called or invited to be reconciled to God as persons forgiven of their sins on the basis of his Son’s sacrifice. Their election was the divine choosing of them to be God’s children. To maintain an approved standing in God’s family, believers need to be earnest in demonstrating themselves to be obedient, continuing to follow the leading of his spirit so as to be more like him and his Son. Accordingly, by acting in harmony with the admonition contained in 2 Peter (literally, “doing these [things]”), they would not be among those who “trip,” stumble, or fail. (1:10)

By making their “call and election firm,” believers are assured of being granted entry into the “eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” This ultimate entrance into the kingdom would mean coming to be part of the realm where Jesus Christ is recognized as king by his Father’s appointment and enjoying the status of sinless persons in this realm, a realm that is “eternal” or that will never pass away. (1:11)

For those who are found to be approved disciples, their entry into the kingdom would be “richly provided.” This could mean that theirs would be a glorious entry, being welcomed into the heavenly realm as persons acknowledged to have been exemplary devoted servants of God and Christ. It could also signify the high degree of blessedness they would come to enjoy for having exerted themselves in advancing Christ’s cause in attitude, word, and action. They would not be like believers whose works Christ’s judgment would expose as having been worthless but who, because of having him as their foundation, would not lose out on life despite their failings. The deliverance of those whose works would not prove to be praiseworthy would be like that of persons who would lose everything in a fire but would themselves be snatched from the flames. Their entry into the kingdom would then not be “richly provided.” (1:11; compare 1 Corinthians 3:15.)

Because of his concern that fellow believers would make their “call and election firm,” Peter sought “always to remind” them “about these [things].” Previously he had stressed the importance of making advancement as believers, their adding virtue, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, brotherly affection, and love to their faith, and then he emphasized the need for them to make their “call and election firm.” Therefore, “these things” would seemingly be included as the object of Peter’s reminders. Additionally, the reference may be to comments that follow — the surety of the prophetic word and the apostolic testimony that served as the foundation for faith in Christ and his return in glory. In fact, everything contained in 2 Peter could be regarded as serving to remind believers about what they already knew regarding their responsibilities as Christ’s disciples and their hope. They were firmly grounded in the truth. This would be the “truth” relating to Christ and all that his Father accomplished through him. In the Greek text, the word for “truth” is preceded by a form of the term páreimi, meaning to “be present,” and here appears to denote that the truth was in the possession of the believers who were being addressed. (1:12; see the Notes section.)

Although the things Peter called to the attention of believers were not new to them, he, as long as he was alive or in his “tent,” his temporary abode, or his physical body, considered it right to stir them up with reminders. He did not want them to become neglectful regarding their responsibilities as Christ’s disciples and then lose out on future blessings. (1:13)

According to John 21:18, 19, Jesus Christ revealed to Peter that he, after having grown old, would be taken where he did not wish, that is, to the place where he would be executed. For this reason, Peter could speak of knowing that he would soon be putting aside his “tent.” Based on what the Lord Jesus Christ had told him, he knew that he would soon die a martyr’s death. (1:14)

While he still had life, he would do his utmost to continue to provide reminders each time he had the opportunity to do so. Then, after his departure, the believers to whom he had given the reminders would be able to recall what he had said and make mention of the things he had drawn to their attention. (1:15)

What Peter had made known about the “power and [future] arrival [parousía] of the Lord Jesus Christ” did not follow some cleverly formulated “myth.” He, James, and John had personally become eyewitnesses of Jesus Christ’s magnificence. While at a location on a high mountain (likely Mount Hermon) and after waking up from sleep during the night, they saw the transfiguration of Jesus Christ. His face shown more brightly than the sun, and his garments appeared whiter than any laundryman could have made them. In the darkness, the brilliance of Jesus’ face and the dazzling whiteness of his garments must have been exceptionally impressive. Rightly, Peter could speak of having been an eyewitness of the majesty of the Lord Jesus Christ. (1:16; Matthew 17:1-3; Mark 9:2, 3; Luke 9:28, 29; see the Notes section.)

The magnificent appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ in the transfigured state revealed that his return would be with power, for the appearance was suggestive of surpassing splendor or royal dignity. The changed appearance revealed that, upon his return, he would be manifest in glory. Therefore, all that Peter conveyed about the “power” and future return of Jesus Christ had a solid basis, the basis being the transfiguration for which there were three eyewitnesses. (1:16; see the Notes section.)

On the occasion of the transfiguration, Jesus Christ received “honor and glory” from God the Father. From the “majestic glory,” Peter, James, and John heard the words, “This is my son, my beloved, with whom I am pleased.” The voice that conveyed these words to Jesus Christ came from a “bright cloud,” providing a basis for concluding that it is being referred to as the “majestic glory.” (Matthew 17:5; for another possible meaning, see the Notes section.) When acknowledging Jesus Christ as his beloved Son, the Father honored him, and the brilliant transformation he effected in his Son’s appearance constituted a bestowal of glory, splendor, or magnificence. (1:17)

As eyewitnesses, Peter, James, and John heard the words that were conveyed to Jesus from heaven while they “were with him on the holy mountain.” The voice came from the bright cloud that overshadowed Peter, James, and John. This appears to be the reason the voice is referred to as coming from heaven. As the site of the transfiguration and the Father’s acknowledgment of Jesus Christ as his beloved Son, the mountain is rightly called the “holy mountain.” (1:18; see the Notes section.)

If, in verse 19, there is a direct link to the transfiguration, this would mean that the transfiguration made the prophetic word relating to Jesus Christ more firm, serving to establish it as completely reliable. “All this confirms for us the message of the prophets.” (REB) “All of this makes us even more certain that what the prophets said is true.” (CEV) Another possibility is that the message of the prophets served to provide additional testimony on which believers can rely as a sure foundation for their faith and hope. “Moreover, we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable.” (NAB)

Believers do well to focus on the prophetic word “as to a lamp shining in a dark [auchmerós] place.” The Greek term auchmerós literally means “dry” or “parched.” In this context, however, it appears to describe a dreary, gloomy or dark place. In the dark, one needs a lamp or torch in order to avoid obstacles and possible injury. Like a lamp, the prophetic word provides essential enlightenment for believers to conduct themselves in a divinely approved manner. It keeps ever before them the certainty of Christ’s return, encouraging them to live in harmony with his example and teaching so as to be acknowledged by him as his disciples at the time of his arrival. (1:19)

Depending on the punctuation that is chosen, the concluding phrase “in your hearts” may convey two different meanings. If the comments relating to the “lamp” and the “morning star” (phosphóros) are parenthetical, the thought could be, “And we have the prophetic word [made] more firm, to which [word] you are doing well to have [your focus] in your hearts.” This would mean that in their “hearts” or inner selves believers should be letting the prophetic word serve as their guide. They should depend on the prophetic word for guidance just as they would rely on a lamp for illumination in a dark place, doing so until “day dawns and the morning star rises.” (1:19)

The other possible meaning is that the prophetic word should be providing illumination to believers as would a lamp until “day dawns and the morning star rises in [their] hearts.” The dawning of the day likely refers to the time when Jesus Christ returns in glory, at which time the walk of believers in the darkness or gloominess of the world would end. (1:19)

The Greek word phosphóros literally signifies “light bearer” and is the term ancient writers used to designate the planet Venus, the “morning star” that is visible in the eastern sky before or at sunrise. In conjunction with the dawning of day, the mention of the “morning star” may simply be part of the imagery to denote the new day that would dawn at Jesus Christ’s return. (1:19)

There is a possibility, however, that the term phosphóros designates Jesus Christ. According to Revelation 22:16, he referred to himself as the “bright morning star” (astér ho lamprós ho proïnós). Although the Greek expression is different, this may provide a basis for considering phosphóros to apply to Jesus Christ. Without linking the phrase “in your hearts” to the rising of the “morning star,” this could mean that the Son of God would be revealed in all his glory or magnificence like the brightly shining morning star. If, on the other hand, the morning star is to be understood as rising in the hearts, this could signify that, upon seeing Jesus Christ as he really is in all his magnificence as the returned King of kings and Lord of lords, the hearts or inner selves of believers would be illuminated as if the morning star had risen within them. (1:19)

On account of the trustworthiness of the prophetic word, believers were in possession of a solid basis for looking forward to the certainty of Christ’s return. “First” of all, they should “know” or understand that “prophecy of scripture” does not have its source in private explanation or interpretation. The Hebrew prophets did not make predictions on the basis of their own evaluations of trends and developments in human affairs. (1:20)

At no time did the prophecies preserved in the holy writings come from the will or wish of any human. Prophecy proved to be divine revelation, for “men” (the prophets) were “borne” or moved by the “holy spirit” so as to speak “from God.” By means of his spirit, God conveyed his message to the prophets, and so they were the instruments through whom he made known both the sufferings his Son would experience and the glories that would then follow. (1:21; compare 1 Peter 1:10-12 and see the Notes section.)

Notes:

Jesus Christ gave the name “Peter,” meaning “rock,” to Simon. (John 1:42) Whenever Peter’s original name appears in the Scriptures, the most common spelling is “Simon.” Besides 2 Peter 1:1, the spelling “Symeon” is only found in Acts 15:14 in extant Greek manuscripts.

In verse 1, “Savior” is in the genitive case but is not preceded by the definite article in the Greek text. For this reason, the concluding phrase could also be rendered, as do many translations, “the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” It appears that the preferable rendering would be to add the definite article before “Savior,” which would harmonize with verse 2, where the reference is to the “knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”

In verse 12, the reading of manuscripts varies (“I shall intend [melléso] always to remind you”; “I shall not neglect [ouk ameléso] always to remind you”).

The first person plural verb forms in verses 16 and 18 (“we did make known,” “having been,” and “we heard”) are probably an editorial plural but could also have been meant to include James and John.

Many understand the reference to the “Majestic Glory” in verse 17 to apply to the Father. A number of translations make this significance explicit. “God, our great and wonderful Father, truly honored him by saying, ‘This is my own dear Son, and I am pleased with him.’” (CEV) “Jesus heard the voice of God, the Greatest Glory.” (NCV) In verse 17, another manuscript reading is, “This is my Son, the beloved.”

Instead of “from God men spoke [elálesan apó theoú ánthropoi]” (in verse 21), other manuscripts read, “the holy men of God spoke [elálesan hoi hágioi theoú ánthropoi].”