Home » Various Sermons » 2 Peter 1-11: Virtues Good for the Soul

2 Peter 1-11: Virtues Good for the Soul

“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: May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.  For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.  Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.  For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” – 2 Peter 1.1-11

MacArthur opens up his commentary on 2 Peter and Jude by saying that some have views this book “as the dark corner of the New Testament.”[1] Moreover Schreiner in his commentary notes that “Second Peter is often ignored because of its brevity and because scholars question its authenticity.”[2]

Yet if this is truly is a letter written by Peter was one of the most important figures in the church, to ignore the letter is to ignore an important piece of history.  Moreover it is likely the last letter that Peter had written likely being 67 or 68 AD, near Peter’s death in Rome.  Thus not only do we have a letter from one of the Great Saints of the old church, but in a way one of his last wills and testaments.

“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: May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” – 2 Peter 1.1-2

Some call into question whether Peter really wrote this letter, or if instead some did it in his name and thus the letter is a pseudepigrapha.  Though time does not permit a proper response, in short I will mention several things in the defense of Peterine.  2 Peter opens up as “Simeon Peter,” using a more Hebrew version of his first name, and only used in one other place in NT and so would have been odd for a forger to have used a less common form, it automatically claims to be a second letter, and again something a forger would not have wanted to do.[3] There were other known pseudo-Peterine literature floating about which was deemed non-canonical, and thus the early church if the second letter was, would have deemed a fake, yes the styles are different, but we only have two letters to go on and thus we really don’t know Peter’s style, as for Peter knowing Greek, likely as a business man living in the most Hellenized part of Israel he could very well had been trilingual having to know Greek to conduct basic business, Aramaic for speaking to his native people, and Hebrew for scripture reading.[4] For its relation to Jude, there are to answers, perhaps both used a common source material, perhaps Jude used Peter, and yes, perhaps Peter used Jude, which would date Jude earlier, and just because Peter was an apostle does not mean he would have not borrowed from another person, if something were was not take and build upon it?  These are but a few and condense responses.

It would seem that Peter writes again to the same group of people with whom he had written to in his first letter.[5] “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1 Pet. 1.1).  This group if the same one from his first epistle would most likely have been made up of mostly Gentile Christians, though certainly Jewish ones would have been mixed in.[6] Though it should be noted that this letter does not give a specific addressee and in this way it gives the letter a sort of general feel to it that is this letter is easily for all Christians.[7] “Who have obtained,” the word for obtained, means to “obtained by lot,” and it refers to the idea that the faith here is given by grace, not of something we did.[8] Simply put, our salvation is a gift from God.  This faith however, is one of “equal standing,” namely, that for all Christians, it was the same, something which Paul echoed for example, in Galatians 3.28.[9] “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Peter uses the typical greeting for a letter, “grace and peace,” though modified to include a hint of the central theme of the letter.[10] This phrase is also quite similar to one used in his first letter, (cf. 1 Pete. 1.2). [11] The grace refers to the forgiveness of sin, which God has given to us through his son, the fact that we have salvation despite our sinful state. [12] While the peace here refers to firstly to a common Jewish greeting, but because it appears here after the grace it gives the idea that because of God’s grace we may now have his peace.[13] This grace and peace is to be “multiplied,” and the idea here is that it may be given to us in abundance, if we have the true faith, true knowledge of who God and Jesus are.[14] The more we seek God and Jesus, the more that we wish to know him and have a greater depth of understanding, the more we begin to realize the grace and peace he has given to us.[15]

Which leads us to what is changed in this phrase, introduced here, “knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord,” which will become one of the central themes of the letter; it is used here to call attention to it.[16] The word that Peter uses for Knowledge is, epigōsis, speaks of a “precise, further knowledge,” and speaks of deep knowledge more than mere association with Christ.[17]

As Peter opens up his letter, he begins to describe the true fact, that faith isn’t something that is earned, it is something that is given to us by God.  A gift that is equally given no matter what your background is, racially or economically.  Moreover, for those who have this Faith, this real and true faith which God grants to us, with a grace is that is unsurpassed, a forgiveness of sins that we do not deserve and peace that is equally undeserved when trials come.  All of this is multiplied based on merely having the right type of faith, which is seen with the correct knowledge of who Christ is.  Thus as we seek to have the correct knowledge, which is both given to us as we seek it we begin to have a more fuller understanding of this grace and peace.

“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, 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 1.3-4

Although Peter doesn’t open up with a typical thanksgiving prayer, he does remind his readers, what it is that God has given them.[18] It is not through any sort of power in ourselves that we are able to continue on our Christian walk, but God’s.[19] As Paul once noted “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,” (Eph. 3.20).  Or has Paul also has said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Rom. 1.16)  Peter here though points out that is through not ours but his, meaning Christ’s “divine power” and but also his “great promises” that we are able to begin and to continue on our Christian walk, becoming more and more like him.[20] (Likely Peter is referring to Christ here, as he uses “divine,” which would had been assumed if he had meant God).[21] Indeed, it becomes the first main point, that for life and godliness, Christ has given us what we need.[22]

Jesus divine power has “granted” the Greek form of the word here gives the idea, of an action that was done in the past, yet still has continuing results in the present.[23] “Us,” Peter is likely not just referring to the Apostles or Jewish Christians, but every believer, he would not have restricted this gift to only a certain group.[24] Moreover, this power if granted us, for the things that are for “life and godliness,” life here, zōen, refers eternal life, and godliness is naturally connected since we are to seek that which we will not until his coming.[25] To be true follower of Christ, one needs to have the true and correct knowledge of who he and what is to do.[26] Simply put, our eternal life, and our godliness are given gifts via the knowledge of Christ, these things are not something which we are to earned, but have been given.[27]

We are also given “precious and very great promises,” and the point is not act of them being given, but rather on what these promises are.[28] It is “through” these promises that we are given the hope of attaining our “divine nature.”[29] Remember we have been given a new nature via our belief in Christ and “Second Birth,” whereby we shed our old corrupted nature and have taken on a new one.[30] The divine nature is not that we’ll become somehow god, but merely that we will be “morally perfected.”[31] Therefore, this new nature also highlights the fact that by our taking it up we have escaped all that our old nature would want, the various lust of the world.[32] As Schreiner puts “Believers have already escaped the corruption of the world, but the completion of that process will occur on the day of the Lord.”[33]

As Peter continues in his greeting he reminds us that we truly need God if we are to succeed in our walk with him.  As it is God’s power whom we needed for salvation, as it is also God’s continual power which keeps us at this walk.  By having the correct knowledge of God we begin to see the blessings which he has given us.  Moreover God has promised us a new nature, in part we have already received it, but we shall see its fullness in Christ’s return.  In short, Peter has opened up this letter of his reminded us all that we due to our true knowledge of Christ, our true faith and in essence, what it is that we have escaped because of our faith.

“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.” – 2 Peter 1.5-7

Finishing his greeting in short order, Peter begins to tell his readers to be what they should be, what it is they ought to have.[34] There is part of our Christian which is incomplete if we think we are okay with only belief, instead as Phillips puts it “we must have a belief that behaves!”[35] Peter in a way isn’t that far different from the thought pattern of the James, that is, true faith will lead one toward doing true acts of righteousness (cf. James 2.17-26).[36] In our Christian walk we are to be guided by a variety of good virtues.[37] A list of this sort was a popular practice within the Greco-Roman world, and is a device seen within the Pauline corpus of writing. [38] For example one could note Philippians 4.8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things”

Peter begins his list of virtues, with faith, this faith here is speaking of our personal faith, and it is begins the list since our faith in God is from where all other virtues comes from.[39] Faith is followed by virtue, the Greek word which means “moral excellence,” and which reminds the reader that we are called to a “genuine goodness.”[40] The virtue here is one which acted out in normal life, not one that hidden away in coves of darkness, but done merely as life moves.[41] Our moral excellence is followed by the virtue of knowledge.  This knowledge which Peter speaks of is a knowledge which is hard earned, it is something that we can simply do a night of cramming, but one which must be striven for over years of hard studying.[42] The knowledge that we seek is simple put, the God’s will and his way.[43]

Knowledge is what brings our self-control, what comes with it; our self control comes not from fear or submission to authority, but with knowledge.[44] Instead, with gaining knowledge we must naturally put that knowledge to work via self-control.[45] With our knowledge of God we are better equip with being able to control our various temptations and those that are thrown at us.[46] We are also called to steadfastness, or perseverance, and the idea here is that Peter is calling us to hold our ground despite whatever resistance we may have, or even persecution.[47] We are called to hold fast, even when the resistance we find ourselves against is not simply hard, but deadly, we persevere against all hope.[48]

This leads to the fifth virtue, godliness.  And this virtue speaks of having the “true religion,” and “true worship,” that is the person who holds to this virtue is one which has the right respect and adoration for the Lord.[49] But it also harkens us the fact in itself that godliness means living a life that pleasing to God.[50] From godliness we move to “Brotherly affection,” or brotherly kindness is  virtue which Peter expresses in his earlier epistle (see 1 Peter 1.22, 3.8) as well as Jesus (John  13.34-35) [51] Peter naturally moved from the virtue that meant love of God, to one which harkened to the lover of fellow man.[52] This brotherly affection love is one which extends to our Christian brothers, but also to our enemies and is something that is based on direct choice, not mere fancy at the time.[53]

All of these virtues are brought together by the last one, Love, and this seems to be the supreme proof that one is a Christian.  Paul said once to Timothy “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Tim. 1.5).

“For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.” – 2 Peter 1.8-9

By following Peter’s advice and working on these virtues, trying hard to place them within our life, we start to have more fruitful lives, having that which Christ wants us to have.[54] While, at the same time we begin to have what Jesus himself exemplified in his life.[55] We are to actively seek God by striving to practices these virtues, though this not us working for our salvation, as Peter has already noted God have given us everything which we need.[56] By not having these virtues we are “ineffective or unfruitful,” the word for “ineffective,” here argos, has this idea of being “inactive, or idle,” something that is useless.[57]

After going over the virtues and their benefits, Peter then notes that those who do not accept these benefits are “nearsighted” and “blind.”[58] To not seek after the virtues which Peter had listed is instead a serious problem.[59] By not trying to attain these virtues one will instead find themselves repeating old sins over and over, and in essence one will forget that they had been saved and in essence they have blinded themselves.[60] They have chosen to instead of living by God’s standard and as a Christian ought to, to be living as the world and do not hold dear what God has given them.[61]

“Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.  For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” – 2 Peter 1.10-11

With the tenth verse Peter calls his readers to “make their calling sure.”  Here, the Apostle is not saying that to be saved we must do good works, nor that we may lose our salvation, but instead he is pointing out the simple fact, that by doing these things, by being Christ-like, we show who and what we really are.[62] He is again encouraging his readers to seek the God and the virtues which he as established, if not more diligently than before![63] As Schreiner puts its, “Peter did not tolerate those who claimed to be Christians but contradicted the claim by their behavior.”[64]

Peter finishes this portion with calling his readers, to the truth, that they cannot simply begin well, and then slump off in their duties later, but that they must continue to develop them.[65] We should look not to some gloomy end, but instead to the place where we are going, the “eternal kingdom of our Lord.”[66] Moreover we should seek to follow the virtues which Peter has set before his diligent to be all the more ready for the eternal kingdom.[67] Peter thus assures us in this section that our having “spiritual diligence,” will not only help us here, but in our life to come.[68]

Peter ends this section of letter by calling his readers to act like they should, to act Christians.  Fortunately he gave a list to help show what following Christ should look like.  But he also points out, that by following this list we make in certain ways a more fulfilling life, but also earn our keep so to speak in eternity.  Actions mean a lot, and Peter sees that by saying one thing and doing another doesn’t help matters at all.

Conclusion

In this portion of the Peter’s epistle we see that God has given us all that we need to follow him and to become more Christlike as the days go by.  We see however that while everything we do is in God’s power, it is still emphasized that we do things.  Peter gives a list of virtues to which we should try to do and that show us as being true followers of Christ.  He also above all stressed that we should seek to have true knowledge of Christ.


[1] John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 2 Peter & Jude (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2005), 1.

[2] Thomas R. Schreiner, the New American Commentary: 1, 2 Peter, Jude (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 253.

[3] Ibid., 260, 262

[4] Ibid., 264-5,7

[5] H.A. Ironside, Hebrews, James, Peter (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1982), 67.

[6] MacArthur, 20.

[7] Jerome H. Neyrey, “2 Peter,” in the New Jerome Biblical Commentary, ed. Raymond E. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, and Roland E. Murphy (Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 1990), 1018.

[8] David H. Wheaton, “2 Peter,” in New Bible Commentary, ed. G. J. Wenham et al., 21st century ed. (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 1389.

[9] MacArthur, 20.

[10] Neyrey, 1018.

[11] John Phillips, Exploring the Epistles of Peter: An Expository Commentary (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2005), 228.

[12] MacArthur, 24.

[13] Schreiner, 288.

[14] Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament: James, Peter, John, and Jude (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1949), 218.

[15] Schreiner, 288.

[16] Patrick J. Hartin, “The Second Letter of Peter,” in The New Collegeville Bible Commentary: New Testament ed Daniel Durken (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2008), 799.

[17] Phillips, 228.

[18] Neyrey, 1018.

[19] MacArthur, 26.

[20] Wheaton, 1389.

[21] Schreiner, 291.

[22] Ibid.

[23] MacArthur, 27.

[24] Schreiner, 291.

[25] Ibid., 290-1.

[26] Neyrey,1018

[27] Schreiner, 292.

[28] Phillips, 231.

[29] Barnes, 220.

[30] Phillips, 232.

[31] Schreiner, 292.

[32] MacArthur, 231.

[33] Schreiner, 296.

[34] Neyrey,1018

[35] Phillips, 233.

[36] Neyrey, 1018

[37] Hartin, 800.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Schreiner, 298-9

[40] Phillips, 233.

[41] MacArthur, 40.

[42] Phillips, 234.

[43] Schreiner, 299.

[44] Strachan, “The Second Epistle General of Peter,” in The Expositor’s Greek Testament, ed. W. Robertson Nicoll, (Grand Rapids: WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, reprinted 1983), 126.

[45] Phillips, 234.

[46] Schreiner, 300.

[47] Wheaton, 1390.

[48] MacArthur, 41.

[49] Ibid., 42.

[50] Schreiner, 300.

[51] Wheaton, 1390.

[52] MacArthur, 42.

[53] Strachan, 127.

[54] Wheaton, 1390

[55] Phillips, 236.

[56] Schreiner, 302.

[57] MacArthur, 43.

[58] Hartin, 800.

[59] Phillips, 236.

[60] MacArthur, 44.

[61] Schreiner, 304.

[62] Wheaton, 1390.

[63] MacArthur, 44.

[64] Schneider, 305.

[65] Neyrey, 1019.

[66] Wheaton, 1390.

[67] Phillips, 240.

[68] MacArthur, 45.

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