Through The Knowledge Of God and Of Jesus Christ
2 Peter 1:1-11
Key Verse 1:3
“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”
We’re going through this letter not because the contents are new, but because its central message is very relevant to our own spiritual health as well as the spiritual health of the church. Peter wrote two letters to the early church. And this second letter can be seen as his final words to the believers before he went on to be martyred through crucifixion. He warns them of the apostasy that will be coming to the church, [a departure from the truth of the gospel— corruption at the core of the gospel message]. He warns against false teachers and their false teaching. No wonder he tells them and us in verse 12 “So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have.” But he doesn’t only warn them against the heresy and false teaching. He helps anchor their faith in the word of God— it’s the only defense they have against the coming storm. In this first part that we’re looking at today, Peter tells them to build up their Christian faith and character. They could do so through the “knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord”.
Read verse 1. “Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ; To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours.”
He begins his letter by introducing himself as Simon Peter. We can have a whole study on this alone. But we’ll think on it briefly. He introduced himself as Peter in the first letter he wrote them. But in this one he adds his birth name, Simon. The name Peter is the name Jesus gave him. He uses both names in this letter, almost as if he wants to emphasize that while he once was a man of weakness, Jesus changed him into a man of strength; and while he once was shaky as sand, Jesus changed him into a solid Rock-like man. He has been both of these. And he is not ashamed to confess the grace of the Lord Jesus who changed his life and called him to be martyred for the gospel.
He says: “Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ.” The word servant means slave. It seems as if Peter really does not take an lofty and dignified position in the church at all. He likes to think of himself and refer to himself as a slave— and an Apostle. He was an Apostle. It’s where he gets his authority to write on behalf of the Lord. But he doesn’t say the apostle, but an apostle— because he was humble enough to admit that he was only one of many whom God called to his service.
In verse 1 he also tells us to whom he was writing: “To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours.” He is writing to the early Christians— to all Christians. And what he is saying is really wonderful. What faith is he talking about? It is the whole truth we call the gospel and the faith to receive it. What he seems to be saying is “You have received it— you have receive this wonderful truth which you believed from your hearts”. Later on he will also tell us how to build on it— what to do with it.
This is the beauty of faith. We receive it, but then what do we do with it. Faith is precious— so very precious. The message is precious and the faith to believe in the message is also precious. God is fair. He has given all of us the same message and the same faith. Peter does not differentiate between one faith and another. It is all given the same, and it is all so precious. God has given us the gospel and has given each of us faith by which we can believe the gospel. That is why Peter says a “a faith as precious as ours”. It’s a faith and it takes faith to believe it. When we hear the gospel our heart needs to turn to the Lord; and we turn our hearts to him in faith. God in his great love has given us all precious faith because he wishes no one to perish. But we need to turn our hearts to him with this faith.
How has this precious faith been given to us all? Peter says “through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” This faith is given to us not because we deserve it, nor is given us through our own merit or out own righteousness. It is given us through the Loving kindness of our God who made this righteousness possible for us through his Son Jesus. By his righteousness, we can now stand as his children in his presence. We didn’t deserve this kind of mercy. He could have simply released us as criminals are released after a sentence is paid off. But he did not treat us as released prisoners. He made us righteous through the blood of his Son and brought us to be with him in heaven as his children— even now. When Peter says “precious” he means “precious”.
Look at verse 2: “Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” He says “Grace and peace be yours”. Grace and peace are always in this order. To have peace we must first know the grace of God personally. And once we experience God’s grace we then also experience God’s peace as well. It’s the kind of peace that surpasses all human understanding— the kind of peace only those who have received the grace of forgiveness in their hearts can experience day after day— in abundance!
How will this abundance of grace and peace be given to those who believe? Look at verse 2 again. Peter says “through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” The word knowledge appears several times in this letter. And it is very important particularly in this letter. Paul used that same word when he said “I want to know Christ” in Phil 3:10. The knowledge of God of our Lord Jesus is not a small thing. It is everything we can imagine in our spiritual life and in our pilgrimage to the kingdom of God. Jesus defined eternal life like this; He said: “Now this is eternal life— that they may know you the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (Jn 17:3) Those know God through Jesus Christ personally have eternal life. They are born again. They are taken out of the mundane everyday life in this world, and live on a spiritual level until they are taken to heaven. Knowing Jesus is not like knowing about him, but knowing him personally— knowing his heart and his thoughts, knowing his love and his plans. Those who know Jesus Christ personally are fulfilled in every way. They can grow into the persons God intended for them to be.
And how does that knowledge come to us? Peter does not leave us in doubt. By the time we are done with this letter, we will know that the knowledge of Jesus Christ comes through a knowledge of the word of God— the sure and concrete word of God.
When peter says “Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” It is that knowledge that comes by the Holy Spirit who takes the things of Christ and gives them to us, making them absolutely real to us. It is that knowledge that brings us as close to God— closer still. A knowledge to know him even better than we know ourselves— and own family— better than we know our closest friends. It is the knowledge by which we can tell him anything on our hearts— even things we don’t dare not tell even the closest people we love. The important thing is that to know him is life eternal.
Look at verse 3: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”
Peter says “His divine power” has given to all of us all of the things which you and I need to live life to the full— physical life and spiritual life to the full. To be content in living the life God has put us in. To enjoy all that God has destined for us, whatever they may be. People have a wrong idea about life. They want to live it up. They want to enjoy life and exhaust it as much as they can while they can. But they soon run out of life-things or fuel and become cynical or bitter, and angry at life. They think they have been short changed with life. Or perhaps God has unfairly given them the short end of the stick. But Peter tells the believers differently— to think differently— he says that “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness”. Human beings, especially Christians, especially believers in Christ Jesus— who have tasted the grace of God— cannot say that God has not equipped us with everything— everything we need for life— everything we need for godliness. He has! Other versions may say “godly life” but it does not change the fact that God has given us what we need to live— and to live the godly life he wants us to live. No one has been given any less. He has made every arrangement for our life in Christ and our godliness of life for him.
But he also tells us how: Look again at verse 3. “Through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” Again we see here the word knowledge. It is only through the knowledge of Christ that you can really learn to live down here on earth the life that God has given you and equipped you to live for his glory— and especially to live as a godly person. The only way in the world that you can become the kind of person with a fully developed emotional and spiritual personality is through knowing Jesus Christ— and knowing him more and more. The knowledge of the Lord Jesus “who called us [by] or [to] his own glory and goodness” Either way he called us for him. He called us by him. He called to him. He called us to be like Jesus Christ. And he has equipped us to be so. But we have to know and grow in the knowledge of Jesus. We cannot just read a verse here and there, and then come to service here and then, and study his word here and there, or depend on what we knew 10 years ago. We have to know him, by going to him always, ever, without fail. Then we discover that he has really provided everything we need for life and godliness. Everything we need to fulfill all that he has called us for to be and to do.
[Some “Christians” seem to want to know a girlfriend or a boyfriend or a job opportunity more than they are interested in knowing Jesus. They cannot say that they will succeed in living the godly life. Soon, they find out that their spiritual fuel is gone, and they revert back to the world. They cannot blame God for not giving them what they need. He has but they have turned aside from it for other things.]
Verse 4 says: “Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”
Peter call the promises God has given us precious. Have you read and known some of the promises of God for us? Read Acts 2:16-21. “This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” In verse 1 he talks about the precious faith we have been given. Now he talks about the precious promises that have been given to us. There has been given to us some glorious promises— too wonderful and great to fathom— in the Old and the New Testament. Peter calls them great and precious promises. They come through the knowledge of Jesus Christ and by faith in him. When we know him, we receive them. As we grow in our knowledge of him, these promises become more and more real. How many promises that are ours, have we experienced as a Christian? Let us experience all of them, one by one, through knowing Jesus more and more. Indeed, to know Christ is life. It is everything.
Peter also says: “That through them you may participate in the divine nature”. That is that you might be a child of God. What a tremendous truth this is— this is overwhelming! When we accept Christ as Lord and Savior and are brought out of death into life, God gives us his nature. That does not mean we become Gods. Simply God makes us his children and we become partakers of the divine nature of God. Don’t let anyone deceive you into thinking that the Christian life is a series of “do this” or “Do that” and “Don’t do this” and “don’t do that”. Nor is it a dogma or a creed or a denomination. Christian life is to participate or — are a partaker— of the divine nature, the nature of God, to be a child of God, which leads us to wanting to do the godly things of God. Those who participate in (or partake of) the divine nature find themselves wanting to participate in Godly things— living the Christian life in Christ— doing the godly things the word of God encourages us to do.
And we can do so because as Peter says “Escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” Other versions are clearer than this— saying “having escaped” the corruption. We are corrupt on the inside until the gospel and the blood of Jesus words in our hearts to purify us from sin and to curb the evil desires that are natural to the worldly or natural man. The fact that we have God’s nature, by being born of God’s spirit, is having escaped from the inner corruption that is the natural course of life for those who are not of Christ, who live in this world, according to the world’s standards. No one can escape the inner corruption. No one by their own power can escape the lure and power of sin in their lives. Not even church services can purify a man from his inner corruption. Rituals and hymn singing and religious pretense cannot save us. But when God allowed us to become partakers in the divine nature— through faith in Christ— the corruption ceased. And we have the privilege to live the godly life God called us to live.
Look at verse 5 says: “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge.” But peter does not stop by telling us that we have received faith, that we have received promises, that we have received everything we need to live the godly life God called us to live— to do the godly things God wants us to do. He goes on to say “for this reason ….” As if he is saying: What on earth can you add to the promises of the lord Jesus and Christ and the fact our being partakers of the divine nature? As if he is saying: therefore live it. Here is what you can and should do with all this. Supplement your faith. Put your faith into action. Let your faith make you grow until you can become what God intended for you to become— effective and productive— fruitful as God created you to be. (8)
Now peter begins to talk to us about Christian maturing. After a person is born a child of God, he or she were not meant to stay in the baby-crib. At first when a baby goes “goo goo goo” everyone is happy. But if they baby grows to be 2 years old and is still saying “goo goo goo” there is something terribly wrong with the maturity of that baby. He should get to the place where he is growing up. For the Christian for the child of God, this is what he should grow in.
Read 5-7. “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.”
“Make every effort” Peter says. It means make every effort! The Christian life is a very serious business. It is not a supplementary activity we do when we have nothing else going on. People think that you should not take your Christian faith to the place where you work— or to your school— and you should definitely not bring your Christian life into the social life you have. It is personal, and must be kept quiet. But Peter tells us otherwise. Make every effort to grow in— to supplement your— to add to your faith. And he lists some of the things we ought to grow in— some of the things we should constantly be activating and maturing and working on in our daily life. Christian life is a growth. This is the way peter explains it in this letter which closes with the most amazing statement. “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 peter 3:18) It’s like a tree growing from a small weak sprig into a huge tree. If you are a child of God you need to grow. And peter lists the different attributes which are to characterize your growth.
He begins by saying add to your faith “goodness” or another word is “moral excellence” (NASB) or even “virtue” (KJV). Faith is the saving faith which gave you your divine nature — that which gave you forgiveness of sins and ascribed righteousness of Christ to you. The word goodness is virtue which is rich in honesty and integrity and courage. You need to grow in these things. Growing in courage and in honesty and moral integrity. These things are important if we are to grow spiritually. We cannot be dishonest and morally corrupt on the inside and keep it hidden while believing that we can grow in our Christian character. It’s impossible to grow that way. All that needs to be repented of must be brought before the throne of God and laid at his feet. He alone can help us grow in honesty and integrity and fortitude and courage. We cannot, but when we are honest and willing enough we come to him, and he helps us.
Add “knowledge to” “goodness”. To grow in this knowledge we need to come to the word of God all the time, growing in the word of God— letting the word of God to shape our thoughts and our feelings and everything else that hinders us from growing the children of God. When we are young Christians there is much that we need to be molded in. We need our lives transformed by the living word of God in the Bible. So we come to the word of God with humility and ask God to help us grow. And as we grow in the knowledge of the word of God, things in our lives change slowly and we begin to experience faith and victory in a way we never knew or understood before.
Then Peter says add “self control”. Of course, in all things we need self control. Christian life is a life of self denial and self sacrifice brought about by the work of the Holy Spirit who givees us the grace to control all the desires that well up in our hearts. We are weak. But when we bring our issues to God in prayer God gives us self control, and helps us mature in our inner character. Peter says we also need to add perseverance. Perseverance is being able to endure trials and temptations. It is endurance. Self control must work together with perseverance other wise it is not really self control. In other words, we cannot try once or twice and then give up or give in. We must persevere— and God supplies us all that through faith. Faith must be supplemented with all these virtues. And then it all leads to growing in godliness. Godliness is exactly that— godliness, being God like— being godly of character. As we grow in the knowledge of Christ our Lord, and implement courage and self control and perseverance, our inner desires change and we want to be like our Father God— more and more. And what is he like? Peter ends this with two precious virtues to grow in. Brotherly kindness, which is affection for each other, as Christians, as part of one precious family. And after that, love, which is love for those who are still caught in the web of sin and of satan. As we grow in our faith, adding all these things to our daily Christian life— we really grow godly— especially in loving one another, and loving the world as Jesus loved the world and gave himself to save it.
Verse 8 reads: “For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“If you possess these qualities in increasing measure”— If these things are in us, and in increasing measure, they will prevent us from being ineffective and unproductive. In other words these things will help us to be what God wants us to be, effective Christians on the inside and out, and productive, fruitful Christians on the inside and out. God created us because he loves us. He sacrificed his Son because he loves us. He also did so that we might fulfill our purpose in this life— to be the fruitful men and women of God in a barren world. Before knowing Christ, we were truly unproductive and ineffective. Even if we were, we were in the wrong way. But in Christ he has blessed us and changed us to be such. But we need to grow and the only way to grow is found in the knowledge of our god and Lord Jesus Christ.
Peter says in verse 9 that those who do not grow and mature in the Christian faith are blind and have forgotten the grace of God that saved them. They could not grow because they did not struggle to grow in the knowledge of our Lrod, and soon forgot that Jesus had died to bring them out of a barren life. “But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.”
Look at verse 10-11: “Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall.” : “And you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
“Make your calling and election sure.” Our security is guaranteed. It is from God. It cannot change. It cannot be amended. Christ has done everything necessary to save us and to keep us in his grace and to help us grow spiritually. But the assurance of that is something else entirely. The assurance of that must come from the depth of our hearts. To know that you are a child of God, to know that you are secure in his arms. To know that you are safe with him, that his words are true — all this come from you heart— when you grow in his knowledge and get the assurance that comes from a mature fruitful heart. For if you do these things, you will never fall.”