2 Peter 1:1-11: Life and Godliness
November 1, 2023
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Peter’s second letter – presumably to the same group of people to whom he wrote his first letter (2 Peter 3:1) – is some think written towards the end of Peter’s life, from Rome, while under the persecution of emperor Nero. What we do know for sure, from the letter itself, is that Peter is writing to counteract false teaching (chapter 2), a teaching that seemed to promise some kind of sexual license as falling within the bounds of permissible Christian living. To counteract this false teaching, Peter passionately advances his own eyewitness of Christ, the prophetic witness, the power of God’s Word. Here is a letter for our day and our age: false teaching abounds, but:
“…we have the prophetic word made more sure. You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19).
In the first section of his letter that we are looking at today, Peter is telling us to ensure that we:
“…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).
He is calling his readers to godliness.
To this end, he first tells us that God has given us Christians all that we need to live a life of Christlike excellence, verse 3. Too often Christians make excuses when they do not live up to what God has called them to do. But for many Christians, the issue is not a lack of power but a lack of will. If truth be told, we do not want to be holy, and therefore we are not holy. God has given us in Christ, and by his indwelling Spirit, all we need in order to be godly.
And then second, Peter focuses on God’s promises, verse 4. The promises of God are not theoretical but practical. They are to give us what we need in order to “escape the corruption that is in the world.” Christian: learn God’s promises. Hide God’s Word in your heart. Repeat what God has promised to you. It is God’s way to give you what you need to become more holy.
And then third, in verses 5 to 7, Peter maps out the path. One on top of the other, faith to virtue, virtue to knowledge, knowledge to self-control, self-control to steadfastness, steadfastness to godliness, godliness to brotherly affection, and brotherly affection to love. In common with Paul, Peter puts love at the top of his pyramid of Christian virtues. Each of these builds upon the other. And for us to have these in increasing measure means we must put the effort in. We must work at it. Why? Because we are “partakers in the divine nature” (verse 4). We are in Christ, Christ in us, we have his Holy Spirit. Therefore, we must make every effort to become more like Christ.
To this call to effort, Peter then, fourth, adds a motivation, verses 8 and 9. These characteristics, these virtues, if we possess them in increasing measure, then we will be kept from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Are we sensing that we are not bearing the fruit that we should be bearing? Then it could well be because we are not growing in Christ, we are not possessing these characteristics in increasing measure. If you want to be a fruitful Christian, you must be a holy Christian.
And then finally, fifth, verses 10 and 11, Peter casts the vision of the future as motivation to godliness in the present. This life is over quickly. The life to come never ends. Does it not make sense to live now so as to have a glorious inheritance then? If you have these characteristics in increasing measure, then you will never fall, and there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of Jesus.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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