Lesson Text:2 Peter 1:2-15, 20-21
Background Scripture: 2 Peter 1
Devotional Reading: Psalm 130
2 Peter 1:2-15, 20-21 (KJV)
2Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,
3According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:
4Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
5And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
6And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
7And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
8For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.
10Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:
11For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
12Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth.
13Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance;
14Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me.
15Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance.
20Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
21For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
To understand that God has given us everything we need for a life of godliness (that pleases Him).
To be reminded that the truth of the gospel inspires a confident hope that transforms our lives from barren to fruitful.
To diligently add to our faith godly virtues for spiritual growth and commit to following it.
How Permanent Is “Permanent?”
As children we look forward to losing our temporary teeth and getting permanent ones. As adults we go to great effort to make those so-called permanent teeth last. We may go to the dentist for a temporary crown, to be replaced a week later with a permanent one. Then years later, that supposedly “permanent” work has to be repeated. Permanent did not turn out to mean “forever”!
It seldom does. A temporary worker has a job for a short period of time, but no job position is truly permanent. A temporary tattoo will wash right off, but even the permanent kind fades with time. Perhaps most difficult to make permanent is a change in one’s life. Most humans know that they need a better kind of life. But finding a way to make the right change and make it permanent is difficult. The lesson text is about making change that is permanent for this life and beyond.
In many respects, 2 Peter is the sequel to 1 Peter; see the background from the previous lesson (“Living Hope”). It was written shortly after 1 Peter and a short while before Peter’s martyrdom, which he anticipates in 2 Peter 1:14. The focus of 2 Peter, therefore, is on the apostle’s final instructions as he anticipates his pending death. We might say that this letter is Peter’s “last will and testament.” As such, it is a discourse on what he realizes the rising generation of Christians needs - the lessons he has learned through a lifetime of following Jesus in a sinful world.
The letter focuses on a few key topics, including the life that results from the genuine message of God (2 Peter 1), resistance to false and immoral teachers (2 Peter 2), and patience and expectancy regarding Christ’s return (2 Peter 3). This lesson text belongs to the first section.
Hope’s Resources (2 Peter 1:2-4)
1. What is significant about the Apostle Peter’s greeting to the readers of his second letter? (2 Peter 1:2)
In Peter’s second letter, his emphasis is on the knowledge of God. The word know or knowledge is used at least thirteen times in this short epistle. The word does not mean a mere intellectual understanding of some truth, though that is included. It means a living participation in the truth (a spiritual growth) in the sense that our Lord used it in John 17:3—“This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.”
Peter here does not simply proclaim that grace and peace is available, but prays that they may grow for the readers. Because the readers of this letter have true knowledge of God, not some myth or human creation, they are on a path that must yield an ever-increasing change in their lives.
2. What should be our response to what God has given and intends for us? (v. 3)
Here in verse 3, Peter noted that, through our increased knowledge of the Lord, we become more responsive to His “divine power.” The emphasis here is on living in a godly way. The apostle explained that our knowledge of the Son and His provision of the Father’s own power make it possible for us to pursue “life and godliness.” Further incentive can be found in the truth that the Lord has invited us to share in His own “glory and virtue.”
What Do You Think?
In which areas that deal with living a life of godliness have you grown the most in the past year? Why?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
With regard to God’s grace| With regard to your prayer life | With regard to your worship
With regard to your Christian service | With regard to your Bible knowledge | Other
3. How does Peter contrast the “great and precious promises” of God with those who belong to the world? (v. 4)
Peter emphasizes the way that God has “given unto us,” to motivate lasting and growing change. The “great and precious promises” are the ones now fulfilled in Christ, though also awaiting ultimate fulfillment at Christ’s return.
The result is that we belong to God. To “be partakers of the divine nature”means not that we become part of God, as if we are somehow absorbed into His being. Rather, it means that we share identity with Him as members of His family. The blessing of union with Christ gives us resurrection life and power but also unites us with Him in suffering in a sinful world (see 1 Peter 4:13).
By contrast, the people who belong to the world share an existence characterized by corruption, the decay that comes from death. Such a life is driven by out-of-control desires (lust).
What Do You Think?
What helps you resist falling back into worldly corruption? How so?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
An accountability partner | Support of fellow believers | Personal Bible study
Prayer | Other
Growing in Christian Character (2 Peter 1:5-9)
4. What kind of effort did Peter encourage us to put forth? (vs. 5-7)
Having reflected on how God provides the basis for lasting and growing change, Peter now details the nature of that change (v. 5).
Although God gives us (His children) all that we need to live godly lives, we must apply ourselves and be diligent to use the “means of grace” He has provided. Spiritual growth is not automatic. It requires cooperation with God and the application of spiritual diligence and discipline. “Work out your own salvation.... For it is God which worketh in you” (Philippians 2:12-13).
Peter listed seven characteristics of the godly life, but we must not think of them as seven beads on a string or even seven stages of development. The word translated “add” really means “to supply generously.” In other words, we develop one quality as we exercise another quality. These graces relate to each other the way the branch relates to the trunk and the twigs to the branch. Like the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23), these qualities grow out of life and out of a vital relationship with Jesus Christ. It is not enough for the Christian to “let go and let God,” as though spiritual growth were God's work alone. Literally, Peter wrote, “giving all diligence, add to your faith” (2 Peter 1:5). The Father and the child must work together.
The first quality of character Peter listed was “virtue.” We met this word in 2 Peter 1:3, and it basically means "excellence." To the Greek philosophers, it meant "the fulfillment of a thing." When anything in nature fulfills its purpose, that is "virtue—moral excellence."
A Christian is supposed to glorify God because he has God's nature within; so, when he does this, he shows "excellence" because he is fulfilling his purpose in life. True virtue in the Christian life is not “polishing” human qualities, no matter how fine they may be, but producing divine qualities that make the person more like Jesus Christ.
Faith helps us develop virtue, and virtue helps us develop “knowledge” (2 Peter 1:5). The word translated “knowledge” in 2 Peter 1:2-3 means "knowledge that is growing." The word used here suggests practical knowledge or discernment. It refers to the ability to handle life successfully. It is the opposite of being "so heavenly minded as to be of no earthly good!" This kind of knowledge does not come automatically. It comes from obedience to the will of God (John 7:17). In the Christian life, you must not separate the heart and the mind, character and knowledge.
“Temperance” is the next quality on Peter's list of spiritual virtues,and it means self-control. “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city” (Prov. 16:32). “He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down and without walls” (Prov. 25:28).Paul in his letters often compared the Christian to an athlete who must exercise and discipline himself if he ever hopes to win the prize (1 Cor. 9:24-27; Phil. 3:12-16; 1 Tim. 4:7-8).
“Patience” is the ability to endure when circumstances are difficult. Temperance has to do with handling the pleasures of life, while patience relates primarily to the pressures and problems of life. (The ability to endure problem people is “longsuffering.”) Often, the person who “gives in” to pleasures is not disciplined enough to handle pressures either, so he “gives up.”
Patience is not something that develops automatically; we must work at it. James 1:2-8 gives us the right approach. We must expect trials to come, because without trials we could never learn patience. We must, by faith, let our trials work for us and not against us, because we know that God is at work in our trials. If we need wisdom in making decisions, God will grant that wisdom if we ask Him. Nobody enjoys trials, but we do enjoy the confidence we can have in trials that God is at work, causing everything to work together for our good and His glory.
“Godliness” simply means “God-likeness.” In the original Greek, this word meant “to worship well.” It described the man who was right in his relationship with God and with his fellow man. Perhaps the words reverence and piety come closer to defining this term. It is that quality of character that makes a person distinctive. He lives above the petty things of life, the passions and pressures that control the lives of others. He seeks to do the will of God and, as he does, he seeks the welfare of others.
We must never get the idea that godliness is an impractical thing, because it is intensely practical. The godly person makes the kinds of decisions that are right and noble. He does not take an easy path simply to avoid either pain or trial. He does what is right because it is right and because it is the will of God.
“Brotherly kindness” (Philadelphia in the Greek) is a virtue that Peter must have acquired the hard way, for the disciples of our Lord often debated and disagreed with one another. If we love Jesus Christ, we must also love the brethren. We should practice an “unfeigned [sincere] love of the brethren” (1 Peter 1:22) and not just pretend that we love them. “Let brotherly love continue” (Heb. 13:1). “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love” (Rom. 12:10). The fact that we love our brothers and sisters in Christ is one evidence that we have been born of God (1 John 5:1-2).
But there is more to Christian growth than brotherly love; we must also have the sacrificial love that our Lord displayed when He went to the cross. The kind of “charity” spoken of in 2 Peter 1:7 is agape love, the kind of love that God shows toward lost sinners. This is the love that is described in 1 Corinthians 13, the love that the Holy Spirit produces in our hearts as we walk in the Spirit (Rom. 5:5; Gal. 5:22). When we have brotherly love, we love because of our likenesses to others; but with agape love, we love in spite of the differences we have.
It is impossible for fallen human nature to manufacture these seven qualities of Christian character. They must be produced by the Spirit of God. To be sure, there are unsaved people who possess amazing self-control and endurance, but these virtues point to them and not to the Lord. They get the glory. When God produces the beautiful nature of His Son in a Christian, it is God who receives the praise and glory.
Because we have the divine nature, we can grow spiritually and develop this kind of Christian character. It is through the power of God and the precious promises of God that this growth takes place. The divine “genetic structure” is already there: God wants us to be “conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29). The life within will reproduce that image if we but diligently cooperate with God and use the means He has lavishly given us.
5. How does Peter address the unfruitfulness of a believer lacking the Christian characteristics described above? (vs. 8-9)
Unfruitfulness is a grave danger! The Scriptures repeatedly use images of plants that do not bear fruit to remind God’s people how serious their response to God is (examples: Isaiah 5:1-7; Luke 13:6-9; John 15:1-8). What Peter describes is the necessary, vital fruit of a relationship with Christ. These fruits need to abound, growing more abundant as time passes to reflect the magnitude of what God has done for us.
To claim faith and then not live as Peter has described reflects spiritual blindness, or at least something like nearsightedness—the inability to see beyond our own noses to the truth of what God has done and how we need to respond. If we remember that God has cleansed us from the rebellion that was our old life, then we will want nothing more than for the new life to take root and bear fruit in every way.
What Do You Think?
How do you recognize when unfruitfulness is starting to manifest itself in your life?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
Matthew 13:22 | Luke 19:20-23 | John 15:2-6 | Ephesians 4:29-31; 5:3, 4
2 Timothy 4:10 | Other
Hope’s Persistence (2 Peter 1:10-15)
6. How can a believer do to make his/her “calling and election sure” (vs. 10-11)?
With a confident expectation of the future, we can persist in the present. Peter insists on this, reminding us that we do not want to lose out on what belongs to us by God’s grace.
This calls for “diligence,”the same kind of characteristic named in verse 5. What is at stake is our calling and election. These two terms remind us of ancient Israel’s identity as God’s people, called His “chosen” or “elect” (Isaiah 42:1; 45:4; etc.). By His saving death and resurrection, Christ has made His followers the called and elect.
To keep that identity, Christ’s followers need to maintain connection with Him. If we abandon the faith, we lose our standing as His people (compare Hebrews 2:1; 6:11; 10:35, 36). We should note carefully what Peter says here. He is not discussing the ongoing struggle with sin that every believer experiences. Rather, he warns that if we ignore the mandate to grow in virtue then we can lose the gift that we have received by faith. That is what it means to “fall.” A growing faith is a secure faith.
With our eyes clearly on the object of our hope, we have every reason to persist in the present. What God has for His called and chosen people is citizenship under His king, Jesus, who will rule without end in justice and peace. This is the gift He has prepared for us in the future, even as we are experiencing Christ’s rule now through our growing faith. That future connects with our present, reminding us how important the changes that God is working in our lives are.
7. Why was it important to Peter to remind the believers about the truths he had previously shared? (vs. 12-15)
Peter’s life is about to reach its end, but he is determined to use the time he has left to reinforce God’s saving message. “These things” of which he writes are well-known among his readers, but they are so important that they bear repeating. Peter does not stress them because he questions his readers’ standing with God, but because this is the most important message he can share.
Peter uses the word “tabernacle,” or tent(Exodus 40:2), to indicate his physical body (compare 2 Corinthians 5:1). He chooses this image to stress the shortness of his life. As the end of life approaches, we expect people to do what matters most to them. Because time is short, it is precious and must be used for what is most valuable. Peter, at the end of his life, stresses that what matters most to him is encouraging believers by reminding them of what they have received.
We wonder how the Lord Jesus showed Peter that his death was near (compare John 21:18, 19). Though we cannot answer that question, we can observe Peter’s confidence in knowing that Christ will deliver him into His presence.
In verse 15 of today’s lesson, Peter wants to ensure that Christians will have access to this valuable message after he departs. The destructive teachings of spiritual frauds made the apostle’s task all the more imperative (see 2 Peter 2:1-4).
What Do You Think?
What words of spiritual encouragement would you like to pass on to others before you die? What’s keeping you from doing this now?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
To a child or grandchild (2 Timothy 1:5) | To a child “in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2)
To a close friend in Christ | To an unbeliever | Other
Hope’s Foundation (2 Peter 1:20-21)
8. What does Peter mean by “prophecy of Scripture,” and how did the prophecy come about? (v. 20)
In 2 Peter 1:16-19 (not in the lesson text), Peter reminds his readers that he is an eyewitness to the ministry of Jesus. Coupled with the assurance of such testimony is the message of Israel’s Scriptures, what we call the Old Testament.
Because all the books of Scripture are the products of God’s inspiration, they can all be referred to as “prophecy.” In this regard, prophecy means not just prediction of the future, but also the announcement of God’s message. The sacred writings are not the product of human imagination. “Private interpretation” (in verse 20) does not refer to an individual’s own reading and explanation of the Scriptures, but to their being written in the first place. The Scriptures exist because God himself has provided them.
9. How does the source of the Scriptures inspire confidence in the truth of the message? (v. 21)
Peter reminds us that the witness of the Old Testament is the consequence of God’s actions through His Holy Spirit. This is what Christians call the doctrine of inspiration: that the Holy Spirit worked through the writers of Scripture to produce the genuine Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16). It is true in all that it affirms, focused on the precise message that God wants delivered.
Our hope is founded on this divinely inspired message that points to the one of whom Peter was a witness: Jesus Christ. We have every reason to be confident in the truth of Jesus’ message, in the certainty of what He has done to save us.
POINTS TO PONDER
1.Believers can be assured that God has given us everything we need to live a godly life. (2 Peter 1:2-4)
2.A growing believer will possess godly virtues and be secure in his/her faith. (vs. 5-10)
3.If we continue to grow in love and add to our faith, we can expect to be welcomed into God’s eternal kingdom. (v. 11)
4.We must encourage brothers and sisters to remember God’s promises and to live a life of faith and godliness. (vs. 12-15)
5.The truths of Scripture came directly from God by His Spirit. (vs. 20-21)
The Power of the Gospel
The truth of the gospel is a powerful force. When we discover it, it inspires a confident expectation of the future that transforms our present lives. It inspires us to pursue the virtues that spring from the gospel and to grow in them consistently and constantly. No wonder Peter was compelled to share again that message in his last days on earth! The question is, what will we do with the message that he shared?
Father, we are overwhelmed at what You have done! We look back and find reassurance. We look forward and have hope. Empower us to grow in our devotion to You. In Jesus’ name, amen.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER
The blessings that the growing Christian enjoys: fruitfulness, vision, security… All this and heaven too!