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COMMENTARY ON THE SECOND LETTER OF PETER (1).

By Dr Peter Pett BA BD (Hons-London) DD

Peter’s second letter is intended to be a follow up to his first letter (2 Peter 3.1). This explains why he does not deal in detail with themes that he has already dealt with in 1 Peter, but rather assumes them (1.1 - imputed and imparted righteousness; 1.4 - new begetting; 2.1 - redemption by the Lord). He is content to recognise that the churches have preserved his first letter, and therefore his aim is to build on it. But that being said there are a number of interesting parallels between 2 Peter and 1 Peter.

The Parallels With 1 Peter.

  • In both we find the theme of the glory of Christ emphasised (1 Peter 1.7, 8, 11, 21; 4.13, 14; 5.10; 2 Peter 1.3, 16-17; 3.18).
  • Both emphasise the transformation within as a result of His word and promises (1 Peter 1.3, 23; 2.2; 2 Peter 1.4).
  • Both refer to our escaping from the corruption of the world and its desires (1 Peter 1.14, 18; 2.11; 4.2; 2 Peter 1.4; compare 2.10, 18, 20).
  • Both refer to our calling and election (1 Peter 1.1-2; 2 Peter 1.10-11).
  • Both refer to Noah and the flood (1 Peter 3.20-21; 2 Peter 2.5), although with different applications. (This double mention is striking in that in the New Testament only Jesus, in Matthew 24.37-38; Luke 17.26-27, and the writer in Hebrews 11, similarly refer to Noah)
  • Both speak of the angels who sinned (1 Peter 3.19-20; 2 Peter 2.4).
  • Both refer to the Holy Spirit speaking through the Scriptures and the prophetic foretelling of the Gospel (1 Peter 1.10-12; 2 Peter 1.16-21).
  • Both emphasise the climactic close of the age (1 Peter 1.5, 7, 13; 2.12; 4.5, 7; 5.4, 10; 2 Peter 3.3-13).
  • Both have the habit of verbal repetition, and are similar in the use of the article.
  • Neither letter speaks of ‘the church (ekklesia)’, or of His people being ‘the body’ of Christ, in spite of the fact that in 1 Peter there is great emphasis on the people of God as a whole.
  • Both letters uniquely ask that grace and peace might be multiplied to the recipients (1 Peter 1.2; 2 Peter 1.2).
  • 1 Peter declares that we have been called out of darkness into His marvellous light (1 Peter 2.9), while 2 Peter 1.19 speaks of ‘a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts.’
  • Compare also the use of ‘salvation’ in 1 Peter 1.5, 9, 10 with 2 Peter 3.15a; ‘love of the brethren’ in 1 Peter 1.22 with 2 Peter 1.7; the idea of saving righteousness in 1 Peter 3.18 with 2 Peter 1.1b; ethical ‘knowledge’ in 1 Peter 3.7 with 2 Peter 1.6.

And yet the applications are so dissimilar in each letter that there is no suggestion of one writer deliberate aping the other. It is rather therefore an indication that the parallels arise because they are imbedded in the thinking of the same author.

The Theme Of 2 Peter.

The theme of 2 Peter is that our Lord and Saviour has broken into world history and called us to Himself, and will ‘shortly’ bring all things to their culmination by cataclysmic change. His ‘power’ and ‘coming’ have been manifested to eye-witnesses at the Transfiguration (1.16-18), and that power and coming will finally result in the destruction of all things by fire and the issuing in of a new heavens and a new earth (3.10-13). Meanwhile the opportunity is being given for all men to repent (3.9), and become partakers of the divine nature, escaping the lusts and desires of the world, just as those who are truly His already have (1.4).

He emphasises that there are false teachers claiming that nothing has really changed in history. They say that all continues on now as it has done from the time when the world was created (3.4), and that men also can therefore continue on as they always have done. Thus they deny the Master Who bought them (2.1). But they are totally wrong. For if they would but open their eyes tehy would see that important things have happened since creation, demonstrating God’s continuing activity in history. The first thing to have happened was God’s judgment revealed at the Flood, when God destroyed a wicked world that had rejected the preaching of righteousness (2.4-5; 3.5-6). The second is that the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ has been revealed in the world (1.16-18), something which has transformed history, a power and coming that will finally come to its crisis and will result in the destruction of the world in the coming of the Day of God (3.12), issuing in the new heavens and the new earth in which dwells righteousness (3.13).

In the light of this, then, His people, Who have been granted by Him all that pertains to life and godliness through the knowledge of Christ Who has called us by His own glory and virtue (1.3), are to escape from the defilements of the world by responding to God’s great and precious promises and becoming partakers of the divine nature (1.4), a response which will result in a full-orbed life of godliness and love (1.5-8). And having done so they are to continue to grow in His grace and knowledge recognising that all glory is His (3.18).

COMMENTARY.

The Initial Theme of 2 Peter.

The initial theme of 2 Peter is found in 1.1-4. It is that our God and Saviour Jesus Christ has come into the world, and that thereby:

  • He has called us by His own glory and virtue (1.3)
  • So that we may enjoy life and godliness (1.3).
  • And thus escape the corruption of the world brought about by lust (1.4).
  • As a result of becoming partakers of the divine nature, that is, by becoming a new creation (1.4; compare 2 Corinthians 5.17).

These themes are then expanded on as follows;

  • For His glory manifested - see 1.16-18; 3.18.
  • For life and godliness - see 1.5-9; 3.11.
  • For the corruption that is in the world through lust that has to be escaped from - see 2.2-22.
  • For final delivery through the destruction of the world and its lusts by fire, and the entry into the new creation, the new Heaven and the new earth of the godly as we become more and more partakers of the divine - see 3.7-13.

Introduction.

As was usual in those times the letter begins with and introduction of himself by the author.

1.1 ‘Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a like precious faith with us in the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ.’

‘Simeon Peter.’ Early manuscripts divide as to whether it should be Simeon (aleph, A) or Simon (B). But in view of the propensity that there would be to change Simeon Peter into the more popular and well known Simon Peter, and no obvious grounds for a movement to take place the other way, Simeon should probably be seen as the original rendering.

There is no other instance of the combination Simeon Peter, although in Acts 15.14 James, the Lord’s brother, does speak of Peter as Simeon. It would, however, sit well on the lips of Peter as he sensed that death was approaching, and memories of his early life flooded back. (Compare also how in verses 16-18 memories of the Transfiguration have flooded back). And even moreso if he had been in recent contact with Jude, from whom much of the material in chapter 2 might be seen as derived, although not without thoughtfully altering it. Like James, Jude would have called him Simeon. On the other hand a pseudepigraphist would surely have used a better known title.

It is very possible that he had behind the use of the two names the deliberate aim of indicating the oneness of the church of Christ. He was both Simeon (Jewish) and Peter (Greek), and spoke equally to all. He may also have been using it to remind them that the old Simeon had become the new Peter. The lowliest one (the slave) had become the Apostle.

In the John’s Gospel ‘Simon Peter’ is common (17 times). It also appears in Matthew 16.16 and Luke 5.8. Thus the general combination is not unusual.

‘A servant and Apostle of Jesus Christ.’ This dual description may reflect ‘Simeon -- Peter’. The lowly servant had become the mighty Apostle through the grace of God. We must not overlook, however, that the title ‘servant of the Lord’ was one of honour. It was used of Moses and Joshua specifically. ‘My servant’ was used of David, and of the great Servant of the Lord of Isaiah. It was a great honour to be a servant of the Lord, although one to be held in humility, and it indicated one who was in total submission to the Lord’s will and had a divine responsibility, but who nevertheless recognised his own lowly status.

1 Peter 1.1 has simply ‘an Apostle of Jesus Christ.’ The addition of servant (doulos -slave) here might again be seen as a sign of Peter’s growing awareness of his humble status before his Master, while a pseudepigraphist would surely have repeated the title in 1 Peter, or copied one from Paul.

The title brings out his recognition that his life is one of humble service, and may well be intended to contrast with the attitude of the false teachers in chapter 2 who saw themselves as anything but slaves. Yet at the same time it also emphasises his authority as an Apostle, one especially appointed by Christ and ‘sent out’ by Him (apostello). As a whole it is a unique description. ‘Servant’ and ‘Apostle’ are common in Paul’s introductions, but not in this combination. James and Jude refer to themselves as ‘a servant (slave) of Jesus Christ’. While they were probably seen as ‘Apostles’ they knew that they were not one of the original twelve, who were unique.

‘To those who have obtained a like precious (or ‘honourable’) faith with us in the righteousness of our God and the Saviour Jesus Christ.’

The ‘us’ here could refer to:

  • The church in general, or the church from which Peter was writing (compare 1 Peter 5.12).
  • The early disciples of Jesus Christ, or simply the Apostles themselves.
  • Christian Jews who were the original foundation of the church (Acts 1-12).

In view of the comments that follow the third alternative might appear to be the most likely to be in Peter’s mind. It would suggest that he never forgot the wonder of God having opened the door equally to the Gentiles through him (Acts 10-11).

For ‘like precious’ (isotimos) compare 1 Peter 2.4, 6 where we find ‘precious’ (entimos), Their shared faith is precious because it brings them in touch with the One Who is precious and a Giver of righteousness (1 Peter 2.4). And it guarantees to them precious (timios) promises which will result in righteousness (1.4). Note that Peter claims no superiority for himself. They all have the same faith and share in the same faith and the same preciousness.

This word isotimos was particularly used in connection with foreigners who were given equal citizenship in a city with the original inhabitants. Josephus, for example, says that in Antioch the Jews were made isotimoi, that is, equal in honour and privilege, with the Macedonians and the Greeks who lived there. So Peter is addressing his letter to those who had once been despised Gentiles but who had now been given equal rights of citizenship under the Kingly Rule of God, with the Christian Jews, with the Apostles themselves, and with the whole church.

They have ‘obtained’ it because it has been given to them by God. It is not something that they have earned or deserved. It is a gift arising from His unmerited goodness. Compare Matthew 16.17. Flesh and blood has not revealed it to them but their Father Who is in Heaven. It is His gift to them. For it is God Who gives to each man their measure of faith (Romans 12.3). ‘Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ’ (Romans 10.19). It is thus all due to Him. He makes known the riches of His glory on vessels of mercy which He has prepared beforehand for glory (Romans 9.23; compare Ephesians 1.4 ff.; Romans 8.29-30) and woos them to Himself.

The word ‘obtained’ regularly means ‘obtained by lot’ and therefore indicates total undeserving. In other words it has not been through any merit of their own. It occurs in 1 Samuel 14.47 LXX where it refers to Saul receiving the kingdom by lot. Peter may well have in mind how the inheritance of Israel was divided up by lot, although LXX there uses different phraseology. This factor, combined with his use of isotimos, might suggest that he has in mind that the church is the new Israel, in a similar way to that which we find in 1 Peter, enjoying with the new Israel, founded on Christ through His Apostles, the same precious faith and the same inheritance.

Note that Peter does not name the recipients of the letter. They may well initially have been the same as those mentioned in 1 Peter (3.2 compare 1 Peter 1.2). But it is possible that by this time he now recognised that his letter would have a wider outreach, as he knows that Paul’s already had (3.16). Thus he may have left it deliberately unaddressed with no mention of recipients.

Here their faith is ‘faith in the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ.’ The concept of righteousness is important to Peter. As he informed us in 1 Peter 3.18, ‘Christ suffered for us, the Righteous One for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God’. Following the incarnation, and His powerful ministry and fully righteous life, this was His ultimate act as our Saviour, to suffer for us as the Righteous One. Thus this reference to ‘the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ’ has in mind that we are fully dependent on the righteousness of Christ for our salvation. It is His righteousness provided for us and brought to us by Jesus Christ dying on our behalf (1 Peter 3.18; 1 Corinthians 1.30; 2 Corinthians 5.21) that can alone be the basis of our acceptance with God and of our righteous living before men.

Having received His righteousness we will then walk in ‘the way of righteousness’ (2.21; compare 2.5, 8, 13, 15) in the same way as He did, for righteousness is the great essential for those who would dwell in the new Heaven and the new earth (3.13). That is why Jesus could say, ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled’ (Matthew 5.6).

We can compare here how in 1 Peter the basis of our faith was by entry into ‘the obedience of Jesus Christ’ (1.2), Here it is by entry into ‘the righteousness of Jesus Christ’. The general stress in 1 Peter was on obedience. Here in 2 Peter it is on righteousness (2.5, 8, 13, 15, 21; 3.13). We must not, however, overlook the stress on righteousness which is also found in 1 Peter 2.23, 24; 3.12,14; 4.18. So the thoughts are complementary, not contradictory.

And the source of all this blessing is ‘the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ’. It is found in the righteousness of God as revealed in ‘our God and Saviour Jesus Christ’. This clear declaration of the Divinity and Saviourhood of Jesus Christ is paralleled in Titus 2.13. But note also the exactly parallel phrase in 1.11, ‘our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’ where ‘Lord’ must equate with Jesus. Thus here ‘God’ must also equate with Jesus and there can thus be no doubt that this is a clear statement of the Godhead of Jesus Christ. Peter is declaring that Jesus is our God and Lord, and our Saviour. Compare Romans 9.5; Philippians 2.9-11; John 14.9; 20.28.

The idea of Jesus Christ as ‘our Saviour’ is powerful. Throughout the Old Testament God is revealed as acting as the Saviour of His people. In all their sinfulness His promise was to be their Saviour. He had originally saved Israel out of Egypt by a powerful hand and an outstretched arm (Exodus 20.2). And in Isaiah His constant cry was that He would bring to His people ‘righteousness and salvation’. It was His promise that He would come with mighty power to save and restore them. He would be their Saviour and Redeemer. The idea was continued in the New (Luke 1.47; 1 Timothy 1.1; 2.3; 4.10; Titus 1.3; 2.10; 3.4; Jude 1.25). God would now be the Saviour of a wider people. And here Jesus Christ Himself is directly identified as and with ‘God our Saviour’ (compare Luke 2.11; John 4.42; Acts 5.31; 13.23; Ephesians 5.23; Philippians 3.20; 2 Timothy 1.10; Titus 1.4; 2.13; 3.6; 1 John 4.14). In Him is to be found the fulfilment of all the Old Testament promises of the saving power and activity of God.

1.2 ‘Grace to you and peace be multiplied in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord,’

The combined greetings of ‘grace’ (a Greek greeting) and ‘peace’ (a Jewish greeting) again reflect the unity of God’s people. But to the Christian ‘grace’ reflects more than just ‘well-being’, it reflects the unmerited, active love and compassion of God at work on his behalf. Peace also reflects their wellbeing in Him, and also has in mind the peace and contentment of a settled heart, the ‘peace which passes all understanding’ (Philippians 4.7). So to some extent they are interchangeable. The main idea in Peter’s mind is their spiritual wellbeing brought about through the activity of a gracious and compassionate God.

‘Be multiplied.’ Compare 1 Peter 1.2; Jude 1.2. Wellbeing is to be multiplied towards them within the sphere of the spiritual knowledge (epignosis) of ‘God’ and of ‘Jesus our Lord’. Or ‘of our God, even Jesus our Lord’. In Jesus’ own words, ‘no one knows the Father but the Son, and he to whom the Son pleases to reveal Him’ (Matthew 11.27).

God Has Made Full Provision For Us To Life A Godly Life (1.3-4).

Having greeted the recipients, and having reminded them that they had a like precious faith with all God’s people, Peter now reminds them of the huge benefits that that faith has brought them. They should recognise that the divine power of their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ has granted to them all that is necessary for life and godliness through their knowledge of Him, as the One Who has called them by His own glory and excellence.

In other words, says Peter, the spiritual knowledge of our Lord, Jesus Christ, provided to us by His divine power, is our all sufficiency in all things. In knowing Him we have all that we can possibly need in order to live out our lives in accordance with His good pleasure (Philippians 2.13). For through Him God has ‘shined in our hearts giving us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’ (2 Corinthians 4.6; compare 1 Peter 2.9).

Thus in Paul’s words our desire must be, that more and more ‘we might know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable to His death, if by any means we might attain to the resurrection from among the dead’ (Philippians 3.10-11). And the result will be that we will be ‘strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man’, with Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith (Ephesians 3.16-17), so that being rooted and grounded in His love which passes all knowledge, we will be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3.17-19).

The comprehension of these glorious truths is important for what follows. For it is this very knowledge that they have of their Lord, Jesus Christ, in all His glory, that will reveal the folly of the experiences being offered by the false prophets in chapter 2. Indeed it is that knowledge from which they have turned away (2.20-22).

1.3 ‘Seeing that his divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and virtue (vibrant excellence),’

The divine power of God (1.3) and the power and coming of Christ (1.16-18; 3.4, 12) are the central thought of the letter. It is this that has changed the history of the world, will issue in its end (3.7), and will establish a new heavens and a new earth in which dwells righteousness (3.13), in process of which He will transform His people Who respond to His promises (1.4) so that they may have rich entrance into His eternal kingdom (1.11).

The grace and provision of wellbeing by God is therefore to be seen as multiplied towards us in that by His divine power He has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through Christ, all of which results from our knowledge of Him in His glory and excellence. In other words, by His divine power and through our spiritual knowledge of Him, He has empowered us so that we might live a true spiritual life, the fruit of the ‘eternal life’ that He has given us, and might reveal eusebeia, the genuine piety and godliness that results from an intimate knowledge of Christ.

‘Through the knowledge of Him.’ This knowledge is all important in combating the quasi-knowledge of the false prophets. It is because His people know their God and Saviour Jesus Christ in all His glory, especially as revealed in his previous letter, that the lesser lords and saviours of these quasi-prophets falls into insignificance. And indeed Peter will emphasise some of this glory later in the chapter (verses 16-18). It is important that they have a full comprehension of His glory. And this all comes about through our ‘spiritual knowledge’ of the One Who has called us by His own glory and vibrant excellence. As the Glorious One he has called us to participate in His glory, and as the Righteous One He has called us to be righteous as He is righteous.

The word for ‘virtue’ does not just mean pure goodness. It contains within it the thought of actively powerful goodness. It is a word which denotes a good quality or excellence of any kind, and in the ancient classics it is used to denote manliness, vigour, courage, valour, fortitude. So the word includes the idea of energy or power of some kind, in contrast with what we commonly understand by virtue, and should, therefore, be allied to the energy or efficiency which God has displayed in the work of our salvation. We may see it as paralleling the ‘active righteousness’ spoken of by Isaiah in parallel with the idea of ‘salvation/deliverance’.

Peter’s continuing stress on ‘knowledge’ (epignosis - see 1.2, 3, 8; 2.20; gnosis - 2.5, 6; 3.18) is probably in order to stress the superiority of the Christian’s true knowledge of the divine, which is firmly related to history, in direct contrast with the ‘gnosis’ of the far fetched fantasies of the then current Hellenistic religions.

These ideas of glory and moral and powerful excellence will be reflected throughout the letter. Thus:

  • In Christ we become partakers of the divine nature (Christ in you the hope of glory) -- and having escaped moral corruption we are to build up moral excellence, through our knowing of Him in His glory and excellence (1.4a; 1.4b-11).
  • He has already given a foretaste of His glory and excellence, for it was revealed to His Apostles, and it was also witnessed to in true prophecy (1.12-21) -- and this is in contrast with the false prophecy which introduces only degradation, corruption and decay (2.1-22).
  • The false prophets mock at the idea that our Lord and Saviour has truly broken into history (3.1-4) -- and will therefore be caught up in the final conflagration which will burn up all that is degraded and corrupt (3.5-10), but we in contrast are to live in the light of that day, looking for a new Heaven and a new earth which will replace that degradation and corruption, and being built up in grace and in the knowledge of Him, with the result that we will share in the final glory which will be His (3.11-18).

1.4 ‘By which he has granted to us his precious and exceeding great promises; that through these you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world by lust.’

Because we have been called in His glory and in virtue of His powerful excellence, and because we have come to know Him in that glory and excellence, (compare 1 Peter 2.9), He has granted us certain hugely effective and precious promises, as a result of which we have become partakers of the divine nature. These great and precious promises were outlined in his first letter. It is through His resurrection that we have been begotten again of incorruptible seed (1 Peter 1.23) to a living hope (1 Peter 1.4). It is through His cross and subsequent victory that we have certainty for the future and can live unto righteousness (1 Peter 2.24; 3.18-22; 4.1-2). We do not have to distinguish here whether the ‘He’ is God or Jesus Christ. For Jesus Christ has already been revealed as ‘our God and Saviour’. The ‘He’ has in mind the whole of the Godhead inclusive of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

There may be in mind in the ‘divine begetting’ mentioned here the claims of some Hellenistic religions which promised some kind of ‘divine begetting’, but if so it has been taken over and given new content and a new perspective. The point is not that we become divine, but that the seed of the divine word has been implanted within us, so that we have been made one with the divine Christ (compare John 15.1-6). The result will be that as a result of the work of the Spirit within we will grow up to become trees of righteousness and the planting of the Lord (1 Peter 1.2). It is a totally Biblical idea. See for example Isaiah 61.13; and compare Isaiah 55.10-13; 44.1-5; Ezekiel 36.26-27.

It should be noted that the Christian’s partaking of the divine nature is not seen as resulting from emotional ritual acts (that was a later perversion), it is seen as being through ‘knowing Christ’ and as a result of the activity of God through His word. It results from God reaching down to man in Christ, not man reaching up to God.

The ‘exceeding great and precious promises’ relate to all the precious promises which link us with the precious ‘living foundation stone’ (1 Peter 2.4). It is through His dying for us, and His power released through His resurrection, that we can be delivered from the corruption of the world (1 Peter 2.24-25; 3.18-22). It is through ‘knowing Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His suffering, being made conformable to His death, if by any means we might attain to the resurrection from the dead’ (Philippians 3.10-11). In other words it is when we can each say, ‘I have been crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, and yet it is not I who live, but Christ Who lives in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God Who loved me and gave Himself for me’ (Galatians 2.20).

And the result of participating in His divine nature through dying with Him and rising with Him in newness of life, is that we are delivered from the corruption that is in the world as a result of men’s evil desires. We are lifted out of the filth and the morass of evil and worldly living (1 John 2.15-17), and made into citizens of Heaven (Philippians 3.20). This in stark contrast to the false teachers in chapter 2.

We Are Thus To Cultivate All That Is Good and Pure In Life (1.5-8).

Because of our participation in His divine nature, we are therefore to become an example of all that is good and pure.

1.5-7 ‘Yes, and for this very reason, adding on your part all diligence, in your faith supply virtue; and in your virtue knowledge; and in your knowledge self-control; and in your self-control patient endurance and in your patient endurance godliness; and in your godliness brotherly kindness; and in your brotherly kindness love.’

This is to be seen not so much as a progression but as an expansion (you do not start with faith and gradually build up to love, rather, as you truly believe, your life expands to take it all in. The idea is that by our enthusiasm and determined activity (‘work out your own salvation with greatest care’ - Philippians 2.12) which results from our being participators in the divine nature, we must ‘work out’ all the attributes that Christ Himself displayed, and that God will work within us (Philippians 2.13), and that Peter has described in his first letter.

The effort that is to be put into this should be noted. ‘Adding on your part all diligence.’ The word for ‘adding’ indicates a largess of effort. It was used of generous citizens who lavishly gave of their wealth to finance shows for the less well off. Thus the Christian must be lavish with his efforts, although in his case it is in order to show forth God’s excellencies (1 Peter 2.9). And it is to be done with ‘diligence’. With both effort and speed. The Christian must not dawdle in his spiritual growth.

Thus as a result of the faith that they have in Him they are with the utmost diligence to develop moral excellence, and additionally to moral excellence they are to add true spiritual knowledge, and additionally to true spiritual knowledge they are to add self-control, and additionally to self-control they are to add patient endurance, and additionally to patient endurance they are to add godliness, and additionally to godliness they are to add true brotherly affection, and additionally to true brotherly affection they are to add divine love.

Here indeed is the sevenfold (divinely perfect) pattern of the true Christian life based on faith. The importance of lists like this was that they were easily remembered. Those who could not read remembered them and took them into their daily lives with the impetus of faith behind them (compare Galatians 5.22-23; 1 Timothy 6.11):

  • Faith - that is faith in all that has been described as we look to the Source and Upholder of our salvation (Hebrews 2.10; 12.2; 1 Peter 1.7). It is through His response to our faith, exercised especially in prayer, Bible study and obedience that all this will be possible.
  • Moral excellence - that is the energetic outliving of a Christ-like life (Galatians 2.20; 1 Peter 2.9). Note its relation to the moral excellence of God (1.3).
  • Spiritual knowledge - that is a growing in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour (3.18; 1 Peter 2.2). It also includes the wisdom of the balanced mind. By being illuminated by the Spirit ‘we have the mind of Christ’ (1 Corinthians 2.16).
  • Self control - that is a submitting to His yoke as we walk with Him (Matthew 11.28-30) and submitting patiently to all authority (1 Peter 2.13-3.7). Behind the word is the idea of the discipline of the athlete. He keeps under his whole body and plays according to the rules (1 Corinthians 9.25-27; 2 Timothy 2.3-5).
  • Patient endurance - that is enduring the contradiction of sinners against ourselves (Hebrews 12.3), and maintaining a patient endurance as we face the road ahead (Romans 5.3-5; 1 Peter 2.11).
  • Godliness - again eusebeia. But here it is more related to behaviour and attitude, although still empowered by God. It is a God-outworked life of true worship towards God and true goodness towards his fellowman. The one who exercises godliness shuns the world and its desires (1 John 2.15-17). Indeed in 3.11 this godliness is to be cultivated in view of the fact that the world as we know it will be destroyed.
  • True brotherly affection - showing unfeigned love of the brethren and sisters (1 Peter 1.22; Galatians 5.13-14). This is central to what it means to be a Christian (John 13.35; 1 John 4.19-21).
  • ‘Divine’ love - love revealed towards all men in spite of what they are (Matthew 5.42-48; 1 Corinthian 13.4-8; 1 Peter 1.22; 1 John 4.7-11).

Here then we have the description of the full-orbed spiritual life which Christ expects of His own.

1.8 ‘For if these things are yours and abound, they make you to be not idle nor unfruitful unto the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.’

The importance of these ‘virtues’ is now brought out. Those who abound in them will neither be idle nor unfruitful with regard to the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. They will be stirred to activity in testifying to Christ (1 Peter 3.15) and in good works which reveal Christ (1 Peter 2.9; Matthew 5.16), and they will study to show themselves approved to God (1 Peter 2.2; 2 Timothy 2.15). Thus will they grow daily in their knowledge of Him.

A Plea That They Make Their Calling And Election Sure (1.9-11).

Peter now points out that those whose lives fail to be continually fruitbearing in the way that he has described reveal that they are blind to Christian truth. Thus he calls on his readers in contrast to make their calling and election sure by following out his words.

1.9 ‘For he who lacks these things is blind, seeing only what is near (shortsighted or blinking), having forgotten the cleansing from his old sins.’

In contrast those who neglect these things are short-sighted, they are ‘blinking’. They are virtually blind. The idea is of limited vision. They see only dimly what is in front of their eyes. They have lost sight of the deeper things of life. They have lost sight of the things that are unseen (2 Corinthians 4.18). They have lost sight of Him. And they have especially lost sight of the fact that they have experienced spiritual cleansing through the blood of Christ (compare 1 Peter 1.2), and the resultant new birth. And this is proved by the fact that they have at least partially fallen back into their old ways, and have lost sight of the awfulness of sin and ungodliness. They need therefore to repent and do the first works lest they come under His judgment (Revelation 2.5).

It is important to note that in relation to Christian ‘cleansing’ this noun for cleansing from sin (katharismos) only occurs elsewhere in Hebrews 1.3, where it says, ‘when He had made purification for sins He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on High’. There it refers to the cleansing resulting from the shedding of His blood as presented before God. Its related verb katharizo occurs in Acts 15.9 (in words of Peter); 2 Corinthians 7.1; Ephesians 5.26; Titus 2.14; Hebrews 9.14, 22, 23; James 4.8; 1 John 1.7, 9.

  • In Acts 15.9 Peter refers back to the incident of Cornelius in Acts 10 and declares, ‘He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith.’ In the background is the vision that he had received which had declared ritually clean what God had cleansed.
  • In 2 Corinthians 7.1 Paul declares, ‘having therefore these promises beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God’. This was in the context of avoiding what was ritually ‘unclean’ (2 Corinthians 6.17).
  • In Ephesians 5.26 we read, ‘even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself up for it, that He might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word, that He might present the church to Himself, a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.’ The picture here is of Christ having offered Himself as a sacrifice by the shedding of blood, so that the church itself might also become ‘clean’ and thus suitable to be a whole offering to God. Note the sacrificial language, no spot or wrinkle but holy and without blemish. Thus the washing which cleanses possibly has in mind the washing of parts of the Old Testament sacrifice preparatory to being offered (Leviticus 1.9, 13; 8.21; 9.14, indicating that this is a ‘whole or burnt offering’). However, it is accomplished not by water but through the word. (To make this a word spoken at baptism is purely arbitrary. Baptism nowhere signifies ‘cleansing’).
  • In Titus 2.14 Paul says, ‘He gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all iniquity and purify to Himself a people for His own possession, zealous of good works’. Here the cleansing is through the redeeming, sacrificial offering of Christ.
  • In Hebrews 9.14, 22, 23 the idea is of cleansing through the blood of Christ, offered up on our behalf.
  • In James 4.8 we have, ‘cleanse your hands you sinners, and purify your heart you doubleminded’. Here Isaiah 1.16 is presumably directly in mind, where Isaiah is specifically speaking not of ritual cleansing, but of cleansing by turning to live a life of good works.
  • In 1 John 1.7, 9 the cleansing is specifically by the blood of Jesus.

In this regard we should note that Old Testament ‘cleansing’ was never by washing with water. Of the one who initially bathed in water it was always said, ‘he will not be clean until the evening’. Thus it was not the washing that cleansed, it was the period of waiting for God. The bathing was merely preliminary. The only water that was ever said to ‘cleanse’ was the water of purification which was mixed with the ashes of the heifer.

Furthermore katharismos is never connected in LXX with bathing in water. Where a medium of cleansing is mentioned the purifying is always with the blood of sacrifice (see Exodus 29.36; 30.10; Leviticus 14.32; 15.13; Numbers 14.18; 1 Chronicles 23.28; Nehemiah 12.45; Job 1.5; 7.21; Psalm 88.45 (MT 89.44); Proverbs 14.9).

So what Peter has in mind here is not baptism, but cleansing in the blood of Jesus as a result of coming to God through His shed blood. It is through ‘sprinkling with His blood’ (1 Peter 1.2).

(The emphasis in baptism is not that of cleansing but of forgiveness and renewal of life. It is of a restoration. John’s baptism pictured the coming of the One Who would drench men in Holy Spirit based on Isaiah 32.15; 44.1-5; 55.10-13; Ezekiel 36.25-27. Thus he spoke of fruitbearing and harvest. Christian baptism pictures dying with Christ and rising to newness of life (Romans 6.4). Its emphasis is on the coming of the Holy Spirit).

Brief note on any connection with baptism.

Many commentators do seek to connect ‘cleansing’ here with baptism. But it should be noted, as we have seen above, that there is no clear example in the New Testament which connects cleansing with baptism. In Paul cleansing is connected with the ‘purifying by (of the) water with the word’ (Ephesians 5.26), but Paul never speaks of baptism as washing or as cleansing or as purifying. The idea in Ephesians is rather that it is God’s word that cleanses preparatory to their being offered up with Christ. In Titus 3.5 it is probably rain that is in mind, washing the earth and bringing about regeneration. In John cleansing is through the blood of Jesus (1 John 1.7).

The example that comes closest to representing baptism as cleansing is Acts 22.16 (by Ananias), but that does not mention ‘cleansing’, and it is even questionable whether the washing there refers to baptism, or indeed to Old Testament ritual bathing at all, for it is apolouow, not louow. In LXX apolouow occurs only in Job.9.30, ‘if I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands never so clean’ where the washing away of dirt from the daily grind of life is in mind. Ritual washing is louow. In Acts 22.16 it is also ‘wash yourself’. Thus we may see this ‘washing’ here as being the ‘washing of ourselves’ described in Isiah 1.16-18. And it is brought about by ‘calling on the name of the Lord’. This ties in with the only other use in the New Testament where again it (apolouow) results from calling on the Name of the Lord. ‘you have been washed, you have been sanctified, you have been justified, in the Name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God’ (1 Corinthians 1.11), the idea being that of being purified by the Spirit because we have become His. In 1 Corinthians this is immediately followed by Paul’s contrast of baptism with the means of being saved. ‘For Christ sent me not to baptise, but to preach the Gospel, not in wisdom of words lest the cross of Christ be made of no effect. For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God’ (1 Corinthians 1.17-18). As in Ephesians 5.26 purifying is through the preaching of the word.

It is possible that it also contains a reference to Isaiah 1.16-18, although in LXX that is also louow. But however that may be, ‘Having arisen be baptised, and wash yourself calling on the name of the Lord’, makes clear that the sentence divides up into two parts, the first half referring to the initial physical activity required, the second having in mind the subsequent behaviour of repentance and true calling on God which should follow in terms of Isaiah 1.16-18; 1 Peter 1.22, Genesis 4.26; 12.8; Psalm 116.17, in all of which the ideas are specifically linked with sacrifice. In baptism people did not ‘wash themselves’. The baptising was by others.

But whatever the case the idea of ‘cleansing’ is absent. This is especially significant in view of the fact that in the Old Testament bathing with water never cleanses. It is merely a preparing of the body for the period of waiting that results in cleansing. The only water that cleanses in the Old Testament is the water of purification which is mixed with the ashes of a heifer. That represents the blood of sacrifice in convenient form. So Ananias might have seen baptism as a preliminary washing prior to the calling on the name of the Lord which would cleanse, or he may simply have seen it as a preliminary before the commencement of a life of repentance and true worship. Either way it was not baptism that was seen as cleansing.

It does not appear to us therefore that baptism can specifically be in mind herein 2 Peter. In 1 Peter 1.2 the sprinkling for cleansing is by the blood of Jesus.

End of note.

1.10-11 ‘For which reason, brothers and sisters, give the more diligence to make your calling and election sure, for if you do these things, you will never stumble, for thus will be richly supplied to you the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.’

Rather, therefore, than blinking because their sight is dimmed, they are to have their eyes open to eternal realities and are to put their utmost effort into doing what he has described, for as a result they will never stumble, and they will make their calling and election sure. And the further result will be that their entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ will be ‘richly supplied’ to them.

‘Brothers and sisters (adelphoi).’ Only here as a greeting in 1 & 2 Peter, but a regular Christian greeting found in Paul’s letters, Hebrews, James and 1 John, often also found as ‘my brothers and sisters’. Peter tends to prefer ‘beloved’ in both letters. Both indicate a warmth of feeling for God’s people.

‘Make your calling and election sure.’ As with Paul in 1 Corinthians 9.27 he is not in doubt about the certainty of their calling and election. He is just pointing out that those who are called and elected will do all that they can to make sure that it is genuine. His point is that to be called and elected is incompatible with blinking and short-sightedness and half-heartedness. Those who are so called and elected should be marching on in confidence with Jesus Himself. And if they are not it should call into question whether they have been called or elected at all.

‘Calling’ and ‘election’ are two of the great words of Scripture. It is as the result of the effectual ‘call’ of God that we first came to Him (1.3; 1 Peter 1.15; 2.9, 21; 3.9; 5.10; Romans 8.29; Acts 2.39; Romans 1.6; 9.24; 11.29; 1 Corinthians 1.9, 24, 26; Galatians 1.15; Ephesians 1.18; 4.1, 4; Colossians 3.15; 1 Thessalonians 2.12; 4.7; 2 Thessalonians 1.11; 2.14; 1 Timothy 6.12; 2 Timothy 1.9; Hebrews 3.1).

Such a ‘call’ is within the eternal purposes of God (Romans 8.29). It is ‘according to His own purpose and grace given us in Christ Jesus before the world began’ (2 Timothy 1.9). It is thus as sure as anything can be, and even surer than that. If it is a genuine call it is as sure as the eternal purposes of God. All Peter is therefore saying, is that although God has made it sure, we must make it doubly sure.

It is also as a result of His ‘call’ that we go on in service (Matthew 10.1; Romans 1.1; 1 Corinthians 7.17). Sometimes this latter call to service results from inner conviction, but almost always as combined with outward circumstances. More harm is done by those who overestimate their calling than can be imagined. However, it is not inevitably so. Everyone said that Gladys Aylward was unsuitable. Yet what glorious unsuitability! But always, without exception, it must be in humility. The one who thinks that he is ideal for the task is assuredly not God’s ideal. However, this is not the call that is in mind here.

There is, of course, also a calling which is not effectual (Matthew 20.16; 22.3, 14). But that also is not in mind here.

The doctrine of ‘election’ is one that many fear, partly because some then go on to theorise too far. Election does not exclude men’s freedom to choose. Rather it overrides it. None will be lost who did not choose to be so. But all who are saved are so because God has chosen them. Salvation is His free gift, and not of works, lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2.8-9). For we are ‘Chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world that we might be holy and without blame before Him in love’ (Ephesians 1.4). Note as with Peter that the choosing results in purity of life. None who are truly chosen will remain what they have been.

This question of ‘election’ is made clear in Romans 9.11, 15, 19-21; 11.4-7. In the end all God’s true ‘Israel’ will be saved (Romans 11.26). Their number is fixed (Revelation 7.1-8) and they are sealed unto the day of redemption (Ephesians 4.30). That is why, even though it may be a near thing (Matthew 24.24), they will not finally be deceived. And they will be gathered in at the last day (Matthew 24.31). This is because God has ‘from the beginning’ chosen them for salvation through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit and belief of the truth (2 Thessalonians 2.13). That is why their names were written from the foundation of the world in the Lamb’s book of life (Revelation 13.8). Some may argue their way out of it by mental gymnastics, but there can really be no question about its being Scriptural.

And it is by being eager to make their calling and election sure, in Paul’s words by their eagerness to gain the prize of the high calling of God (Philippians 3.14), that they will ensure that they NEVER stumble. And ‘thus will be richly supplied to you the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.’ This picture of entering the eternal kingdom of God was one that he had often heard on the lips of Jesus (Matthew 7.21; 8.10-11; Mark 9.47; compare Acts 14.22; 1 Corinthians 15.50). Note the emphasis on God’s rich supply. God’s giving is never niggardly. For those who are truly His, in the day that they enter Heaven the trumpets will blare, and they will enter Heaven in triumph, with crowns of righteousness and of glory on their heads, loaded with the riches of His grace.

As with eternal life this idea of entering under the Kingly Rule of God has two aspects. We enter under God’s Kingly Rule when we become Christians (Matthew 18.3; 19.23, 24; 21.31; 23.13; Mark 10.15; John 3.5; Acts 20.25; 28.31; Colossians 1.13), a first experience which prepares us for our later entry into the eternal kingdom as above. In the same way we enjoy eternal life now (John 3.15, 16; 5.24; 10.28; 1 John 5.13), with the guarantee of enjoying it in all its fullness in the future (Matthew 25.48; Mark 10.30; Romans 2.7; 1 Timothy 6.12, 19; Titus 1.2; 3.7).

‘Eternal kingdom’ is found only here. It is Peter’s only mention of the kingdom as such (but see 1 Peter 3.22; 4.11; 5.11). It stresses that he was referring to the future aspect of the Kingly Rule of God in the new Heaven and the new earth (3.13). We can compare ‘heavenly kingdom’ in 2 Timothy 4.18.

Peter Emphasises His Willingness To Continue Exhorting Them, and The Rightness Of Doing So, And He Promises That He Will Pursue It With True Diligence (1.12-15)

Peter now stresses his readiness and eagerness to fulfil Jesus command to him to ‘Feed My sheep’ (John 21.15-17). Compare 1 Peter 5.1. He is always ready (verse 12), for he thinks it is right for him while he is in his body (his tent ) continually to stir them up (verse 13), because he wants to be sure that they will remember these things once he has gone (verse 15).

We should note here Peter’s emphasis on the fact that they might have these things that he has been pointing to (verses 3-7) in remembrance. He mentions remembrance three times. He is ready always to put them in remembrance (verse 12), he desires to continually stir them up by putting them in remembrance (verse 13), and he wants to ensure that they will be able to call these things to remembrance after he has gone (verse 15). Remembrance is very important. That was why Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, ‘do this in remembrance of Me’ (Luke 22.19; 1 Corinthians 11.25). For no remembrance is more important than to remember Him Who has called them in His own glory and excellence (verse 3).

1.12 ‘For which reason I will be ready always to put you in remembrance of these things, though you know them, and are established in the truth which is with you.’

‘For which reason.’ Because of His glory and excellence (verse 3), and because He has granted us those great and precious promises which have resulted in our partaking of the divine nature, and because of our calling and election, Peter declares that he is always ready to put them in remembrance of these things.

And that although he knows that they know them, and that they are established in the truth which is with them. For he realises that there is nothing more important than that they should continually be reminded of these things and have these things in mind.

It is a reminder to us how we too must ensure that we constantly come under the ministry of the word of God, and continually resort to the Scriptures, that we may grow in the knowledge of the truth. It is a reminder to those who minister that they must constantly minister eternal truths.

1.13-14 ‘And I think it right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance, knowing that the putting off of my tent comes swiftly, even as our Lord Jesus Christ signified to me.’

Indeed as long as he is in his earthly tent he considers it right to continually stir them up, by reminding them of these things, and especially so because he is aware that he must shortly put off this tent, as the Lord Jesus Christ had told him.

The reference to his living in a tent is a reminder of his emphasis in 1 Peter that we are but sojourners here (1 Peter 1.1) and are strangers and pilgrims in the world (1 Peter 2.11), journeying on to our living hope (1 Peter 1.3) and inheritance (1 Peter 1.4). It is a reminder of the brevity of life.

How the Lord had indicated to him that he would shortly die he does not say. He would undoubtedly remember how the Lord had told him that one day others would take him and stretch forth his hands and carry him to where he would prefer not to go (John 21.18), but that was something that he had known ever since the resurrection of Christ. It hardly explains this sense of urgency. This would seem to indicate a clearer and more urgent warning recently received.

Perhaps he had received news of the arrest party coming to take him. Or perhaps it had come in a dream or vision. Or perhaps it was simply the result of an impression made on his heart as he prayed. But whichever way it was he knew that his time was short. He had run his race and the time was drawing near (see 2 Timothy 4.7-8). And the very thought of it takes his mind back to the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ that he, with James and John, had seen when he was on the mount (verses 16-18), a mount which he could only call ‘that holy mount’ (verse 18) because of the awesomeness of their experience. Soon he would see that glory again and be a partaker of that glory to its fullest extent (1 Peter 5.1). That this is his train of thought comes out in his reference to his ‘exodus’ in the following verse which had been used of Jesus’ death at the Transfiguration.

1.15 ‘Yes, I will give diligence that at every time you may be able after my exodus to call these things to remembrance.’

He is concerned that after his death they would still continue to have in remembrance:

  • 1). The divine power received through the knowledge of the One Who had called them by His glory and excellence (verse 3).
  • 2). That He has granted to them those great and precious promises which have resulted in their partaking of the divine nature (verse 4).
  • 3). The reality of their calling and election.

These three certainties, along with the resulting life that they are to lead as described in verses 5-8, will be the foundation of their future lives.

Some see here the promise of further written information from which they will be able to learn, and refer it to the writing of the Gospel of Mark. The idea is that the writing of it is already in progress, and he will speed it up so as to ensure that it is soon available for them. The fact of Peter’s input into the Gospel of Mark is accepted by many scholars, and was testified to early on in the writings of Papias (mid-second century).

Note the use of the term ‘exodus’ for death. Moses and Elijah had discussed Jesus’ coming ‘exodus’ on the Mount of Transfiguration (Luke 9.31). So as his mind turns towards the experience that he, James and John had had there he begins to align himself with his Master Whose glory had been revealed there. This sure touch reveals that this is Peter himself writing, especially in view of the fact that the description of the Transfiguration that follows is clearly independent of the Gospels.

Peter Confirms That What He Has Said About The Glory of Jesus Our Lord Is Based On His Own Factual Experience (1.16-18).

They have been called by His own glory and excellence (verse 3), and have been promised abundant entry into His eternal kingdom (verse 11). Here is the essence of their faith in Christ. In their being called they have come to know Christ as He is and to rely on His promise for the future. But the question may well be asked how can they be sure that His glory and presence (Parousia) are genuine? How can they know that this is any different than the gnosis (knowledge) received by Hellenistic religionists. Why should they listen to Peter rather than to the false teachers? Well, says Peter, there are two reasons:

  • Firstly because he and his fellow-disciples HAVE ALREADY ACTUALLY AND HISTORICALLY EXPERIENCED HIS POWER AND GLORY AND COMING (Parousia) on the holy mount. There can therefore be no doubt about it. They know that He has come in His glory as the Saviour. As a result they know that His power and glory and Parousia are not just some unverified spiritual experience, but are something which is historical and real. They have actually experienced His power. They have actually seen His glory. They have actually been made aware of His Parousia.

    We should notice that to Peter His Parousia is not just His second coming. It is His total coming combined. He has come and was here and will one day be even more glorously revealed.

  • And secondly because the prophets of old have borne witness to it (1.19-21).

An important point should be noticed here about His Parousia (presence, coming). This has already been experienced on the holy mount. Thus we must see that in Peter the word parousia refers to the coming and presence of Jesus as a whole, and not just to His second coming, although it does, of course, very much include that. Like the writer to the Hebrews in 9.26b-28 he sees Christ’s Parousia as happening in two stages, firstly in His revealed presence on earth, which continues on in His presence within His people (John 14.23; 17.22-23; Ephesians 3.17; Colossians 1.27; Acts 9.4), and secondly in His manifested return in glory, of which the Transfiguration was a foretaste. It is this combined event that has changed history for ever, and confounds the false teachers. And His people can know that the whole is real and historical because Christ’s appointed eyewitnesses saw the reality of it revealed in the Transfiguration.

1.16 ‘For we did not follow cunningly devised fables (myths), when we made known to you the power and coming (parousia) of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.’

He wants them to know that unlike his opponents he had not been inventing cunningly devised myths (stories conveying religious truth in acted out worship) when he had told them about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, because he had actually already had a foretaste of it, and had actually seen His glory. He and his fellow-disciples had indeed been eyewitnesses of His majesty. This had demonstrated His real power and glory, as it had been revealed in the cross and resurrection, and was now being revealed in the spreading and effectiveness of the Gospel, and it was proof that His future coming in glory and excellence would be a genuine coming with a real presence. For they had had a foretaste of it here on earth. This was no heavenly myth. There had been nothing fictitious about it. It had been a genuine experience. The Lord (sovereign over all things) Jesus (God made man and Saviour) Christ (the One Anointed to fulfil God’s saving purposes) was here.

Thus the false teachers by their false ideas were ‘denying the Lord Who bought then’, that is, they were denying that He as ‘the Lord’ had really lived among men and had died for them and had risen again. They were denying His presence and power. But their denial was contradicted by the fact that the disciples had visibly seen His power and glory and Parousia while He was on earth, and they had seen it even as His death was being discussed, a sight which had emphasised His power and coming as God made man. The manifested One was also the crucified One.

Compare how Mark 9.1 emphasises that the Transfiguration was linked with ‘the Kingly Rule of God coming in power’. The false teachers were denying both His power and His Parousia (presence, coming). For this denial see 3.3-4. But the Transfiguration had been a foretaste and manifestation of both. For there His glory had been physically manifested and revealed as real, and because of that they could be sure that it would be real too at His final Parousia, which would simply make manifest what was already true, that Christ reigns over the earth. He then goes on to emphasise this by giving an independent account of the Transfiguration.

In other words as a result of His coming and presence Christ has never ceased to be present on earth. His Parousia (according to Peter) includes the totality of His work as the One Who has come from the Father, which is continually manifested in power and will in the end be manifested in glory. His presence and coming was revealed, partially invisibly, while He was here living on earth, and openly in glory at the Transfiguration; it is invisibly true as He goes forward with His people in their present responsibility to disciple all nations (Matthew 28.20; Mark 9.1); and it will be openly manifested in the end in His final glorious appearing. Both aspects of His Parousia manifest openly in glory what has been genuinely so from the time when the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world (1 John 4.14), for in a essence they are one Parousia.

The danger is that we see ‘the body of Christ’ on earth as something other than Christ, as though Christ is in Heaven and His body is on the earth. But that is not so (1 Corinthians 12.12). The ‘body of Christ’ is the risen, powerful, invisible Christ Himself present on earth as one with His people. We are His body as united with Him (Romans 6.5, 11). We are His body because we have been made one with Him. The idea is never used in any other way. See 1 Corinthians 10.16-17; 12.12-13; Ephesians 1.19-2.6; 2.13 with 16, 20; 3.17; Colossians 2.9-10, 19. Thus Christ is here present on earth in us.

This is the glorious paradox of the Gospel, that while Christ in His manifested manhood is absent from us, in His Godhood He is present within us, and living out His life through us. And what will happen at His final Parousia will be that He will be manifested in His glorified manhood in the glory which He had with the Father before the world was (John 17.5).

And Peter wants his readers to know that this is not a myth. It is not simply something which is part of an acted out ceremony. For this idea of ‘myths’ compare 2.1, 3 where the false teachers bring in destructive heresies denying the reality of the cross (‘denying the Lord Who bought them’), and use feigned words. They claimed to be Christian teachers, but their reality was simply a Hellenistic ritual (and possibly a drug induced state) built up around the name of Christ, and probably connected with other saviours.

1.17 ‘For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there was borne such a voice to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” ’

For he wants them to know that the disciples themselves had been witnesses and had seen Him receive honour and glory from God the Father. The ‘honour’ may well refer to the fact that Moses and Elijah had come to bear witness to Him. Or it may be because in their coming He had had the central place. Or it may simply be that Peter saw Him as having been honoured by the very fact of His full glory being revealed. The ‘glory’ refers to the fact that He had been transfigured before them in blinding light. An examination of the Transfiguration narratives brings out just how glorious it had been.

‘And He was transfigured before them, and His face shone as the sun, and His clothing became white as light’ (Matthew 17.2). ‘And He was transfigured before them and His clothing became glistening, exceeding white as no launderer on earth could whiten them’ (Mark 9.3). ‘The fashion of His countenance was altered and His clothes became white and dazzling’ (Luke 9.29). ‘We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only Son of the Father’ (John 1.14).

Peter’s very reticence in providing the full detail here is a sign that we have here his own words. He did not need to spell it out because the detail was burned into his heart. But we can sense beneath his words a memory of how glorious it had been.

And together with ‘the honour and glory’, and adding to and enhancing both, had come the voice from Heaven, from the Majestic Glory Himself, when He had said, ‘This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.’ Interestingly this confirms the longer version of Matthew 17.5 (although significantly differing in minor ways). But all three Gospels add ‘Hear Him’ which is omitted here. Peter omits this because his attention is focused on His honour and glory. It is a further sign of authenticity, a pseudepigraphist would almost certainly have included it.

The point he wants his readers to recognise is that the revelation of Jesus in honour and glory had been accompanied by a confirming voice from God in His majestic glory. For the cloud which so often in the Old Testament demonstrated the presence of God had descended on the mount. This was no Hellenistic tale or myth. This had happened in front of them, and they themselves had heard a real voice ‘from Heaven’, that is, from God Himself. And the voice had revealed that Jesus was God’s true and beloved Son, and was fully pleasing to Him. The King was here.

It is difficult for us to know whether he was expecting his readers to pick up the further reference to the Davidic King (My Son - Psalm 2.7) and Servant (in Whom I am well pleased - Isaiah 42.1), as well as His unique Sonship. The words about the prophecies that follow may suggest that he did.

Thus what they had experienced had not been some Hellenistic vision, some vivid hallucination, but a genuine experience of something seen with their own eyes, which was now being, and would also be in the future, manifested on earth.

1.18 ‘And this voice we ourselves heard borne out of heaven, when we were with him in the holy mount.’

And what was more the voice had been heard by them all. They had heard it borne to them out of heaven, when they were with Him in the holy mount. And it had been a real voice heard and decipherable by each of them.

The description of the mount as a ‘holy mount’ is also an evidence of genuineness. There is no hint anywhere that any mount was especially honoured by the early church. But to the three the mount could never again be thought of except with awe. It would have reminded them of the glory of God revealed on Mount Sinai. In their minds this mountain had replaced the holy mountain of Jerusalem, for here the glory of the Lord had been revealed, the One Who was God’s new Temple (John 2.19, 21). To them it was the holiest place on earth.

His Honour And Glory Is Also Witnessed To By The Prophets (1.19-21).

And all this had been previously confirmed by the prophets which had prophesied of His coming and His glory. This was no Hellenistic myth.

1.19 ‘And we have more sure the word of prophecy, to which you do well that you take heed, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts,’

The words and experience on the holy mount had made more sure the word of prophecy, spoke in earlier days by the prophets. Thus there were many witnesses to His power and glory. And they would do well to take heed to them. For they were like a lamp shining in a dark place (see Isaiah 9.2-7; 60.1-3; compare Matthew 4.16-17), which would go on shining ‘until the day dawn and the day-star arise in their hearts’.

There are three ways of seeing this;

  • 1). As meaning that they are to allow prophecy to be like a lamp shining in the darkness (compare Psalm 119.105), until the Day comes and His glory is more fully manifested in their hearts, something which will happen at His second coming resulting in eternal Day (Zechariah 14.6-7).
  • 2). As recognising that the day-star arises in the darkness and actually precedes the dawning of the day, and thus seeing it as meaning that through prophecy the day star will arise in the hearts of true believers leading on to the dawning of the Day.
  • 3). As seeing it as a present experience which they can have, just as the disciples had had it on the mount, with the light of the glory of God which is in the face of Jesus Christ shining on them (2 Corinthian 4.6) making manifest His glory and making them children of the day (1 Thessalonians 5.5). Compare John 12.35-36, 46.

Whichever way we take it the point is that the light of the full glory of Christ is to dawn on them, and they are to see Him as He is. All are in fact true. For through His word the glory of Christ does shine in our hearts, and one day in accordance with its promises we will behold His greater glory, either when we go to meet Him, or when He comes in His glory.

In regard to this Isaiah had spoken of the coming of God’s king in terms of a light shining out of darkness (Isaiah 9.2), which would result in the child Who would be born and the Son Who would be given, on Whose shoulder would be the Kingly Rule, Whose name would be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9.6), and for Whom of the increase of His rulership there would be no end, so that it would be established and upheld with justice and righteousness from henceforth and for ever (Isaiah 9.7). This includes both present and future aspects and the point may be that they would do well to take heed to it.

In mind also may be the prophecy of the coming of the star from Jacob (Numbers 24.17), which together with the picture of Jesus coming as the morning star which is found in Revelation 2.28; 22.16, would again include both present and future aspects.

1.20-21 ‘Knowing this first, that no prophecy of scripture is of that person’s own explanation, for no prophecy ever came by the will of man, but men spoke from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit.’

For they must primarily recognise that no prophecy of Scripture was ever but the personal opinion of the prophet. For no such prophecy ever came as the result of the prophet’s decision, but rather men spoke from God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

So the power and coming of the Lord Jesus Christ have been evidenced both by the voice of God’s majesty on the mount of Transfiguration, as connecting with His honour and glory which was revealed there, ‘we beheld His glory’ (John 1.14), and by the word of prophets themselves, moved by the Holy Spirit. ‘Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you’ (Isaiah 60.1). Two voices had spoken. What greater testimony could they have? And this was in total contrast to the false teachers of whom he will now speak.

Others translate as ‘of private interpretation’ meaning interpretation by the reader, signifying for example that we must interpret with the help of the Holy Spirit, or that we must agree together concerning the meaning of Scripture, and abjure odd flights of fancy, or that the people must be subject to the Apostolic teaching. All are of course true. But these latter views, although true, do not really tie in with the context of the words.

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God,Saviour,divine,power,life,godliness,knowledge,glory,virtue,great,
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fables,power,coming,eyewitnesses,majesty,God,Father,honor,glory,voice,
excellent,glory,beloved,son,well,pleased,holy,mount,prophecy,lamp,shining,
dark,place,day,dawn,daystar,scripture,private,interpretation,men,spoke,
moved,Holy,Spirit