Bible Study from 2 Peter 1:1-4

The necessity of true knowledge

 

By I Gordon

 

Having spent a lot of time in the past studying different books in the Old Testament, I decided it was about time to get on to the New! I decided to do a series of messages on the book of 2nd Peter. It was a good choice. It’s a good book! In this study, we are only going to look at the first four verses of 2nd Peter chapter 1. But before we get onto that, I have a small question for you…

 

If you knew you were going to die, what would you talk about?

 

Ok, so there’s the question. You see, one thing that really jumped out at me when I started studying this book was that Peter knew that he was about to die. Peter wrote this letter in 66AD. He died, at the hands of the Romans, one year later[1]. And it seems that Peter knew, as he set out to write this letter, that his time was very short. Look at what he wrote near the start of his letter -

 

2 Pet 1:13-15 I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.

 

So let me ask you again… if you knew you were about to die, what would you want to pass on? What would you consider the most important truth to pass on? Hopefully it would concern the things that actually matter… the truth of the Lord Jesus, salvation by grace and eternal matters. Well, anyway, thankfully for us Peter had time to write about the things that mattered to him. So with that as a slightly long introduction, let’s look at the things that mattered to the Apostle Peter.

 

The Journey of Simon Peter

 

2 Pet 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours.

 

Now, maybe I’m getting a little sentimental in my not so old age, but I can imagine Peter, knowing that the time of his death is at hand, looking back over his whole life… where he has come from, and where he has come to. And so he starts by calling himself Simon Peter.[2] On the one hand, he’s still Simon – A simple fisherman with a mouth big enough to fit a foot in![3] And yet, on the other hand, he is Peter – an Apostle of Jesus Christ, a shepherd of God’s sheep and fisher of men. It is crucial that you see and understand these two natures within you as well. On the one hand, there is who you are in the natural - the old Simon… someone very capable to say, and do, the wrong thing! And yet, there is also who you are in the new creation (if you have been born again) – the new Peter!... a spotless, righteous, dearly loved child of God. It is important that we see both![4]

 

Peter then wants to remind his readers that there are no 2nd class citizens in Christianity. He writes ‘to those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours.’  While we all have a tendency to place certain people on a pedestal, Peter was quick to point out that all Christians have obtained the same precious faith, the same precious privileges. Peter will pick this theme up in greater detail in verse 4 so we’ll leave it at the moment.

 

And finally, the main point!

 

2nd Peter 1:2 ‘Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.’

 

How much do we need God's grace in our life? How much do we need his favour and enabling to be present with us? We struggle and strive, lacking peace, yet this verse tells us that God's grace and peace can be multiplied... It can be increased! But look at how Peter says it can be multiplied-it is in the knowledge of God. Peter emphasises this a lot! But that is where the problem comes in. You see, there has been a “dumbing down” of Christianity in our generation.[5] And it is causing all sorts of problems, because as Peter says above, God's grace and peace is directly linked to the knowledge of God. As D. L. Moody once said ‘I prayed for faith and thought it would strike me like lightning. But faith did not come. Then one day, I read – “Now faith comes by hearing. And hearing the word of God.” I had closed my Bible and prayed for faith. I now began to study my Bible and faith has been growing ever since.’ 

 

So the main point that Peter wants to address first and foremost, is this topic of true knowledge. This enabling and grace of God is activated in our life through a true, Biblical, knowledge of the Almighty God. And yet, let us not think that this knowledge is merely knowing or understanding facts. As we shall now see, this knowledge is not just factual, it is practical. True knowledge cannot be divorced from it’s outworking in our lives. 

 

The practical outworking of knowledge.

 

2 Pet 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  

 

As Peter makes clear in verse three, we’re not just talking about knowing ‘things’[6]. We’re talking about knowing the Lord, and the practical outworking of his life in us. Someone has once said, ‘the Bible was not given for our information[7], but for our transformation.’ Peter would wholeheartedly agree. For him, the knowledge of God relates directly to ‘things pertaining to life and godliness.’ This true knowledge of God is to have an impact on our mundane everyday lives. So right about now, you are hopefully asking yourself, ‘then what is the link between the knowledge of God and outworking of his divine nature with in us?’ And that, my friend, is a very good question! I'm glad you asked it.

 

2 Pet 1:4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

 

In verse four above, it gives us the link between the knowledge of God and the outworking of his nature within us. The link is His precious[8] promises in the word of God. Peter says it is through these promises that the divine nature can free us from the corruption that is in the world. So what do we do with the promises of God?[9] Have you faced the situation lately, were you have had to count and trust in the promises of God? You will remember in Pilgrims Progress, when Christian is trapped by Giant Despair in the dungeon of doubting castle, that he finally frees himself after he finds in his pocket a key called ‘promise’! The promises of God have always been the key to escaping from doubting castle. You see, it is by meditating on God's promises that frees the Holy Spirit to work His life, His peace, His joy, and His enabling, into your life. It is what King David instructed us to do in Psalm thirty seven when he wrote ‘Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.’

 

Conclusion

 

Even in the first four verses of second Peter, that we have looked at in this study, we see an entirely different Peter from the one presented to us in the Gospels. The young rash, self dependent fisherman of the Gospels has been transformed by the Holy Spirit and his dependence upon the divine nature. The lack of understanding, so prevalent in his youth, has been replaced by a true knowledge of the workings of God in a believer’s life. And, as he approaches the end of his life, Peter has written to us to remind us of that which is most important in these last days. Can I ask you whether that which was important to Peter, is important to you? Where does the knowledge of God rank in your life? Where does the outworking of his divine nature through your life sit in your priorities? How precious is the word of God, and the promises of God, to you? These things that we’ve seen in the first four verses of 2nd Peter lay the foundation for not only the rest of the book, but for our lives as well.

 

I hope they are important to you.



[1] In many ways, 2nd Peter has a lot in common to 2nd Timothy. 2nd Peter was Peter’s last letter just as 2nd Timothy was Paul’s last letter. It is believed that both books were written in 66AD, and their authors both died one year later in 67AD. Both Peter and Paul knew that their time was short in writing their letter and both placed huge emphasis on the important of holding fast to the truth, the influence of false teachers, and events in the last days.

 

[2] Simon, you will remember, was his name until he met the Lord Jesus. But from the first meeting with Jesus, his name was changed! It went like this – ‘The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ).  And he brought him to Jesus.

Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter). (John 1:41-42) Simon means ‘heard’ and Peter means ‘stone’. Jesus knew from the very first meeting (well, even before this meeting!) that this fisherman would become one of the foundational stones on which His church would be built (Eph 2:20).

 

[3] No doubt, he remembers acting very much like that old Simon, even after meeting the Lord Jesus. Like when he took Jesus aside to rebuke Him for saying that He would go to the cross… Nice one! Or that great boast that even if everyone else deserted Jesus he never would. By the time the night was out Peter had disowned Jesus three times! Or, my personal favourite, was the time when he actually saw Jesus in distress (the only time this happened as far as I know – Matt 26:38, Luke 22:44) and Jesus asked Simon Peter to do one simple thing – ‘Stay awake’ – Peter nodded off. Never forget that there is part of Simon in each of us… but there is also the new man… the new creation… the Peter that God makes of us. 

 

[4] John Newton was a man who saw both. For a job, John travelled to Africa and captured men to be taken back as slaves in America. This he did until he became a Christian and devoted the rest of his life to Jesus Christ. You have probably heard of John. He wrote a somewhat successful little song called ‘Amazing Grace’. At the end of his life John said this "My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: That I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Savior!" Too true!

 

[5] I was reading a book recently, where the author was driving past a church that had a big billboard advertisement on the roadside. The church was advertising nineteen minute sermons. The author thought a lot about this and he wondered to himself “do they only have nineteen minute sermons, because that is all that the preacher can preach, or is it nineteen minute sermons, because that is all that the congregation can bear to stand?” Unfortunately for us, this advertisement only advertises the woeful state of many churches in the West where a sermon is a sermon, no matter what is preached... only the shorter the better. It is a sign of the times.

 

[6] There is a quote on my website, by C. S. Lewis that I really enjoy. It simply says ‘Most theologians devote their lives to answering questions most people aren't asking.’ As we shall see from 2nd Peter, the knowledge Peter had in mind answers questions people are asking!

 

[7] Some of you would have heard Arnold Fruchtembaum. Arnold is a messianic Jewish scholar who I have quoted in previous studies. Recently, I was reading his testimony and he spoke of his great grandfather, who was the Chief Rabbi in Poland. By the time that his great grandfather was thirteen he had memorised the first five books of the Bible. By the time that he was eighteen he had memorised the entire Old Testament! By the time that he was twenty one, if anyone placed their finger on a word on a page, he could tell them what word was in that position, in order, on every other page of the Old Testament! Now I don’t know about you, but to me, that is one amazing party trick. From the point of view of an amazing memorisation ability and dedication, it is incredible. And yet, Arnold’s great-grandfather did not know the Lord! The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were like this as well and that is why Jesus said to them ‘You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.’ So our knowledge of God, and our study of the Scriptures should always bring us back to the only source of life-Jesus Christ.

 

[8] Let me ask you, what is precious to you? What is it that you would consider precious in your life? Why do I get the feeling that you haven't answered the promises of God? It is good for us to pause and consider what we believe is precious in his life. Peter uses the word precious, more than any other writer in the New Testament. So let's have a quick look at what he considers ‘precious’. Actually, I'll just give you the references, but don't be lazy. Look them up to see what was precious to Peter. (1 Pet 1:19, 2:4-7, 2 Pet 1;1, 1:4)

 

[9] I really should stop doing all these footnotes, but seeing that you’ve bothered to look at the bottom of the page, the question I have asked above was once asked by a Pastor to his congregation. A little old lady put up her hand, and replied ‘we underline them in yellow!’ I quite like that answer, although I think that God would require us to do a little bit more with his promises than that!