The Second Letter of Peter – 01 (“Partakers of the Divine Nature”)
[Message: Kobus van der Walt (Three Rivers Baptist Church – 05 January 2020)]
We are already 5 days into the new year and at this stage the world has already made new year resolutions and maybe you have done that as well and I’m not saying that New Year Resolutions are wrong, but it depends on where your focus is when you are taking these resolutions. Do you have resolutions that will (if you stick to these resolutions) satisfy your material needs; fleshly needs? Or occupational resolutions; academic resolutions; or resolutions pertaining your character or bad habits? Whatever it might be, can I suggest a Biblical resolution; a God-honouring resolution? A Christ-focused resolution? A Word-based resolution? In fact, the primary calling for us as believers, should always be to honour and glorify the Triune God by holy lives and I want to challenge all of us today to make this calling our new year’s resolution for 2020.
In his second letter, the apostle Peter gives us the way of honouring God and simultaneously how to always live holy lives.
We read in 2 Pet.1:1-3 the following… ~ “Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ: 2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”
The passage that we are going to look at today was written by the apostle Peter (also known as Cephas – John 1:42) – Peter who would have a significant impact in the history and authority of the church. It was of him that Jesus said in Matt.16:18 ~ “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Peter was a fisherman and as all of us, he was a sinful man, yet he became a part of Christ’s inner circle. Peter was the very first disciple called on by Jesus. in Luke 5 we read about Peter and Jesus having a sincere moment at the very beginning of their relationship. Upon seeing the miracle of fish on an otherwise barren fishing trip, Peter realized his sinful state and gave glory to the Lord by falling to his knees and exclaiming… ~ “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8). Jesus’ reaction on this exclamation of Peter was… ~ “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men” (Luke 5:10). Peter is considered a part of Jesus’ inner circle (together with John and James).
We, as we sit here today, can identify very closely with Peter, because he was a man who wanted to be mighty in faith but faltered often. He stepped onto the rough sea to meet Jesus walking on water, yet even after safely taking a few steps, he began to doubt and plunges into the waves. Jesus saved him and called him a man of “little faith” (Matt.14:31). Later, after Jesus was arrested, before the rooster crowed, Peter denied Jesus three times (Matt.26:69-75).
Peter showed and proclaimed to the world, that non-Jews can be Christians (Acts 10-11).
It was Peter who took Jesus aside to rebuke Him for speaking of His death (Matt.16:22). It was Peter who drew his sword and attacked the servant of the high priest (John 18:10). It was Peter who boasted that he would never forsake the Lord, even if everyone else did (Matt.26:33) and later denied three times that he even knew the Lord (Matt.26:70-74).
Through all of Peter’s ups and downs, the Lord Jesus remained his loving Lord and faithful Guide and simultaneously Jesus reaffirmed Peter as, the “Rock” (Matt.16:18-19), promising that he would be instrumental in establishing Jesus’ Church. After His resurrection, Jesus specifically named Peter as one who needed to hear the good news of His resurrection (Mark 16:7). And, repeating the miracle of the large catch of fish, Jesus made a special point of forgiving and restoring Peter and re-commissioning him as an apostle (John 21:6; 15-17).
Jesus’ promise that Peter would be foundational in building the Church was fulfilled in three stages: Peter preached on the day of Pentecost to Jews (Acts 2). Then, he was present when the Samaritans received the Holy Spirit (Acts 8). Finally, he was summoned to the home of the Roman centurion Cornelius (a Gentile), who also believed and received the Holy Spirit (Acts 10). In this way, Peter “unlocked” three different worlds and opened the door of the Church to Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles.
Today, I want us to look at the second letter of Peter and specifically at the key verses of this second letter, namely 2 Pet.1:3-4. Peter wrote this letter toward the end of his life. Since Peter was martyred in Rome during the reign of Nero, his death must have occurred prior to A.D. 68. He very likely wrote 2 Peter between A.D. 65 and 68.
Peter was alarmed that false teachers were beginning to infiltrate the new and young churches. He called on Christians to grow and become strong in their faith so that they could detect and combat the spreading apostasy (Apostasy is the formal rejection of a religion by a person). He (i.e. Peter) strongly stressed the authenticity of the Word of God and the sure return of the Lord Jesus.
- SCRIPTURE READING:
2 Pet.1:3-4 ~ “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.”
We find the core subject or primary verse of this short passage that we are going to look at today, right in the beginning of the passage, namely vs.3 ~ “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness…”
Our exposition for this message consists out of the following points:
3.1 Spiritual Transformation (1:3a)
3.2 Knowledge of Him (1:3b)
3.3 Great Promises (1:4).
- Spiritual Transformation (1:3a):
In this verse, Peter wants to bring two very important things to our attention, namely: eternal life and godliness. He wants us to change… to undergo a spiritual transformation and what better new year resolution can be desired than that?
Peter is concerned about the fact that the New Testament church are living sinful lives and you just cannot have the one if you reject the other one ~ “You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. 21 ‘Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt.7:16-21). In Peter’s first letter (1 Pet.4:11) he also says ~ “…whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” The hope for eternal life can never go hand in hand with ungodliness.
In Matt.7, Jesus says that we must undergo a spiritual transformation. Peter says the same in his second letter. The question is, did both Jesus and Peter said that we must obtain a spiritual transformation by good works? The answer is an emphatical, NO! In fact, Peter says in vs.3, that we as believers have already received “all things that pertain to life and godliness.” In other words, all believers are already in possession (have received), everything we need for living a godly life (New Living Translation) and to inherit eternal life. But, is it really true? Is it really possible? When we look at our own sinful lives it doesn’t really make sense, and the Word of God is full of it – we are rotten to the core. David says in Ps.53:3 ~ “They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.” “David says that man is “corrupt,” meaning he is sour, rotten, infected, vile, and polluted.” (John Calvin is his “Commentary on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis”). “Depravity is not limited to one aspect of man’s being, but has infiltrated every facet” (according to ‘’Matthew Barret in his book “40 Questions about Salvation”).
If this is true, and it is true, because God’s Word says so, how is it then possible that we as rotten people, who confess that we are united with God the Father through Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death, have already received “all things that pertain to life and godliness”? Vs.3a gives us the answer ~ “(through) His (i.e. God) – (through) His divine power.”
3.2 Knowledge of Him (1:3b):
When someone gives you a birthday present, he holds the present towards you – he does not put it in your pocket – you must stretch out your hands and take the present into your possession. How do we take possession of this “divine power” – that power that will… ~ “(grant) to us all things that pertain to life and godliness”? The answer lies in vs.3b ~ “…through the knowledge of Him.” We receive this “divine power through the knowledge of God.” What is this “knowledge”? The Greek word in this case is ἐπίγνωσις (epignõsis), which literally means “to learn” (Lk. 7:37; 23:7; Ac. 9:30; 22:29), “to understand.” The Hebrew and the Greek has the same meaning and according to the Jewish literature this word ἐπίγνωσις (epignõsis), or knowledge, means a knowledge of the requirements of the Law – in other words, to be granted “all things that pertain to life and godliness,” or if you want, in order to make this power our own, this power that unlocks all things which give us eternal life and godliness, or a holy life, is to gain knowledge of God and to understand the Word of God. We can only gain knowledge of God and understand the Word of God, if we study the Word of God; by reading it, by studying it, by listening to it (preaching), to “drink” it in.
3.3 Great Promises (1:4):
Vs.4 says ~ “by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises.” This
means, that when we study the Word of God – God’s divine power will be released and we will receive His “precious and very great promises” (vs.4). In order to understand what this promises are, we must look at the opening words of vs.4, namely “by which.” This expression is written in the plural form and refers to the preceding words in vs.3, namely, “glory and excellence.” Therefore, when we study God’s Word, God’s divine power will be released, in order for us to receive His precious and very great promises.
What are these “precious and great promises” that will be released? These promises refer back to vs.3, namely “life and godliness.”
What Peter therefore is saying, is that when we study the Word of God, God’s divine power will be released and God’s precious and great promises of life and godliness, will be given to us. Furthermore, vs.4b says that when we receive these promises of “life and godliness,” we will, through the Holy Spirit, ~ “become partakers of the divine nature,” i.e. we will receive God’s nature and will thus escape (vs.4c)… ~ “…from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.”
This power of God will help us fight against the sinful desires of our flesh and of the world, but even more important, it will help us conquer them – to overcome them, so that we will not have the desire to commit them anymore. The more knowledge of God’s Word and the more we experience the promises of God from His Word, the more victory over sin we will experience and the more we will be clothed with God’s nature. The source of all of this, is God Himself through the working of His Holy Spirit.
It is therefore, clear that God imputes these promises into us… ~ “…for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil.2:13) and we cannot take glory and honour for this – our part in this whole process, is to study God’s Word and be obedient to it (and even that is a working of God) and God is the One who does the rest.
One last, but very important aspect of this very important passage that we are looking at today, is the fact that Peter uses the word “us”, three times in vss.3-4. In our Scripture reading for today ~ “His divine power has granted to US all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called US to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to US his precious and very great promises.” To whom is Peter referring when he talks about “us”? For the answer, we must go back to vs.1 ~ “…those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours.” These promises and this power are given (imputed) to those who rely on Christ’s righteousness – those who are born-again – who are saved through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ.
- CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION:
In summary then: God will, through His divine power, eventually grant eternal life to all sincere and saved children of God, but in the meantime in this life, He will, through His divine power, give us all things that is necessary for a holy life, He will assist us to fight against and escape a worldly; sinful and God-dishonouring life.
Beloved, we as Christians in 2020, are nearer to our Lord’s return than the first-century Christians to whom this epistle was written. But, as we look around us and listen to the TV and read the news of the day, we realise how corrupt this world is. We also see more and more people around us that have been misled and led into a false gospel. These realities around us, as well as Peter’s appeal in 2 Pet.1:3-4, urge us to be properly and firmly grounded in the Word of God, so that we will be able to discern truth from error and live holy lives to the glory of our King and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
When we apply these truths that Peter shared with us this morning and if this is our sincere new year resolution for 2020 and the years following, we can also be assured of a rich reward… ~ “…the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Pet.1:10-11). The foundation for our faith is and always will be the exact same Word of God that Peter preached.
My challenge to you today, is to make 2 Pet.1:3-4 your own for this new year and apply it day in and day out in and through your lives.