Lesson: 2 Peter 1
As you read through the first chapter of 2 Peter this week, see if you can identify any references and refutations Peter makes to Gnostic ideas. This chapter is full of them. He talks about true knowledge and where it comes from, not following cleverly devised tales and prophetic interpretation not coming from man. Remember as you read, some of the Gnostic ideas are alive and well today and attacking the Church in a very real way.
Peter‘s introduction is very typical of letters at the time. As we discovered in our introductory lesson, Peter defines true knowledge as knowledge of Jesus Christ. It is obvious that Christ will be another important factor in Peter’s second letter, in the first four verses alone he refers to Jesus eight times!
What a comforting thought! Through the apostles we know everything that is important pertaining to life and godliness! This was a direct refutation of what the Gnostics believed. They thought the apostle’s knowledge was simply the starting point and that they must build on it until they reached ultimate self-realization so that they could become like gods themselves. According to Peter, we already have the knowledge given to us that will make us “partakers of the divine nature.”
If you can’t think of any take a quick read of Ephesians. List all of the blessings that come with being “in Christ.” This will give you a good idea of what it means to be a fellow heir to Christ who shares in this divine nature.
Before Peter gets into his specific warnings about the dangers facing the Church, he wants to give his readers some building blocks to start with. He is instructing them on how to create a proper defense before they face their opponent. He lists some qualities that Christians should be producing.
- Diligence (SPOUDE): earnest commitment in discharge of an obligation
- Moral Excellence (ARETE): uncommon character worthy of praise, distinguished for fidelity and devotion
- Knowledge (GNOSIS): comprehension or intellectual grasp of something
- Self-Control (ENKRATEIA): restraint of one’s emotions, impulses or desires
- Perseverance (HYPOMONE): the capacity to hold out or bear up in the face of difficulty
- Godliness (EUSEBEIA): awesome respect accorded to God
- Brotherly kindness (PHILADELPHIA): loving one’s brother or sister
- Love (AGAPE): the quality of warm regard for and interest in another, often characterized by action (Arndt)
Peter reminds his audience to be diligent in developing these attributes because something incredibly important is at stake: our salvation! If we continue in these things, we will be granted entrance into the eternal kingdom. No matter what we face on earth, this is our ultimate goal.
Peter is keenly aware that his life on this earth is drawing to a close. This is the reason he decided to write this letter. As I read 2 Peter, it makes me think of Moses’ farewell address in Deuteronomy. He pleads with the Israelites to remember what they have been taught and to never forget the miraculous power of God. Then they are warned not to be swept away by false gods. The message of 2 Peter makes an interesting parallel, he is speaking to spiritual Israel and communicating the same things. You can almost hear him pleading with the Church through the ink on the page. Peter reminds them that he is an eyewitness to Christ. These are not simply tall tales that they are concocting.
If Peter wasn’t already sure that Jesus was the Son of God, hearing the voice of God Himself would have made it absolutely clear to him. I love the imagery Peter uses in verse 19 comparing the prophetic word to a lamp shining in a dark place.
As you read and study 2 Peter this week pay attention to the emphasis on true knowledge. If we obtain this true knowledge and all that goes with it we will be able to stand up to the opposition and ultimately inherit the kingdom Christ is preparing for us.
Arndt, W., F.W. Danker and W. Bauer. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (3rd edition). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2000.
*Note: The author uses the New American Standard Update for all quotations and references.