Growth Is Intentional
Explore the Bible Series
May 6. 2007
Lesson Passage: II Peter 1:1-11
Introduction: New Testament scholars have long wrestled with thorny issues related to II Peter (indeed, these issues date to the Patristic Period). The author of this book wrote in a very different literary style than the man who penned I Peter, and the early church apparently paid little attention to this text. Even scholars with impeccable conservative track records acknowledge that this epistle, more so than any other book of the New Testament, faced a long and arduous struggle to gain inclusion in the canon. Some scholars have questioned the Petrine authorship of II Peter and have dated the letter as late as 130 A.D., long after the death of the Apostle Peter. As we approach the study of this book, we will briefly consider these important concerns and pose some answers to the questions that surround this little text.
Authorship: Scholars like Bruce Metzger and Raymond Brown plainly assert that Peter did not write II Peter; indeed, Brown believes an unknown author penned this treatise in the early Second Century. While I respect Brown’s scholarship, I do not find his arguments compelling. He placed much weight on the stylistic and grammatical (especially vocabulary) issues that distinguish this epistle from I Peter. D.A. Carson argues persuasively that these differences may be best explained by Peter’s use of amanuenses to help him write these epistles. Clearly, Silvanus (Silas) helped Peter with the first epistle, and apostle may have used “secretaries” to aid him with the composition of II Peter as well.
If one carefully examines the text, the epistle gives several indications of Petrine authorship.
(1) The letter begins with the identification of Simon (the Greek text says “Simeon”) Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, as the author. Scholars recognize that pseudonymous writers often wrapped themselves in the mantel of important leaders, and they did not regard this practice as dishonest or misleading. However, it seems unlikely that such an author would state so clearly that he was Peter if he wrote under an assumed name.
(2) II Peter 1:16 indicates that the author was an eyewitness of the life of Jesus.
(3) II Peter 1:17-18 seems to point to the Transfiguration of Jesus (See Matthew 17:1-9; Mark 9:1-8; Luke 9:28-36). Only Peter, James, and John accompanied Jesus to the mount; therefore Peter was one of a very select group that could claim eyewitness experience in regard to the Transfiguration.
(4) II Peter 3:1 mentions a previous letter sent by this author, to these recipients. It is, of course, possible that this is another letter (other than I Peter), but the reference to a previous epistle does fit the Petrine model.
(5) II Peter 3:15-16 makes reference to the author’s high regard for the writings of the Apostle Paul, a contemporary of the Apostle Peter. Brown asserted that this mention of Paul’s writings demonstrates that Peter could not have written I Peter, however, the reasoning seems faulty. Brown believed that this statement in II Peter 3:15-16 refers to the entire body of Paul’s writings; therefore, since all of Paul’s writings were not collected in a corpus of work until many years after the apostle’s death, the person who wrote II Peter must have penned the epistle at a much later date (perhaps 130 A.D.). It seems feasible that Peter might have known of the writings of Paul; indeed, he may have read several of the works. The statement here does not claim that Peter had read all of Paul’s canonical writings, nor does the text imply that all of these epistles had been collected in a single place, only that the author was familiar with Pauline epistles.
I see little reason to deny Petrine authorship of II Peter. Internal evidence points to the apostle as the author, and the stylistic differences from I Peter seem best explained by the amanuensis theory.
Date: If we hold to Peter’s authorship, the letter was written sometime after I Peter and, of course, before the apostle’s death. Therefore, II Peter must have been written in the mid-sixties.
Recipients: The epistle gives little indication concerning the audience to whom Peter wrote. The text implies that Peter wrote this second epistle to the same audience as the first.
Occasion: False doctrine threatened these Christians, and Peter wrote to affirm their adherence to the pure faith of the apostles. Those who argue for a late date of the letter assert that this false belief system was Gnosticism, but, they argue, Gnosticism did not evolve until the Second Century. While I agree that full-blown Gnosticism did not exist in Peter’s day, I also believe that this aberrant movement evolved from earlier influences. In fact, at its heart, Gnosticism was an eclectic phenomenon that tended to absorb the belief systems of other groups. If so, it should not surprise Bible students that some features of the heresy may have existed decades before Gnosticism took its mature form. Among the problems addressed in the letter, these false teachers practiced sexual immorality and taught heretical views about the return of Christ.
I. Introduction to the Epistle (1:1-2)
A. “Simeon Peter”: The better Greek texts use the term “Simeon”, a form more akin to Peter’s Hebrew name. Furthermore, the author asserts his apostleship, a fact that seems to challenge the view that a pseudonymous author had “borrowed” Peter’s identity to gain a readership.
B. To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours…” (v. 2): The word “faith” may refer to a fixed body of doctrine, but, in this instance, it probably means the subjective experience of Christians who had trusted Christ just as the first disciples did. This faith rests in the righteousness of God as seen in the person and work of Jesus.
C. “May grace and peace be multiplied to you…” (v. 2b): Though, in some ways, Peter did not follow the typical pattern for salutations, he, like other writers, employed the blessing of grace and peace for his readers.
II. The Ground of the Christian’s Calling and Election (1:3-4)
A. “His divine power has granted us all things…” (v. 3): The source of all blessing is the character of God, in this case, his divine power. “His” probably refers to “Jesus our Lord” from verse two, and this term reflects the Son’s power to transform lives. Christ has withheld nothing from his people, but has bestowed all things that pertain to life and godliness. He has committed all divine resources to those whom he has called. “Called” refers to that powerful, effectual work of the Holy Spirit, through the Son, in which sinners are bidden and enabled to come to Christ
B. “By which he has granted us his precious and very great promises” (v. 4): “By which” refers to “his divine power” in the previous verse. By this power Christ has given his elect great and precious promises. Through these promises, he has given his people a supernatural nature, freeing them from the controlling desires that had once dominated their lives.
III. The Evidence of the Christian’s Calling and Election (1:5-9):
A. The marks of the Christian’s calling (v. 7-8): Peter outlines some essential marks of godly character, marks that will evidence in the lives of all who are called to Christ. Verse Eight makes clear that true believers manifest these qualities; indeed, they continue to grow in Christ-likeness as their normal pattern of life.
1. “faith”: Disciples of Christ receive his precious promises by faith, but genuine faith manifests itself in practical attitudes and actions. James reminds us that faith without works is dead. Men are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves does not remain alone. True trust in Christ grows and builds to include attendant qualities of Christian character.
2. “virtue”: This same word, in the ESV, is translated “excellence” in verse three. It carries the idea of moral excellence and uprightness.
3. “knowledge”: This moral transformation touches the mind. Grace reorders the believer’s thought processes. He no longer reveres the things that once held sway over him, and the thinks about the world in different patterns from his past.
4. “self-control”: This word denotes balance and temperance. This quality guides the believer from falling into destructive patterns of excessive behavior.
5. “steadfastness”: This common New Testament word is often translated “patience.” It reflects an attitude of patient endurance in the face of hardship.
6. “godliness”: This term describes a reverent, pious, devout spirit.
7. “brotherly affection”: Peter encourages his readers to add to their faith by loving their brothers in Christ. This warm familial term reflects the deep bonds of love that bind together families. Of course, Peter wanted kinsmen to love each other, but his meaning here regards the church as an extended family.
8. “love”: We should not make a strong distinction between “brotherly affection” and “love.” The two terms reflect two aspects of the same impulse. Brotherly love, of course, focuses attention on the family kinships of the church, but “love” extends beyond that. Christians are to love people. This attitude is modeled after the love of Christ. Read the Gospels carefully. As you read, note the attitude of the Savior toward the undesirables and outcasts of society. He was no separatist, carefully insulating himself from the poor, broken, and sinful. Contrast Jesus’ attitudes with those of the Pharisees. Their arrogant, narrow, separatist spirit did not reflect the love of Christ. Modern Pharisees do not reflect the heart of the Savior either.
B. The duty of seeking assurance of one’s calling and election (vv. 10-11): Christians should take great comfort in Peter’s command. He assured his readers that they could not only receive the blessings of God’s saving grace, but they can acquire a healthy assurance of salvation; indeed, it is their duty to seek such assurance. But how can they find this comfort? Note that Peter did not encourage them to examine some former experience they encountered, nor did he direct them to scrutinize a decision they made. Instead, he encouraged them to evaluate their present walk with God. Do they bear these eight marks of Christian character? Wise pastoral theologians would, of course, point out that assurance does not solely rest on character concerns. The work of the Holy Spirit and faith in the promises of God play an important role in assurance as well, but believers must not neglect Peter’s important principle stated in this text.