INTRODUCTION: There was a period in early Christian history when doubt was cast upon the authorship of this letter. Because the style of II Peter is very different from that of I Peter, there were some who felt the epistle was a fake.
However, closer examination confirms that Peter is the author.
- In II Peter 1:1, the author identifies himself not merely as Peter (the name given to him by Jesus), but also as Simon – the apostles legal name, given to him by his parents at the time of his circumcision. When used together, this name indicates none other than the apostle himself.
- In II Peter 1:16-18, the author claims to have been present at the transfiguration of Christ. Since only 3 disciples were present with Jesus at that event (Peter, James and John), this is further confirmation that Peter is the author of this letter.
- In II Peter 3:1, the author speaks of this as being his second letter. Again, this points to Peter as the author of this second epistle bearing his name.
- In II Peter 1:14, the author indicates that Jesus had predicted a certain type of death for him. This is consistent with what Jesus spoke to Peter in John 21:18.
Despite the fact that the styles are different, all of the internal evidence leads to the overwhelming conclusion that the apostle Peter is the true author of this gospel.
Further doubt was cast upon this book’s authenticity because it was not specifically mentioned by the earliest Christian writers. However, this fact can be accounted for by the lateness of the letter’s appearance and the fact that it was not addressed to any specific local church (which would have widely distributed the letter).
The church as a whole has accepted this book as a valid part of the canon of scripture for at least 1700 years. Despite a few isolated complaints, we can have the utmost confidence that Holy Spirit moved upon the apostle Peter to write this letter and that it is a valid part of the word of God. As such, it is useful for doctrine, instruction and edification of all Christians.
WHEN AND WHERE: Peter’s first gospel was written around 60-64 AD. Since his death is recorded as occurring around 67-68 AD, we can narrow down the time of writing to 64-67 AD, with most scholars leaning towards an early time frame of 64-65 AD. According to Jewish tradition, Peter lived the last 10 years of his earthly life in Rome. Therefore, both of the books bearing his name were very likely written at that location.
WHO: According to Peter himself (II Peter 3:1), the second letter is written to the same group of people as the first letter – the Christian churches in Asia Minor, made up of both Jews and Gentiles.
WHY: The second letter from the apostle is a warning to believers against false teachers and other ‘seducers’ who make promises of great liberty in Christ and thus convince or beguile Christians into sin and licentiousness (excessive abuse of freedom, sensual or immoral conduct). Essentially, false teachers were instructing believers that ‘anything goes’, because grace covers all. We know this to be false (Romans 6:1-2), but it was a problem back then. Indeed, this false viewpoint makes an appearance in other generations as well; even in our own lifetimes a message of ‘sloppy grace’ has been endorsed by well known ministers.
In this letter, Peter refutes these false teachings and gives a strong reminder of the certainty and nearness of final judgment. He encourages Christians to grow in grace, rather than live close to sin.
II Peter 1:1 – Simon 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 Savior Jesus Christ:
As we mentioned in the introduction, Simon was his Jewish name. It was given to him on his admission to the old covenant by circumcision of his flesh.
But he is also Peter, the name given to him as he was admitted to the new covenant by circumcision of the heart, through faith in Jesus Christ.
When taken together, these names demonstrate the great spiritual change he has undergone. What about you? What kind of spiritual change have you undergone? Take a moment to consider your life under sin and contrast it with your life as a child of God. Big difference, right? Would you want to go back to your former way of life? Obviously not! No Christian I know would trade their life in Christ for anything!
Peter describes himself as both a servant and an apostle. The word servant refers to all ministers of the gospel in general. However, the word apostle means that he was commissioned by Jesus himself to preach the word of God and to shepherd the church. This position carries a high degree of authority. Therefore, the readers of this epistle should be careful to pay attention to the instructions given by Peter; he speaks with the authority of Christ.
Those reading this letter (including you!) are said to have obtained a precious faith. In this instance, precious means valuable and costly. This is a good description, because faith in Christ is of infinite value, but it was an extremely costly gift given by our Heavenly Father.
Peter builds on that thought when he declares that this faith is ours because of the righteousness of God the Father and our savior, Jesus the Christ. What does Peter mean by that?
He is referring to the faithfulness of God to fulfill the promises made to mankind. Way back in the book of Genesis, God promised there would be one born of the woman who would crush the head of Satan. Later, God called the Jews to be his chosen people; through them the promises of God would be fulfilled. And eventually, when the time was right, God sent Jesus into the world to die for our sin.
God has been perfectly righteous in bringing his promises to pass through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
Take another moment and think of all the millions of people who lived on earth between that first promise to Eve and the thief on the cross. No matter how much they longed or desired for the redeemer, these people did not see that promise fulfilled. However, once Jesus had sacrificed himself, Jews and Gentiles alike could embrace the most precious gift in the universe – faith in Christ (Christianity)!
So don’t take your faith for granted! It is vitally important! Faith is the gift of God, wrought by Holy Spirit, who raised Jesus from the dead. The just live by faith (Romans 1:17). Faith in God moves mighty mountains (Mark 11:22-23). By faith we lay hold of all the promises of God (Hebrews 6:12-15). Look at just some of the mighty things that faith makes possible:
Hebrews 11:33-34 – …who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in war, turned to flight the armies of foreigners.
I encourage you to read the 11th chapter of Hebrews, which is commonly referred to as the ‘faith chapter’. And as you read it, remember that God is no respecter of persons; your faith is of equal standing with theirs!
I encourage you to actively walk in faith, fully enjoying your opportunity to have an intimate walk with Christ, to worship him, to be filled with Holy Spirit, to hear his voice, and to partner with him to bring about his plans and purposes for the world. Life on earth is an opportunity like no other, and it will never happen again, so start now!
Speaking of the promises of God…want to really blow your mind? Consider the promises of God that are yet to be fulfilled: the return of Christ, the defeat of Satan, our blessed home in heaven, victory over death, and even prayers you are praying right now. I don’t know about you, but I am excited for the future because I know God will soon fulfill these promises as well!
II Peter 1:2 – May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
Those who have a true knowledge/relationship with God through Jesus can expect both grace and peace to be showered upon them abundantly.
It is grace that pardons and sanctifies us and leads us into peace – calmness in the trials of life. Notice, there is no expectation/promise of a trouble free life but there is the expectation/promise of peace and victory through life when we place our faith in God.
II Peter 1:3 – 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,
The fountain of all spiritual blessings is the divine power of Jesus, who was both God and man. From him we receive everything that is necessary for preserving, improving and perfecting godliness and life (both physical and spiritual).
How are these gifts imparted to the believer?
Faith in God and knowledge of God join together to form the channel through which these gifts flow to us.
Think about it. If you don’t have faith in God, you literally cannot receive any of his promises or gifts, because you need faith to grasp them. On the other hand, if you don’t have knowledge of who God is and what he has promised you, then obviously you can’t receive anything because you don’t realize it exists! We need both faith and knowledge of God in order to receive.
Here is what I find interesting: Faith and knowledge of God are both things that the believer obtains for himself. Let me explain.
You can’t put a bible (electronic or paper) under your pillow at night and wake up in the morning with a greater understanding and knowledge of God. Even if you prayed for God to fill you mind with knowledge of him before you went to sleep, you would still wake up the same. God is not going to do things for you that he expects you to do for yourself.
The only way to get knowledge of God is by pursuing it – you have to open the bible and read it. You have to spend time in prayer asking God to reveal his hidden secrets to you. You need to read or listen to other great men and women of God and find out what they knew/know about God. You have to meditate on what you find, until it takes root in your spirit. You are the only one who can do this for yourself.
The same principle applies to faith. Yes, God gives to every man a measure of faith.
Romans 12:3 – … God has dealt to every man the measure of faith.
But that faith needs to be increased and expanded. This happens when we exercise (use) the faith we have. It happens when we believe in the promises God has made, and we step out and take action based on those promises. In this way, our faith is strengthened for new and bigger challenges.
We all recall the example of David. He spent time in the field with the sheep, worshipping and drawing close to God. I am sure he read promises in the covenant about how God protected and fought for his people. Next thing you know, along comes a bear trying to take a lamb. Faith in God combines with a knowledge of God’s promises of protection/victory, and David takes action. He successfully defeats the bear. This victory further strengthens his faith.
Not long after, a lion appears. That sounds really scary to me, but remember David has knowledge of the promises of God and he has increased his faith by killing the bear, so he is not afraid. He takes a stand and defeats the lion.
Eventually, he is led to kill the mightiest foe of all – Goliath! The truth is, David could not have killed the giant without increased faith, which he gained by using what he had. Neither could David have killed the giant without knowledge of the promises of God. It took both of these to get the victory.
So, what about you and me? Remember, Peter is telling us that God’s divine power has granted us all things that pertain to life and godliness, but we have to reach out and take them. They are accessed though faith and a knowledge of God.
What giants are in your future, or even your present? Are you prepared to tackle them? Do you struggle with holy living? Do you need victory over a besetting sin? If so, I encourage you to get to work. Pursue God and increase your faith.
II Peter 1:4 – 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.
By God’s own glorious power he has freely given us his exceedingly great and invaluable promises.
Stop and think about this for a minute… The Jews were distinguished in a very particular manner by the promises which they received from God. Promises were given to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, the prophets and others.
God promised to be their God, to protect, support, heal, provide and save them. He promised to give them what was emphatically called ‘The Promised Land’, and he promised that the Messiah would come from their race. God kept all of his promises to Israel.
Peter now assures the Gentiles that God has also given them precious (costly, valuable) and exceedingly great promises which include salvation/redemption through the blood of the cross, the continual indwelling of Holy Spirit, resurrection from the dead and eternal rest in heaven.
The object of all God’s promises was to bring fallen man back into fellowship with him and to remake us into his image.
Because of sin, we are born into an earthly, sinful, devilish nature, which holds us in a prison of corruption. The root or source of all this worldly corruption is sinful desire, aka lust. James tells us that lust conceives and brings for sin. Sin, when fully matured, brings forth death (destruction of soul and body). We have no power in ourselves to escape this corruption and death.
But through the promised Messiah, God removes our sin and saves us from worldly corruption, making us partakers of his divine nature and creating in us true holiness and righteousness (Ephesians 4:24 and Colossians 3:10).
Praise his holy name!
Let me offer you some encouragement and some relief:
You may look at some of the heroes of the Bible and wish that you had the faith they did. You may desire to do great works for God, just like they did. The good news is, you can!
God has dealt to every person a measure of faith, but that is just the starting point. You can exercise, strengthen and dramatically increase your faith in God. Just step up and begin to use it! If you do, you will see it grow.
Let me offer you some strength:
Remember, in order to claim the promises of God, you need faith as well as knowledge of God and his promises. So strengthen and prepare yourself right now, by reading, meditating and even memorizing his word. On the day of battle, you’ll be glad you did!