Commentary on 2 Peter 1:3-11

Notes (NET Translation)

1:3 I can pray this because his divine power has bestowed on us everything necessary for life and godliness through the rich knowledge of the one who called us by his own glory and excellence. 1:4 Through these things he has bestowed on us his precious and most magnificent promises, so that by means of what was promised you may become partakers of the divine nature, after escaping the worldly corruption that is produced by evil desire.

The Greek grammar in verses 3-4 is difficult. The phrase “his divine power” may refer to God or Christ, but most likely refers to Christ because he is the immediate antecedent in verse 2 and the word “power” (dynamis) clearly refers to Christ in verse 16. A similar issue arises in determining the reference in the phrase “the one who called us.” If the previous argument is persuasive then Christ is probably also referred to by this phrase. The main point of verse 3 is that Christ has provided everything necessary for believers to have “life and godliness” (i.e., there is no excuse not to live a godly life). Life comes through knowledge of Christ by means of his calling us. Peter says that Jesus’ own glory and excellence led to their calling.

That raises the question whether this action was done by his glorious excellence or for his glorious excellence (or glorious praise). The grammatical construction (Greek dative) could bear either meaning. That is, God’s glory is to be “declared among the nations,” according to the OT (1 Chron 16:24; Ps 96:3); his excellence is celebrated in the Psalms. Was that the goal of his calling us? Such a display of one’s excellence would not have been thought at all inappropriate in the Mediterranean world of that day. Indeed, it was thought that a truly honorable person would display his wealth and honor and receive the appropriate acclamation. On the other hand, a person who was excellent would naturally act accordingly, so it would also make sense to say that Jesus called us by his own (“his own” being emphatic in contrast to “us”) glorious excellence or glorious achievement. Since both interpretations make sense, it is difficult to decide which is more likely correct. However, the following verse tips the balance toward the latter interpretation. That is, through or by means of these virtues he has given us promises, so very likely the thought in v. 3 is already that they are the basis of our calling. That is, the achievement in our calling was all Jesus’ doing. We were called into our knowledge of him; it was not really our discovery. And this calling came on the basis of his achievement and excellence, his honorable nature, not ours. Yet because of his honor we have been called into an honorable status. (Davids 170-171)

The antecedent of “these things” in verse 4 is not clear but most scholars believe it is the glory and excellence from verse 3. In other words, God’s calling is the means by which God’s promises are inherited. The promises in view are the means of partaking of the divine nature. Partaking of the divine nature does not mean that believers will become gods or that they will share in the divine nature in every respect. It means that believers will share some characteristic with God, something that makes them more like the world of the divine than the world of human beings (Bauckham 179-181; Davids 172). What characteristic does Peter have in mind? Note that the last part of the verse mentions the escape from the corruption produced by desire (the Greek text does not include the word “evil”). The word “corruption” (phthora) refers to moral corruption (2:19-20). This leads to the conclusion that believers will share in the divine’s ethical nature. This “escaping” from corruption is an ongoing process. “Recognition that escape is a process brings a healthy humility to the follower of Jesus. It is this process of escape that leads directly to the call to grow in virtue in the next verse” (Davids 176).

1:5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith excellence, to excellence, knowledge; 1:6 to knowledge, self-control; to self-control, perseverance; to perseverance, godliness; 1:7 to godliness, brotherly affection; to brotherly affection, unselfish love.

The phrase “for this very reason” means that because Christ has given believers everything they need for life and godliness (1:3-4), believers should live in a way that pleases God (1:5-7). We probably should not read much into the number or order of the list of eight virtues since this is a conventional literary form (sorites). The exception to this rule is the first and last items in the list.

Christian faith is the root from which all these virtues must grow, and Christian love is the crowning virtue to which all the others must contribute. In a list of this kind, the last item has unique significance. It is not just the most important virtue, but also the virtue which encompasses all the others. Love is the overriding ethical principle from which the other virtues gain their meaning and validity. Thus the author of 2 Peter sees that some of the ethical ideals of pagan society should also be Christian ideals, but only if they are subordinated to and reinterpreted by the Christian ideal of love. (Bauckham 193)

“Faith” (pistis) refers to trust in or faithfulness towards God. “Excellence” (arete) refers to moral excellence. The “knowledge” (gnosis) in view is probably personal knowledge of Jesus Christ (3:18). The “self-control” (enkrateia) believers are to strive for will contrast them with the false teachers of the community (2:2, 10, 13-14, 19). The readers must also persevere over the false teachers. “Godliness” (eusebeia) refers to the kind of life that pleases God. The list of virtues ends by focusing on love within the Christian community. “The important point to keep in mind is that love is a virtue, not an emotion. Christians are not encouraged to feel warmly about each other or even to like one another; they are instructed to act lovingly toward one another. Thus Paul’s description of love in 1 Corinthians 13 speaks about what love does, how it acts, not how it feels” (Davids 184).

1:8 For if these things are really yours and are continually increasing, they will keep you from becoming ineffective and unproductive in your pursuit of knowing our Lord Jesus Christ more intimately.

This verse links back to the virtues listed in verses 5-7. The translation “continually increasing” may suggest to the English reader that we need to improve in virtue each passing year. But Peter is saying that the virtues of verses 5-7 should both exist and overflow in the life of believers (Schreiner 302).

1:9 But concerning the one who lacks such things – he is blind. That is to say, he is nearsighted, since he has forgotten about the cleansing of his past sins.

If a man is blind, how can he be short-sighted? If Peter had this meaning in mind, he may mean that such a man is blind to heavenly things, and engrossed in the earthly; he cannot see what is afar off, but only what is near. This makes excellent sense in view of the immorality and earthiness of the false teachers. But probably Peter was thinking of the other meaning of muopazo, namely ‘to blink’, ‘to shut the eyes’. If so, the participle is causal. Thus the meaning is that such a man is blind because he blinks or willfully closes his eyes to the light. Spiritual blindness descends upon the eyes which deliberately look away from the graces of character to which the Christian is called when he comes to know Christ. . . .

The next phrase has forgotten supports this interpretation of muopazon. Lethen labon can only mean that the man has deliberately forgotten, put out of his mind, the fact that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Peter may have in mind here the public confession and vows taken by converts at their baptism (cf. Acts 2:38; 22:16). Their past sins would then be those committed before they became Christians, the cleansing of which would be an essential corollary of being made a partaker of the divine nature. The man who makes no effort (v. 5) to grow in grace is going back on his baptismal contract. This could be the start of apostasy. (M. Green 82)

1:10 Therefore, brothers and sisters, make every effort to be sure of your calling and election. For by doing this you will never stumble into sin.

This teaching [to be sure of your calling and election] may sit uncomfortably with some people’s theology, but it is the other side of the coin that has on one side that God makes us firm and on this side that we make our own salvation firm. And it is our side of the coin that the believers 2 Peter addresses need to hear, for they have among them some who think that their salvation is firm enough without their pursuing any of the virtues that our author recommends. (Davids 188)

The end of this verse is better translated: “you will never fall” (NIV). While translating ptaisete as “sin” is possible in some contexts it is not required. It is doubtful that Peter was suggesting Christians could live without ever committing a sin of any kind. Rather he probably means that Christians who live out these virtues will not commit apostasy (Schreiner 305).

1:11 For thus an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be richly provided for you.

The word “rich” (plousios) indicates that the eschatological reward is more than any believer deserves (Schreiner 306). “In spite of the emphasis on human participation in the attainment of salvation, the section ends as it began (v 3) with an attribution of salvation to God’s grace” (Bauckham 191).

Bibliography

Bauckham, Richard J. Jude, 2 Peter. Word Books, 1983.

Davids, Peter H. The Letters of 2 Peter and Jude. Kindle Edition. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2006.

Green, Gene. Jude & 2 Peter. Baker Academic, 2008.

Green, Michael. 2 Peter & Jude. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007.

Schreiner, Thomas R. 1, 2 Peter, Jude. Holman Reference, 2003.

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2 Replies to “Commentary on 2 Peter 1:3-11”

  1. I just want to thank God for this site. The interpretation was a blessing to me and how i pray God to grant you the energy and strength to continue with this wonderful work

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