15 million Ukrainian are displaced by Russia's war.
Millions miss a meal or two each day.
Help us change that! Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

2 Peter 1

Verse 1

The writer could hardly have stated his identity more clearly than he did in this verse. "Simon" was Peter’s Hebrew name, and "Peter" is the Greek translation of the nickname Cephas ("Rocky," cf. Matthew 16:18). There is only one Peter mentioned in the New Testament.

"Double names like ’Simon Peter’ were common in the ancient Near East. Many people used both the name they were given in their native language and a Greek name, since Greek was so widely spoken." [Note: Moo, p. 33.]

This is the only New Testament epistle in which the writer identified himself with a double name. Peter may have done this to suggest the two aspects of his life, before and after discipleship to Jesus Christ. [Note: W. H. Griffith Thomas, The Apostle Peter: Outline Studies in His Life, Character, and Writings, p. 247.] Peter called for discipleship in this letter and referred to the changes that it produces in Christians (e.g., 2 Peter 1:4-11).

Peter regarded himself first as a bond-slave (Gr. doulos) of Jesus Christ and secondarily as His apostle (cf. Romans 1:1; Titus 1:1). "Bond-servant of Jesus Christ" is the New Testament equivalent of "servant of the Lord" in the Old Testament. Peter mentioned his apostolic authority in his salutation because in this epistle he dealt with false teachers. His readers needed to remember that what they were reading came from an apostle and was authoritative.

Peter referred to his audience in very general terms that could apply to all Christians. This reference does not help us identify exactly who the original recipients were. The faith of all believers is a gift from God. Other non-biblical Greek writers used the unique Greek word translated "same kind" (isotimos) to describe immigrants who received citizenship privileges equal to those of native inhabitants. The word "our" may be an editorial plural, but it is more likely a reference to the other apostles (cf. 2 Peter 3:2; 1 John 1:1-4; et al.). Some of the early Gnostic false teachers claimed a higher level of spiritual experience that they said only Christians who followed their teaching could attain. However, Peter here asserted that every Christian has the same essential faith, including all of its spiritual benefits, as the apostles did.

"Throughout this chapter St. Peter is thinking of the contrast between the doctrine of the apostles and that of the False Teachers. ’Your faith,’ he seems to say, ’is as honourable as ours, though you received yours from us and we received ours from Christ.’" [Note: Bigg, p. 250.]

The Christian’s faith, in both its subjective and objective aspects, comes to us through Jesus Christ’s uprightness. The Greek grammatical construction of the last phrase of this verse indicates that Peter believed Jesus Christ was both God and Savior (cf. Matthew 16:16; John 1:1; John 20:28; Titus 2:13). The single definite article governs both nouns, linking them together. This is one of many verses in the New Testament that explicitly calls Jesus God. Jesus’ role as Savior was one that Peter emphasized in this letter because of his readers’ need for deliverance (cf. 2 Peter 1:11; 2 Peter 2:20; 2 Peter 3:2; 2 Peter 3:18). Salvation is also a major theme of 1 Peter.

Verses 1-2


Peter began his second epistle as he did to introduce himself to his readers and to lay a foundation for what follows.

Verse 2

The first half of Peter’s benediction on his readers is identical with the one he gave in his first epistle (1 Peter 1:2). Grace and peace were the typical greetings the Greeks and Jews used respectively. This probably suggests that Peter wrote this epistle to a mixed audience of Christians, as he did his former letter. Both grace and peace come to us through the full knowledge (Gr. epignosei) of God and of Jesus (again equal, cf. 2 Peter 1:1). The Greeks, and especially the Gnostics, prided themselves on their knowledge, but Peter noted that knowledge of God and Jesus was the key to grace and peace (cf. 2 Peter 3:18). These blessings become ours as we get to know God intimately by reading His Word and abiding in Him. The false teachers could offer nothing better than this.

". . . as used in 2 Peter, . . . epignosis [full knowledge] designates the fundamental Christian knowledge received in conversion, whereas gnosis is knowledge which can be acquired and developed in the course of Christian life . . ." [Note: Bauckham, pp. 337-38.]

"In our day we are rightly warned about the danger of a sterile faith, of a ’head’ knowledge that never touches the heart. But we need equally to be careful of a ’heart’ knowledge that never touches the head! Too many Christians know too little about their faith; we are therefore often unprepared to explain how our ’God’ differs from the ’God’ of Mormonism or of the Jehovah’s Witnesses." [Note: Moo, p. 39.]

Verse 3

Grace and peace are possible since God has given us (all Christians) everything we need to live godly lives.

"’Power’ is one of the key-words of the epistle." [Note: Sidebottom, p. 105.]

It is possible that Peter meant the apostles specifically when he wrote "us" in 2 Peter 1:3-4. [Note: R. H. Strachan, "The Second Epistle General of Peter," in The Expositor’s Greek Testament, 5:124.] The apostles are evidently in view in 2 Peter 1:1 ("ours"), and they may contrast with the readers ("you") in 2 Peter 1:2; 2 Peter 1:5. If this is what Peter meant, he was probably continuing to stress his apostolic authority, specifically in the teaching that follows. This would have been important since the false teachers were claiming that their teaching was authoritative (ch. 2). However the opening sections of most other epistles that contain reminders of God’s blessings (e.g., Ephesians 1:3-14; 1 Peter 1:3-9), as 2 Peter 1:3-4 does, seem to refer to all believers as "us." Moreover the "our" in 2 Peter 1:2 seems to be inclusive of all believers rather than a specific reference to the apostles. Nevertheless the prologue to 1 John (2 Peter 1:1-4) apparently does refer to the apostles as "us." I have not found any commentators who believed that Peter was referring to the apostles alone in 2 Peter 1:3-4.

"Life and godliness" is probably a hendiadys meaning "a godly life." A hendiadys is a figure of speech in which the writer joins two substantives with "and" rather than using an adjective and a substantive. These resources are available to us through full knowledge (cf. 2 Peter 1:2) of Jesus Christ, namely, through relationship with Him (cf. Philippians 4:13; Colossians 2:9-10; 2 Timothy 1:7). Lenski rightly, I believe, called epignosis ("full knowledge"), ". . . the key word of this epistle." [Note: Richard C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude, pp. 271, 332. Cf. 1:2, 8; 2:20.]

"Just as a normal baby is born with all the ’equipment’ he needs for life and only needs to grow, so the Christian has all that is needed and only needs to grow." [Note: Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, 2:437.]

Is what God has given us in His Spirit and His word sufficient for a godly life, or do we also need the insights of other branches of knowledge (e.g., psychology)? Clearly our basic resources as Christians do no equip us for every task in life (e.g., auto maintenance, gardening, orthopedic surgery, etc.). This was not Peter’s claim. But how do the resources that he identified and modern psychology interface? Can psychology provide tools for growth in godliness, or is the Bible sufficient in itself for this? It seems to me that Peter’s point was that God’s Spirit and His word provide everything that is essential to godly living, not that these are the only resources that we have or should use. Peter’s point was that there is nothing that all believers need to become more godly that He has not already made available to us (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Some people, for various reasons, need more specialized help in dealing with the obstacles to godly living that they face, which psychology may provide. Nevertheless, no one can get along without God’s Spirit and His word to make progress in godliness.

Jesus Christ called Peter’s readers to Himself in the sense that His excellent glory, another hendiadys, attracted them to Him. "Excellent" (Gr. areten) really means moral excellence or virtue (cf. 2 Peter 1:5). Both Christ’s glory and His moral virtue appealed to the Gentiles as well as the Jews.

Verses 3-4

A. The Believer’s Resources 1:3-4

Peter reminded his readers of God’s power and promises that were available to them. He did this to rekindle an appreciation for the resources God had given them in view of their present needs. This epistle begins and ends on a note of victory (cf. 2 Peter 3:14-18).

Verses 3-11


"The first chapter vividly portrays the nature of the Christian life with its challenge to spiritual growth and maturity, built on a sure foundation. The second part of the epistle is a ringing polemic against the false teachers who would allure and seek to mislead God’s people, while the third chapter deals with the heretical denial of the return of Christ and concludes with some fitting exhortation to the readers." [Note: D. Edmond Hiebert, "The Necessary Growth in the Christian Life: An Exposition of 2 Peter 1:5-11," Bibliotheca Sacra 141:561 (January-March 1984):43.]

Second Peter is one of the few New Testament epistles in which chapter divisions consistently coincide with thought divisions.

"In seeking to prepare the readers against the danger from the false teachers, Peter states in chapter 1 that their safety lies in their clear apprehension of the nature of the new life in Christ and their spiritual growth and maturity in the faith as the best antidote against error." [Note: Ibid.]

Verse 4

The Lord’s promises come to us through Christ’s divine power and the true knowledge of Him (2 Peter 1:3). We learn of these promises as we get to know Him better, and the power for fulfilling what He has promised comes from Him. "Granted" translates a Greek word (doreomai), also found in 2 Peter 1:3, that stresses the great worth of what God has given. "Promises" refers to promises that all believers can know about, not secret promises. They are in the Scriptures. The ones Peter referred to in his first epistle deal with our inheritance (1 Peter 1:3-5) and the Lord’s return (1 Peter 1:9; 1 Peter 1:13). Here his reference is to all God’s promises. They are "precious" (Gr. timia) because of the great worth of the spiritual riches involved (cf. 1 Peter 1:7; 1 Peter 1:19; 1 Peter 2:7). They are "magnificent" (Gr. megista, lit. greatest) because they are intrinsically excellent.

". . . one of the great lessons of 2 Peter is that to maintain a holy life in a world like ours, we must be deeply rooted in the prophetic promises of God’s word. Above all, we must hold fast to that ’blessed hope’ of the coming again of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ [cf. Matthew 24:48-50]." [Note: Zane C. Hodges, "Exposition of Second Peter," The KERUGMA Message 1:2 (July-August 1991):4.]

"Here, again, we have an instance of St. Peter’s habit of anticipation, and a link between the introduction and the third chapter. Already the author is thinking of the doubts about the Parousia." [Note: Bigg, p. 255.]

Christians become partakers of God’s very nature by faith in His promises. In our day, as in Peter’s, many people are interested in becoming partakers of "the divine nature," though they may conceive of the divine nature in non-Christian ways (Eastern mysticism, new age spirituality, etc.). [Note: See Robert V. Rakestraw, "Becoming Like God: An Evangelical Doctrine of Theosis," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 40:2 (June 1997):257-69.] Peter evidently used this phrase to capture the interest of his formerly pagan Hellenistic readers, but he proceeded to invest it with distinctively Christian meaning. He was an effective communicator.

When God saved us by faith in His promise, He indwelt us, and we therefore possess the nature of God within us (cf. John 16:7; Acts 2:39). God’s nature in us manifests the likeness of God and Christ through us. It also gives us power enabling us to overcome the temptations of lust that result in corruption (cf. Galatians 5:16-17). Note that Peter did not say that we have the divine nature (which is true), from which we might infer that we no longer have a sinful human nature and do not sin. He said that we participate in the divine nature, from which we should infer that we experience some of God’s qualities but not all of them now.

Peter spoke of our having escaped this corruption in the past. He meant that our justification has assured our escape from this corruption, not that we escape it automatically simply because we are Christians. Another view is that Peter meant that Christians will become partakers of the divine nature when we die, having escaped the world’s corruption through death. [Note: See Bauckham, pp. 181-84.] Yet we already possess the divine nature through the indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit. The temptations that we presently face characterize the world as a whole (cf. 1 John 2:17). Assurance of ultimate victory over this corruption should encourage us to strive to overcome it now.

"Each man must make a choice. Either he becomes freed from sin, or he becomes further enslaved to sin." [Note: Louis Barbieri, First and Second Peter, p. 96.]

"Man becomes either regenerate or degenerate." [Note: Strachan, 5:126.]

Godliness, goodness (lit. virtue), divine nature, and corruption are all concepts that fascinated the philosophical false teachers of Peter’s day. Peter reminded his readers of God’s provisions for them that made them adequate and in need of nothing the false teachers, to whom he would refer later, said they could provide.

Verse 5

Since believers have resources that are adequate for a godly life, we should use them diligently to grow in grace (cf. 2 Peter 3:18). Escaping the corruption of lust takes effort (cf. 1 Timothy 6:11-12; 2 Timothy 2:2). It is possible to frustrate the grace of God by having "faith without works" (James 2:20). [Note: Hiebert, Second Peter . . ., p. 51.] Therefore we must apply all diligence. This is the most basic requirement for experiencing effective Christian growth (cf. 2 Peter 1:10; 2 Peter 1:15; 2 Peter 3:14).

"Spiritual growth in the Christian life calls for the strenuous involvement of the believer." [Note: Ibid., p. 50.]

"The Christian must engage in this sort of cooperation with God in the production of a Christian life which is a credit to Him." [Note: Michael Green, The Second Epistle General of Peter and the General Epistle of Jude, p. 67.]

"Spirituality, then, is a choice. It does not come automatically or inevitably.

"Indeed, if the Christian fails to add ’virtue’ to his faith, his faith will soon become what James described as ’dead faith’ (James 2:14-26). Its vitality and productivity will disappear. In fact, Peter says this same thing in his own way in 2 Peter 1:8-9." [Note: Hodges, 1:3:2.]

To his faith, as a foundation, the believer needs to add seven qualities with God’s help. Each virtue contributes to the total growth of the saint. Note that Peter placed responsibility for attaining them on the Christian. Though, again, we can only make progress in godliness as God enables us.

"The Christian life is like power steering on a car. The engine provides the power for the steering, but the driver must actually turn the wheel. So the Lord provides the power to run our lives, but we must ’turn the wheel.’ To a great extent the Christian determines the course of his life." [Note: Barbieri, p. 96.]

Peter said add in and mix together, as in a recipe, the following ingredients to produce a mature godly life. He used a literary device common in his day to impress upon us the importance of giving attention to each virtue. Unlike other New Testament ethical lists (except Romans 5:3-5) Peter used a literary device called sorites (also called climax or gradatio). Sorites (from the Gr. soros, a heap) is a set of statements that proceed, step by step, to a climactic conclusion through the force of logic or reliance upon a series of indisputable facts. Each new statement picks up the last key word or phrase of the preceding one. [Note: See H. A. Fischel, "The Uses of Sorites (Climax, Gradatio) in the Tannaitic Period," Hebrew Union College Annual 44 (1973):119.] Other examples of sorites are in Romans 8:29-30; Romans 10:14-15; and James 1:15. We should not infer that before we can work on the third virtue we must master the second, and so on. This literary device simply arranges the virtues in a random order but presents them so each one receives emphasis. The total effect is to create the impression of growing a healthy tree, for example, in which several branches are vital.

Often children want to grow up faster than they can. They sometimes ask their parents to measure their height again, perhaps only a week or two after their last measuring. The wise parent will tell the child not to be so concerned about constantly measuring his or her growth. Rather the child should give attention to certain basic activities that will insure good growth over time: drink your milk, eat your vegetables, get enough exercise and rest. This is the spirit of Peter’s advice.

"Moral excellence" (Gr. areten) is virtue or goodness (2 Peter 1:3; cf. 1 Peter 2:9). Moral purity and uprightness of character through obedience to God are in view. This Greek word describes anything that fulfills its purpose or function properly. In this context it means a Christian who fulfills his or her calling (i.e., Matthew 22:37-39; Matthew 28:19-20; et al.).

"Knowledge" (Gr. gnosis) refers to acquired information. In particular the Christian needs to know all that God has revealed in His Word, not just the gospel (cf. Matthew 28:19-20).

"Gnosis here is the wisdom and discernment which the Christian needs for a virtuous life and which is progressively acquired. It is practical rather than purely speculative wisdom (cf. Philippians 1:9)." [Note: Bauckham, p. 186.]

Verses 5-9

B. The Believer’s Needs 1:5-9

Having established the believer’s basic adequacy through God’s power in him and God’s promises to him, Peter next reminded his readers of their responsibility to cultivate their own Christian growth. He did so to correct any idea that they needed to do nothing more because they possessed adequate resources.

"In this beautiful paragraph Peter orchestrates a symphony of grace. To the melody line of faith he leads believers to add harmony in a blend of seven Christian virtues which he lists without explanation or description." [Note: Gangel, p. 865.]

Verse 6

"Self-control" (Gr. egkrates) means mastery of self, disciplined moderation, controlling one’s desires and passions (cf. Proverbs 16:32; Proverbs 25:28; Acts 24:25; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Galatians 5:23; Philippians 3:12-16; 1 Timothy 4:7-8; James 4:17). Many of the early Christian heresies taught that since the body was evil (some claimed) or unimportant (others claimed) it was not necessary to curb fleshly lusts, only to think correctly.

"Any religious system which claims that religious knowledge emancipates from the obligations of morality is false." [Note: Hiebert, "The Necessary . . .," p. 46.]

"Perseverance" is the need to keep on keeping on in spite of adversity. It is patient endurance in holiness when we encounter temptation to give in or to give up (cf. Romans 5:3-4; Romans 15:4-5; 2 Corinthians 1:6; 2 Corinthians 6:4; Colossians 1:11; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:4; James 1:3). The Greek word (hypomonen) literally means to remain under something, such as a heavy load.

"Many folk have the wrong concept of what patience really is. They think it means sitting in a traffic jam on the freeway in the morning without worrying about getting to work. Well, that is not patience. It just gives you an excuse for being late to work. Patience is being able to endure when trials come." [Note: McGee, 5:723.]

"Godliness" (Gr. eusebeia) refers to behavior that reflects the character of God (cf. 2 Peter 1:3; 2 Peter 3:11; et al.). It presupposes a desire to please God in all the relationships of life.

Verse 7

"Brotherly kindness" (Gr. philadelphia) is thoughtful consideration of fellow believers (cf. 1 Peter 1:22; 1 Peter 3:8; Romans 12:10; 1 Corinthians 12:25-26; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; Hebrews 13:1). Overt acts of kindness manifest this characteristic (Galatians 6:10).

"Love" (Gr. agape) is the highest form of love, God’s kind, that seeks the welfare of the person loved above its own welfare (John 3:16; John 13:35; Galatians 5:22; 1 Peter 4:8; et al.). It reaches out to all people, not just fellow believers.

This list of qualities begins with those inside the believer and progresses to those he or she demonstrates outwardly. It moves from private to public qualities. This list begins with faith (2 Peter 1:5) and ends with love. Another shorter virtue list that begins with faith and ends with love is in 2 Corinthians 8:7.

"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 a 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." [Note: Bauckham, p. 193.]

This is a good checklist that helps us evaluate whether we are all that God wants us to be. These are the traits of a maturing Christian whose faith is vital, not dead. [Note: See Frederic R. Howe, "The Christian Life in Peter’s Theology," Bibliotheca Sacra 157:627 (July-September 2000):309-13.]

"Their presentation here seems to observe an order from the more elemental to the more advanced, but they are all of them facets of the Spirit’s work in the life of a believer, aspects of the glory of the indwelling Christ, his character shown in the Christian’s character." [Note: Stephen W. Paine, "The Second Epistle of Peter," in The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p. 1458.]

Each child in a family bears some resemblance to his or her parents while at the same time remaining distinctive. So each growing Christian normally manifests similarities to Christ and yet remains different from every other Christians.

Verse 8

We must continue to grow in these qualities as well as possessing them; we must grow in grace (2 Peter 3:18). Failure to do so will make us "useless" (Gr. argous) in God’s hands as His tools in the world (cf. James 2:20; cf. Matthew 20:3; Matthew 20:6), and "unfruitful" (Gr. akarpous) as communicators of His life (John 15:2; John 15:4; cf. Mark 12:12-14; Mark 12:20-26). This is so even though we have received everything necessary for godly living through the knowledge of Christ (2 Peter 1:3). "Render you neither useless nor unfruitful" is a litotes, a figure of speech that affirms an idea by denying its opposite.

"’Idle’ (argous) is literally ’unworking’; it is not a picture of one unavoidably unemployed but of one who avoids labor for which he should assume responsibility." [Note: Hiebert, Second Peter . . ., p. 56. Cf. Matthew 20:3, 6.]

When we diligently add these virtues to our lives we will be both useful and fruitful, and we will evidence true knowledge (Gr. epignosis) of our Lord Jesus Christ. True knowledge of Him involves not just intellectual understanding then, but knowledge that comes through obedience. This growth should be the goal of every believer (cf. 2 Peter 3:18).

"Some of the most effective Christians I have known are people without dramatic talents and special abilities, or even exciting personalities; yet God has used them in a marvelous way. Why? Because they are becoming more and more like Jesus Christ. They have the kind of character and conduct that God can trust with blessing. They are fruitful because they are faithful; they are effective because they are growing in their Christian experience." [Note: Wiersbe, 2:439.]

Verse 9

The absence of these virtues gives evidence of lack of true knowledge. Peter described this condition as spiritual blindness to the realities connected with their relationship with God and, in particular, shortsightedness (lit. myopia, Gr. myopazo). Such people show concern about living for the present with little regard for the future (cf. Esau). James called this dead faith (James 2:17; James 2:26).

Many Christians have forgotten how much God has forgiven them, or they have appreciated His forgiveness only superficially.

"As is usual in the Bible, the idea of ’forgetting’ is not a mental process but a practical failure to take into account the true meaning and significance of something." [Note: Moo, p. 48.]

Often it is both in our lives.

Those who "have forgotten" have little motivation to grow in grace and thereby please God. They do not add the seven ingredients to their faith that Peter urged. Peter referred to this omission as forgetting one’s purification from his or her former sins. Having forgotten one’s escape from the corruption that is in the world through lust (2 Peter 1:4), this person fails to see the importance of present purification through continued Christian growth.

This is one of the most practical and helpful passages in the New Testament dealing with spiritual growth. Peter presented both the reason for and the method of this growth clearly and attractively here.

"Peter was certainly a spiritual realist even if many modern theologians are not. He does not take it for granted that spiritual growth will occur automatically or inevitably. Indeed, the character development he thinks of cannot occur apart from the believer ’giving all diligence’ toward that end (2 Peter 1:5). This does not mean, of course, that the believer does this all on his own. God supplies the basic resources and provides help along the way. But Christian growth will not occur apart from our diligent participation in the process. If we learn nothing else from this passage, we must learn this. We do not passively experience Christian growth, but actively pursue it!" [Note: Hodges, 2:1:3. Cf. Romans 8:12-13; Philippians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:14-16.]

Verse 10

In view of what Peter had just said (2 Peter 1:3-9), it was imperative that his readers make the proper moral response. They would give evidence that they were genuine Christians by doing so. The evidence of divine nature in a person demonstrates his or her salvation. Conversely if a person gives no evidence of having the divine nature his or her salvation is in doubt as others observe that one. By adding the seven virtues, other people could see the divine nature more clearly in the Christian who added them. This would make God’s calling and election of him or her clearer to everyone.

"All Christians have been called and selected, otherwise they would not be Christians, but they must ’work out their own salvation’ (Phil. Ii. 12)." [Note: Bigg, p. 261.]

"The Christian who progressively develops these virtues in his life will grow steadily. This growth will be obvious proof that he has been elected by God." [Note: Barbieri, p. 100.]

"The Christian life is not a list of propositions or a tight theological system; it is a vital relationship to a resurrected Lord. The commandments He gave us and the theological systems we devise as an understanding of those propositional truths exist only to help us live in a vital relationship with Christ day by day as we follow Him as Lord." [Note: Paul A. Cedar, James , 1, 2 Peter, Jude, p. 213.]

Another reason for adding these virtues is that by doing so we can walk worthy of the Lord without stumbling along the way (cf. Jude 24). Loss of salvation is obviously not in view here. Peter said we might stumble, not fall unable to rise again.

"We do not stumble when we are giving attention to where we are stepping. We stumble when we become preoccupied with other things and do not pay attention to where we are going." [Note: Ibid.]

Neither is this verse saying that our assurance of salvation rests on our good works. Our assurance of salvation rests on the promise of God that everyone who believes in Jesus Christ as Savior has eternal life (John 3:16; John 5:24; Romans 5:1; Romans 8:38-39; 1 John 5:11-13).

"This passage does not mean that moral progress provides the Christian with a subjective assurance of his election (the sense it was given by Luther and Calvin, and especially in seventeenth-century Calvinism) . . ." [Note: Bauckham, p. 190.]

"Nowhere in the Bible is a Christian asked to examine either his faith or his life to find out if he is a Christian. He is told only to look outside of himself to Christ alone for his assurance that he is a Christian. The Christian is, however, often told to examine his faith and life to see if he is walking in fellowship and in conformity to God’s commands." [Note: Joseph C. Dillow, The Reign of the Servant Kings, p. 288. Cf. pp. 295-99. His twelfth and thirteenth chapters on faith and assurance, pp. 271-91, and self-examination and faith, pp. 293-310, are helpful. See also Hodges, 2:2:3.]

What "make certain about His calling and choosing you" does mean is that by pursuing Christian growth we give evidence that He really did call and choose us. The uncalled and unchosen have no desire to become useful and fruitful by growing in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:8).

Verses 10-11

C. The Believer’s Adequacy 1:10-11

Peter concluded this section on the nature of the Christian by assuring his readers that simply practicing what he had just advocated would prepare them adequately for the future. He did this to help them realize that they had no need for the added burdens false teachers sought to impose on them.

Verse 11

One of the greatest motivations for pursuing growth in grace is that when we go to be with the Lord forever He will welcome us warmly. The alternative is to get in by the skin of our teeth, saved so as by fire (1 Corinthians 3:15). Every Christian will go to heaven and receive much eternal inheritance (1 Peter 1:3-5). However, our Lord’s welcome of those who have sought to express their gratitude for His grace through a life dedicated to cultivating godliness will be especially warm. It will be even warmer than what He extends to other less committed believers (cf. Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 12:21; Luke 12:31; Acts 7:56).

"This passage agrees with several in the Gospels and Epistles in suggesting that while heaven is entirely a gift of grace, it admits of degrees of felicity, and that these are dependent upon how faithfully we have built a structure of character and service upon the foundation of Christ. Bengel likens the unholy Christian in the judgment to a sailor who just manages to make shore after shipwreck, or to a man who barely escapes with his life from a burning house, while all his possessions are lost. In contrast, the Christian who has allowed his Lord to influence his conduct will have abundant entrance into the heavenly city, and be welcomed like a triumphant athlete victorious in the Games. This whole paragraph of exhortation is thus set between two poles: what we already are in Christ and what we are to become. The truly Christian reader, unlike the scoffers, will look back to the privileges conferred on him, of partaking in the divine nature, and will seek to live worthily of it. He will also look forward to the day of assessment, and strive to live in the light of it." [Note: Green, pp. 76-77.]

This writer also suggested that the underlying picture is of a victor in the Olympic Games returning to his hometown in triumph. [Note: Ibid., p. 75. See also Wiersbe, 2:440.]

". . . there will be degrees of glory hereafter proportioned to our faithfulness in the use of God’s gifts here." [Note: B. C. Caffin, "The Second Epistle General of Peter," in The Pulpit Commentary, p. 6. Cf. 1 Corinthians 3:12-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10.]

It is remarkable that so many commentators take 2 Peter 1:11 as indicating that entrance into heaven depends on our diligently seeking to grow in grace. Understandably Pelagians and Arminians hold this view, but even Calvinistic interpreters who profess to believe that salvation depends on grace alone sometimes come to this conclusion.

Verse 12

In view of what he had written to this point, Peter explained that he realized his previous words were a reminder to his readers, not new instruction. 2 Peter 1:3-11 contain basic Christian life truth. His readers had heard this previously, but they, as all believers, needed a reminder of it periodically so they would not forget (2 Peter 1:9).

"We must not glide lightly over Peter’s concern about reminding the readers of already known and familiar truth. The history of the Church as a whole shows how careless the Church can be about clinging to divine revelation. So bad have things become in our own day, that the truth of justification by faith alone and of salvation as a free gift has already been submerged and lost among many evangelicals. The Reformation almost needs to occur again!" [Note: Hodges, 3:1:3.]

Verses 12-15

A. The Need for a Reminder 1:12-15

Peter returned to the subject of God’s promises (2 Peter 1:4). He developed the importance of the Scriptures as the resource of the believer. He did so to enable his readers to appreciate their value and to motivate them to draw upon them so they would grow in grace.

"These verses make it obvious that Peter’s primary concern in this epistle is not to refute the false teachers but to ground his readers in personal holiness." [Note: Hiebert, Second Peter . . ., pp. 63-64.]

Verses 12-21


Perhaps Peter sensed that his readers might resist his teaching that believers must diligently pursue godliness since he proceeded to remind them that his apostolic witness was in line with divine inspiration.

Verses 13-14

Peter’s earthly dwelling (lit. tent) was his physical body (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:1; 2 Corinthians 5:4). The Greek word apothesis means "a divesting," and it refers elsewhere to removing clothes (cf. Acts 7:58). We do not know exactly how Peter knew someone would separate his mortal body from his spirit soon. Peter’s words allow the possibility of separation by death or translation. Both events were imminent: overhanging. He was probably at least in his 50s, if not older, when he wrote 2 Peter, and he may have known that he would die as a martyr soon. The Lord Jesus had told Peter that he would end his earthly life as a captive of some kind (John 21:18-19).

Verse 15

Peter wrote this epistle so that after his death his exhortation contained in it would be a permanent reminder to his brethren. It was his "testament" (cf. 2 Tim.). Whether Peter realized God was inspiring this epistle or not, he regarded it as containing very important and helpful information for Christians. We believe God did inspire it and consequently what Peter said of the value of this letter applies to the rest of Scripture as well. We too need reminders of what God has revealed. Mark’s Gospel may also have been in Peter’s mind when he wrote this. [Note: Ibid., 3:1:4; Robertson, 6:155.] There is good evidence that Peter’s preaching formed the basis of the second Gospel.

"Certainly no document would redeem the apostles’ promise so well as a gospel; and if a gospel is meant, the reference can hardly be to any other than that of St. Mark." [Note: Bigg, p. 265.]

Verse 16

The apostles had not preached myths to their hearers, as the false teachers to whom Peter referred later in this epistle were doing. The apostles’ testimony rested on historical events that they had observed personally. They had seen Jesus’ power in action during His first coming as God’s anointed Messiah. Jesus Christ’s majesty appeared especially clearly on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8). "Power" and "coming" are a hendiadys that means "powerful coming" with emphasis on the fact that Jesus’ coming was with power. This is the only explicit mention of the Transfiguration outside the Synoptic Gospels.

Verses 16-18

B. The Trustworthiness of the Apostles’ Witness 1:16-18

Peter explained that his reminder came from one who was an eyewitness of Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry. He did so to heighten respect for his words in his readers’ minds. This section begins Peter’s defense of the faith that the false teachers were attacking, which continues through much of the rest of the letter.

Verses 17-18

The apostles’ message was essentially that Jesus was the Christ (i.e., God’s promised Messiah; cf. 1 John 5:1). God had revealed this clearly at Jesus’ transfiguration when He had announced that Jesus was His beloved Son (Matthew 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35). Peter referred to that event to establish the credibility of his witness and that of the other apostles. The terms "honor," "glory, "Majestic Glory," and "holy mountain" all enhance the special event that was the Transfiguration.

"The author is . . . pointing out to his readers that the Transfiguration, to which the apostles bore witness, is a basis for the expectation of the Parousia. . . .

"The emphasis of the account is that God himself has elected Jesus to be his vicegerent, appointed him to the office and invested him with glory for the task." [Note: Bauckham, p. 222.]

Verse 19

"And" introduces a conclusion that Peter drew. The meaning of the clause, "we have the prophetic word made more sure," (NASB) or, "we have the word of the prophets made more certain," (NIV) is not completely obvious. It may mean that the voice the three apostles heard at the Transfiguration (2 Peter 1:17-18) confirmed the words of the Old Testament prophets concerning the deity of Christ. On the other hand it may mean that the prophetic Old Testament Scriptures confirm the witness of the apostles (cf. Romans 15:8). The latter view seems more probable to me because of the Greek grammar. However, many good scholars prefer the former view. [Note: E.g., Lenski, p. 292; Edwin Blum, "2 Peter," in Hebrews-Revelation, vol. 12 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, p. 274; Gangel, p. 868; Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, eds., Commentary . . . on the Whole Bible, p. 1439; J. N. D. Kelly, A Commentary on the Epistles of Peter and Jude, pp. 320-21; and Robertson, 6:157.]

"’More sure’ (bebaioteron) renders a comparative adjective that is in the predicate position and placed emphatically forward. A literal rendering of this statement is, ’We have more sure the prophetic Word.’" [Note: Hiebert, "The Prophetic . . .," p. 159. Cf. Barbieri, p. 105; Green, pp. 86-87; Bigg, pp. 267-69; G. T. C. Fronmuller, "The Second Epistle General of Peter," in Lange’s Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, 12:19-20; and Sidebottom, p. 110.]

"You [will] do well" was a common way of saying "please" in the papyri (cf. James 2:3). [Note: Sidebottom, p. 111.] The papyri are documents written in koine (common) Greek that deal with many everyday, non-biblical matters, such as judicial proceedings, tax receipts, marriage contracts, birth and death notices, business dealings, private letters, and a host of others, which date from the New Testament period.

That witness was similar to a light shining in a darkened heart and world. It would remain shining until the coming of Christ who, as the Morning Star, fully enlightens the believer’s heart (cf. Revelation 22:16). The morning star is the star (really a planet, usually Venus) that appears late at night just before dawn and announces the arrival of a new day. Just so, Jesus Christ’s return at the Rapture will signal the beginning of a new day, the day of the Lord. "The day of the Lord," as the Old Testament prophets used it in reference to a far distant day in which God will act dramatically in history, includes the Tribulation and the Millennium.

"In this phrase ["in your hearts"] Peter seemed concerned about the inner attitude of those who await the glorious day of Christ’s return. The truth that Christ is coming again must first arise in their hearts, like the morning star, giving inner assurance that that day is coming. Assured of His impending return, they will be alert to detect the gleams of dawn breaking through the darkness." [Note: Hiebert, "The Prophetic . . .," p. 163.]

Peter’s point was that until the Lord returns his readers should give attention to the Old Testament and to the apostles’ teaching, especially since false teachers were perverting them. [Note: Cf. Kelly, p. 321.] That was the only real light available to enlighten them. The alleged light of the false teachers was no light at all.

Verses 19-21

C. The Divine Origin of Scripture 1:19-21

Peter proceeded to emphasize that the witness of the apostles, as well as the witness of Scripture, came from God. He did this to help his readers see that their choice boiled down to accepting God’s Word or the word of men who disagreed with God’s Word (i.e., the false teachers).

"Peter points out the character of the prophetic Word (2 Peter 1:19 a), pictures the present function of biblical prophecy (2 Peter 1:19 b), and stresses the origin of prophecy (2 Peter 1:20-21)." [Note: D. Edmond Hiebert, "The Prophetic Foundation for the Christian Life: An Exposition of 2 Peter 1:19-21," Bibliotheca Sacra 141:562 (April-June 1984):159.]

"The reliability of revelation is the idea that links 2 Peter 1:16-18 and 2 Peter 1:19-21." [Note: Moo, p. 75.]

Verse 20

Peter wanted to add a word of clarification about Old Testament predictions. "First of all" probably means that what Peter proceeded to say was of first importance. Bible students have recognized that what he said about Messianic prophecy in particular is true of prophecy generally. "Prophecy" is another word for the Word of God since it is what the Old Testament writers "spoke forth," the literal meaning of the Greek word propheteia, translated "prophecy." 2 Peter 1:21 helps explain what Peter meant by the last clause in 2 Peter 1:20.

Verse 21

What we have in Scripture did not originate in the minds of men but in the mind of God.

"False teaching flows from the minds of men and women; truth flows from the heart and mind of the living God." [Note: Cedar, p. 218.]

The prophets did not simply give their views of how things were or would be (2 Peter 1:20). They spoke as God’s mouthpieces articulating His thoughts in words that accurately represented those thoughts. The Holy Spirit "moved" the prophets to do so as the wind moves a sailboat (cf. John 3:8). The same Greek verb (phero) occurs in Acts 27:15; Acts 27:17 to describe that action.

"The Spirit, not human volition, is the originating power in prophecy." [Note: Hiebert, "The Prophetic . . .," p. 166.]

This passage does not explain specifically how the Holy Spirit did this. However in view of what we find elsewhere in Scripture, we know He did it without overriding the vocabulary and style of the prophet. In some cases the writers of Scripture used other resource materials (e.g., Joshua 10:13; 1 Kings 14:19; Luke 1:3; et al.). Even though 2 Peter 1:20-21 do not describe the method of inspiration in detail, they clearly affirm the basic method and the fact of inspiration. God is the Author of Scripture (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16). He guided the writers of Scripture to record His words by His Holy Spirit.

"Peter’s statement recognizes both the divine and the human element in the production of Scripture. Any balanced doctrine of the origin of Scripture must recognize both." [Note: Ibid.]

"A prevailing view is that the reference is to the reader’s own efforts to understand written prophecy, that ’one’s own interpretation’ must not be imposed on a specific prophetic passage. Under this view the problem is the method of interpreting prophecy. Yet Peter does not tell how believers are to interpret prophecy.

"Varied views as to the meaning of ’one’s own interpretation’ are offered. (1) The believer as a private individual does not have the ability to interpret prophecy but needs ecclesiastical direction. But many scriptural prophecies have been rightly understood by the common reader apart from any ecclesiastical guidance; nor have the views of ’authorized interpreters’ always been uniform. (2) A prophecy must not be interpreted in isolation but needs the light of the unfolding fulfillment thereof. While it is true that Christians’ understanding of prophecy now is often vague and uncertain, to hold that it cannot be understood till it is fulfilled makes valueless the present lamp of prophecy. (3) Prophetic predictions should not be interpreted in isolation from other Scriptures. It is obvious that each prophecy must be so interpreted as to be consistent with other prophecies; but this does not prove that any individual prophecy in itself is obscure. Peter has just declared that Old Testament prophecy was a shining lamp. And its light is clearer now that Christ has come in His First Advent. (4) It is not the individual but the Holy Spirit who must interpret, as well as inspire, prophecy. This is true, but it does not invalidate or eliminate the human effort to understand. These views do not arise out of the main thought of the context.

"More probable is the view that the statement concerns the origin of prophecy and relates to the prophet himself. This is the view of the New International Version: ’No prophecy of Scripture comes from the prophet’s own interpretation.’ The meaning, then, is that no prophecy arose out of the prophet’s own solution to the scenes he confronted or his own interpretation of the visions presented to his mind. Calvin remarked that the prophets ’did not blab their inventions of their own accord or according to their own judgments.’ [John Calvin, "The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews and the First and Second Epistles of St. Peter," in Calvin’s Commentaries, p. 343.] The false prophets of Jeremiah’s day were charged with doing precisely this (Jeremiah 23:16-17; Jeremiah 23:21-22; Jeremiah 23:25-26; Ezekiel 13:3).

"The view that prophecy did not arise ’from one’s own interpretation’ (ablative case) is supported by the natural meaning of the verb (ginetai ["was made," "had its origin," or "came"]); it is in harmony with the scriptural picture of prophecy; and it is in accord with the following verse. It is supported by Peter’s picture of the prophets in 1 Peter 1:10-12. The prophetic lamp ’was neither fashioned nor lighted by the prophet himself,’ and its divine origin offers ’a distinct and powerful motive for taking heed to the prophetic word, and one well fitted to produce a patient and reverent and docile spirit of investigation.’" [Note: John Lillie, Lectures on the First and Second Epistles of Peter, p. 428. Cf. Bigg, p. 270.]

"Peter is not here warning against personal interpretation of prophecy as the Roman Catholics say, but against the folly of upstart prophets with no impulse from God." [Note: Robertson, 6:159. See also Hiebert, Second Peter . . ., pp. 81-82; and Buist M. Fanning, "A Theology of Peter and Jude," in A Biblical Theology of the New Testament, pp. 462-65.]

In this section (2 Peter 1:12-21) Peter reminded his readers that they had adequate resources for their own spiritual growth in the apostles’ teachings and in the Old Testament.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 2 Peter 1". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". 2012.