The Character of Scripture

2nd Peter

Living With Truth

Intro:  When military troops are in hostile territory; they have not been sent without a determination that their efforts will be successful, without sufficient supplies and power, or without a clearly stated purpose.  The achievement of these goals will be accomplished by the faithful fulfillment of a number of intermittent goals along the way as the supplies and plans are implemented as they go. Called out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of the Son of his Love, we are now living in hostile territory, but we are not without provisions or purpose. We have the provisions of grace and truth. The purpose and the plans of men may fail through lack of sufficient foresight, lack of effective execution, or an underestimation of the extent of power that was needed. God lacks none of these. His purpose is perfect, the means he has deployed to effect it are exactly proportioned to the task, and the power involved at each stage of the plan is “according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all  rule, and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.” (Ephesians 1:20, 21)

The Initiation, aggressiveness, and Power of God – Peter as an apostle and servant immediately appointed by Jesus Christ writes with the authority given the apostles to warn against both false teaching and false living. This probably is written very close to the time of his death (1:12-14).

“received (or obtained) a faith.” (1) Several points identify this faith that they have received.

The faith they have received is not qualitatively different from that of the apostles. That which constitutes New Testament faith is the same for every believer. “Of equal standing with ours.”

Faith constitutes the body of revealed truth that Peter expounds and defends throughout this epistle.

Faith also is that grace induced submission to Christ and his righteousness that is the natural expression of having seen the glory of Christ, tasted the goodness of God and having been captured by the word of truth in Scripture. Faith is thus, the “substance of things hoped for and the evidence, or conviction, of things not seen” by the physical eye but seen in the soul.

By the righteousness of our God and Savior

Here Peter shows that every grace contained in the body of truth and every grace by which we are drawn to embrace it has been obtained by the “righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” His obedience to death as our substitute has opened the floodgates of heaven on those to whom he reconciled God. Compare “He who spared not his own son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not also with him freely give us all things” (Romans 8:32 in context).

Note emphasis on righteousness throughout this epistle: 2:5; 2:8, 9; 2:15 [“unrighteousness”]; 2:21; 3:13

(2) Those blessing peculiar to redemption, grace and peace, increase in their effect and intensity as our knowledge of “God and of Jesus our Lord.” This kind of phrase attends the idea of the pre-mundane covenant of redemption that involved the Father’s sending of the Son to be the mediator of salvation. See Titus 1:1-4, where Paul speaks of the ”faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness.” He closes his salutation to Titus with the words, “Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus or Savior” (1:4). Because of this commonly owned covenant in the triune God, Paul can in the third chapter call God the Father, “our Savior,” and then proceed to give expression to the work of the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ “our Savior” in the merciful covenantal arrangement for redemption.

His divine power has granted (3) – In the execution of his covenant to save, God manifests the power that is necessary to grant all things consistent with the purpose. This is not according to our power, or dependent finally on our response as the final determining cause. Our response is indeed just that, a response to the operation of his power manifest in way consistent with the purpose of rescuing us from the condemnation as well as the corrosive and finally destructive effects of sin. What are the things granted?

All that pertains to life and godliness – nothing is omitted; Christ does not become Lord in our lives subsequent to his becoming Savior. No, he brings his lordship with him as he intercedes for those for whom he shed his blood and conquers them by his grace.

Through the knowledge of him – Because of the results, we must conclude that this is a transforming knowledge, unlike the knowledge of 2:20. In John 17 Jesus said, “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

Who has called us to [or by] his own glory and excellence. The call either to or by his own glory and excellence assumes that the one called will have moral inclination toward that glory and excellence. Thus, this call witnesses to the transformed heart as necessary for the attraction of such a call. This call, therefore, comes from the choice of God. According to verse 10, one gives certainty to his election by giving evidence of his calling.

He has granted to us his magnificent promises (Acts 2:33 – substance) –

The promises that were contingent upon the coming of the Messiah and the completion of his work are now granted. The New Covenant of Jeremiah 31 has brought in the new way of identifying the people of God by the sanctifying operations of the Holy Spirit. Paul referred to this in Titus 2:11 “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age. . . .Christ gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” Not only has the substance of former promises been granted, but the certainty of future glory now looms bright and sure; “Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Through these promises, both those fulfilled, and those that await fulfillment, the spiritual and moral image of God, lost at the fall, will be restored (“partakers of the divine nature”). Paul characterizes those that are yet unregenerate as “alienated from the life of God” (Ephesians 4:18) but those that have “learned Christ” have put off the old corrupt way of life dominated by deceitful desires and have been renewed in the “spirit of [their] minds” and have been made new persons, “created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:23, 24).

The new birth not only brings a person to faith and thus union with Christ for justification—freedom from condemnation—but also an escape from the destructive tyranny of present corruption.

Entrance abundantly supplied – verse 11 also indicates that aggressiveness of God in granting blessings to his people. An entrance into the eternal kingdom will be richly provided.

Employing the Divine Supply of Kingdom qualities – 5-8 – Now because of the pervasive extent of the blessings of grace, (“for this very reason,”) that is, since you have been freed of condemnation and have escaped the destructive powers of this world, unpack and wield those divine supplies God has given that we might contend earnestly and hopefully against death and the devil. Be diligent, make haste.

Those things that fit us for the presence of God

Spiritual foundation: faith, Virtue (moral excellence), knowledge – Each of these has to do with spiritual comprehension of the moral attributes of God. Faith is the outflow of trust from having seen the perfect adequacy of Christ for salvation in light of our absolute inadequacy. Virtue is love toward God in light of his perfect holiness; knowledge is the cognitive grasp of the truth enforced by a certainty  born from having sensed its beauty and power.

Personal transformation: self-control, steadfastness or perseverance, godliness – Each of these is a manifestation of personal change generated by walking in the Spirit.

Social manifestation: brotherly kindness, love. [1 P. 1:22, 1:8] A new relation with God brings a changed style of life which manifests itself in edifying and loving relations with brothers in Christ

NOTE: at every level each of these serves as an indicator that the other also is present; cf. James 2:22  “You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected”; James 3:13  Who among you is wise and understanding?  Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom”

Honor of Christ –

If these qualities are yours and are increasing – The virtues just mentioned are embedded within a genuine operation of the Spirit of God and they constitute all the elements of a transformed life. They are thus present in seed form at the beginning of the Christian life and, through the use of the means God gives, will increase. “He who began the good work in you will bring it to completion until the day of Christ.”

“Neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ [this is necessary for true knowledge to be saving knowledge: cf. 2:21 twice; 3:18] One kind of thorough knowledge, spoken of at the end of chapter 2, results only in increased and aggravated punishment when it is shoved aside for the preferred and prevailing lusts for this present tantalizing but failing order. Dogs that have vomited and hogs that are washed have changed neither their appetite nor their preferred environment. The only saving knowledge is transforming and fruitful knowledge.

The Bypath Meadow of the Loss of Evidence 9-11

Blind or shortsighted [temporary] –  “Whoever lacks these things” – Peter seems to refer to the situation of a Christian that has been overwhelmed by the flesh temporarily. The multiplying dominance of those virtues that reflect the character of Christ has been interrupted. The attention of the believer has been moved toward the tarnished and cankerous commitments of this world. Such is the situation anticipated in Galatians 6:1 as a result of the conflict described in 5:16, 17; Perhaps the same issue is before John’s mind in 1 John 5:16. If the lack of sight continues, however, it is evidence that the lacking one is a  dog or a hog.

Not to continue in the pursuit of heavenly excellence, implies a very serious failure. The change of focus Peter describes is clearly inconsistent with an awareness of the cost and character of the forgiveness of sins (“Having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins”).  To open space in the mind or give the energy of the body to those things that meant death and that were the cause of Christ’s suffering means that one has repressed the normal operations of the Spirit of God in his life. Peter affirms with Paul that freedom from condemnation is not to become an opportunity for the flesh (Galatians 5:13). He joins voices with John that “everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he was born of God protects him” (1 John 5:18). That is, the eternally begotten Son of God protects those to whom the Father, by the Spirit, has given the new birth of heavenly life.

The present conflict, and the ever-present possibility of some kind of fall (cf. Galatians 6:1b-3) means that we should be “all the more diligent” (10).

“Calling and election sure” – Diligence must be sustained in pursuit of the evidences that one has been called by the glory and excellence of God. Those godlike virtues are produced by the Holy Spirit, but engage the human spirit in mortification of the flesh and zeal for good works (Romans 8:12-14 and Titus 2:11-14) The only way, therefore to conclude that one is elect, is the diligent pursuit of the evidences of calling.

Peter indicates that certainty of never falling rests in the practice of these things (5-7)

Not only will one who practices these things not stumble, but an abundant entrance into the eternal kingdom will be provided. No person was clearer on the doctrine of justification apart from any works of personal righteousness than Paul. Yet he still could express confidence of this very thing, that he had practiced “these things,” and looked forward to an abundant entrance into the kingdom. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7, 8)

The means by which one may confirm, make clearly evident, one’s calling. Peter spends the rest of his time in this chapter focusing on the nature and necessity of Scripture. Not only is it revelation, giving information and truths that could be known only in this way, but those truths constitute the propositions that change the mind and the heart under the mysterious, powerful, and efficacious influence of the Spirit that inspired the Scriptures.

The Necessity of Repetition 12-15

Irrespective of the maturity of their present knowledge (12) Peter did not expect mere head knowledge, or even conscientious commitment, to be adequate for the challenge of perseverance. Instead a constant attention to the word was necessary because of the efficacious influence it exerts when it is pressed on the conscience. The writer of Hebrews called it “Living and active, and sharper than a two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit . . . discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” As persons on pilgrimage we need constant exposure to the sanctifying and exposing power of the word of God.

It is his moral duty to stir them up by reminding them (13) – A preacher must never apologize for repeating the gospel, the cross, the resurrection, the sanctifying operation of the Spirit, the holiness of God, the destructive nature of moral perversity, the beauty of holiness. Peter said, “I think it is right” to do this. The writer of Hebrews concurs when he writes, “We must pay more careful attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” “And when in scenes of glory, I sing the new, new, song, ‘twill be the old story, that I have loved so long.”

He will make sure of the perpetuity of his apostolic witness even after his death (14, 15). Even as Paul knew when his death was near, so did Peter. As Paul had confidence that God would protect the deposit of truth revealed to him (2 Timothy 1:12-14), so Peter made sure that the revealed truths that came in the context of his apostolic authority would still be available for their sanctifying purposes after his death.

The Nature of Apostolic Testimony 16-18

(16) Not a matter of creatively constructed stories with moral insight and redemptive themes. It is ironic that during the development of liberal theology in the nineteenth century, this is precisely what those destructive meddlers with Scripture said. Strauss saw the New Testament text as cleverly devised myths use to incorporate spiritual truths [whatever they were], in concrete, objectifying language. Existentialist exegetes of the twentieth century, such as Bultmann and Gogarten did the same thing. The “power and coming” of Jesus was not some isolated spiritual experience or insight, but a real historical, palpably experienced, enfleshment in a human life of the eternal Son of God. So Peter was convinced.

It is a matter of two things 

Eyewitness 16b – Not only did Peter claim to be an eyewitness of the historical life of Jesus, but also of his majesty. John in 1 John 1:1-3 not only claimed to see and touch the really human Jesus but called him “the word of life” and in his gospel he wrote, “And we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” According to Hebrews 2:1-4, the historical life of Jesus was filled with confirming evidences of the supernatural importance of the events of his life, so that it was demonstrated to be “such a great salvation.” All of these saw these things not only with the physical but with corresponding eyes of the soul.

Also an Ear witness (17, 18) – Heavenly confirmation came in the voice of the Father from heaven proclaiming the Sonship of Christ. Peter also not only heard the voice but knew that these events confirmed the “honor and glory” intrinsic to the coming passion of Christ. A word from the “Majestic glory” that they heard implanted itself in their souls so that the power of external truth became an experienced and infallibly confirmed spiritual sense. In these events, they were given eyes to see and ears to hear.  

Historically unfolding revelation – There is disagreement over the translation of this phrase, and thus over its meaning. Some, [ESV] say “We have something more sure, the prophetic word.” That would mean that the word given in the prophets is more sure than a personal experience. In general that is true, and it is a plausible meaning here. But Peter does not seem to be communicating that he has any uncertainty about the divine origin of the entire experience or the propositionally truthful interpretation that he drew from it. Rather, he is treating it as fundamental to his exhortation given in the earlier verses. On this basis he considers it necessary to perpetuate his words for the future. Another translation, “We have the prophetic word made more sure” is more contextually likely. He is not saying that any uncertainty should be entertained about the words of the prophets. He is saying that the events surrounding the life and ministry of Christ give a sureness to their meaning that was puzzling before. Look at what Peter says about the prophetic writings in 1 Peter 1:10-12. Paul sets forth a similar comparison. He believed that the revelation through Jesus embodied an intrinsic glory far surpassing the glory of the Old Covenant revelation. Even with as much glory as Moses saw in the reception of the law, that is nothing in comparison with the glory of the revelation, and redemption, through Christ. In 2 Corinthians 3:4-12, we may observe the confluence of revealed message, speech [preaching], the righteousness conveyed in the Christ event, and the Spirit’s convicting power. This in particular constituted the apostolic ministry and message.

His present testimony is the clear fulfillment of what had been prophesied before. “To which you do well to pay attention” means that word of the apostles giving a fulfilled clarity to the Old Covenant, specifically his word that he is leaving with them. That testimony, that inspired understanding of the glory of Christ and his fulfillment of the word of the prophets is the “lamp shining in a dark place.

Until the day dawns – This means when this present dark age is culminated with the glorious appearing of Jesus Christ. The scripture of the apostolic revelation will guide Christians until Christ returns.

“The morning star rises in your heart” – Christ is the morning star and the idea of his rising in our hearts means that when he so gloriously appears our transformation into his image will be complete. Our hearts will be transformed to his likeness, his glorious presence will be the means of our complete cleansing from those lingering corruptions and enemies that presently dog our steps and so easily beset us. John wrote, “We know that when he appears, we shall be like him because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 5:2, 3) The visible glory of Christ became the source of Peter’s inspired writing; the visible glory of Christ will culminate what that inspired writing carries on until the day of his appearing.

The origin of the sacred writings (20, 21) – He already has given testimony that he has not invented any falsehoods or myths but has written what he has seen, heard, and known. Now in describing what the source of the prophetic writings was, he implies that his writing and that of the other apostles had the same origin.

Not from human investigation and interpretation of events – Nothing that is in Scripture came from the interpretation that a prophet initiated about the events surrounding him. They were not sayings or human prognostications arising from subtle and detailed analyses of the tendencies of the times and the relative strength of the powers. Scripture is not just the best guess that an observer of culture can give. No prophecy “was ever produced by the will of man,” (21a) neither those of the Old Covenant nor these of the New Covenant ministers that write fulfilling that which needed the clarity of a completed event and accompanying explanation.

Holy Spirit carried them as they spoke. Note the relation between the spoken word and the eventual status of “Scripture” (“Graphe”). What the prophets spoke was written. In the same way, what the apostles preached in the early days of the proclamation of Christ’s messianic person and finished work formed the content of that which they wrote to the churches, and likewise has the status of Scripture. {“graphe”). At the beginning of chapter 2 and of chapter 3 we will see another comparison of the prophetic revelation with the apostolic revelation.


Is a Personal knowledge of the glory of Christ the source of your faith?

Is Love for the Lord Jesus foundational to all your actions or at least a constant conscious awareness of the necessity of such conformity?

By what have you been called and to what?  His own glory and excellence?

Do you expect to grow in spiritual supplies apart from a heart-felt love for the Word?

Do you expect to grow in spiritual supplies apart from attention to the Word of God in preaching?

Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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