We began our study of 2 Peter by noting that Peter’s salutation is fairly typical. He names himself as the author of the letter, addresses it in a very general way to those who believe in Jesus, and adds a Christian blessing.
In regard to authorship, we concluded that no one has successfully demonstrated that Peter could not have been the author of this letter. And so we accepted the letter as by the apostle Peter. As for the date of the letter, it was clear that if Peter wrote it, it would have been written before his death in the mid-sixties of the first century. In regard to the recipients, chapter three, verse one, suggests they were the same as for 1 Peter.
We saw Peter open the body of his letter with a discussion of knowing Christ in 1:3-11. And we saw that certain benefits come our way from knowing him. For example, his divine power gives us everything we need for life and godliness (verse three).
Knowing Christ also provides us with “precious and very great promises” that enable us to escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust and to participate in the divine nature (verse four). We noted that the former point is of great importance in our modern-day, lust-filled culture and that latter point is the most awesome expression in the New Testament of our spiritual union with God in Christ.
After sketching the benefits of knowing Christ, Peter turned to the part we human beings have to play in the process (verses 5-7). He laid out one virtue after another and declared that we should “make every effort” to add them to our faith. According to Peter, this is a way to grow in the faith and thus in knowledge of Christ. All believers have faith, but we are to add to that faith “goodness,” “knowledge,” “self-control,” “perseverance” (“endurance” in NRSV), “godliness,” “brotherly love” (philadelphian) and unconditional love (agapen). We noted that these virtues have to do with moral development and that unconditional love is the capstone of the process.
In verses 8-11 Peter gave some results both of growth in the knowledge of Christ and lack of growth in it. Peter mentioned two positive results of growth in verse eight. If we have these virtues and they are increasing in our lives, we will be neither ineffective nor “unfruitful” (NIV “unproductive”) in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus. That suggests that we will be effective and fruitful in that knowledge.
On the other side, in verse nine, if we aren’t growing in these virtues, it will mean we are nearsighted, which leads to blindness and being “forgetful of the cleansing of past sins.” The main point is that those who do not pursue the virtues end up blind to spiritual truth. And that kind of blindness is self-imposed.
In verses 10-11 Peter called upon us to make our call and election sure by developing these virtues in our lives. By doing that, we will not stumble, and we will enter the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior. Jesus Christ.
In this study we take up 2 Peter 1:12-21. This segment tells us about Peter’s apostolic ministry. As you can see, Peter’s was anticipating his death. We know from Church tradition that Nero martyred him in AD 64 or 65. And that’s why we dated the letter about that time, shortly before Peter’s death.
You will recall that John informs us that Jesus told Peter how he would die. He said to him: “when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” Then John adds, “He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God” (John 21:18-19).
Early Church tradition tells us that Nero crucified Peter. But Peter, who didn’t consider himself worthy of dying the same way that Jesus did, asked the Romans to crucify him upside down. And the request was granted.
Now the overarching content of this segment is three things about Peter’s apostolic ministry. Look at verse 12. As always, we must take note of a “therefore.” Therefore, says Peter, based on all I told you about knowledge of Christ and how to grow in that knowledge, “I intend to keep reminding you of these things.” So the first thing Peter mentions about his apostolic ministry is that it is a ministry of remembrance. He has reminded them, and he intends to keep reminding them, about knowledge of Christ and growing in it, even thought they already are fully aware of it. Remembrance of Jesus was woven into the very fiber of his ministry. It was what Jesus commissioned him to do. It was part of his commission to feed and nourish Christ’s lambs (John 21).
Therefore he will continue to remind them until he dies, for as long as he is in “this tent,” meaning in his physical body (verses 13-14). As he says in verse 15, he wants them able to remember these things “at any time” after he is gone. Of course Peter had no idea that his two letters would, after his death, become Scripture. But they did; and now they are in the New Testament to remind us of these things “at any time.”
Early Church tradition suggests that Peter was Mark’s source for the account of Jesus recorded by Mark in his Gospel. If that’s true, then the Gospel of Mark enshrines the remembrances of Peter, and Peter left us an even larger body of Scripture by which we can grow in the knowledge of Christ and his teachings.
The second thing Peter mentions about his apostolic ministry is that it is an eyewitness testimony to Christ. In verses 16-18, we see Peter’s first mention in the letter of certain false prophets and teachers who would seek to lead the recipients astray. They follow what he calls “cleverly devised myths.” By myths he means the classical definition: stories about the gods and goddesses that explain the origin of something such as the world, or a particular belief system and the like.
But Peter’s teachings to them about “the power and coming of the Lord Jesus Christ” had an historical rather than a mythical basis. He was an eyewitness to the ministry and majesty of Jesus. Of course many people had seen Jesus’ teaching and miracle-working ministry, though few had the up-close view that Peter had. In other words many could confirm the power of Jesus’ ministry. But Peter had seen not just his power. He also had seen his majesty.
In verses 17-18 Peter offers an account of Jesus’ Transfiguration to substantiate his claim. Peter was one of three disciples on the mount of Transfiguration when Jesus’ glory was revealed. Peter had seen the light radiating from Jesus body; he had heard the Father say, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased;” and he had seen and heard Moses and Elijah talking there with Jesus about Jesus’ coming death. What a witness! Truly Peter saw Jesus’ majesty.
Now then, an interesting aspect of this passage is the fact that Peter used the Transfiguration to affirm the second coming of Jesus rather than the resurrection. The Greek word translated “coming” in verse 16 is parousia, a term that has come over into English as a technical term for the second coming. In chapter three of the letter, we will find Peter teaching about the second coming. So it’s on his mind.
Some apparently were beginning to wonder if Christ was coming back as he promised, because it had been so long since the resurrection. But Peter teaches quite clearly, as we shall see, that he is coming back. And here Peter declares that the revelation of Jesus’ majesty on the mount of Transfiguration, which he, Peter, personally had seen, supported that.
Some have argued that the glory of the Transfiguration anticipated the resurrection of Jesus rather than the second coming. But this is one of those both/and situations. Jesus’ majesty on the mount of Transfiguration both anticipated the resurrection and supported the idea of the second coming.
All right Peter’s apostolic ministry was a ministry of remembrance and an eyewitness testimony to Christ. Third, Peter’s apostolic ministry was a confirmation of the message, or word (logos), of the prophets.
I like the NIV’s translation of the first part of verse 19: “And we have the word of the prophets made more certain.” The “word’ or “message” of the prophets was an expression in use in the early Church for the entire Old Testament. And what Peter was saying was that his experience on the mount of Transfiguration confirmed, or made more certain, the Old Testament’s message that there would be a glorious coming of the Messiah and that he would establish his kingdom.
As Peter later indicates in chapter two, false teachers would seek to discredit the promises of Christ’s coming; but the message of the prophets is that he is coming. And the Transfiguration demonstrates that the prophets were correct.
Then in the second part of verse 19 Peter inserts a warning. Since Scripture has thus been confirmed, his readers would do well to pay attention to it, even though it is like “a lamp shining in a dark place.” The “dark place” is, of course, the sinful world in which it shines as a lamp. Peter’s statement brings Ps. 119:105 and Is. 9:2 to mind. Ps. 119:105 reads, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” And Is. 9:2 reads, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light: those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined.” You might recall that Matthew quotes this verse from Isaiah in respect to Jesus’ ministry (Mt. 4:16).
Peter wants his readers to know that Scripture illumines the way for people. It gives guidance to those passing through the darkness of this world until “the day dawns” and “the morning star” rises in their hearts.
This sentence is full of meaning. The “day” here has two levels of meaning. On one level it refers to the dawning of the “day” of salvation, when the “the morning star” (who is Christ) rises in their hearts. Ii is a way of expressing the beginnings of the light of faith on one’s heart.
On another level the “day” is the day of Christ’s second coming. That is the day when the light of Christ will dissipate the darkness of the present evil age, just as the dawning of day banishes night. In other words the “day” of Christ’s coming here represents both his salvation and his judgment.
Then comes the famous words of Peter found in verses 20-21: “no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” This is one of the two most important Scriptures regarding the divine inspiration of the Word of God. The other is 1 Tim. 3:14-17.
“Scripture,” as used by Peter, of course means the Old Testament. Although there is some controversy around these verses, scholars generally agree that Peter means that no individual is entitled to interpret Scripture according to personal whim. Proper interpretation comes from the One who inspired the Scripture in the first place, the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit has through the centuries inspired holy interpreters in regard to the best interpretations. We can rely on these interpreters to guide us to the correct interpretations.
In summary, Peter, while anticipating his coming death, told the recipients three things about his apostolic ministry. It was a ministry of remembrance of knowledge of Christ and growing in that knowledge; it was an eyewitness testimony to the ministry of Jesus; and it was a confirmation of the message of the prophets.