Expository preaching from 2 Peter 1:3, delivered April 17th, 2016
Our text this morning is from 2 Peter, so please turn there with me if you would like to follow along. In order to get the full context of the verses that we’re going to focus on this morning, I’d like to read the first fifteen verses of the first chapter of Peter’s second epistle.
Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:
May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,
by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.
For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.
Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have.
I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me.
And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things. (2 Peter 1:1-15)
Before we delve into the text, I thought I would give you a little background on Peter’s second epistle. I know I always find it helpful to know some basic background information such as the audience the author is writing to, perhaps where and/or what condition or predicament the author was in when he penned the book, and what the main theme of the book is. So let me try to set the stage for you. Peter was writing to the same audience as his first epistle: churches in provinces located in modern day Turkey which were part of the Roman empire. This letter is likened to Peter’s swan song, so to speak, as we read in 1:13-15…
I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things. (2 Peter 1:13-15)
Although Peter does not come out and state definitely where he is when he wrote this letter, the consensus is that he was in a Roman prison facing imminent death. Shortly after this letter was written (67 A.D. or 68 A.D), we know that Peter was martyred by being crucified upside down.
The overwhelming theme of this letter is to warn the church of the dangers they are facing from false teachers. With the possible exception of Jude, this book is the most graphic and pointed portrayal of false teachers found in the Scriptures. Another theme running throughout the book is Peter’s desire to motivate his readers to continue to develop their Christian character. And yet a third theme throughout the letter is the importance of knowledge. The word knowledge appears sixteen times in this short letter of three chapters.
In the time that we have here this morning, I would like to focus in on a couple of verses here in this first chapter…
May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence (2 Peter 1:2-3)
These verses are so rich, and there are so many things to glean from them. I would like to focus on three main points from these verses today:
1. The source of our power is divine in nature and never of ourselves
2. Through the grace and goodness of the Lord, all Christians have everything they need for life and godliness
3. We experience a more meaningful and deeper relationship with God as our knowledge of Him increases
I think it is important to take a little time to better understand who Peter is addressing in this passage, especially when he says, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” Who is the “us” he is referring to here? Because I don’t know about you, but I want to be included in this deal. I mean after all God is granting “all things that pertain to life and godliness” here. Who in their right mind wouldn’t want to be a recipient of this?
We see back in verse 1 that Peter addresses this letter, “To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” These are the same people that Peter addressed his first epistle to, Gentiles, like you and I, that were most likely led to Christ by Paul and his associates and established on Paul’s teachings. Peter is speaking of saving faith here and points out that the believer is able to have this faith only because of God’s righteousness imputed to them. His divine power is given to those who rely on Christ’s righteousness.
So to the first point I wanted to stress today. The source of our power is divine in nature and never of ourselves. Let’s take a closer look at the first three words of verse three of our text: “his divine power.” The Greek word for power used here is dunamis which means to be able, to have power, the power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature. A common use of dunamis in Scripture is to describe deeds that exhibit the ability to function powerfully, such as deeds of power, miracles, and wonders. For example, the same word dunamis is used in Matthew 13:54, when Jesus returned to his home town of Nazareth. ”Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked.” They were astounded by his power and wisdom, but discounted it, and it offended them because they could only see Him as the “carpenter’s son” verse 55 tells us. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas?”
Let’s look at another use of this word power, in Acts 1:8. Here Jesus is addressing the apostles when He says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” John MacArthur, commenting on this verse, writes, “All believers have in them spiritual dynamite for use of gifts, service, fellowship, and witness. They need to experience the release of that power in their lives through not grieving the Spirit by sin, and being continually filled and controlled by the Spirit. The latter takes place as believers yield moment by moment control of their lives to Him, and is the same as yielding their minds to the Word.”
Let’s look at another key verse on this subject of divine power in the first chapter of Ephesians. In Ephesians 1:18-20 Paul writes, “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms.” I think it is important to note here, in his letter to the Ephesians Paul did not pray that believers might be given divine power, but that they might be aware of the divine power they already possess, and use it. Lewis Sperry Chafer, the founder of the Dallas Theological Seminary, had the following to say about these verses: “Paul wants to impress the believer with the greatness of the power which is engaged to accomplish for him everything that God has purposed according to His work of election, predestination and sovereign adoption.”
So it is clear to see that the power spoken of here in our text today is no ordinary power derived from a human source. No, this is power of the same divine nature as that which resurrected Christ from the grave. Paul describes this power in 1 Corinthians 6:14 when he says, “Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power.” Paul also says that it is this divine power that gives believers the strength and ability to do good works that please and glorify God and accomplish spiritual things that they cannot imagine themselves. In Ephesians 3:20 we read, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.” And a few verses earlier in Ephesians 3:6-7 we read, “That the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power.” Paul leaves no room to doubt here where the believer’s power comes from.
Divine power! Here’s what Charles Spurgeon had to say on the topic: “What stupendous issues are grasped in that term, divine power! It was this which digged the deep foundations of the earth and sea! It is this which guides the marches of the stars of heaven! Divine power, it is this which holds up the pillars of the universe, and which one day shall shake them, and hurry all things back to their native nothingness.” And he goes on to ask a very telling question that each one of us should ponder. “Now, can we say today, that we have a life within us which is the result of divine power?…and have we, upon searching ourselves, reason to believe, dear friends…that there is that within us that distinguishes us from other men, because we have been called out by mankind by the glory and energy of the divine power?”
So here are a couple of questions that kept going through my mind as I was preparing this, and that I would like each of us to consider today. Do we comprehend, I mean do we really grasp the magnitude of this divine power that has been granted to each of us as believers? And let’s just say that for a moment we can answer that question affirmatively, that we do actually comprehend this power. Then we must ask ourselves, are we living a life reflective of this power? And are we moving out and putting this power into action? Are we using this power, that remember, just like grace, has been freely and lovingly granted to us as believers from our loving Father, are we using His power in our lives to glorify and magnify Him? Are we using His power in our lives to reach out and have an effect on the world for Him? It is my prayer here today that each one of us would take inventory of this. That we would pray about it and meditate on it and ask Him to show us, to convict us, to help us understand how to rely on His divine power in our lives.
Now for the second point I wanted to emphasize from our text today: through the grace and goodness of the Lord, all Christians have everything they need for life and godliness. Let’s examine the next portion of the text in verse 3. What has God’s divine power granted us? ”All things that pertain to life and godliness.” What an awesome statement and promise this is. We, as believers, lack nothing in the spiritual realm. Dr. MacArthur says the following about this verse: “The genuine Christian is eternally secure in his salvation and will persevere and grow because he has received everything necessary to sustain eternal life through Christ’s power.”
The Apostle Paul addresses the totality of God’s sufficiency in the believer’s life throughout the New Testament. Here are just a few examples…
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8)
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:3-6)
These verses clearly state that God graciously and abundantly provides believers all the spiritual resources needed for their complete sufficiency for all things at all times. We are complete in Christ, lacking nothing. So we read this, and in our heart of hearts we know that it is true, but on the other hand in day to day life we face such trials and tribulations, we’re confronted with temptations on a daily basis. How can we withstand these and not falter and fade? Well we go back to our text today and it clearly tells us that we have received everything we need in the form of divine power from the Maker of the heavens and the earth Himself.
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. (1 Peter 5:8-10)
Scripture never tells us that we will live a trouble-free life. On the contrary, as the previous verses clearly point out, we will face all kinds of trials and tribulations in this life, but Scripture repeatedly tells us that we are fully equipped, by the graciousness of our loving Father, to withstand the attacks of our adversary and forge ahead for God’s glory. We just have to be disciplined to read and study the Word of God, and then believe in it, and put our faith into action by trusting in the power of it to sustain us. After all, we draw our strength in difficult times from the Scriptures, don’t we? 1 Timothy 6:12 tells us, “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” And in Galatians 6:9 we are once again encouraged when we read, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
So if we know that once we have genuine saving faith we are granted everything we need for life and godliness, then why do we at times doubt that we have the strength to handle life’s problems? Some even go to the extreme of trying to add to God’s already sufficient grace and provision, things such as second blessings, spiritual baptisms, mystical experiences, private revelations, and the like. This amounts only to discounting the sufficiency of the Scriptures and trying to add to an already inexhaustible source of divine power.
So let’s further examine the words “life” and “godliness” in this text. The Greek word Peter uses for life here is “zoe” and means: “the absolute fullness of life, both essential and ethical, which alone belongs to God the Giver of life.” It is the same word used in John 6:35-40 which I think is important to point out and read here…
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:35-40)
The life referred to here is not the temporal fleshly life that we live here on the earth, it is the eternal life that only comes from believing in the person of Jesus Christ. The key word here is believing. The definition of the Greek word for believe used here is “to believe,” also “to be persuaded of,” and hence, “to place confidence in, to trust,” it signifies, in this sense of the word, reliance upon, not mere credence or knowledge of.
Another key point made in the previous verses is the doctrine of eternal security. Verse 39 says, “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.” What a comforting promise this is, to know that no matter how powerful and scheming Satan may be here on this earth, he will never be able to pluck us out of the hand of the Father.
Can you imagine what it would be like if we were responsible for maintaining our own salvation? What if we lost our salvation and the gift of eternal life every time we sinned? What if it was left up to us alone, and every time we gave into a temptation we were won over to the side of the evil one? And we had to somehow work our way back over to God by trying to be holy or performing some form of religious and meritorious act of some sort. This would be a terrible existence, because we know how weak and prone we are to give into the flesh. That is why this doctrine of eternal security is so glorious. We have been purchased by Him forever, for eternity, paid in full. One of my favorite verses on this important doctrine of the faith is Ephesians 1:13: “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” The Spirit of God who indwells every true believer secures and seals our eternal salvation. How amazing is that promise? Praise God that it is not left up to us, and that His seal cannot be broken.
Now let’s take a closer look at the word “godliness” here. Godliness will not come automatically, but requires a disciplined effort on our part. Paul goes on to explain that whatever it takes, it’s worth it, in 1 Timothy 4:8 when he says, “for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” Once again, the good news is that we know we already have everything we need for life and godliness. Provided for us how? Through His divine power! We just need to do our part.
The third and final point I wanted to emphasize from the text today is that we experience a more meaningful and deeper relationship with God as our knowledge of Him increases. Let’s examine the next portion of our text, which is the last half of verse 3: “through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.”
As I mentioned earlier, knowledge is one of the overall themes of 2nd Peter as it is used sixteen times throughout the three chapters. The word used for knowledge here is not indicative of an intellectual understanding of the truth alone, but implies a more intimate and personal relationship. Spurgeon writes that, “It is through knowing God that we realize that “his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness,” for all these things are in him; and as we know him, trust him, love him, and become like him, we also come to possess all these precious things in him.”
So, how do we obtain this proper knowledge of Jesus? Obviously this type of intimate knowledge has to be somehow related to the intake of His Word, but it is more than just an intellectual pursuit. Let’s look at what Jesus says in John 14:21: “He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him.” Here we need to take note that the verbs “has” and “keeps” are both used in the present tense. This speaks of a lifestyle consistent of reading and then obeying His Word. If we are diligent in following this path, we should experience an ever increasing intimacy in our relationship with Jesus as He discloses Himself to us through His Word. Shouldn’t we all desire this level of intimate knowledge with our Lord and Savior?
And finally, we look at the end of verse 3: “to his own glory and excellence.” Here I believe Peter is saying that the Lord Jesus is the one who called us to the means of His own uniquely possessed glory and excellence. In Scripture, glory always belongs to God alone. Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God.” When a Christian lives a life which brings glory to God, he is fulfilling his purpose and thus exhibiting excellence. The word used for excellence here means moral goodness and virtue. It refers to Christ’s morally virtuous life and His perfect humanity, as in Hebrews 7:26 which reads, “For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens.”
So in closing this morning, I would like for each one of us to reflect on these verses and ask ourselves some penetrating questions:
Do you have reason to believe that there is that within you that distinguishes you from other men? And if we do, is it obvious to anyone? Can others detect or sense a difference in your life? And should they ask you, are you prepared to tell them what makes you different?
Do you have any semblance of spiritual dynamite in your life? What does that look like in your life? Are you just going through the motions and living a Christian life on Sundays and fading into the woodwork during the week?
Are you able to rest in your eternal security, or are you always questioning whether or not you belong to God? Have you truly placed your faith and dependence on Jesus Christ, or do you sometimes feel like you have to earn His love over and over again?
Are you waiting for someone or something to come along and boost your spiritual life? Are you seeking a deep spiritual encounter or experience that you hope will bring you closer to God?
Do you understand your calling? Do you know your purpose here on earth?
When you face trials and tribulations, do you think back on past experiences and remember how faithful God was to deliver you, and then give Him the glory that He deserves?
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence (2 Peter 1:3)