“His Very Great and Precious Promises”
2 Peter 1:1-8
August 3, 2008
The power to overcome sin is found in the One who overcame for us.
I. The Knowledge of God (2 Peter 1:1-2)
II. The Power of God (2 Peter 1:3)
III. The Promises of God (2 Peter 1:4-8)
I have to admit, I’ve probably seen the movie “Chariots of Fire” over 20 times. It’s been my favorite movie since I was in my early 20s, and I suspect given the output of Hollywood these days, nothing else may ever come close to replacing it. For those who don’t know the movie, much as I hate to think there may be some who don’t know it, I’ll briefly summarize the plot. The movie centers on the lives of two men—Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell—both of whom are runners who competed for Britain in the 1924 Olympics in Paris. While it is certainly a cool sports movie, that is a very small part of what the movie is actually about. Instead, the primary focus is contrasting the lives of Abrahams and Liddell.
Abrahams is a Jew who has a large chip on his shoulder about his ethnicity and who runs as a way to prove himself. He is driven by his fear of failure and admits at one point in the movie that “he runs to win. And if he can’t win, he won’t run.” His audience is the world.
On the other side of this comparison is Liddell, a man who is famous for the stand he took in the ’24 Olympics when he refused to run in the 100 meters race he had been slated for because its heats were to be held on the Sabbath. At one point in the movie, he tells his sister “I believe God has made me for a purpose” [referring to the mission field where he planned to later serve]. He continued, “But He also made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure.” Liddell runs for an audience of One.
So why do I bring this up this morning. Because there’s one particular scene in this movie, when Liddell is sharing about his faith to a small crowd after one of his races, that I sets the stage for today’s passage remarkably well. In his talk, Liddell is comparing the life of faith we live as believers to a race. He asks the crowd, “Where does the power come from to see the race to its end? From within. Jesus said, ‘Behold, the kingdom of God is within you.’ ‘If with all your heart you truly seek me, you shall ever surely find me.’ If you commit yourself to the love of Christ, then that is how you run the straight race.”
This morning we are going to look at 2 Peter chapter 1 verses 1-8. If you have a Bible with you, please turn there. First, a little bit of background on 2 Peter. Although Peter doesn’t state outright where he was when he wrote this letter as he did in his first letter, most Biblical scholars believe he wrote this letter while imprisoned in Rome and may very well have been aware that he was facing a death sentence. We can understand then the heart behind his letter—knowing that he may soon depart this world, he was very concerned for the welfare of the flock. His primary objective in this letter is to help equip believers to recognize and defeat false teaching in the church.
In order to set the stage for this, Peter starts his letter by focusing on who we are and what we have been given as believers in Christ. Like Eric Liddell, he is pointing the way for believers to run the straight race.
2Peter 1:1-8 NIV Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours: 2. Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 3. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 5. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6. and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7. and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Peter makes it clear right up front that he is speaking to believers—those who “through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours.” While faith is often spoken of in Scripture from the human side—for example, Jesus telling those whom he healed that their faith has healed them—Peter makes clear here that saving faith is ultimately received from God alone:
Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9. not by works, so that no one can boast.
Because our faith is ultimately received from God, we can be assured that every one of us has received the same measure and fullness of grace. The KJV calls this “like precious faith” where the Greek word interpreted as “like precious” means of equal value or worth. There is no such thing as 2nd class believers. There is no such thing as super believers. We are all the recipients of the same amazing grace in salvation. That same “like precious faith” that saved the Apostles and first century believers saves us today. What we do with this incredible gift of faith we’ve been given while we live this life on earth is another story. That, we can see clearly in numerous Scriptural examples, varies widely. It is largely dependent on our understanding of what Peter focuses on in the next 3 verses: The knowledge of God, the power of God, and the promises of God.
Various forms of the word “knowledge” are used throughout this letter 16 times in only three chapters. In the passage we are looking at today, it is used 5 times. So it’s obviously very important for us to understand what is meant by this word. There are two Greek words translated as “knowledge” in this passage:
gnosis – Comes from the root word “ginosko” meaning “to know.” We came across this word 2 weeks ago in John 10:27 when Jesus said:
John 10:27 NIV My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
As Murry explained, this word “know” is not referring to intellectual knowledge. It’s not talking about “knowing” in the same way that you know who won the 1965 World Series or know how to build a deck on your house. This word is referring to relational knowledge, to intimacy. This form of knowledge appears twice in this passage in verses 5-6.
epignosis – The same root word gnosis, but with the prefix “epi” which essentially strengthens the word. In this case, it means not just intimacy but extreme intimacy. Strong’s defines “epignosis” as “full discernment” or “to become fully acquainted with.” It is this form of “knowledge” that is used in verse 2 when Peter says “Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”
Strong’s dictionary defines the words “grace” and “peace” this way:
Grace (charis) – the divine influence upon the heart and its reflection in the life.
Peace (eirene) – probably has its origin in the Greek verb meaning “to join.” One definition is “to set at one again.” In other words, to make whole.
Putting all this together, Peter is saying that through our very intimate relationship with God and our Lord Jesus (our knowledge of God), our hearts are being divinely influenced and our lives will overflow with this divine influence (that’s the “abundant grace”), and we are made fully one again (that’s the “abundant peace”).
Isaiah 61:1 NIV The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,
Intimacy with God changes us at our very core. It restores us to who we were intended to be. Where our sin natures leave us brokenhearted, the knowledge of God binds them whole again. One commentator puts it this way: “The knowledge of Christ emphasized here is not a superficial knowledge, or a mere surface awareness of the facts about Christ, but a genuine, personal sharing of life with Christ, based on repentance from sin and personal faith in Him”
In the book “Knowing God,” author J.I. Packer opens his chapter entitled “Knowing and Being Known” with the following:
What were we made for? To know God.
What aim should we set ourselves in life? To know God.
What is the “eternal life” that Jesus gives? Knowledge of God. (Jn 17:3) “This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
What is the best thing in life, bringing more joy, delight and contentment than anything else? Knowledge of God. (Jer 9:23-24) “This is what the LORD says: ‘Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me.’”
Peter is clearly saying that intimacy with God is absolutely essential to our walk. But where does this intimacy with God come from? How do we get the knowledge of God? Proverbs 2:1-6 gives us some idea:
Proverbs 2:1-6 NIV My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, 2. turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, 3. and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, 4. and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, 5. then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. 6. For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
“… from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” This is talking about God’s Holy Word. We need to learn His Word, to store up His commands within us, to cry out for insight. We need to search for His wisdom as we would search for buried treasure. It is not enough to simply be exposed to God’s truths contained in His Word—if it were, the Pharisees would have been the holiest people living in Jesus’ time. Instead, they were the greatest hypocrites and the recipients of His sternest rebukes. We must meditate on the truths of God’s Word and do business with the Holy Spirit daily concerning their implications on how we live.
J.I. Packer says it very well: “You can have all the right notions in your head without ever tasting in your heart the realities to which they refer; and a simple Bible reader and sermon hearer who is full of the Holy Spirit will develop a far deeper acquaintance with his God and Savior than a more learned scholar who is content with being theologically correct. The reason is that the former will deal with God regarding the practical application of truth to his life, whereas the latter will not.”
John 14:15 NIV “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”
I used to read this verse to mean “If you love me, you will prove it by obeying my commands.” There is certainly an element of truth to that interpretation. However, God has been opening my eyes to another perspective. Recently we spent some time at a family camp in Colorado. The chaplain, while sharing on the Ten Commandments, made a statement that I have been rolling around in my mind ever since. He said, “If you seek to love God, obedience will naturally follow. The converse is not necessarily true.” When we focus on obedience, our eyes may become fixed on ourselves. When we focus on loving God, we “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Heb 12:2).
One way to know that we are truly growing in the knowledge and love of God is that obedience to His commands begins to follow in our lives. That’s not to say that there isn’t an element of obedience in gaining the knowledge of God:
John 15:10 NIV “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love…”
And Oswald Chambers comments that: “If a person wants scientific knowledge, then intellectual curiosity must be his guide. But if he desires knowledge and insight into the teachings of Jesus Christ, he can only obtain it through obedience… No one ever receives a word from God without instantly being put to the test regarding it.” But where does the power to obey come from? Is it a matter of will power, like Frog and Toad decided? In verses 3-4, Peter tells us:
2Peter 1:3-4 NIV His divine power [God’s divine power] has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
In a sense, verse 3 is a restatement of John 14:15: “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” Only in this case, Peter adds more detail. Through our intimate knowledge, or love, of God, “his divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness” and… through his own glory and goodness, “he has given us his very great and precious promises.” Why did He give us these promises? So that through them, we may “participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” In other words, so that we can obey what he commands. It is through our love of God (our intimate relationship with Him), that the power of God works in us.
So why is it then that as believers, we sometimes feel powerless in the face of temptation, trials, and tribulations? Could it be that while we understand this Scriptural principle intellectually, in practice we doubt God is really there and instead, like Frog and Toad, turn to ourselves… trying to muster the “will power” to gut our way to obedience? But Peter is telling us here that it doesn’t have to be that way—that it shouldn’t be that way. That the power to obey is divine power. It comes from the Spirit of God within every believer and is released “through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.”
Paul makes it clear in 2 Corinthians 12 that it is our weakness, not our strength, which allows this divine power to work in us:
2Corinthians 12:7-10 NIV To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 10. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Another very powerful example of these principles at work in Scripture is found in the life of Abraham. In Genesis 15, God makes a covenant with Abram that he will have a son from his own body and that his descendents will be as numerous as the stars in the heavens. Later, in his letter to the Romans, Paul elaborates on what was at work in Abraham when this promise was made:
Romans 4:18-22 NIV Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 19. Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah's womb was also dead. 20. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21. being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.”
So now we see that it was through Abraham’s knowledge of God, his intimate relationship with His Creator, that he was able to trust His promise and “not waver through unbelief.” He was “fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.” The writer of Hebrew explains it this way:
Hebrews 11:11 NIV By faith Abraham, even though he was past age—and Sarah herself was barren—was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise.
And this same principle is true for us: It is by faith in His great and precious promises that the divine power of God is released in our lives. Trust is a natural outgrowth of intimacy—as we grow to know someone better, we come to understand the reliability of their word. And when that Someone is God, we learn that His reliability is complete… 100% faithful.
The relationship between our faith in God and the release of His power is clearly shown throughout the Gospels. Three times in gospel of Mark, Jesus is recorded as having told those he healed that “your faith has healed you.” In traveling through his hometown, Matthew 13:58 states that, “He did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.”
Going back to our passage in 2 Peter, I think this is also why, in verses 5-8, Peter starts with faith as the foundation for all the qualities he exhorts us to add to our lives.
2Peter 1:5-8 NIV For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6. and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7. and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I recently heard on the radio a broadcast of Family Life Today in which the host, Dennis Rainey, was talking about his daughter losing her baby a week after giving birth. All the joy and excitement leading up to the day of birth. No indications of anything abnormal. Then all of a sudden, everything seemed to be going wrong. He spoke of the deep pain the entire family had experienced during that week—pain which he had never felt to such depth before in his life. He also said, in observing the incredible strain that such suffering placed on his daughter and her husband’s relationship, that he realized how critical it is to build the bonds of marriage before such tragic times occur.
It occurred to me that our relationship with God is very much like this. We must not think we can wait until the trials hit to build the deep intimacy with God we will need to endure them victoriously. We must, like Peter exhorts us, “make every effort to add to our faith…” the qualities that will keep us effective and productive in Christ.
We must “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”
As Eric Liddell put it in Chariots of Fire, “If you commit yourself to the love of Christ, then that is how you run the straight race.”