2 Peter 1 Commentary

?v.1 “Peter’s right to speak authoritatively to these Christians is emphasized even more clearly in the second title, “apostle.” This word (Greek apostolos) can mean simply “messenger” and is so used occasionally in the New Testament (e.g., 2 Cor. 8:23; Phil. 2:25). But the word more often has a technical sense, denoting those men chosen specially by the Lord to be his authoritative representatives. They form, as Paul puts it, along with the prophets, “the foundation” of the church (Eph. 2:20). They were commissioned not only to proclaim the good news but also to develop and guarantee the truth of the gospel message. Peter, of course, was one of the most famous of the apostles. He, along with James and John, formed a kind of “inner circle” among the Twelve (see Mark 5:37; 9:2; 14:33). Peter was the outstanding spokesperson for the Christian message in the early days of the church, as Luke makes clear in Acts 2-12.”[1]

v.5 “Because of the new birth and the promises associated with it, Christians participate in the divine nature (v. 4). But the new birth does not rule out human activity. Sanctification is a work of God in which believers cooperate. This is why the Bible gives ethical imperatives based on dogmatic indicatives (cf. Ro 6:11-14; 12:1-2; Php 2:12-13; 1Pe 1:13-21); this principle is in accord with biblical statements of how God works (cf. Ro 8:13b; Php 2:13). So Peter urgently calls for a progressive, active Christianity. It is by faith alone that we are saved through grace, but this saving faith does not continue by itself (Eph 2:8-10). Peter’s chain of eight virtues (vv. 5-7) starts with ‘faith’ and ends in ‘love’(cf. 1Ti 1:5).

Christians are told to ‘make every effort to add to [their] faith.’ In NT times the word ‘add’was used of making a rich or lavish provision. To make every ‘effort’ requires both zeal and seriousness in the pursuit of holiness. ‘Goodness’ is an attribute of Christ himself (1:3) and therefore is to be sought by his people. It is excellence of achievement or mastery in a specific field–in this case virtue or moral excellence (cf. Php 4:8; 1Pe 2:9). The ‘knowledge’ that is to be added to faith is the advance into the will of God. The false teachers (eventually known as the Gnostics) claimed a superior knowledge. The apostles stressed that it was necessary for those who know God to live a godly life (cf. 1Jn 2:3-4; 5:18) and that Christ taught them the will of the Father (Jn 15:15).”[2]

v.6 “The next virtue in Peter’s chain is ‘self-control’.  The concept of self-control played a great role in the philosophical ethics of classical Greece and Hellenism. But in NT ethical discussions it is not generally used, perhaps because the normal biblical emphasis is on God at work in us by the Spirit rather than on human self-mastery. Self-control is the exact opposite of the excesses (2:3, 14) of the false teachers and the sexual abuses in the pagan world. The NT concept of self-control is instructive. Paul uses the verb ‘to control oneself’ of the unmarried (1Co 7:9; cf. Ac 24:25) and of his own self-discipline for the Gospel (1Co 9:25). In the only other use of the noun besides 2Pe 1:6, Paul lists it as one facet of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:23). So while the biblical ethic does include “self-control,” it sees it as the manifestation of the Spirit’s work in believers, resulting in the human activity Paul speaks of in Ro 8:13.

Following self-control is ‘perseverance’ or ‘patience’ This virtue views time with God’s eyes (3:8) while waiting for Christ’s return and for the punishment of sin. Perseverance is the ability to continue in the faith and resist the pressures of the world system (cf. Lk 8:15; Ro 5:3; Heb 12:2). ‘Godliness’ is piety or devotion to the person of God.”[3]

v.7 “The first word he uses is philadelphia, “love of the brother,” or, as NIV renders it, “brotherly kindness.” In distinction from the second word, the familiar agape, philadelphia probably refers to love expressed among fellow Christians. Agape, then, is not a completely different love, but embraces “love of the brethren” as one sphere of Christian love in its fullest scope — that Spirit-given act of the will by which we treat other people with active benevolence. Surely it is not by chance that love, the crown of Christian virtues (see 1 Cor. 13), comes at the climax of Peter’s staircase of Christian qualities. Note the parallel in Colossians 3:14: “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Love is not only the last and greatest Christian virtue; it is also the “glue” that holds all the rest of them together, the quality without which all the others will be less than they should be.”[4]

v.10 ““Calling” and “election,” words closely related in the Greek probably work together to emphasize the single concept Peter has in mind: God’s, or Christ’s, effective drawing of the sinner to himself for salvation (see v. 3). The Christian must earnestly seek to grow in Christian virtue in order to “validate” this calling of God.

Peter mentions two reasons why it is important for Christians to “make their calling and election sure,” one negative and one positive. Negatively, Christians are to respond in this way so that they “will never fall.” James uses the word translated “fall” here to mean “sin” (James 2:10; 3:2; NIV translates “stumble”). But it is unlikely that Peter is suggesting believers may attain the position of never sinning; James himself insists that “we all stumble in many ways” (3:2). What Peter may mean is that that the fruitful Christian “will be spared a disastrous coming to grief” — that no serious interruptions on the path to glory will occur. This meaning of the term is certainly possible, since Paul contrasts “stumbling” with “falling beyond recovery” in Romans 11:11. But most commentators think that the “stumbling” here is of a final nature, denoting a fall that prevents one from getting to heaven. They are probably correct. The “stumbling” here is the opposite of “receiving a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (v. 11) and seems to be equivalent to the “falling” that Jude contrasts with being presented faultless before the Lord in the last day (Jude 24).”[5]

Peter tells us that if we see spiritual growth taking place in our lives, we can be confident that we are Christians.  Those who encounter God’s grace will see evidence of that encounter – both internal and external signs that they have been (and continue to be) changed.”[6]

vv.13-14 “That Peter knows that he will not always live in ‘the tent of this body’ underlines what he has been saying. The word ‘tent’ was used of a body either living or dead (2Co 5:1, 4). Although it is possible that Peter was influenced by Paul’s usage, it is also possible that they shared a common linguistic and conceptual heritage. Peter knows that he will soon die and refers to a special revelation Jesus gave him (possibly Jn 21:18-19, where Jesus spoke of a violent death for Peter).

For Christians death should hold no terrors; it is like putting off old clothes or like exiting from old age. According to Paul, to die is to ‘be with Christ’ (Php 1:23) in a new way. So in view of his approaching death, Peter wants ‘to refresh [his readers’ ] memory’—‘refresh’ means ‘to wake up’ or ‘arouse.’”[7]

vv.17-18 “These verses explain how and when Peter was an eyewitness of the majesty of Jesus Christ. God the Father gave honor and glory to Jesus. The ‘honor’ is the public acknowledgment of his sonship (cf. Ps 2:6-7; Mt 3:17; Lk 3:22), and the ‘glory’ is the transfiguration of the humiliated Son into his glorious splendor.

v.19 “By saying ‘And we have the word of the prophets made more certain,’ Peter indicates that the OT prophets spoke of the same things he did and that their words are made more certain because the Transfiguration was a foreview of their fulfillment. The Scriptures, in other words, confirm the apostolic witness. Peter is making an obvious comparison between the OT prophecies (which were accepted as God’s reliable word) and the apostles’ testimony or that of the Voice at the Transfiguration.

v.21 “Each prophecy originated in God, not in the will of a human being. No prophet wrote his own private ideas. This verse is notable for the light it sheds on how Scripture was produced. Peter’s statement ‘men spoke from God’ implies the dual authorship of Scripture–a teaching also implied in the OT (see 2Sa 23:2; Jer 1:7, 9). The human prophets spoke, but God so worked in them that what they said was his word. It was not through a process of dictation or through a state of ecstasy that the writers of Scripture spoke but through the control of the Spirit of God—‘as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.’”[8]


[1] Moo, Douglas J. “Original Meaning” In NIV Application Commentary, New Testament: 2 Peter and Jude. By Douglas J. Moo, 34. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, © 1996.

[2] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992) note on 2 Peter 1:5.

[3] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992) note on 2 Peter 1:6.

[4] Moo, Douglas J. “The Believer’s Responsibility (vv. 5 – 9)” In NIV Application Commentary, New Testament: 2 Peter and Jude. By Douglas J. Moo, 46. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, © 1996.

[5] Moo, Douglas J. “The Importance of Godliness (vv. 10 – 11)” In NIV Application Commentary, New Testament: 2 Peter and Jude. By Douglas J. Moo, 49. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, © 1996.

[6] Quest Study Bible, study notes (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 2003) 1692.

[7] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992) note on 2 Peter 1:13-14.

[8] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992) note on 2 Peter 1:19.

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