The apostle Peter, being moved by the Holy Ghost to write once more to those who from among the Jews were turned to faith in Christ, begins this second epistle with an introduction, wherein the same persons are described and the same blessings are desired that are in the preface to his former letter; but there are some additions or alterations which ought to be taken notice of, in all the three parts of the introduction.
I. We have here a description of the person who wrote the epistle, by the name of Simon, as well as Peter, and by the title of servant, as well as that of apostle. Peter, being in both epistles, seems to be the name most frequently used, and with which he may be thought to be best pleased, it being given him by our Lord, upon his confessing Jesus to be Christ the Son of the living God, and the very name signifying and sealing that truth to be the fundamental article, the rock on which all must build; but the name Simon, though omitted in the former epistle, is mentioned in this, lest the total omission of that name, which was given him when he was circumcised, should make the Jewish believers, who were all zealous of the law, to become jealous of the apostle, as if he disclaimed and despised circumcision. He here styles himself a servant (as well as an apostle) of Jesus Christ; in this he may be allowed to glory, as David does, Ps. 116:16. The service of Christ is the way to the highest honour, John 12:26. Christ himself is King of kings, and Lord of lords; and he makes all his servants kings and priests unto God, Rev. 1:6. How great an honour is it to be the servants of this Master! This is what we cannot, without sin, be ashamed of. To triumph in being Christ’s servant is very proper for those who are engaging others to enter into or abide in the service of Christ.
II. We have an account of the people to whom the epistle is written. They are described in the former epistle as elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, and here as having obtained precious faith in our Lord Jesus Christ; for the faith here mentioned is vastly different from the false faith of the heretic, and the feigned faith of the hypocrite, and the fruitless faith of the formal professor, how orthodox soever he is. It is the faith of God’s elect (Titus 1:1), wrought by the Spirit of God in effectual calling. Observe, 1. True saving faith is a precious grace, and that not only as it is very uncommon, very scarce, even in the visible church, a very small number of true believers among a great multitude of visible professors (Matt. 22:14), but true faith is very excellent and of very great use and advantage to those who have it. The just lives by faith, a truly divine spiritual life; faith procures all the necessary supports and comforts of this excellent life; faith goes to Christ, and buys the wine and milk (Isa. 55:1) which are the proper nourishment of the new creature; faith buys and brings home the tried gold, the heavenly treasure that enriches; faith takes and puts on the white raiment, the royal robes that clothe and adorn, Rev. 3:18. Observe, 2. Faith is alike precious in the private Christian and in the apostle; it produces the same precious effects in the one and in the other. Faith unites the weak believer to Christ as really as it does the strong one, and purifies the heart of one as truly as of another; and every sincere believer is by his faith justified in the sight of God, and that from all sins, Acts 13:39. Faith, in whomsoever it exists, takes hold of the same precious Saviour, and applies the same precious promises. 3. This precious faith is obtained of God. Faith is the gift of God, wrought by the Spirit, who raised up Jesus Christ from the dead. 4. The preciousness of faith, as well as our obtaining it, is through the righteousness of Christ. The satisfactory meritorious righteousness and obedience of Christ gives faith all its value and preciousness: and the righteousness of such a person cannot but be of infinite value to those who by faith receive it. For, (1.) This Jesus Christ is God, yea, our God, as it is in the original. He is truly God, an infinite Being, who has wrought out this righteousness, and therefore it must be of infinite value. (2.) He is the Saviour of those that believe, and as such he yielded this meritorious obedience; and therefore it is of such great benefit and advantage to them, because, as surety and Saviour, he wrought out this righteousness in their stead.
III. We have the apostolical benediction, wherein he wishes for the multiplication and increase of the divine favour to them, and the advancement and growth of the work of grace in them, and that peace with God and in their own consciences (which cannot be without grace) may abound in them. This is the very same benediction that is in the former epistle; but here he adds,
1. An account of the way and means whereby grace and peace are multiplied—it is through the knowledge of God and Jesus Christ; this acknowledging or believing in the only living and true God, and Jesus Christ whom he has sent, is the great improvement of spiritual life, or it could not be the way to life eternal, John 17:3.
2. The ground of the apostle’s faith in asking, and of the Christian’s hope in expecting, the increase of grace. What we have already received should encourage us to ask for more; he who has begun the work of grace will perfect it. Observe, (1.) The fountain of all spiritual blessings is the divine power of Jesus Christ, who could not discharge all the office of Mediator, unless he was God as well as man. (2.) All things that have any relation to, and influence upon, the true spiritual life, the life and power of godliness, are from Jesus Christ; in him all fulness dwells, and it is from him that we receive, and grace for grace (John 1:16), even all that is necessary for the preserving, improving, and perfecting of grace and peace, which, according to some expositors, are called here in 2 Pet. 1:3 godliness and life. (3.) Knowledge of God, and faith in him, are the channel whereby all spiritual supports and comforts are conveyed to us; but then we must own and acknowledge God as the author of our effectual calling, for so he is here described: Him that hath called us to glory and virtue. Observe here, The design of God in calling or converting men is to bring them to glory and virtue, that is, peace and grace, as some understand it; but many prefer the marginal rendering, by glory and virtue; and so we have effectual calling set forth as the work of the glory and virtue, or the glorious power, of God, which is described Eph. 1:19. It is the glory of God’s power to convert sinners; this is the power and glory of God which are seen and experienced in his sanctuary (Ps. 63:2); this power or virtue is to be extolled by all that are called out of darkness into marvellous light, 1 Pet. 2:9. (4.) In the 2 Pet. 1:4 the apostle goes on to encourage their faith and hope in looking for an increase of grace and peace, because the same glory and virtue are employed and evidenced in giving the promises of the gospel that are exercised in our effectual calling. Observe, [1.] The good things which the promises make over are exceedingly great. Pardon of sin is one of the blessings here intended; how great this is all who know any thing of the power of God’s anger will readily confess, and this is one of those promised favours in bestowing whereof the power of the Lord is great, Num. 14:17. To pardon sins that are numerous and heinous (every one of which deserves God’s wrath and curse, and that for ever) is a wonderful thing, and is so called, Ps. 119:18. [2.] The promised blessings of the gospel are very precious; as the great promise of the Old Testament was the Seed of the woman, the Messiah (Heb. 11:39), so the great promise of the New Testament is the Holy Ghost (Luke 24:49), and how precious must the enlivening, enlightening, sanctifying Spirit be! [3.] Those who receive the promises of the gospel partake of the divine nature. They are renewed in the spirit of their mind, after the image of God, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness; their hearts are set for God and his service; they have a divine temper and disposition of soul; though the law is the ministration of death, and the letter killeth, yet the gospel is the ministration of life, and the Spirit quickeneth those who are naturally dead in trespasses and sins. [4.] Those in whom the Spirit works the divine nature are freed from the bondage of corruption. Those who are, by the Spirit of grace, renewed in the spirit of their mind, are translated into the liberty of the children of God; for it is the world in which corruption reigns. Those who are not of the Father, but of the world, are under the power of sin; the world lies in wickedness, 1 John 5:19. And the dominion that sin has in the men of the world is through lust; their desires are to it, and therefore it rules over them. The dominion that sin has over us is according to the delight we have in it.
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