Eternal





Historical Context

Authorship - Date of Authorship

Simon Peter was one of Jesus’ 12 disciples who rose to preeminence both among the disciples during Jesus’ ministry and among the apostles afterwards. There are actually four forms of his name in the NT: the Hebrew/Greek; Simeon/Simon and the Aramaic/Greek; Cephas/Petros. His given name was Simon bar-Jonah (Mathew 16:17; John 1:42), “Simon the son of John,” which was common Semitic nomenclature. It is most likely that “Simon” was not merely the Greek equivalent of “Simeon” but that, having his home in bilingual Galilee, “Simon” was the alternate form which he used in dealings with Gentiles. In fact, it was quite common for a cosmopolitan Jew to employ 3 forms of his name depending on the occasion: Aramaic, Latin, and Greek. The double name “Simon Peter” (or “Simon called Peter”) demonstrates that the second name was a later addition, similar to “Jesus, the Christ.”


Peter was raised in Galilee. John 1:44 says that the home of Andrew (his brother) and Peter was Bethsaida, the whereabouts of which is difficult to place archaeologically. Yet John 12:21 determines that Bethsaida was in Galilee.


Peter and Andrew had a fishing business centered in Capernaum (Mark 1:21, 29), and perhaps were partners with James and John (Luke 5:10). It is also likely that they intermittently continued in their business while disciples, as indicated by the fishing scene in John 21:1–8. Some scholars doubt the authenticity of this account, calling it a doublet of Luke 5:1–11, the “fishers of men” account. However, on both linguistic and critical grounds, the differences are sufficient to argue for two separate episodes. Whether or not Peter continued in his business during the apostolic age is nearly impossible to say with certainty, but it may be surmised on the basis of the common practice in the 1st century that it is likely (e.g., Paul’s tent making).


Authenticity and Date of Authorship

If one were inclined to doubt the authenticity of any letter in the New Testament, it would be 2 Peter. Many New Testament scholars defend the authenticity of every epistle in the New Testament, except for 2 Peter. Nevertheless, there exists far more good reasons that cannot be ignored to support the authenticity of 2 Peter. One is not sacrificing one’s intellect in believing that 2 Peter is authentically the apostle Peter's. Indeed, Peter's authorship is still the most credible position for the following reasons.


I begin with the most important evidence for the authenticity of 2 Peter—the internal evidence. The book opens with the claim that it was written by Peter himself. Indeed, Peter used a Hebraic form of his name “Simeon Peter” (NRSV, Symeōn Petros, 1:1), which is a touch of authenticity, for this form only occurs elsewhere in Acts 15:14. If the letter were pseudepigraphic, we would expect him either to copy the form of address in 1 Peter or to employ one of the common expressions used to denote Peter in the New Testament. The fact that he chose an original form is a mark of genuineness—unless one adopts the view that the writer was consciously and cleverly trying to deceive his readers, but even this seems improbable since this form of Peter’s name is never used in the Apostolic Fathers literature. Not only did Peter claim to be the author, he also said that he would die soon (1:14). This is most naturally interpreted to say that Peter was older and realized his death was imminent. Such a statement is quite awkward on the lips of a pseudonymous or ghost writer.


Even more powerful, perhaps, is the claim to be an eyewitness of the transfiguration (1:16–18). The truth of the second coming is anticipated in the event of the transfiguration. Peter emphasized that he was present on the holy mountain, that he was not inventing what happened, that he was an eyewitness of what occurred, and that he also heard the words transmitted from heaven. It is difficult to see how a pseudepigraphal author could write such words with any credibility. A footnote would seem to be required by any other author to say: “Well, actually, I did not see or hear what happened on the mountain. I am speaking of what happened to Peter.” Those who support the pseudonymity theory are hard pressed to explain how such statements are not fundamentally deceptive. In addition, why would a ghost writer appeal to the transfiguration? Most educated observations support that the account is not used to verify further revelation, nor does it match precisely any of the Synoptic accounts. So, what we have here is an independent account of the event. Moreover, a pseudepigrapher would likely have embellished the account, and yet such embellishment is lacking in 2 Peter.


The above facts are best accounted for if Peter himself was the author. The reference to Paul as a “beloved brother” (3:15) is fitting for Peter. It would seem writers in successive generations would not put themselves on the same plane as the apostle Paul. Peter recognized that God had granted Paul wisdom (3:15–16), and such a statement accords with Galatians 2:9. The manner in which he referred to Paul is just the right touch if Peter himself was the author—respectful, and yet no sense of inferiority is communicated. The logical evidence shows that Peter either wrote or dictated the epistle - let's move on.



Original Audience and Cultural Circumstance

More than likely, Peter wrote from Rome shortly before his martyrdom. The recipients of the letter were apparently a mixed congregation of Christian Jews and Gentiles in the provinces of Asia Minor. It has been suggested that Peter more than likely heard of their congregational experiences from visitors to Rome from the area or even possibly had himself evangelized in the area. I would also refer those interested to an excellent discussion of Peter’s life, ministry and relationship to the other apostles by F. F. Bruce in his book Peter, Stephen, James and John, especially his commentary on the broader scope and influence of “Peter’s ministry.”


Literary Genre

The opening of 2 Peter, is a formal Greek letter introduction, but it also serves as a proper opening to a speech or oration. Peter immediately sets a tone of genuine humility—forged in his early failure, renewal and long pilgrimage with his Savior—and reflected in several ways in his greeting.


His linking of his personal name, Simon, with his nickname, Rock (Petros), may have been his way of reminding his readers of his two lives, that is, his own history of spiritual instability and fall, and then of his restoration by the Lord. This would set the stage for his appeals to them to be stable in their faith (1:10–12; 2:14; 3:16, 17), a theme he did not so directly pursue in his first letter, where he calls himself only “Peter” (1 Peter 1:1).


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.



Biblical Context


The call to godliness in 2 Peter chapter one is rooted in and secured by God’s grace; His gracious power supplies what he demands.

It is important to understand the author's flow of thought as follows.


  • Those of us who know God have everything we need for life and godliness.

  • That is, we have everything we need for obtaining desirable and preferable life after death with our Creator.

  • We have been given the eschatological gift of life that begins when we acknowledge Him and move to consciously and intentionally love and follow Him with our entire life.

  • We do this as our mission under the empowerment of the death and resurrection of Christ.


The reason we have everything we need for eternal life is explained in the last part of verse 3, namely, Christ has called believers by means of his moral excellence and glory. Christ’s call, as Peter understood it, is an effective one, so that believers understand the glory of Christ when they are called to salvation. When God calls or speaks, it is like, when He said at creation, “Let there be light." The call of Christ, then, is evidential (who He is), effective (who we become because of Him), and performative (what we do with what we have been given).



James Hogg, a nineteenth-century Scottish writer, wrote an extraordinary novel called Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner. The central character is so absolutely convinced of the certainty of his salvation, and sure that he is a member of ‘the elect’, that he commits a series of increasingly gross and self-indulgent acts. He is so secure in the belief that his behavior will not affect his eternal destiny that he feels completely freed from any restraint, even to the point of murder. The book was written as a sharp parody of an extreme position, and we should be grateful that very few Christians have had the foolishness and wickedness to go so far.


Even so, we frequently come across a false understanding of Christian freedom which says that if we are justified by God’s irrevocable grace, we enjoy a new kind of relationship with God where ideas of law and obedience are inappropriate. Those from a conservative position suddenly feel free to do things that earlier generations of Christians judged wrong. Social media loves to expose those Christian leaders whose sense of spiritual security is so strong that they feel free to enjoy various forbidden fruits. More radically minded people wonder what to do with those parts of the New Testament which prohibited some behavior in an apparently legalistic way. Should they be seen as residual thinking from Old Testament? Should Paul’s requirement for sex to be contained within heterosexual marriage be deleted as firmly as he deleted the requirement for circumcision? Anxious Christians think they lack the key to Christian growth and certainty, and move from guru to guru seeking the touch of God to change them. Some even claim to have had an experience that makes it impossible for them to sin, and therefore the battles Peter writes about are not ones that need concern them.


When such thinking occurs, the connection between private, internalized ‘faith’ and public, observable ‘obedience’ has been severed. People say that provided they believe as the early Christians believed, they need not behave as the early Christians behaved. A convenient contrast is drawn between the supposedly simple, liberating message and ethics of Jesus and the supposedly complicated, restricting theology of the later New Testament, which is usually blamed on Paul. Permission is thus given to reinterpret the requirements of the New Testament by saying that whether or not they were correct expressions of Christian obedience then, they are hardly so today. On a less sophisticated level, the gospel might be reduced to a few simplistic phrases and slogans, and the more demanding parts of the New Testament neatly avoided.


Such positions are fundamentally wrong. They set up a wholly false division between Jesus, who most certainly did teach a very complex theology, and the first Christians. They open the way for a destructive liberalism, for if the first Christians had not sufficiently thought through their ethics, it is inevitable that they had not thought through their doctrine either. If the one is not binding on us, neither is the other. Most importantly for 2 Peter, such positions do not see that the first Christians could not divide belief from behavior precisely because they could not teach theology apart from ethics.2 Peter would say that if we believe what he believes, then we must behave as he behaves. If we do not see that need, and if we do not follow his prescription, we demonstrate that we actually believe something different, a false gospel.


One of the major concerns of Peter’s letter is that Christian faith which is firmly rooted must make a radical difference to the way we behave. We will want to please Jesus Christ more, rather than presume upon his love. In this section, he shows that our faith, if it is genuine, sets up a chain of deep, internal, and experiential changes that will meet our hunger for God’s reality.



Key Word Spotlight


[Life and Godliness] Grk; zoe kai eusebia: to be alive, to live life with appropriate purpose, values, and beliefs, in devout and honorable practice of obligations and adoration relating to God the Creator.


[Divine Nature] Grk; theos physis: ‘to share in what God is like’ or ‘to be like God in certain ways.


[Supplement your Faith] Grk; epichoregeo sy en ho pistis: to add goodness to your faith.


Historical Context

Authorship - Date of Authorship

Simon Peter was one of Jesus’ 12 disciples who rose to preeminence both among the disciples during Jesus’ ministry and among the apostles afterwards. There are actually four forms of his name in the NT: the Hebrew/Greek; Simeon/Simon and the Aramaic/Greek; Cephas/Petros. His given name was Simon bar-Jonah (Mathew 16:17; John 1:42), “Simon the son of John,” which was common Semitic nomenclature. It is most likely that “Simon” was not merely the Greek equivalent of “Simeon” but that, having his home in bilingual Galilee, “Simon” was the alternate form which he used in dealings with Gentiles. In fact, it was quite common for a cosmopolitan Jew to employ 3 forms of his name depending on the occasion: Aramaic, Latin, and Greek. The double name “Simon Peter” (or “Simon called Peter”) demonstrates that the second name was a later addition, similar to “Jesus, the Christ.”

Peter was raised in Galilee. John 1:44 says that the home of Andrew (his brother) and Peter was Bethsaida, the whereabouts of which is difficult to place archaeologically. Yet John 12:21 determines that Bethsaida was in Galilee.

Peter and Andrew had a fishing business centered in Capernaum (Mark 1:21, 29), and perhaps were partners with James and John (Luke 5:10). It is also likely that they intermittently continued in their business while disciples, as indicated by the fishing scene in John 21:1–8. Some scholars doubt the authenticity of this account, calling it a doublet of Luke 5:1–11, the “fishers of men” account. However, on both linguistic and critical grounds, the differences are sufficient to argue for two separate episodes. Whether or not Peter continued in his business during the apostolic age is nearly impossible to say with certainty, but it may be surmised on the basis of the common practice in the 1st century that it is likely (e.g., Paul’s tent making).


Authenticity and Date of Authorship

If one were inclined to doubt the authenticity of any letter in the New Testament, it would be 2 Peter. Many New Testament scholars defend the authenticity of every epistle in the New Testament, except for 2 Peter. Nevertheless, there exists far more good reasons that cannot be ignored to support the authenticity of 2 Peter. One is not sacrificing one’s intellect in believing that 2 Peter is authentically the apostle Peter's. Indeed, Peter's authorship is still the most credible position for the following reasons.


I begin with the most important evidence for the authenticity of 2 Peter—the internal evidence. The book opens with the claim that it was written by Peter himself. Indeed, Peter used a Hebraic form of his name “Simeon Peter” (NRSV, Symeōn Petros, 1:1), which is a touch of authenticity, for this form only occurs elsewhere in Acts 15:14. If the letter were pseudepigraphic, we would expect him either to copy the form of address in 1 Peter or to employ one of the common expressions used to denote Peter in the New Testament. The fact that he chose an original form is a mark of genuineness—unless one adopts the view that the writer was consciously and cleverly trying to deceive his readers, but even this seems improbable since this form of Peter’s name is never used in the Apostolic Fathers literature. Not only did Peter claim to be the author, he also said that he would die soon (1:14). This is most naturally interpreted to say that Peter was older and realized his death was imminent. Such a statement is quite awkward on the lips of a pseudonymous or ghost writer.

Even more powerful, perhaps, is the claim to be an eyewitness of the transfiguration (1:16–18). The truth of the second coming is anticipated in the event of the transfiguration. Peter emphasized that he was present on the holy mountain, that he was not inventing what happened, that he was an eyewitness of what occurred, and that he also heard the words transmitted from heaven. It is difficult to see how a pseudepigraphal author could write such words with any credibility. A footnote would seem to be required by any other author to say: “Well, actually, I did not see or hear what happened on the mountain. I am speaking of what happened to Peter.” Those who support the pseudonymity theory are hard pressed to explain how such statements are not fundamentally deceptive. In addition, why would a ghost writer appeal to the transfiguration? Most educated observations support that the account is not used to verify further revelation, nor does it match precisely any of the Synoptic accounts. So, what we have here is an independent account of the event. Moreover, a pseudepigrapher would likely have embellished the account, and yet such embellishment is lacking in 2 Peter.

The above facts are best accounted for if Peter himself was the author. The reference to Paul as a “beloved brother” (3:15) is fitting for Peter. It would seem writers in successive generations would not put themselves on the same plane as the apostle Paul. Peter recognized that God had granted Paul wisdom (3:15–16), and such a statement accords with Galatians 2:9. The manner in which he referred to Paul is just the right touch if Peter himself was the author—respectful, and yet no sense of inferiority is communicated. The logical evidence shows that Peter either wrote or dictated the epistle - let's move on.


Original Audience and Cultural Circumstance

More than likely, Peter wrote from Rome shortly before his martyrdom. The recipients of the letter were apparently a mixed congregation of Christian Jews and Gentiles in the provinces of Asia Minor. It has been suggested that Peter more than likely heard of their congregational experiences from visitors to Rome from the area or even possibly had himself evangelized in the area. I would also refer those interested to an excellent discussion of Peter’s life, ministry and relationship to the other apostles by F. F. Bruce in his book Peter, Stephen, James and John, especially his commentary on the broader scope and influence of “Peter’s ministry.”


Literary Genre

The opening of 2 Peter, is a formal Greek letter introduction, but it also serves as a proper opening to a speech or oration. Peter immediately sets a tone of genuine humility—forged in his early failure, renewal and long pilgrimage with his Savior—and reflected in several ways in his greeting.


His linking of his personal name, Simon, with his nickname, Rock (Petros), may have been his way of reminding his readers of his two lives, that is, his own history of spiritual instability and fall, and then of his restoration by the Lord. This would set the stage for his appeals to them to be stable in their faith (1:10–12; 2:14; 3:16, 17), a theme he did not so directly pursue in his first letter, where he calls himself only “Peter” (1 Peter 1:1).

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.


Biblical Context


The call to godliness in 2 Peter chapter one is rooted in and secured by God’s grace; His gracious power supplies what he demands.

It is important to understand the author's flow of thought as follows.

  • Those of us who know God have everything we need for life and godliness.

  • That is, we have everything we need for obtaining desirable and preferable life after death with our Creator.

  • We have been given the eschatological gift of life that begins when we acknowledge Him and move to consciously and intentionally love and follow Him with our entire life.

  • We do this as our mission under the empowerment of the death and resurrection of Christ.


The reason we have everything we need for eternal life is explained in the last part of verse 3, namely, Christ has called believers by means of his moral excellence and glory. Christ’s call, as Peter understood it, is an effective one, so that believers understand the glory of Christ when they are called to salvation. When God calls or speaks, it is like, when He said at creation, “Let there be light." The call of Christ, then, is evidential (who He is), effective (who we become because of Him), and performative (what we do with what we have been given).

James Hogg, a nineteenth-century Scottish writer, wrote an extraordinary novel called Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner. The central character is so absolutely convinced of the certainty of his salvation, and sure that he is a member of ‘the elect’, that he commits a series of increasingly gross and self-indulgent acts. He is so secure in the belief that his behavior will not affect his eternal destiny that he feels completely freed from any restraint, even to the point of murder. The book was written as a sharp parody of an extreme position, and we should be grateful that very few Christians have had the foolishness and wickedness to go so far.


Even so, we frequently come across a false understanding of Christian freedom which says that if we are justified by God’s irrevocable grace, we enjoy a new kind of relationship with God where ideas of law and obedience are inappropriate. Those from a conservative position suddenly feel free to do things that earlier generations of Christians judged wrong. Social media loves to expose those Christian leaders whose sense of spiritual security is so strong that they feel free to enjoy various forbidden fruits. More radically minded people wonder what to do with those parts of the New Testament which prohibited some behavior in an apparently legalistic way. Should they be seen as residual thinking from Old Testament? Should Paul’s requirement for sex to be contained within heterosexual marriage be deleted as firmly as he deleted the requirement for circumcision? Anxious Christians think they lack the key to Christian growth and certainty, and move from guru to guru seeking the touch of God to change them. Some even claim to have had an experience that makes it impossible for them to sin, and therefore the battles Peter writes about are not ones that need concern them.


When such thinking occurs, the connection between private, internalized ‘faith’ and public, observable ‘obedience’ has been severed. People say that provided they believe as the early Christians believed, they need not behave as the early Christians behaved. A convenient contrast is drawn between the supposedly simple, liberating message and ethics of Jesus and the supposedly complicated, restricting theology of the later New Testament, which is usually blamed on Paul. Permission is thus given to reinterpret the requirements of the New Testament by saying that whether or not they were correct expressions of Christian obedience then, they are hardly so today. On a less sophisticated level, the gospel might be reduced to a few simplistic phrases and slogans, and the more demanding parts of the New Testament neatly avoided.


Such positions are fundamentally wrong. They set up a wholly false division between Jesus, who most certainly did teach a very complex theology, and the first Christians. They open the way for a destructive liberalism, for if the first Christians had not sufficiently thought through their ethics, it is inevitable that they had not thought through their doctrine either. If the one is not binding on us, neither is the other. Most importantly for 2 Peter, such positions do not see that the first Christians could not divide belief from behavior precisely because they could not teach theology apart from ethics.2 Peter would say that if we believe what he believes, then we must behave as he behaves. If we do not see that need, and if we do not follow his prescription, we demonstrate that we actually believe something different, a false gospel.

One of the major concerns of Peter’s letter is that Christian faith which is firmly rooted must make a radical difference to the way we behave. We will want to please Jesus Christ more, rather than presume upon his love. In this section, he shows that our faith, if it is genuine, sets up a chain of deep, internal, and experiential changes that will meet our hunger for God’s reality.


Key Word Spotlight

[Life and Godliness] Grk; zoe kai eusebia: to be alive, to live life with appropriate purpose, values, and beliefs, in devout and honorable practice of obligations and adoration relating to God the Creator.


[Divine Nature] Grk; theos physis: ‘to share in what God is like’ or ‘to be like God in certain ways.


[Supplement your Faith] Grk; epichoregeo sy en ho pistis: to add goodness to your faith.


Core Text - Interpretation and Meaning (Exegetic Process and Inductive Conclusions)


[1:3] 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,


For the first time the question is becoming clear, and it is one that is not confined to Peter’s time. Is the power of Jesus Christ sufficient on its own to strengthen the resolve of anxious and tempted Christians in a tough and attractively pagan world? Peter’s answer is that Jesus’ power is more than adequate, for Jesus not only sets the highest standards for Christians to live up to, He also gives the resources to meet those standards, and in the end he will defeat the forces who oppose him. Everything hangs on that last point: If Jesus does not have the ultimate power to enforce his rightful rule, then it is really no power at all. People look back to Jesus’ remarkable teaching and miracles, and rightly think that they see there the great power of God. But Peter sees a greater working of Jesus’ divine power in the seemingly unimpressive reality of men and women able to live lives that honor Jesus. People look back to the Jewish carpenter friend of Peter, whose dreams led to the cross in weakness; but Peter looked forward as well, to Jesus’ mighty return as King and Judge. ‘The dunamis, power and authority of Christ, is the sword which Peter holds over the head of the false teachers.’


[1:4] 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.


The glorious goodness of Jesus Christ the Messiah, is revealed in the second empowering resource he makes available to us: He has given us his very great and precious promises. The theme of “covenant and promise” is central to the theological structure of the entire Bible; originating with the promise God made in the garden of Eden, that the choice and fall of the first man and woman would not irrevocably determine humanity’s ultimate outcome. Chapter 2 of this letter focuses on the promises that God made to both Noah and Lot. God promised that they would not be destroyed in the judgment that came with the flood and the complete destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Of all the biblical promises, Peter has in mind the particular group connected with God’s decisive role at the end of history, ‘the promise of his coming’ (3:4). These are the promises that the false teachers question (3:4), and that Peter defends (3:9). In fact, the heart of Peter’s reply to the false teachers is that Jesus will visibly return to rule and reign, unchallenged. The false teachers of his day have decided that this is not the case, and so what Peter sees as future (such as being morally perfect) the false teachers/deceivers have to bring into the present. Because they cannot pretend to be perfect, they have to decide to simply change the truth or declare that such standards are unnecessary and irrelevant. They too make a promise - they ‘promise … freedom’, but they are in no state to fulfill it, for they are still ‘slaves of depravity’ (2:19)


[1:5-9] 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.


Adding to our Faith

Peter was not generically referring here to ‘the faith.’ If so, he would actually have been teaching, amending, or adding new doctrines to ‘the faith’ - the same deceptive path he was exposing and warning his readers of. It would also contradict his proclamation about having been given ‘everything we need for life and godliness’ (1:3). Peter is however, still talking about faith in the context (as he meant it) of verse 1, the individual and personal belief of the Christian.


There is a spiritual balance in what Peter writes, confirmed through other New Testament writers. Having said that, it is God’s gift of faith that puts us right with him, and in fact, allows us to go on pleasing Him. Peter goes on to say that personal or private surrender and allegiance to the Lordship of Christ, if sincere and genuine, must manifest itself in public and practical ways. Our faith is to be both…


Foundational - we build on it

Functional - we live and walk in it


Peter still has a great vision of the future in mind too, and this is above all the reason for Christians to make every effort to live a life here and now consistent with what God promises.


Christians are to add to their faith, and the words translated add to is epichorēgēo. Originally, the word was a theatrical term, used for a theatrical benefactor, a chorēgos, one who would generously provide the financial backing for a stage or theatrical production. Like most words they morph and evolve, the word chorēgos word came to be used for any generous civil benefactor, and by the time Peter was writing it simply meant an extremely generous giver. We are to unite with God in Christ Jesus, fearlessly working with Him regardless of the earthly cost. Peter emphasizes our united relationship with God by making the verb an imperative here and then doubling down on it in verse 11, in the word translated literally as, ‘you will be provided with’. The revealed truth emphasized here is this; God is our benefactor, and the price paid was paid without fear of the earthly cost for Jesus to be our Savior. The two uses of epichorēgeō are a framework for verses 5–11.


The Christian’s Character

Peter lists the specific Christian virtues in which we are to grow. Such lists were common at that time for teaching and growing spiritual maturity, there are several in the New Testament epistles. Again, Peter uses common (understandable) words from his surrounding culture, but gives them a distinctively Christian significance by starting with faith and ending with love. Within that framework he presents a series of Christian character sketches that are designed to be disturbingly familiar to the minds of his readers. It is fair to ask if there is any particular order in the virtues he describes. A logical flow or order could best be determined by the circumstantial need and personal character of the reader. Peter’s list was not random; there is intent and personal meaning attached to each one. The character virtues of his list were chosen for their clarity in identifying and exposing the errors and secular approach of the new teachers whom Peter’s readers were encountering. With that in mind it might be more effective to think of him describing the sound and righteous character of a Christian believer. None of these Christian virtues of character are logically dependent on their place on the list to exist, so we cannot say, ‘You can’t expect me to persevere, because I have not yet achieved self-control.’ Instead, Peter would respond by saying that a Christian without perseverance is missing an essential component to his or her personal faith.


Add to your faith... goodness

Faith is the starting-point for the Christian, who then wants to become like the master he or she believes in; and so it leads automatically to Christ-like goodness (verse 3). Apparently, goodness was a matter of great concern to thinking non-Christians of the time. What is it that makes a person good or excellent at being a human? Peter’s answer is not a particularly philosophical one: the ideal person is Jesus Christ, and Christians will find their excellence in imitating him. Since his goodness was shown by what he did, our faith will show itself to others in our active goodness.


The false teachers do not believe this, because they have ‘turned their backs on the sacred command’ (2:21). Far from having fled the corruption in the world, they are ‘entangled in it and overcome’ (2:20). ‘They talked a great deal about faith, but exhibited in their lives none of that practical goodness which is indispensable to genuine Christian discipleship.’ If Christians are supposed to be the kind of people non-Christians admire for their genuine goodness, it should not surprise us that the visible immorality of the new teachers will ‘bring the way of truth into disrepute’ (2:2). It is still a frequent obstacle for many non-Christians that publicly recognized Christian leaders advocate standards that non-Christians find unprincipled.


Add to your faith… knowledge

By knowledge Peter no longer means the epignōsis, saving knowledge, of verses 2 and 3, for he has removed the prefix epi - gnosis). He means knowledge of who Christ is and what pleases him. It is the kind of knowledge that comes from study, reading, thinking, and healthy dialogue as a Christian. If we want to grow in Christ-like goodness we shall have a hunger and desire to grow in our knowledge of Christ. The nineteenth-century Scottish preacher John Brown, said that this knowledge means ‘making a distinction not only between what is true and what is false but also between what is right and wrong—what is becoming and unbecoming—what is advantageous and hurtful’. The false teachers, of course, claimed to have a newer knowledge offering ‘freedom’ (2:19), but Peter says it is based on ‘stories they have made up’ and ‘empty, boastful words’ (2:3, 18). They may appear highly intelligent and intellectually respectable (woke), for nothing here says that Christians automatically have high intelligence and that people who teach error and misinformation are ignorant. Peter does believe, though, that the most intellectually feeble Christians have knowledge, but that the most intellectually gifted heretics ‘blaspheme in matters they do not understand’ (2:12).


Add to your faith… self-control

If we know God’s view of us and our world, we are able to live in accordance with that knowledge. John Brown wisely said that ‘the Christian does not consider the wealth, the honors, and the privileges of the world, as things altogether destitute of value; but he sees that that value is by no means as great as the deluded worshippers of humanism and secular ideology suppose it to be. The views which, as a believer, he has obtained, lead him to look on the prosperities of life with some measure of alarm and priority.’ This is the complete opposite of the lifestyle adopted and taught by the false teachers, who feel under no obligation to control themselves or to obey Jesus Christ. Instead, they are found ‘denying the sovereign Lord who bought them’ (2:1), and at ease in ‘following their own evil desires’ (3:3).


Add to your faith… perseverance

Just as self-control is moderation with regard to good things, so perseverance is the willingness to put up with tough times because of the promise of better times ahead. A Christian will therefore persevere, even though it may be distressing to stand out in a society opposed to God. A Christian trusts that ‘the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials’ (2:9). The reason Christians are to persevere is that history has its goal in the return of Christ, and, ‘since you are looking forward to this’, you are to ‘make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him’ (3:14). Perseverance means to keeping going until the very end. The false teachers, who have ceased to believe in the ability of God to intervene in his world, are reduced to scoffing: ‘Where is this “coming” he promised?’ (3:4). It is not primarily the tough times or hardship that, Peter fears, will cause Christians to stop persevering, but the insidious enticements of those who have ceased to believe that there is any point to biblical Christian behavior once we remove the return of Christ. They are, of course, quite right. Christianity without the return of Christ is an irrational nonsense.


Add to your faith… godliness

Godliness has already occurred in verse 3 as a catch-all word for ‘a very practical awareness of God in every aspect of life’. Perhaps Peter lists it here because he has now explained what is a Christian attitude to both good times and bad. Once again, there is a sharp contrast with the false teachers, who are ‘ungodly’ (2:6; 3:7). Peter makes his point with a pun, because ‘godliness’ (eusebeia) is a word similar to ‘ungodliness’ (asebeia). He uses word-play frequently in his letter, probably because it would be read publicly rather than privately, and such linguistic phrasing would highlight key points with better understanding for the audience.