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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

2 Peter 1

 

 

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Verse 1

I. EARNEST APPEAL FOR CHRISTIAN GRACES AND SOLEMN DILIGENCE, 2 Peter 1:1-21.

1. Peter’s address to those of like faith; and benediction, 2 Peter 1:1-2.

1. Simon—Greek, Symeon, used only here and by James in Acts 15:14.

Servant—So St. Paul, Romans 1:1.

An apostle—See on 1 Peter 1:1. The assertion of apostolic authority is here eminently important in view of the purpose to se t forth the true doctrine of Christ in opposition to the heresies of false teachers.

To them—The same persons primarily as are addressed in the first epistle, (chap. 2 Peter 3:1,) yet including all believers in Christ. It is, thence, a catholic epistle.

Have obtained—As a gracious gift, as if by divine allotment.

Like precious faith—A faith of equal value with that which the apostles themselves possessed, procuring the same salvation and on the same terms.

Through the righteousness—Rather, in the righteousness. Righteousness is not the instrument by which faith results, but the element in which it rests. Nor do we understand by it God’s attribute of righteousness, or his righteous way of dealing, but the righteousness which he gives to the believer. To those in this state of salvation this epistle is addressed.

Of God and our Saviour—In the English form the first term signifies the Father and the second the Son; but the Greek requires us to read, Of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ, thus identifying God with Christ. Note on Titus 1:3. At the outset the apostle asserts the Godhead of Christ, in view of the errorists against whom he is writing.


Verse 2

2. Grace—In which the believer lives.

Peace—Its fruit.

Be multiplied— With this prayer for increase agrees the final exhortation to growth, in chap. 2 Peter 3:18.

Through the knowledge—’ επιγνωσις, knowledge upon, full knowledge; the keynote of the epistle. It occurs, also, in 2 Peter 1:3; 2 Peter 1:8, and 2 Peter 2:20.

Of God—The Father, who is truly known only as revealed in the Son.

Of Jesus our Lord—The Saviour, who is also supreme Lord. This unusual expression, found only here and in Romans 4:24, lifts the standard against the deniers of 2 Peter 2:1. This knowledge is both doctrinal and experimental. It lies at the foundation of all true religion, and is the element in which all grace and peace begin and grow. Moreover, increase of the knowledge is the indispensable condition of increase in the grace.


Verse 3

2. God’s great gifts and promises call for rich Christian culture and graces, 2 Peter 1:3-9.

3. A proper punctuation commences here a new sentence, which extends through 2 Peter 1:7.

According as—Rather, Forasmuch as; laying the foundation for the exhortation in 2 Peter 1:5-7.

Given… us all things— Whatever pertains to the work of salvation and the life of holiness is God’s gracious gift, originating in, and bestowed by, him. The all things is, in the Greek, emphatic, and must be taken in the broadest sense, as including whatever is in any way connected with raising us up from the death and ruin of sin to the fulness of the glory of heaven. They are brought to us by his divine power; probably referring less to its operation in their provision, as in the incarnation and resurrection, than to it in the actual gift of salvation.

Life—Spiritual life.

Godliness—Reverential piety toward God. The two words express inward and outward holiness.

Through the knowledge—No mystical rites or superstitious observances can obtain the least of the all things: the declared and successful instrument is knowledge, the coming to a full knowledge. Grace and power are the supernatural essentials to holiness, but they work through the truth received, and in accord with our rational nature.

Him that hath called us—God, yet, nevertheless, our God and Saviour Jesus Christ, as in 2 Peter 1:1, and especially because 2 Peter 1:8 defines the knowledge as of our Lord Jesus Christ.

To glory and virtue—The best texts agree in reading, By his own glory and virtue. Glory belongs to his Godhead: virtue is, as in the Greek of 1 Peter 2:9, his moral excellence and perfections. By all the attributes of his nature he called us to the blessings of the gospel.


Verse 4

4. Whereby—By which, namely, his own glory and virtue.

Are given— Better, He hath given. He who called us has also, by the same instruments, supplied the means of attaining the object of the call.

Exceeding great— Rather, the greatest; greater cannot easily be conceived.

Precious—Of inestimable value in themselves, and costly in their price. The promises are not Old Testament promises of gospel blessings, but general promises contained in the gospel itself, such as of pardon of sin to the penitent, the ever-availing atonement and powerful intercession of Christ, and the renewing and sanctifying Spirit.

That by these—By means of these promises, heartily believed in and fulfilled.

Ye might be—Rather, Ye may become; for it is to be completed as well as begun. The apostle now changes from the us hitherto used, meaning Christians in general, to ye, bringing the grand aim of these glorious promises directly home to his readers.

Partakers of the divine nature—Pantheism holds that we, and indeed all things, are a part of God. Buddhism teaches the highest perfection to be absorption into God, ultimating in nonentity. Christianity, by the divine presence in us, makes us like God in holiness, love, and all the characteristics of his moral nature. This is Christian perfection. Beginning in the new birth, its advancement and completion are by the promises, which belong to the all things; so that most truly does divine power work out for faithful believers the divine nature. Fundamental to all, however, is the fleeing away from, the renunciation of, the moral corruption that so widely befouls the world, and that has its source in base, wicked lust. God’s call is to purity: that of the false teachers is to corruption. 2 Peter 2:18.


Verse 5

5. And besides this—Rather, Even for this very reason.

Giving—The Greek means, bringing in by the side of. God has done his part, as shown in 2 Peter 1:3-4; now do you do your part in bringing your own diligence into action by the side of what he has done.

Add to your faith—Rather, furnish in your faith; that is, in the exercise of your faith furnish, besides it, virtue. The verb originally means to furnish the musicians and equipments of a chorus. In this choir of Christian graces each added one, as Bengel suggests, prepares for the next, and corrects and perfects that which precedes. Faith is already in possession, (2 Peter 1:1;) but faith may become feeble or antinomian. Therefore, in its exercise, furnish virtue, or all moral excellence, especially courage to do and suffer. Lest virtue, unguarded, should be impulsive or rash, furnish in it knowledge of God, truth, self, and duty.


Verse 6

6. Knowledge, perverted, may become conceited and self-indulgent, as in the idol feasts at Corinth, (1 Corinthians 8:1; 1 Corinthians 8:10,) and in the teachings of the Gnostics; in your knowledge, therefore, furnish temperanceself-control—by which all desires and passions shall be held in proper check, often even to total abstinence, as, for instance, in intoxicating drinks. The question of amusements falls under this rule. But as severe self-control may become ascetic and intolerant, it must be tempered by patience, or patient endurance; and in exercising patience, to guard against a stoical apathy or indifference, furnish godliness, fearing, trusting, and communing with God.


Verse 7

7. Godliness, unguarded, becomes morose and estranged from brethren, and loves its own solitude; therefore, in your godliness furnish brotherly kindness, or rather, brotherly love. And lest this become narrow and bigoted, in your love of the Christian brotherhood, furnish charity, a love that looks out beyond and embraces all mankind. Of these graces, love, then, is the crown. The order is not that of succession, for they all grow together, and are all essential to a full symmetrical Christian character.


Verse 8

8. These things—The graces just enumerated.

Be in you—Not merely existing, but residing.

Abound—Increase and grow, as they ought and will, if, while God does his part, we are careful to do ours toward becoming partakers of the divine nature.

They make you—Such is their true function. Sanctification is by faith, indeed, but these things must accompany the faith.

Barren—Better, Inactive.

In the knowledge— Rather, Toward the full knowledge. This is the goal. The culture and increase of these graces leave no room for idle dreams; and work produces its fruit in a true progress toward the perfect knowledge of our Lord, the Sovereign; Jesus, the Saviour; Christ, the Messiah.


Verse 9

9. ButFor; enforcing 2 Peter 1:8 from the contrary view.

He that lacketh these things—Literally, To whom these things are not present; making a sharp contrast with be in you, in 2 Peter 1:8. They should supplement faith, but do not.

Is blind—To God’s law of holiness, and self-blinded by his own neglect. Cannot see afar off Literally, is near-sighted. He sees only things near by—as the present moment and personal gratification; and constant looking at objects close to the eyes destroys the power of seeing those at a distance.

And hath forgotten… purged—Literally, Having received forgetfulness of the purification of his former sins. The simple falling out of memory of so momentous an event as the soul’s cleansing from sin, is sad; but here is lethean forgetfulness inflicted by a judicial hand.

So backsliders sometimes come to deny that they were ever pardoned.


Verse 10

3. And for diligence to secure our election and heavenly entrance, 2 Peter 1:10-11.

10. Give diligence—In ceaseless effort, because of what has just been urged, and of the promised glorious result.

Your calling—To faith and holiness.

Election—To a place in the spiritual Israel.

Sure—Firm, secure, a proven fact. The reason assigned is, if ye do these things, ye shall never fall; and, as St. Peter could not employ an unmeaning hypothesis, it follows, if ye do not these things, ye surely will fall. The calling and election are both God’s work. The calling precedes the election, both in the text and in order of fact. These brethren had been called; they were also elect, (1 Peter 1:1,) and elected on their acceptance of the call. The apostle’s object was not, as some theologians suppose, to show how they might themselves assuredly know that they were truly called and elected, but to teach them how to maintain their already accomplished calling and election to the end. They might fall; in which case the election would become null, and their rejection of God would be followed by his rejection of them from his elect people. The absurdity of a fall from something they had never had, is a conception of a later date.


Verse 11

11. For so—You, for your part, doing these things.

Shall be ministered—The same Greek as add, 2 Peter 1:5. God, on his part, will richly furnish you with your hoped-for entrance into the heavenly kingdom. Thus God’s work and man’s work unite in securing our eternal salvation.

Kingdom… Christ—The assertion of the kingship of Christ fitly closes the discussion.


Verse 12

4. Hence, this his solemn apostolic reminder, specially in view of his near decease, 2 Peter 1:12-15.

12. Wherefore—Because the only way for you to heaven is that above set forth.

I… not… negligent—The best texts have μελλησω, I shall be about to, nearly equivalent to, I shall be careful. Here speaks the faithful pastor.

These things—The things already written and those connected with them. They already had his first epistle, and would soon receive the present one, by which they would always be reminded of these vital truths.

Ye know—Yet need the reminder.

Established—With firm conviction.

The present truth—Not the truth herein set forth, but the truth already received and present with them.


Verse 13

13. In this tabernacle—His body, the tent in which the I, the real Peter, dwelt. See notes on 2 Corinthians 5:1. He thinks it right, as long as he remains in it, to stir them up by reminding them of the truth, and admonishing them of the danger of departing from it through the seductions of the false teachers.


Verse 14

14. Knowing—The Lord Jesus had said to him, pointing to his death by martyrdom, “When thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.” John 21:18. He was now become old, and well knew that the end could not be far distant. It is not needful to suppose, as do some, that he had received a recent revelation of his death as near.

ShortlyQuickly, swiftly, rather than soon. Whenever the departure might come, it would be sudden and rapid. Calmly does the apostle speak of the putting off of my tabernacle, as if it were a garment, leaving the inner man, the soul, living and untrammelled.


Verse 15

15. I will endeavour—The give diligence of 2 Peter 1:10. In 2 Peter 1:12-13, he proposes a continued reminding of his readers during his life, but he now intends to enable them, after his death, to always remember his teachings.

It may be, that besides the two epistles he also contemplated some further writing.

My decease—The very word used in Luke 9:31 of the topic of the conversation of Moses and Elias with Jesus; literally, my exodus. In three successive verses we have the dwelling in, the putting off, and the going out of my tabernacle. Clearly, St. Peter was no materialist or annihilationist.


Verse 16

5. For no fable is our gospel; being confirmed by the transfiguration voice, 2 Peter 1:16-18.

16. Made known… power and coming—It seems evident that the false teachers, in full view of whom the apostle is writing, had pronounced his teachings respecting the present lordship and future appearing of Christ without foundation. If made known refers to his oral teaching, we may learn its character from Acts 2:32-36; Acts 3:16; Acts 3:20. Our Lord’s resurrection, reign, and coming to judgment, were staple topics of apostolic preaching. A fine Pauline specimen is in Acts 17:31. More probably, however, the reference is to St. Peter’s first epistle. The power of Christ is clearly declared. The “lively hope” is by his “resurrection.” 1 Peter 1:3. He is the Redeemer. 1 Peter 1:18. He is “on the right hand of God,” and supreme over “angels, and authorities, and powers.” 1 Peter 3:22. He is the final Judge. 1 Peter 4:5. As to his coming, we read of his “appearing,” 1 Peter 1:7; his “revelation,” 1 Peter 1:13; the revealing of “his glory,” 1 Peter 4:13; and the appearing of the “chief Shepherd,” 1 Peter 5:4. That these things are myths, those false teachers asserted, and modern infidelity insists.

Cunningly devised fables—Pagan mythology was full of them, as were the cabalistic stories of the Jews. Such, too, were the fanciful systems of the Gnostics and others. St. Peter may have had especially in mind his old acquaintance at Samaria, Simon Magus, who, besides giving himself out as “the great power of God,” (Acts 8:9-10,) claimed that of him and his paramour, Helena, were born the angels, who made the world. Now, St. Peter says, it was not following such skilfully-devised fictions he made known the Lord’s power and coming. On the other hand, he had had a personal view of his glory.

Were—Better, Had been made.

Eye-witnesses—A technical term given to those initiated into the Eleusinian mysteries, and allowed to have the nearest view of them. So Peter, James, and John, had been admitted to a full view of Christ’s glorious majesty at his transfiguration. Matthew 17:1-5.


Verse 17

17. He received… honour—In what the voice of God, the Father Almighty, declared.

And glory—From the brightness of the overshadowing cloud of glory, transcending that of the transfigured Jesus, whose “face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.” “We beheld his glory,” said John, referring to the same scene, “the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father.” John 1:14.

There came… glory— Literally, a voice was borne to him by the excellent glory, such as this, this is my beloved Son. This excellent glory must be taken as identical with God.


Verse 18

18. This voice… we heard—And hearing, the three fell to the ground.

Holy mount—Now generally admitted to be Mount Hermon, called holy because of this manifestation there, just as Moses at the burning bush in Horeb stood on “holy ground.” See Exodus 3:5. The apostle’s personal presence, his personal seeing, and his personal hearing, as described by himself, show his competency for this solemn authentication. The facts thus testified to exhibit Christ as the proclaimed Son of God, and as possessing the full dignity and glory of that sonship.

How the transfiguration proves the second coming, is a difficult question with expositors. Some take it, as Wordsworth, as a type and pledge of the coming; but this is nowhere affirmed in Scripture; nor do we agree that Matthew 16:28, to which they refer, points to either the transfiguration or the coming. The transfiguration did present our Lord in his glorious personality and divine Lordship irrespective of any advent.


Verse 19

6. And by more sure spirit-moved prophecy, 2 Peter 1:19-21.

19. The connection with the preceding, as the και, also, shows, is very close.

A more sure word—It is incredible that St. Peter meant to say, as he is commonly understood, that the testimony of prophecy to Christ is more sure than his own, just given, of God’s uttered words, or than that of miracles, like raising the dead; and his Greek, better translated, really says, And we have more sure the prophetic word, namely, respecting Christ’s character and glory, than we had it before the transfiguration. That word or doctrine, pronounced him “Mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth,” (Isaiah 42:1;) the audible words of God confirmed it; as did the scene on the mount the loftiest Old Testament description of him. Or, more generally, its predictions of him, (not prophecy generally,) summarized by St. Peter as “the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow,” (1 Peter 1:11,) are confirmed by their fulfilment. Bloomfield quotes from Rosenmuller, “The prophecies had always a great authority with us; but now they have a far greater, since we see events so aptly corresponding to the predictions.” And thus, assured faith more firmly holds those of his kingdom and glory not yet fulfilled.

Whereunto… take heed—In giving attention to the prophetic doctrine concerning Christ, ye do well, comparing it with the historic facts of his birth, life, character, death, resurrection, and exaltation, thus increasing in “the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:2; 2 Peter 1:8.

As unto a light—A lamp glimmering in a dark dismal place, and necessary until the day dawn, dispelling the darkness.

The daystarPhosphorus, the morning star, the forerunner of the sun. The prophecies of Christ were intended to give a degree of light to benighted minds; feeble, indeed, as compared with that received from the evangelists: but their fulfilment shows clearly both the truth, and the way to happiness. To this light they were to take heed. There seems to be here no reference to the second coming of our Lord, as even Alford admits.


Verse 20

20. Knowing this first—The apostle knew well the need of this caution for all prophetic investigators.

No prophecy—Not limited now, as in 2 Peter 1:19, but general.

Of any private interpretation—”The cross of interpreters,” says Wolf. Whitby, Macknight, Clarke, and others, understand private invention or suggestion, which, however, is about what is said in the next verse. επιλυσις occurs only here, but its verb is used in Mark 4:34, of Jesus’s expounding his parables to his disciples; and its usual meaning is explanation or interpretation. The various expositions of private may be reduced to three:—(1) The prophets themselves often did not know the import of their own predictions. This is true; but it is no reason for the caution; nor does the divine inspiration of the prophecies explain the inability of the prophets to understand them. (2) Some refer it to the readers; but to bid them give attention to the prophecies, and then add that they cannot understand them, would be a singular procedure. Nevertheless, as matter of fact, prophetic interpretations before fulfilment are seldom verified by events, as, for instance, in the Jewish preconceptions of the Messiah. (3) As meaning that prophecy is not self-interpreting. St. Peter uses the word ιδιος in eight other places, and in the sense of its own in every instance. This fits the caution, assuring them that the full meaning does not lie on the surface, and that they will need to search for it, as did the prophets themselves, (1 Peter 1:10;) and also intimating that the explanation must be found in the event. The Gnostics interpreted many of the prophecies after their own fancies, often violently torturing them to adapt them to their own systems. On the other hand, though the prophecies are not self-interpreting, they are true, for they proceed from the Holy Ghost.


Verse 21

21. Not… of man—The Scripture prophecy had no human author. It was not borne to the prophet or to men by the will of himself or of any man. He was simply the instrument in delivering it.

Holy men of God—They were called to a holy office and used in a holy work; besides which, they were, as a rule, holy in character and life. But holiness does not constitute a prophet. They spake, being borne by the Holy Ghost. He was sole author: their minds and speech were taken possession of, and borne along by his might, and made to utter, under his impulse, whatsoever he pleased, whether they at the time understood it or not.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 2 Peter 1:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/2-peter-1.html. 1874-1909.

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