2 Peter 1:1-2

(A Bible Study Led by Dr. Larry Reynolds)

February 6, 2014

Background to 2 Peter

If you are the kind of person who naturally pulls for the underdog, you will feel an affinity for the little letter of 2 Peter.  Along with James, Jude, 2 John, and 3 John, this letter falls into that category of New Testament books whose authorship and authenticity were questioned from the early days of the Christian era.  However, over time, the usefulness of these books to the early church caused them to be included in the canon of the New Testament.  By the time of the Council of Carthage in AD 397, the place of all of these books had been firmly established among the 27  books of the New Testament.  However, that did not end the debate regarding 2 Peter.  Even great reformers such as Martin Luther and John Calvin tended to view 2 Peter with suspicion. 

I will not go into all the critical arguments for and against the authenticity of 2 Peter.  If you are interested in that sort of thing, there is plenty of material in commentaries and on the web for you to explore.  My position is that 2 Peter is an authentic part of the New Testament and that Peter wrote this book somewhere in the late 60’s AD, not long before his martyrdom in Rome.

Purpose of 2 Peter

Peter knew that his time of death was rapidly approaching (see 2 Peter 1:14).  His desire was to impart as much knowledge and direction as possible to the struggling Christian congregations before his departure from this world.  “The message of 2 Peter is one of pastoral encouragement, support for living the Christian life, prophetic warning against false doctrine, and concerned attention to proper preparation for the day of judgment.” [LBC, Valentine, p.121]  2 Peter 3:1-2 summarizes the purpose of this letter.

General Outline of 2 Peter

Chapter 1 – An overview of the Christian life

Chapter 2 – Warnings regarding false teachers and dangerous heresies

Chapter 3 –  Words of encouragement and assurance in light of the promise of the Lord’s return

2 Peter 1 reveals seven specific things about the Christian life.  In this chapter Peter reminds his readers that the Christian life if a life:

  • Of equal standing before God (v.1)
  • Of grace, peace, and knowledge (v.2)

  • Of power and promise (vv.3-4)

  • Of personal discipline (vv.5-9)

  • Of perseverance (vv.10-11)

  • That is rooted in an historical event (vv.12-18)

  • That is focused on God’s Word (vv.19-20)


    Verse 1 – The Christian life is a life of equal standing before God

    In many ways, this verse is typical of the salutation in most New Testament letters.

  • The writer – “Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ…”

    • “Simon”This is literally “Simeon.” This is Peter’s Hebrew name, and the name of one of the Twelve tribes. This same form appears only in Acts 15:14. If this letter were a pseudonym, the author surely would have used the more common spelling “Simon.”[1]

    • “Peter” - This is literally Petros, which is Greek for a large rock or boulder. It was the nickname given to Simon by Jesus in Matt. 16:18 and also John 1:42. In this passage in John the Aramaic term Cephas is mentioned. In daily conversation Jesus spoke Aramaic, not Hebrew nor Greek. Paul often uses Cephas (cf. 1 Cor. 1:12; 3:22; 9:5; 15:5; Gal. 1:18; 2:9, 11, 14).[2]

    • “a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ” -  Notice the order of the words.  Near the close of his life, at the apex of his apostolic authority, he was Christ’s servant first, and His apostle second.[3]

  • The readers – “…to those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours…”
    • “to those” – Since Peter mentions in chapter 3 this is “the second letter I am writing to you” it is presumed the recipients were those same churches scattered throughout the provinces of Asia Minor (see 1 Peter 1:1)

    • “received” – The word carries the idea that the thing being received is not the result of the activity of the one receiving but of the one giving.  It is a reminder that in Jesus we are the recipients of “the free gift of God [which is] eternal life.” (Romans 3:23).

    • “faith” – This word (from the Greek word pistis) is used several ways in Scripture

      • Sometimes it refers to what a person believes or the content of belief.  The Greek word can be translated both belief and faith.

      • Sometimes it refers to the act of believing, like when we say “I have faith” meaning “I believe.”

      • Sometimes faith is a synonym for salvation.  That is how the word is used in this verse.  This letter is written to those who have received salvation.

    • “of the same kind” – This phrase translates a single word, isotimos.  This is a compound word, the first part meaning equal and the second part meaning value.  It carries the idea of having equal value or worth or standing.

    • “as ours” – A reference to the Apostles.


      Putting all that together, Peter is making an amazing statement to his readers.  He is saying that every believer in Jesus Christ has the exact same standing in the eyes of God.  There is no privileged class and there are no second or third class citizens in the kingdom of God.  Not even the Apostles like Peter—those who were privileged to walk with Jesus, to see Him with their own eyes, to witness His miracles, to see and touch the resurrected Lord—have any special advantage of any other believer!


      One writer put it this way:    “Even the weakest believer holds in his hands all that the mightiest saint ever possessed.”  [Ray Stedman].  That is an amazing thought.  Everything that Peter or Paul or James or John had, we also possess!  We have received from God the exact salvation, the exact standing that they received.


      Verse 2 – The Christian life is a life of grace, peace, and knowledge - This verse is typical of many NT salutations in that it mentions “grace and peace.”  Every one of Paul’s letters, except the two letters to Timothy, begin with a pronouncement of “grace and peace” upon the readers. Peter follows that same formula in 1 Peter and here in 2 Peter. In that sense, this salutation is typical. But it is unusual in that it is the only salutation in the NT in which “the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” is mentioned. 


      The concept of knowledge permeates the book of 2 Peter.  No less than 13 times in the 3 chapters of 2 Peter you will find the words “know” and “knowledge.”  This letter opens with a reference to knowledge and closes with a reference to knowledge.  And in between, time and time again, Peter addresses that subject.  Verse 2 tells us two significant things about the knowledge that should characterize those who follow Christ.


  • The knowledge of the Christian life is a growing knowledge as opposed to a static knowledge

    • In Greek the basic word for knowledge is “gnosis”...most of the time that is the word used in the NT to convey the idea of knowledge...but there is another word which is sometimes used...not “gnosis” but “epignosis”...that is the word Peter uses here...the word “epignosis” is formed by taking the preposition “epi” which means “toward” or “in the direction of” and placing it before the normal word for knowledge, “gnosis”...thus “epignosis” means a knowledge which is moving toward or in the direction of that which it seeks to know...”epignosis” of God is knowledge which is constantly moving toward God...it’s not stuck in one place...it is ever growing...

    • Point I want to make is that our lives should be characterized by an ever increasing knowledge of God...at the very end of this book Peter instructs us to “...grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ...”...we should never be content with where we are...we should never be content with what we know of Him...we should always be striving, always be growing, always be maturing in our knowledge of God...


  • The knowledge of the Christian life is more relational than informational

    • When Peter speaks of “the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” he is not talking about a head knowledge...he talking about a heart knowledge...he’s not intellectualizing Christianity...he’s not saying the essence of being a Christian is what you know...basically, he’s saying the essence of being a Christian is WHO you know!...

    • Now don’t misunderstand me at this point...the Bible does not teach that Christianity is anti-intellectual...does not teach that Christians should be intellectually lazy...I fear that too many Christians know too little about the belief they profess to have...while we should guard against a type of Christianity which is characterized by a “head knowledge which never touches the heart” we should also guard against a “heart knowledge which never touches the head”...we must understand intellectual what God has done and what God desires from us if we’re going to explain and defend our faith to the world...

  • However, we must never forget that the knowledge of the Christian life must never be restricted the realm of the mind or the intellect...it must extend to the heart or the emotions...the kind of knowledge Peter is referring to in this verse is the kind which grows out of personal relationship with the Lord...it’s not so much knowing about Him as it is knowing Him...it’s the kind of knowledge Paul was talking about in 2 Timothy 1:12 when he said, “I know [not what but] whom I have believed...”


                Some years ago at a drawing-room function, one of England's leading actors was asked to recite for the pleasure of his fellow guests. He consented and asked if there was anything special that his audience would like to hear. After a moment's pause, an old clergyman present said: "Could you, sir, recite to us the Twenty-third Psalm?" A strange look passed over the actor's face; he paused for a moment, and then said: "I can, and I will, upon one condition; and that is that after I have recited it, you, my friend, will do the same." "I," said the clergyman, in surprise. "But I am not an elocutionist. However, you wish it, I will do so." Impressively, the great actor began the psalm. His voice and his intonation were perfect. He held his audience spellbound; and as he finished, a great burst of applause broke from the guests. Then, as it died away, the old clergyman arose and began the psalm. His voice was not remarkable; his intonation was not faultless. When he had finished, no sound of applause broke the silence, but there was not a dry eye in the room, and many heads were bowed. Then the actor rose to his feet again. His voice shook as he laid his hand upon the shoulder of the old clergyman and said: "I reached your eyes and ears, my friends; he reached your hearts. The difference is just this: I know the Twenty-third Psalm, but he knows the Shepherd." [The War Cry, from the web site elbourne.org]


    2 Peter 1:1-2 reminds us that it is the privilege of every follower of Jesus to have a growing, personal knowledge of the Lord.

[1] Utley, R. J. D. (2000). Vol. Volume 2: The Gospel according to Peter: Mark and I & II Peter. Study Guide Commentary Series (274). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

[2] Utley, R. J. D. (2000). Vol. Volume 2: The Gospel according to Peter: Mark and I & II Peter. Study Guide Commentary Series (274). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

[3] Gangel, K. O. (1985). 2 Peter. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck, Ed.) (2 Pe 1:1a). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.