July 5, 2020
When I was in the banking industry years ago, I was a branch manager for awhile. It was a busy branch, so we had lots of tellers. Here’s an interesting bit if trivia for you. Before WWII, most bank tellers were men. But, during the war, as the men went off to fight, the tellers became women. After the war, when the men came back, the banks continued to keep the women tellers – they were better than men. Of course, most married men have known all along women are better at handling money.
So I had lots of tellers – and part of their responsibility was to count the money – retail deposits, night deposits, balance their cash drawers and the vault – thing like that. I would watch as they counted faster than I could keep up. Sure, there were bill counting machines, but it was usually just faster to count the stacks of bills. So there they’d be, and every once in awhile, they’d stop – hold up a bill and say, this one’s counterfeit. Yes, they’d then hold it up to the light, use the pen or device that affirms the real bills and detects the counterfeits. My point is, they knew before they used the light or the device. How did they know? They could feel it – they could see it. They were so familiar with handling the real bills that a counterfeit would not normally make it past them. It was amazing.
I want you to know – that’s my goal, and the goal of II Peter, for us. That we become so familiar with the real truth of Christianity that we spot a fake a mile away. That’s why the title of this study in II Peter is called, True Knowledge. As we study through this book – yes, Peter will deal with the false teachers. But he will correct their counterfeit teachings – so that we become so familiar with Christ and the faith, we won’t be carried off. That’s what I want for you – I don’t want you to be distracted or deterred from the genuine faith.
For example, over the past couple of weeks, we’ve clearly established that Peter – the real Apostle Peter – is the author of this book. If false teachers and opponents of Christianity can get you to question the veracity and faithfulness of the Bible, they know they’ve got you. As you question the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture, you will soon reject the Christian faith altogether. I don’t want you to do that. Peter doesn’t want you to do that.
Further, in the salutation, Peter clearly tells us who Jesus is. Remember, if there was anyone who knew Jesus, it was Peter. He’d heard His teaching, seen His miracles, witnessed the Transfiguration, witnessed His resurrection. So Peter tells us – Jesus Christ is our God and Savior. And yet today, many want to deny the essential and exclusive deity of Jesus. He wasn’t God, they say. Many want to say He was a good man, a moral man, a good teacher who did lots of good things, but He wasn’t God.
For example, the Jehovah’s Witnesses want to deny the essential deity of Jesus by reinterpreting and abusing the clear teaching of Scripture. He was a god, created by the God – but He was not the God. The Mormons deny the exclusive deity of Jesus – that He alone of man was God. I don’t know if you know this, but Mormons say that as Jesus was once a man and became a god, you too, if you follow their teaching, can one day become a god. To be clear, Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses are not Christian – they are cults. Meaning, they need to know who Jesus rightly is, and what He accomplished through His essential and exclusive life, death, burial and resurrection. And so if a couple knock on your door wearing white shirts with black name tags, I want you to spot them. If they invite you to a Bible study or want to give you a magazine called the Watchtower or a book called Gospel Principles – I want you to know. They are trying to divert you from the Christian faith. I want you to be able to spot counterfeits.
Further, anyone who suggests that Jesus is merely one way to the Father – one way to heaven – but that other ways – other religions – will also get you there – I want you to know they are denying the essential and exclusive deity of Jesus Christ. If He was just one way, then He was not exclusive. Further, He was a liar. Because He said I am the way, the truth and the life – and no one comes to the Father except through Me. He said, this is eternal life, that people may know the Father through the One He has sent. The Bible says there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved – no other name than Jesus. Who said that? Oh that’s right – it was Peter, who knew who Jesus was. So, as an increasing number of surveys of evangelicals are revealing that many believe Jesus is just one way among many to the Father, don’t believe it. That is heresy.
So Peter starts his letter by saying, to those who have received a faith of the same kind or value as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ. Jesus is our God and our Savior. Then, Peter will get to the end of the book and remind us that this same Jesus is coming back. Paul said the same thing – we are looking and longing for the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. Why is this important?
Well, the false teachers were saying Jesus is not coming back. And perhaps you’ve heard that today – why, it’s been two thousand years since this Jesus was here – where is He? When are you going to abandon this childhood myth? And perhaps you begin to wonder. Don’t believe it – we’ll get God’s clear answer to that weak and pathetic attack in chapter 3.
But why do these false teachers – why do people today – want to deny the return of Jesus? So they can deny any sense of a future judgment. Jesus is not coming back, and so you will not be judged. Why is that important? So they can live however they want – without fear of consequences. They can give themselves over to unbridled sinful desires. Why not, they say – it doesn’t matter. He’s not coming back, and there is no judgment.
But of course, it matters to followers of Jesus, We believe what He said. We believe what the Bible says about the return of Christ and the coming judgment. So, after his salutation, Peter begins with a little sermon. It goes through verse 11 or so – but we’ll take a couple weeks to get through it. Here’s how I want you to see the sermon though. It’s critically important. He starts, as many letters do in our NT, with what’s called the indicative of God’s work on our behalf. He starts with Christ and His grace through the gospel – this is what God has done for us. Then, because of that, he’ll get to the imperatives – because this is true, this is what we do about it. This is how we live our lives.
Now that order is critically important. Because Peter is going to say, because of what Christ has done for us – we have the power to live different lives. In fact, since we are Christians, we need to live like Christians, proving the reality of our faith, thus gaining an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Now, if we’re not careful – if we don’t see that order, then we may think that by our righteous lives – growing in faith – adding to our faith – that we earn our way into heaven. Not so. By growing in our faith – escaping the corruption of this world, we prove that we have been changed by the gospel. But having been changed – made alive in Christ – we don’t just sit back and do nothing. Oh no – we add to our faith, growing in the true knowledge of the grace of Jesus Christ. So that, among other reasons, we will not be swayed by counterfeits. Let’s read our text – II Peter 1:3-11.
We must get the order right – indicative before imperative. Because of what Christ has done for you and in you and will do through you, do this. Grow in your faith. You cannot call yourself a Christian and live like the world.
Now, we’re only going to get through verses 3 and 4 – but I wanted you to see how we could get off track if we don’t note the absolutely essential order. Jesus, by His gospel and indwelling Holy Spirit, has given us everything we need for life and godliness – so grow. Don’t stay where you are. Grow in Christ. And in the process, become so familiar with Him that you spot the counterfeits a mile away. Our outline will look like this:
- His Divine Power (3)
- His Precious Promises (4)
Please notice – through His divine power, we are supposed to do something. He has given us precious promises, so we are supposed to do something. Power and promises come first – through the grace of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Then comes responsibility.
Starting with, we have Divine Power in verse 3. And this divine power enables us. Now, the verse starts with a conjunction. There’s some discussion as to whether the conjunction ties it to what comes before or after. My translation has it seeing, which is a bit loose – but most other translations ignore it. The idea is this – seeing that His divine power has enabled us – we should do something – that is, escape the corruption of this world and grow in partaking of the divine nature. We’ll come back to that.
The point is this – seeing that His divine power has done something – done what? His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness. Divine is interesting word – used only four times in the NT. It’s a Greek word used in Hellenistic culture – not typically a Jewish word. But Peter used it because he was writing to a Greek culture. The word was also used in Acts 17, “…we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man.” It was Paul’s sermon on Mars Hill to a bunch of religious philosophers – so he used language and thought they could understand. Of course, Paul immediately turned their thoughts to the true and living God – it’s time to turn from your ignorance, he says, for God is declaring to all men everywhere to repent, because He will judge the world through one man – whom He raised from the dead. Judgment is coming through Jesus, so repent. Sound familiar?
Peter is doing the same thing – using words through this letter that his audience would understand. Seeing that His divine power has granted – given to us everything. Wow. Not a little. Just enough to get by. No – He’s given us everything pertaining to life. One commentary says it this way, “Peter’s point is that God has given us absolutely everything necessary for us to know Him and to live in a way that honors Him.” (ESV Expository Commentary) The word life could be referring to eternal life – He’s given us everything through the gospel for eternal life. That’s true. Or it could be, given the context, He’s given us everything pertaining to living a life now as a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ. You say, I just don’t have what it takes to live rightly. Yes you do. God has given you everything you need to live as a Christian.
And not just a Christian, but a godly Christian. His divine power has granted you all you need pertaining to living a godly life. That divine power is provided through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Everyone who is saved has the Holy Spirit, so you can, right now, live a godly life. You are dead to sin, and alive to righteousness. It’s not because you lack the power of God living within you. More likely, it’s because you love your sin more than you love Jesus. Now, it might be that you don’t know how to live a godly life. But He’s even anticipated that. Because, you see, His divine power has given you everything you need – you are not lacking anything – for life and godliness through the true knowledge of Him who called you.
Now, it is true that true knowledge can be found in the Word of God. Absolutely vital – indispensible, really. But when Peter says, through the true knowledge of Him, he’s talking about a vibrant, real, growing, experiential, intimate knowledge of Jesus Christ. Yes, of course, that comes primarily through the Word. But Peter is not just talking about head knowledge – becoming a Bible answer man or woman. He’s talking about having a true knowledge of Jesus by relationship. By spending time with Him – in His word, in prayer, with His people, seeking His will and His desires for your life.
We’ve all known people who can spout Bible verses. Listen, knowing the Bible, even memorizing the Bible is a good thing – but we’ve all known people who know the Bible but don’t live the Bible. They don’t live like they know Christ. Peter knew Christ. And Jesus has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our true knowledge of Him.
Now, I will add you cannot have a true knowledge of God without the Bible – or without doctrine. Sometimes theology gets a bad rap – doctrine is scoffed or scorned. I don’t need doctrine, I just love Jesus. And that’s great – it takes a passionate love of Jesus. But which Jesus? The one who is God? The one who is coming back? The one who will judge? The one who is a person of the Trinity? The one who provided justification in the past, sanctification in the present, and glorification in the future? How can we even talk about His precious and magnificent promises if we don’t know what they are? What does Peter mean by that? That will take some study. You say, but doctrine divides. You’re right – it divides between truth and error. Real and counterfeit.
So on the one hand, we need to grow in our love for and intimacy with Jesus – our experience with Him. On the other, we must build that relationship on the truth of God’s word – true knowledge.
Now notice, Peter says His divine power has given us everything we need through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. Who is Him? Usually, calling to salvation is attributed to the Father – and I suppose that could be here. But the closest antecedent to Him is Jesus. Which is amazing. Because you see, calling to salvation in the Scripture is always effectual or effective. Those called, respond to the gospel. So here we see not only has Jesus provided for our salvation through His perfect life, death and resurrection, but He Himself insures the results of His work by calling us to Himself.
By His own glory and excellence. Which means either we respond to His call because He is altogether excellent and glorious – and one glimpse of His beauty causes us to respond – or, it means He calls us because He is glorious and excellent. Both are true, and we end up at the same place – effectively called to salvation because of His glorious excellence. How can you say no to Jesus when you truly see Him.
So don’t miss the point Peter is making in this sermon. Yes – he’s going to call us to ever-increasing godliness – but he first reminds us it is Jesus who called us to Himself; it is Jesus who insures our salvation by His work and effectual calling; and it is Jesus who has given us everything we need to grow in godliness and be successful in the Christian life. Do you see – it is the truth of God’s grace through Christ that comes first – before there can ever be the imperative of growing in Christ-likeness.
Which brings us to our second point, His Precious Promises in verse 4. For by these – that is, His own glory and excellence – He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises. What are those? Well, there are several blessings God gives us by promise in the Scripture:
The Promise of a Savior (Acts 13:23)
The Promise of Christ’s Resurrection (Acts 13:33)
The Promise of Salvation (Acts 2:39)
The Promise of the Gospel (Romans 4:13)
The Promise of Gentile Salvation (Galatians 3:14))
The Promise of the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49; Acts 2:33)
The Promise of Eternal Life (2 Timothy 1:1, 1 John 2:25 )
The Promise of our Future Inheritance. (Ephesians 3:6, Hebrews 9:15)
The Promise of His Presence – that He will never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5)
The Promise of His Second Coming (2 Peter 3:9)
The Promise of a New Heaven and New Earth (2 Peter 3:13)
There are lots of promises to us – there are more I could mention. But what is of particular importance for us is the way Peter uses the word promise in chapter 3 of this book. Remember, the false teachers were denying His return, “Where is this promise of His coming?” Peter then reminds us Jesus will fulfill the promise of His return and of a recreation of the old order – the old heaven and the old earth.
These are indeed precious and magnificent promises. Perhaps Peter has them all in mind – he was with Jesus and heard His teaching for over three years. But these last two seem to fit his purpose of the letter – to warn them. Notice how he goes on in verse 4, “For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature.” There’s that word divine again. And this has caused much confusion – if you take the verse out of its context.
So, some have taught there is a spark of the divine in us that just needs to be nurtured, and we will become God. Either through Buddhism or Hinduism which teaches through multiple lives of reincarnation, we are absorbed into the divine; or through the New Age teaching that says we are little gods, we just don’t know it; or through cults like Mormonism which teach we’ll become gods like Jesus. It’s a bit confusing. Are we little gods in the making? Will we become one with the divine in some pantheistic absorption? No.
Of course not. But this verse has caused problems. Let me tell you what biblical scholars think, with whom I agree. We alone, of all God’s creation, were created in the image of God. Moral, spiritual, relational image of God. We were created to rule God’s creation; to be His vice-regents if you will, to reflect His glory and put Him on display by our good and righteous lives – putting His image on display through us. Not that we are divine or deity in any way – simply image-bearers. To be in relationship with Him, and each other.
But of course, our physical and spiritual parents – Adam and Eve – blew it for all of us. In Adam, we all sinned, and have been born with a sin nature. The divine image was marred – indeed, ruined. But it did not permanently ruin God’s plan for His image-bearers. The storyline of the Bible is God stepping into the world He cursed to bring redemption and reconciliation – to recreate us, if you will, into His unmarred image. Not to become gods, but image bearers.
We know He did that through His Son. Jesus, the Son of God and God the Son, took on flesh to live for awhile among us. But unlike us, He did not have a sin nature. There is some debate about this, but I believe it’s because He didn’t have an earthly father through whom the sin nature was passed. He was born of the Holy Spirit.
Well again, not only did He not have a sin nature, but He never sinned. He was perfect. And so, having never sinned, He did not deserve the wages of sin – that is, death. But die He did. You see, He took our sins in His body on the cross, Peter tells us in I Peter. He died in our place – a substitutionary atonement. But He didn’t stay dead. He was raised on third day, on the first Easter Sunday. And by His resurrection, He was proven with power to be the Son of God. His work was finished, and accepted.
And so, those who believe in Jesus as Lord – that is God – that He died for our sins and was raised again – those who repent of their sin and turn in faith and trust to God through faith in Jesus have sins forgiven. And God then gives us the promised Holy Spirit. And through His indwelling Spirit, we have the divine power to grow – we have everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Jesus. And as such, we become partakers of the divine nature – not just because of the indwelling Spirit. But we actually begin to grow in sanctification – in holiness, right now. The image of God has been initiated through salvation, and is being restored in us. Such that, we can put on the increasing measure of Christ-likeness – of being like God. We will see that in verses 5 and following – next week.
But don’t miss the flow of the argument. To those who have received – granted – a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ. Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ our Lord;
seeing that His divine power has granted – given – to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted – given (do you see – we are the recipients of God’s gracious giving through His Son) He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them, you may become partakers of the divine nature. So that by all God’s good gifts – having received everything, we can start seeing the image of God renewed in us, and we can start reflecting His glorious and excellent image. We have the responsibility to do that.
Starting with, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust or by desire. We start the sanctification process by escaping this world’s corruption, birthed in us through evil desire called lust. James makes it clear – sin in conceived in us by illicit desire. And when we give into desire, it produces sin.
So the sanctification process starts by escaping evil desires. How do we do that? By increasing in our true knowledge of Him. And by putting on, more and more, the eight Christian virtues that follow.