Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 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, 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. – 2 Peter 1:1-4 ESV
This second letter from Peter was most likely sent to the same audience that had received his first letter. His audience was made up of Jewish and Gentile believers living in northern Asia Minor. It is thought that this letter served as a kind of last will and testament for Peter, having been written near the end of his life. He even makes reference to his eminent death in the very first chapter of this letter.
I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. – 1 Peter 1:13-14 ESV
Peter indicates that Jesus Himself had told him of his coming death. In a somewhat veiled, yet clear manner, Jesus had predicted the martyrdom of Peter nearly three decades before Peter wrote his second letter.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God). – John 21:18-19 ESV
The phrase, “you will stretch out your hands” was a commonly used euphemism for crucifixion. Church tradition says that Peter was indeed crucified for his faith in Christ and that he requested to be hung upside down out of deference to His Savior.
Peter’s awareness that his days on this earth were numbered gives this letter a sense of urgency. He is most likely in his 50s and realizes that his time is short. There is a certain intensity to his words as he writes to these believers, probably for the last time. He addresses them as those “who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1 ESV). Even though he was writing as an apostle of Christ, he did not see himself as any better than those to whom he wrote. They were his equals from a spiritual perspective, having received the same grace and mercy from God that he had enjoyed all those years ago when he had encountered Jesus for the very first time.
One of Peter’s purposes in writing this letter was to encourage his readers to grow spiritually. The second was to warn them about false prophets and teachers. One of the greatest challenges to their spiritual growth would be so-called biblical teaching that was really nothing more than thinly veiled heresy. With the growth of the church, there had come a rise in the number of individuals who claimed to be teachers and prophets of God. But much of their teaching differed from that of Jesus and the apostles. Many of them preached and taught a different gospel. Which is why Peter immediately addresses this pressing issue by reminding his readers that God, by “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, 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” (2 Peter 1:3-4 ESV).
Peter tells his readers have everything necessary to live the kind of life to which God has called them. All they needed to do was recognize that the power to live a godly life was possible because of their knowledge of God and their acceptance of His Son as their Savior. Because of their faith in Jesus, they had “become partakers of the divine nature.” Their spiritual growth would be based on an increased knowledge of God and of Jesus. As they grew in their understanding of God and their awareness of the character of Christ, their spiritual lives would take on His nature. Paul described this process. “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV).
The moment Peter’s readers had placed their faith in Christ, a supernatural process of transformation had begun in their lives. The theological term for this is sanctification and it refers to the ongoing process that takes transforms a sinner into a saint. It requires the putting off of the old nature and the putting on of Christ. It demands death to sin and a recognition that we are now alive to Christ. It turns self-centered and selfish individuals into selfless servants. Peter tells his readers that they have “escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desires” (2 Peter 1:4 ESV). They have been set apart by God and adopted into His family as His sons and daughters. Paul would remind them that “you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him” (Colossians 1:21-22 ESV).
We have all we need to live godly lives. We have the Spirit of God living within us, the Word of God available to us and the people of God to encourage us. If we lack anything, it is a belief that those things are truly enough. We live with a constant feeling as if there is something more or something new that we must be missing. That is what leaves us vulnerable to false teachers. They come teaching “new” truth or claiming to have new revelations from God. They offer the missing ingredient that will make your spiritual life come alive. But Peter will warn us to be very careful. New is not always improved. We already have all we need for life and godliness. We don’t need something more. We just need more of what we already have. More of God. More of Jesus. More time in the Word. More reliance upon the Holy Spirit. More awareness of our weakness and God’s power. More desire for more of Him.