II Peter 1:1–11. Three Daring Words: Virtue, Power and Knowledge.
Key Notes: II Peter vs. I Peter. Part of the Canon? A string of 8 virtues. We are not Stoics.
Introduction to Second Peter. Introduction is used as a technical term to describe the background of a Bible book. It asks about date, author, audience, outline and spiritual content. Books on Bible Introduction are slow reading but II Peter was a book challenged by the early Church leaders. Finding 48 pages devoted to Introduction to Second Peter shows that it is important. (New Testament Introduction. D. Guthrie; IVP, 1964; pp 137–185. Also see The New Testament Documents. F.F.Bruce; Eerdmans,1963.)
The criteria for accepting a NT book for the Canon were:
•written by an apostle or someone close to an apostle. So Mark and Paul probably assisted Luke, and Peter was a source for Mark.
•suitable for public reading, with solid spiritual material.
•widely accepted by the Church.
Hebrews; II,III John, II Peter, Jude, James and Revelation were initially questioned. They did not circulate early, as the Gospels and Paul's writings did. Authorship was questioned. Also content was disturbing: James seemed to disagree with Romans; Revelation was hard to understand--and still is.
Further, II Peter has a different style from I Peter, which is elegant Greek and smoothly written. Since it was generally accepted, and II Peter was more stilted and ambitious, another author was considered. However, Silvanus (Silas), as an educated Greek secretary for I Peter, may have influenced its style, and II Peter may show Peter's own rough hand without Silas' help.
Or was it written by a disciple of Peter in his name? Paul was not amused by letters allegedly written by him (IIThes.2:2) although letters written under a pseudonym were accepted in later centuries. And could anyone who said he was Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration in the presence of Christ--and was not--be considered other than a liar?
A recent computer study of I, II Peter indicates that the vocabularies are indistinguishable. Furthermore, all the books listed above were accepted by the Church by the end of the second century.
Note that the Canon (the set of New Testament documents that we accept as authoritative) is not the product of a Church council, but of the acceptance by the Church at large through the centuries. At the Country Fair, the steer that wins the blue ribbon may be chosen by a committee, but everyone who sees this animal, even in photographs can agree that it is superb. The chocolate cake that wins the Country Fair prize looks most attractive and tastes better than the others by anyone's judgment. We can test the validity of the NT today by reading the so-called Apocrypha ("hidden books") and comparing their worth.
1:1–4 "to those with faith of like standing with ours." Our common faith puts us on the same footing with Peter.
"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, that through these you may escape the corruption that is in the world through passion and become partakers of the divine nature."
Can we think of any New Testament promise that we may escape the corruption of the world through lust?
"There is no temptation taken you but such as is common to man but God will not permit you to be tempted beyond your ability but will with the temptation also make a way to escape." (I Cor.10:13)
Are there promises that we might become partakers of the divine nature?
"...as many as received Him to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to those that believe on His Name." (Jn.1:12)
Partakers of the Divine Nature?
Not "you shall become as gods knowing good and evil"--Satan's lie.
Not "You are all Christs" as in New Age philosophy.
Not absorbed into the ALL. We do not lose our identity as in Buddhist Nirvana.
But the indwelling of our bodies by the Triune God, an awesome concept: "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word and my Father will love him , and we will come and make our home with him." (Jn.14:23).
You can expand this concept with many other references: Jn.15:4; Jn.17:23; Rom.8:9; ICor.6:19; IICor.3:18; Gal.2:20; Gal.4:19; Col.1:27; Col.2:6; IPet.1:23.
1:5–7 Peter gives us a string or a tree of virtues:
•Faith is the basis of all other virtues.
•Virtue was a concept prized by the Greeks. It embraces moral courage, excellence, prowess and skill.
•Knowledge (of God), ethical discernment, practical wisdom.
•Self-control. For the Greeks, it is the ultimate in self-mastery. Paul practiced it for the sake of his ministry. ICor.9:25
•Steadfastness or patience: active resistance against evil on the downside and waiting upon God on the upside.
•Brotherly love (Gr. "philadelphia"), a Spirit-given unity.
•Love (Gr. "agape"), self-sacrificing devotion.
In short, we are to develop a muscular faith, informed, controlled, patient, godly, attached to people and leading to selfless devotion.
1:8–9 If we have these characteristics, we will be effective and fruitful. If not, we are short-sighted and forgetful.
1:10–11 We are to confirm our call and election. It is God who chose and called us by His grace. We confirm our call by working out our salvation with fear and trembling. Phil.2:12,13
To the Stoics, the words Peter uses like self-control, power, virtue and knowledge were very meaningful. Salvation for the Stoic was to become virtuous through knowledge, enabling one to live in harmony with nature, free from harmful emotions and passions, and insulated from the troubles of life. Stoics had a strong emphasis on ethics, providence, logic, virtue and self-control.
For many religious people, attention to duty, doing right, calmness in sorrow or joy, may be seen as Christian. We may confuse being stoical with being a Christian. We may work for the stiff upper lip, unmoved by tragedy, unexcited by good fortune. But being stoical is not being a Christian.
Peter was audacious in using these words. But he is not borrowing simply ideas from the Greeks. He tells us that the Greek ideal is Christ's work. His power in our lives makes all the difference.