The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
June 12, 2011


1) 2 Peter 1:1,2 (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes


2 Peter 1:1,2
by Tom Edwards

This epistle of 2 Peter was written to the same people to whom Peter addressed his first epistle.  Consider, for example, 2 Peter 3:1:  "This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder."  And to whom had Peter written his first epistle?  To those Christians, primarily Gentiles, who had been scattered throughout "Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia...." (1 Pet. 1:1).  All of these places were located in Asia Minor.  

Peter wrote this letter about A.D. 65 or 66.  

While that first epistle dealt with helping the saints through the "fiery trials" of persecution, this second letter was to help them against the dangers of false teachers. So whereas the first epistle could bring hope and a positive outlook in spite of their adversities, the second would help fortify them with "the true knowledge" of God to keep them on the right path (2 Pet. 1:3,4) and to exhort them toward adding needful virtues to their faith in order to attain to that ultimate goal of heaven (1:5-11).  

Peter begins this epistle by saying, "Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. 1:1).  In 1 Peter 1:1, Peter refers to himself as only "Peter" (translated from the Greek word "Petros," which corresponds with "Cephas," the Aramaic name that Jesus gave to him); but now, in this second epistle, he includes his Jewish name of "Simon" along with it. 

Though Peter was part of that "inner three" (made up of himself, James, and John -- apostles who had experienced some miraculous events with Jesus that the other apostles had not), Peter describes himself in humble fashion as simply being a "bond-servant" of Jesus Christ.  Thayer defines the Greek word ("doulos") as "1) a slave, bondman, man of servile condition  1a) a slave  1b) metaphorically, one who gives himself up to another's will, those whose service is used by Christ in extending and advancing his cause among men  1c) devoted to another to the disregard of one's own interests 2) a servant, attendant."  Paul also uses this same word in referring to himself in Titus 1:1 and elsewhere; and so does James in James 1:1,  Jude in Jude 1:1, and John in Rev. 1:1. And this should also be true of every Christian: For "The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged" (2 Tim. 2:24). This term is even used in referring to Jesus (Phil. 2:5-8), which corresponds to Matthew 20:25-28, where the Lord expresses an idea that is contrary to the thinking of many today: Those who wish to become great are to be servants, and those who desire to be first shall be slaves.  The Lord then likens this to Himself: "just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." "Slave" and "Slaves," by far, are the most common renderings of this Greek word "doulos" in the NT.  Together, they are used at least 97 times.

Peter speaks of those whom he is addressing as having "received a faith of the same kind as ours...."  Here, "faith" is used in the objective sense.  It is not talking about one's personal belief in God (which would be a subjective faith); but, rather, the gospel itself.   Faith is also used objectively in Jude 1:3 to stand for the gospel, where Jude exhorts the brethren to "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints"; and in Acts 6:7, where Luke points out that "a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith."  So when the Bible speaks of there being just "one faith" (Eph. 4:5), we think of the one true gospel (cf. Gal. 1:6,7), which is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17).  This is what Paul preached: "but only, they kept hearing, 'He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy'" (Gal. 1:23).

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could say concerning the different religious people today, what Peter had said to those whom he is addressing?  That they had all received the same kind of faith.  

Unfortunately, the world today embraces many different kinds of faiths.  For instance, we might think, in addition to Christianity, of Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Shintoism, Bahai' Faith, Confucianism, Jainism, Sikhism, Taoism, Vodun (a.k.a. Voodoo), just to name a few.  But what about the different "faiths" even in what many would classify under "Christianity"?  For can we really say that the Catholic faith is the same as the Mormon faith, or that the Baptist faith is the same as the Jehovah Witness faith, or that the Seventh Day Adventist faith is the same as the Amish faith, and so on?  As we saw previously, "faith" in the NT is sometimes used to stand for the NT itself.  But instead of accepting just the NT for what many people believe and practice today in religious matters, a wide variety of groups have simply come up with their own human creeds that will distinguish one denomination from another.  And that these different creeds form different "faiths," can be seen in the meaning of "creed" itself.  For "creed" is from the Latin "credo" and literally means, "I believe."  So these different creeds represent the beliefs of different religious groups -- and, often, beliefs that wrongly add to and/or leave out parts of God's word, thus corrupting it; and doing such is clearly shown to be wrong in both the OT and NT times (Deut. 4:2; Rev. 22:18,19; Gal. 1:6-9).  So all these different creeds are actually different "faiths" -- regardless of whether the adherents call themselves Christians or not.  No wonder there are probably many people who do not even know what to believe -- especially when they are looking to men instead of the Bible to guide them.  For there are so many different religious beliefs today among those who even call themselves "Christians."  Denominationalism abounds with conflicting man-made doctrines, and it has continued to become even more varied with different religious bodies, as time goes on. 

In contrast to that, denominationalism did not even exist, during the time of the early church.  Peter, therefore, speaks of these brethren as having "received a faith of the same kind as ours" (2 Pet. 1:1).  And that is how it should also be in our day -- rather than having a multiplicity of religious denominations.  For Jesus prayed that His people would be one the way that He and His Father are one (Jn. 17:20-23), and the Lord even died a cruel, torturous death so that kind of unity could be (Eph. 2:13-22).  In addition, the NT commands that Christians be of the same mind when it comes to religious matters (1 Cor. 1:10; Eph. 4:3; Phil. 1:27; 2:2).  So we should all be content with just God's word for our only creed, instead of following the religious creeds made by men, which continue to keep people away from the unity that only God's word can bring.  As someone once indicated about human creeds, "If they don't contain all the gospel, they don't contain enough.  If they contain more than the gospel, they contain too much.  But if they contain the exact message of the gospel, then who needs them?  Let's just live according to the gospel!"  

As we saw in Ephesians 4:5, there is only "one faith"; but let us consider also the context (vv. 4-6): "There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all."  Is it not inconsistent when people rightly affirm that there is only one Spirit, one Lord, and one God and Father; but then try to justify the belief and practice of many different bodies, many different hopes, many different baptisms, and many different faiths?

The truth of just "one faith" can also be seen in Titus 1:4, where Paul refers to Titus as being "my true child in a common faith."   A "common" faith is one that is to be shared -- rather than a different faith for each person.  For there is only one gospel.  Bullinger defines the Greek word for "common" as, "pertaining equally to all...."  It is also seen in Jude 1:3, where Jude speaks of the "common salvation."  He doesn't mean that salvation is just some "ordinary, everyday thing"; but, rather, that there is just one plan of salvation for everyone -- whether Jew or Gentile, male or female, etc.  Throughout the entire Gospel Age, everyone has had to do the same thing to become a Christian: hear the gospel (Rom. 10:17), believe in the deity of Jesus (Jn. 8:24), repent of sin (Luke 13:5), confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38), and be baptized in water (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).  There is also a common need for the Christian to continue in the faith in order to reach the goal of heaven (Rev. 2:10; Heb. 10:36-39; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).  

Therefore, how important it is for us to not only accept, but also to increase in that common faith.  For consider these following verses on it:

1)  We are to "...walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Cor. 5:7).  This is expressing the same idea of Galatians 3:11 that we are to "...live by faith."  So the faith of the gospel instills not only the right beliefs, but also a daily way of life for us.  

2)  We are also to "...stand firm in the faith..." (1 Cor. 16:13).  This, as well as the previous verses, indicates the need to know the gospel in order to accomplish what is commanded.  (Consider also Colossians 1:23.)

3)  This one faith, which we need to work at, is what can bring every person into unity, if accepted: Philippians 1:27,  "...with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel."  

4)  Faith also serves as a "shield" (Eph. 6:16) and a "breastplate" (1 Thess. 5:8) to protect us against the enemy.  

5)  It's interesting, too, to see that phrase "work of faith" used in the Scriptures (1 Thess. 1:3 and 2 Thess. 1:11).  Though many today view work and faith as being two separate and incompatible things that are not to be combined if we want to be saved by faith and grace, this is not what the Bible shows. Rather, "faith without works is dead" (James 2:26).  And even believing, according to Jesus in John 6:29, is a work that we must do.  So having faith involves action; and without that action, faith will become useless.  As we think about faith coupled with action, how about Paul's exhortation to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:12 that he "Fight the good fight of faith...."?  From that, we can infer that faith needs to be worked at, even when striving to maintain it is very challenging.  So rather than faith being a passive thing, it is just the opposite.  

6)  Faith is to be "pursued," according to 2 Timothy 2:22, along with righteousness, love, and peace.  So we just don't wait for it to come to us; rather, we must go after it. This is also seen in Romans 10:17.  For rather than faith automatically filling our hearts and minds, if we want that faith, we must hear God's word.  And that, in itself, also involves effort (or work) on our part -- whether we are studying God's word for ourselves or even in hearing it preached.

Peter shows that this faith was received "...by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. 2:1).  We realize that God is a righteous being.  His righteousness has been referred to as one of His essential attributes.  Everything the Lord does is done by His righteousness; and, therefore, everything He does is always right.  

But there is also another sense in which the phrase "righteousness of God" is used in the Scriptures and that is with regard to the gospel itself, which reveals God's righteous plan of salvation.  Consider, for instance, Romans  1:16,17: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, 'BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.'"  According to this passage, the righteousness of God is seen in connection with how men are to live by faith.  It, therefore, is not merely speaking of God being a righteous God; but, rather, emphasizing His righteous plan of salvation. This can also be inferred from Romans 10:1-3: "Brethren, my heart's desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation.  For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.  For not knowing about God's righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God."  These Jews were highly religious people.  They believed in God and knew that He was righteous and holy; but what they did not know was His righteous plan of salvation, which is revealed in the gospel.   For they had rejected that.  So since they didn't know of God's "righteousness," they sought to establish their own.  Many in the NT times had wrongly sought to justify themselves by the OT Law of Moses, while rejecting God's righteous plan of salvation as set forth in the gospel.  

Peter then says in 2 Peter 1:2, "Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord."   We have seen previously that this salutation of wishing someone "grace and peace" was common at that time and used in most of the NT epistles (Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 2 John, and Revelation).  

The word "knowledge" is not from the Greek word "gnosis"; but, instead, from "epignosis." Thayer defines it as "precise and correct knowledge 1a) used in the NT of the knowledge of things ethical and divine."  Vine differentiates between these two Greek words by pointing out that epignosis "...suggests...a more special recognition of the object 'known' than does 'gnosis.'"  Some refer to epignosis as "full knowledge." Guy N. Woods points out that "It involves much more than the possession of facts," but that it also "includes the idea of deep and loving contemplation...."

So taking the time to investigate God's word can not only lead to acquiring faith and increasing in that faith, but also in developing a love for God that is manifest in obedience, along with increasing one's zeal toward carrying out the Lord's commands and developing a good, spiritual life that is a blessing now -- and that which leads to that unmatchable blessing to come!


News & Notes

Let those of us who are Christians continue to remember Danny Holton in our prayers, who has been diagnosed with Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer.

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

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