Like a road sign warning of things ahead, Peter’s second letter alerts readers to the coming return of the Lord. Peter wrote this second letter around 67 A.D., shortly before his execution while imprisoned in Rome, to warn believers about false teachers and to encourage them to grow in their grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.
In his first letter, Peter writes largely about the relationship between holiness and hardship. In this letter however, he writes about the relationship between holiness and heresy. Similar to Paul in his letter to the Galatians, Peter warns the believers about those who will infiltrate the church and teach blasphemy. He cautions that some will even use the words of Scripture to support their false doctrine and ungodly lives.
The good news is that Peter doesn’t just leave believers or us with this problem and the hope that we figure it out on our own. He teaches that the faithfulness needed to combat this wickedness requires: a personal experience of God’s powerful grace, a diligence in repentant living, an awareness and resistance to heresy, and a hopeful expectation of God’s patience and faithfulness.
Peter starts this letter off by saying that no Christian – no one who has a personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus – is missing anything we need to lead the godly lives we are called to. He says this in verse 3, “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life.” Peter says that it’s by the grace of God that all who trust in Christ have been freed from the corruption in this world caused by sinful desires. In other words, we are fully equipped.
But how? How do we live such a life in a world that is chasing after sin? When society is constantly getting further and further away from the truth of scripture? Peter tells us that it is through the “his precious and great promises” that believers become “partakers of his divine nature” in verse 4. So as we receive, believe, and are changed by the promise of the gospel, we are restored from our sinful nature back to the God-honoring creation we were meant to be. As partakers in this divine nature, we are freed from the bondage of sin and are now able to glorify God. None of us can use the excuse that we didn’t have what was needed for our mission.
And what mission is Peter talking about? He describes in verses 5-7 a very specific set of Christ-like qualities that we should strive to live out and partner with our faith. Peter says that we should supplement our faith with moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, patient endurance, godliness, brotherly affection, and love for everyone. And it’s when we do these things and continue to grow in each of those areas that we are leading the life that God has called us to. More specifically, Peter says that we are effective and productive in the knowledge of Christ that we have been given.
I want you to notice how Peter concludes his list of Christ-like qualities: “whoever lacks these qualities” has “forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins”. According to Peter, the cultivation of godly virtue comes as we remember the gospel cleansing of our own sin. The gospel isn’t something that we move past or move on from once we’ve first experienced it. It is what we are to remember and celebrate for our entire lives and eternity. It’s the grace that changes us from the inside out.
Jesus taught this same principle as he challenged the Pharisees. He taught that defilement comes from the inside and works its way out, and that the motives of the heart are what produce evils such as murder and adultery. Jesus knew that unless a person’s heart is changed, his or her behavior couldn’t honor God. And this is the same reality that Peter addresses throughout this letter as he reminds the believers in their godly living.
Peter repeatedly throughout this chapter and letter reminds the believers of this message. He urges them to “prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen”. We do this by exercising these qualities in our lives as we look forward to the day when Jesus returns and welcomes us into His Kingdom. So today the challenge is simple: are you living this way? Are you growing in these qualities? Are you becoming more productive and effective in your faith?
Each one of us have areas of our lives that we need to develop in this way. Some of you maybe it’s self-control. Others maybe it’s patient endurance or godliness. Today you have to remember, God has given you everything you need to succeed in living a godly life. The challenge is: are we going to take the gifts that God has given us, and use them to grow in our knowledge of Jesus Christ?