2 Peter Part 2
2 Peter 1:1-3
Called to the Glory of Being Slaves
Last time, we noted 3 key things in reading, understanding and applying this short letter of 2nd Peter:
1. Peter is nearing the end of his ministry – due to his impending martyrdom. 2 Peter 1:14 “since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me.”
This would have put Peter in Rome at the beginning of the persecutions of Emperor Nero (37-68 AD) – as most history and tradition agree.
2. Peter’s readers: As in 1 Peter, Jewish & Gentile Believers, banished from Rome to the backwaters of Roman outposts.
1 Peter 1:1 “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,”
2 Peter 3:1a “This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved.”
3. The Driving Concern in Peter’s mind: That he leave them a Memorable Legacy.
Not a legacy wrapped up in remembering HIM well and fondly or in terms of greatness – but that they remember what he taught as the things of highest importance to the Believer in this world – all centered in the knowledge of the person and work of Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 1:12–15 “Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. 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. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.”
Peter was laboring to see his readers established in Christ in such a way, that they would live for Jesus as Peter had – or better, as Jesus deserves. He wants the utter best for them, not this present world’s mere shadows.
You get a good feel how he understands himself in this regard in his opening sentence: “Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ.”
Yes, Peter is a sent one – which is what the word APOSTLE means – and specially ordained AS an apostle by Jesus (Mark 3) – but before he is an apostle, he identifies himself as a “slave”.
As one commentator notes: “Peter calls himself a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ. The Greek word for servant is literally “slave,” which puts emphasis on being owned by Jesus Christ and being committed to follow and obey him completely.”
Daniel C. Arichea and Howard Hatton, A Handbook on the Letter from Jude and the Second Letter from Peter, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1993), 64.
It is interesting to note how often even Christians want to be known by a label that gives them some standing among other Christians.
Some want to be teachers, or preachers, or scholars etc. They strive after being recognized as pastors or elders or deacons or some other title. And, as has been true throughout Church history – there have even been those who sought to be called apostles as well – even after Jesus’ 12 and Paul passed off the scene.
But this is not the Spirit of Christ who “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:6–8
Peter’s primary self-identification is “servant” of Jesus Christ. He is an apostle only in as much as he is a servant – a slave.
Slave is WHAT he was. Apostle, merely a role he was assigned.
In other words, he has given himself over to the authority of another.
He has surrendered his personal rights of self-government and self-direction, to serve at the whim of another, and devoted to carrying out his Master’s will above all other things.
Peter does not live in the mindset that he has a life HE wants to live, and now enlists God to help him live out his agenda – but rather he is a surrendered man.
He views himself as no longer belonging to himself, but as truly OWNED by another – even his Lord and Master Jesus Christ.
And we might say that everything else in this letter is informed by this mindset.
So Peter goes on in these opening portions to explore that idea even more.
2 Peter 1:1 “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:
I. So here is peter’s 1st point: SLAVE
Having “obtained” – the word there meaning – having received the gift – of a faith that is equal to that of the apostles themselves – We need to ask: What do we do with that?
How does that fact shape or impact our lives as Believers?
Does that mean we are “apostles” too?
But it does mean we get to be SLAVES as well. A faith that is of equal standing to that of the Apostles.
The equality aspect, the text says, is due to the “righteousness of Christ”. We’re equal in this, because no one brings their own righteousness to the table – but we are all righteous before God because of Jesus’ righteousness imputed to us!
As for apostleship – Jesus appointed only 12 and there are no more to be expected. The special case of Paul being carefully documented in Scripture – and the Church in the aftermath of the death of the Apostles, showing that they received no others as Apostles, and had to guard against those who falsely called themselves apostles from trying to hi-jack the Church. SEE: 2 Corinthians and Revelation 2 as they speak to that problem directly.
But it DOES speak to the “calling” which rests upon every believer in Jesus Christ from that day until our own.
We too are all slaves of Jesus Christ, as we are all partakes of his righteousness.
We too are those who in coming to Him for salvation have surrendered our autonomy to Him as Lord and Master of our lives.
In our recent Presidential election, many analysts have noted (without reference to the suitableness of the candidate) that the election was a repudiation of the elitism that had infected all sides of our political system.
In like manner, the Believer repudiates the Fall in Eden when he or she comes to Christ.
There, Adam and Eve took on an autonomy that sought to dethrone God.
In their rebellion, they said to Him, “you have no right to tell us what is right and what is wrong for us – we will take that right to ourselves.” It was cosmic treason against the God who made them for Himself and for His purposes.
Salvation is at least in part our recognizing of our OWN sinfulness in that rebellion, and seeking – by virtue of Christ’s substitutionary and atoning sacrifice, to reconcile us back to God – to being back into right relationship with Him.
We are to live at His behest, fulfilling His cause and purposes in the world. And above all – as we’ll see in v3 – we have a truly amazing call that is far higher than anything else in life we might imagine.
I want to say a word more here about the nature of the Christian’s “slavery” to Christ.
People can be slaves by virtue of any number of wretched things.
As we saw in our own Antebellum America, there can be a slavery which demeans mankind. That degrades and abases him.
Sources say that even today, the modern slave trade is a 35 billion dollar a year industry – where people are treated as chattel and less than human, to satisfy the wicked desires of others for labor, sexual gratification and other things. Globally, as many as 49 million people are enslaved under this abominable corruption today.
And then there is the slavery of sin itself. Peter will speak more about this directly in chapter 2 where he says of the False Teachers that: “These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.” 2 Peter 2:17–19
We can be slaves of ignorance. Not knowing the truth keeps people bound in all sorts of ways.
So Paul warns in Colossians 2:8 “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”
But there are kinds of slavery that in fact, are the very root of blessing!
Like when 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us we can bring every thought captive to obey Christ – so that we are freed from minds that obsess on foolishness, fear, lust, greed, pride, envy, or just run away with us so as to rob us of peace and trust in Christ Jesus.
There is the slavery of AWE. Where we have seen that which is so transcendent and beautiful and glorious, that we are spoiled for the world – so that its temporary and shallow glitter is no longer binding – but frees us to think on Christ and glories unimaginable.
And there is above all the slavery of LOVE. When one’s heart is so drawn out by love for another, that no other kind of chain or fetter could ever bind us so tightly. And that is a slavery of utter and complete freedom and joy – for we are bound to that which blesses and satisfies and delights and causes us to flourish and grow.
This is Peter’s slavery to Christ.
This is the slavery Peter wants his readers to enter fully into.
To give up the slavery to one’s own sinful passions, to be slaves of the Christ who loves us so, that He gave His own blood to purchase us, that He might bless us for all eternity in ways we have not even begun to fathom.
To give up our foolish grip on self – to have the glory of the Triune God in all of His unfathomable wonder.
II. Peter’s 2nd point then is: KNOWLEDGE “2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”
That we might not just “get saved” and that’s it – but that grace and peace grow and continue in our lives. That grace and peace be MULTIPLIED.
That we come to know more and more how wondrously we are favored and loved and desired and provided for by the God of all in Christ Jesus.
So 1 Corinthians 2:9 reminds us: “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—
III. Peter’s 3rd point: “3 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,”
GRANTED This must be done by virtue of God’s own power – not our own.
That we have been granted by God – ALREADY – all that is needed to enter into this life as it is being described here.
That the work of Christ on the cross did all that is necessary for our justification – for our reconciliation to – and right standing with – God the Father – through the sacrifice of His own blood for our sins.
But in addition to that – He ascended into Heaven that He might send His own Spirit to indwell us and empower us for all these things.
That we are not saved from sin, and left to our own devices to grow and live out life – but are partakes of more than we ever imagined.
This is why Peter will keep hammering the idea that everything is wrapped up in the knowledge of Jesus Christ – in understanding all Jesus has done for us, and laying hold of it in experience.
IV. Peter’s 4th point: 2 Peter 1:3 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,
All of this is wrapped up in our “CALLING”.
Godliness: “In the Greek world this virtue pointed to appropriate relationships toward the authorities in one’s life: the gods, dead ancestors, and family/parents. Or, as Foerster puts it, “In addition to the gods, relatives, rulers, judges, oaths, the law, and the good may all be objects; enjoying divine protection, they must be respected and upheld.”
Peter H. Davids, The Letters of 2 Peter and Jude, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2006), 181.
The life we have been called to in Christ, which is embodied in godliness.
His divine power has not granted to us the ability to fix our cars, make more money, get better jobs or “succeed” in life the way the World counts success.
But it HAS granted us the ability to live the CHRISTIAN life, and that – for the glory of God in the hope of Heaven.
The misreading of this so as to make “life” here mean whatever kind of life I may choose to live – is wretchedly awry.
He has called us to His own glory and excellence – to live empowered by the Spirit in carrying out the wishes, commands and purposes of God in this world, and NOT to enable me to carry out my personal desires.
He doesn’t serve my purposes, but rather, in salvation, I am brought back into line with His eternal purposes.
What does this look like? It looks like becoming a partaker of the divine nature, so as to escape the corruption of the world, centered in sinful desire! Nothing else!
In other words, becoming more and more like Christ.
To bear the image of His own glory and excellence without distortion or diminishment.
The question to ask then- when my resources for facing life and living godly in this upside-down world seem scant is: Where am I lacking in my knowledge of Him? Intellectually and experientially?
- Do I understand the love that sought me? Even in the lowest parts of Hell?
- Do I understand the love that bought me at the cost of His eternal blood and glory?
- Do I understand WHO it was that did all of this?
- Do I understand what it truly means to be reconciled and adopted?
- Do I understand the reality of His gift of the indwelling Spirit?
- Do I truly grasp the promise of what lies ahead?
- Do I live as though I am called to glory and excellence, therefore seeking Him for those ends above all?
This beloved is the wonder, the privilege, the glory – granted exclusively to the servants, the SLAVES of Jesus Christ.
Oh how we settle for so little – seeking God to give us the stuff of this life – when He has prepared for us the stuff of His own eternal glory.
Believing that and living like that – this is what the Bible calls living by faith.
Now, may we begin to enter into it.