Sermon notes for 2 Peter part 3 – Knowing Jesus


2 Peter Part 3

2 Peter 1:1-4

Knowing Jesus


I would like to buy three dollars worth of God, please.

Not enough to explode my soul and disturb my sleep.
Not enough to take control of my life.
I want just enough to equal a cup of warm milk.
Just enough to ease some of the pain from my guilt.

I would like to buy three dollars worth of God, please.

I would like to find a love that is pocket-sized.
I don’t want enough of God to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant.
Not enough to change my heart.
I can only stand just enough to take to church when I have time.
Just enough to equal a snooze in the sunshine.
I want ecstasy, not transformation.
I want the warmth of the womb, but not a new birth.

I would like to purchase a pound of the eternal in a paper sack.
If it doesn’t work, I would like to get my money back.

I would like to buy three dollars worth of God, please.

I would like to hide some for a rainy day.
Not enough for people to see a change in me.
Not enough to impose any responsibility.
Just enough to make folks think I am ok.

Could I just get three dollars worth of God, please?      -Wilbur Rees

This famous poem by Wilbur Rees says openly and boldly what few of us would ever have the courage to say out loud, but is nonetheless the true attitude of some. Even if we wouldn’t admit it – even to ourselves.

And it was as much a problem in the early days of the Church, like with Peter’s 1st audience, as it is today. Though perhaps for different reasons.

In our culture today – we might go here as the by-product of a life of relative ease and prosperity. Or maybe out of political correctness. Wanting to be liked and not marginalized and looked upon as unsophisticated kooks. Wanting to fit in as normal.

For Peter’s 1st readers – it would be most fueled by the same desire to want to fit in and not be marginalized, but then additionally aggravated by not wanting REAL persecution. Not wanting to lose their livelihood or be barred from employment.

So the temptation is to have just enough Jesus to be acceptable to most people and as the poem says,

I want just enough [Jesus] to equal a cup of warm milk.
Just enough to ease some of the pain from my guilt.
I don’t want enough of God to make me love a black man or (we might add – a liberal or a conservative or a Muslim).
Not enough to change my heart.
I can only stand just enough to take to church when I have time.
Just enough to equal a snooze in the sunshine.
I want ecstasy, not transformation.
I want the warmth of the womb, but not a new birth.
Peter fears for his friends – and for us, that many will fall into that trap.

So he makes his first point here: “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:”

Having been given by grace, the same righteous standing before God as the apostles themselves, by having the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ imputed to us – GO ON TO LIVE IN THE FULLNESS OF WHAT THAT IS INTENDED TO BRING YOU TO.

Don’t stop at being “just” saved – let “grace and peace be multiplied to you”

And that, through “the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”

Don’t stop at being born again. Grow.

And the way TO grow, is in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

As Peter opens his letter this way, note too that he will close it this way a well: 3:18 “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”

But what does he mean that grace and peace can be multiplied in knowledge of Jesus Christ?

THIS: The better we come to KNOW Him, and who He really is and the fullness of what He has done for us – the more we live in the sense of being the objects of His eternal and infinite favor, and the more we rest in our relationship with Him – live at peace.

And what better understanding of peace can one have than to have a conscience cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, so as to live without fear of standing before the burning fire who is God, who in absolute and perfect holiness and judgment will one day require an accounting of every thought, deed and motive? If He does not supply the righteousness by which we are covered when we stand before Him, then we cannot have a moments peace – trembling always inwardly for fear of that hour.

We also get a little better understanding of what he means by “the knowledge” of Jesus Christ our Lord – by the word Peter uses here.

The word knowledge in the NT is most often a translation of the Greek word gnosis. We see that in English easily when we think of a word like agnostic.

EXAMPLE: An Atheist – says “there is no God” A Theist says “there is a God.” An Agnostic says “I do not or cannot KNOW if there is or isn’t a God with any degree of certainty.”

The CERTAINTY aspect is what pops up here.

While the word gnosis and another similar word may at times be used interchangeably – Peter’s word here, epignosis ususally carries with it the idea of certainty as opposed to mere factual knowledge.

I don’t want to overstress this, but Peter uses this word instead of the more common one for a reason.

to possess more or less definite information about, possibly with a degree of thoroughness or competence—‘to know about, to know definitely about, knowledge about.’[1]

I must endeavor to know Him, more and more, especially through the Word, as the Holy Spirit illumines my heart and mind to take Him in.

I think of the words of Polycarp in this regard.

Polycarp was Pastor or Bishop of the Church at Smyrna, and was a disciple of John the Apostle.

When he was being led to his death by the Roman government and asked to renounce Jesus in order to save his life – he is recorded as having said: “86 years have I have served him, and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?”

Polycarp had an accurate Biblical understanding of WHO and WHAT Jesus is, but he had more. By his years of walking with Christ – he knew Him, knew His track record, how Jesus had treated him over those 8+ decades. And in knowing Him this way, his grace and peace were multiplied even at the very worst of all moments – Being burned alive at the stake.

This is what Peter is after for us. Having an experiential sense of how He favors us, properly informed by the Word – which greatly multiplies our peace in any and all circumstances.

Peter’s 2nd point is captured in vs. 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,

So as an example of how we have been favored, he mentions what Christ has already done for us: That by His divine power has already granted to us all we need to live the life of a redeemed person now in anticipation of Christ’s return.

In order to grasp this more fully, Peter will explain what he means by our having already received this grant in the next verse.

But in this verse, he is wanting to emphasize one of the chief things Christ has already done for us – because in truth, so many of us are still looking for something that we already have.

Just as devout Jews today are still waiting for the coming of the Messiah, because they do not know He came already as Jesus Christ – so many Christians are looking for some new effusion of God’s grace to live a more godly life, unaware of what has already been bestowed upon us.

His divine power Peter says, HAS GRANTED to us (past tense) all things that pertain to life (living the life He has for us), which is defined as living in godliness – through an experimental knowledge of Him who has called us to His own glory and excellence.

He has already given us what we need to one day stand before His unveiled glory, in the perfection of His own excellence manifested in us.

He has? Some might ask. Yes, He has!

But I don’t feel it. To experience it, you need to know it is given.

You can’t operate on what you don’t know you have.

And what in the knowledge of who Jesus is and what He has done brings me to that experience?

Peter’s 3rd point: “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.”

So let’s tie these together.

Part of what makes Jesus so glorious and is an example of His own excellence – is how He has made this provision for us for life and godliness.

A provision that by His glory and excellence is located in having already granted or given to us NOW His precious and very great promises.

What promises?

And we might well go back and survey Scripture from the beginning to try and tease that out.

  1. The promised Seed who will bruise the serpent’s head.
  2. The Prophet like Moses who will rise up.
  3. Kings & Chronicles: The one to forever sit on David’s throne.
  4. 53 The Suffering servant who will provide atonement.
  5. Jer, 31 – The promise of the New Covenant.
  6. Luke 1:72 – The Promised one to redeem God’s people.
  7. 1:1-7 The promised Gospel.
  8. 4 – The promise to Abraham that he would become heir of the world.
  9. 3 – The promise that Gentiles who come to faith in Christ are grafted into the promises made to Abraham.
  10. Titus 1:2 – The promise of eternal life.
  11. James 1:12 – The promise of the crown of life life for those in Christ – i.e. Resurrection
  12. James 2:5 The promise of the Kingdom.
  13. 2 Peter 3:4 The promise of Jesus’ return.
  14. 2 Peter 3:13 The promise of the New Heavens and the New Earth wherein dwells righteousness.

And all of these are not just promised, but for the most part have already been fulfilled! Even as 1 COR. 1:20 – All the promises are YES and AMEN in Him.

But it seems to me that the chief promise – which is a multiple thing so that Peter can say here that by Jesus’ glory and excellence He has granted or already fulfilled great and precious promises (plural) – is located primarily on one place: The giving of the Holy Spirit.

And why do I locate it there? Because the text says that by virtue of having received these promises fulfilled, we become partakers of the divine nature.

And that, so that we may escape the judgment and the influence of the corruption that is in the world because of evil desires.

Remember Jesus’ direction to the Apostles as He was ascending?

Luke 24:49 & then Acts 1:4-5

Look back at Acts 2 and the day of Pentecost, 50 days after Jesus’ sacrificial death: Acts 2:33 – Which PROMISE Peter goes on to say that day was not only for those who received it that day, but in vs. 39 is for EVERYONE the Lord God calls to Himself.

It is through the Spirit’s work alone that our eyes and ears are opened to the truth of the Gospel.

It is the Holy Spirit who convicts our hearts of sin and convinces us we are rightly deserving the coming judgment of God because He is righteous and we are not.

It is only by the Spirit that one can truly call Jesus their LORD.

It is the Spirit’s work to regenerate the sinner, to cause us to be born again.

It is the Spirit who opens our hearts and minds to understand God’s Word.

It is the Spirit who reveals to us in a saving way – who Jesus is and what He has done.

It is the Holy Spirit who works in us to “will and to do” God’s good pleasure. Phil. 2:13

As John Owen so powerfully wrote: “We are taught in an especial manner to pray that God would give his Holy Spirit unto us, that through his aid and assistance we may live unto God in that holy obedience which he requires at our hands in Luke 11:9–13. Our Saviour, enjoining an importunity in our supplications, verses 9, 10, and giving us encouragement that we shall succeed in our requests, verses 11, 12, makes the subject-matter of them to be the Holy Spirit: “Your heavenly Father shall give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him,” verse 13; which in Matt. 7 is called “good things,” because he is the author of them all in us and to us, nor does God bestow any good thing on us but by his Spirit. Hence, the promise of bestowing the Spirit is accompanied with a prescription of duty unto us, that we should ask him or pray for him; which is included in every promise where his sending, giving, or bestowing is mentioned. He, therefore, is the great subject-matter of all our prayers. And that signal promise of our blessed Saviour, to send him as a comforter, to abide with us for ever, is a directory for the prayers of the church in all generations…We must deal in this matter with that confidence which the truth instructs us unto, and therefore say, that he who prays not constantly and diligently for the Spirit of God, that he may be made partaker of him for the ends for which he is promised, is a stranger from Christ and his gospel. This we are to attend unto, as that whereon our eternal happiness depends. God knows our state and condition, and we may better learn our wants from his prescription of what we ought to pray for than from our sense and experience; for we are in the dark unto our own spiritual concerns.”

John Owen, The Works of John Owen, ed. William H. Goold, vol. 3 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, n.d.), 155–156.

So we read in1 Corinthians 2:9–13 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— 10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual..

What so does Peter tell us we REALLY REALLY REALLY need to know?

Who Jesus’ really is in all of His eternal and ineffable glory, and what He has done for us in His life, death, burial and resurrection –

That His divine power has already granted to us all we need to live the life of a redeemed person now in anticipation of Christ’s return.

And that this grant is located in the present indwelling of His own Spirit in the Believer – partaking of the divine nature ourselves

Which indwelling frees us from being mastered any longer by the corruption that is in this world through evil desires. Power to battle with and conquer the sinful tendencies still within us.

And this – we need to KNOW. Not just know about, but become experientially immersed in as part and parcel of our every day existence. This is what it means to KNOW Christ, rather than just have a grasp of Biblical facts.

First hand, familiarity with who Jesus is, and how what He has done has impacted us.

Apart from this – we are mere religionists.

The wonder of God’s grace toward us, and peace with Him that we enjoy – is meant to grow and multiply within us, by virtue of our exploring more and more deeply, all that Christ has done in giving us His Spirit.

Now the Believer has access to all of this in consciously looking to the indwelling Spirit of Christ to make these things a reality in our lives.

But if you are not a Christian today – you cannot have multiplied what you do not have.

To have the indwelling Spirit of Christ working in you this way – you need to be born again.

To come to the saving – experiential knowledge of Jesus Christ as your sin-bearer. Repenting of you sin, running to Him for forgiveness, and trusting the promise of His salvation to all who call upon Him to save them and become their Lord.

[1] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 333.

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