As It Was In The Days Of Noah (26): 2 Peter 1:3–11 (part 1)

3His 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, 4by 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. 5For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (ESV). 3Ὡς ⸆ πάντα ἡμῖν τῆς θείας δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ τὰ πρὸς ζωὴν καὶ εὐσέβειαν δεδωρημένης διὰ τῆς ἐπιγνώσεως τοῦ καλέσαντος ἡμᾶς ⸂ἰδίᾳ δόξῃ καὶ ἀρετῇ⸃ 4διʼ ὧν τὰ ⸂τίμια καὶ μέγιστα ἡμῖν ἐπαγγέλματα⸃ δεδώρηται, ἵνα διὰ τούτων γένησθε θείας κοινωνοὶ φύσεως ἀποφυγόντες ⸄τῆς ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ ἐν ἐπιθυμίᾳ φθορᾶς⸅. 5καὶ ⸂αὐτὸ τοῦτο δὲ⸃ σπουδὴν πᾶσαν παρεισενέγκαντες ἐπιχορηγήσατε ἐν τῇ πίστει ὑμῶν τὴν ἀρετήν, ἐν δὲ τῇ ἀρετῇ τὴν γνῶσιν, 6ἐν δὲ τῇ γνώσει τὴν ἐγκράτειαν, ἐν δὲ τῇ ἐγκρατείᾳ τὴν ὑπομονήν, ἐν δὲ τῇ ὑπομονῇ τὴν εὐσέβειαν, 7ἐν δὲ τῇ εὐσεβείᾳ τὴν φιλαδελφίαν, ἐν δὲ τῇ φιλαδελφίᾳ τὴν ἀγάπην. 8ταῦτα γὰρ ὑμῖν ⸀ὑπάρχοντα καὶ πλεονάζοντα οὐκ ἀργοὺς οὐδὲ ἀκάρπους καθίστησιν εἰς τὴν τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐπίγνωσιν· 9ᾧ γὰρ μὴ πάρεστιν ταῦτα, τυφλός ἐστιν μυωπάζων λήθην λαβὼν τοῦ καθαρισμοῦ τῶν πάλαι αὐτοῦ ἁμαρτιῶν. 10διὸ μᾶλλον, ἀδελφοί, σπουδάσατε βεβαίαν ὑμῶν τὴν κλῆσιν καὶ ἐκλογὴν ποιεῖσθαι· ταῦτα γὰρ ποιοῦντες οὐ μὴ πταίσητέ ποτε. 11οὕτως γὰρ πλουσίως ἐπιχορηγηθήσεται ὑμῖν ἡ εἴσοδος ⸆ εἰς τὴν αἰώνιον βασιλείαν τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν καὶ σωτῆρος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ (Kurt Aland et al., Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th Edition. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012), 2 Pe 1:3–11).

vv. 3–4: Sanctification Is The Work Of God’s Grace

The style of 1 and 2 Peter are different but the theology and pattern of teaching unites them. The secretarial hand differs but the authorship is constant. This epistle is Peter’s. It teaches his theology, his way of reading Scripture (hermeneutics), and his pastoral concerns.

Peter uses difficult language here. As Calvin says in his commentary on this passage, the Apostle might have spoken more simply, but to press home his point he adds a powerful phrase on which we need to meditate.1

“Since, of his divine power…become partakers of the divine nature” These two phrases must be taken together since the second depends on the first and both are further explained in vv. 5–8. Put simply, Peter is explaining sanctification, which is begun in this life and consummated in glorification. Sanctification and glorification are on a continuum. Both are the work of the Triune God and especially the Holy Spirit. In 1 Peter 1:2 it is the Spirit particularly who is the source of sanctification (ἁγιασμῷ πνεύματος).

There are two great aspects to the Christian life in this world: justification and sanctification. Calvin called them the “twofold grace of God” (duplex gratia Dei). His student Caspar Olevianus wrote of the “double benefit” (duplex beneficium) of the covenant of grace. Both benefits are graces, i.e., divines gifts freely given by God to his elect.

In this sense, then, Peter says that we are “partakers” or “sharers” in the divine nature. What we may not do is to import the Platonic ladder of being into Peter’s thought. It is a great temptation to isolate vv. 3–4 and build on them a doctrine of human ascension into the deity or a doctrine of the translation of humans into deity. Nothing could be farther from Peter’s mind. Calvin explains:

But the word nature is not here essence but quality….There are also at this day fanatics who imagine that we thus pass over into the nature of God, so that his swallows up our nature. Thus they explain what Paul says, that God will be all in all (1 Cor. 15:28,) and in the same sense they take this passage. But such a delirium as this never entered the minds of the holy Apostles; they only intended to say that when divested of all the vices of the flesh, we shall be partakers of divine and blessed immortality and glory, so as to be as it were one with God as far as our capacities will allow (Calvin, Commentary on the Catholic Epistles).

That much is clear in v. 3. What has been given to believers? “All things necessary for [spiritual] life and piety.” Further, these things have not been conferred magically or mechanically (e.g., merely by the application of baptism as in the ex opere view) but rather “through the knowledge of him who called us.

It is the Holy Spirit especially who grants us new life (John 3:7)—he is the Spirit who hovered over the face of the waters (Gen 1:1). He is the “Lord and giver of life” (Nicene Creed). It is the Spirit who, through the instrument of faith, who unites us to Christ. By that union we become bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh. It is not for nothing that we are called the body of Christ.

Peter is teaching us about progressive sanctification, that gradual, gracious work of the Spirit in putting to death in us the old man (mortification) and making alive in us the new (vivification). That work happens by divine power. By our union with Christ, the divine power and the divine nature produce in us real, genuine life and piety. That is part of the grace of salvation. It is a necessary consequence of the grace of justification. It is that grace that is preparing us for glorification.

This is the chief end of man (Westminster Shorter Catechism 1), to glorify God and enjoy him in blessed fellowship forever. We were created to that end and we have been redeemed, by grace alone, through faith alone, to the same end: eternal blessedness and fellowship with God in Christ.

Until that time, however, there is living and dying to be done in this life.

Standing On The Promises

honorable and great promises have been given. It is through the gospel promises given to us in Christ that we are made “sharers” or “partakers” by sanctification in the divine nature. The way our theologians put this is to talk about “communicable attributes.” These are distinct from the “incommunicable attributes.” Thus, God communicates the image or likeness, e.g., of his holiness to believers but he does not communicate (share) his immensity or immutability. We might distinguish between the moral attributes and the being (ontological) attributes. Never in Scripture are said to be participate in the divine essence. Even in glorification we always remain creatures made (and renewed) in the divine image.

The purpose or the end of the promises given to us is conformity to God in Christ and that sanctification should result in real change in us. Peter is specific. We should flee from the corruption and concupiscence of the world. He is speaking ethically, not relative to being. Peter was never a monk. He was not counseling us to try to flee to a desert to become monks nor to flee to a monastery to achieve sanctity or union with God. Rather, we are to flee these things “in the world.” We flee them even as we live as resident strangers and aliens.

Remember, for Peter, Noah is the paradigm for the pilgrim. He lived in the world. He served God. He announced God’s Word, his law and his gospel and suffered shame for it, before the world, until the Son came in judgment and salvation by destroying the “world that then was” (2 Pet 3:6) and delivering his people from the judgment into a sort of new world. For Peter, we are in the very same state. We are waiting and serving, in certain hope of the salvation to come. In the mean time we live in way that is appropriate to those who have been redeemed and brought into union with God in Christ.

Peter reminds the congregations of Asia Minor (Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bythinia, that though they were once pagans, they are no longer. So it is with us.

This will have concrete implications for our daily Christian life and the formation of virtue within us. More on this next time.

NOTES

See the entire commentary here: As It Was In The Days Of Noah: A Commentary On 1 and 2 Peter

1. “For the same purpose is the amplification which he makes; for he might have spoken more simply, “As he has freely given us all things.” But by mentioning “divine power,” he rises higher, that is, that God has copiously unfolded the immense resources of his power” John Calvin, Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles, trans. John Owen (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 368.

One comment

  1. Dr. Clark,
    Thank you for reposting this exposition of 1 & 2 Peter. I have read most of it, however this makes the process so much easier. Are you planning a new book?

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