The Christian life is one of inward peace, vv. 1-3; upward progress, vv. 4-7; governing purpose, vv. 8-12; gracious privilege, vv. 16-18; guiding prophesy, w. 19-21; and glorious prospect — the coming of the Lord, v. 16.
We need to realize there is no aristocracy of faith. A great apostle and an obscure convert have common footing before God. We all receive the same benefits of redemption impartially, and all have the same open door to endless growth in the knowledge of the Saviour. In spiritual experience, Simon is the old man, Peter the new man. “Bondman” Peter was caught, controlled and captivated by his Lord. He belonged wholly to his Master, and was at His disposal to do with him what He would, 1 Cor. 6. 19.
Faith is the subjective basis of all Christian experience. Because faith begins with knowing, we find frequent emphasis upon “knowledge”, 2 Pet. 1. 2, 3; 3. 18. Multiplication of grace and peace is obtained in the sphere of the knowledge of God. In no instance in the New Testament is divine knowledge divorced from Christ. In Him all its treasures are stored,Col.2.8; 2 Cor. 4.6.
The inexhaustible supply in verse 3 opens the door to the inestimable wealth in verse 4. Divine power provides everything necessary for life and godliness, and a divine Person pledges these promises. Divine power commences, continues and completes all that God has purposed, and it all becomes available to us in union with our Lord.
There must be a human response to such rich provision, and the call is for diligence. Holiness calls for earnestness, industry and perseverance on our part, “In your faith supply virtue”. There must be employment of our spiritual endowment.
These seven virtues set before us the natural progress, the notable purpose, and the needful perseverance, all of which are obligatory. Here is a heavenly ladder set up on the Christian highway: beginning with faith, it is crowned with love. Two preparatory additions, moral force and practical wisdom. Faith to achieve and to endure, to triumph and to suffer in the will of God. Faith must issue in resolution, or strong purpose, if it is to be fruitful. Faith is the attitude of dependence, and devotion rightly directed, and is the only reasonable attitude towards a righteous God. Virtue is manly energy, or courage to do what is right, and calls for resolution, Phil. 4. 8; 1 Pet. 2. 9. Faith must combine zeal with good sense. The impact of Christ’s character on us leads to commitment, v. 3, and this same quality of life is to be worked out in our lives. These first two graces are active, and we cannot dispense with knowledge. This is the steersman of the ship, which prevents zeal from landing our craft on the rocks.
The second two graces, temperance and patience, are passive or defensive additions. Self-control is described by Jeremy Taylor as “reason’s girdle as well as passion’s bridle”. This is a day of extremes, and Christians must avoid extremes. We should demonstrate by moderation that we are daily under the government of Christ, and the guidance of the Spirit of God. Do not be like Samson.
Patience is the power over that which is without; endurance is the temper of mind which is unmoved by difficulties and distress. True faith endures, Rom. 5. 1-3. Patience has two elements, endurance and perseverance. Job is a classical example of fortitude under trial; he was never beaten by disappointment, nor baffled by apparent misfortune.
There follow three aggressive additions, “godliness”, “brotherly kindness” and love. These concern us in our relation to God, to fellow believers, and to the world. Godliness embraces reverence for the Lord, and that awareness of Him, which are at the heart of true piety. We should faithfully represent the character of God. Grace makes us fit for heaven, godliness makes us fit for earth. True reverence, and real piety are ata discount today.
“Kindness” is manward, as “godliness” is Godward. It is a protection against a hard self-righteousness. It is restrained in judgment of others, considerate, unselfish, merciful. It is the most distinguishing mark of new life, John 13. 34, 35.
There is nothing higher than love, for God is love; it is to be the general attitude to all men. A fuller conception of love will deliver our love of the brethren from becoming narrowed into a parochial channel of exclusive sentiment. With these virtues, Christian character finds poise and spiritual equanimity.
The importance of character as the result of persistent action cannot be too overrated. Peter adopts the concept by setting forth in sharp contrast two classes of people, distinguished by their fruitbearing; see Matt. 7. 20. Fruit can indicate either the kind of tree, or the health of the tree as in verse 8. Peter wanted his readers to put their memory to the highest use, in order that they might hold to the truth about Jesus Christ, and to His glorious return. When truth is forgotten, there are always harmful moral consequences.
Depth and reality of character as the result of diligence will be productive, and our lives will be established. This will shield us from spiritual short-sightedness, seeing only what is near at hand. Lack of diligence will result in lack of spiritual power, perception and privilege, so be not indolent. A short-sighted saint has forgotten that he was purged from his sins, John 13. 10; Heb. 10. 2. We have a worthy goal and the urgency of Peter’s plea should encourage us to live for God. Diligence assures us of present steadiness and ultimate triumph, 2 Pet. 1.11.
Peter as a witness was devout, determined, diligent, and definite in his purpose. He thought it worthwhile to be going over the same truths again. He knew dangers faced by believers, and would inspire their enthusiasm by his experience. “Established” is the word the Lord used when he addressed Peter, Luke 22. 32. Truth is given to strengthen and Peter is doing the very work His Master commanded. If the past inspires enthusiasm, the present enjoins earnestness, v. 13. The word “tabernacle” and “decease” are reminiscent of the transfiguration, vv. 14, 15. Peter’s attitude to death is refreshing; it means entry into the Lord’s presence beyond the grave.
Peter’s message was a divine revelation, and his methods were not marked by trickery, skilfully trying to deceive, Tit. 1. 14. The substance of his message was “the power and coming of our Lord Jesus”, His coming with power and great glory, Matt. 24. 30, namely His regal advent. Peter was a personal witness of the realities of the revelation of Christ. He had personal knowledge and experience of the splendour on “the holy mount”. The transfiguration was the second advent in miniature, Matt. 17. 1-8, the pledge and earnest of that which was afterwards to be revealed, 2 Pet. 1. 16. “Majesty” expresses the divine majesty of Christ revealed in the transfiguration of Jesus.
The message is corroborated by God, “honour” referring to the attesting voice of God saying “my beloved Son”; “glory” referring to the light which enveloped the Person of Christ. The three apostles saw and heard, and were therefore ear-witnesses as well as eyewitnesses. The voice of the Father finally settled Christ’s identity, and for ever sealed His victorious humanity as being absolutely holy and altogether perfect.
We have heard the voice of Peter, the voice of the Father, and now we are directed to the voice of prophecy, or of Scripture. The prophetic word is now perfected; no greater confirmation could be given. May we rest today, not upon startling voice or sensational vision, but upon the unerring Word of God which does not depend on any human witness. This is now the sole and all-sufficient authority for faith and practice. The written Word has been proved inspired by fulfilment, v. 19a. It is not only sure, but shines in a dark, squalid, gloomy place. Verses 20-21 are classic references to the inspiration of the Scriptures.
Peter is referring to the initial giving of the revelation to man, not the interpretation of the message by man. It is the prophet’s grasp of the prophecy, not that of the readers that is here in view, v. 21. The emphasis is upon the origin, not upon the meaning of Scripture. The prophetic word calls for attention and careful study —“take heed”, v. 19.
The apostles and prophets are one in their witness to Christ. They were under a divine influence which was above human capacity and effort. The Spirit who inspired must interpret; we need today, as then, the illumination of the Spirit. Holy Scripture is Spirit-taught and Spirit-learned; thus Peter warns against misinterpretation of the Word of God. May we like the prophets be passive instruments in the hand of the Spirit of God.
The foundations of spiritual assurance are safe, sure and strong, namely, prophetic revelation, vv. 19-21; apostolic confirmation, vv. 16-18; and personal attestation, vv. 12, 19. Listen and learn each day.