seeing that His divine power has granted to us (1:3a)
Whatever spiritual sufficiency believers have is not because of any power they possess in themselves (cf. Matt. 19:26; Rom. 9:20–21; Eph. 1:19; Phil. 3:7–11; 1 Tim. 1:12–16; Titus 3:5) but derives from His divine power. Paul expressed it this way: “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Eph. 3:20). The power that operates in believers is of the same divine nature as that which resurrected Christ (cf. Rom. 1:4; 1 Cor. 6:14; 15:16–17; 2 Cor. 13:4; Col. 2:12). That power enables saints to do works that please and glorify God (cf. 1 Cor. 3:6–8; Eph. 3:7) and accomplish spiritual things they cannot even imagine (see again Eph. 3:20).
His refers back to the Lord Jesus. If the personal pronoun modified God, Peter probably would not have used the descriptive word divine since deity is inherent in God’s name. His use of divine pointing to the Son underscores that Jesus is truly God (cf. John 10:30; 12:45; Phil. 2:6; Col. 1:16; 2:9; Heb. 1:3) and also refutes any lingering doubt some readers may have had concerning that reality (cf. 1 John 5:20). Peter himself had been an eyewitness to Christ’s divine power (1:16; cf. Mark 5:30; Luke 4:14; 5:17).
God’s supply of spiritual power for believers never fails. They may distance themselves from the divine source through sin, or fail to minister and use what is available, but from the moment they experienced faith in Jesus Christ, God has granted His power to them. Has granted (dedōrēmenēs) is a perfect, passive participle meaning that in the past, with continuing results in the present, God permanently bestowed His power on believers.
everything pertaining to life and godliness, (1:3b)
Because of their constant sins and failures as Christians, many find it hard not to think that even after salvation something is missing in the sanctification process. This faulty idea causes believers to seek “second blessings,” “spirit baptisms,” tongues, mystical experiences, special psychological insights, private revelations, “self crucifixion,” the “deeper life,” heightened emotions, demon bindings, and combinations of various ones of all those in an attempt to attain what is supposedly missing from their spiritual resources. All manner of ignorance and Scripture twisting accompanies those foolish pursuits, which at their corrupt roots are failures to understand exactly what Peter says here. Christians have received everything in the form of divine power necessary to equip them for sanctification—they have no lack at all. In view of that reality, the Lord holds all believers responsible to obey all the commands of Scripture. Christians cannot claim that their sins and failures are the result of God’s limited provision. There is no temptation and no assault of Satan and demons that is beyond their resources to overcome (1 Cor. 10:13; 12:13; 1 Peter 5:10). To stress the extent of the divine power given each believer, Peter makes the amazing statement that saints have received from God everything pertaining to life and godliness. Syntactically, the term everything is in the emphatic position because the Holy Spirit through Peter is stressing the extent of believers’ self-sufficiency.
The great power that gave Christians spiritual life will sustain that life in all its fullness. Without asking for more, they already have every spiritual resource needed to persevere in holy living. Life and godliness define the realm of sanctification, the living of the Christian life on earth to the glory of God—between initial salvation and final glorification. With the gift of new life in Christ (John 3:15–16; 5:24; 6:47; Titus 3:7; 1 John 2:25) came everything related to sustaining that life, all the way to glorification. That is why believers are eternally secure (John 6:35–40; 10:28–29; 2 Cor. 5:1; 1 John 5:13; Jude 1, 24–25) and can be assured God will empower them to persevere to the end (Matt. 24:13; John 8:31; Heb. 3:6, 14; Rev. 2:10), through all temptations, sins, failures, vicissitudes, struggles, and trials of life.
The word translated godliness (eusebeia) encompasses both true reverence in worship and its companion—active obedience. Saints should never question God’s sufficiency, because His grace that is so powerful to save is equally powerful to sustain them and empower them to righteous conduct (Rom. 8:29–30; Phil. 1:6).
through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. (1:3c)
In light of the divine power and provision available to Christians, the question then arises, “How does one experience those to the fullest?” The apostle indicates that it is through the true knowledge of Him. Knowledge (epignōsis) refers to a knowledge that is deep and genuine. The word is sometimes used interchangeably with the more basic term gnōsis, which means simply knowledge. But Peter is referring to more than a superficial knowledge of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Christ Himself warned of the peril of an inadequate knowledge of Him, even for those who minister in His name:
Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” (Matt. 7:21–23; cf. Luke 6:46)
Personal saving knowledge of the Lord is the obvious beginning point for believers, and as with everything in the Christian life, it comes from Him who called them (John 3:27; Rom. 2:4; 1 Cor. 4:7; cf. Jonah 2:9). Theologically, God’s call comprises two aspects: the general call and the effectual call. Theologian Charles M. Horne succinctly defined the two aspects as follows:
The general call is a call which comes through the proclamation of the gospel: it is a call which urges sinners to accept salvation. “On the last day, the great day, of the feast, Jesus stood and cried aloud, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink’ ” (Jn 7:37, Williams; cf. Mt 11:28; Is 45:22; etc.).
This message (kerygma), which is to be authoritatively proclaimed—not optionally debated—contains three essential elements: (1) It is a story of historical occurrences—an historical proclamation: Christ died, was buried, and rose (1 Co 15:3–4). (2) It is an authoritative interpretation of these events—a theological evaluation. Christ died for our sins. (3) It is an offer of salvation to whosoever will—an ethical summons. Repent! Believe!
The general call is to be freely and universally offered. “Jesus came up … and said, ‘Full authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go then and make disciples of all the nations’ ” (Mt 28:18–19, Williams).
The effectual call is efficacious; that is, it always results in salvation. This is a creative calling which accompanies the external proclamation of the gospel; it is invested with the power to deliver one to the divinely intended destination. “It is very striking that in the New Testament the terms for calling, when used specifically with reference to salvation, are almost uniformly applied, not to the universal call of the gospel, but to the call that ushers men into a state of salvation and is therefore effectual.” [John Murray, Redemption—Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955), p. 88.]
Perhaps the classic passage on the effectual call is found in Romans 8:30: “Whom he did predestinate, them he also called” (kjv). Other pertinent references include: Romans 1:6–7; 1 Corinthians 1:9, 26; 2 Peter 1:10.
The efficacious call is immutable, thereby insuring our perseverance. “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Ro 11:29, nasb). (Salvation [Chicago: Moody, 1971], 47–48; italics in original. See also these other New Testament references: John 1:12–13; 3:3–8; 6:37, 44–45, 64–65; Acts 16:14; Eph. 2:1, 5, 10; Col. 2:13; 1 Thess. 1:4–5; 2 Tim. 1:9; Titus 3:5.)
As in all appearances of this call in the epistles, Peter’s use of called here clearly refers to the effectual and irresistible call to salvation.
God effects His saving call through the revealed majesty of His own Son. Sinners are drawn by the glory and excellence of Jesus Christ. In Scripture glory always belongs to God alone (cf. Ex. 15:11; Deut. 28:58; Pss. 8:1; 19:1; 57:5; 93:1; 104:1; 138:5; 145:5; Isa. 6:3; 42:8, 12; 48:11; 59:19; Heb. 1:3; Rev. 21:11, 23). Thus when sinners see the glory of Christ they are witnessing His deity (cf. Luke 9:27–36; John 1:3–5, 14). Unless through the preaching of the gospel (Rom. 10:14–17) they realize who Christ is (the glorious Son of God who is Savior; cf. John 20:30–31; 2 Peter 1:16–18), and understand their need for repentance, so as to come to Him in faith, pleading for salvation, sinners cannot escape hell and enter heaven.
So, when God draws sinners to Himself, they see not only Christ’s glory as God, but also His excellence as man. That refers to His morally virtuous life and His perfect humanity (cf. Matt. 20:28; Luke 2:52; 22:27; 2 Cor. 8:9; Phil. 2:7; Heb. 2:17; 4:15; 7:26; 1 Peter 2:21–23; 1 John 3:3). All salvation blessings, power, and provision come only to those who see and believe the words and acts of the sinless God/Man (cf. John 14:7–10; Acts 2:22; 1 Cor. 15:47; 1 John 1:1–2; 5:20).
To know God (v. 3)
The greatest need for any person in the world is to be given the power to know God personally. What type of power is being considered here?
In New Testament Greek, the word we have translated here as ‘power’ is dunamis, from which the word dynamite is derived. Care must be taken, though, lest a wrong impression is gained, for the Word of God is not destructive even though it is explosive. The power to live as Christian believers is through a knowledge of God that is personal and intimate.
At times it is tempting to ask the question: ‘Is God strong enough to save and keep me, both now and for evermore?’ The answer according to Peter is a resounding ‘Yes!’ for God displays dunamis, dynamic power, to save and protect those who are his both now in time and on into eternity.
A misuse of the Bible
Peter the Hermit was a charismatic preacher from Picardy, France, who claimed to have a letter from heaven authorizing the First Crusade to the Holy Land in 1096. He held out the promise of spiritual reward and the cleansing of sin for all who took part, and coupled with the thought of adventure this proved to be a heady mix. Married men, however, were forbidden to leave without their wives’ permission. One woman was so determined to stop her husband hearing this preacher that she locked him in the home; but when he heard through an open window what was on offer, he jumped out and joined the crusade.
Alas, such foolishness does not lead to powerful living for God; for the one who is truly in tune with God lives a godly life in accordance with God’s Word, empowered by his Spirit.
The need to trust God
God has used his great power in giving and preserving his Word, the Bible, and it is full of ‘great and precious promises’ (v. 4). Peter encourages not only a knowledge and love of the Scriptures, but also a living experience of God’s promises in the everyday life of his readers.
Jesus promised that he would live with his people (John 14:23), enabling them to become increasingly Christlike (2 Cor. 3:18). So the Word of God transforms the people of God so that they become living letters, testifying to the promises of God (see 2 Cor. 3:2–3).
This is all possible because participation in the divine nature—being part of the body of Christ—means that the corrupting influences of the world are removed, and godliness instead of godlessness becomes the motivating factor. This will ultimately lead to the restoration of perfect fellowship with God in the life to come.
A good question!
Some may ask, ‘Why has God gone to all this trouble?’ He has done so to enable those who have been created in his image, but who fell because of sin and disobedience, to escape hell for all eternity. Out of gratitude these people are now to live victorious Christian lives in a difficult world through the power of the Holy Spirit, as a testimony to God’s love.
John Bunyan, in The Pilgrim’s Progress, pictures the two pilgrims, Christian and Hopeful, languishing in the dungeon of Doubting Castle, which is owned by Giant Despair. Bunyan wrote:
Christian said to Hopeful, ‘What a fool I am, to lie here in this stinking Dungeon when I might walk free on the highway to glory!’
Then Christian took the key of Promise and pushed it into the lock of the dungeon door. The bolt fell back and the door came open. They walked out into the castle. Then they went to the door leading to the castle yard. The key opened that door also. Now they came to the great iron gate leading outside. The lock to the gate was exceedingly difficult, yet they unlocked it and pushed open the gate to make their escape. But the gate made such a creaking sound that it woke the giant, who jumped out of bed to pursue his prisoners. Then he was seized by one of his fits and lost the use of his limbs. The prisoners ran to the King’s highway, where they were safely beyond Giant Despair’s jurisdiction.
Peter desired that all of God’s people should be kept from doubt and despair by standing on the promises of Christ their Lord, a truth outlined in the following hymn:
Standing on the promises of Christ my King,
Through eternal ages let his praises ring;
Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,
Standing on the promises of God.
Standing on the promises of God my Saviour;
I’m standing on the promises of God.
Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
By the living Word of God I shall prevail,
Standing on the promises of God.
Standing on the promises I now can see
Perfect, present cleansing in the blood for me;
Standing in the liberty where Christ makes free,
Standing on the promises of God.
Standing on the promises of Christ the Lord,
Bound to him eternally by love’s strong cord,
Overcoming daily with the Spirit’s sword,
Standing on the promises of God.
Standing on the promises I cannot fall,
Listening every moment to the Spirit’s call,
Resting in my Saviour as my all in all,
Standing on the promises of God.
1:3 / After the conventional opening, Peter launches straight into his message. First, he sets out the Christian truths on which he is going to base his argument. Peter picks up the theme of “the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” included in his greeting (v. 2) and expounds what that means.
His divine power, i.e., the power of God shared by and active through Jesus, has given us, has bestowed upon us, everything we need for life and godliness. The last phrase is a hendiadys for “a godly life” (for hendiadys, see Additional Note on 1 Pet. 2:25). All that is needful for the believer to live the life that God intends is available in Christ (John 10:10; 2 Cor. 12:9).
The divine provision of everything we need for living a godly life is initially the free gift of God’s unmerited grace. But we have to cooperate with God by taking it up from there and “make every effort” (v. 5). Bengel refers to the parable of the Ten Virgins (Matt. 25:1–13) and remarks: “The flame is that which is imparted to us by God and from God, without any labour on our part; but the oil is that which man ought to add by his own diligence and faithfulness, that the flame may be fed and increased. Thus the matter is set forth without a parable in this passage of Peter: in verses 3 and 4 we have the flame; but in verses 5 and 6, and those which follow, we have that which man himself ought to add [lit. to pour upon it], the presence of divine grace being presupposed” See Bengel, Gnomen, vol. 5, pp. 85–86.
This divine provision, Peter reminds his readers, comes through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. The call of Christ is initially to personal faith in him. But it is a call repeated all through the believer’s life, a call to a deeper and richer understanding of the Person of Christ, and of his demands for spiritual growth and service. That first call to faith, which resulted in the conversion of the readers, came by means of Christ’s own (idia, unique) glory and goodness. The niv translation goodness for aretē is mild. Basically, aretē is that which expresses worth. Applied to human beings, it means moral goodness (as in 1:5; “virtue” in kjv). Applied to God (as here in v. 3), it means that which manifests divine miracle-working power for good.
The power of Jesus Christ (1:3)
This is one of the relatively few occasions on which the New Testament actually calls Jesus divine, and it is for a reason. Even people with no religious commitment may speak of their religious experiences, and some church people affirm these as genuine encounters with God. Peter will not rest with such diplomatic generalizations, because he wants to anchor everything to Jesus Christ, who uniquely has divine power. The idea of God’s power is a frequent one in the Bible, covering every major stage in the history of God’s people. Peter wants to make that link between Jesus and the great acts of God in the past, and to remind us of the power that accompanied Jesus’ ministry. But two clues show that he is also working within a secular environment. First, although the phrase ‘divine power’ does not echo any particular phrase in the Bible, it was very frequent in contemporary secular writing. Secondly, although the word ‘divine’ is confined in the New Testament to this letter and Paul’s speech in Athens, it was common currency outside.9 It is repeated in verse 4 in the phrase divine nature, and the two phrases form a bracket around this paragraph. The word, theios, could be used by the apostles either in order to put their thoughts into words that non-Christians would understand or, as here, to show how some of the Christians’ ideas were shading off into paganism.
For the first time the question is becoming clear, and it is one that is not confined to Peter’s time. Is the power of Jesus Christ sufficient on its own to strengthen the resolve of anxious and tempted Christians in a tough and attractively pagan world? Peter’s answer is that Jesus’ power is more than adequate, for Jesus not only sets the highest standards for Christians to live up to, he also gives the resources to meet those standards, and in the end he will defeat the forces who oppose him. Everything hangs on that last point, for if Jesus does not have the ultimate power to enforce his rightful rule, then it is really no power at all. People look back to Jesus’ remarkable teaching and miracles, and rightly think that they see there the great power of God. But Peter sees a greater working of Jesus’ divine power in the seemingly unimpressive reality of men and women able to live lives that honour Jesus. People look back to the Jewish carpenter friend of Peter, whose dreams led to the cross in weakness; but Peter looked forward as well, to Jesus’ mighty return as King and Judge. ‘The dunamis, power and authority of Christ, is the sword which St Peter holds over the head of the false teachers.’
- Jesus Christ sets the challenge for us
Jesus Christ sets high standards in life and godliness, which are best thought of not as two things but one, a ‘godly life’. Those high standards were apparent throughout his life and teaching, and nowhere more clearly than in the Sermon on the Mount. There he said that ‘unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven’.12 We are so used to hearing Jesus’ religious contemporaries marked low for their standards that it comes as something of a shock to realize that Jesus meant this as an awesome warning. The people to whom he spoke assumed that the Pharisees and teachers of the law were the very model of scrupulous perfection, and to be required to exceed that standard was breathtakingly ambitious and radical. Jesus had shown that those Pharisees who were spiritually open enough to want to learn from him had to go further. The Pharisee Nicodemus had to be ‘born again’, and the teacher of the law who agreed with Jesus on God’s standards was told only that he was ‘not far from the kingdom of God’. Jesus taught that the Pharisees’ perfection was inadequate because it was built on reconstructing the law so as to demand the least of themselves. He reconstructed it to demand the most, and he made that standard irrevocable. That level of positive perfection is the godly life.
Such a standard seems hopelessly naïve, because ordinary human beings are not necessarily noble or altruistic. Some suggest a lower standard that more people can reach. But in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is not setting out a new and more demanding code of ethics that only a few disciplined ascetics can achieve. Rather, he is redefining the people of God. They are the people who recognize him as their lawgiver, who come to him not on the basis of their perfection or strength but in their imperfection and weakness. They are men and women who ask for forgiveness, not approval, and their perfection is not interior and invisible, but worked out in everyday life.
The word translated godliness is eusebeia, the word ordinary non-Christians would use to describe what they would hope to be the results of their religious practices in observable holiness. It spoke of decency, honesty, trust and integrity, and could mean something that a religious person has earned or deserved. Peter had encountered that misunderstanding in the first few months of Christian leadership, when a man’s miraculous healing was causing a stir. The people were thinking that Peter must be a very good man, since God used him in this way. Instead, Peter directs them to Jesus. ‘Why do you stare at us as if by our own power (dynamis) or godliness (eusebeia) we had made this man walk?’ Because it has this overtone of man-made piety, it is a word the New Testament normally avoids;16 but it has a sharp significance in an environment where non-Christians were becoming scandalized at the immorality of church leaders (2:2). The ordinary Christian, faced with a battle against sin, could easily give in to despair. Are we to follow those who claim to be our leaders but clearly lead us into sin? Are they right in teaching us that fighting sin is an outdated battle? Peter says that the quality of a Christian’s discipleship should be so evident that non-Christians should be able to watch us reaching, and even surpassing, their highest standards of life and godliness.
- Jesus Christ meets the challenge for us
If the high expectations of the New Testament are not watered down, the average Christian is left feeling massively daunted. Peter’s answer to that inadequacy is that Jesus Christ has given us everything we need for life and godliness. This is a slight under-translation, because has given renders dōreomai, which can mean a generous imperial gift, or even volunteering for service. It underlines the graciousness and generosity of the giver. Jesus Christ has generously given all that could ever be required to be godly. Merely by being Christians, we are in touch with everything we need to live a godly life. That supremely important word ‘everything’ is both a tremendous encouragement and a tremendous warning.
It is encouragement because it means that there is nothing extra to find out or gain access to than we have already obtained just through being Christians. The gospel is sufficient for us to meet God’s requirements. If there is a major scientific, artistic, moral or philosophical question, or even a matter of personal decision-making, which the Bible does not address, then we have to assume that although it may be intriguing and important from a human perspective, it is irrelevant to the quest for a godly life. God has made his directions for life perfectly clear and sufficient, for he has given us everything we need, and that provides a clear view on what is centrally important in his plan and what is relatively trivial.
There will always be people who want to supplement the work of Christ with extra teaching, and convince us that we are living less than Christian lives, while their particular form of teaching is the ingredient missing from traditional Christianity. It takes different forms: Christ plus healing, Christ plus success, Christ plus prosperity, Christ plus counselling, Christ plus an overwhelming experience. Anxious Christians may spend many years going through these, searching for an assurance that is already theirs in Christ. Simply by being Christians we have access to everything we need to live a life that pleases God. Those who want to add to that are false teachers.
That sufficiency of Christ is good news. But the tremendous warning these words contain is that we have to face up to our accountability to him. We cannot blame God for not making us godly enough or not making his will clear enough, for we already have everything we need. A godly life is not something that only a few super-saints are destined to achieve, for Peter says it is well within the reach of the ordinary Christian. There is no point in seeking a special secret of sanctification that will transform us into godly people in a faster way than ordinary Christian obedience. There is no other way. If there were, it would mean that the death of Christ is sufficient to save but insufficient to sanctify. Peter will lay out later how to live a godly life (verses 5–11), and it will be a matter of hard submission to God’s Word. The Christian who is not godly has only one person to blame.
We gain access to the remarkable resource that will enable us to meet this daunting challenge through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. This is again the knowledge of Jesus Christ that comes when we are converted (‘epignōsis knowledge’), and which is the birthright of every Christian. We are not to look for the source of that knowledge in our experience of conversion, however, for Peter ties it back to the ministry of Jesus. All the apostles had an especially clear memory of being called by Jesus, but the we and us must mean that Peter remembered a moment when Jesus called all Christians. Perhaps he recollected the occasion on which Jesus gave the invitation, ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’20 We may remember having responded to that invitation at a particular time, but it would be wrong to identify that event with the moment we were called. We have a vital link with the historical Jesus.
Peter underlines that truth by saying that the way Jesus called us was by his own glory and goodness (and perhaps again it is right to combine the two words and talk of Jesus’ ‘glorious goodness’). What has attracted men and women to Jesus Christ for nearly two thousand years is his unique ability to reflect the glory and goodness of the invisible God22 into our visible and fallen world. Goodness, aretē, is another common word from Greek religion, which also makes Old Testament appearances, partnered, as it is here, by the word glory. The two words could be merely synonyms. But ‘goodness’ here probably means ‘a manifestation of divine power, [a] miracle’.24 Peter does not want to focus on Jesus’ goodness in the abstract, but in the reality of what God has done and achieved. That forces us back to Jesus’ life, teaching, example and miracles, and to his transfiguration, which will be so central to this letter. Above all, it forces us back to the great manifestation of God’s power in Jesus’ death and resurrection. In other words, people may seem to become Christians because they find Jesus’ ministry deeply attractive, but underneath that, Peter says, is the saving work of Christ which has called us into fellowship with the Father, and it is only through the cross that we have knowledge of him.
The false teachers threatening the churches to which Peter is writing found this idea of high standards an unnecessary burden. They collected followers by ‘appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature’ instead (2:18). The reason, which will become clearer in chapter 2, is that they denied that Jesus Christ has any power to judge, in which case there is no reason to live up to his exacting standards. They saw non-Christians all around them living a life which was the total opposite of Jesus’ standards and yet thoroughly enjoying themselves, and that made them feel privately envious. They began to wish that Christians did not have to stand out from the crowd. They had started to argue that Christian theology and morality should develop and grow over time, and that it should lose some of what they might have called its primitive judgmentalism. Peter is firm in reply. No, he says, the Jesus who will return to judge will measure us by the standards he has left us and which he has equipped us to fulfil.
1:3. The same one who calls us, that is, who invites us by grace to be a part of his kingdom, also enables us to change or to grow spiritually. Life and godliness together are best understood as referring to a godly life. This is the destination toward which the transformation will take a follower of Christ. A godly life includes two primary ideas. First, it describes an attitude of reverence in the presence of one who is majestic and divine. Secondly, a godly life describes actions of obedience. At the heart of godly living and spiritual transformation is an attitude of reverence toward God and actions of obedience.
The source of strength that enables the believer to move in this direction is His divine power. These words describe the work of God’s Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. He provides the believer with gifts and the ability to use those gifts. God’s design is that through the power of the Holy Spirit, the believer is assisted in living a godly life.
This process is assisted through our knowledge of him who called us. As in verse 2, this refers to the believer’s personal knowledge of Jesus Christ and to a growing relationship with him. The more we come to know Jesus Christ in a personal way, the more we begin to understand who he really is and what he has done for us. As we grow in this kind of understanding, we begin to appreciate his divine power that assists us in growing spiritually.
3. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
Some translations, including the New International Version, omit the first Greek word in this verse. The versions that translate this word have the reading according as (KJV), seeing that (NASB), as (NKJV), or for (MLB). These translators use it as a bridge between the salutation (v. 2) and this verse.
- “His divine power has given us everything we need.” To whom is Peter referring when he writes, “his divine power”? Commentators have different opinions. Some say that this is a reference to God, but that the pronouns him (“knowledge of him”) and his (“his own glory”) relate to Christ. Others say that Peter is thinking of Christ; first, because Jesus is mentioned in the preceding text, and second, because the entire epistle is an exposition of Jesus’ deity (e.g., see v. 1). Perhaps we can say that in this verse Peter fails to present a clear distinction between God and Jesus and, therefore, that we ought to refrain from being dogmatic.
The words divine power describe “the godhead and everything that belongs to it.” They are an example of the Hebrew fondness for using a circumlocution to avoid mentioning the name of God. Because of his divine power, God has given us everything we need. This is an amazing statement! In fact, in this introductory verse of the epistle we encounter a wonderful cheerfulness.20 Peter exclaims that he and the readers are the recipients of untold blessings; the word everything sums up this idea.
- “For life and godliness.” Observe that God has granted and continues to grant us “everything for life and godliness.” He wants us to live in harmony with his Word by honoring, loving, and serving him. Eternal life is not an ideal that becomes reality when we depart from this earthly scene. On the contrary, we possess eternal life through our daily exercise of living for God and our fellow man. By obeying God’s will in our lives we practice godliness and experience the possession of eternal life.
- “Through our knowledge of him who called us.” Peter tells the readers of his epistle that God grants them everything they need to enjoy life in his service. He indicates that God grants his gifts liberally “through our knowledge of him.” Once again Peter speaks of knowledge (see v. 2) and informs us that God makes his gifts available to us when we come to know him. Knowledge is a basic concept in Peter’s epistle.
The question is whether the phrase knowledge of him applies to God or to Christ. If we understand the pronoun to refer to Christ, then we have to conclude that the word us refers to the apostles. But the pronoun us in the first part of verse 3 is all-inclusive, for Peter speaks of himself and the readers. Should we interpret the pronoun to apply only to the apostles and not to the readers, we would negate the statements on equality within the church, which Peter teaches by implication in the first two verses of this epistle. We expect, however, that Peter is consistent in the use of this pronoun. Accordingly, we understand the word him to point to God and not to Christ. John Calvin observes that Peter “makes God the author of this knowledge, because we never go to him except when called.” God has called us, through Christ, to salvation (compare Rom. 8:28, 30; 1 Peter 1:15; 2:9; 5:10). And last, in the broader context of this chapter, Peter once more mentions the calling of the readers; he writes, “Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure” (v. 10).
- “By his own glory and goodness.” The act of calling us is a demonstration of God’s own glory and goodness. These two characteristics are highly personal; the adjective own modifies both terms. Moreover, the two terms, although in a sense synonymous, differ. We are able to observe glory with our eyes (compare John 1:14), and we become aware of goodness (praise) with our minds and hearts. Conclusively, God reveals his essential being through visible glory and he displays his goodness in his deeds.
1:3 This passage should be of immense interest to every Christian because it tells how we can keep from falling in this life and how we can be assured of a triumphal entry into the next.
First we are assured that God has made full provision for us to have a life of holiness. This provision is said to be an evidence of His power: His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness. Just as His power saves us in the first place, so His power energizes us to live holy lives from then on. The order is—first life, then godliness. The gospel is the power of God to save from the penalty of sin and from its power, from damnation and from defilement.
The all things that pertain to life and godliness include the high priestly work of Christ, the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the activity of angelic agencies on our behalf, the new life we receive at conversion, and the instruction of the word of God.
The power to live a holy life comes through the knowledge of Him who called us. Just as His divine power is the source of holiness, so the knowledge of Him is the channel. To know Him is eternal life (John 17:3) and progress in knowing Him is progress in holiness. The better we get to know Him, the more we become like Him.
Our calling is one of Peter’s favorite themes. He reminds us that: (1) We have been called out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Pet. 2:9). (2) We have been called to follow Christ in a pathway of suffering (1 Pet. 2:21). (3) We have been called to return blessing for reviling (1 Pet. 3:9). (4) We have been called to his eternal glory (1 Pet. 5:10). (5) We have been called by glory and virtue (2 Pet. 1:3). This last reference means that He called us by revealing to us the wonders of His Person. Saul of Tarsus was called on the road to Damascus when he saw the glory of God. A later disciple testified, “I looked into His face and was forever spoiled for anything that was unlike Him.” He was called by His glory and excellence.
3 By his own glory and goodness refers to the divine character and high moral quality of the life and person of Jesus which drew Peter to follow him and formed the basis of preaching to those who had not seen Jesus in the flesh. Some translations read ‘to his own glory …’ seeing this as the purpose for which we are called, but this is less likely. Peter may be thinking of the transfiguration when he speaks of the glory of Jesus, and of his own call (Lk. 5:1–11) when he mentions his goodness, but it is more likely that he has in mind the total impact of Jesus on anyone coming to faith (cf. Jn. 1:14). The same word is used in this sense in 1 Pet. 2:9 where it is translated ‘praises’.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2005). 2 Peter and Jude (pp. 26–30). Chicago: Moody Publishers.
 Anderson, C. (2007). Opening up 2 Peter (pp. 20–24). Leominster: Day One Publications.
 Hillyer, N. (2011). 1 and 2 Peter, Jude (pp. 160–161). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
 Lucas, R. C., & Green, C. (1995). The message of 2 Peter & Jude: the promise of His coming (pp. 45–50). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
 Walls, D., & Anders, M. (1999). I & II Peter, I, II & III John, Jude (Vol. 11, pp. 108–109). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
 Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and the Epistle of Jude (Vol. 16, pp. 245–247). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 2287–2288). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 Wheaton, D. H. (1994). 2 Peter. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 1389). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.