Discuss!: 2 Peter 1:3

I have been talking over a really challenging section of Scripture with a number of people recently. The passage is 2 Peter 1:3-11. I’m interested in hearing what stands out to you from this passage.

Share your thoughts here!

3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature,having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 1:3-11 (NIV)

9 thoughts on “Discuss!: 2 Peter 1:3

  1. I feel that these verses say so much about who we as Christians should strive to be, how we should strive to live. It’s also a bit overwhelming because God expects so much and wants us to show our best selves…and loves us even when we falter. What a blessing that is.

  2. This goes against modern tendencies to think that everything is instantaneous. This is a process. A new believer is not instantly mature. Both a new believer and those in the church need to understand that becoming a fully formed, mature believer takes time and is a process. There is a responsibility to take certain steps, but elsewhere it is clear we don’t take them alone, but in the strength of the Holy Spirit. Knowledge leads to self-control which leads to perseverance. Perseverance is not instantaneous, but is expressed in the presence of difficult and uncomfortable circumstances. Otherwise, it wouldn’t take perseverance.

    • Thank you so much for that emphasis upon perseverance, Jan. That’s why I love Eugene Peterson’s description of the Christian life as “a long obedience in the same direction.”

  3. The first thing that strikes me is how poorly I claim the promises of God. If I have everything I need to live a godly life, how come I don’t seem to be all that full of the divine nature? I have only my sin to blame which quenches the Holy Spirit in me and causes me to fail to claim the promises and the result is plain for all to see. How can I solve this problem? I am reminded that it takes effort! I have to put something into it. I can’t just sit back and pretend that then God will fix everything in me. I have to be involved in His Word, in prayer, in worship, and witnessing and through these disciplines I can develop the character traits of faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. If I want to be effective for the Lord it will require me to make every effort! George

    • Yes, George, that phrase “make every effort” stuck out to me and some others this morning when we were discussing these verses. It is not a halfway approach…but every effort.

  4. The striking invitation to “participate in the divine nature” has been the source of misunderstanding and heresy. The question is whether divine nature is supernaturally infused into human nature with the result that we are one essence with God, or is the divine nature imputed by faith in Christ so that his perfect obedience becomes a goal and motivation, or quality, of our human nature? The use of “divinisation or deification” by the Eastern Orthodox church has made some in the Reformed tradition uneasy with the term. It is equivalent, however, to the Reformed notion glorification. Calvin goes into great detail on the dual nature of justification in Bk 3, ch 11 in debate with Osiander. In particular, forensic justification includes both forgiveness of sins and imputation of Christ’s righteousness, according to Calvin. Osiander taught a dual righteousness of God, one by which God forgives and another by which we are made righteous. Calvin argued that this divides the righteousness of God into the righteousness of Christ in removing the guilt of sin from the righteous of the Father who infuses the divine essence. The mystical union is always with Christ, argues Calvin, in whom the fullness of the Godhead dwells. The imputed righteousness of Christ is the righteousness displayed as a human in his humiliation. The righteousness Christ shared with the Father in eternity is analogous to Christ’s righteousness displayed through obedience as a man unto death, but not identical. What we display by the ‘analogy of faith’ is a new quality of life imputed by faith whereby we progressively grow from faith into love, with the ultimate, essential union with Christ an eschatological promise at the resurrection (2 Pet 1:10-11).
    Imputed righteousness is also the reason we celebrate the sacramental union of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist. Christ is present alongside the elements, not in them. I would argue that this indirect identity is also what the Eastern church understands by ‘divinisation.’ For example, Athanasius writes as follows on 1 Jn 4:15 (cf. Jn 17:21):
    The Saviour, then, saying of us, ‘As Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they too may be one in Us,’ does not signify that we were to have identity with Him; for this was shewn from the instance of Jonah; but it is a request to the Father, as John has written, that the Spirit should be vouchsafed through Him to those who believe, through whom we are found to be in God, and in this respect to be conjoined in Him. (Nicene and Post-nicene Fathers, 2,4,1029, P. Schaff, ed.)
    The identity with Christ is by faith in the promise of God’s Word confirmed by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Whereas John talks about glorification, Peter talks about divinisation.

    • Thanks, Bruce, for your historical look at the theological background here. There are depths here that are amazing. It caught the wonder of some of our greatest theologians. Language is important because it conveys meaning and, as you highlight in your post, sometimes causes confusion. The Eastern Orthodox sense of ‘divinisation or deification’ carries with it the wonder of the divine infusion of God’s being that transforms us; unfortunately, some directions Orthodox thought has taken this concept have created barriers for those of us in the West because of our emphasis upon justification by faith in the Reformed Tradition and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. What is perhaps most helpful for me is the sense at which the driving theological understanding of these traditions can serve to augment our overall understanding of a passage, such as this one in 2 Peter 1. This is similar to how different theories of the atonement (e.g., penal substitution, reconciliation, Christus Victor) do not necessarily have to be contrary to each other but reflect strains of thought seen within the Scripture.

      There are deep wells here! I am so thankful that God opens His life to us through Jesus Christ and brings His redeeming and transforming power to bear upon us.

  5. I couldn’t agree more Matt. I too believe that perhaps it is a “merger” of Eastern and Western theological paradigms which will lead to a new appreciation of passages such as this one. We here in the West do not need to fear such terms as “Theosis.” Dr. James Gifford has written a lovely book which “blends the streams” of East and West entitled, “Perichoretic Salvation.” I highly recommend it!! Bless you brother!!!

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