Walking in Grace
Topic: Expository Passage: 2 Peter 1:2-4
Read vv. 1–11
The passage we just read is one of the most crucial explanations in the NT of God’s design for the Christian experience. Peter tells us that every true believer knows the Lord and that through him, we can experience divine power, participate in the divine nature, and walk securely with the Savior.
It’s awesome! It’s so awesome that it makes you wonder why anyone wouldn’t want to be a Christian and why any Christian would chase anything other than Jesus.
Of course, the ultimate reason is that sin has blinded the unbeliever and constantly tugs on the Christian. And sadly, the church has often added to the confusion. Rather than driving people to the glory of the gospel, we cater to human interest. Rather than starting with the beauty of God, we start with the desires of men.
And then we sell God as someone who can fix their lives, rescue them from hell, and help them live a fulfilled life. In the process, we unwittingly diminish the beauty of God and the wonder of his grace. It’s terribly unfortunate, because only when I see that God is big, glorious, beautiful, and full of grace and that I am small and wicked, will I know the fullness of God’s grace and the joy that he alone brings.
This is where 2 Peter 1 focuses our attention, so I hope that you will pay close attention what this passage says, because it can transform your Christian experience. Today we are going to look at vv. 2–4, and my outline is built around 2 questions. First…I.
I. What have we received through the gospel?
Peter answers with 4 marvelous blessings of the gospel that we all need to know more deeply. The first blessing of the gospel is…
We know the Lord (v. 2b). First, Peter says in v. 2, “Grace and peace…” Again in v. 3, “His divine power…” So, knowing the Lord is an important aspect of this text, and we need to understand exactly what Peter means.
It’s helpful to note that the normal Greek word for knowledge is gnosis, but in vv. 2, 3, Peter uses the emphatic form epignosis, which emphasizes the inception or beginning of knowledge. Therefore, it emphasizes conversion, when we first saw the Lord and came to know him as our Savior.
And v. 3 confirms that the knowledge of God is rooted in conversion, because it says that God has already given every Christian “divine power…through the knowledge of Him.” The assumption is that every Christian knows the Lord. Therefore, when I got saved, I came to know God. The Father became my Father, and Jesus became my brother.
This is the greatest blessing of the gospel. A sinner like me has been brought near to Holy God, and I know him intimately. It is a wonderful privilege to the know the Lord and to fellowship with him.
When I appreciate this gift, my great ambition will be to know him more fully (3:18). Paul adds in Philippians 3:8, “I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” Paul saw the “excellence” or “surpassing worth” of knowing the Lord. In comparison, everything else was “rubbish,” so he pursued it with all his strength.
Christian, you are abundantly rich. You know the God of heaven. Give thanks, and then go after him with all your strength. The 2nd blessing…
We enjoy grace and peace (v. 2a). We’ve heard this epistolary introduction many times. Paul begins all 13 of his letters with a prayer for grace and peace, and 1 Peter does the same. But I hope we don’t let the fact that this is the 15th epistle that opens with a prayer for grace and peace cause us to skip over the significance of these terms.
If you were to sum up Christianity in one word, it would be grace. It is essential, because we are depraved. Psalm 14:1–3 sum up Kit Johnson perfectly, when they state, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is none who does good, no, not one.” That’s me, that’s you, and that’s everyone on the face of the earth.
Therefore, we NEED grace. We cannot be saved without it, and we cannot please God without it. We always need more, which is why Peter prays, “May grace and peace by multiplied to you.” Praise the Lord, that he is generous with his grace. He multiplies it through the knowledge of Christ.
Not only that, he gives peace. He doesn’t make life easy or make my burdens vanish. Life in a sin-cursed world is always hard. But he gives rest and security in the midst of the storm to those who walk in his grace. Philippians 4:7 states that he gives, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding.” It defies comprehension.
Maybe you are thinking, “I want that kind of grace and peace. Where can I get it?” Peter says it comes through relationship, specifically, “through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”
This is important, because very often, we come to God, because we have a problem or we want something—a peaceful home, happiness, or friendship. We need to remember that all of God’s blessings are wrapped up in a person. God is the greatest blessing of the gospel. As you pursue the knowledge of the Lord, God will multiply grace and peace. The 3rd blessing of the gospel is…
We have power for godliness (v. 3). This verse is jam-packed with truth. I’m not going to do it, but you could preach whole sermons on multiple themes in v. 3.
I’d like to start at the end of the verse. Peter states that God’s blessings come, “Through the knowledge…” Peter again describes Christians as those who know the Lord. Peter is especially thinking of Christ, because the nearest antecedent to all the pronouns about God in v. 3 is “Jesus our Lord” in v. 2. To be a Christian is to be in Christ and to know Christ.
But notice that we don’t know him, because we are smarter than everyone else and figured out who God is. Rather, we know him, because Jesus, “called us by (his own) glory and virtue.” Peter is specifically referring to the effectual (i.e., effective) call of God that results in our conversion.
Jesus said in John 6:37, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” When God calls, we come.
Some like to make this doctrine out as a horrible violation of the human will, as if God drags us kicking and screaming into his family. But that’s not how Peter describes it. Rather, Jesus calls us by his “glory and virtue.”
In other words, when God calls, he opens our eyes to Christ’s true glory, not the distorted picture that our depraved minds create. We see his greatness and majesty as they truly are. And we also see his “virtue,” or moral excellence. In other words, we see the perfect righteousness of God, his justice in opposing our sin, and his marvelous love in the cross. When we see him, we want him, and we come to him in repentance and faith.
If you are not saved, how I pray that today you will see Jesus as he truly is, a just, omnipotent, and compassionate Savior. Come to him and be saved. If you are saved, give thanks that Christ opened your eyes to his own “glory and excellence,” and that you now know him as a result.
And then moving to the beginning of v. 3, notice that for those who know the Lord through conversion, “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.”
In context, it’s clear that “life and godliness” is a reference to spiritual growth. Peter is going to make it very clear in vv. 5–11 that Jesus’ purpose in salvation goes far beyond rescuing us from hell. Rather, v. 4 says that his purpose is that we share in the “divine nature.” He saved us so that we would reflect his glory, and be trophies of his grace.
That’s a massive goal, but remarkably v. 3 says that the divine nature is in reach, because “His divine power has…” In other words, the very same power that raised Jesus from the dead, provides the Christian with everything he needs to live a godly life.
There are few things as a pastor more heartbreaking than watching people scramble to false solutions to their problems and sin struggles. For example, someone is grieving the loss of a loved one. They are really hurting, and they desperately want joy. But rather than running to Christ and the disciplines of grace, they start trying random stuff. They think, “I’ll go on a grand vacation, that’ll fix it. Maybe, the problem is my church, so I’ll try a different one. Maybe a new hairdo will make me feel better.” On and on it goes.
Or someone is fighting depression, so they run to the psychiatrist, or the newest self-help bestseller. They buy a new car, or they make pretend friends on the internet, while hiding from their brothers and sisters in the church. I’ve seen it many times, and I know how it will turn out.
Now, some of those things have a place, but it’s so sad to watch people desperately scramble from one thing to the next, because the real solution is right at their fingertips. “His divine power has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness.”
So, to be blunt, the dumbest thing you can do if you are struggling is to stop reading your Bible, praying, going to church, and fellowshipping with godly friends. That’s because all that you need is right here, in the grace of God and the disciplines of grace!
It doesn’t matter what trials you are facing or what temptations you are battling, God’s divine power is always the answer. You can change. You don’t have to live in misery and defeat! There is power for godliness in the gospel, so run to the Lord, believe his promise, and rejoice in what you have. The 4th blessing of the gospel is…
We have received incredible promises (v. 4a). The context tells us what promises Peter has in mind? Verse 4 says that we will partake of the “divine nature.” God has promised that we will become godly. And v. 8 adds that as we grow in godliness, we can enjoy an abundant “knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And ultimately, notice the promise of v. 11.
So, the “exceedingly great and precious promises” are that I will be sanctified, I can enjoy intimacy with the Lord today, and someday I will dwell in God’s presence. So, as long and as difficult as the road my road may be, my struggles are not the end of my story. God is changing me, and someday he will perfect me. I will worship my Savior forever in his presence. And I know they will happen. God has promised them to me.
In sum, Peter has laid out 4 awesome blessings of the gospel that are all anchored in a big and compassionate God who is full of grace toward broken sinners. The gospel is a magnificent treasure.
There is nothing you can gain in this world that can match the promises of the gospel. There is no joy in this life that can match the joy of knowing the Lord. So, God has given wonderful blessings through the gospel, but why? The 2nd major question Peter answers is…
II. Why did God give us these blessings?
Peter answers in v. 4b. The first reason God did all of this is…
To rescue us from worldly corruption. Notice first how Peter describes the life of the unbeliever. He is a slave to, “corruption that is in the world through lust.” In other words, the world system including its entertainment, advertising, philosophy, etc., is all shaped by the corrupt lusts of sinners who are opposed to God and blinded to his glory.
So, the foundations of every human culture are ungodly, because depraved sinners establish them. It’s essential that we see the world with Peter’s perspective. We shouldn’t see the world as enticing but as a decaying mess that is rooted in sinful lust.
And then we need to recognize that God’s intent through the gospel is to deliver us from this corruption. In fact, he has already partially done so. Peter says that we have, “escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” I said, “partially,” because we are still sinners, and the world still tugs at our hearts.
But my stance toward the world fundamentally changed when I got saved. Christ opened my eyes to his “glory and virtue,” and he freed me from the blind, foolish, and wicked values and practices that define the unbeliever.
What Peter says here is so important, because very often, we look at the gospel through a selfish, temporal lens. We are thankful that we aren’t going to hell and that someday we will be in heaven, and we hope that God will help us enjoy a good life in the meantime.
But that’s not what it means to be a Christian. To be a Christian is to be set apart from worldly corruption. Therefore, for a Christian to say, “God saved me, now I’m going to live as close to the world as I possibly can,” is absolutely contrary to the spirit of the gospel. For a Christian or a church to celebrate sin, find pleasure in ungodliness, or revel in unholiness is to deny the heart of why God saves. And Peter will say that it calls into question whether or not someone truly knows the Lord.
And BTW, the fact that Christ delivered us from this corruption is not something we should lament, as if we’ve lost a dear friend. No, the verb “escaped” is very fitting, because from an eternal perspective worldliness is never our friend. It always blinds us to the superior joy and satisfaction of the Lord, and it robs us of his eternal treasure.
So give thanks that Christ has rescued you from worldly corruption, and then commit to living out this escape. Commit to rooting worldliness and lust out of your heart and out of your home. It has no place in the heart and home of a Christian. And finally, be encouraged that you can make progress in this struggle, because “His divine power…” So, the 1st reason God has given us such marvelous blessings in the gospel is to rescue us from worldly corruption. The 2nd reason is…
To make us holy (v. 4). The statement that Peter makes in the middle of v. 4 is one that immediately grabs your attention and only gets more amazing as you think about it. Peter states that God’s purpose in the promises of the gospel is, “That through these you may…”
We should probably begin by emphasizing what Peter does NOT mean. Specifically, Peter is not saying that Christians actually become divine or that we will ever take on all of God’s attributes.
Theologians help us here by distinguishing between God’s communicable attributes and his incommunicable ones. What they mean is that we will never reflect God’s attributes of greatness. We will never be all-powerful, all-knowing, or infinite. But by God’s grace, we are slowly taking on God’s attributes of goodness. We are becoming righteous, holy, merciful, and kind.
That’s what Peter means when he says that we can “partake (i.e., share, participate) in the divine nature.” Over time, a Christian takes on the nature of God. And someday, when we are glorified, Christ will finish this process.
1 John 3:2 says, “When He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” Again, it’s not that we will be gods; rather, our hearts, our affections, our minds, and our actions will be perfectly aligned with God’s perfections.
What Peter says here is so crucial for how we think about the Christian life and about spiritual growth. Very often, we think of God’s commands simply in terms of obligations. And they are; we have to obey them. But God doesn’t merely want you to obey; he wants to change the very core of who you are. His purpose is that you take on the divine nature.
For example, he doesn’t just want you to be nice to your coworkers; he wants you to become a loving person. He doesn’t merely want you to stop losing your temper at your family; he wants you to be filled with joy and peace. He doesn’t merely want you to stop looking at pornography; he wants you to become holy as he is holy in all your thoughts and affections.
When you really start to think about it, it’s daunting, and frankly it’s impossible. Except it’s not! Why? Because v. 3 says, “His divine power…” When Peter said that, he knew v. 4 was coming. God says that if you are a Christian, you have all that you need to progressively take on the divine nature. You can change, and you will change! It’s truly amazing.
So, Christian don’t resign to a life of spiritual defeat and deformity. Go after the divine nature, believing that you can make progress through divine power. Finally, a 3rd reason God has given us these blessings is…
To glorify himself. Peter doesn’t explicitly make a big point of this, but it’s assumed throughout the text, and it needs to be emphasized in our day. I mentioned in my introduction, that the modern church has grown accustomed to selling the gospel based on human interests. It’s been said that anyone can get saved, if you just find the key to their heart—what they want that God can provide. Maybe they don’t want to go to hell, maybe they want to be rescued from depression, maybe they want a better marriage.
And God certainly cares about those things, but when you look at 2 Peter 1:2–4, it’s clear that they are not God’s primary concern. The Great Commission is not fundamentally about keeping people out of hell. Rather, God saves people so that they will take on the divine nature. Why is that such a big deal to God? It’s because as we reflect the divine nature, we become trophies of his grace and mirrors of his holiness. We glorify the Lord.
And that’s really what the gospel is all about. Notice how Paul concludes the greatest exposition of gospel in Romans 11:33–36. It is all about him!
And let me end by saying that our best good is wrapped up in God’s glory. A God who exists for me will never satisfy, but when I find my joy in his glory, there is rest and glory. Augustine famously said, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” So let’s see the greatness of our God, let’s stand amazed at the incredible blessings we have received in the gospel, and let’s pursue godliness in the power of grace.