New Defender's Study Bible Notes
Introduction to II Peter
Peter’s second epistle was addressed to the same recipients as the first (II Peter 3:1) and presumably was, like the first, sent from Babylon, probably only a year or so after the first. Unlike the first letter, however, it is not so much occupied with preparation for coming persecution but rather with preparation and warning against false teachers infiltrating the church.
Perhaps this is because Peter knew his own death was near (II Peter 1:14), and he realized that deceptive teachers would eventually prove far more deadly to the church and the true gospel than would outright persecution. In this respect, Peter’s last words are quite similar to Paul’s last words in II Timothy. This is true also of the final chapter of James, the last book written by John (i.e., Revelation) and the final (and only) chapter of Jude. All of these point forward to the imminent return of Christ and warn of dangers from within the church itself.
In particular, Peter warns against “cunningly devised fables” (II Peter 1:16), hypocritical Christ-denying teachers (II Peter 2:1), profiteering preachers (II Peter 2:3,15), antinomian teachers (II Peter 2:13,19), and especially evolutionism and uniformitarianism (II Peter 3:3-6).
Like Paul and John in their final words, Peter also stressed the importance of the Bible, especially in the last days (II Peter 1:19-21; 3:2,16; compare II Timothy 3:15–4:2 and Revelation 22:18-19).
On the face of it, it seems obvious that Peter was the author, but many critics have argued against this conclusion. It was one of the last New Testament books to be accepted in the New Testament canon. It may be that this resistance was because of its strong condemnation of false teachers in the church. Nevertheless, it claims to have been written by “Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ” (II Peter 1:1); the writer refers to Christ’s prediction of his death (II Peter 1:14); he affirms his own presence at the transfiguration (II Peter 1:16-18); he refers to his previous epistle (II Peter 3:1); and he refers to “our beloved brother Paul” (II Peter 3:15). If this is all a forgery, it is most blatant, and marks the writer as one of the very worst of the false teachers he was condemning. All this is so improbable that the idea is absurd. Peter wrote the epistle, and its own spiritual witness with our spirits as we read the epistle surely confirms its authenticity and divine inspiration.
There is considerable similarity between II Peter and Jude (see the “Introduction to Jude”), with the strong probability that Peter’s epistle was first. In referring to it as of apostolic authority, Jude adds further testimony to the canonicity of II Peter (see Jude 17-18).
1:1 like precious faith. Peter was writing to the same churches to whom he had written his first epistle (see II Peter 3:1), but his salutation this time was not just to the Christian Jews of the dispersion (as in I Peter 1:1), but also “to them that have obtained like precious faith with us.” The natural inference is that, in the few years following his first epistle, many new Gentile converts had come into these churches.
1:1 God and our Saviour. This expression could better be rendered as “our God and Saviour Jesus Christ.” Peter thus clearly recognizes that his human friend and master, Jesus, was actually God manifest in the flesh. II Peter 1:2 also acknowledges Him as “Jesus our Lord.”
1:2 multiplied. See note on I Peter 1:2.
1:2 knowledge. The word “knowledge” (Greek gnosis or epignosis) occurs seven times in II Peter, all with reference to Christ, including the very last verse, II Peter 3:18. The same word is translated “science” in I Timothy 6:20.
1:3 all things. Note the repeated references to “all these things” (II Peter 1:3,8,9,10,12,15). God has provided everything we need for a fruitful Christian life through the marvelous promises of His Word.
1:3 to glory and virtue. This phrase can mean, “by His glory and virtue.” The beauty and strength of character seen in Jesus actually draw men to Himself for salvation.
1:4 precious promises. It has been calculated that the Bible contains some 3800 promises, from that in Genesis 3:15 to the final promise in Revelation 22:20.
1:4 divine nature. It is through the Word and its promises, if we believe them, that we are given a new nature, being “born again…of incorruptible [seed], by the Word of God” (I Peter 1:23).
1:5 add to your faith. This succession of seven attributes to be added to one’s saving faith should be understood as natural developments of true faith rather than as arbitrary additions. That is, “in your faith exhibit virtue, and in your virtue show knowledge, …etc.”
1:5 virtue. “Virtue” is not mere moral goodness, but spiritual valor, or strength of character.
1:7 brotherly kindness. “Brotherly kindness” (Greek philadelphia) is elsewhere translated “brotherly love.”
1:7 charity. “Charity” (Greek agape) is commonly rendered “love.” This type of love is thus distinct from brotherly love. It involves deep respect for a person, recognizing the value and interests of that person, and caring for him or her as a person of genuine worth.
1:8 barren. “Barren” means, literally “idle.” A fruitful and effective Christian life and work will be the natural product of true Christian character.
1:10 calling and election sure. This divine call and election in no way are contingent on human effort, either to obtain salvation or to retain salvation. See notes on I Peter 1:2-5. The addition of these Christian graces is the natural outgrowth of the divine nature of which we partake; if they are not being cultivated, there is cause for examining the reality of our professed faith to be sure that we truly are trusting in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Note also II Corinthians 13:5.
1:12 in remembrance. Four times in this short epistle, we are urged to keep “in remembrance” the great truths revealed therein (II Peter 1:12-13,15; 3:1). God evidently considers them important.
1:13 stir you up. People can be easily “stirred up” at soccer games or rock concerts, but Christians need to be stirred up to remember God’s promises. Note also II Peter 3:1-2.
1:14 my tabernacle. Peter’s “tabernacle” was actually a frail “tent” (Greek skenoma), erected just for a night. He had used the same word in Matthew 17:4, speaking of making three tents for the heavenly visitors on the Mount of Transfiguration. In II Peter 1:15, he speaks of his imminent decease, just as those heavenly visitors had spoken of Christ’s imminent decease at Jerusalem (Luke 9:31). Both of these words are rarely used in the New Testament, and their appropriation of them here in similar juxtaposition is an incidental confirmation of the authenticity of Peter’s claimed authorship of this epistle. Paul also had written about putting off the tent of these present bodies (II Corinthians 5:1).
1:14 shewed me. Peter here refers to the Lord’s prophecy in John 21:17-19, indicating a coming martyrdom for Peter, possibly by crucifixion. The fact that it would come shortly is probably in recognition of his advancing age, although it may possibly suggest that a rapid (that is, violent, by execution) death was coming.
1:16 cunningly devised fables. Peter thus labels all pantheistic cosmogonies and soteriologies as nothing but clever myths (so also did Paul in II Timothy 4:4; the Greek word in both cases is muthos, from which we get the word “myth”). He may also have been thinking of similar Jewish fables. All such myths and fables are based on a pantheistic form of evolutionism and denial of true creation. In the modern context, we could well take this as a warning against “cunningly devised evolutionary myths,” whether they are promoted by Darwinian atheists or New Age pantheists.
1:16 coming. The “coming” of Christ is the parousia, referring to the “personal presence” of the Lord at His imminent second coming.
1:17 excellent glory. On the “holy mount” of Transfiguration (II Peter 1:18), the three disciples (Peter, James and John) actually saw Christ glorified, as He will be when He comes again in “power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30) and heard God the Father acknowledge His beloved Son from heaven (Matthew 17:5), just as He had done at His baptism (Matthew 3:17). Peter had also seen the resurrected Christ several times and had watched him ascend into heaven with the promise that He would return (Acts 1:11). Thus, Peter himself could have no doubt that He was the only true “God and Savior;” all else was myth and fable.
1:19 more sure word. As sure as Peter was of what he had seen and heard, this was only his own experience, and could only be given as a personal testimony to others. Thus, he stressed that God’s written Word, available to all in the holy Scriptures, was more sure than any personal experience he or others might have. It is not in Peter or Paul as men, no matter how sincere or holy they may be, that we must trust, but in Christ as revealed (not in our experience either!) in God’s written Word.
1:19 day star. At His return, Christ will be recognized as the true “bright and morning star” (Revelation 2:28; 22:16).
1:20 first. This should read, “first of all” or “as of primary importance.”
1:20 prophecy. “Prophecy” refers not just to predictions of the future, but to any divinely inspired utterance—therefore to all the Holy Scriptures.
1:20 private interpretation. The meaning here is that no true prophecy springs forth from the private reasoning of the man speaking or writing. He may or may not understand the meaning and intent of his writing in terms of his own current situation, but its ultimate meaning involves far more than that. This would especially be true for Messianic predictions (note I Peter 1:10-12), but also applies to “all Scripture…given by inspiration of God” (II Timothy 3:16-17).
1:21 spake. Note also Hebrews 1:1.
1:21 moved. Compare Genesis 1:2. “The Spirit of God moved” in the presence of the primeval waters of the newly created cosmos, and it became vibrant with pulsating energy and activity. In somewhat analogous fashion, the Spirit of God moved the hearts, minds and pens of the holy (that is, called and set apart) men of God, and the Scriptures were formed, proceeding from the eternal mind of God to be revealed to His creatures.