2 Peter 1:1-2
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
October 20, 2013
Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
-- 2 Peter 1:1-2, ESV
Introductory lines in New Testament epistles are relatively uniform and often overlooked when studying these books of the Bible. Usually the human author identifies himself, his original audience, and offers a blessing to all who read these words of God. Simon Peter’s second epistle is no exception and it uses exceptional words. They are chosen to convey not only the facts behind the background of this letter, but also the vital gifts that God gives to His children.
A Calling in His Kingdom
By calling attention to himself at the beginning of this book, Simon Peter brings attention to our calling from God. More important than the names “Simeon Peter” (his given name in Hebrew and Aramaic combined with Jesus’ nickname that sticks to this day) are the titles of “servant” and “apostle.” These terms represent the combined calling that God gave to Simon Peter as a distinct gift. And as it is with all gifts, God gives them to His children so that we can glorify God and build up His church.
“Servant” could better be translated slave or bondservant. It speaks of a slave who serves his master out of absolute mandate and voluntary love. This is the general calling that God gives to every one of His true children. I fear that since slavery is such a repulsive notion to the modern mind, and rightly so, that this concept of being a bondservant of the Lord has fallen on hard times, too. Modern, nominalist Christianity has been reduced to ritual and formula for those who think they are getting fire insurance from Hell. But if a profession of faith made does not result in submission of self to the Lordship of Christ, the gift of salvation has neither been given nor received. The call to salvation, a distinct gift from God, is always accompanied by the call to be a servant of God, a servant in Christ’s kingdom, a servant in a local church. Simon Peter served in these capacities distinctly, realizing that a call from God to salvation and service is a great gift to be embraced with joy and determination. God has given you this gift, this calling, if you are one of His children.
And, there is more to this calling. Not only did Simon Peter receive the general call to be a “servant,” he also received from God a specific call to be an “apostle.” I think “apostle” in Simon Peter’s case could be better spelled “Apostle” in this text. An “apostle” is a commissioned messenger, and in general all Christians are given the Great Commission to spread the gospel in their own circles, country, and world. Simon Peter certainly did this for the Lord, but the Lord also gave him a specific calling to be an authoritative “Apostle” in the fledgling church. “Apostles” provided exemplary Christ-like leadership for the foundation of the church. They composed her marching orders which eventually came to be known as The New Testament. You too, child of God, have a specific calling within the church from God. God has gifted you, in some certain way, as a leader or member to build up the body of Christ. Be careful how you discern and use this precious gift from God. If you are not helping to build up, start. If you seem to be tearing down, stop. Go to prayer and get some advice to help you discover your specific calling and start using this gift to give your life to Christ and His church in ever greater ways.
God has given to all of His children these great gifts of a general and a specific calling. But behind this call to service is the call to salvation. God gives this call to be sure. But what most people, even many Christians, do not realize, is that God not only gives the effectual call to salvation, He gives the faith to believe it and receive it.
The Faith to Believe
Simon Peter identifies his original audience as other Christians “who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours.” Some translations call it a “precious faith.” There are all kinds of faith: hypocritical faith, nominal faith, superficial faith; but, there is only one faith that saves, the faith that comes by grace alone in “the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ” alone. The lone source of this saving faith is God, who gives it to His chosen children.
This means that, if you are saved, you did not conjure up your own faith and give it to God. You did not simply make a good decision, walk an aisle, pray a prayer, ask Jesus into your heart, or do anything on your own to decide for yourself to believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ. You “obtained” your faith, like every other true Christian, as a gift from God. This is what John meant when he quoted Jesus saying, “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (ref. John 15:16). This is what Luke meant when he recorded the spread of the gospel by writing “God has granted repentance [the flip side of faith] that leads to life” (ref. Acts 11:18) and “As many as were appointed to eternal life believed” (ref. Acts 13:48). This is what Paul meant when he wrote the strongest theological statement in the Bible, “By grace are you saved through faith, and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God” (ref. Ephesians 2:8). And that’s what Simon Peter meant when he noted that we became children of God when we “obtained a faith” (some translations read “received faith”) that saves. Salvation is a gift God gives to His children, and so is the faith it takes to receive so great a salvation.
These great Bible verses and this great biblical truth do not negate the equal truth that “whoever believes in Him will have everlasting life” (ref. John 3:16) and “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (ref. Romans 10:13). Neither do they in any way relive us of the responsibility and privilege to “go into all the world and proclaim the gospel” (ref. Mark 16:15). God gives the gift of belief to believers and through believers gives the gift of belief to others who come to believe.
Simply put, this means if you have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that has saved your eternal soul, you received it as as gift from your loving, heavenly Father. You can get other kinds of faith from clever con men coaxing you to come forward and make an outward decision, or from the bane of peer pressure as it often plays out in the Bible Belt, or from an understandable immature need to please parents, pastors, or people in a church. But you can only get precious, spiritual, saving faith as a gift from God, which He gives to His children.
Abundant Grace and Peace
So, are you a servant of Jesus Christ? If so, God gave you this calling. And He gave you this calling because He first gave you saving faith. And, if He gave you saving faith, it is not because of anything particularly good in you, but because of something great in Him -- namely, “grace.”
“Grace you and peace,” writes Simon Peter. But where do “grace” and the “peace” it gives come from? “From God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Here we find the foundation of our saving faith and call to service from God. By grace we receive faith. In faith we serve the Lord. God’s children who evidence these gifts have the right to peace with God, the comfort and assurance of knowing your are right with God now and will live with Him forever.
“Grace” and “peace” are also the gifts that keep on giving. They can be “multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” Do you want to understand grace better and experience the constant benefits of receiving and giving grace? Do you want a deeper level of peace with God and to see this peace rule and reign in our hearts? The open your Bible, and open up your mind and heart, and study the word of God.
Look at all of the sound doctrine offered in this short introductory text. We get a glimpse of the triunity of God and definite statements on the deity of Jesus Christ. We are taught that faith is saving when it imputes the righteousness of Jesus Christ to true believers. We see the great pillars of the Great Reformation doctrines of grace alone, faith alone, and Christ alone (and we take these a doctrines based on Scripture alone, for the glory of God alone). What glorious doctrines are shown in just a few short verses of God’s holy word!
I read somewhere that a Jewish man was asked to pray at one of the prayer breakfasts in Washington, D.C. It was attended mostly by evangelical Christians who were surprised when his opening line was, “Lord, I pray that Jews would come to know Jesus Christ.” Then he continued, “And I pray that Muslims would come to know Jesus Christ.” Then he closed, “And Lord, I pray that Christians would come to know Jesus Christ!”
All of us, and I mean us Christians, need to know “Our God and Savior Jesus Christ” much, much better. We need to know better who He is, how He works, what He gives, and what He expects of us. We need the knowledge to praise Him for His wonderful gift of grace, that leads to the gift of faith, that leads to the gift of giving our lives back to Him in general and specific service. And when we understand and do these things, “grace and peace” will abound in our lives, in the life of our church, and in the lives of others who need to know Him. Praise God for His gifts. Let us use them for His glory.