We definitely need the full knowledge of the One who has called us for the purpose of bringing us into His glory and virtue. If we have such an experiential knowledge of Him, the divine power will operate in us effectively. Otherwise, the divine power will not be able to work in us. Even though this power is great, it will not be able to work in us if we do not fulfill the conditions for its operation. As we have seen, the condition we must fulfill is that of our cooperation with God’s operation.
Many Christians do not know that God has called them to His own glory and virtue. It seems that in their theology there is no room for 2 Peter 1:3. Although the divine power is present and is working, it does not operate in those who do not render the proper cooperation. If we do not pass through the process to gain the full knowledge of the One who has called us, the divine power will not be able to operate in us.
I can testify that the divine power is working in me and that daily I cooperate with God. In the morning I open to Him and say, “Lord, I am here before You. Go on, Lord. I would not hinder You. Rather, I would give You a free way within me. Lord, whatever You speak to me I will proclaim.” I can testify that the more I cooperate with the divine power within me, the more I am brought into God’s glory, enjoy His virtue, and express this virtue as godliness.
In 1:4 Peter continues, “Through which He has granted to us precious and exceedingly great promises, that through these you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption which is in the world by lust.” We have seen that the preposition “through” here may also be rendered on account of or on the basis of. The relative pronoun “which” refers to the glory and virtue in verse 3. Through and on the basis of the Lord’s glory and virtue, by and to which we have been called, God has given us His precious and exceedingly great promises.
It is not easy to know the meaning of the words “through which” as they connect verses 3 and 4. In order to have the proper knowledge of this, we need experience and also spiritual understanding. Here Peter is saying that through the divine glory and virtue God has granted to us precious and exceedingly great promises. This indicates that if God had not called us to His own glory and virtue, there would be no need for Him to give us promises. But God has called us to His own glory and virtue. This goal is great, vast, profound. Who is able to reach God’s own glory and virtue? None of us is able to arrive at this goal. Therefore, there is the need of God’s word of promise to assure us, encourage us, strengthen us, and speed us on our way toward this goal.
Suppose Peter had said that God has called us to heaven. If heaven were the goal of God’s calling, there would have been no need for God to give us promises. If heaven were the goal of God’s calling, we could simply be happy and rejoice, live according to our pleasure, and then wait for heaven.
However, Peter does not say that God has called us to heaven. He says that God has called us to His own glory and virtue. When we hear about this, we may wonder how we can attain to such a goal. Knowing our need for assurance, encouragement, and strength, God has given us precious and exceedingly great promises. An example of these promises is the Lord’s word to Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” This promise was given to Paul to enable him to suffer the thorn in the flesh. In order to bear with a “thorn,” we need the Lord’s sufficient grace. This is an illustration of the fact that we need many promises to help us reach the goal of God’s glory and virtue.
All the promises of God have been given to us through the glory and virtue to which God has called us. This is the reason Peter begins verse 4 with the words “through which.” God’s promises are words of assurance and encouragement. Through the glory and virtue which are the goal to which we have been called, God has given us the promises we need.
We have pointed out that the Greek preposition translated “through” in verse 4 is dia and that its use here is in the instrumental sense becoming causal. We have rendered this word literally in order to make our translation correspond to the Greek text. It would also have been correct to translate this word “on the basis of which” to indicate that God grants us the precious and exceedingly great promises on the basis of the glory and virtue to which He has called us.
We cannot reach the high goal of God’s glory and virtue by ourselves. For this, we need the Lord. Because we do not know what lies ahead of us, God has given us precious promises. One of these great promises is in Matthew 28:20: “Behold, I am with you all the days until the consummation of the age.” No doubt, this promise was an encouragement to all the disciples.
The Lord’s promises encouraged Peter and the other disciples on their way toward the goal of God’s glory and virtue. When Peter and the eleven stood up to preach on the day of Pentecost, God’s glory and virtue were with them. The disciples manifested divine virtues, not natural human virtues. In Acts 3 a poor man looked to Peter and John for a gift of money. Peter said to him, “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6). Then Peter took him by the hand and lifted him up, and immediately the lame man was healed. “He leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God” (v. 8). What did Peter and John express on that occasion? They manifested God’s virtue and glory. This was carried out by the promise of the Lord that He would be with them all the days until the completion of this age.
In Matthew 28:20 the Lord seemed to be telling the disciples: “When you go out to disciple the nations, I shall go with you. Wherever you go, you will go with Me. You will be bringing Me with you.” Therefore, on the day of Pentecost the disciples stood up with the Lord to preach the gospel. Furthermore, in Acts 3 Peter and John brought the Lord Jesus to a lame man. This was a fulfillment of the Lord’s promise to be with them all the days until the completion of the age. By means of the Lord’s promises the early disciples were encouraged to press on to reach God’s glory and attain the divine virtues.
According to 2 Peter 1:4, God has granted to us precious and exceedingly great promises for a specific purpose. His purpose is that through these promises we may become partakers of the divine nature. Through the precious and exceedingly great promises, we, the believers in Christ, have become partakers of His divine nature in an organic union with Him. In Acts 2 and 3 Peter and the other disciples surely were partaking of the divine nature. It is no wonder then that when others looked at the disciples, they saw the expression of God. Because the disciples enjoyed God and partook of God, they were constituted of God.
Just as we are constituted physically of the food we eat, so the disciples were constituted of the God of which they partook. This should also be our experience today. If we enjoy God and partake of Him, we shall be constituted of Him. Of course, we shall never become God in the sense of attaining to the Godhead or becoming an object of worship. However, we may be thoroughly constituted of God’s nature.
We all are constituted physically of the food we eat. For example, someone may eat so much fish and be constituted of fish to such an extent that he even smells of fish. In like manner, we may become so constituted of God that we express God in all that we are and do. We may even give off a divine fragrance. If we partake of God day by day, eventually we shall partake of Him unconsciously. When others contact us, they will see in us the expression of the Triune God.
My desire is that all the saints in the Lord’s recovery would be fully saturated with the nature of God. The more we are saturated with God, the more we shall express Him.
To be a partaker of the divine nature is to be a partaker of the elements, the ingredients, of God’s being. When we partake of God, the aspects of what God is become our enjoyment. We partake of His righteousness, holiness, kindness, love, compassion. This is to enjoy the constituents of the divine nature. God’s purpose in giving us the precious and exceedingly great promises is that we may become partakers of the divine nature.
In 1:4 there is a condition for becoming partakers of the divine nature: it is “having escaped the corruption which is in the world by lust.” The more we escape this corruption, the more we shall enjoy the nature of God. Likewise, the more we partake of the divine nature, the more we shall escape the corruption that is in the world by lust. This is a cycle, a cycle of escaping and partaking and of partaking and escaping. I can testify that because this cycle of partaking and escaping works within me in a strong, rapid way, it is difficult for me to take in any of the corruption of the world. I partake of the divine nature, and this divine nature strengthens me to stay away from corruption. Then the more I stay away from the corruption of the world, the more I enjoy the riches of the divine nature. This is the experience of God’s economy. What we have in 1:1-4 is actually a full picture of our enjoyment of God’s economy.
In this message we shall consider 1:5-11. This section of 2 Peter is concerned with development by the growth in life unto the rich entrance into the eternal kingdom.
Verse 5 says, “And for this very reason also, adding all diligence, supply bountifully in your faith virtue, and in virtue knowledge.” The Greek word rendered “adding” literally means bringing in besides. Besides, along with, the precious and exceedingly great promises given to us by God, we should bring in all diligence to cooperate with the enabling of the dynamic divine nature for the carrying out of God’s promises.
In verse 5 Peter urges us to supply bountifully in our faith virtue. What the divine power has given us in 1:3 and 4 is developed in verses 5 through 7. To supply virtue in faith is to develop virtue in the exercise of faith. The same principle applies to all the other items.
The word “supply” here actually means develop. Peter is telling us to develop what we already have. We have faith, and now in our faith we need to develop virtue.
The faith Peter mentions in 1:5 is the like precious faith allotted to us by God (1:1) as the common portion of the New Testament blessing of life for the initiation of the Christian life. This faith needs to be exercised that the virtue of the divine life may be developed in the following steps to reach its maturity. Faith in 2 Peter 1 may be compared to a seed. On other occasions I have pointed out that in chapter one of 1 Peter the seed is the word with Christ in it as life. Now in 2 Peter 1 this seed becomes our faith, which, no doubt, is the like precious faith. This precious faith is one with Christ as the seed.
After a seed has been sown in the soil, it needs to be developed. The principle is the same with the development of the seed of faith. In our faith we need to develop virtue. Literally, the Greek word for virtue means excellency. It denotes the energy of the divine life issuing in vigorous action. If faith is regarded as the seed, virtue may be considered a root that comes out of this seed.
In 1:5 Peter also tells us to supply “in virtue knowledge.” Virtue, the vigorous action, needs the bountiful supply of the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord (vv. 2, 3, 8) regarding the all things related to the divine life and godliness and the partaking of the divine nature (vv. 3-4) for our enjoyment in the following development. The knowledge which we should develop in our virtue includes the knowledge of God and of our Savior, the knowledge of God’s economy, the knowledge of what faith is, and the knowledge of the divine power, glory, virtue, nature, and life. Actually, this is the knowledge of all things related to life and godliness. We must have this knowledge developed in our virtue. It is not adequate to have virtue without knowledge. I believe that knowledge also is a primary root that develops out of the seed of faith. With virtue and knowledge we have the growth of the seed.
In verse 6 Peter continues, “And in knowledge self-control, and in self-control endurance, and in endurance godliness.” Self-control, or temperance, is the exercise of control and restraint over the self in its passions, desires, and habits. This needs to be supplied and developed in knowledge for the proper growth in life.
Once we have acquired knowledge, it is easy for us to become proud. For this reason, we need to develop in our knowledge self-control. Self-control implies restriction. As a tree grows, the roots spread out, but the trunk grows upward in a rather restricted manner. This is an illustration of the fact that along with the development of virtue and knowledge, we need the restriction that comes with self-control.