2 Peter 1 Spiritual Growth and Mentorship

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 Saviour Jesus Christ:

May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so short-sighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practise these qualities you will never fall.11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

12 Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. 13 I think it right, as long as I am in this body,to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.

16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honour and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased”, 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Spiritual Growth and Mentorship

Peter starts his letter by giving himself what might seem like grand titles to us.  He says that he is a servant of Jesus, but also that he is an apostle.  An apostle means one who is sent.  Because we are all told to share the good news of Jesus we are all apostles on one level.  However, Peter was an apostle in a more significant way.  Those who had seen Jesus and been taught directly by him had the position of apostle.  They spoke with more authority than the regular Joe.  So it is remarkable, then, that Peter goes on to claim that the faith that Christians receive is of equal measure regardless of who you are.

The word knowledge is repeated in verses 2, 3, 5 and 8.  It is central to growth.  Peter emphasizes through repetition that to be able to grow as a Christian one has to know something.  This knowledge comes through listening to those who have walked in the faith longer than we have.  It comes from learning from the Bible and learning from those who understand what it is saying.

Knowledge coupled with power, then, grants us all things which are essential to grasp hold of the life to which God has called us.  The virtuous qualities of that life are laid out in what seems like a progression which culminates in the kind of love that Jesus claimed was the most important commandment. We can see these qualities growing in someone who allows God’s power to work through them and who grows in their knowledge of God because they are in relationship to him.  Anyone who insists on persisting in their own way of living will not grow into maturity and may not see what all the fuss is about.  We have all met immature Christians who either can’t see beyond their own guilt and shame or who think that God’s grace is a license for them to sin.  This is very short sighted.

Kingdom of God living is not just a ‘get out of hell free’ form of existence, but it is an eternal life that begins now to work out its goodness.  Our lives will be better for us with Jesus, but they will also be better for others.

Some people think that the power of Jesus is just a myth.  Some people think that Christians have made up stories to follow which are really just as powerful as the stories of Islam, Buddhism or Atheism.  However, Peter insists that he is building his theology on historical facts which he has witnessed.  This gives him and those like him the power to speak truth, or prophesy, into others’ lives so that they can conform their lives to what he teaches with confidence.

It needs to be fully understood that God gives us all an equal faith which gives us all the power to experience him and understand him more over time.  The Christian does not generate their own power to live a godly life.  God generates the power and Christians let it do its work in changing them. We participate in the very nature of God, the passage teaches us.  It is hard for us to accept that God lives out life through us.  His character mysteriously becomes real in us and is then apparent to others. Over time we see that we know more about God, we stick out the hard times, and we orient our lives away from ourselves and toward God and others.  Many of us find it hard to see beyond ourselves, but being filled with the Spirit grows a fruit in us that helps others to flourish rather than just ourselves (Galatians 5:22-24).  However, the fruit of the Spirit – maturity in Christ – does not grow if we insist on living in ignorance.  Knowledge needs to be pursued.  In the first century many people were illiterate, so on a Sunday and on other days they would listen to a  reading of letters from apostles.  They would memorize books of the Bible through listening to them and repeating them.  To know the content of the Bible is only the first phase, though.  They would then learn how to work out what the words being read to them meant for their context.

Apostles took responsibility for the growth of the people in the churches.  They traveled many miles by foot using the Roman roads.  However, as the church grew it just became impossible to get to every place.  That is why letters from the apostles began to circulate.  The apostles could mentor more people by writing their words down for others to read.  Also, as the apostles aged it became even more important for them to write down instructions to leave behind after they were gone.  We think that a number of the epistles that we have now were written by apostles who believed that they would be martyred soon.  These apostles were in a unique position.  In a world that like to make up myths and legends to tell others how to behave, the apostles had a physical experience with Jesus.  It was not a vision or hallucination, it was a trustworthy three years of walking with another human being who suddenly was executed and then physically rose again.  Speaking a reliable truth, or prophecy, to the many believers would help them increase in their knowledge and when believers knew what the apostles knew, they would grow.

Walking in darkness is only carefree and secure if we are unaware of the pitfalls or obstacles.  Some people walk through life unaware of the evil of our times or the life that God has called them to live.  When God switches on the light people see the world the way that it really is.  We see that God is holy and a great humility washes over us as we see how far short of his glory we fall.  However, God lifts us up and gives us the honour of being a vessel for the life he wants to give to the world.  Then we walk in the light and we allow God’s light to shine on others.

How do you grow in knowledge?  I know that I couldn’t get into the habit of reading my Bible.  For years I would agree that it was a good idea, but I just didn’t do it.  Then I knew that I needed to share my growth with others.  I started posting regularly for my small group.  They didn’t read my posts very much, but I realised that I wasn’t really posting for them.  I began posting as an act of service for God.  God has allowed that habit to remain fairly consistent for many years now.  I would say I develop myself more biblically than I do in my study of teaching.  My teaching skills are underpinned with a foundation of biblical truth.

I also found that I wasn’t getting out of the passage all that there was to get out of it.  I then started reading a commentary each day so that I was pushed to see the deeper context of the passage.  I learned possible interpretations of what the passage could mean and started to empty myself of the cultural bias of being a 21st century westerner.  The knowledge that I gain gives me a standard by which to measure myself, but the insights of others challenges my own presuppositions.  Friends like Richard Reid or Ken Gates have the insight to push me deeper.  I have to be willing to lay aside my pride and resistance to change and listen to wise people as they explain how they think the Bible applies to me.

I know that I have the virtues of 2 Peter 1:5-7 within me.  By the grace of God I have grown away from the level of self-serving and manipulation that marked me in my twenties.  However, the more I grow the more I am aware that I fall short of God’s holiness.  In each of these areas I need to continue to die to myself and the sinful nature and become the person that God has called me to be.  I attempt to live out this growth in my home, at The Chapel Sunday School, preaching at Grace Fellowship in Woodstock, and with my students at Moody.  Most recently, I am sharing my growth with the teen and college staff at Lake Geneva Youth Camp in Wisconsin.

Some things spur me on to greater growth and some things hinder me.  Watching movies and playing games with my children is a mixed bag.  The lies that the culture believes are embedded in so much of the media.  We are often told to believe in ourselves and look within for answers.  Yet the Bible tells us that within ourselves, that is in our flesh, dwells no good thing.  It is only through dying to myself and being reborn in Jesus that light and life come into my soul.  Jesus is absent from the vast majority of movies and absent from the lyrics in most songs.  There may be good values in Big Hero 6 or Inside Out, but they fail to bring everything home to Jesus.  God uses these experiences though to keep me sharp.  As I see the absence of God in the culture I am motivated to show God’s presence to my children.  As I hear God trashed in the lyrics of songs, I am motivated to honour him in my own talk.

Ultimately I am willing to be mentored like Peter was by Jesus.  I am willing to be taught like the early Christians were taught by Peter.  However, as I grow in knowledge and virtue I know I have a responsibility to pass that on to those around me.  Not in an arrogant or superior way but as one who is on a path of growth and who delights when others grow beside them.

Questions

Answer the following observation questions:

  1. What titles does Peter give himself?
  2. How is the faith of the recipients of the letter compared with Peter’s?
  3. Which word is repeated in verses 2, 3, 5, and 8?
  4. What has granted us all things?
  5. What is granted through God’s promises?
  6. As a group try and repeat the progression of verses 5-7.
  7. According to verse 8, what should be happening to the qualities of verses 5-7 after you have attained them?
  8. Describe a person who lacks the qualities of 5-7.
  9. According to verse 11, what is provided for you?
  10. Why does Peter remind the recipients of the letter of the qualities of 5-7?
  11. What does Peter say that he has seen and heard?
  12. How is prophecy described?

Answer these interpretation questions:

  1. According to the passage what is the basic virtue that all Christians receive equally?
  2. According to verses 3 and 4 does the Christian have to generate their own power to live a godly life or does it come from elsewhere?
  3. In your own words describe what it means to participate in the divine nature.
  4. What corruption do you think that those living in the first century might need to escape?
  5. Do verses 5-7 express a series of steps toward love or do they just list various qualities that should grow in a Christian?
  6. Compare this passage to Galatians 5:22-24. What is similar and what is different?
  7. Why is knowledge repeated so many times?
  8. How does Peter mentor the recipients of the letter?
  9. Why are the senses emphasized?
  10. What is prophecy? How is it more than predicting the future?
  11. How are prophecy and knowledge connected?
  12. Describe walking through a dark place. Describe walking through a place that is well lit.  How do these descriptions relate to prophecy?

Answer these application questions:

  1. Do you believe that all Christians have received the same faith? What shows this to be false or true?
  2. What role does knowledge play in your spiritual growth? Do you approach biblical knowledge with the same focus as you approach Language Arts, Math or Science?
  3. How has knowledge helped you grow?
  4. Who has shared knowledge with you or explained the Bible to you?
  5. Using the list of 5-7 prayerfully examine yourself to assess whether you are growing in a way that should be normal for a Christian.
  6. How can others see that you are effective for Jesus? How do you serve?  How do you mentor others?
  7. Is your service a natural outworking of your growth? Do you serve with joy and gratitude?  Are you trying to prove yourself to God and others – i.e. show him you are worth it?
  8. Who regularly reminds you of the kind of life you were called to live? Who do you remind and spur on like Peter spurred on others?
  9. Movies perpetuate many myths. Science-fiction movies often tell us our problems will be solved by science alone.  Romantic comedies tell us that if we follow our hearts it will all work out in the end.  Can you think of other ‘truths’ that the movies you and your friends watch try and teach us?
  10. How do people you know shape their lives around truths the culture teaches rather than the Bible? How do song-writers and screen-writers mentor us?
  11. How have you seen God as a reality in the life of yourself and others?
  12. If God switches on the light in your soul, what areas has he worked powerfully in you? What areas do you try and keep hidden?

Series Inspired by:  http://thisoddhouse.org/2014/01/28/20-things-i-might-have-told-my-20-something-self/

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About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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