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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

2Peter1:4; Precious and Very Great Promises

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20091011_2peter1_4.mp3

10/11 2Peter 1:4 Precious and Very Great Promises

2Peter 1:1 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: 2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 3 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, 4 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.

Intro

Peter is writing to strengthen believers in churches who are in danger of being led astray by false teachers. He writes to ground us in the truth of the gospel, to ‘stir us up by way of reminder’ [1:13]. ‘Knowing this beforehand, we are to take care that we are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose our own stability’ [3:17]. Peter knows if we are to stand our ground, we must ‘grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ’ [3:18]. So he begins his letter pointing us to the riches of God’s grace toward us and the truth of who Jesus is. He draws our attention to the great value of our faith – our faith was not our great accomplishment, it was allotted to us by God. And he points us to the source of our faith – it comes to us through the righteousness of God. God’s love for what is right is expressed not only in the just condemnation of unrepentant sinners, but overflows in the gracious justifying of sinners on the basis of our trust in the finished work of Jesus for us. Peter describes Jesus as both our God and our Savior. Peter prays that God’s grace and the resulting peace would be multiplied to us by means of our relationship with the Father and with Jesus. Jesus, in a supreme act of heavenly generosity, freely gave us everything – everything – everything that connects us to eternal life; a life of holiness, because we cannot enjoy the presence of a holy God without ourselves becoming godly. Peter tells that every necessary resource and ability has been freely given to us by the one who called us to this eternal life of holiness. Nothing short of his divine power is at work for us securing our eternal salvation. This gracious divine power comes through the knowledge of him who called us. John speaks of the transforming power of knowing Jesus when he says, ‘when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is’ [1Jn.3:2]. It is the excellence and glory of Jesus that is inviting and breathtaking and compelling.

Peter goes on in verse 4 to tell us that it is through the excellence of Jesus that we are freely given promises – great and precious promises – promises that bring us participation in the divine nature and escape from the corruption of this world.

4 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.

The first words of this verse express the means by which we receive the promises. The promises come to us through ‘his own glory and excellence’. It is the manifestation of Jesus’ divine nature and his inner moral beauty that secure for us the promises.

4 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.

The promises are not presented as a reward for good behavior. The promises are bestowed as a royal gift. This word only appears three times in the New Testament. This is a royal act of lavish generosity that staggers the imagination. In verse 3, his divine power has freely given to us all things pertaining to life and godliness. Now on top of that, he has freely given the promises to us.

4 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.

Peter again uses a word unique in the New Testament for ‘promises’, a word that occurs only here and at the end of this letter in 3:13, where it refers to the end times promise of a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

These are no ordinary promises. They are ‘precious’ and ‘very great’ promises. The word ‘precious’ carries the idea of value, worth, or honor. In 1 Peter 1:7, he called our genuine faith ‘more precious than gold’ and in 2 Peter 1:1 he calls our faith equally precious or honorable to that of the apostles. In 1 Peter 1:19, he refers to the blood of Christ that ransoms us as ‘precious’, and here he refers to the promises as ‘precious’ or valuable. Not only are the promises valuable, but they are ‘very great’. Peter is stacking adjectives to communicate to us the magnificence of his subject. He uses grand language to relay to us the grand nature of the promises that have been regally furnished for us.

What promises would Peter have in mind? Possibly the promises of the new covenant that Jesus referenced when he said ‘this cup is the new covenant in my blood’ [Lk.22:20; 1Cor.11:25]; promises like:

Jeremiah 31:31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah,… 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Ezekiel 11:19 And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

Ezekiel 36:26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

He could have had in mind promises of Jesus like:

John 3:15 …whoever believes in him may have eternal life

John 4:14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

John 5:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment but has passed from death to life.

John 6:35 …I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

John 6:37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.

John 6:47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.

John 8:12 …I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

John 8:31 …If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

John 8:51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.

John 10:9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture…. 10 I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

John 11:25 …I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.

John 14:2 …I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

John 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth…

John 14:18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you… 19 Because I live, you also will live.

John 16:22 …I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

Precious promises! Very great promises! Promises worth memorizing and meditating on. But Peter’s focus is not on the promises themselves. He expects that the mere mention of promises will bring to mind some of these valuable and immeasurably great promises. Peter’s focus is on what the promises accomplish for us:

4 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.

Peter’s focus is on the goal of the promises, the benefits gained through the promises. And he states that through the promises we may become partakers in the divine nature. In Greek thought, there was much discussion about the divine nature. The philosophers would say that there is a divine spark within us all that simply needs to be recognized. Or it is locked inside each of us and just needs to be let out. Or we can attain to the divine nature and immortality by great effort. Peter says no, we are not innately divine, but we become partakers of the divine nature through the promises freely given to us in Christ. The word is to partner, participate or share, to fellowship or have in common. Peter is not blurring the distinction between the uncreated creator and his creatures; he is not embracing pantheism suggesting that we are absorbed into the divine or polytheism saying that we become little gods. He is using the vocabulary of the philosophers to describe what he described in his first letter as being ‘born again… of imperishable seed’ [1:23]. John in his gospel says that Jesus gave the right to become children of God, to those who were born…of God [Jn1:12-13]. Paul tells us to ‘put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness [Eph.4:24]. Through the new birth, we are returned to a condition where we can more accurately bear the image of God that we were created to display, an image that was badly marred at the fall by rebellion and sin. By his divine power we are enabled to be godly, to exhibit holiness and purity and goodness and love.

That’s the positive result of the promises – we become participants in the divine nature. The negative is expressed by the next phrase:

4 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.

The world is morally bankrupt. Greek philosophers concluded that it is because the world is material and the material is evil. To escape from corruption is to transcend the material. Peter’s view is different. He says the world is messed up because we’re a bunch of selfish sinners. God created the material universe and said it was good – very good. We, by our rebellious self will did a very good job of messing things up. Paul says it this way:

Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned

Romans 8:20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

It is this moral and spiritual decay that is at the root of the external physical and societal decay. “It is a degenerative power that pervades all of unredeemed life and exercises a tyranny from which human effort knows no effective escape” [Hiebert, p.49]. And it is this that we have escaped through the precious and very great promises of the gospel. Through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord we receive unmerited grace. We have obtained a faith of equal standing, we have been freely given all things that pertain to life and godliness, and we have been granted very great and valuable promises. We were called out of darkness and into his marvelous light so that we would proclaim the excellencies of him who called us [1Pet.2:9].

Three things are at work in us who believe; the promises, the power and the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. In verse three it is ‘his divine power’ that gives us everything we need. That comes ‘through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence’. And it is by his own personal excellence that he gives us the very great and precious promises. The person of Christ attracts us, his divine power enables us to respond, and his promises secure for us participation in his divine nature.

How do we respond to all of this?

1. We must seek to know Jesus better. Peter says that the promises come to us through his own glory and excellence. I want to indulge myself in an exploration of the excellence of his character and the glory of his nature.

2. We must get to know his promises. Life transforming power comes through the promises, so I want to know what these promises are and bank on them day by day, cash them in and use them in my battle with my own corruption and sinful desire.

3. We must never turn it around. Peter lays for us the theological foundation for godly living in the gracious gift of our God. He goes on in the subsequent verses to describe what that life looks like. I never want to be guilty of turning the bible on its head and using it as a list of moral commands to keep in order to gain favor with God and merit eternal life. Rather, the power for a godly life comes as a gift through knowledge of Jesus – his finished work on the cross – and from the divine promises that are freely given to me.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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October 11, 2009 - Posted by | 2 Peter, podcast | , , , , , , ,

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