Rev. VanOverloop is pastor of Byron Center Protestant Reformed Church in Byron Center, Michigan.
“According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”
Peter wrote this epistle to new Christians. They were being troubled by false prophets who brought “damnable heresies,” which raised questions about God’s promises. Doubts had arisen in their spiritually young minds (though one does not have to be spiritually young to have such doubts and fears) whether God’s promises were true and whether He would keep them. When these doubts get started, then the devil keeps pushing, in order to shake their faith and to make them doubt their Christianity.
Peter began his letter to them by assuring them that they possess the very same “precious faith” that he and the other apostles have. The faith of recent converts is the same faith given to the twelve apostles. And we can add that we have the same faith today as they had 2000 years ago.
In our text the apostle describes the wonderful contents of the salvation God gives by means of the faith He works in us. As frightened and doubtful as these saints are, God uses His servant Peter to assure His young children that they are His—and just what a wonderful thing it is to be His. So Peter, with evident delight, gives a brief and powerful description of their (and our) salvation.
Peter begins by reminding these saints that they are saints precisely because and only because the Almighty Jehovah, Creator of the ends of the earth, the everlasting God, gave them salvation. Peter told them in the first verse that they “obtained” faith, i.e., it was given to them. They did not make it, nor earn it; they did not accept an offer. It was given to them. They received faith by divine allotment.
Now Peter adds that, in addition, they were “given…all things that pertain to life and godliness.” We are to remember that the Giver exercises “His divine power” to give this gift. Divine power gives to God’s children all that is necessary for spiritual life. This life is spiritual life in Christ; the life of regeneration; the life of those who are adopted into God’s family. It is the life of an intimate relationship with the Father. In addition, divine power gives to God’s children all that is necessary for “godliness,” that is, a living before God’s face, a reverent attitude, and actions that flow out of this wonderful life with God. Because divine power gives initial life and godliness, we may be assured that nothing is able to undo what God did and is doing. His power gives and it continues to sustain, without interruption, for as long as we live.
Peter speaks of this great gift of God because he is presenting assurances to these attacked and troubled saints. They are fearful about being able to continue in their new Christian faith, both for the present and in the future. Peter reminds them that their faith was given to them by God Himself, who never changes. And, with the gift of faith, God gave them also a life and godliness that Satan and all his forces cannot destroy. The power of Satan and of false prophets is the power of a creature. Over against the power of creatures is divine power, the Almighty! Be not afraid. Fear no evil. Trust in Him. Rest in Him. Seek Him for all you need. When our foes seem so great and strong, then compare them to the incomparable Almighty Jehovah (Is. 46:5).
How does God give us all things that pertain to life and godliness? “Through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.” Knowledge of God— that is the answer to every one of our fears. When we are afraid in the present or for the future, it is the knowledge of the Almighty, the all-wise and loving Father, that brings peace and calm. In the previous verse Peter said that knowledge of God and of Jesus is the way that the experience of grace and peace became theirs. To know God is life (John 17:3). And to know God is the basis for godliness—living before the face of God. So an intimate knowledge of God assures us of His continued great care. In addition, to look up to and at God reminds us that He is the One who called us to faith. He began and will continue His excellent work of calling us by the effectual outward and inward call. The knowledge of this brings calm. These new Christians and we are secure in the faith. No one can pluck us out of the hand of our Father or out of faith and salvation.
When God efficaciously calls and saves someone, then that person is immediately given something. God floods him with the vast treasure of His own “glory and virtue.” We are completely sinful and corrupt and covered with shame until God clothes us with His own glory and excellence. As great as the enemies of our faith and of the truth may seem to be, we are assured of our security when we remember that God Himself called us by His own glory and His moral excellence. Nothing less than God’s own glory and moral excellence are at stake if His people should fall from faith and salvation. That is why we have no real reason to be afraid.
When the glorious God calls us, then He also gives us “great and precious promises” concerning the future. His promises are the greatest and the most precious. Further, because it is God who makes these promises, they are sure to be realized. And notice that there are no strings attached to these promises, because they “are given” as gifts.
The excellence of these promises arises from the fact that because of them (“by these”) we are made to be “partakers of the divine nature.” God’s promises center in Jesus and in all His riches and gifts. In Jesus all of God’s promises are fulfilled, for He came, suffered, and died to accomplish our salvation. Through Him we have salvation—a salvation that cannot be taken from us. And through Jesus we have life eternal, with the hope of its being realized in the new heavens and earth (cf. 3:13). These promises are essentially fulfilled, but not completely until Jesus returns (which return is a part of God’s promise, 3:4).
So, when fearful and troubled by the false prophets and Satan, consider Him who began a good work in you. Consider His divine power and His own glory and excellence by which He called you. Look up. Consider what He has already done for you.
Then consider the present end of God’s powerful work in us.
First, we are “escaped.” This means that we are spiritually delivered from the morally corrupt environment that surrounds every member of the church militant. We still live in the midst of the corruption of this world. It is perishing and fit for destruction and eternal misery in hell. But we are escaped.
And we are delivered from the dominion of our depraved nature, which has its source in our own lusts. We are to reckon ourselves to be dead to sin and alive to God through Jesus Christ (Rom. 6:11). God has called us into communion with Himself through His Son, and this communion enables you not to let sin “reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof” (Rom. 6:12). We are now able to make the choice to yield ourselves “unto God, as those that are alive from the dead,” and we are able to yield our “members as instruments of righteousness unto God” (Rom. 6:13). We can still be seduced by and comply with the lusts of the flesh, and we are liable even to be drawn into great sins, but we must repent and fly for refuge to Christ crucified. We must mortify our flesh more and more, and press toward the goal of perfection.
Second, when God called us, and gave us faith and all things with regard to life and godliness, He gave us the great honor of being “partakers of the divine nature.” We certainly do not partake of the divine as Jesus did, but nothing less than God’s image is re-created in us (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10). God predestinated us to be conformed to the image of His dear Son (Rom. 8:29), so we are real children of God. We are able rightly to know Him, and to possess righteousness and to have holiness worked in us. The good news of Jesus Christ proclaims not only forgiveness of every sin, but also a sanctification through the Spirit. God’s adoption of us to be His children means that we actually partake of His life, which begins in regeneration. And soon His glory will be revealed in us.
May assurance arise out of the knowledge that you are the object of God’s divine power and the recipient of faith and of all things needed for life and godliness. The false prophets may confuse for a while, but they are false. The new (and old) Christians can be assured, with a confidence that arises from knowing God and His mighty works for us and in us.
Let not your hearts be troubled! Know whom you have believed! Know His power and His promises!