Rev. VanOverloop is pastor of Byron Center Protestant Reformed Church in Byron Center, Michigan.
“Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”
The new Christians were having some serious questions about God’s promises. It seemed to them that God was not keeping His promises. Satan used this as an opportunity to push them to challenge God, to challenge whether His promises were true and whether He would keep them. Then these young Christians had times of wondering whether they were Christians. Their faith was shaken.
The specific promise of God that they were wondering about was the promise that Jesus would come again. They had been led to believe that this promise was going to be fulfilled soon. But it did not happen. So it seemed as if God was not keeping His promises. While we may have a better grasp of the meaning of God’s promise concerning the return of Jesus, we all have times when we question other of God’s promises. In the middle of difficult times we wonder if God has forgotten us, or if His grace truly is sufficient. Our fears and worries can easily make us wonder whether God knows and cares.
Peter shows that the right response to their questions and shaken faith is knowledge. Correct knowledge is the key. It was in Peter’s day, and it is in ours. Four times in the first chapter of this letter, Peter speaks of knowledge. And then Peter concludes his letter with the admonition to grow in knowledge (I Pet. 3:18). Often our problems in this area arise because we forget. Peter says that these new Christians did forget (I Pet. 1:9), so he is committed to doing whatever he can to help them remember (I Pet. 1:12-15).
They had been forgetting some of what they had been taught, and then they were doubting other things they had been taught—and then began doubting their own faith. They wondered whether it really was true that Jesus of Galilee was the fulfillment of all the Messianic promises of the Scriptures. They were seriously troubled.
Peter begins by assuring them that they possess the very same gift that he and the other apostles have, namely, “like precious faith.” He identifies himself as “an apostle of Jesus Christ.” An apostle (“a sent out one”) was someone who was personally sent out by Jesus Himself. Jesus had only twelve apostles. An apostle was equipped for this office by being an eyewitness to the ministry of Jesus. It was especially important that they were witnesses of His resurrection (they saw Him in His resurrected body).
Now Peter assures these new Christians that their faith is of the same value as that of the twelve apostles. It is the same faith. The faith of an apostle is not a different faith from that of the recent converts to the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is no difference between the faith of a mature Christian, such as Peter, and that of an immature Christian, as were these recent converts. We ought not think that the faith God gives to those in mission fields is to be esteemed and honored less than the faith God gives to those in long established congregations. There is one faith for both Jew and Gentile, for bond and free, for rich and poor, for the highly intelligent and the unintelligent, for females and males. God is not a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). Nor does changing times mean that there is need for a different faith. The church needs the same faith today as it did 2,000 years ago.
This “like faith” is the powerful bond that unites every believer to Jesus Christ. It is the bond that unites the elect and regenerated sinner to Christ, so that he is one with Christ, buried with Him into His death and raised with Him in His resurrection. Faith enables the regenerated and called saint to hold for truth all that God has revealed in His Word about God and about Jesus. Peter writes that their faith believes in God and in the Savior Jesus Christ. Faith believes in the God who has revealed Himself in the Holy Scriptures. And faith believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, whom the Scriptures declare to be the only Savior from sin. Faith acknowledges the need for salvation from sin, but it is also assured of all the great benefits of salvation in Christ, namely, forgiveness of sins and eternal righteousness.
So while these new Christians may have been troubled, wondering about their faith, Peter assures them that not only is their faith just like that of any of the apostles, but they must also remember that that faith puts them into union with the Savior Jesus Christ. They are much more secure than they feel!
What can also assure them is that their like precious faith is securely and forever theirs because it is a gift from the unchangeable God. They did not work to earn their faith, and they do not have to work to keep it. They “obtained” it. This means that their faith was given to them. They (and we) receive faith by divine allotment. We did not buy it by our works or activities. It cannot be bought. It is without money and without price (Is. 55:1).
The apostles, the new Christians, and today’s Christians obtain faith “through the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ.” As the children of Adam we have lost the right to obtain any expression of divine love. In Adam we so grievously sinned against Him that we deserve only eternal wrath and damnation. So for any child of Adam to receive the gift of faith, of a union to Christ that opens the way experientially to all the blessings of salvation, we must be judged by God to be worthy; and we are worthy only because God, in His sovereign good pleasure, graciously gives His righteousness to us. We are right in the sight of God because He gave us His own righteousness, earned for us by our Savior, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ bore the punishment of all the sins of all those given Him of the Father, and He earned righteousness for His people. God imputes this righteousness to our account, and He imparts it to each of His people. The result of this divine act of justification is that we now stand before God as right as Christ is. Those made right in God’s sight by Christ’s righteousness are given this precious faith. Faith is precious, that is, very valuable. Its value is beyond computation. You cannot set a price on it. It is “much more precious than of gold” (I Pet. 1:7). It has such great value because “the end of your faith” is “the salvation of your souls” (I Pet. 1:9).
Faith is precious because it puts one into union with Jesus, who is “precious” (I Pet. 2:4, 7).
Some possessions are of great value to us just because of who it was that gave them to us. Faith is like that. It is precious because of Him who gave it to us as a gift: God Himself. Our righteousness by faith cost God. To forgive us and to save us cost God greatly, for He can give the gift of faith only in righteousness. “Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold…but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (I Pet. 1:18, 19). The cost was that God had to avert His face from His beloved Son. It cost the Son His own precious life. This makes the gift of faith very precious!
Peter continues to assure the new Christians by blessing them. He does not merely make a wish for them. As an apostle of Jesus Christ he is able to say this as an efficacious declaration. When an apostle and servant of Jesus gives a blessing, then it has added weight and authority.
“Grace and peace be multiplied unto you.” Grace is God’s unmerited favor working in the heart and lives of each of His children. Grace is God’s love, which pardons the elect sinners. The salutation of grace assures them of God’s pardon operating as a spiritual power in their lives. They may know that they are forgiven of all their sins.
“Peace” is the consciousness of having been and being reconciled with God through Jesus Christ. The salutation of peace assures them that what was broken and severed by sin is made whole and healed. It results in a sense of tranquility, with an assurance of blessing.
These blessings are the experience of a Christian in the way of “the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” Peter is emphasizing the importance and preciousness of right knowledge. Knowledge holds for truth what God has revealed in His Word, and it delights in that which it knows. In times of confusion (as when it seems that God’s promises are delayed), this knowledge of God and of Jesus is our calming guide. If there is anything that we know about God from His Word, it is that He is faithful to keep His promises. He is ever faithful and ever sure.
Let not your hearts be troubled!