It’s a marvel that although one has read the Bible for a great number of years there are still new things to be found. The opening words of Peter’s second epistle caught our attention: “to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours”. The point does stands out in the ESV.
As he reflects back on life’s experiences, how great was Peter’s faith now. In verses 16-18 he reflects on the wonderful experience on the mountain when his Master was transfigured; he declares, “we were eye witnesses of his majesty”. Yet we know that not long after, in the panic that followed Jesus’ arrest, Peter’s faith collapsed.
Faith is a quality that is proved by actions, something emphasized in James. Those who are not conscious of the need to develop an active faith, would not be impressed by the urgency of the words of second Peter. “You …having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire … make every effort to supplement your faith with …” (1:4,5) and there follows a list of the qualities of character which enable faith to grow. Have a look at them! Then Peter says, ”IF these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful…” (verse 8). Unfruitful in what?
Do we appreciate the point here? Peter writes of the danger of being “unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ”. But he is not talking about intellectual knowledge. The Greek word is epignosis (Paul uses it in Romans 1:28 “and since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind …”). Peter uses it again in his second chapter, expressing his dismay that there is no growth in their awareness of God’s presence and His oversight of their lives.
“For IF, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first” (verse 20, but also see the next verse). Peter is referring to ‘heart knowledge’ as distinct from ‘head knowledge’. Both are essential, but, dare we say, ‘head knowledge’ is easier! Do not miss the point Peter makes in verse 9 – what the failure of ‘heart knowledge’ causes! Such a person “is so nearsighted that he (or she) is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore brothers (and sisters) be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for IF you practice these qualities you will never fall”. Then our faith will have some comparison to Peter’s and verse11 will be true for you as it will be for him.