Although one has read the Bible for a great number of years one still comes across things one has not really taken note of before. 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 not stand out so much in the AV as the ESV.
How great was Peter’s faith now. As he reflects on his life’s experiences (verses 16-18), he thinks about the time on the mountain when his Master was transfigured before him and two fellow disciples. “We were eye witnesses of his majesty”. Yet we know that not long after, in the panic that followed his Master’s arrest, Peter’s faith collapsed.
Faith is a quality that is proved by actions. Those who are not conscious of the need to develop a real active faith, would not be impressed by the urgency of Peter’s words in his second epistle. He writes, “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. Then he 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 here is epignosis and Paul uses it in Romans 1:28 “as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate 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 oversight of their lives. He writes, “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; see also verse 21). Peter is referring to what we might term ‘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 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 verse 11 will be true for you as it will be for him.