Growing through Knowing in 2 Peter

“May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” (2 Peter 1:2)

Grace and peace often open the NT letters as blessings found and sought in Jesus Christ.[1] To have these multiplied in our life is to experience the favor of God and a flourishing life in Christ. Peter opens both of his letters with this prayer that grace and peace would be multiplied to his readers (1 Peter 1:2; 2 Peter 1:2). Or, as he says when he closes this second letter, he wants them to “grow in grace” (2 Peter 5:18).

How does this happen? What multiplies God’s grace and peace in our lives and churches? What causes us to grow, mature, and see the Spirit bear fruit in our lives? It’s knowing God (2 Peter 1:2). 

“May grace and peace be multiplied to you…” 

  • “in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” (1:2; ESV)
  • through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” (1:2; CSB)
  • as you grow in your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord.” (1:2; NLT)

Growth doesn’t just happen on its own. It’s not an automatic process that happens by simply being around the Church, Christians, or the Bible any more than you’re likely to become ripped by walking into the gym or having friends excited about lifting weights. Spiritual growth also doesn’t happen through our efforts of self-improvement, through sheer willpower toward change, or by simply learning more religious facts or participating in more religious activities. 

Growth happens as we see and know Christ. This is so central to Peter’s teaching about maturity that he both opens and closes his letter by beating this drum. “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).[2] There is no growing in the grace of Christ apart from growing in the knowledge of Christ.

“The text opens by claiming that we need ‘knowledge.’ And the letter will close on the same word. So from beginning to end we stand in need of a certain kind of knowledge, a knowledge of God (1:2, 8; 3:18 and shown by way of contrast in 2:20). For this “knowledge” is the actual basis for strengthening, the sure foundation that Peter means to convey in his letter. It is the central theme, and, as we shall see in the next chapter, this knowledge is not merely intellectual or academic. It involves a firsthand experience of relational intimacy with God through abiding faith in Christ.”[3]

David Helm

Be Planted in the Right Soil

Paul not only hits this in his opening (1:2) and closing (3:18), but he also makes it the first thing he mentions as he gets into his letter.

“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, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises…” (2 Peter 1:3-4)

Pay attention to what Peter is saying. God, through His divine power, has given us whatever we need for life and godliness. Everything. There’s nothing we need to grow that God has not given us. But he doesn’t give us what we need in a spiritual drunk drawer of random resources we just pick up and grab (“where’s that patience I need today?”) or by raining down on us random droplets of spiritual fuzzies or bursts of strength we suddenly find in some deep reservoir within. No, he gives us everything we need in and through Jesus. He gives us Jesus, and in him, there’s not a single thing we’re missing out on.

The way we receive these all these things comes “through the knowledge of Him.” Even the precious and great promises (1:4) are rooted in the knowledge of God as they make clear to us who God is, who we are in Christ, and who He promises to be for us as His people. As we dig into God’s Word and unearth His grace, goodness, and glory, this provides the food we need for our health and growth.[4]

The Center and Authority of Peter’s Ministry

Peter even defends his ministry, and rebukes false teachers, based upon his firsthand knowledge of Jesus. Because Peter knew Jesus and was his disciple and apostle, Peter is able to pass on a true or right knowledge of Jesus (1:16-19). He counters this true knowledge of Jesus he offers to the “cleverly devised myths” (1:16), “destructive heresies” (2:1), and “false words” (2:2) of those “false prophets” and “false teachers” (2:1) who never walked with and knew Jesus. They’re spreading knowledge of Jesus that is false and will be unfruitful, ineffective, and ultimately bring on destruction but it is not the right knowledge of Jesus that produces fruit that reflects Jesus (1:5-7).

What is Peter’s point throughout this letter? It’s that knowing the real Jesus—the one witnessed and known by the disciples and revealed in the Scriptures (1:20-21)—is the way we become like Jesus. In seeing and savoring Christ, we are transformed into his likeness. We don’t try to become a better version of ourselves in the hope that we then can draw near to Jesus, but instead, we draw near to Jesus and get to know him so that we gradually become like and reflect the one we worship and follow. 

As we see Jesus, he exposes in us what is unlike him. It’s knowing Jesus that sheds light on our sin but simultaneously helps us fight that sin. As we know him, the tastebuds of our heart start to change and develop. We get tired of our sin and the unsatisfying aftertaste it leaves with us and we begin to thirst more and more for the soul-satisfying food that Christ offers. Or, seeing the real Jesus opens our eyes to how we’ve been trying to feed our appetite on snacks that fail to leave us filled and malnourish us when there is a feast awaiting us. Jesus alone has the power to show us our sin and help us fight our sin, not first and foremost by us simply choosing to change (though that’s part of repentance) but by changing us from the inside-out by reorienting our delights and desires around the knowledge of him.

Simply said, if you want to grow as a Christian, grow in your knowledge of Christ. The fuel of growing in Christ is focusing on knowing Christ.[5]

“What were we made for? To know God. What aim should we set ourselves in life? To know God. What is the eternal life that Jesus gives? Knowledge of God. “This is life eternal, that they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). What is the best thing in life, bringing more joy, delight, and contentment than anything else? Knowledge of God… What, of all the states God ever sees man in, gives him most pleasure? Knowledge of himself. “I desire … the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings,” says God (Hosea 6:6).… Once you have become aware that the main business that you are here for is to know God, most of life’s problems fall into place of their own accord.”[6]

J. I. Packer

Footnotes

[1]  See 1 Peter 1:2; Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:3; Eph. 1:2; Phil. 1:2; Col. 1:2; 1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:2; 1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2; Titus 1:4; Phlm. 1:3.

[2] This isn’t unique to Peter. Paul repeats the same idea that our growth as a believer happens by growing in a true, personal, worshipful knowledge of God; see Col. 1:10, 28; 2:19; 3:9-10; Eph. 1:17; 3:18-19.

[3] David R. Helm, 1 & 2 Peter and Jude: Sharing Christ’s Sufferings, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2008), 188.

[4] In 2 Peter 1:5-7, he describes some of the characteristics of “good fruit” we should cultivate and nurture in our life—characteristics flowing out of this “knowledge” of God in 1:3. He then explains again in 1:8 that these qualities or characteristics are consistent with fruitful and an effective “knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:8). As Peter saw firsthand when Jesus walked on Earth, there are some who “know” Jesus but this head knowledge does not get into the soil of our hearts and produce fruit. It’s a knowledge about Jesus but devoid of trust in Jesus, obedience to Jesus, delight in Jesus, and worship of Jesus. This surface-level, head knowledge of Jesus is distinguished from a true knowledge of Jesus that sees, believes in, and trusts in him. This kind of knowledge—which is the knowledge of God Peter mentions throughout his letter—results in the kind of fruit he lists in 1:5-7.

[5] John Calvin explains that the right knowledge of God is ultimately found in knowing Christ—who is made known to us in the written Word. “He connects together at the same time the knowledge of God and of Christ; because God cannot be rightly known except in Christ, according to that saying, “No one knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him.” (Matt. 11:27.)” John Calvin and John Owen, Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 367.

[6] J. I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1973), 29.

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indycrowe

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