Growing in the True Knowledge of Christ
Philippe R. Sterling
The best safeguard against false teaching is growth in the true knowledge of Christ and trust in the promises of God.
Simon Peter identifies himself as the author of the letter. He writes to those who have the same kind of faith as himself and the apostles. False teachers have crept in and are undermining their faith. Peter stresses the need for growth in the true knowledge of Christ, warns against false teachers, and encourages hope in the promises of God.
Literary Structure and Content
I. Preface: Peter identifies himself as a bondservant and apostle of Jesus, writes to those who have the same kind
of faith, and prays for the multiplication of grace and peace to them in the knowledge of God and Christ (1:1-2).
II. Prologue: Cultivate Christ-like character from the root of faith to produce a fruitful life and reap a glorious
entrance into the kingdom of God (1:3-11).
A. Provision: God has made provision of His power and promises to us so that we can escape from the
corruption of the world and become conformed to His nature (1:3-4).
B. Process: We need to make use of God’s provision and cultivate Christ-like character (1:5-7).
We must add seven elements of Christ-like character to our faith. We are to supply in our faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly love, and love. Faith is the root and love is the fruit.
C. Product: The cultivation of Christ-like character produces a fruitful life, certifies our calling, helps us avoid
a spiritual fall, and insures a glorious entrance into the kingdom of God (1:8-11).
III. Ground of Faith: Faith must be grounded in facts to grow and bear fruit (1:12-21).
A. Reminding each other of the facts of the faith will stir us to fruitfulness (1:12-15).
B. A fundamental fact of the faith is the Second Coming of Christ confirmed by the eyewitness testimony of
the apostles and the declaration of God at the transfiguration of Christ (1:16-18).
C. The divine inspiration of Scripture guarantees the reliability of the prophetic word which is in accord with
the apostolic witness (1:19-21).
IV. Warning about False Teachers: We should completely reject the depraved lifestyle of false teachers who
are destined for destruction (2:1-22).
A. The advent of false teachers will become a deplorable reality (2:1-3).
1. False teachers will appear in the church deceiving believers and denying Christ (1).
2. The false teachers will lead many astray and defame the way of truth (2).
3. God will judge and destroy these greedy false teachers (3).
B. The doom of the false teachers will contrast strikingly with the deliverance of the godly (2:4-9).
1. God has made fallen angels, the ancient world, and ancient cities examples of His judgment (4-6).
2. God has made Noah and Lot examples of His deliverance of the righteous from appalling circumstances
C. The character of the false teachers is hopelessly depraved (2:10-17).
1. God judges the immoral and the insubordinate (10a).
2. God will judge the insubordinate who are like animals (10b-12).
3. God will judge the immoral who engage in senseless behavior (13-17).
D. The victims of the false teachers are dragged into spiritual ruin (2:18-22).
1. The false teachers will seek to seduce believers (18-19).
2. Weak believers will become entangled and fall into sick behavior (20-22).
V. Protection against False Teaching: To protect against false teaching we must pay attention to the Scriptures
and know the truth about creation, the day of the Lord, and the new creation (3:1-13).
A. Pay attention to the Scriptures which includes the words of the prophets and the commandments of
Christ spoken by the apostles (3:1-2).
B. Know the truth about creation, the day of the Lord, the new creation, and live rightly (3:3-13).
1. Know that mockers will come who follow after their own lusts and have a faulty view of creation and
the coming of Christ willfully ignoring the facts concerning fiat creation, flood judgment, and final judgment
2. Understand God’s view of time, God’s desire to delay judgment, and God’s plan for the end (8-10).
3. Our knowledge of the future must affect how we now live our lives — we are to wait eagerly for the day of
the Lord and the new heavens and the new earth (11-13).
VI. Conclusion: Our hope must bring about our holiness (3:14-18).
A. Expecting the fulfillment of God’s promises, let us make sure that the Lord at His coming finds us
peaceable, pure, and perceptive concerning the Scriptures which includes the letters of Paul (3:14-16).
B. Knowing God’s prophetic program, let us guard against error, grow in grace and glorify God (3:17-18).
Theological Reflection and Application
There is much doctrinal and practical truth in 2 Peter. Passages in the letter advance truth concerning the spiritual life, the inspiration of the Bible, and future events in the plan of God.
The spiritual life is the focus of 2 Peter 1:3-11. It balances truth concerning the provision of God and its appropriation for spiritual growth and fruitfulness. . God has made the provision of His power and promises for us to move away from the corruption of the world to conformity with Christ (vv. 3-4). God does not make us holy without our involvement. The human responsibility is advanced in the words “applying all diligence, in your faith supply . . . .” Peter presents seven elements of Christ-like character which we must supply diligently in our faith. We must proceed from the root of faith and cultivate the foliage of Christ-like character which flowers in love (vv. 5-7). Proceeding from profession of faith to practice of faith produces a fruitful life and insures a glorious entrance into the kingdom of God (vv. 8-11).
Peter’s readers were acquainted with the truths of the Scriptures, but he was convinced that they needed continual reminders. The most important fact which would stir them to fruitfulness was the promise of the coming of Christ. The divine inspiration of Scripture guarantees the reliability of the prophetic word which is in accord with the witness of the apostles (1:16-21; 3:2). The Scriptures are not the product of human interpretation or human impulse but of divine inspiration. At the end of the letter, Peter refers to the letters of Paul and puts them on par with “the rest of the Scriptures” which “the untaught and unstable distort” (3:15-16). The believer who builds his life on the word of God and who looks for the coming of the Lord is not likely to be led astray by false teachers.
Peter focuses on the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ as the centerpiece of God’s prophetic program (1:16; 3:3-13). The day of the Lord will come. Ultimately there will be new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.