Well, folks, we are on to the third last book of the year. One more month and we will have met a great goal of reading through the New Testament this year. The reading plan we are using takes us now to Peter’s second letter, out-of-order as we read 1 Peter a month ago or so. I am sure they have put 2 Peter here because of its many connections to the book of Jude. If you would like to review the short introduction the Petrine letters I wrote back when we came to 1 Peter, you can find that here.
What does it mean to know God? What is real spiritual knowledge?
As we will learn more about on Monday, there were false teachers in the churches Peter was addressing. Most people identify these as early versions of Gnostics, Christians who mixed their Christianity with significant doses of Greek philosophy and mystical kind of thinking. These dualists made a strong contrast between the flesh and the spirit and, given the emphasis in this chapter on moral purity, they often taught that one showed their spiritual strength by engaging in sin with the body so as to show that their spirits were pure enough to remain unaffected. Gnostics spoke often of having “knowledge,” which for them meant an intellectual and spiritual understanding that allowed them to rise above the mundane matters of physical life. These false teachers had definite ideas on what it meant to have “knowledge.”
But so did Peter. As he uses the word “knowledge” five times in this opening chapter and refers to “truth” and the “mind” as well, we know Peter wanted to weigh in on what true “knowledge” is. Knowledge gives us everything we need to live a godly life that runs away from the “corruption of lust” (1:3-4). Knowledge is one element necessary in living a fruitful life, a partner to character traits like virtue, patience, self-control, faith, and love (1:5-8). In short, for Peter “knowledge” is an embodied understanding and skill that allows its possessor to live an earthly, physical life in the nitty-gritty in a way that glorifies God and maintains a high level of moral quality. Knowledge is as much about the hands as the head. Knowledge is lived, not simply believed or thought. Truth is a lived, physical reality. That would be a definite contrast to Gnostic thinking.
God has bestowed upon us, through his divine power, everything that we need for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and virtue. (1:3)