Let Us Hold Fast to Our Precious Faith!
“To those who have obtained a faith, held in equal privilege with ours.”—2 PETER 1:1.
1. What did Jesus say in warning to his apostles, yet what was Peter’s boast?
ON THE evening before Jesus’ death, he said that all his apostles would abandon him. One of them, Peter, boasted: “Although all the others are stumbled in connection with you, never will I be stumbled!” (Matthew 26:33) But Jesus knew otherwise. That is why he told Peter on that same occasion: “I have made supplication for you that your faith may not give out; and you, when once you have returned, strengthen your brothers.”—Luke 22:32.
2. Despite Peter’s overconfidence, what actions of his betrayed that his faith was weak?
2 Peter, who had become overconfident regarding his faith, disowned Jesus that very night. Three times he denied that he even knew Christ! (Matthew 26:69-75) When he “returned,” his Master’s words, “strengthen your brothers,” must have rung in his ears loud and clear. The rest of Peter’s life was deeply affected by that admonition, as is evidenced by the two letters he wrote, which are preserved in the Bible.
Why Peter Wrote His Letters
3. Why did Peter write his first letter?
3 About 30 years after Jesus’ death, Peter wrote his first letter, addressing it to his brothers in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, areas that now make up central, northern, and western Turkey. (1 Peter 1:1) Jews, some of whom may have become Christians at Pentecost 33 C.E., were no doubt included among those to whom Peter wrote. (Acts 2:1, 7-9) Many were Gentiles who were undergoing fiery trials at the hands of opposers. (1 Peter 1:6, 7; 2:12, 19, 20; 3:13-17; 4:12-14) So Peter wrote to these brothers to encourage them. His aim was to help them receive “the end of [their] faith, the salvation of [their] souls.” Thus, in his parting admonition, he urged: “Take your stand against [the Devil], solid in the faith.”—1 Peter 1:9; 5:8-10.
4. Why did Peter write his second letter?
4 Later, Peter wrote a second letter to these Christians. (2 Peter 3:1) Why? Because an even greater threat existed. Immoral individuals would try to promote their defiling conduct among believers and would mislead some! (2 Peter 2:1-3) Moreover, Peter warned of ridiculers. He had written in his first letter that “the end of all things has drawn close,” and now some were apparently scoffing at such an idea. (1 Peter 4:7; 2 Peter 3:3, 4) Let us examine Peter’s second letter and see how it strengthened the brothers to remain steadfast in the faith. In this first article, we will consider 2 Peter chapter 1.
The Purpose of Chapter 1
5. How does Peter prepare his readers for a discussion of problems?
5 Peter does not immediately address the serious problems. Rather, he prepares the way for the discussion of these problems by building up his readers’ appreciation for what they received when they became Christians. He reminds them of the wonderful promises of God and of the reliability of Bible prophecies. He does this by telling about the transfiguration, the vision he personally had of Christ in Kingdom power.—Matthew 17:1-8; 2 Peter 1:3, 4, 11, 16-21.
6, 7. (a) What lesson can we learn from the introduction to Peter’s letter? (b) If we give counsel, what kind of admission might it sometimes be helpful to make?
6 Can we learn a lesson from Peter’s introduction? Is not counsel more acceptable if we first review with listeners features of the grand Kingdom hope that we treasure in common? And what about using a personal experience? Likely, after Jesus’ death, Peter often told about seeing that vision of Christ in Kingdom glory.—Matthew 17:9.
7 Remember, too, that in all probability, by the time Peter wrote his second letter, Matthew’s Gospel and the apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians had been widely distributed. So Peter’s human failings as well as his record of faith may have been well-known among his contemporaries. (Matthew 16:21-23; Galatians 2:11-14) This did not, however, take away his freeness of speech. Indeed, it may have made his letter more appealing to those who were conscious of their own weaknesses. Therefore, when helping those who have problems, might it not be effective to admit that we too are prone to error?—Romans 3:23; Galatians 6:1.
A Strengthening Greeting
8. In what sense did Peter likely use the word “faith”?
8 Consider now Peter’s greeting. He immediately touches on the subject of faith, addressing his readers as “those who have obtained a faith, held in equal privilege with ours.” (2 Peter 1:1) Here the expression “a faith” likely means “firm persuasion” and refers to the body of Christian beliefs or teachings, which in the Scriptures is sometimes called “the truth.” (Galatians 5:7; 2 Peter 2:2; 2 John 1) The word “faith” is often used in this sense rather than in the general sense of trust or confidence placed in a person or thing.—Acts 6:7; 2 Corinthians 13:5; Galatians 6:10; Ephesians 4:5; Jude 3.
9. Why must Peter’s greeting have sounded especially warm to Gentiles?
9 Peter’s greeting must have sounded especially warm to Gentile readers. Jews had no dealings with Gentiles, even despising them, and prejudice against Gentiles persisted among Jews who had become Christians. (Luke 10:29-37; John 4:9; Acts 10:28) Yet, Peter, a Jew by birth and an apostle of Jesus Christ, said that his readers—Jews and Gentiles—shared the same faith and enjoyed equal privilege with him.
10. What lessons can we learn from Peter’s greeting?
10 Think of the fine lessons Peter’s greeting teaches us today. God is not partial; he does not favor one race or nationality over another. (Acts 10:34, 35; 11:1, 17; 15:3-9) As Jesus himself taught, all Christians are brothers, and none of us should feel superior. Further, Peter’s greeting emphasizes that we are indeed a worldwide brotherhood, who hold “in equal privilege” the faith that Peter and his fellow apostles had.—Matthew 23:8; 1 Peter 5:9.
Knowledge and God’s Promises
11. Following his greeting, what vital things does Peter emphasize?
11 Following his greeting, Peter writes: “May undeserved kindness and peace be increased to you.” How are undeserved kindness and peace to be increased to us? “By an accurate knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord,” answers Peter. Then he says: “Divine power has given us freely all the things that concern life and godly devotion.” But how do we receive these vital things? “Through the accurate knowledge of the one who called us through glory and virtue.” Thus Peter twice emphasizes that an accurate knowledge of God and his Son is essential.—2 Peter 1:2, 3; John 17:3.
12. (a) Why does Peter stress the importance of accurate knowledge? (b) To enjoy God’s promises, what must we first have done?
12 The “false teachers” about whom Peter warns in chapter 2 use “counterfeit words” to deceive Christians. In this way they try to seduce them back into the immorality from which they were delivered. The results to any who have been saved through “an accurate knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” and who later succumb to such deception are disastrous. (2 Peter 2:1-3, 20) Evidently in anticipation of discussing this problem later, Peter stresses at the very outset of his letter the role of accurate knowledge in maintaining a clean standing with God. Peter observes that God “has freely given us the precious and very grand promises, that through these you may become sharers in divine nature.” Yet, to enjoy these promises, which are an integral part of our faith, says Peter, we must first have “escaped from the corruption that is in the world through lust.”—2 Peter 1:4.
13. To what are both anointed Christians and “other sheep” determined to hold fast?
13 How do you view God’s promises? In the way the remnant of anointed Christians do? In 1991, Frederick Franz, then president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, who had pursued the full-time ministry for over 75 years, summed up the feelings of those who hope to reign with Christ: “We are holding fast down to this very hour, and we are going to hold fast until God has actually proved that he is true to his ‘precious and very grand promises.’” Brother Franz remained confident in God’s promise of a heavenly resurrection, and he held fast to the faith until his death at age 99. (1 Corinthians 15:42-44; Philippians 3:13, 14; 2 Timothy 2:10-12) Similarly, millions are holding fast to the faith, keeping their focus on God’s promise of an earthly paradise in which people will live forever in happiness. Are you one of these?—Luke 23:43; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:3, 4.
Response to God’s Promises
14. Why does Peter list virtue as the first quality to be supplied to faith?
14 Are we grateful to God for what he has promised? If so, Peter argues, we should show it. “Yes, for this very reason” (because God has given us very precious promises), we should make a real effort to act. We cannot be content with merely being in the faith or with merely being acquainted with Bible truth. That is not enough! Perhaps in Peter’s day some in the congregations talked a lot about faith but got involved in immoral conduct. Their behavior needed to be virtuous, so Peter urges: “Supply to your faith virtue.”—2 Peter 1:5; James 2:14-17.
15. (a) Why is knowledge listed after virtue as a quality to be supplied to faith? (b) What other qualities will equip us to hold fast to the faith?
15 After mentioning virtue, Peter lists six more qualities that must be supplied, or added, to our faith. Each of these is needed if we are to “stand firm in the faith.” (1 Corinthians 16:13) Because apostates were ‘twisting the Scriptures’ and propagating “deceptive teachings,” Peter next lists knowledge as vital, saying: “To your virtue [supply] knowledge.” Then he continues: “To your knowledge [add] self-control, to your self-control endurance, to your endurance godly devotion, to your godly devotion brotherly affection, to your brotherly affection love.”—2 Peter 1:5-7; 2:12, 13; 3:16.
16. What will happen if the qualities Peter lists are supplied to faith, but what will happen if they are not?
16 What will happen if these seven things are supplied to our faith? “If these things exist in you and overflow,” Peter answers, “they will prevent you from being either inactive or unfruitful regarding the accurate knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:8) On the other hand, Peter says: “If these things are not present in anyone, he is blind, shutting his eyes to the light, and has become forgetful of his cleansing from his sins of long ago.” (2 Peter 1:9) Notice that Peter changes from the use of “you” and “our” to “anyone,” “he,” and “his.” Although, sadly, some are blind, forgetful, and unclean, Peter kindly does not imply that the reader is one of these.—2 Peter 2:2.
Strengthening His Brothers
17. What may have prompted Peter’s tender appeal to practice “these things”?
17 Perhaps recognizing that new ones in particular can easily be deceived, Peter tenderly encourages them: “Brothers, all the more do your utmost to make the calling and choosing of you sure for yourselves; for if you keep on doing these things you will by no means ever fail.” (2 Peter 1:10; 2:18) Anointed Christians who supply to their faith these seven things will enjoy a grand reward, as Peter says: “There will be richly supplied to you the entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:11) The “other sheep” will receive an everlasting inheritance in the earthly realm of God’s Kingdom.—John 10:16; Matthew 25:33, 34.
18. Why is Peter disposed “always to remind” his brothers?
18 Peter sincerely wants such a grand reward for his brothers. “For this reason,” he writes, “I shall be disposed always to remind you of these things, although you know them and are firmly set in the truth.” (2 Peter 1:12) Peter uses the Greek word ste·riʹzo, here translated “are firmly set” but rendered “strengthen” in Jesus’ earlier admonition to Peter: “Strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:32) The use of that word may suggest that Peter remembers the powerful admonition he received from his Lord. Peter now says: “I consider it right, as long as I am in this tabernacle [human body], to rouse you up by way of reminding you, knowing as I do that the putting off of my tabernacle is soon to be.”—2 Peter 1:13, 14.
19. What helps do we need today?
19 Although Peter kindly says that his readers are “firmly set in the truth,” he realizes that their faith could experience shipwreck. (1 Timothy 1:19) Since he knows that he is soon to die, he strengthens his brothers by mentioning things that they can later call to mind to keep themselves spiritually strong. (2 Peter 1:15; 3:12, 13) Similarly, we today need constant reminders to remain firm in the faith. Regardless of who we are or how long we have been in the truth, we cannot neglect regular Bible reading, personal study, and attendance at congregation meetings. Some make excuses for not attending, saying that they are too tired or that the meetings are repetitive or not well presented, but Peter knew how fast any one of us can lose faith if we become overconfident.—Mark 14:66-72; 1 Corinthians 10:12; Hebrews 10:25.
Firm Basis for Our Faith
20, 21. How did the transfiguration strengthen the faith of Peter and readers of his letters, including us today?
20 Is our faith simply based on cleverly invented myths? “No,” Peter responds emphatically, “it was not by following artfully contrived false stories that we acquainted you with the power and presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, but it was by having become eyewitnesses of his magnificence.” Peter, James, and John were present with Jesus when they saw a vision of him in Kingdom power. Peter explains: “He received from God the Father honor and glory, when words such as these were borne to him by the magnificent glory: ‘This is my son, my beloved, whom I myself have approved.’ Yes, these words we heard borne from heaven while we were with him in the holy mountain.”—2 Peter 1:16-18.
21 When Peter, James, and John saw that vision, the Kingdom certainly became real to them! “Consequently,” Peter observes, “we have the prophetic word made more sure; and you are doing well in paying attention to it.” Yes, readers of Peter’s letter, including us today, have powerful reason to pay attention to prophecies about God’s Kingdom. In what way do we need to pay attention? Peter answers: “As to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and a daystar rises, in your hearts.”—2 Peter 1:19; Daniel 7:13, 14; Isaiah 9:6, 7.
22. (a) To what do our hearts need to be kept alert? (b) How do we pay attention to the prophetic word?
22 Our hearts would be dark without the illumination of the prophetic word. But by paying attention to it, the hearts of Christians have kept alert to the dawn of the day when the “daystar,” Jesus Christ, arises in Kingdom glory. (Revelation 22:16) How do we today pay attention to the prophetic word? By Bible study, by preparation for and participation in meetings, and by ‘pondering over these things, and being absorbed in them.’ (1 Timothy 4:15) If the prophetic word is to be as a lamp shining in a “dark place” (our hearts), we must allow it to affect us deeply—our desires, emotions, motivations, and goals. We need to be Bible students, for Peter concludes chapter 1: “No prophecy of Scripture springs from any private interpretation. For prophecy was at no time brought by man’s will, but men spoke from God as they were borne along by holy spirit.”—2 Peter 1:20, 21.
23. For what has the first chapter of 2 Peter prepared readers?
23 In the opening chapter of his second letter, Peter provided powerful motivation for us to hold fast to our precious faith. We are now prepared for a consideration of the serious matters that follow. The next article will discuss chapter 2 of 2 Peter, where the apostle deals with the challenge of immoral influences that had infiltrated the congregations.
Do You Remember?
□ Why does Peter emphasize the importance of accurate knowledge?
□ What may be the reason that virtue is listed as the first quality to be added to faith?
□ Why is Peter disposed always to give his brothers reminders?
□ What firm basis does Peter provide for our faith?
[Picture on page 9]
Peter’s shortcomings did not cause him to abandon his faith