9 May 2014

2 Peter 1:3-8

“His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (v. 3)


1 Peter offers words to help Christians who were struggling with public shame and ridicule. They were encouraged to be faithful witnesses through their behaviour, and to imitate Christ's love in their relationships with people in their community. They were encouraged to connect their difficulties with the suffering of Jesus Christ. In 2 Peter, there is continued emphasis on how Christians grow in their faith and in the likeness of Jesus Christ.

The author of 2 Peter uses the words 'glory' and 'goodness' to describe Jesus. (See tomorrow's A Word in Time for a discussion of 'glory'.) References to 'goodness' were common in Greek philosophical writings. New Testament texts use the word 'godliness' or 'holiness' more than 'goodness'. To be good in the Greek context means to be complete, without any lack in moral virtue. The author is suggesting that Jesus' moral character is perfect. He is completely good. The consequence is that Jesus acts morally in his relationships with other people. His inward excellence flows outward in loving deeds. Jesus Christ both calls and empowers people to imitate his goodness (godliness or holiness). He promises his followers a share in his holiness in this life. Just as it did in Jesus, inward godliness evidences itself in how Christians engage with each other and with the world around them.

The letter's author employs another device from Greek writing beginning at verse 5. He provides a list of virtues, which are similar to the 'fruits of the Spirit' in Paul's epistles (Galatians 5:22-23). The life of faith is sustained by goodness, knowledge, self-control, mutual affection, (self-giving) love, endurance, and godliness. These, the author writes, are "yours and are increasing among you" (v. 8). In other words, these are gifts from the divine power of Christ to his followers. Faith is not an unchanging gift. It grows and moves Christians closer to participating in the divine nature. Jesus empowers his followers to engage in relationships with each other, with the world around them, and in the relationship with God.

To Ponder

  • What image does the word 'goodness' bring to your mind?
  • What would or does it mean to you to grow in the likeness of Jesus Christ?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Cindy Wesley

Cindy Wesley is the director of studies at Wesley House in Cambridge. She is responsible for the life of the chapel and for advising students about their courses and modules.