During the season of Advent, I am translating from Greek to English the weekday epistle readings out of the Daily Lectionary of the Book of Common Prayer.
Monday, 14 December 2020 2 Peter 1:1-11
1. Simon Peter – a slave and apostle of Messiah Jesus – to those sharing our privilege by receiving faith through the righteousness of God and our savior Messiah Jesus.
2. Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and our Lord Jesus,
3. who has bestowed on us all, everyone alive, his divine power and godliness through knowledge. He has called us to his own glory and virtue.
4. Being given the precious and greatest promises, that through this, we might share in the divine nature and so escape the coming evil desires of the world.
5. For this same reason, with all diligence you must supplement your faith with virtue, virtue with knowledge,
6. knowledge with self-control, self-control with patience, patience with godliness,
7. godliness with kindly affection, kindly affection with love.
8. For if these things are a part of you and multiply, you are not idle nor fruitless. It is a consciousness of our Lord Jesus Messiah.
9. To anyone where these are not present, he is blind and has closed his eyes, oblivious of his old sins being cleansed.
10. Therefore, all the more, brothers and sisters, you must be diligent. Make your own calling and election steadfast, for in doing so you will never stumble.
11. For such people, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Messiah will be richly afforded.
The lectionary goes from the cataclysmic Thessalonians to the equally cataclysmic 2 Peter. So many interesting and theological discussions emerge in this book. I don’t know if we’ll have time for them all, but we spend all week here.
Let me begin by saying this is not easy to translate. Unlike Paul, who uses a very linear thought process, Peter feels more to me like word salad. I think this betrays a Hebrew mindset, because that is the way I found Biblical Hebrew — just nouns thrown down with the verb hidden in there somewhere.
Peter lays aside his privilege, a very 21st century thing to do, by affirming that all those who have faith in Jesus share in his privilege of apostle and slave of Jesus. He is not claiming any authority greater than that of follower of Jesus. There is a humility in this approach that I find attractive. It makes the power of his rhetoric that much more convincing.
And his rhetoric is powerful. The ladder of virtues he employ is a classic ancient world concept. Verses 5-7 start with faith and end with love, and in between we find many of those spiritual fruits we are accustomed to partaking of. Take note, however, the big finale. He uses two different words for love. The first is brotherly affection, phileo. The second is agape, covenantal love. In its poverty English doesn’t have the flexibility to describe these different aspects of love, but both should be present in followers of Jesus. It is not enough to love someone at a deep level commitment, we must love everyone with kindness, with affection, with affirmation, and with respect.
If we think about verse 8 long enough, our brains explode. It appears to me what he is saying is these virtues, if we work on them and implement them, will give us an awareness of Christ’s presence and of his will. Maybe we can connect this thought to Paul’s words in Romans 12:1-2 — letting our mind be transformed, and through that process we can discern God’s will.
Perhaps those people who say they do not hear from the Lord or do not perceive his will are those who give no attention to these virtues, thus, as Peter says here, they are blind and cannot see.
Verse 10 brings a smile and a tear to my mind. In the first church I pastored there was a very kindly man who quoted this passage all the time — in almost every conversation — “make your calling and election sure,” he would say. This man was wise to emphasize these two paradoxical aspects of our life in Christ. On one hand, we are called and elected by him. On the other hand, we have a powerful obligation to tend to that election and to confirm by choosing to engage in the virtues with all diligence.
Questions For Application
- Privilege is a hot button issue right now. What privilege do you enjoy? Who else could you extend that privilege to as an act of inclusion?
- Agape love is something we hear a lot about at church, but how do you work on phileo love, which is sometimes understood as brotherly or familiar kind of love?
- Read over the virtues again. Which one do you really need to work on?
- Have you made your calling and election sure?