Praise God that “grace and peace” (1:2) as well as “everything pertaining to life and godliness” (1:3) are ours by means of “the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence” (1:3). Note that Peter stresses not just knowledge about God, but true knowledge about Him. A false knowledge does not result in grace, peace, eternal life or godliness. And by these criteria we can ascertain if our knowledge about God is true or false. If what we know is not producing godliness in our lives, for example, we do not possess true knowledge about God.
Peter essentially repeats that same concept yet a third time but by using different words in 1:4, where he writes that it is by means of God’s “precious and magnificent promises” that we have become “partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world.” He is obviously writing about the holiness we possess due to our accurate understanding of God and His Son. Again we see that those who truly know God are transformed people. As John wrote, “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments” (1 John 2:3).
Yet our transformation is not something that occurs without our cooperation; nor do we reach perfection instantly. Peter admonishes us to diligently apply ourselves to personal sanctification. Verses 5-7 are not a list of steps to take one at a time, but are a checklist of virtues towards which we should already be applying ourselves. Peter did not say, “Now that you’ve got faith (the first step), start working on the second step, moral excellence. And once you’ve achieved that, go to the third step,” and so on. Rather, he said, “In your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge,” and so on. Moral excellence is born out of our faith, and the same is true for knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and Christian love.
Every true believer possesses all those traits to some extent and should be increasing in them: “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:8). Yet Peter describes the one who lacks those qualities as being “blind or short-sighted” (1:9), that is, lacking true knowledge, even though he may at one time have possessed it. He has, according to Peter, “forgotten his purification from his former sins,” and as I’m sure you know by now, he has put himself in a very dangerous spiritual condition, because he will stand before God “useless and unfruitful” (1:8).
That is precisely why Peter then admonishes us to “be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing” us (1:10). Those who lack the qualities Peter listed have good reason to question if they are among those chosen by God, because He chooses those who have faith in the Lord Jesus and whose lives demonstrate that faith. Only those whose lives make evident their profession of faith have a genuine assurance of salvation, as Peter writes, “As long as you practice these things, you will never stumble, for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you” (1:10-11). Again we see that heaven belongs to the holy. This is not salvation by works, but salvation by a faith that works.
Peter knew that “the laying aside of his earthly dwelling was imminent” (1:14), and he was concerned that once he died, some might give up hope that Jesus would ever return, since He had not returned in Peter’s lifetime. Thus Peter affirmed his confidence that, even though he would not live to see Christ’s return, Christ would return. He then recounted the time some 30 years earlier when he, along with James and John, saw Jesus transfigured and heard God’s voice (Matt. 16:27 – 17:8). That experience only confirmed what the prophets had been foretelling for centuries: God will one day come to earth and establish His kingdom. Everyone needs to be ready for that day!