Today we start the Second Letter of Peter. If you read it carefully, it is one of the most thought provoking of all the books.
Peter starts out with this bombshell:
3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature.
Wow! Think about that …. we will become, “PARTAKERS of the DIVINE NATURE.”
This goes back to what I’ve written about the nature of the body of Christ. We are so closely united with Christ that we will share in the divine nature. Jesus’ prayer at Gethsemane, “Father, let them be one as you and I are one”, will be fulfilled! Our sins are not merely covered over, we are not just hidden behind Christ so that God only sees the merit of his son, we are not simply declared righteous. These metaphors don’t do justice to what will happen to us. We are adopted sons and daughters of God who become partakers of the divine nature!
But we need to be clear, we do not become God, “a god man” or any kind of minor or lesser gods. The best analogy I have heard to describe what happens is that it is like an iron bar places in a roaring furnace. The iron “takes on” the nature of the fire. After it is in the fire for a while, if you take it out, the iron will glow red (or even white) hot. The fire is “in” the iron, yet the iron retains its original properties, it is still iron. We can extend the metaphor farther, because we know that through fire the iron becomes steel – better, stronger, more perfected than it was before. As we are told that through Christ we will become a new creation.
This process of divinization, in which we become partakers of the divine nature, begins here on earth. Through prayers, fasting, alms giving penance, and good works. But MOST IMPORTANTLY through the Eucharist in which we, quite literally, partake of the diving nature now before we get to heaven. Strange how that all fits together ….
Then there is this little gem:
5 For this very reason make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.
If we are saved by faith alone why do we need to supplement it? And notice what supplements faith, “good works” – broadly defined.
And here Peter confirms election but implies it can be lost.
10 Therefore, brethren, be the more zealous to confirm your call and election, for IF you do this you will never fall; 11 so there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
If predestination (or election) has no aspect of free will, then why must it be confirmed? This is what we have read before. God wills everyone to be saved and salvation is a completely free gift from God, but one must still accept (or confirm) the gift. One must answer the call.
Further, Peter says, “if you do this you will never fail”, which of course implies, that if you do not do this, then you will (or at least might) fail.
Peter also makes an important point to answer the modern day atheist that argues that Christianity is just a fancy myth, like the Viking god Thor and such:
16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
Peter is identifying the fact that they know the difference between myth and fact, and declares again himself to be an eyewitness of the events of Jesus’ life.
FINALLY, Peter tells us the scripture is not for private interpretation and confirms that scripture alone is not the sole rule of faith but must be “made sure” by the teaching of the Apostolic line.
18 … we heard this voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we [the Apostles] have the prophetic word made more sure. You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21 because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
Look carefully at what Peter is saying. He is not saying you can’t read and interpret the Bible, but he is saying that the Apostles interpretation is the interpretation that is “more sure”. Notice, this is because prophecy comes from “men moved by the Holy Spirit.” Thus the Apostles, who have been ordained, have received the Holy Spirit in a special way. We saw their authority to interpret scripture in Matthew 18 when Jesus says, “go tell it to the Church” and that passage put into practice in Acts 15 when the Apostles meet and use their authority to interpret the Old Testament rules on circumcision. Thus the Church (as defined in this case as the gathering of Apostles or their successors) has authority to interpret scripture.
Peter says that you must pay attention to their interpretation until, “the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” In other words, until you die specifically and until the end of the world generally. That means this authority will extend PAST the Apostles lifetimes and be true for every generation of Christians. Thus the authority of the Church extends past the end of the Apostolic era.