2 Peter 1:4
Whereby are given to us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
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(4) Whereby.—By God’s “glory and virtue;” not by “all things that pertain unto life and godliness,” although the latter is possible, and is preferred by some.

Are given unto us.—Better, He hath given unto us, viz., He who called us, God. Wiclif, “He gaf;” Rheims, “He hath given.”

Promises.—The Greek word occurs here and in 2Peter 3:13 only. Its termination indicates the things promised rather than the act of promising. They are “exceeding great,” or rather “the greatest,” because they contain an earnest of the completion and perfection of the Christian life; they are very “precious,” because this earnest is in itself something real, and not mere empty words. Not the promises of the Old Testament are meant, that Christ should come; but those of the New Testament, that Christ should come again. The certainty of Christ’s return to reward the righteous and punish the wicked is one of the main subjects of the Epistle.

That by these.—“These” is variously referred (1) to “all things that pertain unto life and godliness,” (2) to “glory and virtue,” (3) to “promises.” The last is most likely, the second least likely to be right. The hope expressed in this verse, and again 3:13, is distinctly parallel to that in 1Peter 1:4.

Ye might be partakers.—Better, become partakers. Rheims, “be made.” This idea of close relationship to God and escape from corruption is found in 1Peter 1:23. The change from the first person plural to the second is easy enough both in Greek and English: by it what is true of all Christians is applied specially to those whom the writer is addressing. We have a similar change in 1Peter 1:3-4; 1Peter 2:21; 1Peter 2:24.

Through lust.—Rather (as in 2Peter 1:1-2; 2Peter 1:13; 2Peter 2:3) in lust. It is in lust that the corruption has its root. (Comp. 1Peter 1:22.) The word “escaped” indicates that “bondage of corruption” (Romans 8:21) from which even the Christian is not wholly free, so long as he is in the body; and in which others are hopelessly held. A comparison of this last clause with 2Peter 3:13 will confirm us in the view that “by these” refers to the “promises.” We see there what the things promised are. Instead of merely “having escaped” evil, “we, according to His promise, look for” better things; for, from “the corruption that is in the world in lust” we turn to “new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” There should be no full-stop at the end of this verse; the sentence continues unbroken from the beginning of 2Peter 1:3 to the end of 2Peter 1:7.

2 Peter


2 Peter 1:4.

‘Partakers of the Divine nature.’ These are bold words, and may be so understood as to excite the wildest and most presumptuous dreams. But bold as they are, and startling as they may sound to some of us, they are only putting into other language the teaching of which the whole New Testament is full, that men may, and do, by their faith, receive into their spirits a real communication of the life of God. What else does the language about being ‘the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty’ mean? What else does the teaching of regeneration mean? What else mean Christ’s frequent declarations that He dwells in us and we in Him, as the branch in the vine, as the members in the body? What else does ‘he that is joined to the Lord in one spirit’ mean? Do not all teach that in some most real sense the very purpose of Christianity, for which God has sent His Son, and His Son has come, is that we, poor, sinful, weak, limited, ignorant creatures as we are, may be lifted up into that solemn and awful elevation, and receive in our trembling and yet strengthened souls a spark of God? ‘That ye may be partakers of the Divine nature’ means more than ‘that you may share in the blessings which that nature bestows.’ It means that into us may come the very God Himself.

I. So I want you to look with me, first, at this lofty purpose which is here presented as being the very aim and end of God’s gift in the gospel.

The human nature and the Divine are both kindred and contrary. And the whole Bible is remarkable for the emphasis with which it insists upon both these elements of the comparison, declaring, on the one hand, as no other religion has ever declared, the supreme sovereign, unapproachable elevation of the infinite Being above all creatures, and on the other hand, holding forth the hope, as no other religion has ever ventured to do, of the possible union of the loftiest and the lowest, and the lifting of the creature into union with God Himself. There are no gods of the heathen so far away from their worshippers, and there are none so near them, as our God. There is no god that men have bowed before, so unlike the devotee; and there is no system which recognises that, as is the Maker so are the made, in such thorough-going fashion as the Bible does. The arched heaven, though high above us, it is not inaccessible in its serene and cloudless beauty, but it touches earth all round the horizon, and man is made in the image of God.

True, that divine nature of which the ideal man is the possessor has faded away from humanity. But still the human is kindred with the divine. The drop of water is of one nature with the boundless ocean that rolls shoreless beyond the horizon, and stretches plumbless into the abysses. The tiniest spark of flame is of the same nature as those leaping, hydrogen spears of illuminated gas that spring hundreds of thousands of miles high in a second or two in the great central sun.

And though on the one hand there be finiteness and on the other infinitude: though we have to talk, in big words, of which we have very little grasp, about ‘Omniscience,’ and ‘Omnipresence,’ and ‘Eternity,’ and such like, these things may be deducted and yet the Divine nature may be retained; and the poor, ignorant, finite, dying creature, that perishes before the moth, may say, ‘I am kindred with Him whose years know no end; whose wisdom knows no uncertainty nor growth; whose power is Omnipotence; and whose presence is everywhere.’ He that can say, ‘I am,’ is of the same nature as His whose mighty proclamation of Himself is ‘I AM THAT I AM.’ He who can say ‘I will’ is of the same nature as He who willeth and it is done.

But that kindred, belonging to every soul of man, abject as well as loftiest, is not the ‘partaking’ of which my text speaks; though it is the basis and possibility of it; for my text speaks of men as ‘becoming partakers,’ and of that participation as the result, not of humanity, but of God’s gift of ‘exceeding great and precious promises.’ That creation in the image and likeness of God, which is represented as crowned by the very breath of God breathed into man’s nostrils implies not only kindred with God in personality and self-conscious will, but also in purity and holiness. The moral kindred has darkened into unlikeness, but the other remains. It is not the gift here spoken of, but it supplies the basis which makes that gift possible. A dog could not become possessor of the Divine nature, in the sense in which my text speaks of it. Any man, however bad, however foolish, however degraded, abject and savage, can become a partaker of it, and yet no man has it without something else than the fact of his humanity.

What, then, is it? No mere absorption, as extravagant mystics have dreamed, into that Divine nature, as a drop goes back into the ocean and is lost. There will always be ‘I’ and ‘thou,’ or else there were no blessedness, nor worship, nor joy. We must so partake of the Divine nature as that the bounds between the bestowing God and the partaking man shall never be broken down. But that being presupposed, union as close as is possible, the individuality of the giver and the receiver being untampered with is the great hope that all Christian men and women ought consciously to cherish.

Only mark, the beginning of the whole is the communication of a Divine life which is manifested mainly in what we call moral likeness. Or to put it into plain words, the teaching of my text is no dreamy teaching, such as an eastern mystic might proclaim, of absorption into an impersonal Divine. There is no notion here of any partaking of these great though secondary attributes of the Divine mind which to many men are the most Godlike parts of His nature. But what my text mainly means is, you may, if you like, become ‘holy as God is holy.’ You may become loving as God is loving, and with a breath of His own life breathed into your hearts. The central Divinity in the Divine, if I may so say, is the amalgam of holiness and love. That is God; the rest is what belongs to God. God has power; God is love. That is the regnant attribute, the spring that sets everything agoing. And so, when my text talks about making us all, if we will, partakers of a Divine nature, what it means, mainly, is this--that into every human spirit there may pass a seed of Divine life which will unfold itself there in all purity of holiness, in all tenderness and gentleness of love. ‘God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.’ Partakers we shall be in the measure in which by our faith we have drawn from Him the pure and the hearty love of whatever things are fair and noble; the measure in which we love righteousness and hate iniquity.

And then remember also that this lofty purpose which is here set forth is a purpose growingly realised in man. The Apostle puts great stress upon that word in my text, which, unfortunately, is not rendered adequately in our Bible, ‘that by these ye might become partakers of the Divine nature.’ He is not talking about a being, but about a becoming. That is to say, God must ever be passing, moment by moment, into our hearts if there is to be anything godly there. No more certainly must this building, if we are to see, be continually filled with light-beams that are urged from the central sun by its impelling force than the spirit must be receiving, by momentary communication, the gift of life from God if it is to live. Cut off the sunbeam from the sun and it dies, and the house is dark; cut off the life from the root and it withers, and the creature shrivels. The Christian man lives only by continual derivation of life from God; and for ever and ever the secret of his being and of his blessedness is not that he has become a possessor, but that he has become a partaker, of the Divine nature.

And that participation ought to, and will, be a growing thing. By daily increase we shall be made capable of daily increase. Life is growth; the Divine life in Him is not growth, but in us it does grow, and our infancy will be turned into youth; and our youth into maturity; and, blessed be His name, the maturity will be a growing one, to which grey hairs and feebleness will never come, nor a term ever be set. More and more of God we may receive every day we live, and through the endless ages of eternity; and if we have Him in our hearts, we shall live as long as there is anything more to pass from God to us. Until the fountain has poured its whole fulness into the cistern, the cistern will never be broken. He who becomes partaker of the Divine nature can never die. So as Christ taught us the great argument for immortality is the present relation between God and us, and the fact that He is the God of Abraham points to the resurrection life.

II. Look, in the second place, at the costly and sufficient means employed for the realisation of this great purpose. ‘He hath given to us exceeding great and precious promises, that by these ye might become partakers,’ etc.

Of course the mere words of a promise will not communicate this Divine life to men’s souls. ‘Promises’ here must necessarily, I think, be employed in the sense of fulfilment of the promises. And so we might think of all the great and wondrous words which God has spoken in the past, promises of deliverance, of forgiveness, and the like; but I am rather disposed to believe that the extreme emphasis of the epithets which the Apostle selects to describe these promised things now fulfilled suggests another interpretation.

I believe that by these ‘exceeding great and precious promises’ is meant the unspeakable gift of God’s own Son, and the gift therein and thereafter of God’s life-giving Spirit. For is not this the meaning of the central fact of Christianity, the incarnation--that the Divine becomes partaker of the human in order that the human may partake of the Divine? Is not Christ’s coming the great proof that however high the heavens may stretch above the flat, sad earth, still the Divine nature and the human are so kindred that God can enter into humanity and be manifest in the flesh? Contrariety vanishes; the difference between the creature and the Creator disappears. These mere distinctions of power and weakness, of infinitude and finiteness, of wisdom and of ignorance, of undying being and decaying life, vanish, as of secondary consequence, when we can say, ‘the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.’ There can be no insuperable obstacle to man’s being lifted up into a union with the Divine, since the Divine found no insuperable obstacle in descending to enter into union with the human.

So then, because God has given us His Son it is clear that we may become partakers of the Divine nature; inasmuch as He, the Divine, has become partaker of the children’s flesh and blood, and in that coming of the Divine into the human there was brought the seed and the germ of a life which can be granted to us all. Brethren! there is one way, and one way only, by which any of us can partake of this great and wondrous gift of a share in God, and it is through Jesus Christ. ‘No man hath ascended up into Heaven,’ nor ever will either climb or fly there, ‘save He that came down from Heaven; even the Son of man which is in Heaven.’ And in Him we may ascend, and in Him we may receive God.

Christ is the true Prometheus, if I may so speak, who brings to earth in the fragile reed of his humanity the sacred and immortal fire which may be kindled in every heart. Open your hearts to Him by faith and He will come in, and with Him the rejoicing life which will triumph over the death of self and sin, and give to you a share in the nature of God.

III. Let me say, lastly, that this great text adds a human accompaniment of that Divine gift: ‘Having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.’

The only condition of receiving this Divine nature is the opening of the heart by faith to Him, the Divine human Christ, who is the bond between men and God, and gives it to us. But that condition being presupposed, this important clause supplies the conduct which attends and attests the possession of the Divine nature.

Notice, here is human nature without God, described as ‘the corruption that is in the world in lust.’ It is like a fungus, foul-smelling, slimy, poisonous; whose growth looks rather the working of decay than of vitality. And, says my text, that is the kind of thing that human nature is if God is not in it. There is an ‘either’ and ‘or’ here. On the one hand we must have a share in the Divine nature, or, on the other, we have a share in the putrescence ‘that is in the world through lust.’

Corruption is initial destruction, though of course other forms of life may come from it; destruction is complete corruption. The word means both. A man either escapes from lust and evil, or he is destroyed by it.

And the root of this rotting fungus is ‘in lust,’ which word, of course, is used in a much wider meaning than the fleshly sense in which we employ it in modern times. It means ‘desire’ of all sorts. The root of the world’s corruption is my own and my brothers’ unbridled and godless desires.

So there are two states--a life plunged in putridity, or a heart touched with the Divine nature. Which is it to be? It cannot be both. It must be one or the other. Which?

A man that has got the life of God, in however feeble measure, in him, will flee away from this corruption like Lot out of Sodom. And how will he flee out of it? By subduing his own desires; not by changing position, not by shirking duty, not by withdrawing himself into unwholesome isolation from men and men’s ways. The corruption is not only ‘in the world,’ so that you could get rid of it by getting out of the world, but it is ‘in the world in lust,’ so that you carry the fountain of it within yourself. The only way to escape is by no outward flight, but by casting out the unclean thing from our own souls.

Depend upon it, the measure in which a man has the love of God in him can be very fairly estimated by the extent to which he is doing this. There is a test for you Christian people. There have been plenty of men and women in all ages of the Church, and they abound in this generation, who will make no scruple of declaring that they possess a portion of this Divine Spirit and a spark of God in their souls. Well then, I say, here is the test, bring it all to this--does that life within you cast out your own evil desires? If it does, well; if it does not, the less you say about Christ in your hearts the less likely you will be to become either a hypocrite, or a self-deceiver.

And so, brethren, remember, one last word, viz., that whilst on the one hand whoever has the life of God in his heart will be fleeing from this corruption, on the other hand you can weaken--ay! and you can kill the Divine life by not so fleeing. You have got it, if you have it, to nourish, to cherish, and to do that most of all by obeying it. If you do not obey, and if habitually you keep the plant with all its buds picked off one after another as they begin to form, you will kill it sooner or later. You Christian men and women take warning. God has given you Jesus Christ. It was worth while for Christ to live; it was worth while for Christ to die, in order that into the souls of all sinful, God-forgetting, devil-following men there might pass this Promethean spark of the true fire.

You get it, if you will, by simple faith. You will not keep it unless you obey it. Mind you do not quench the Holy Spirit, and extinguish the very life of God in your souls.1:1-11 Faith unites the weak believer to Christ, as really as it does the strong one, and purifies the heart of one as truly as of another; and every sincere believer is by his faith justified in the sight of God. Faith worketh godliness, and produces effects which no other grace in the soul can do. In Christ all fulness dwells, and pardon, peace, grace, and knowledge, and new principles, are thus given through the Holy Spirit. The promises to those who are partakers of a Divine nature, will cause us to inquire whether we are really renewed in the spirit of our minds; let us turn all these promises into prayers for the transforming and purifying grace of the Holy Spirit. The believer must add knowledge to his virtue, increasing acquaintance with the whole truth and will of God. We must add temperance to knowledge; moderation about worldly things; and add to temperance, patience, or cheerful submission to the will of God. Tribulation worketh patience, whereby we bear all calamities and crosses with silence and submission. To patience we must add godliness: this includes the holy affections and dispositions found in the true worshipper of God; with tender affection to all fellow Christians, who are children of the same Father, servants of the same Master, members of the same family, travellers to the same country, heirs of the same inheritance. Wherefore let Christians labour to attain assurance of their calling, and of their election, by believing and well-doing; and thus carefully to endeavour, is a firm argument of the grace and mercy of God, upholding them so that they shall not utterly fall. Those who are diligent in the work of religion, shall have a triumphant entrance into that everlasting kingdom where Christ reigns, and they shall reign with him for ever and ever; and it is in the practice of every good work that we are to expect entrance to heaven.Whereby - Δἰ ὧν Di' hōn. "Through which" - in the plural number, referring either to the "glory" and "virtue" in the previous verse, and meaning that it was by that glorious divine efficiency that these promises were given; or, to all the things mentioned in the previous verse, meaning that it was through those arrangements, and in order to their completion, that these great and glorious promises were made. The promises given are in connection with the plan of securing "life and godliness," and are a part of the gracious arrangements for that object.

Exceeding great and precious promises - A "promise" is an assurance on the part of another of some good for which we are dependent on him. It implies:

(1) that the thing is in his power;

(2) that he may bestow it or not, as he pleases;

(3) that we cannot infer from any process of reasoning that it is his purpose to bestow it on us;

(4) that it is a favor which we can obtain only from him, and not by any independent effort of our own.

The promises here referred to are those which pertain to salvation. Peter had in his eye probably all that then had been revealed which contemplated the salvation of the people of God. They are called "exceeding great and precious," because of their value in supporting and comforting the soul, and of the honor and felicity which they unfold to us. The promises referred to are doubtless those which are made in connection with the plan of salvation revealed in the gospel, for there are no other promises made to man. They refer to the pardon of sin; strength, comfort, and support in trial; a glorious resurrection; and a happy immortality. If we look at the greatness and glory of the objects, we shall see that the promises are in fact exceedingly precious; or if we look at their influence in supporting and elevating the soul, we shall have as distinct a view of their value. The promise goes beyond our reasoning powers; enters a field which we could not otherwise penetrate - the distant future; and relates to what we could not otherwise obtain.

All that we need in trial, is the simple promise of God that he will sustain us; all that we need in the hour of death, is the assurance of our God that we I shall be happy forever. What would this world be without a "promise?" How impossible to penetrate the future! How dark that which is to come would be! How bereft we should be of consolation! The past has gone, and its departed joys and hopes can never be recalled to cheer us again; the present may be an hour of pain, and sadness, and disappointment, and gloom, with perhaps not a ray of comfort; the future only opens fields of happiness to our vision, and everything there depends on the will of God, and all that we can know of it is from his promises. Cut off from these we have no way either of obtaining the blessings which we desire, or of ascertaining that they can be ours. For the promises of God, therefore, we should be in the highest degree grateful, and in the trials of life we should cling to them with unwavering confidence as the only things which can be an anchor to the soul.

That by these - Greek, "through these." That is, these constitute the basis of your hopes of becoming partakers of the divine nature. Compare the notes at 2 Corinthians 7:1.

Partakers of the divine nature - This is a very important and a difficult phrase. An expression somewhat similar occurs in Hebrews 12:10; "That we might be partakers of his holiness." See the notes at that verse. In regard to the language here used, it may be observed:

(1) That it is directly contrary to all the notions of "Pantheism" - or the belief that all things are now God, or a part of God - for it is said that the object of the promise is, that we "may become partakers of the divine nature," not that we are now.

(2) it cannot be taken in so literal a sense as to mean that we can ever partake of the divine "essence," or that we shall be "absorbed" into the divine nature so as to lose our individuality. This idea is held by the Budhists; and the perfection of being is supposed by them to consist in such absorption, or in losing their own individuality, and their ideas of happiness are graduated by the approximation which may be made to that state. But this cannot be the meaning here, because:

(a) It is in the nature of the case" impossible. There must be forever an essential difference between a created and an uncreated mind.

(b) This would argue that the Divine Mind is not perfect. If this absorption was necessary to the completeness of the character and happiness of the Divine Being, then he was imperfect before; if before perfect, he would not be after the absorption of an infinite number of finite and imperfect minds.


4. Whereby, &c.—By His glory and virtue: His glory making the "promises" to be exceeding great; His virtue making them "precious" [Bengel]. Precious promises are the object of precious faith.

given—The promises themselves are a gift: for God's promises are as sure as if they were fulfilled.

by these—promises. They are the object of faith, and even now have a sanctifying effect on the believer, assimilating him to God. Still more so, when they shall be fulfilled.

might, &c.—Greek, "that ye MAY become partakers of the divine nature," even now in part; hereafter perfectly; 1Jo 3:2, "We shall be like Him."

the divine nature—not God's essence, but His holiness, including His "glory" and "virtue," 2Pe 1:3; the opposite to "corruption through lust." Sanctification is the imparting to us of God Himself by the Holy Spirit in the soul. We by faith partake also of the material nature of Jesus (Eph 5:30). The "divine power" enables us to be partakers of "the divine nature."

escaped the corruption—which involves in, and with itself, destruction at last of soul and body; on "escaped" as from a condemned cell, compare 2Pe 2:18-20; Ge 19:17; Col 1:13.

through—Greek, "in." "The corruption in the world" has its seat, not so much in the surrounding elements, as in the "lust" or concupiscence of men's hearts.

Whereby: this word may be rendered, in that, for that, inasmuch as, and then this is an explication of the things that pertain to life and godliness, to glory and virtue, all those things being contained in the promises; or whereby may be understood of the glory and virtue last mentioned, taking them in the latter sense explained, 2 Peter 1:3; q.d. By which glorious goodness and mercy to us.

Are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: by promises we may understand either the matter of the promises, the things promised, Hebrews 10:36, such as redemption by Christ, reconciliation, adoption, &c., and then they are called

exceeding great and precious, in comparison of all temporal and worldly things; or else the promises themselves, which are called great because of the excellency of the things contained in them, and precious in relation to us; great things being not only contained in the promises, but by them secured to us.

That by these ye might be partakers of the Divine nature: we are said to be partakers of the Divine nature, not by any communication of the Divine essence to us, but by God’s impressing upon us, and infusing into us, those divine qualities and dispositions (knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness) which do express and resemble the perfections of God, and are called his image, Ephesians 4:24 Colossians 3:10. And we are said to be made partakers of this Divine nature by the promises of the gospel, because they are the effectual means of our regeneration, (in which that Divine nature is communicated to us), by reason of that quickening Spirit which accompanieth them, 2 Corinthians 3:6, works by them, and forms in us the image of that wisdom, righteousness, and holiness of God, which appear in them; or of that glory of the Lord, which when by faith we behold in the glass of gospel promises, we are changed into the same image, even as by the Spirit of the Lord, 2 Corinthians 3:18. Or,

the Divine nature may be understood of the glory and immortality of the other life, wherein we shall be conformed to God, and whereof by the promises we are made partakers.

Having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust; either by

corruption here we are to understand:

1. Destruction, to which the greatest part of the world is obnoxious through lust, and then corruption must be opposed to life and peace before, and lust to virtue and godliness: or rather:

2. All the pravity or wickedness of human nature, which is here said to be, i.e. to reign and prevail, in the world, or worldly men, through lust, or habitual concupiscence, which is the spring and root from which it proceeds; and then the sense is the same as Galatians 5:24. This corruption through lust is opposed to the Divine nature before, and escaping this corruption agrees with being partakers of that Divine nature: see Ephesians 4:22-24 Colossians 3:9,10. Whereby are given unto us,.... Or "by which", that is, glory and virtue; by the glorious power of Christ, or by the glorious and powerful Gospel of Christ; and so the Arabic version renders it, "by both of which"; or "by whom", as the Vulgate Latin version reads; that is, by Christ; for as in him are all the promises of God, so they are at his dispose, and by him are given unto the saints:

exceeding great and precious promises; meaning the promises of the new and everlasting covenant, of which Christ is the Mediator, surety, and messenger; and which are "exceeding great", if we consider the author of them, who is the great God of heaven and earth, and who was under no obligation to make promises of anything to his creatures; and therefore must arise from great grace and favour, of which they are largely expressive, and are like himself; are such as become his greatness and goodness, and are confirmed by his oath, and made good by his power and faithfulness: and they are also great, as to the nature and matter of them; they are better promises than those of the covenant of works; they are not merely temporal ones, nor are they conditional and legal; but as they relate to things spiritual and eternal, to grace here and glory hereafter, so they are absolute, free, and unconditional, and are irreversible and unchangeable; and they answer great ends and purposes, the glory of God, and the everlasting good and happiness of his people; and therefore must be "precious", of more value and worth than thousands of gold and silver, and to be rejoiced at more than at the finding of a great spoil, being every way suited to the cases of God's people, and which never fail. The end of giving them is,

that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature; not essentially, or of the essence of God, so as to be deified, this is impossible, for the nature, perfections, and glory of God, are incommunicable to creatures; nor, hypostatically and personally, so as the human nature of Christ, in union with the Son of God, is a partaker of the divine nature in him; but by way of resemblance and likeness, the new man or principle of grace, being formed in the heart in regeneration, after the image of God, and bearing a likeness to the image of his Son, and this is styled, Christ formed in the heart, into which image and likeness the saints are more and more changed, from glory to glory, through the application of the Gospel, and the promises of it, by which they have such sights of Christ as do transform them, and assimilate them to him; and which resemblance will be perfected hereafter, when they shall be entirely like him, and see him as he is:

having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust; not the corruption and depravity of nature, which is never escaped by any, nor got rid of so long as the saints are in the world; but the corrupt manners of the world, or those corruptions and vices which, are prevalent in the world, and under the power and dominion of which the world lies; and particularly the sins of uncleanness, adultery, incest, sodomy, and such like filthy and unnatural lusts, which abounded in the world, and among some that called themselves Christians, and especially the followers of Simon Magus. Now the Gospel, and the precious promises, being graciously bestowed and powerfully applied, have an influence on purity of heart and conversation, and teach men to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly; such are the powerful effects of Gospel promises, under divine influence, as to make men inwardly partakers of the divine nature, and outwardly to abstain from and avoid the prevailing corruptions and vices of the times.

{4} Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the {e} divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

(4) An explanation of the former sentence, declaring the causes of so great benefits, that is, God and his free promise, from which all these benefits proceed, I say, these most excellent benefits, by which we are delivered from the corruption of this world, (that is, from the wicked lusts which we carry about in us) and are made like God himself.

(e) By the divine nature he means not the substance of the Godhead, but the partaking of those qualities, by which the image of God is restored in us.

2 Peter 1:4 must not, as a simple intervening clause, be enclosed in parentheses; for although 2 Peter 1:5 is the principal clause standing related to the participial clause in 2 Peter 1:3, still the latter is determined, in the thought of it, by 2 Peter 1:4.

διʼ ὧν] ὧν does not refer to the immediately preceding ἰδίᾳ δόξῃ κ. ἀρετῇ (Dietlein, Wiesinger, Brückner, this comment.), for it cannot be said that Christ has given us the ἐπαγγέλματα through the δόξα κ. ἀρετή of His Father, but to πάντα τὰ πρὸς κ.τ.λ. (Hofmann). Beza inaccurately interprets διʼ ὧν by ex eo quod.

τὰ τίμια ἡμῖν καὶ μέγιστα ἐπαγγέλματα] ἐπάγγελμα, besides here, occurs only in chap. 2 Peter 3:13, where it is used in connection with the new heaven and new earth in the future. By it is to be understood, not the promises of the prophets of the O. C. fulfilled in Christ for us, nor those things promised us, of which we are made partakers in Christ (Hornejus: bona et beneficia omnia, quae Deus per Christum offert et exhibet omnibus, qui in ipsum credunt; Wiesinger, Schott); but, according to 2 Peter 1:12 ff., chap. 2 Peter 3:4, 2 Peter 3:12, the prophecies of the παρουσία of Christ and the future consummation of His kingdom, as contained in the gospel (Brückner). Dietlein is wrong in saying that ἐπαγγέλματα[25] are not only promises of what is future, but announcements of what is present and eternal. He goes still farther astray when he substitutes for this idea the different one: “the granting of favours which proclaim themselves.” The word ἘΠΑΓΓΈΛΛΕΙΝ (except in 1 Timothy 2:10; 1 Timothy 6:21) has constantly in the N. T. the meaning: “to promise,” never simply: “to proclaim.” These promises are called “precious,” not because they are “no mere empty words” (Schott), but because they promise that which is of the greatest value (Hofmann). The dative ἡμῖν from its position should be connected more probably with ΤΊΜΙΑ than with ΔΕΔΏΡΗΤΑΙ.

] is here also not passive (Dietlein), but middle (all modern interpreters). Gualther erroneously explains it: donatae i. e. impletae sunt. What is here referred to is the communication, not the fulfilment of the promises, which are a free gift of divine grace.

The subject to ΔΕΔΏΡ. is not Ὁ ΚΑΛΈΣΑς (as formerly in this commentary), but the same as that to the foregoing ΔΕΔΩΡΗΜΈΝΗς.

] Calvin, de Wette-Brückner, Hofmann, understand ΤΟΎΤΩΝ to refer to ΤᾺ ΠΡῸς ΖΩῊΝ Κ.Τ.Λ. as the leading thought; this construction Wiesinger justly calls “a distortion of the structure, justifiable only if all other references were impossible.” Incorrect also is the application to ΔΌΞῌ ΚΑῚ ἈΡΕΤῇ (Bengel). From its position it can apply only to ἘΠΑΓΓΈΛΜΑΤΑ (Dietlein, Wiesinger, Schott), and not in like manner to ΔΌΞῌ ΚΑῚ ἈΡΕΤῇ (Fronmüller). ΔΙΆ has here its proper signification, not equal to “because of them” (Jachmann), nor to “incited by them;” as elsewhere the gospel is spoken of as the objective means through which the divine life is communicated, so here the ἘΠΑΓΓΈΛΜΑΤΑ, which, according to the conception of Second Peter, form the essential element of the gospel.

ΓΈΝΗΣΘΕ ΘΕΊΑς ΚΟΙΝΩΝΟῚ ΦΎΣΕΩς] not: that ye may become partakers, but: that ye might be, etc. (Wiesinger). The aorist shows that the author does not look upon the κοινωνία, which for the Christian is aimed at in the bestowal of the promises, as something entirely future (Vorstius: quorum vi tandem divinae naturae in ilia beata immortalitate vos quoque participes efficiemini), but as something of which he should even now be partaker.[26] The thought that man is intended to be partaker of the divine nature, or to be transfigured into the divine being,—which is accomplished in him through faith in the promises,—is, though in other terms, often enough expressed in the N. T. (Hebrews 12:10; 1 Peter 1:23; John 1:12-13, and many other passages). Hemming justly remarks: vocat hic divinam naturam id quod divina praesentia efficit in nobis i. e. conformitatem nostri cum Deo, seu imaginem Dei, quae in nobis reformatur per divinam praesentiam in nobis. When Hofmann urges the expression ΦΎΣΙς against this view, because a distinction must be drawn between the ΦΎΣΙς of man and the personal life of man, the former remaining even in him who is regenerate always the same, until this σῶμα is changed from a ΣῶΜΑ ΨΥΧΙΚΌΝ to a ΣῶΜΑ ΠΝΕΥΜΑΤΙΚΌΝ, he fails to observe that it is not the human, but the divine φύσις that is here spoken of, and in God there can be no difference made between natural and personal life. The expression ΦΊΣΙς is here quite inappropriately pressed by Hofmann. As opposed to the mystic “deification,” it must be remarked, with the older interpreters, that the expression ΦΎΣΙς conveys the thought, not so much of the substantia, as rather of the qualitas. Grotius’ interpretation dilutes the idea: ut fieretis imitatores divinae bonitatis. The second person (ΓΈΝΗΣΘΕ) serves to appropriate to the readers in particular that which belongs to all Christians (ἩΜῖΝ).[27]

ἀποφυγόντες τῆς ἐν [τῷ] κόσμῳ ἐν ἐπιθυμίᾳ φθορᾶς] These words do not express the condition on which the Christian becomes partaker of the divine nature, but the negative element which is most intimately connected with the positive aim. Accordingly, the translation is incorrect: “if you escape” (Luther, Brückner); ἀποφυγόντες is to be translated: “escaping, eluding;” the aor. part. is put because the verb is closely conjoined with the preceding aorist γένησθε. It is to be resolved into: in order that ye might be partakers of the divine nature, in that ye escape the φθορά.[28] With φθορά, cf. chap. 2 Peter 2:12, and especially Romans 8:21; Galatians 6:8 (see Meyer on the last passage). By it is to be understood not simply perishableness, but more generally corruption. The term φθορά is here more nearly defined as ἡ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ φθορά, i.e. the corruption which dwells in the (unredeemed) world, and to which all thereto belonging is a prey. The further more precise definition: ἐν ἐπιθυμίᾳ, states that this φθορά has its origin in the evil lust, opposed to what is divine, which has its sway in the world (1 John 2:16-17).

ἀποφί, here c. gen.; chap. 2 Peter 2:18; 2 Peter 2:20, cum accus. constr.

The sequence of thought in 2 Peter 1:3-4 is: Christ hath granted us everything that is serviceable to salvation and holiness, and that by the knowledge of God who hath called us by His glory; through it he has given us the most glorious promises, the design of which is the communication of the divine life.

[25] Schott’s assertion, that ἐπαγγέλματα, according to the form of the word, must mean: “promised things,” is opposed by chap. 2 Peter 3:13; but why the promises as such should not, as Wiesinger supposes, be the means of effecting the κοινωνία θείκς φύσεως, it is difficult to understand.

[26] Hornejus: incipit ea in hac vita per gratiam, sed perficietur in altera per gloriam; si enim jam hic in ista imbecillitate divinae naturae consortes sumus per fidem, quanto magis illic erimus per adspectum et si hic per gratiam id adipiscimur, quanto magis illic per gloriam, ubi Deus ipse erit omnia in omnibus.

[27] Hofmann arbitrarily objects to this interpretation, that a change of persons could not take place in a clause expressive of a design; rather does it simply depend on the will of the writer, where he wishes it to take place. When the writer of a letter wishes to state the purpose of anything which has been imparted to all, should he not in particular apply it to those to whom he addresses his letter?—Augusti strangely presses the change of persons, by applying ἡμῖν to the Jews, γένησθε to the heathen-converts, and understanding θεία φύσις of the divine descent of the Jews.

[28] Bengel: haec fuga non tam ut officium nostrum, quam ut beneficium divinum, communionem cum Deo comitans, h. l. ponitur. Dietlein: “ἀποφ. contains no demand and condition, but only the other side of the fact: Ye have entered the kingdom of the divine nature, therefore ye have left the kingdom of the worldly nature.”—By transferring γένησθε to the future, Schott gives an erroneous (linguistically) interpretation of ἀποφυγόντες as future also: “Ye shall become partakers of the divine nature, as such who have (shall have) precisely thus escaped τῆςφθορᾶς.”2 Peter 1:4. διʼ ὧν. Reference is to δόξῃ καὶ ἀρετῇ (so Kühl, Dietlein, Wiesinger, Brückner, Mayor) ἐπαγγέλματα = “promised blessings”. No doubt what 2 Peter has chiefly in view is the particular comprehensive ἐπάγγελμα of His Second Coming (cf. 2 Peter 3:4, ἐπαγγελία and 2 Peter 3:13). The Parousia will be the vindication of all moral and spiritual effort. Christ promised forgiveness to the sinful, rest to the weary, comfort to the sad, hope to the dying and life to the dead. If the reference adopted above of διʼ ὧν is correct, the sense would be that in the character and deeds of the Incarnate One, we have a revelation that is itself a promise. The ἐπαγγέλματα are given, not only in word but also in deed. The very life of Christ among men, with its δόξα and ἀρετή is itself the Promise of Life, and the Parousia expectation is also a faith that He lives and reigns in grace, having “received gifts for men”. δεδώρηται. Passive, see note on 2 Peter 1:3. ἵνα διὰ τούτωνφύσεως. τούτων refers to ἐπαγγέλματα. The hope and faith kindled in us by the promises are a source of moral power. “The history of the material progress of the race is the history of the growing power of man, arising from the gradual extension of his alliances with the forces which surround him.… He arms himself with the strength of the winds and the tides. He liberates the latent energy which has been condensed and treasured up in coal, transforms it into heat, generates steam, and sweeps across a continent without weariness, and with the swiftness of a bird.… Moving freely among the stupendous energies by which he is encompassed, he is strong in their strength, and they give to his volitions—powerless apart from them—a large and effective expression. The history of man’s triumphs in the province of his higher and spiritual life is also the history of the gradual extension of his alliance with a Force which is not his own.… In Christ we are ‘made partakers of the divine nature’ ” (Dale, Atonement, pp. 416, 417). θεία φύσις is originally a philosophic term, cf. Plat. Symp. ii. 6, Philo (ed. Mangey), ii. pp. 51, 647; ii. 22, 143, 329, 343. θεῖος is found in a papyrus of 232 A.D. = “imperial” (Deissmann, op. cit. p. 218, note 2). Probably 2 Peter is here again making use of a current religious expression (cf. note on θεία δύναμις, 2 Peter 1:3). ἀποφυγόνταςφθορᾶς. The aorist participle is used of coincident action. Moral emancipation is part of the κοινωνία θείας φύσεως. The idea of participation in the Divine Nature is set between the two pictures, one of hope, τὰ τίμια ἡμῖν καὶ μέγιστα ἐπαγγέλματα, the other of despair, τῆς ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ ἐν ἐπιθυμίᾳ φθορᾶς. The way to God is through the Redemption of Christ. The approach to God is an “escape,” and not an act of intellectual effort. φθορά in philosophic writers is the counterpart of γένεσις, cf. Plat. Rep. 546A, Phaed. 95E. Aristot. Phys. 5, 5, 6. It expresses not sudden but gradual dissolution and destruction. The scriptural meaning alternates between destruction in the moral, and in the physical sense. In the N.T. the significance is physical, in 1 Corinthians 15:42; 1 Corinthians 15:50, Colossians 2:22, Galatians 6:8, 2 Peter 2:12; moral here, as in 2 Peter 2:19, Romans 8:21. Man becomes either regenerate or degenerate. Either his spiritual and moral powers are subject to slow decay and death, the wages of sin (ἐν ἐπιθυμίᾳ), or he rises to full participation in the Divine. ἐν ἐπιθυμίᾳ, a compact phrase. The corruption consists in ἐπιθυμία, which may be interpreted in the widest sense of inordinate affection for earthly things. ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ; cf. Romans 8:21. φθορά becomes personified as a world-wide power to which all creation including man is subject. In Mayor’s edition there is a valuable study of φθορά and cognates (pp. 175 ff.). The idea contained in φθορά, moral decay, is illustrated in Tennyson’s “Palace of Art,” and “Vision of Sin”; also in Byron, e.g., “Stanzas for Music”.4. whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises] Better, the verb being the same as in the previous verse, through which (the glory and the virtue just mentioned) He hath given unto us. The nature of the promises is indicated by the words that follow. They included pardon, peace, eternal life, participation in the Divine Nature. In the word “precious” we note a reproduction of the phraseology of the First Epistle (1 Peter 1:7; 1 Peter 1:19), but it should be noted that the apparent parallelism with 1 Peter 2:7 is in the English only, and not in the Greek.

that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature] The words seem bold, but they simply shew how deeply St Peter had entered into the meaning of more familiar phrases. If men were “partakers of Christ,” brought by His own ordinance into communion and fellowship with Him (1 Corinthians 1:9; 2 Corinthians 1:7) and with the Father (John 14:20-23; John 17:21-23; 1 John 1:3) and with the Holy Ghost (2 Corinthians 13:14), did not this involve their partaking in that Divine Nature which was common to the Three Persons of the Godhead? Christ was one with them and with the Father, dwelling in them by the power of the Spirit.

having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust] The verb, which occurs again in chap. 2 Peter 2:18; 2 Peter 2:20, is peculiar to this Epistle in the New Testament. The word for “corruption,” though not peculiar, is yet characteristic (chap. 2 Peter 2:12; 2 Peter 2:19). The “corruption” has its seat outwardly, as contrasted with the kingdom of God, in the world that lies in wickedness (1 John 5:19); inwardly in the element of desire (“lust” in its widest sense), which makes men live to themselves and not to God. The moment of escape must be thought of as that of conversion, of which baptism was the outward sign.2 Peter 1:4. διʼ ὧν, by which) that is, by His glory and virtue. His glory causes, that the promises are very great; His virtue, that they are precious.—ἡμῖνγένησθε, to usye might become) He now gradually approaches to the exhortation. And the expression, equally precious, in 2 Peter 1:1, supports the change from the first person to the second.—ἐπαγγέλματα δεδώρηται, has given us promises) The promise itself is a gift; then also that which follows it, the thing promised. Peter, both when speaking in the Acts, and when writing in his Epistles, with great solemnity, σεμνῶς, is accustomed to put substantives in the plural number.—ἳνα διὰ τούτων, that by these) that is, by the glory and virtue of Him. Communion itself with God was promised: wherefore Peter might have said because; but he says that, with greater force. For the promise is given, that being allured by it, we may obtain the thing promised, which is great and precious.—θείας κοινωνοὶ φύσεως, partakers of the Divine nature) The Divine nature is God Himself. Thus we have Divine power, 2 Peter 1:3; excellent glory, 2 Peter 1:17; the holiness of God, Hebrews 12:10, for God Himself. See Macarius, Homil. 39. In like manner, the nature of man, etc., is used, Jam 3:7. As escaping is opposed to partakers, so corruption through lust is opposed to the Divine nature. Moreover glory and corruption, virtue and lust, are contraries. And thus the title, the Divine nature, includes glory and virtue; and the same is called the Divine power, inasmuch as it is the origin of all that is good; and the Divine nature, inasmuch as it admits us to itself. But there is a gradation; and these two things differ as a part and the whole, namely, to receive the gifts of the Divine POWER (δυνάμεως), and to he a partaker of the Divine NATURE, that is, to become holy; comp. Romans 1:20.—ἀποφυγόντες, escaping) hastily and swiftly. Φεύγω, I flee; ἀποφευγω, I flee from, escape. This flight is here put, not so much for our duty, as for a Divine benefit, accompanying communion with God: comp. ch. 2 Peter 2:18; 2 Peter 2:20.—τῆς ἐν κόσμῳ ἐν ἐπιθυμίᾳ φθορᾶς, the corruption which is in the world through lust) ch. 2 Peter 2:20; 2 Peter 2:18-19. The sentiment is: In the world is corruption through lust.Verse 4. - Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises; rather, as in the Revised Version, whereby he hath granted unto us h is precious and exceeding great promises. Does the word "whereby" (δἰ ῶν, literally, "through which things") refer to the immediately preceding words, "glory and virtue"? or is its antecedent to be found in the more distant "all things which pertain unto life and godliness"? Both views are possible. God first granted unto us all things necessary for life and godliness; through those first gifts, duly used, he has granted unto us others more precious still. But it seems better to connect the relative with the nearer antecedent. It is through God's glory and virtue, through his glorious attributes and the energetic working of those attributes, that he has granted the promises. The verb (δεδώρηται) should be translated "hath granted," as in the preceding verse. The word for "promise" (ἐπάγγελμα) occurs elsewhere only in 2 Peter 3:13; it means the thing promised, not the act of promising. The order of the words, "exceeding great and precious," is differently given in the manuscripts; on the whole, that adopted by the Revised Version seems the best supported. The article with the first word (τὰ τίμια καὶ μέγιστα) has a possessive force, and is well rendered, "his precious promises." They are precious, because they will be certainly fulfilled in all their depth of blessed meaning, and because they are in part fulfilled at once (comp. Ephesians 1:13, 14, "In whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance"). The word "precious" reminds us of 1 Peter 1:7, 19; the resemblance with 1 Peter 2:7 is apparent only, in the Authorized Version, not in the Greek. That by these ye might be partakers of the Divine nature; literally, that through these (promises, i.e., through their fulfillment) ye may beeome partakers. It is true that the verb is aorist (γένησθε), but it does not follow that, might be" is the right translation, or that the writer regarded the participation as having already taken place (comp. John 12:36, "Believe in the light, that ye may be (ἵνα γένησθε) the children of light"). As Alford says, the aorist seems to imply "that the aim was not the procedure, but the completion, of that indicated; not the γίνεσθαι, the carrying on the process, but the γενέσθαι, its accomplishment." The end of God's gift is the complete accomplishment of his gracious purpose, but it is only by continual growth that the Christian attains at length to that accomplishment. St. Peter's words seem very bold; but they do not go beyond many other statements of Holy Scripture. At the beginning God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." St. Paul tells us that believers are now "changed into the same image from glory to glory" (2 Corinthians 3:18; comp. also 1 Corinthians 11:7; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10; Romans 8:29; 1 Corinthians 15:49, etc.). Christians, born of God (John 1:13; 1 Peter 1:23), are made "partakers of Christ" (Hebrews 3:14), "partakers of the Holy Ghost" (Hebrews 6:4). Christ prayed for us that we might be "made perfect in one" with himself who is one with God the Father, through the indwelling presence of the Holy Ghost the Comforter (John 17:20-23; John 14:16, 17, 23). The second person is used to imply that the promises made to all Christians (unto us) belong to those whom St. Peter now addresses. Having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust; literally, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world in lust. These words express the negative side of the Christian life, the former clause describing its active and positive side. God's precious promises realized in the soul enable the Christian to become partakers of the Divine nature, and to escape from corruption; the two aspects of the Christian life must go on simultaneously; each implies and requires the other. Bengel says, "Haec fuga non tam ut officium nostrum, quam ut beneficium divinum, communionem cum Deo comitans, hoc loco ponitur." The verb used here (ἀποφεύγειν) occurs in the New Testament only in this Epistle. It reminds us of St. Paul's words in Romans 8:21, "The creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption." The corruption or destruction (for the Word φθορά has both those meanings) from which we must escape has its seat and power in lust; working secretly in the lusts of men's wicked hearts, it manifests its evil presence in the world (comp. Genesis 6:12; 1 John 2:16). Whereby (δἰ ὧν)

Lit., through which; viz., his glory and virtue. Note the three occurrences of διά, through, in 2 Peter 1:3, 2 Peter 1:4.

Are given (δεδώρηται)

Middle voice; not passive, as A. V. Hence Rev., correctly, he hath granted. See on 2 Peter 1:3.

Exceeding great and precious promises

Rev., his exceeding great, etc., by way of rendering the definite article, τὰ.

Precious (τίμια)

The word occurs fourteen times in the New Testament. In eight instances it is used of material things, as stones, fruit, wood. In Peter it occurs three times: 1 Peter 1:7, of tried faith; 1 Peter 1:19, of the blood of Christ; and here, of God's promises.

Promises (ἐπαγγέλματα)

Only in this epistle. In classical Greek the distinction is made between ἐπαγγέλματα, promises voluntarily or spontaneously made, and ὑποσχέσεις, promises made in response to a petition.

Might be partakers (γένησθε κοινωνοὶ)

Rev., more correctly, may become, conveying the idea of a growth. See note on κοινωνὸς, partaker, 1 Peter 5:1; and compare Hebrews 12:10.

Having escaped (ἀποφυγόντες)

Only in this epistle. To escape by flight.


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