God’s Best Gifts, Part 5

As defined by the Cambridge Dictionary, the noun “gift” means a few things. First, a “gift” can be present given from one person to another. It may also mean “something that is surprisingly easy or cheap.”  For example, “I can’t believe how easy that test was! It’s like a gift.”

But a “gift” may also refer to a talent we posses. We often speak of a “gifted piano player,” for example.

As good as the Cambridge Dictionary may be, it falls a tad short in the spiritual realm. “Gifts” are also things that our Heavenly Father gives us, His children. They may be special talents. They may be fortuitous abilities that a church member is given supernaturally for the time their church needs a person with those abilities. God also gives us spiritual gifts for our benefit and for the benefit of other believers. Yes, our God is a very generous God who knows what we need, why we need it, and the best time to give it to us. God is a giver in every sense of the word.

The apostle Peter, in his second letter, very briefly mentions another precious gift from God to us:

Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (2 Peter 1:4 | TNIV)

God has, apparently given us some “very great and precious promises.” Just are those promises? What did Peter have in mind when he wrote that sentence? How can any promise help us to be more like God? Let’s find out!

Why a second letter?

We don’t always know what occasioned the writing of New Testament letters, but in the case of Peter’s second letter, he tells exactly why he wrote it:

Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. (2 Peter 3:1 | TNIV)

Really, Peter has done Bible students a great favor, because in that single verse he has told us why he wrote two letters: “to stimulate [his readers] to wholesome thinking.” Both letters were “reminders.” In other words, the content of both Peter’s letters was not unique or the result of some kind of special revelation from the Heavenly realms. Peter’s letters are jam-packed with stuff his readers already knew about but needed to be reminded of. It’s important to for Christians to be taught and re-taught the same things over and over and over again. Repetition helps to reinforce essential truths that sometimes get lost in our Memory Palaces.

But what did Peter mean by “wholesome?” It’s a Greek word that refers to that which is “pure,” “uncontaminated,” and “good.” Plato used the same word to describe thinking or reasoning that was uncontaminated by the senses. So “wholesome thinking” to Plato was thinking that was completely objective. Paul’s concept of “wholesome thinking” is best summed up like this:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8 | TNIV)

Peter knew full well that Christians needed to be reminded from time-to-time about the things they already knew. And wholesome thinking – thinking correctly – is vitally important because what’s in the mind will eventually work itself out in the world in the forms behavior, actions, and attitudes. Everything we do and feel starts out as a thought. How important is it to think wholesome thoughts, then?

More and more grace and peace

So this letter, then, was mailed to Jewish and Gentile Christians in northern Asia Minor; that is, “to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (I Pet. 1:1). In between the writing of the two letters a change of circumstances had taken place among Peter’s friends. Whereas the first letter had been written to prepare them for suffering, perhaps at the hands of an unfriendly government (1:7; 2:12-15; 3:14-17; 4:3-4, 12-16; 5:8-10), the second letter warns against the encroachments of false teachers (2:1-3, 10-15, 19-22; 3:3-7, 15-17). In each case, though, the believer’s best offense against either a hostile government or the bad theology of false teachers is knowledge. But not just any kind of knowledge! Knowledge of God’s Word.

Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. (2 Peter 1:2 | TNIV)

This is actually a prayer. When was the last time you prayed that “grace and peace would be” somebody’s “in abundance?” That was Peter’s prayer for those reading this letter. He was asking the Lord to super-multiply “grace and peace” in the lives of his friends. But what’s particularly interesting here is that this request of God is followed by what is essentially instructions to the reader on how to make it happen: “through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” In other words, if you, as a believer, can create the necessary conditions – which involves acquiring more knowledge of God and Jesus – God will super-multiply grace and peace in your life!

The word translated “knowledge” here is one of Peter’s favorites; he uses it some 13 times in his letter. It does not refer to cold, academic knowledge. It’s not knowledge gained second hand from listening to a  teacher or from reading a book. This kind of knowledge is experiential knowledge; firsthand knowledge of God and Jesus gained through a relationship with them through the Holy Spirit and through the Word of God. It’s knowing God and Jesus as they really are, not how some theologian says they are. It’s a personal knowing. That’s what you need if you want more and more “grace and peace” in your life.

Miraculous provision

Here are two very powerful verses full of deep spiritual truths:

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (2 Peter 1:3, 4| TNIV)

When you think about what Peter is claiming in these verses, it’s truly an extraordinary claim. In fact, had anybody else said what Peter said, I’d say they were insane. But the man is writing from personal experience. Peter had seen the power of Christ calm the stormy sea and enable him to walk on the water (Matthew 14); he had heard the resurrected Christ make the claim that all power was given to Him in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28); he had received the power of Christ into his life by the sanctifying baptism of the Spirit of Pentecost (Acts 1, 2); and he knew, along with his friend Paul, this simple fact:

but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (1 Corinthians 1:24 | TNIV)

If anybody knew how beneficial the power of God and the promises of God operating in the life of a Christian can be, it certainly was Peter. These two verses give us everything we need to live a successful Christian life.

Power. The Greek word for “power” is dynamis, which looks like our word “dynamite.” It refers to a self-contained, inherent power that is steady and dynamic. The exact same power that God exerted in raising Christ from the dead is in every believer. Stop and think about the implications of that statement. That supernatural power is now housed in you, enabling you to live a life of righteousness, live a positive and uplifting life that is a powerful witness in your community. This provision – or gift, if you will – is activated and assisted by our knowledge of God. No matter what, it seems like you can’t get away from knowledge of God!

A verse like verse 3 compels us to ask the question: How important is knowing God to me? Is getting to know God a priority to you? It’s sad but when looking around at the state of the average Christian life, it seems as though knowing God isn’t a priority. It’s more of a convenience. How to be a top notch Christian is no mystery. The first step is simply getting to know God more – not gathering more information about Him, but getting to know Him as a person through a living relationship with Him. Don’t get me wrong. You have to know about God. You have to know the facts of God; you should be curious about Him, and that curiosity should lead you to the Bible. But knowing God as the Person He is involves something supernatural that the Holy Spirit is involved in. This supernatural, intimate knowledge of God and Christ enables us to access that “resurrection power” whereby we can live a supernaturally empowered life that glorifies God and keeps the spigot of His blessings open.

When we come to Christ, the power is given to us, and as we learn how to access it and allow it to work through our whole being, things like this happen:

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19 | TNIV)

A lot of Christians want that provision without realizing that God has already met that need through the “resurrection power” in you!

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. (Colossians 2:9, 10 | TNIV)

As a Christian, you have everything you need – everything – for spiritual growth. That’s what’s indicated by the word “fullness.” It’s all in you, like a gift waiting for you to unwrap it.

Promises. Not only has God given us His supernatural “resurrection power,” He has given us some very special promises. We don’t know which promises Peter had in mind when he wrote verse 4. But we may speculate. Maybe he was thinking of these:

The promise of forgiveness of sins – past, present, and future sins.
• The promise of adoption as sons and daughters of God.
• The promise of the Holy Spirit’s help in living life and spiritual growth.
• The promise of comfort during life’s darkest moments.
• The promise that all of our needs will be met.
• The promise of eternal life in Heaven after we die.
• The promise of bodily resurrection when Christ returns.
• The promise of reigning with Christ in His kingdom.

Chuck Swindoll came up with that list, and I think he was on to something. Those promises, in addition to things like the promise of abundant life in Christ and Christ’s ongoing presence in our lives through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, enable us to live victoriously in the face of things like, in the case of Peter’s readers, false teachers.


Ultimately, though, the purpose of God’s power and promises in our lives is to make us “partakers of the divine nature.” That’s referring to perfect fellowship with God the Father and God the Son through the God the Holy Spirit. Peter used Greek words, of course, but also Greek phrases, like “divine nature.” He could have simply used “fellowship with God,” but remember his audience; they would have been very familiar with phrases like the “divine nature.” The Greeks, not unlike Christians, viewed the world as corrupt, but to them, the only way to overcome the corrupt world was to become a god – to assume a “divine nature.” Peter twists the Greek philosophy and straightens it out. Man can escape the corruption of the world, not by becoming a god, but by fellowshipping with the only true God.

God has given His people great gifts. Here, in Peter’s letter, we have the gifts of God’s power and of God’s promises. These are marvelous gifts that too many Christians leave unopened.

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