There Will Be No Poor Among You
A Precious Faith
2 Peter 1:1-2
Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have received a faith as precious as ours through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: may grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
So begins Peter’s second epistle. This sounds like the greetings Paul sent to the churches with which he corresponded. And yet, there is something different about Peter’s greeting—not too much: just a few words set it apart. Peter says, “To those who have received a faith as precious as ours.” It sounds innocuous until we examine it closely.
Peter had known Jesus Christ personally—intimately. He had lived with Jesus for three years—the extent of Jesus’ public ministry on earth. Jesus had called him to discipleship directly (according to Luke), or through Peter’s brother Andrew (according to John). They had traveled together, eaten together, laughed and cried together. Jesus had taught Peter, had nurtured his faith. Most importantly, Jesus had forgiven Peter after Peter’s denial. The scene John describes on the Galilean shore following the resurrection must have been etched indelibly on Peter’s mind. Few had a relationship this close with Jesus. Few have had as close a relationship with another person in any time and place. For Peter to say “to those who have received a faith as precious as ours” was a huge concession to people who had never even seen the Lord.
And yet this is exactly what Peter said. It was possible to have a strong, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ without ever having met him. Think of how far Peter had come in his faith journey. Beginning as a loudmouthed, impetuous, somewhat uncouth fisherman, Peter became not only a church leader, but a man who recognized that anyone can have a personal relationship with Jesus by claiming the salvation that Christ offers. Through this statement, Peter opens up the Christian faith to all who believe, and realizes that since there are no differences between people in God’s sight, there is no spiritual advantage in having known, traveled with and learned from Jesus during his earthly ministry. Jesus is available to whosoever accepts him as Savior.
Consider this as well: as Peter learned in the home of Cornelius (Acts 10), the gift of the Holy Spirit was offered to all believers. In order for anyone to have a faith as precious as Peter’s, one must receive the Holy Spirit. Peter knows that the Holy Spirit is available to all who believe, not just Jews and a selected few Gentile Christians. This recognition of the widespread work of the Spirit in the world has huge implications, not just for the first century Middle East, but down through the ages to our own time and place.
Peter realizes, of course, that none of this is the result of anything he has done, but instead comes through the “righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” It is God working in the world, first through Jesus Christ and then through the Holy Spirit, that has made this precious faith attainable to all. Centuries later, precious faith is still available today to all who call on the name of Jesus.
Peter finishes his salutation with these words: “May grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” Grace and peace! I read somewhere recently that “grace is what God gives us when we don’t deserve it, and mercy is when God doesn’t give us what we do deserve.” It is God’s grace—the knowledge that we have been forgiven even though we don’t deserve it—that brings God’s peace to our lives.