In Philippians 2:12 Paul tells his readers to each work out his own salvation with fear and trembling. In Peter’s second epistle Peter points to the believer’s part in his own salvation, showing that he has become a partner in or a partaker of divine nature. While God saves mankind from death (Romans 6:23) and gives us eternal life (2Corinthians 5:1-4), those who claim Jesus as their Savior are expected in this present life to in share the cost of salvation. Paul refers to this as offering oneself as a living sacrifice to God. In doing so, we refuse to be conformed to the image of this world by submitting to God’s hand in forming us after the image of his Son (Romans 8:29; 12:1-2; 2Corinthians 3:18). Peter describes the believer’s part as taking place in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, or as we might put it today: in asking ourselves WWJD?
In his first epistle Peter writes of promises that deal with our inheritance (1 Pet. 1:3-5) and the Lord’s return (1 Pet. 1:7, 9, 13). God has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1Peter 1:3). This is an incorruptible inheritance that cannot be defiled or fade away. It is reserved in heaven for us (1Peter 1:4), while we are presently kept by the power of God through faith (1Peter 1:5). He has also promised that he would return and judge the living and the dead, beginning at Jerusalem (Acts 10:42; 17:31; Romans 2:16; 1Corinthians 4:5; 2Timothy 4:1; James 5:9; 1Peter 4:5; Revelation 19:11; cf. 1Peter 4:17; Revelation 11:15-18). It is to these promises that Peter points in 2Peter 1:4.
James makes mention of the promise the Kingdom of God, saying it is given to those who love Christ (James 2:6), and Peter also points to this same promise in 2Peter 1:11. The promise of the Kingdom seems to be fulfilled at the coming of Christ (Luke 21:27, 31), i.e. at his coming to judge Jerusalem (cf. Matthew 26:64). At that time the Kingdom will be taken from the Jews and given to the nation “bringing forth the fruits thereof” (Matthew 21:43). The Kingdom of God seems to be made up of people, whom God wishes to use to spread his name to those who don’t know him. Although the Jews had a significant missionary outreach in the first century AD (Luke 7:3-5; Acts 2:10; 13:43; cf. Acts 13:10; Galatians 4:17; 6:12), they were more interested in the proselytes becoming like themselves than being like God (Matthew 23:15). Therefore, the authority to preach Jesus / God to the nations was taken from them and given to another. This was officially done with the dawn of the Jewish War with Rome, even though a Jewish outreach continued for centuries afterward, but in recent times it has become almost non-existent.
We are given these promises through the good name and excellent nature of our God and Savior, Jesus, the Messiah (cf. 2Peter 1:3-4). That is, the promises are given by grace, because God always does what he says he will do. He doesn’t change his mind because of men’s failures or their rejection of him. Rather, he always acts out of divine excellence (cf. Malachi 3:6). The promises are received through faith (2Peter 1:3), specifically, through our “acknowledgment of him who called us (in grace).”
These promises empower us to become partakers of divine nature (2Peter 1:4). The Parable of the Pounds in Luke 19 and the Parable of the Talents of Matthew 25 are very similar to one another. They speak about the same thing from two different vantage points. The Talents are spoken from man’s point of view, while the Pounds are spoken from God’s point of view. In Luke 19:16, 18 the Scripture says: “Thy pound has gained…” In other words, what God has given has gained such and such. In Matthew 25: 20, 22 it says: “I have gained…” That is, the Scripture describes the believer’s participation in what God had given him, as though he owned the gift. It not only describes his own work in the salvation provided him (cf. Philippians 2:12), but also in terms of what he does to reach out to others. Luke 19 speaks about the work of God, while Matthew 25 speaks about how men share in that work. Both the Pounds of Luke 19 and the Talents of Matthew 25 point to a valuable deposit given by God that enables his people to do business in his Kingdom. Indeed, both deposits are referred to as money in order to express that value in human terms (Matthew 25:18, 27; Luke 19:15, 23). So, the promises that Peter mentions in 2Peter 1:4 enable us to partake of the nature of God as though his nature were our own.
What enables us to participate in the promises (2Peter 1:4) is our “…having escaped the corruption in the world in lust” – that is, we have put off our ‘old man’ with our former lifestyle (Romans 6:6; Ephesians 4:22; cf. 1Peter 4:2-3). Not sowing to the flesh allows us to sow to the Spirit (Galatians 6:8).