|Courtesy of ba1969|
If you ask people whether or not they believe in Jesus you would probably find the overwhelming majority of people answer affirmatively. In the face of the historical evidence for His existence denying that a man called Jesus lived in first century Palestine would be like denying gravity, or holding to the idea that the earth is flat. The simple fact is that history shows that Jesus lived. The trouble comes, not from verifying His life, but in understanding what that life meant and who, exactly, this Jesus was. The answers that people give to the questions of who He was and what He did provide us, as Christians, with a critical litmus test for discerning true and false doctrine, and true and false teachers.
In his second letter Peter is tackling the problem of false teachers and profits in the Church. Just as Paul does in his first letter to Timothy, Peter not only uncovers false and deceptive doctrine but he also expounds true doctrine. Just yesterday our pastor made reference to the practice of the agents in the treasury department who are tasked with exposing counterfeit money. These people spend the vast majority of their time handling and getting to know real money so that when a counterfeit emerges they will see it. It is not hard to see the application of this practice to our theology and faith. While it is important and valuable for us to study other religions and false doctrines, if we have an intimate knowledge of true doctrine then the false will be that much easier to recognize (Many thanks to Pastor Mike for that illustration).
Let me get back to the subject at hand. What Peter is expressing here is that Christ's divine power has granted us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3a). This comes to us through what? The true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. Peter is putting a high value on the "true knowledge" of Christ. This tells us that it is not through invoking the name of Jesus that we receive salvation and all the other gifts of Christ in us. Even Jesus tells us as much in Matthew 7:22-23;
Many will say to Me on that day, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?" And then I will declare to them, "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness."
There are many faiths and perversions of Christianity that claim the name of Jesus but they are applying that name to someone who wasn't the Christ. Likewise, there are many non-believers and even opponents of the faith that have no idea who Jesus Christ truly was. In short, they do not have a true knowledge of Him, as Peter would say. For example, if someone says to me, "Yes, I believe in Jesus as my savior." It may behoove me to ask, "Who do you believe Jesus to be?" They may say, "Well, He was the archangel Micheal." This would be a false definition of Christ and therefore this person's hope and salvation may as well have been in someone named Jim or Fredrick. This gets us back to the root of the issue. Our salvation is not contingent upon the five letters J,E,S,U,S in that order. It is contingent upon the person behind those letters, the very Son of God who lived, died and rose again for our salvation and justification.
Furthermore, our salvation is not based on the belief that Jesus lived on this earth. As I already mentioned that is a historical fact that need not be denied. I have used this illustration in the past but I think it applies here as well. Knowing that my wife has gotten me a Christmas present doesn't put that gift into effect. Two years ago she got me a Dewalt cordless drill. If I never bothered to open it I would still be looking around for something to drill holes in the wall. All the while there it is, wrapped up nice and pretty underneath the tree. If we know Christ lived and died for us but we don't apply that gift our life then it is our loss and our salvation is no nearer than when we didn't know about it.
I say all of that to say this. I true knowledge of Jesus is more than just knowing His name or even understanding what He has done for us. We must know who this Jesus was; the Son of God and Savior of all who accept His offer of life. He was not just a good man, or a good teacher as the rich young ruler called Him. He was God incarnate and His ministry set an example for us, His death provided redemption for us and His resurrection justified our faith and allows Him to take possession of us, and live in and through us. Knowing and applying this truth to our lives grants us everything we need as it pertains to life and godliness and with that realization comes the true knowledge that we didn't do a thing but say "amen" allowing Christ free reign in our life.