2 Peter 1:2 NRSV
May grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
Grace is a very elusive term. We often hear grace defined unmerited favor. But Strong’s goes further. The Greek word for grace is charis. Strong’s 5485 defines it as “especially the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life.” It seems to me that grace is rather interactive.
Titus 2:11-13 (NRSV): For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Grace brings salvation, but there is a sense that this grace (and salvation) is tied to training. The NAB says it this way: “For the grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us . . .” (v. 11-12a). I think that the two are intertwined, inseparable: salvation and training. Salvation is the “divine influence” and training is “its reflection in the life.” Both (or two halves of the same thing) are grace from God given to us.
It’s interesting that Titus stresses behavior “while we wait for the blessed hope.” In other words, we aren’t to just wait around and do whatever we please. “For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1 NRSV). We are free from sin, but not free to sin. Grace should bring the following into our lives: piety, renouncing worldly passions, living self-controlled lives, being upright and godly. Piety is showing reverence and devotion to God. Everything else flows out of this reverence and devotion. We reject lusts and embrace self-control. We live upright and godly.
Peter goes on to talk about peace. I have to wonder if the Greek word used here actually communicates the idea that Peter had. (Many times people will communicate in a second language, using that language’s words, but desiring the first language meaning). Peace, in Greek, had the implication of quietness, rest, even prosperity. But peace in Hebrew (shalom) means peace with God. Two totally different meanings. The Greek meaning may have more implications about our relationships with each other and our relationships with the world around us, but the Jews understood that the only peace that was important was peace with God.
If Peter had the Jewish/Hebraic meaning in mind, then this entire verse may have been an attempt to refocus his readers to God. “May grace—interacting with God and allowing Him to influence you and change your life and your behavior—and peace—then having peace with Him through salvation and repentance—be yours!”
Peter finishes this thought by determining that none of this is possible without a continual and increased knowledge of God. This knowledge is a full knowing, not just a casual acquaintance. I think about God, how great and deep and immense is His character, His nature. To know Him isn’t an easy thing; it’s not something that can be done an hour a week in church nor even if we added several hours of Bible study. The Lord Jesus equated salvation with knowing God:
John 17:3 (NRSV): “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
I think that we would often like to have salvation without really having to get to know God. I mean, in His presence we are aware that we can’t sin, that we can’t indulge, that we can’t hold to our own opinions but must yield to Him. It’s so much easier to have salvation without all that. And yet, we fool ourselves if we think that is possible.
Grace: the divine influence on the heart and its reflection in the life
Peace: peace between God and us
Knowledge: learning to know God to the point that our salvation is secure because we rest in Him, we trust Him, we want nothing more than to please Him.
This is what Peter wanted for all of us.