Terrance Callan, «The Soteriology of the Second Letter of Peter», Vol. 82 (2001) 549-559
2 Peter presents Jesus as savior in that he purchased his followers from
slavery to corruption and the defilements of the world. Human beings became
slaves of corruption through erroneous thinking and following the desires of the
flesh, i.e. sin. Jesus’ followers have been released from this servitude by their
recognition that Jesus has purchased them from their previous owner and is now
their master. The ethical teaching of 2 Peter is based on continuing in the freedom
from slavery to sin that has come through Jesus. The eschatological teaching of 2
Peter describes the completion of salvation, the culmination of both slavery to sin
and following Jesus.
The Pauline character of the soteriology of 2 Peter is very marked. In view of the author’s claim (in 2 Pet 3,16) that Paul agrees with what the author has said, this is not surprising.
knowledge, human beings continue to serve their previous master because they do not know they have a new one. For the author of 2 Peter faith, i.e. recognition of Jesus, is absolutely crucial.
The author and readers have received faith (1,1.5) and have recognized Jesus as their new Master (1,3; 2,20). However, as 2,20 implies, it is possible to have escaped slavery to the defilements of the world by recognizing Jesus and then return to one’s former master. Jesus’ purchase of human beings from their former master, and their recognition of him as their new master, does not eliminate the possibility that they serve their old master. They can undo their salvation. To avoid this their recognition of Jesus must be ongoing. This is why ethics is necessary.
In 1,5-8 the author urges the readers to progress in virtue (vv. 5-7) because having these things and increasing in them makes them fruitful for recognition of Jesus. Those who have been set free from sin by recognizing Jesus need to persist in that freedom from sin, which is an ongoing recognition of Jesus. This is how they make secure their call and election (1,10), which is the starting point of their salvation (cf. v. 3). Those who do this will receive entrance into the eternal kingdom of Jesus (1,11). For 2 Peter ethics is a matter of continuing in the recognition of Jesus which is the appropriation of the salvation Jesus accomplished. Thus the author wishes that the readers continue their recognition of Jesus in 1,2 and 3,18. An immoral life is a denial of Jesus and a return to slavery. On the other hand, persisting in lives of holiness and piety is salvation.
Käsemann criticizes the ethical teaching of 2 Peter, saying that it is not linked with justification32. However, as we have just seen, 2 Peter presents Jesus as having saved his followers from slavery to corruption and defilement, and argues that the readers must continue in this freedom33. Jesus’ followers accept salvation from him by faith (1,1), which is equivalent to recognition of God and/or Jesus (1,3; 2,20-21); this recognition is the source of peace (1,2). This recognition must continue and develop through a life of virtue (1,8; 3,18). Likewise, faith must lead to virtue (1,5-7)34.
One general name for this life of virtue is justice. This is the virtue that characterizes our God and savior Jesus Christ (1,2). Jesus’ justice is manifested in giving everyone faith equal in honor, i.e. treating them fairly and without favoritism35. It is the virtue of which Noah, saved from the flood, was herald (2,5)36. Christian life can be called the way of justice