May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
Peter is writing a letter, and so greets his readers with a salutation. Don’t think that this is simply good manners, though; like Paul, Peter pours great meaning into these words.
He extends his hope and wish that grace and peace be multiplied to his readers. The grace here is biblical grace – that is, unmerited favor from the Lord. Peter desires that his readers, even though they do not deserve it, would enjoy the blessing of God’s positive regard and love. This is indeed the essence of the Christian life, living in the grace of the Father. Our very lives, physical and spiritual, were undeserved gifts, and so is our continued existence in and enjoyment of this world. That, in turn, reminds us, and reminded Peter’s readers from the very outset of the letter, of our obligations to God. He shows us grace we do not deserve, and even the breaths we take and the beating of our hearts are from him. So we belong to God, body and soul.
Not just grace, though, but peace as well. Biblical peace has its theological roots in the Old Testament, where the Hebrew word shalom signified not only the absence of war and conflict but, more fundamentally, wholeness. Peter, a Jew, here wishes his readers wholeness – integrity, safety, completeness in the Lord. This is in turn founded on the conviction that God, revealed in Christ, is all we need and alone sufficient for us; in union with Christ, we obtain peace and wholeness. Nowhere else can this be found.
Peter hopes that this grace and peace, this favor and wholeness, be multiplied to his readers. God is a good God, and abundant in his good gifts. Peter knows well the character of God as the One who multiplies, having witnessed bread and fish be multiplied to feed crowds and seen fishnets tearing with the weight of hundreds of fish – all at Jesus’ command. Peter hopes that his readers will receive enough grace and peace to satisfy his readers and have twelve baskets left over.
This multiplication happens in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. There are two aspects to this. First, Peter was probably aware that he was writing Scripture, as in this very chapter he talks about how prophets are carried by the Holy Spirit (1:16-21) and in the third chapter speaks of his colleague Paul’s letters as “Scripture” (3:16). The Word is God’s revelation of himself to men, and so this knowledge of God comes to us by his Word. So Peter trusts that his readers will experience multiplying and abundant favor and wholeness as they gain knowledge of God in the Scriptures. Here, then, is a motivation for us to be diligent in our attention to preaching, and to give ourselves to the study of the Bible.
Second, knowledge for the Hebrew mind is not merely intellectual apprehension or “head-knowledge.” Adam knew his wife, and she conceived (Gen. 4:1); Jesus will one day say to self-deceived sinners, “I never knew you!” (Matthew 7:23) even though, as God incarnate, he surely knows them better than they know themselves! Knowledge, then, is relational as well as intellectual. We will not just know about God and Jesus, we will know God and Jesus. Peter is saying that as our relationship with God and his Son, Jesus, deepens and strengthens, we will discover multiplied favor and wholeness.