What The Duolos Knows (2 Peter 1:1-4)

Simon Peter, a servant (duolos) and emissaryof Jesus the Anointed One, to those who have received the same precious faith we share through the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus the Anointed.

So…what is a duolos?[1] Here’s the context for a potentially confusing term. 

· The majority of people reading this New Testament letter were or had been duolosof some kind (60% – 70%, if historical statistics are reliable.) 

· This wasn’t slavery as we think of it in American history or in human trafficking. This was typically a means of paying off debt or of serving under a rich patron who would take care of you. There was real slavery in the times of the Bible, but the duolos was different. They were not dehumanized and brutalized.  

· People sometimes sought out the status of duolosbecause it enabled them to find a rich patron who would help them move up in society. There are records of the rich finding richer patrons and asking to be duolos for them. 

There were a few things an audience full of duolos would understand.

1. A doulosis owned.We belong to God. We are not our own. I have two images from our times that might be helpful. 

Think of someone who signs up for the military. They freely entered into a situation where now their life is not their own in very important ways. They are “owned” by the military for however many years they signed up. They aren’t robots, but they agreed that someone else gets to order the course of their life in very significant ways.

Think of the image of marriage. I say to brides and grooms in marriage ceremonies that “you are not your own.” This is the idea now for those of us who the Bible refers to as the “bride of Christ.” Our lives are now ordered in very important ways by the one to whom we have surrendered our freedom to do whatever we want.

2. A doulos is at the disposal of the master without qualification.The Christian has no rights of his own making; our self-chosen rights are surrendered to God. The rights that we have are given by Him. Not given by us, not given by our government. God alone. 

3. A doulosis constantly in the service to the master.The duolos had no “me time” in the sense that there was no right to carve out time that the master could not touch. So it is with the duolosof Christ. There is no “fleeing from God’s presence” (Psalm 139:7). There is no “time out” where we get a hall pass or a Vegas Vacation where what happens there stays there and no one knows. 

I wish you a full measure of grace and peace as yougrow in the knowledge (epigenosis[2]– knowledge that moves us toward fullness)[3]of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need to experience life, live righteously, and reflect God’s true nature through the knowledge that moves us toward fully knowingthe One who called us by His glory and virtue. Through these things, we have received God’s great and valuable promises, so we might escape the corruption of worldly desires[4]and share in the divine nature[5]by ‘becoming like Christ’ and living forever in eternity.[6]

 I highlighted epigenosis because it’s a word that all by itself contains an important message. 

At that time, a group of ‘gnostics’ (as opposed to ‘epigenostics’) were influencing the church. The Gnostics believed the material world is the result of an error on the part of a divine being they called Sophia (Wisdom) or the Logos. It’s not what God intended. As they moved closer to God, they thought the process moved them away from a hopelessly corrupt body of fleshand toward the divine, un-fleshly spiritualnature of God. The mind was pure; the body dirty; the knowledge to get there secret.

It’s interesting: Peter partially agrees with them – “We are corrupted” – but he disagrees with their solution.  Jesus was the Word, the Logos, and he was God.And he became flesh. He validated the physical world. It's in need of redemption, not obliteration. He says we need the kind of knowledge that will help us become like Jesus, who was very much made of flesh and blood.The solution isn’t to reject our bodies or retreat into our minds; the solution is to surrender our bodies and our minds into the service of Jesus.  

 “in the knowledge (“epigenosis”) of God and of Jesus Christ our Lord...”

This “epigenosis “is the kind of knowledge that is full, perfect, experiential, and knowable to all. It begins with learning what is true – NT writers constantly refer to the “message they have received” from Jesus and the apostles[7]-  and then is expressed in walking in the path of truth. It’s known and it’s lived. Public knowledge moves from the head to the hands. The body cooperates with and moves in the direction of the spirit.  

It’s knowledge put into practice such that one experiences the reality of the transformative power of truth – and in this case, it’s a transformation such that we begin to participate in the divine nature of God (more on this in a bit).[8]

 Epigenosis includes pursuit. It’s active. The one with true knowledge of God is the one who pursues God. This is about those who pray to be a duolos of Jesus, then spend their life in the service of  and eventually the imitation of the Master.  In the Master’s service, we learn his words; we learn his attitude; we watch how he treats others; we see His priorities, we follow in His footsteps. We copy him move for move. A few people had the privilege of seeing this in person; we get the record of the life of Jesus, and God’s Holy Spirit to be present with us. 

Maybe a gym correlation works here. Salvation is like getting a new body, a membership to a gym with the best equipment and trainers, a staff that is ready and willing to help you. You still have to go. Scott posted a meme on his wall last week: “It’s 6 months since I’ve joined the gym and no progress. I’m going there in person tomorrow, to find out what’s really going on…”

They gym is not giving you magic fat burning pills or coming to your house to move your limbs for you as you watch football or binge Netflix and chug Cheetos. Faith must be exercised, and by that I means it should make you sweat. “In God we live and move…” (Acts 17:28).  We walk the walk. We fight sin. We practice spiritual disciplines. We live in accountability and community. We guard our hearts and eyes. We can only do this successfully with God’s help, but we do it.

If there is no changing life, there is no reason to think we have the salvation referred to in the Word of God.I like the language of trajectory. There is movement toward Christlikeness. It might not be consistent in every area; it’s not perfect; it’s frustratingly messy at times. But it’s there.  We are not who we were.  

“in the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ our Lord who called us...”

 Jesus calls us to salvation. How amazing is that?  He calls us to be His duolos,to be a trusted servant, one who manages His kingdom. Seriously?  Do you wonder if you have value or worth? Do you wrestle with self-image or self-esteem? Cling to this. Jesus is calling you.He wants you. Plenty of us have struggled with wondering how God can possibly use this mess of our lives. Just remember:  When God called you to be his duolos, he had already factored in your stupidity, shortcomings and sin – and he still invited you to be a part of his family.

“…in the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ our Lord who called us…. in order that you might become partakers of the divine nature.”

 Typical of the biblical writers: they take a known image that their readers can understand (duolos)and subvert it to their purposes. In this case the duolos was so much more than just a servant. They were going to participate in the very nature of their master. 

·  “But He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness (Heb. 12:10.)      

·  “But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18). 

His deity permeates and changes our humanity. 

·  The image of the word ‘baptism’ is that of a cucumber being pickled. That’s us in Christ. We are still human, but God begins a change in us that gets us inside and out. 

·  When metal is put in a fire, the metal never becomes the fire, but it picks up the properties of fire.  That’s us in Christ. [9]

It’s an amazing opening to this book. We are duolos, but we serve arighteous master who wants to makes us like him.  We don’t serve because God needs help; we serve because we do, and the only path to spiritual and eternal transformation is in service to the Master. 

I’m givingJ.I Packer the final word (from his book Knowing God):

"What were we made for? To know God. What aim should we set ourselves in life? To know God. What is the eternal life that Jesus gives? Knowledge of God. "This is life eternal, that they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3). What is the best thing in life, bringing more joy, delight, and contentment than anything else? Knowledge of God. "Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let not the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me" (Jeremiah 9:23). 

What, of all the states God ever sees man in, gives him most pleasure? Knowledge of himself. "I desire ... the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings," says God (Hosea 6:6).... Once you have become aware that the main business that you are here for is to know God, most of life's problems fall into place of their own accord." 


[1] The concept is all over Scripture (the Hebrew uses the word abad to capture the same idea).

·     Moses was doulos/abad(Deuteronomy 34:5Psalms 105:26Malachi 4:4).

·     Joshua was doulos/abad(Joshua 24:29). 

·     David was doulos/abad (2 Samuel 3:18Psalms 78:70).

·     Old Testament prophets were doulos/abad  (Amos 3:7Isaiah 20:3).

·     In the New Testament Paul is doulos(Romans 1:1Philippians 1:1Titus 1:1)

·     So are James (James 1:1), and Jude (Jude 1 ). 

·     New Testament folk in general are doulos  (Acts 2:181 Corinthians 7:22Ephesians 6:6Colossians 4:122 Timothy 2:24). 

[2 ]This is in contrast to gnosis.“Gnostics (gnosis = knowledge) taught access to a special knowledge unknown by ordinary people.” – Orthodox Study Bible

[3]It can mean increasing knowledge. Gnosis (Greek #1108), the normal Greek word for knowledge, is here preceded by the preposition epi (Greek #1909) which means towards, in the direction of. Epignosis (Greek #1922) then could be interpreted as knowledge which is always moving further in the direction of that which it seeks to know. Epignosis (Greek #1922) has a second meaning. Often in Greek it means full knowledge. 

[4 ]Many Greek thinkers in this period wanted to escape the material world of decay around them, believing that their soul was divine and immortal and belonged in the pure and perfect heavens above; some Greek thinkers and cults provided this idea as a hope for the masses. Peter associates the corruption instead with evil desires (cf. 2:143:3).  (NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible)

[5] “Peter used several words in these verses which came right out of the secular religious language of the first century Greek. The words “divine power” were often used of Zeus, the greatest of Greek gods. The word “godliness” was a term for reverence. “Divine nature” was commonly used to speak of being somehow absorbed into deity. These words have been found in extra biblical writings of the day. They had great meaning to the pagan world. Peter took pagan language and used it in a polemical way. He took the words of his opponents and filled them with sound Christian meaning. This certainly gives us some precedent for adapting the biblical message to the language and culture of our day as long as no truth or principle is violated.“

[6] When Diaspora Jews spoke of participating “in the divine nature,” they usually referred to becoming immortal. Peter probably evokes especially the early Christian view of God’s Spirit transforming believers’ moral character in Christ (see note on 1Pe 1:23.) escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.  (NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible)

[7] 1 John 1:5; 1 Thessalonians 2:13

[8] This transformation is of utmost importance. “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification (holiness) without which no one will see the Lord.” (Heb. 12:14)

[9] We can participate in what theologians call the “communicable attributes” of God such as knowledge, wisdom, goodness, love, holiness, righteousness, and truth.