There are many things today that pull at us for our attention. Second Peter urges us to instead grow in Christ’s grace and he warned about compromising the Christian faith by mixing it with ideas that are foreign to Christianity. We need to take this warning seriously. This letter was addressed to Christians to warn them about false teachers. It may have gone to Christians in Asia Minor but the audience is uncertain. Second Peter is an appeal to faith and godliness from the apostles to the churches. Part of Peter’s instructions are to grow in godly virtues and Christian character. Watch for his repeated emphasis on truth which indicates not only his warning about false teachings but also his certainty about Christ’s return. And here are threethemes to watch for as well. First is spiritual growth. As Peter faced the end of his life he predicted impending calamities and he expressed concern about his readers remaining faithful. He was worried that they wouldn’t continue to grow in discipleship. Second is false teaching. This was a huge threat to the early church and posed a challenge to the faithfulness of the believers. Third is the certainty of Christ’s return. Peter warned against scoffers who abandon the hope of Christ’s coming judgement. The delay of divine judgement is a revelation of God’s patience because He is allowing time for everyone to repent. Since the return of Jesus is certain, believers are called to prepare themselves through faithful and ethical living.
Simon was one of the most common names in the first century. Jesus gave him the name Peter. Many people in the Greco-Roman world would use both their given name in their native language and also a Greek name since it was the language of the day. Peter called himself a slave of Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament important leaders were called servants but being called a slave underscored Peter’s submission to Jesus and it also suggests that he had an important role in God’s plan. Peter also indicated that both Jewish and Gentile Christians have the same precious faith. This is due to the new covenant. Verse one is one of the few places in the New Testament that Jesus is called God. Verses 3-11 are an explanation of all that God has given us in Jesus Christ. This forms the basis for Peter’s urgent call to grow in the knowledge of Christ. Keep in mind Peter spent three years with Jesus and he knew Jesus well. He saw the miracles, healings, and heard the teachings. He may not have understood everything at the time but looking back with the knowledge Jesus gave the disciples after His resurrection, Peter could speak with authority and authenticity. It is by God’s divine power that we have everything we need for a godly life. And we receive this because we have come to know Him. The great and precious promises we have been given is a reference to the numerous offers of divine provision found in scripture. These promises offer us the glory and virtue of Christ as the basis for our growing participation in the divine nature. We have Christ within us and because we have become new creatures in Him we have already escaped the corruption that is in the world through human desires and lust. Peter called us to make our escape from this world evident to all by our godly behavior and the renewing of our minds.
Verses 5-7 have a sort of a stair step structure with one virtue leading to another. The sequence here is not stressed but love is the pinnacle of the virtues. Faith marks the beginning of the Christian life and through faith God grants eternal life to a spiritually dead person. Virtue is the same word used in verse three in reference to Christ’s character. We cannot produce it ourselves but we can choose to obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. Knowledge is also translated as practical wisdom. This is obtained by dedicating ourselves to learning God’s truth in the scriptures and putting that truth into action. Self control means mastering ones emotions rather than being controlled by them. Perseverance is one who exercises self control and will not easily succumb to discouragement or the temptation to quit. Viewing all circumstances as coming from the hand of the Father who is in control of all things is the secret of perseverance. Godliness is the word Peter used to speak of the Christians need to be continually aware of God’s presence. Knowing that all of our life is in His hand should influence every aspect of our lives. We are called to live for God and not for ourselves. Brotherly affection is closely aligned with godliness and Jesus taught that love involves serving one another, sharing with one another, and praying for one another. Love here is God’s kind of love, which originates not in the one loved but in the one who loves. God loves because He is love and we love because we are from God. This love extends from the Christian community to anyone we encounter, even if it comes at a cost to ourselves. These qualities are the marks of a healthy Christian. But there are those who lack these qualities. They are blind and forgetful. They look only at what is close at hand, the things of this world. They do not or cannot see eternal spiritual realities, and thus they cannot see the things of God.
Peter is not telling believers that our being chosen by God for salvation depends on what we do. Instead he reminded the believers that our zeal to grow in Christian virtue confirms that we have been chosen by God. Peter indicated that fruitful and faithful lives will be rewarded by greater privileges and rewards in glory. Peter was writing this at the end of his life so he is like an old and respected leader who is giving instructions on his deathbed. We saw some of this in the Old Testament. Think about Jacob gathering his 12 sons around, giving each of them a blessing/prophecy about the rest of their lives. Peter encouraged his readers to seize the opportunity to show Christ’s love while they still had the chance. Peter’s prophecy about his death may have come in as vision but more likely it was Peter recalling what Jesus had said to him about his death. See John 21:18-19.
He spoke about his own eyewitness testimony about Jesus Christ. He denounced the false teachers again and spoke about the certainty of Christ’s return. The false teachers were most likely denying that Christ would come again and He would judge everyone. Peter’s eyewitness experience and the reliability of prophetic scripture make Christ’s return a certainty. The false teachers were making up stories to suit their purposeswith no factual truth, but Peter saw with his own eyes. He saw at the transfiguration where Jesus was revealed as the glorious King. He saw the crucifixion and burial of Jesus and the empty tomb three days later. He saw Jesus appear and disappear at random after the resurrection. And he was with the rest of the disciples when Jesus sat down with them and opened their minds to the scriptures. Peter was the real deal. The word “day” is capitalized in verse 19 because it is a reference to the day of the Lord, the time when God intervenes in history and saves His people and judges His enemies. The first coming of Jesus inaugurated the day of the Lord’s salvation. A future day of the Lord’s judgement on His enemies is yet to come. The planet Venus , known as the morning star, often appears above the eastern horizon just before dawn. Peter has reversed the order of natural events. He wrote that the dawning of the day of the Lordleads the Morning Star’s shining in the hearts of believers. He also reminded the people that the prophets didn’t prophesy all on their own. In fact this was not human initiated at all. And they were not left on their own to interpret the prophesy either. God provided both!
But alongside the authentic prophets, there have always been false prophets who will receive God’s judgement. Peter warned that there will be false prophets. That doesn’t mean they had yet to come. Instead it alludes to Jesus’ prediction that false teachers would arise, and now that had been fulfilled. These folks denied Jesus, who bought their salvation with His own blood. One ofthe hardest things and saddest things is that they slander the way of truth and lead people astray. By their immoral and greedy conduct, making false claims about Jesus, brought shame on Jesus. Verses 4-10 contain three Old Testament examples of judgement that show God will vindicate those who remain faithful to Him and will condemn those who deny Him, including the false teachers. The first example of judgement is the angels who sinned. The widespread tradition was that the “sons of God” in Genesis 6:1-5 (understood as angels) had intercourse with women and were therefore judged by God at the time. The gloomy pits of darkness describe the underworld. This was a popular description in the ancient world and is most likely metaphorical. The second example of judgement is that God did not spare the ancient world at the time of Noah. In the flood God destroyed all human life apart from Noah and his family. The third example is that God condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. The people of these cities were so immoral that God rained down sulfur from heaven to destroy them. Peter focused on the results of this action. The cities were turned into heaps of ashes. The Old Testament doesn’t portray Lot as a very righteous man but he basically remained faithful to the Lord. Jewish tradition also portrayed him as righteous. The Lord knows how to rescue righteous people from their trials as shown by Noah and Lot. The Lord is faithful to His own people. Peter’s readers needed assurance that their struggles to live godly lives in the face of false teaching and the world’s scorn would be rewarded. The Lord was also harsh on those who refused to listen to any authority other than their own. Peter’s profile on the false teachers was focused more how they were living than what they were teaching. The supernatural beings were most likely evil angels (which sounds like an oxymoron) because they bear the mark of their glorious origin. They have real power and pose a significant, serious threat to humans. Eventhe good angels do not dare to bring a charge of blasphemy, but the false teachers were so arrogant they did not hesitate to do so. The only reward they will receive is the destruction they have caused. Christians often ate fellowship meals together in celebration of the Lord. The false teachers were using these mealtimes as opportunities to deceive true believers. They may also have been using these fellowship meals for their own self indulgence. Peter pulls no punches as he warns the believers about these people. They commit adultery with their eyes. Their desire for sin is insatiable. They prey on people who seem to be weaker, luring them into sinning and they are well trained in greed. Wow!
The false teachers loved to earn money by doing wrong and Peter reminded the people about Balaam and his donkey. Despite consulting with God about what he should do, Balaam was determined to go his own way in the hope of still getting Balak’s money. The Old Testament hints at his greed. However, God saved him from himself by using his donkey to speak to him. Peter went on to describe the false teachers by explaining their effect on people. They are useless. They brag about themselves and they target new converts, trying to drag them back into their old lifestyle. One of the great lures of false teaching through the centuries has been the promise of freedom from authority. But this is an illusion. The false teachers, while reveling in their freedom from authority were in fact slaves to sin and corruption. They had once known the truth but their deliberate rejection of that truth put them in a far worse situation than when they ignorantly lived in sin. Dogs were not seen as friendly family pets but as wild and filthy beasts. Jews considered both dogs and pigs among the lowest of the animals so Peter chose to use them to describe people who have known the truth and walked away from it. The proverb about the dogs comes from Proverbs 26:11 and the one about pigs most likely originated in Syria.
In chapter three Peter shifted from the denunciation of false teachers to the exhortation of believers. The false teachers skepticism about Christ’s return required clear teaching. Christians need to hold onto the apostolic message about the day of judgement and live godly lives in anticipation of that day. Peter acknowledged that this was his second letter to these believers and he reminded them that he has tried to teach them and refresh their memories. The holy prophets of the Old Testament had predicted the day of the Lord, when God would judge His enemies. Jesus had taught the church through the apostles. Peter taught about the last days. He wasn’t just predicting a future event; he was speaking about his readers situation. In the New Testament the last days refers to the period from Jesus’ first coming to his second. It is the time when God’s promises are fulfilled. Scoffers will come and they will belittle the truth and make fun of it. But the false teachers were probably claiming that for all of God’s promises to intervene in history, things had not really changed and they never would. Peter taught that creation was the first evidence that the false teachers were wrong. Change does happen and if God made the world then He could certainly destroy it. The scoffing teachers would conveniently overlook things like creation and the flood. They failed to recognize or admit that just as God had created the world by His word, the world was being sustained by His word. The Old Testament associated fire with the day of the Lord. Fire is typically a sign of judgement. Peter also reminded the believers that God operates on His time schedule, not oursand He will send His Son in His own good time. The very elements themselves probably refers to such components as the sun, moon, and stars. But God will judge all of creation and at that time the heavens will pass away with a great noise and the elements will melt, presumably by fire. Picture if you will, the sun melting by fire.
There are promises made by God and these promises tell us that there will be a new heaven and earth and the world will be filled with God’s righteousness. The New Testament doesn’t say much about the relationship between Peter and Paul. There was the dispute in Antioch and some believe the two were hostile to each other but that isn’t the picture we see here. Peter and Paul essentially agreed about the Good News for the Gentiles. Silas and Mark were associates of both men. According to tradition both men were martyred in Rome during the same persecution by Nero in the mid 60’sAD. Tradition tells us that Peter was crucified upside down and Paul was beheaded. It is quite possible that Peter knew about most of Paul’s letters and his language implies that he considered Paul’s letters to be scripture. At the end of his letter, Peter restated his purpose for writing. He wanted to protect the believers from false teachers so they can grow in grace. He ended with a doxology to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W