Peter and His Letters (1)
A Broken Rock Becomes a Foundation Stone
Before studying the 2 letters written by Peter, it is helpful to review his life. We can understand his letters better when we relate them to what he went through. Peter is probably the best example in scripture of a failure who became a great leader. Peter seemed to vacillate between godly insight and foolish mistakes. Again and again we find him in the forefront, vowing undying faithfulness to Christ, and then falling on his face. Probably he is like most of us who don’t always carry out our good intentions. He was erratic, unreliable, well-meaning, eager, fervent, bold, overconfident, rash, devoted, affectionate and impulsive. What we see through it all is a faithful Lord who called, disciplined, rebuked, affirmed, restored, and used this flawed instrument, in much the same way as He deals with us. We can learn a lot from Peter’s example, but also from the example of our Lord as He dealt with Peter.
A. Jesus gave the leader of His apostolic team the name “Cephas”, which is the Aramaic word for rock. The New Testament usually uses the Greek equivalent to his name, Peter. His Semitic name was Simon, and his father was John or Jonah. II Pet. 1:1 Why did Jesus give him the name Cephas or Peter or Rock? I think He saw beyond the unreliable, impulsive man who would make so many mistakes, to the enduring “rock” leader of the early church whom he could become. The Lord sees in us not only what we are, but also our potential for ministry and blessing to others.
B. Peter was introduced to Jesus by his quieter brother, Andrew. Andrew and John had been stirred by the preaching of John the Baptist. John had invited his listeners to turn their attention away from him to Jesus, the Lamb of God. The first thing Andrew did was find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah.” If only we would be as quick to tell the Good News to our loved ones! It was probably 6 to 9 months later that Peter and Andrew while casting their fishing net into the water, responded to Jesus’ invitation to follow Him and become fishers of men.
C. Probably Luke’s narrative took place at the same time, only he gives fresh details. Jesus stepped into Simon’s boat and began teaching the people gathered on the shore of Lake Galilee. When Jesus commanded Simon to cast out the nets, he did so in spite of the fact that they had toiled all night and caught nothing. The miraculous catch of fish was too heavy for 2 boats. As the boats began to sink, Peter fell on his knees and cried out, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.” Peter began his journey of faith with a deep understanding of his own sinful heart and his unworthiness to stand before Christ. It was his soft, repentant heart that later saved him from becoming another Judas.
A. When Jesus set apart the twelve to be His apostles, Peter must have been identified early on as the first among equals. Mark in his gospel mentions Peter 19 times by name. All of the lists of the 12 apostles in the 4 gospels begin with the name of Peter. Peter regularly became the spokesman of the group, though sometimes speaking without thinking. Peter was brought into the inner circle with James and John to witness firsthand the raising of Jairus’ daughter from the dead, the Transfiguration, and the intercession in Gethsemane. Years later Peter’s memory remained vivid of that mountain-top experience when he was eyewitness to the Lord’s majesty and heard the thundering voice from heaven.
II Pet. 1:16-18
B. Peter’s intentions were always good, but his understanding of Jesus’ mission was faulty. Because of his expressive nature, he often displayed his faults for all to see. His faith grew as he observed the Lord in many situations, but his mind was easily distracted. Peter and the other disciples witnessed the miraculous feeding of the 5000. Then Jesus went alone to the mountain to pray while He sent the disciples away in the boat. In the early morning hours, Jesus came to them walking on the lake. He calmed their fears by telling them that He was not a ghost. Then Peter asked if he could come to him on the water. He boldly stepped out and began to walk, but then looked at the winds and waves and began to sink. His cries for help brought Jesus to save him. This is a good picture of Peter’s whole life. He dared to try what others would not but then became distracted and afraid and lost his faith. Perhaps our faith is like that, too.
C. Jesus’ hard teachings in John 6 caused many of His wider circle of disciples to turn away. Jesus refused to satisfy their desires for a king who would overthrow the Romans. As these followers left, Jesus asked the Twelve if they, too, wanted to leave Him. It was the time of decision for His truest disciples. He was talking more and more about the suffering ahead for Himself and His followers. As usual, Peter stepped forward as the group’s representative and answered. John 6:67-69 Departure from Jesus was unthinkable. A decisive commitment had been made and there was no turning back. The disciples had entered into the understanding that Jesus was the Messiah and their faith was settled. Peter’s faith would continue to be tested and to grow, but not always in a neat line.
III. Affirmation and condemnation
A. At the end of the Galilean phase of ministry Jesus brought His disciples to a place far north in the region of Caesarea Philippi. Here He could talk to them privately. He asked them how the people were identifying Him. They replied that popular opinion identified Him as a prophet, but people did not agree. No group in Israel had identified Him as the Messiah. So then He asked all of them, “Who do you say that I am?” As usual, Peter answered for the group. After 2 years with Him they had definitely come to the conclusion that He was the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Jesus told Peter that his confession had not come from human understanding but from God-given insight. Jesus said that it was on this truth about Himself that He would build His church. The Catholics say that Jesus said the church would be built on Peter, but He said very clearly that it was His church, not Peter’s. In both Old and New Testament Jesus is identified as the Rock – the Foundation of the church.
B. After Peter’s confession and affirmation by Jesus, He began to speak more about His suffering, death and resurrection. This is not His first reference to His death, but He expounds it now openly to His disciples. The “Son of Man” is not only the sovereign King of Dan. 7:13-14. He is also the Suffering Servant of Psa. 22 & Isa. 53. Peter had understood only the first so now he objected to the idea, saying, “Never, Lord.” He doesn’t seem to realize that you can’t call Jesus Lord and then oppose Him. Here he seems to imply that he knows more of God’s will than Jesus does. How arrogant! Jesus turns to him with a powerful condemnation: “Get behind me, Satan!” Peter was being manipulated by Satan to turn Jesus away from the cross that was the Father’s will. Peter has moved from a confession given by divine revelation to active opposition to God’s purpose.
IV. Boasting and falling
A. At the Lord’s Supper after Jesus had washed the disciples’ feet, He warned Peter that Satan would sift him as wheat. The Lord told him that He was praying that his faith would not fail. He gave Peter hope for the future when He said, “When you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” But Peter could not even imagine turning away, so why would he need to turn back. He was so sure of himself that he said he was ready to go to prison and to death. He did not understand his own weakness and cowardice. Jesus took Peter along with James and John deep into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. This was Peter’s chance to gain strength from God for the trials ahead. Jesus warned him and the others to watch and pray so that they would not fall into temptation. Although the spirit is willing, the body is weak.
B. When Judas led the crowd to the Garden to arrest Jesus, it was Peter who rashly struck out with his sword. It was not what Jesus wanted, so he healed the ear of the high priest’s servant that Peter had cut off. Then all the disciples ran away including Peter, just as Jesus said they would. Peter followed at a far enough distance so he wouldn’t be caught. Peter was in the courtyard of the high priest while Jesus was being tried. A girl recognized him and told the others that he was one of Jesus’ disciples. Peter spoke his first denying lie: “I am not”. Then another girl identified him as one of them. Peter denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.” Then a man claimed that he had seen Peter in Gethsemane at the arrest. Peter denied with cursing and swearing. And then the rooster crowed and he remembered Christ’s warning. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter, and he went out and wept bitterly.
V. Restoration and reinstatement
A. We don’t know where Peter was during the crucifixion, but his story continues after the resurrection. After the women saw the angels on the first day of the week who told them that Jesus had risen, Mary Magdalene went to tell Peter and John. They went to the tomb and found it empty. Sometime that afternoon Jesus made a special appearance to Peter. We don’t know the conversation, but we assume that Peter repented and was forgiven. Later Jesus appeared to the eleven disciples, but He had told the women that He would go before them to Galilee. So next we find Peter and 6 other disciples back in Galilee fishing. Jesus was on the shore, but they didn’t know Him. John recognized Him when He told them to throw their nets on the other side of the boat and they hauled in an enormous catch of fish. When they got to shore they found Jesus had prepared their breakfast.
B. The conversation that followed between Jesus and Peter is very revealing. Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him unconditionally (agapao), and more than other things and people. Peter answered Him truthfully, “I love you as a friend (phileo)”. Again Jesus asked him and he answered the same way. Finally Jesus asked him if he loved Him as a friend (phileo). Finally Peter had understood that he had nothing to boast about. Even his love needed to grow. Then Jesus gave him his assignment: “Feed My sheep.” When Jesus first called Peter He made him a fisher of men – a witness and an evangelist. Now he tells him to be a shepherd to the people of God under his care. And that’s what Peter became.
After Pentecost when Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit, he preached the sermon that brought 3000 to Christ and into the church. Peter still had much to learn but the Holy Spirit taught him to love and accept the Gentile believers, and to be one of the primary leaders of the early church. Peter learned to stand for Jesus even in the face of persecution and imprisonment. And when his work was finished, he had the courage to die by crucifixion rather than deny his Lord.
Peter and His Letters (2)
A Member of God’s Family
I Peter 1:1-13
Peter’s first letter was written about 64 AD. 31 or 32 years had passed since Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension. In those years Peter had learned a lot and grown to maturity in Christ. In this letter he writes much about Christian life and duties. It has been described as a letter of separation, of suffering and persecution, but also of suffering and glory. 6 years after this letter was written Jerusalem was destroyed by Titus. The Christian Jews would face terrible persecution. It is a letter of hope, of pilgrimage and of courage. It deals with the true grace of God and calls us to holy living, especially as we face the end times.
I. Strangers in the world
A. Peter clearly identifies himself in the first verse, with his name and his position as “apostle”. Since he was writing to Christians who were far from Jerusalem, they would need to know his status in the church as one of the original 12 apostles. Peter was writing to Christians scattered throughout the Roman world. He calls them “strangers”. Many of them may have been aliens in the places they lived, but he was referring to them as aliens in this world – in the world but not of it! In 1:1 he says that he is writing to “strangers in the world”, and in 1:17 he wrote, “Live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear”. He doesn’t encourage them to be part of the world system, but to be separated. That is one of his themes. We are still that – living in the world as Abraham did in Canaan – as strangers and pilgrims.
B. Peter’s letter has a lot to do with suffering and persecution, with separation and pilgrimage. He was writing to those who were widely scattered through Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia. Those regions covered most of what is now Turkey. It was the area evangelized by Paul and his companions. We read in the book of Acts about the planting of churches there. How well I remember Cappadocia, where I saw the underground cities and caves in which people lived to protect themselves. How many Christians lived there, seeking refuge and safety from the persecutions of the Romans and others? I’m sure they knew a lot about suffering. Satan must have hated these faithful, suffering believers. He determined to subdue the whole area under Islam. How sad that what was once filled with Christians now is 95% Muslim.
C. Why did Peter call them “the elect’? Peter wrote to God’s elect “who were chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father”. I believe this is a good definition of election. It explains how people who choose Christ are chosen. How beautifully Peter explains it using the three Persons of the Trinity. 1.) God the Father chose us through His foreknowledge. Eph. 1:4-6 2.) Jesus Christ sprinkled us with His blood when we came to Him in obedience. Eph. 1:7-12 3.) God the Holy Spirit sanctified us or set us apart for God. That’s His continuing work in us. Eph. 1:13-14 And so we have a complete explanation of the gospel – how we are saved and the interaction of God’s choosing and our choosing. What a miracle! It is the greatest miracle that God does – the redeeming and transforming of a life.
II. Our new birth
A. Peter’s wish and prayer for these harassed and suffering people is that they might have grace and peace in abundance. Peter bursts out in praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is Jesus’ God and Jesus’ Father and yet Jesus is Lord and Christ. In this one sentence we see evidence of 2 primary doctrines: the Trinity and the dual nature of Christ. How did we become God’s children? “In His great mercy He has given us new birth.” John 3 Everything depends on the mercy of God. Without His mercy reaching out to us we have no hope. This new birth is into a living hope. The only real hope is a living hope. Before we were without hope and without God in this world. Eph. 2:12 God has given us a living hope through a living Savior: “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
B. The resurrection means that we have a living Savior and Lord, and a living hope that we will be with Him forever – also in resurrected bodies like His! And we will not only live with Him. We will have an inheritance as joint heirs that can never perish, spoil or fade like all earthly things and bodies. It is not a house that is eaten up by termites, a car that won’t run any more or money that is lost or stolen. It is safely kept in heaven for us. But what about now? Now we live as strangers, separated and suffering. But we are not alone! “Through faith we are shielded by God’s power”. As we trust in Him He becomes our shield and refuge. How long can we depend on His protection? “Until the coming of salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” Jesus is that Salvation. He has promised to keep us as we put all our faith in Him, until the day He comes back for us! John 14:3 We can depend on God, not only to save us spiritually with the new birth, but to fulfill that living hope – that Christ will come to save us eternally.
III. Our faith as believers
A. There are reasons for rejoicing even though “for a little while” we have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. Rom. 5:1-5 There are many paradoxes in Christianity. One is that a whole lifetime is “just a little while” in comparison to all eternity. Another is that in the midst of grief we can greatly rejoice. But can’t God keep us from these trials and grief? Isn’t He able to prevent them? Yes, of course He is! But He won’t because He is developing our faith – the most valuable thing we have. Peter reminds us of several things about our faith. First, it needs testing to make it strong and pure. Second, the testing proves that it is genuine faith – not just imagination or “brainwashing”, as my friend said. Is it real faith or just head knowledge? If it is only head knowledge it will fail in the time of trial.
B. When our faith has been tested and proved genuine it will result in praise, honor and glory when Christ is revealed. Why is faith so important? Because it honors God by trusting Him, knowing that He is good and faithful, no matter what happens. The greatest way you can honor another person is to believe in him – not just in what He says, but in the kind of Person He is. Faith is “being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see.” Heb. 11:1 The world says, “seeing is believing”. That’s not faith! Our faith is “seeing because we believe” or “believing is seeing”. Even though we have never seen Him we love Him. This kind of faith is described in verse 8. It’s not “love at first sight”. It’s love without sight! Never having seen Him with our eyes, we have fully comprehended Him with our heart, and come to love Him more than life itself. Believing Him and loving Him fills us with an inexpressible and glorious joy.
IV. Our salvation – God’s amazing mystery
A. Why are we filled with such joy? It’s because we are in the process of receiving the goal or end of our faith which is the salvation of our souls. We are being saved as we love and trust our Savior. Have men always known about this salvation? No! The prophets of old longed to know more about it. They spoke of the grace that was to come to us, but even they didn’t fully comprehend it. They searched diligently and with the greatest care and yet didn’t fully understand. The Holy Spirit predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow through Isaiah and others. The sufferings have taken place but the glories are still to come. It’s important to note that it was the Spirit of the Christ who spoke to them. That was before Christ was incarnated in the flesh. The Spirit has worked in men’s hearts in all ages because God, the Trinity, has always been.
B. The prophets were serving us by predicting and preparing us for what would come, enabling us to understand the truth of the Gospel and the Lordship of Christ. They were trying to discover the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ was pointing. They knew that they were not serving themselves, but future generations who would see and live in these very prophecies. How very privileged we are! These are the things that were told to Peter’s generation – the believers scattered over Asia Minor or modern Turkey. The gospel was clearly preached to them by people like Paul, Barnabus, Silas and Timothy – men who had been filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Their preaching was not from their own wisdom or brilliance. I Cor. 2:1-4
C. And so the gospel came down to us, the privileged ones. We have received this precious gift and been blessed by God to be able to know and enter into this mystery of salvation. The apostles and those who followed them had the privilege of understanding what the prophets saw only dimly in the future. Even angels did not fully understand this mystery, and probably still don’t. They long to know things that are only fully revealed to men by the Holy Spirit. How could they know the joy of sins forgiven? They cast their lot at the beginning of time to be eternally with God or eternally with Satan, their chosen leader. Only we humans can avail ourselves of the grace of God and the salvation of Christ.
V. Living out our salvation
A. Since through God’s grace and our faith we have been born again into a living hope, we must live it out in our lives. So Peter gives us several imperatives or commands: “Be self-controlled; do not conform; be holy; love one another”. Since God has given us the privilege of enjoying this amazing salvation, what should be our response? Because of all that God has done for us, “Therefore”…we must do our part. We are to prepare our minds for action – not turn off our minds or empty our minds as some false teachers are teaching. We must be self-controlled, the opposite of uncontrolled or “drunk” as we see demonstrated in some of the meetings on TV or in certain churches.
B. We are to use our minds to bring our bodies into submission. Of course, we need the Lord’s help in this, but unless we take the first step, how can we expect Him to help us? Besides setting our minds on the things of God and His Word, we need to also set our hope. Heb. 6:19a Once again Peter emphasizes hope. Our hope must be fully set by faith on the grace and glory that will be given to us when Jesus is revealed. We set our minds on self-control, looking forward to the hope on which we are set – the coming of our Lord and eternity spent with Him in His home.
We are strangers here on earth, but we are looking for the city that is to come. Heb. 13:14 With Moses, we disregard the disgrace we may have to go through because we are “otherworldly” people or strangers in this world. Why do we do this? Because though we have not seen Him who is invisible, we love Him and are filled with joy to know Him. And our hearts are full of the living hope that we found when we were born again. Heb. 11:26-27 We have the honor of knowing and receiving the salvation which the prophets searched for and the angels long to understand. So now how will we use this marvelous privilege? Are we prepared for action? Are we ready to share this amazing Good News? Are we looking forward to this hope – the coming of Christ?
Peter and His Letters (3)
Act Like a Child of God
I Peter 1:14 - 2:10
As we learned last week, God in His great mercy has given us new birth into a living hope. I Pet. 1:3 This came about through our faith which is more precious than gold. 1:7 It was our faith that made it possible for us to believe in Him and love Him even though we have not seen Him. In this way we receive the goal of our faith which is the salvation of our souls. 1:8-9 But a newborn baby must learn how to act as a child of his father, so Peter continues by showing us how to act like God’s children and grow up to become adult members in His family.
I. Obey your Father
A. We are now God’s children, so we are to act as obedient children! Obedient children of God no longer conform to the world and the evil desires of the past. Instead we are transformed by the renewing of our minds. Rom. 12:1-2 As we set our minds to be self-controlled and obedient to the Lord, it gives Him the chance to transform our minds by renewing them – giving them new ways of thinking and acting. We followed evil desires in the past out of ignorance. But now we are born again. We can no longer claim ignorance because we have seen the truth and come to know Him who is Truth. Then Peter gives us the ultimate high standard: You must be holy as your God is holy. This is written in the Word, not once, but several times. Lev. 1:44,45; 19:2; 20:7 We cannot reach perfection in this life, but our goal is more holiness – to be like Jesus!
B. Peter is calling us to get our act together as children of the glorious Father. We are to prepare our minds for action – study to show ourselves approved; be self-controlled; set our hope on the coming of Christ; be obedient; and be holy. Since we know our Father as One who judges each person’s work impartially, we need to live our lives in accordance with that individual judgment to come. That means living on earth as strangers and pilgrims in reverent fear of our great, almighty God. This is not a game we’re playing! It’s serious business. If we fear God and His judgment we will live as in this world but not of it. We are citizens of another country of which the Father is the Head. Our attitude should be as strangers and aliens who don’t really fit in. We have been redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to us. This is the opposite of what is being taught today about our past cultures. Were the demons we worshipped actually God? No! What they passed down to us was an empty and harmful way of life.
A. The truth is that we had to be redeemed from our former way of life and our culture. It could not save us! So how were we redeemed? Were we bought like slaves in the slave market with perishable things like silver and gold? No! We were purchased by God with the precious blood of Christ. He was God’s Lamb, totally without blemish or defect. The Jews understood this concept perfectly because they had often offered unblemished lambs in sacrifice to God. But Jesus the Lamb was not chosen from the flock for Passover. He was chosen before the creation of the world. As the members of the Trinity had said at the creation, “Let us make man in our image” (Gen. 1:26), they had also said, “Let us choose one from among us to be the Lamb to be sacrificed.”. He was not revealed as the Lamb until 4000 years had passed, but He was chosen before the creation.
B. It is through God’s Lamb that we have come to believe in God, who demonstrated His love and power by raising Him from the dead and glorifying Him. Therefore our faith (vs. 5,7,9) and our hope (vs. 3 & 13) are in God. So Peter has summed up 2 themes of this chapter: faith and hope. Now he goes to a third theme, the new birth. To it he adds love. He writes that we have purified ourselves. Actually it is God who has purified us with the blood of His Son. But even that is not possible without our faith and obedience. We have purified ourselves by obeying the truth. This faith, obedience and purification has led us to love our brothers and sisters in the faith. Once again, God opens the door, but we have to go in. We are told to love one another deeply, not just on the surface. This is only possible because we have been born again. Our new birth finally makes sincere love for others possible.
C. Our first human birth was accomplished with perishable seed. The new spiritual birth is accomplished with imperishable seed through the living and enduring Word of God. This Word is written, but it is also incarnate in the Person of Jesus. John 1:1-2 He comes to live in us when we are born again. Peter quotes from Isa. 40:6-8 to prove his point: the difference between the perishable and imperishable. Men are like grass. Grass is as common as sand on the beach. Even though it looks healthy and green, it is only that way as long as God gives the rain. When it is cut down or the drought sets in, it withers and dies. Even the glory of men – their physical beauty and strength, their talents and abilities, their possessions and money – is like the flowers of the field. A field of flowers is beautiful, but it only takes a burning sun or a freezing wind to turn them into uselessness. It is so hard for us to recognize that our lives are like grass – or at best, flowers.
III. Grow up to become an adult member of God’s family
A. Peter goes on to say that we should therefore live out this new imperishable birth. As Paul wrote in Ephesians and Colossians, so here Peter writes that we must rid ourselves of the old ways of our old birth or nature, We need to crave or desire or put on the new ways of our new birth. It’s interesting that he doesn’t tell them to rid themselves of immorality or drunkenness. Maybe they already knew that and had begun to leave their old sinful ways. Instead, Peter writes about the sins of Christians! What are the sins of Christians? Malice, deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and slander or gossip. He emphasizes all malice and all deceit and slander of every kind. There is no place for these sins in the lives of believers. An insincere person is jealous of others and therefore slanders them to make himself look good. God told Cain that sin was crouching at his door in these forms and he must master it. He didn’t, and his eternal death was the result. Gen. 4:7
B. Paul wrote to the Romans (13:14) that they must clothe themselves with the Lord Jesus instead of thinking about how to gratify their sinful desires. Titus 3:3-7 describes our condition well before we were saved. We were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating others. Then we were rescued from all that by the kindness, mercy and love of our Lord, So Peter here encourages us to crave pure spiritual milk like newborn babies so that we can grow up in our salvation. We have tasted the milk of God’s Word. It tasted good. But we need to drink many bottles of it, and even go on to the meat of the Word in order to become mature, to be able to stand in the hard times, and to be able to discern the difference between good and evil, the true and the false. Heb. 5:14
A. The next 5 verses are all about “stones” – mentioned 7 times in these verses. It is all based on the one great Living Stone. This is the Stone rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to Him – the Lord Jesus Christ! He is the Chief Cornerstone. Without Him there is no building. But He is not the only stone. You can’t build a temple with only a cornerstone. He is the most important, but He also gathers to Him many other living stones. Our stones are fitted to and around Him. Notice that they are not dead weights. They are living stones being built into a living house – a spiritual house or temple. But like Christ we are not just stones in the building. We are also a holy priesthood. What is our job? To offer spiritual sacrifices. These are not like the sacrifices made in Herod’s temple, many of which were despised by God. Mal. 1:10 These spiritual sacrifices are acceptable to God because they come through Jesus Christ. Rom. 12:1
B. So we follow Christ’s example. He is God incarnate, the human Temple in which God lives. He is the High Priest, and He is the once-for-all Sacrifice. So in some small way, we become His temple and His priest on earth. Our bodies become the living sacrifices that He can use. Peter next quotes from Isa. 28:16 which is often quoted in the New Testament. God said that He would lay in Zion a chosen and precious cornerstone. It’s interesting to note that He was laying it like you would lay bricks or a foundation. That’s what Jesus is. And our destiny depends on our response to this Living Cornerstone that was laid by God. “The one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.” All others will be shamed eternally for their rejection of God’s great gift. So the question is: “Do we believe or not?” “To you who believe this stone is precious.” As He is precious to God, so He is precious to us, precious beyond anything or anyone else.
C. What about those who don’t believe in Him? They are the builders who have rejected Him. Nevertheless, Jesus has become the Cornerstone of the whole building or the Capstone of the archway that leads in. Psa. 118:22 Without the cornerstone, the building is a jumbled mess of stones. Without the capstone there is no archway into the building. Next Peter quotes Isa. 8:14. This same Precious Stone causes men to stumble and fall. It becomes a stumbling-block. I Cor. 1:23 Why should this important Rock make people fall? Because they disobey the message. God in His foreknowledge knew that they would, and so they are destined to fall – eternally!
A. Choosing Christ and obeying Him causes us to be among the Chosen – chosen by the foreknowledge of God before creation. We are the royal priesthood, “offering spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ.” (v. 5) And we have the priestly function of intercession for others, just as Christ our High Priest intercedes for us to the Father. It’s hard to think of the scattered believers as a “nation”, but we have changed nationality and citizenship from the country we came from to the heavenly country. Heb. 11:10, 16; 13:14 We are a people who belong to God. We are God’s people and therefore a “holy nation”. As His children and His nation we must live and reflect His holiness.
B. Why would God choose us to be His people? Of course, it’s because He loves us. But it’s also because He wants us to declare His praises. We are to be His representatives, His ambassadors, His spokesmen. And whose praises do we declare? “ The One who called us out of darkness into His wonderful light.” Our testimony should not be about how good we are, but about how merciful God is to call us from the intense darkness into His brilliant light. Peter gives the contrast with two “once…but now” phrases. Once we were not a people. We had no similar nationality. We were Jews or Gentiles, white or brown with no relationship to each other. But now we are the people of God – all of one blood. Once we had not received mercy. We were lost and miserable – “without hope and without God”. Eph. 2:12 But now we have received mercy – that undeserved favor of God to the condemned criminals declaring them pardoned and innocent.
When we think of all the blessings and gifts God has given us, doesn’t it give us the desire to share it all with others? Are they still in the terrible darkness that we were saved from? Do they fear death because they know they are not ready to face God since they are not His people? Are they full of guilt over their many sins which weigh on them like a heavy burden? They may not admit these things to us, but we know if they have not given their lives to Christ this is their condition because it was ours before we were saved. Won’t you take your responsibility as Christ’s ambassador to declare His praise and His wonderful works? II Cor. 5:18-21
Peter and His Letters (4)
Live in Your Society as a Child of God
I Peter 2:11- 25
Having established that if we have been born again we are now members of God’s family, Peter went on to admonish us to act like children of God and to become adult members of God’s family, able to take responsibility for others. Now he goes on to teach us the importance of living in our society as a child of God. In doing this, he branches into 2 of his themes for the rest of this letter: submission and suffering. We will try to understand how this important characteristic of a true believer – submission – may bring us in to suffering, and how we are to be submissive in the midst of suffering. These are not popular themes of preachers today, but if we are serious about maturing as Christians, we must see the interaction of the two – and live it out! I Pet. 3:17
Read I Peter 2:11-25
I. Remember you’re only visiting here
A. Peter reminded us in 2:10 that “Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” The Lord turned us from “nobodies” into “somebodies”. What a merciful Lord He is! Since we are now God’s people we need to recognize that we have no real part in this world. We are aliens and strangers. I Pet. 1:1, 17 This world is not our home, so we must be on guard against the sinful desires of this world. Why? Because they war against our souls! We learned that in James 1:14-15.
B. Peter used the strongest word to warn us: “abstain”. This means “have nothing to do with”. If you abstain from liquor, you don’t drink any at all. If young people abstain from sex before marriage, they keep themselves pure until they are married. These sinful desires Peter mentions wreak havoc in our souls. They fight against the very life of God in us. Notice Peter isn’t talking about sinful words and acts, but about what comes before those – the inner desires that no one sees but God. We have to cut off worldliness at its roots – the hidden desires and longings of our sinful hearts.
C. We are to be living examples – living good lives among the unbelievers. It doesn’t mean that they will agree with us or honor us, but that they will see our good deeds. They may accuse us of doing wrong – being foolish and fanatical and different than they are. They may think that we are wasting our lives and talents on serving the Lord. But if we are faithful, our good lives, our priestly prayers, and our declaration of His praises may cause them to glorify God when He “visits” us. So we need to live as the people of God, from the inside out until He comes to visit us and rule here on earth as King. If we are faithful, others will be glorifying God with us on that day because they gave their lives to Him through our influence. Matt. 5:16
A. Peter reminds us that we need to submit to authority. I think he learned this lesson the hard way. As a younger man I don’t think he practiced much submission. But when we learn how to truly submit to Christ it helps us to be able to submit to the authorities in this world. Of course, there are times when we have to say with Peter, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” Acts 5:27-29 But we need to be sure that we are clearly within God’s will before we stand up against an authority. It was clearly God’s will for them to boldly preach the gospel so they could not obey those who commanded them to be silent.
B. However, in ordinary circumstances, we need to respect and obey our authorities – whether the King or President as supreme, or the governors or police who work for him. They are the enforcers of his authority who punish wrongdoers and commend right-doers. Of course, government authorities are not always just. Peter knew about that. He was imprisoned and later, crucified. But he wants us to know that rebellion and sedition are not God’s way. It is not God’s will to bomb an abortion clinic even though we don’t agree with abortion. The false teachers who are teaching that we Christians have to take over the governments of the world, are actually teaching sedition. Why should we submit to these authorities? “For the Lord’s sake”. (v. 13) We honor Him when we respect others, and it lifts up His name when others see us doing what is right.
C. Do we want to know what God’s will is? Here we are told specifically what is God’s will for us in our society. It is clearly God’s will that we do good. By doing good and living out God’s life in us, we silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. In Peter’s day they accused the Christians of setting fire to Rome when actually it was Emperor Nero who did it. The Jewish Christians were blamed for the rebellion of the ungodly Jews. The Gentile Christians were blamed for leaving their gods and thereby bringing curses on others. Today we are blamed if we insist that Jesus is the Only Way, the Only Truth and the Only Life. We are called intolerant. It is God’s way that by doing good – like submitting to the authorities – we should silence their foolish and ignorant talk. We must live what we teach.
A. How should we then live? Do we need to be all tied in knots and legalism? Should we be constantly afraid that we might break some law, like the SDAs? No1 The truth has made us free, so we are to live as free men and women. John 8:32 This does not give us license to do anything our flesh desires. People excuse their sin or lack of self-control by saying that they are free, no longer under law but under grace. That is using our freedom as a cover-up for evil. We are to live as servants of God. We choose to serve God because we love Him, and as His servants we must follow the ways of Christ which are even higher than the law. All we have to do is ask ourselves, “Am I living as a servant of God should, faithfully doing His will?”
B. In verse 17 Peter sums up the correct attitude of a servant of God – toward everyone in general, the believers in particular, God, and the government authorities. So these are the proper attitudes toward the whole spectrum of those who make up our lives. We are to show the proper respect to everyone – rich or poor, black or white, homeless or millionaire. The world tends to respect some more than others, but that’s not God’s standard for us. When it comes to the brotherhood of believers, we owe them love. When it comes to God, we owe Him everything. The really wise person will fear, honor and obey the Lord. Prov. 1:7 It is proper to respect the King or President because of his position even if he is not a man of God.
A. Next, Peter deals, as Paul does elsewhere, with slaves. There were many Christian slaves in the Roman Empire. Should they rebel or run away? The Bible never tells them to do that. Instead, both Peter and Paul tell slaves to submit. Eph. 6:6 Of course, it is not good for human beings to be bought and sold. But many human circumstances are not good. So what should a Christian slave do? Submit! None of us are slaves, but most of us are or were employees working for someone. Peter tells us we are to submit ourselves to our bosses with all respect. That’s fine if you have a good and considerate boss, but suppose your boss is harsh and mean? If he’s your boss, you submit! The respect in this case is not based on the character of the one respected, but on the character of the one who respects! In fact, it is commendable if a person bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God and wants to please Him.
B. I believe that God is especially pleased and will reward those who suffer unjustly just because they love Him. Suffering for your own evil and wrong is not to your credit. But suffering for good is. In fact, if we suffer while doing good, we are following in Christ’s steps. He suffered for us, leaving us an example. We are to be willing to suffer for Him and to have the same attitude He had. What was His attitude? Unlike us, He never did anything but good! In fact, He committed no sin and no deceit was found in His mouth. Isa. 53:9 He was and is 100% good. Suffering, especially unjustly, may cause us to sin or be deceitful. They hurled insults at Him the whole time He was being tried, scourged and crucified. He certainly could have retaliated. It must have been a temptation for Him, when the creatures of His own making treated Him so. We, too, are tempted to retaliate when we are mistreated. If we do, we aren’t following in His steps.
C. Jesus made no threats. Certainly He could have told them that they would be condemned to eternal hell. In fact, He could have sent them there at the time. What did He do instead? He entrusted Himself to the Father’s will. Here we see how suffering and submission go together. We must learn to follow in Jesus’ steps – to submit to our Father when we are suffering unjustly. Then Jesus died for those who caused His death – you and me! “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree.” I can’t even imagine the horrors of a sinless person taking on the sins of the whole world “in His body”. His death provides the way for us to die – and to live! Instead of living for sin, we die to sin. Instead of being dead to righteousness, we live for righteousness. Here we have the proper context for Isaiah’s words: “By His wounds you have been healed”. Some teach that this verse guarantees that we will be healed physically by Jesus’ wounds. Peter is not writing about physical healing, but about spiritual healing. It is by Jesus’ wounds and His death that we have been healed – freed from sin and made alive to righteousness.
D. Peter also uses Isaiah’s simile of sheep gone astray. Isa. 53:6 We were like sheep that were wandering off, straying away from our fold and our shepherd. Luke 15:4 These wandering, lost sheep have returned. Actually, we have been returned, but with our voluntary agreement, like the lamb on the shoulder of its shepherd. Were we returned to a place? No, to a Person. He is the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls, not just our bodies. Our souls are the part most wounded by our sin and rebellion. The Good Shepherd cares for His sheep and oversees their safe return to the fold where they belong. This is what has happened to us because of Christ’s submission, suffering and sacrifice. How do we follow in His steps? We pray for and find other lost sheep who need to be brought to Him.
What have we learned about following in Jesus’ steps? Jesus knew that He was here on earth only temporarily. It was not His final destination. But He was here for a very important mission. Do we see our lives on earth in the same way? We should understand that while this earth is not our final home, we are here for a reason. II Cor. 5:20 Jesus was accused of many things while He was here, but He kept on living a holy life so that those who really wanted to know God could see God in Him. This is our pattern. We must abstain from the fleshly desires which fight against our souls. That way, those who want to accuse us will have no real evidence against us, but will be influenced and drawn to Christ by our good lives. Jesus submitted Himself, first of all to the Father, and then also to governmental authorities. So we are to live submissively to God and respectfully toward leaders. As Christ suffered while doing good, we may also. While suffering we ned to remain submissive to the Father’s will in our lives. But we must beware of suffering for our evil deeds. That’s where we leave Christ’s footsteps and go our own way as wandering sheep. We don’t want to be one of those sheep, but to be God’s helper in bringing them back. James 5:19-20
Peter and His Letters (5)
Live in Your Family & God’s Family as a Child of God
I Peter 3:1-12
Peter makes a strong emphasis in this section (2:13-3:22) on submission and respect. We are to submit ourselves to every authority. (2:13) We are to show respect to everyone. (2:17) Slaves (or employees) are to submit to their masters with all respect. (2:18) Wives are to submit to their husbands. (3:1) Husbands are to respect their wives. (3:7) Even when we witness for Christ, we are to do it with gentleness and respect. (3:15) Submission and respect seem to be the foundation and the hallmark of every relationship of a Christian. It all starts with our submission to the Lord and our deep respect for Him. Without that, we will not be able to live it out to others.
I. Wives, help your husbands
A. Peter has been writing about slaves who were often mistreated and definitely not respected by others. Even though slavery is wrong, they were to respond in the right way by being willing to suffer for Christ. Eph. 6:5-8 Now Peter turns to wives, writing, “Wives, in the same way..” Wives were probably often mistreated by their husbands as they still are today in some cultures. The question is: What should be the wife’s attitude, even if she is suffering? Peter wrote that submission of the wives to their husbands is vital. Wives are to be submissive to their husbands as they are to the Lord. Why? Because God has assigned the husband the job of being head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. Eph. 5:22-24
B. But what should the wife do if her husband is not a Christian? The Lord said that we should not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. Some women disobey this and suffer for it later. But sometimes a woman is saved after she is married and so ends up living with an unbeliever. Or in some cultures women are forced to marry men whom they would not choose to marry, thus ending up married to an unbeliever. In that case, her primary responsibility is to try to win her husband. Some Christian women understand this, but they try to win their husbands by nagging them or dragging them to church. That’s not usually successful, and causes a woman to treat her husband in a disrespectful way.
C. So what is Peter’s solution to this problem? He writes that unbelieving husbands may be won over “without words by the behavior of their wives.” Wives who live out God’s Word may be instruments in God’s hands even without speaking. That doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t speak. The problem is that many women show disrespect for their husbands by the way they speak to them. Let them live out the life of Christ before their husbands. What kind of behavior is Peter referring to? A life of purity and reverence. Purity means clean living which comes from a clean heart and mind. Reverence is submission and honor, esteeming the other better than herself.
D. Actually, the same principle is true of an employee winning his employer to the Lord. His faithfulness to his work, his honesty and his respect for the boss will go a long way in helping him witness to the boss. When an unbelieving husband sees his wife’s purity and reverence he wonders what makes her different from others. The Christian wife who wants to influence her husband should concentrate on inner beauty more than outward adornment. Outward adornment is fancy hair-dos, expensive clothes, plenty of make-up, and lots of gold jewelry. How do we cultivate inner beauty? We must spend time with God – in study of His Word and prayer.
E. Does this mean that a woman should not look attractive? NO! But our major work should be on the inside instead of the outside. Outside beauty is usually artificial. Underneath the glamorous exterior may be ugliness in the heart and mind. The real beauty of a woman is in the inner self where it is unfading. The outer self will become old and wrinkled, but a woman can cultivate the inner, unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. This is charm that lasts and is of great worth in God’s eyes, and in the eyes of people who are looking deeper than outward appearance. The holy women of the past are our example. Their hope was in God and they were beautiful on the inside. They were submissive to their husbands.
F. Sarah was one of those. She obeyed Abraham and called him her master. When she failed to let him be lord and master, she made one of the biggest mistakes of all time. When she insisted on her own will, Ishmael, son of Hagar, was the result. He was the father of the Arabs, the haters of the Jews. Self-willed women have a way of creating big problems. However, most of the time Sarah did what was right, and we are her daughters if we follow her good example. Peter admonishes women not to give way to fear. What kind of fear? Any kind of fear that would keep us from doing right as Peter has described it: being submissive and gentle, and living out our faith as a testimony. Maybe it is the fear that her husband will take advantage of her. Or she might fear that she will lose her self-worth. Can we trust God in these things? He is the One who told women to be submissive to their husbands.
A. Peter doesn’t speak only to wives, but to husbands as well. Though he uses fewer words to write to them, what he writes is very significant and important. Once again he opens with: “Husbands, in the same way…” He has been writing about submission and respect and he continues on with that theme in addressing husbands. As the wives are to be submissive, the husbands are to be considerate. That would exclude the “I’m the boss” attitude that many husbands have. A husband is to be kind, loving and considerate of the wife’s feelings. Paul wrote that husbands must love their wives as Christ loved the church. That’s a self-sacrificing kind of love. Eph. 5:25 In fact, Paul wrote that husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. “He who loves his wife, loves himself.” Eph. 5:28
B. The husband is also to respect his wife. She Is not his slave or servant. She is his partner. Why would you mistreat your partner? Everyone knows that when you do that you both suffer the consequences. The wife should be taken care of as the weaker partner. This does not mean that the man is superior to the woman. She is weaker, not mentally or spiritually, but physically. Often the wife is stronger mentally or spiritually than the husband, but she doesn’t have the physical strength that he has. The wife is not only a partner, but an heir with the husband of the gracious gift of life. No man or woman alone can produce a child. It takes a partnership. Peter concludes his words to husbands with a warning. Mistreatment of a wife can hinder or cancel your prayers. It seems that God chooses not to hear or answer the prayers of such a husband.
A. Next Peter summarizes all he has said with a general statement: “Finally, all of you…” What are we all to do? Peter gives us a list of “Do’s” and “Don’ts”. These are not simple rules like you would give to children. They are evidences of Christian maturity when we follow them with the heart.
1.) Live in harmony with one another. When we sing different parts in harmony it’s a beautiful sound. So we are to live that way, making good sounds together instead of loud arguing and fighting.
2.) Be sympathetic. This means that we need to understand and sympathize with one another’s needs and problems, not just think of our own problems.
3.) Love as brothers. We must consider our fellow believers as members of the same family and love them as we do our blood relatives.
4.) Be compassionate and humble. We need to humble ourselves before others, not be arrogant and proud or think of ourselves as superior to them. Then we can be compassionate. Col. 3:12
B. If we love in those ways, we will not repay evil with evil. We will not insult others when they insult us. It’s very tempting to try to get revenge when others insult you or treat you as insignificant and unimportant. Many Christians get their revenge with gossip. This is just as serious a sin as any others are. But Peter not only tells us what not to do, but what to do! Instead of giving back an insult or paying back evil or gossiping about the person who hurt us, we are to give back blessing! It was to this we were called, so that we may inherit a blessing. It’s hard to bless others who treat you badly, but the one who blesses will be blessed! Col. 3:13; Matt. 5:43-48
A. Peter quotes Psa. 34:12-16 to prove his points. Peter quotes 12 times from the Old Testament in this short letter. It’s obvious that his faith is founded on God’s Word. Psalm 34 was written by David at one of the traumatic points in his life. The principles in it are basic and important. If we love life and want to see good days, there are certain things we must do and others we must not do. “Loving life” and “seeing good days” must not be defined by our worldly context. What the world calls “the good life” may be the worst thing for us as Christians. If we really love life, we will love the One who gives us the opportunity to live freely now and to live forever. Our good days will be those in which we are the closest to the Lord and doing His will. And we long for all the good days to come when we will live in His home and see His face every day.
B. So what must we do to enjoy real life and to have good days?
1.) We must keep our tongues from evil. It is difficult to tame the tongue, but it is possible with the power of self-control – a fruit of the Spirit’s work in us. James 1:26
2.) We must keep our lips from deceitful speech. That is talk that is designed to give a false impression – like bragging and exaggerating our stories to sound good. Sometimes it’s an attempt to trick someone into doing something. Col. 3:9-10
3.) We must determine to turn from evil and do good. This involves deliberate choices – to turn away from everything evil and to actively seek to do good, using our tongues and everything else for God’s glory.
4.) We must seek peace and pursue it – run after it. Instead of looking for a chance to argue or prove our point, we must seek peaceful solutions. To pursue it means to strive for that goal. Our tongues can make war or peace.
C. If we do these things the way God wants us to, we receive His help and blessing. If not, we receive His curses. It’s as simple as that! In this Psalm David talks about the Lord’s eyes, ears and face. He is not just some vague force as in “Star Wars”. He is a real Person like we are. His eyes of mercy and help are on the one who chooses and pursues righteousness. The worship song says, “When Your eyes are on this child, Your grace extends to me.” Does God hear all prayer? Yes, of course, in one way He hears everything. But does He pay attention to and answer all prayer? NO! Isaiah says that our sins may prevent Him from answering. Isa. 59:1-2 But He is always attentive to the prayers of the righteous, and their prayers will be answered in His way at His time. Psa. 34:17 On the other side, the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. I can’t imagine how terrible it is to have the face of God against us. That’s the worst thing I can think of.
It’s interesting that Peter in this letter corrects the primary sin of wives and the primary sin of husbands. The biggest problem that wives have is lack of submission and reverence for their husbands. On the other hand, the biggest problem that husbands have is lack of consideration and compassion for their wives. One sin is just as big as the other is. When a wife fails, she may not be able to influence her husband for the Lord. When a husband fails, he may find that God is no longer answering his prayers. We do well to pay attention to Peter’s warnings.
Peter and His Letters (6)
Live in the World as a Child of God
I Peter 3:13-4:6
Peter has been teaching us how we should live and act as a member of God’s family. Since we gave our hearts to Christ we are no longer the same. We have been born into the family of God. But how do we live and act as a child of God? He has taught us about living in our society as God’s child. He has shown husbands and wives how to live in their family. And he has taught all of us how to live in God’s family as His children. Now he turns to the problems of living in this degenerate world as a child of God. It’s not easy, but the Holy Spirit through Peter shows us the things we need to remember.
I. Don’t be afraid of the things they are afraid of
A. Peter asks a question. “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?” It seems that the answer should be: “No one!” But the man who wrote this went about doing good and spreading the gospel, and he went to jail more than once. He finally ended his life being crucified upside down. Usually, though, doing good “silences the ignorant talk of foolish men”. I Pet. 2:15 But we may have to suffer as Peter did. Even if we should have to suffer for what is right, we are blessed. We should not be afraid to suffer. Matt. 5:10-12 It’s better to be blessed by God while being cursed by men than to be blessed by men and therefore cursed by God.
B. We must not fear what they fear. We must not give way to fear. (v. 6) What do people in this world fear? They fear other people. They fear sickness. They fear demons. And most of all, they fear death. Should we be afraid of these things? Why should we fear people when God Himself is our Helper? Heb. 13:6 If we try to please men instead of the Lord because we fear what they will say about us, or do to us, we will find ourselves trapped. Prov. 29:25 Are we afraid of sickness? Can’t the God whose grace was sufficient for Paul also give us grace in our weakness? II Cor. 12:9 Are we afraid of demons? But the demons are subject to our Lord Jesus! I Pet. 3:22 And what about death? Isn’t everyone afraid of death? When we belong to Christ we no longer need to fear even death. Phil. 1:20-2I Nothing and no one can separate us from God’s love.Rom. 8:38-39
II. Witness to the people in your world
A. I think that Peter’s next words should be made into a motto to be hung on our walls. “In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.” If Christ is our Lord we will try to do His will – to live in a way that pleases Him. Then we do not need to fear what the people of the world fear. If Christ is our Lord we will always be prepared to speak for Him. We need to be ready to give a reason for the hope that we have. What is our hope? We know that we’re God’s children and will be going to live with Him in heaven. Do people see that we have this hope in the midst of darkness and trouble? Or do they hear us complaining and questioning the God whom we say we trust? If they see that we have real hope in the midst of our trials, they will be curious about the reason for it.
B. Their curiosity about our confidence and hope will give us a very natural and sincere opportunity to tell them about what Christ has done for us and what He can do for them. The witness that we give must be given with the right attitude – an attitude of gentleness and respect. We are not to blast others or put them down because they’re not Christians, but be kind and respectful. That will win us a hearing where blasting and disrespect will close ears. This is true of husbands and wives who are trying to win their mates. It’s also true of children who are trying to win their parents, and employees who are witnessing to their bosses.
C. In whatever situation we are witnessing, we must be careful to keep a clear conscience. We need to check and recheck our motives. Do we feel superior or better than they because we are Christians and they are not? Do we want to prove that we know more or are more spiritual? Are we looking for praise from men because we have brought someone to Christ? (Illus: There was a young man who was attending Bible College in Providence, RI, when I was there as a student. He used to go out on the streets and stop people to talk to them about Christ. He was offensive in the way that he did it, but he would come back to school and brag about how many people “he had saved”.) Is our heart right and are our motives pure? If so, it will shame those who slander us because we follow Christ.
A. “Suffer” and “suffering” are used 17 times in Peter’s book. Peter and the Christians of his time knew a lot about suffering, just as today the Christians of China, the Sudan and Indonesia know. And Jesus warned us that we, too, will experience persecution and suffering. Matt. 24:9-13 It is far better to suffer for doing good than doing evil. It doesn’t mean that we should want to suffer, but to be willing to suffer if it is God’s will. Doing good is God’s will, so if it entails suffering, so be it. Some would teach us today that it is never God’s will for us to suffer. I think Peter is a far more reliable teacher than these false teachers are. I Pet. 4:19 If we suffer for what is right, we are blessed. (v. 14) So we should not fear what they fear, but keep on trusting the Lord and endure hardness like a good soldier.
B. We need to remember that Christ, the Lord of glory, suffered and died for us and for those to whom we are witnessing. Peter uses the favorite expression of the writer of Hebrews: “once for all”. Heb. 9:12; 10:10 There is an enduring finality in that simple fact. It was “once for all” that Christ died for our sins – the righteous for the unrighteous. The Holy One died for the unholy ones. For what purpose? To bring us to God. Why? Because God loves us and longed to be reconciled to us. Jesus was put to death in the body, but made alive by the Spirit. We, too, will die in our bodies, but live by the Spirit. When Jesus rose from the dead, He went into the depths. It seems that He preached to the spirits in prison – the ones who disobeyed long ago and died in the flood. God had waited patiently – for 120 years – before sending the flood.
C. I don’t know why Jesus preached to these sinners in Hades, but I do know that He led the faithful “captives” to heaven – those in Abraham’s bosom. Eph. 4:8-9 In the time of Noah there were only a few people – eight – who were saved out of that whole generation through water. They went through the water while the others all drowned in the same water. This water is similar to the water of baptism that now saves us. We have to be careful that we don’t misunderstand what Peter is saying here. This is not teaching baptismal regeneration: that we are born again by the water of baptism. It is the water that indicates that salvation has already occurred. This water is not for the removal of dirt – or sin – from the body. Instead it is the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It shows that the conscience has already been cleared by repentance and salvation.
D. We are saved by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. His death cleanses us from sin and His resurrection gives us new life. That’s why baptism by immersion under the water is a good picture of our salvation which is our death to sin and resurrection to new life. It is a picture of what has already happened to us spiritually. There are different forms of baptism and they all mean the same thing, but immersion gives a clearer picture than the others do. Christ is the One who has gone to heaven and is at God’s right hand. Since He is now in the place of authority. angels, authorities and powers (both good and evil) are in submission to Him. He is Lord of all even though at the present time we don’t see everything subject to Him. Heb. 2:7-8 Soon it will be evident that He is King of kings and Lord of lords!
A. Since Christ suffered in the body, we should arm ourselves with the same attitude He had. Phil. 2:5 We should be willing to suffer like He did if God has ordained it for us. Obviously, Peter was concerned that the Christians of his time would be able to stand fast in the midst of their suffering and persecution. And he wanted them to know how their suffering was related to Christ’s suffering. Usually we think of suffering as a very bad thing and we do everything we can to avoid it. But Peter reminds us that suffering can have good results. “He who has suffered in the body is done with sin.”
B. I don’t think that this is automatic. But as our suffering drives us to Christ, we become more and more devoted to Him and less and less attached to the world. However, this is only true if we are submissive to God in our suffering. The one who has suffered and through it been driven to the Lord, has lost his interest in evil human desires. The suffering and what he has learned from it has pointed him to the will of God and drawn him close to his Savior. So Peter lets us know that suffering may bear precious fruit if we have the same attitude that Christ had. He put the will of His Father before anything else, even His own will and comfort. Matt. 26:39
A. Peter is honest with them, reminding them that they had spent more than enough time in the past doing what unbelievers choose to do. Notice that the sins he mentions are mostly related to immorality. Certainly that was the primary sin of the Roman Empire, but also the Canaanites and other tribes in their area. Our country is turning more and more to these things. Even the “detestable idolatry” had a lot of immorality mixed in. (Illus: India is full of idolatry. Amy Carmichael, the missionary, spent her life there rescuing the young girls who were taken from their homes to be prostitutes in the temples of the idols.) People whose lives are totally inundated with this kind of filth don’t understand why Christians don’t plunge into the same flood of dissipation. To them, this is all there is to life.
B. How many are living that way these days, thinking that they are experiencing life? Their consciences are seared, but somehow they can’t totally erase the finger of God in their lives which makes them feel guilty. The contrast of their lives with those who walk with God makes them angry and resentful. This causes them to be abusive toward Christians or try to get revenge on them. We don’t have to let this bother us, because there is a just Judge to whom they will have to give account. Rom. 14:12 The next verse refers to those who have died or been martyred for the faith. They were probably verbally and physically abused because of their stand for Christ. Although they have been judged physically by man, they have lived according to God in regard to the spirit. Their spirits have endured the abuse and they faithfully lived for God. Actually, being dead, their spirits are still living for God and with God.
There is a very important connection in this book between suffering and submission. It is vital for us to understand this because if we don’t we may question the reasons for our suffering. Jesus is the key to understanding this. It was the Lord’s will to crush Him and make Him suffer. Isa. 53:10 Even though Jesus was God’s Son, He was heard because of His submission, and He learned obedience from what He suffered. Heb. 5:7-8 We, too, will learn what God wants us to learn if we are submissive to His will even when it includes suffering. I Pet. 4:19 These are not truths for the baby Christian. Only the mature believer can understand what Peter is teaching us here, and can grow stronger in his submission and obedience, thus bringing more glory to God.
Peter and His Letters (7)
The End of All Things is Near
I Peter 4:7-19
Peter has written that suffering has its benefits. The one who has suffered in the body is done with sin. He no longer lives the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. How important is it for us to be done with sin? How important is it for us to live for the will of God? It’s important any time, but especially when the time is short. Peter wrote that “the end of all things is near”. He wrote that almost 2000 years ago! As far as God is concerned, 1000 years is as 1 day. II Pet. 3:8 So in the light of eternity, only 2 days have passed since Peter wrote it! But since we are living at the end of all things – much closer now than Peter was – we need to live wisely and faithfully to the end.
I. Pray faithfully, love deeply and open your home to others
A. In a time like the end times we must be able to pray – for ourselves and others. Can’t we always pray? No! We must be clear-minded and self-controlled in order to pray. If we are drinking or using drugs we will not be clear-minded. Hannah prayed to God for a son out of her longing and suffering. Eli the priest thought that she was drunk. Her prayer was answered because it came from a heart of love for God. If we are indulging in sinful pursuits we will not be self-controlled. II Pet. 3:11-12 False teachers teach that we should empty our minds and let the Spirit take over. We don’t need to pray. But the spirit they are experiencing is not the Holy Spirit, since here the Holy Spirit speaks through Peter telling us to be clear-minded and self-controlled “so that we can pray.” Prayer is obviously a function of the mind as well as the spirit. It’s my experience that I can only pray successfully when my heart is in tune with God. When we follow worldly ways, our heart is not in tune and our prayers are hindered – just like a husband’s prayers are hindered when he mistreats his wife. (3:7)
B. Above all, in this end time we must love each other deeply and widely. This is the second time Peter has written this. (1:22) Deep love cannot be easily destroyed, like a tree with deep roots. This is not an easy thing. It requires submission and self-sacrifice. Our love must cover widely rather than revealing the multitude of sins that others have. I Cor. 13:6-7 Of course, we cannot forgive or even cover other people’s sins – or our own. But when we accept and love those who have failed – the ones the Pharisees called “sinners” – we put aside and cover their many sins rather than revealing them for others to see. We don’t gossip about them or remind them or others of what they have done. On the basis of God’s forgiveness, we are able to forgive. If we have truly forgiven the past, it’s easier to forgive and love in the present. When we hold onto the past, we cannot forgive the present. I think our problem is that our love is too shallow or too narrow. Christ’s love for us is so deep and wide that it led Him to the cross – for the sake of the whole world!
C. We are to offer hospitality to one another – especially those in the body of Christ. I learned a lot from Micronesians about hospitality. However, I also learned that it is often from custom rather than from the heart. Often when Micronesians give me something, and I say that they shouldn’t spend their money on me, they say it is their custom. It’s a good custom, but we need to check our hearts to see if we offer our kindness only because it is custom or because we really want to. Micronesian cultures and Arab cultures require the offer of hospitality, but sometimes the grumbling goes on behind the backs of the guests. We need to be sure that our motives are pure when we serve others. If we do it for show, they may be fooled, but God will not.
A. If we have a gift – whether it’s prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, contributing to needs, leading, or showing mercy – we should recognize that we have received it from the Lord. Rom. 12:6-8 We don’t have it because of our own talent or ability. God gave it to us – and He gave it to us so that we can use it to serve others, not to gain recognition or power over them. It is an administration of God’s grace in its various forms. For example, if we speak, we should do it as speaking the very words of God – not our own ideas or for our own glory. In other words, we are representatives of God and He is speaking through us. We are not to receive praise for what God is speaking.
B. What if God has given us the gift of service. Is that a lesser gift? No! “If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides.” Our service should not be done in our own strength or wisdom. Those can easily break down, or we might be tempted to receive the glory for ourselves. I think it’s a good idea for us to serve in humble ways, even if we also have the opportunity to serve in more public ways. Can we still praise God and gain our strength from Him when we are cleaning the bathroom or washing the dishes? Are we willing to serve the people who cannot pay us back? We must be careful to do whatever we do with His strength and for His glory. Col. 3:23-24 Our goal should be “that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ”. Whatever we do with the gifts God has given must be done for the purpose of bringing praise to Him. So we say with Peter, “To Him alone be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”
III. Rejoice in the midst of suffering
A. Peter writes that we should not be surprised at the painful trials we are suffering. It’s not as though some strange, weird thing were happening to us. Rev. 2:10 Today, many false teachers teach that all Christians should be healthy, rich and happy. I guess they haven’t read I Peter! Peter says that our suffering is not strange or unexpected. So we should not be discouraged or angry at God or doubting ourselves as though our lack of faith is the reason for our suffering. Maybe they were asking as we do sometimes, “Why is God doing this, or allowing this to happen to me? Is this from Satan? Why doesn’t God take it away?” It is not strange for Christians to suffer; in fact, it is to be expected. Instead of doubting and questioning, we should rejoice! I Peter 1:6-8 You remember that James says the same thing in James 1:2.
B. Why should we rejoice at suffering? That’s a foreign concept in our world today. We are to rejoice that we have the privilege of taking part in the sufferings of Christ. Phil. 3:10 It’s hard to rejoice when suffering, but if we recognize that it is a privilege and honor that God gives us to follow in Christ’s footsteps, that takes away the sting. It also helps when we realize that the sufferings come as James explains in James 1:3-4 in order to test our faith and develop our maturity. If we can endure hardness and willingly rejoice in sufferings now, we will be overjoyed when His glory is revealed and we are included in it! When you are overjoyed, you have too much joy to keep it all in and it bubbles over.
C. Are we being put down and insulted because of the name of Christ? If so, we are blessed. If our sin brings us insults, that’s no honor, but if our faithfulness brings insults, we can be sure that the Spirit of glory and of God rests on us. To be insulted because we love Christ is a great honor because it shows that we are more concerned with pleasing God than with pleasing men. But we have to guard our hearts, actions and words because if we suffer for wrongdoing – as a murderer, thief, criminal, or meddler – that is a great shame and it brings shame on Christ’s name as well. Notice that being a meddler is in the same list as being a murderer or criminal. Meddling in other people’s business and gossiping about them is a serious offense in God’s book, similar to being a criminal. Much suffering, pain and sorrow in the church comes from it.
D. If we suffer as Christians we should not be ashamed, unlike the shame that comes from wrongdoing. Paul wrote a lot about this to Timothy. He wrote that though he was suffering and in prison, he was not ashamed. II Tim. 1:12 Some of Paul’s disciples and co-workers were ashamed of his imprisonment, but he urged Timothy to not be ashamed. II Tim. 1:15; 4:10 If we are persecuted or suffer as a Christian we should be proud, not ashamed. Our pride should be in the fact that we bear His glorious name. What an honor to be known as Christ’s own. It seems to me that our shame or pride directly reflects where we are with God. If we are proud of ourselves and ashamed of Christ, we are on the wrong side. If we are proud to be Christ’s disciples and not ashamed to follow Him, suffer for Him, love Him and stand up for Him, we are on the right side and blessed!
A. Judgment begins first with the family of God. We are to judge ourselves by what we learn in God’s Word so that we don’t have to be judged by God. But if we do not straighten up and walk right, God will discipline us to bring us back to Him. Heb. 12:5-6 If we don’t respond to God’s discipline, He will judge us. We can’t play games with God. He is incredibly longsuffering, but His patience does come to an end. And for one who knows Him and is a member of His family, it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Heb. 10:31 But God is only fair to judge His own children first, because they are His children. They know better because they’ve been taught by their Father. But if our judgment is pending if we don’t repent, what about those who refuse to obey the Gospel? God told the prophets that the Jews, His people, would be judged. When He told them that He would use godless Assyria and Babylonia to do it, they were horrified. Then He told them that those godless nations would be wiped out later in judgment.
B. Peter quotes Prov. 11:31: “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” But we teach that it is easy to be saved. It is wonderfully easy to be born again, but that’s just the beginning of “being saved”. The completion of our salvation requires perseverance, self-discipline, and God’s discipline. We must “hold firmly” and “show diligence” to the end. Heb. 3:14; 6:11 So in that sense, it is hard for the righteous to be saved. It takes a life-long commitment. There is much for the Christian to overcome. The world, the flesh and the devil conspire against us. “It’s not an easy road we’re traveling to heaven.” But Christians at least have started going the right direction and are righteous. What will become of the ungodly and the sinner? To reject God’s gift, refuse to obey the gospel, and possibly even persecute God’s people will mean meeting the One who is the consuming fire. Heb. 12:29
C. Peter starts verse 19 with “So then..” If it is to be expected that we will suffer as Christians like Christ did; and if we should not be ashamed but proud to bear His name; and if God is a just Judge of us and our persecutors, then we must commit ourselves to Him. Peter writes to those who suffer according to God’s will. Is it God’s will that we suffer sometimes? Evidently. Peter’s theme is suffering. We can expect to suffer like Christ. It is not a shame to go through trials and persecution, but rather an honor to suffer for His name. We should rejoice in the midst of suffering, knowing that it will refine and strengthen our faith. (1:6-8) So if we are trusting the Lord and faithful to Him and yet meet suffering, we can know that it is God’s will. So what should be our response once we understand this? We should commit ourselves to our faithful Creator and continue to do good.
Peter’s teaching about suffering is a clear rebuttal to what is being taught by false teachers today. We may be suffering according to God’s will. This is the 4th time that Peter has mentioned God’s will. In 2:15 it is God’s will that we silence foolish men with our holy lives. In 3:17 it is better if it is God’s will to suffer for doing good than doing evil. In 4:2 the one who has suffered goes on to live for the will of God, not for evil human desires. Here in 4:19 those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to Him, knowing that He is faithful. Instead of becoming angry, resentful and seeking revenge, they should continue to do good to the end. Suffering as a Christian is not something to be ashamed of or afraid of. Our job is to keep on trusting our faithful God, knowing that the suffering is within His will, and it will refine our faith and prepare us for glory.
Peter and His Letters (8)
Shepherds of God’s Flock
I Peter 5:1-14
Peter writes now specifically to the elders of the church and to young men. The elders would be like those we now call pastors. Peter appeals to them, not from a higher position than they are, but as a fellow elder. He identifies himself as an elder and a witness of Christ’s suffering. He may have been one of the few still living who had seen Christ’s suffering. He certainly would never forget what he had witnessed because he had denied the Lord 3 times when He was suffering at His trial. But Peter had been forgiven and restored. So he also includes himself as one who will share in Christ’s glory. As he has encouraged others to be faithful in times of suffering and to look forward to their inheritance, so he now assures them that he will inherit as well. I Peter 1:6-7
Read I Peter 5:1-7
I. Be shepherds of God’s flock
A. Peter gives guidelines for elders or pastors similar to those that Paul gave. First, they are to be shepherds of God’s flock that is under their care. I’m sure that Peter would remember until his death the words that Jesus said to him: “Feed My sheep.” John 21:15-17 Shepherds care for the sheep. They lead them, protect them and feed them. We have to be careful of what kind of food we are feeding others. But the pastors must always remember that it is God’s flock that they shepherd, not theirs. They don’t own God’s sheep. God owns them. Secondly, pastors and elders are to serve as overseers, not as lords and masters, but as those who lovingly watch over the sheep.
B. Thirdly, they must serve willingly. They are not to serve because they must but because they long to serve the Lord. God wants willing servants and willing lovers. He is not interested in forcing His love on us or requiring us to be servants. That’s why Satan is allowed to tempt us – so that we will have the choice. Without a real choice, we can’t be willing servants. Fourthly, pastors and elders are not to be greedy for money, but eager to serve. I Tim. 3:1-3 If money is our motivation and reason for being pastors or church workers we are neither willing nor eager to serve. We do it for what we can get. I’m afraid that money is the motivation for many who are in the Lord’s service, especially the televangelists. Actually, they are serving themselves, not the Lord.
C. Fifthly, pastors and elders are not to lord it over those entrusted to them. Matt. 20:25-28 Since the sheep are God’s flock and they have only been entrusted for safe keeping to an earthly shepherd, the shepherd has no right to lord it over them. Pastors and elders are only stewards of God’s sheep just as all of us are stewards of all God gives us. Actually the sheep and the shepherd have only one Lord and Chief Shepherd to whom they must account. Sixthly, Instead of being lords, pastors are to be examples. They are to be like Jesus, examples of love, faithfulness, endurance in suffering, patience, and forgiveness.
D. Those who are shepherds of God’s flock, serving as overseers and not lords, being eager to serve and not greedy for money, will someday receive their just pay or reward. They will receive it from the Chief Shepherd. When He appears they will receive the crown of glory – a permanent reward, which like their inheritance will not fade away. (1:4) Unlike the laurel crowns of the early Olympics and the flower marmars of Micronesia, this crown will never wilt or fade. It’s worth waiting for! It’s so much better than the praise of men. If the crown is only the words of Jesus: “Well done, good and faithful servant”, it will be the greatest honor anyone can get, anytime, anywhere.
II. Be humble and submissive
A. As Peter has admonished the elders to be servants and examples to the flock, he now turns to the young men. The young men should “in the same way” – the humble, servant way – take their places in the body of Christ, being submissive to the older men. We certainly don’t see a lot of that today! But Peter doesn’t limit the need for humility and submission to the young men. He includes all of us! “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another.” This is similar to Paul’s words in Eph. 5:21.
B. There are many reasons for humility and submission, but the primary reason is to please God. God responds with blessing or cursing to our choices. If we choose to be proud, He will oppose us. In fact, He will sooner or later bring us down, either in this life or the next. It’s a scary thing to be opposed by God. I know some people who have experienced what it means to be brought down by a God who opposed them in their pride. On the other hand, He gives grace to the humble. It is the grace of forgiveness, the grace of strength to endure, and the grace to bow before others when our human nature wants to do the opposite.
C. So Peter urges his readers to humble themselves under God’s mighty hand rather than oppose it. When the Philistines captured the ark of God in battle they thought that their god had helped them win. When they put the ark in the temple of their god Dagon, their idol fell on its face before the ark. Soon the people were dying. Those who didn’t die had tumors. Finally they recognized that God’s hand was heavy upon them because of their pride and their lack of reverence for God’s Holy Ark. I Sam. 5:6 It is always best and wisest to humble ourselves before God. When we do, He pours His grace on us instead of His wrath.
D. It’s not that God wants to keep us down. In fact, He will lift us up, but it must be in His due time. The time will come, but not on our timetable. Trying to live an upright and yet humble life here on earth can cause a lot of anxiety. But we have a Divine Helper if we are submissive and humble. He cares for us more than anyone else. And He is calling us to cast all our worries on Him. It’s like saying, “Throw it all into His lap” or “Pile it all on His shoulders.” How can we do this to the Almighty God? We can do it only because He invites us to do it and because of His great love for us, His children.
III. Resist the devil
A. Next Peter tells us to be self-controlled and alert. Lacking self-control can cause us to lose our opportunities to witness and to bless others. To be alert means to be awake and aware – to be discerning. We have to be able to see the enemy’s fiery darts and to be properly clothed in God’s armor. Eph. 6:16 What a picture of the devil this is! He is pictured as a lion – the most ferocious and feared of animals. He prowls around, hiding in the tall grass so that his potential victim won’t see him. The lion either quietly sneaks up on his prey or roars with his powerful voice. This petrifies or freezes his victim so that it can’t move. If we can imagine the fear of a small deer which the lion is tracking, we can understand the fear that Satan can produce in people’s hearts.
B. Since we have such a formidable enemy, we can’t afford to be careless or to sleep on the job. Even though it’s very scary to resist a lion, that’s what we have to do. I think of David who had the courage to resist a lion with only a slingshot. The lion would have devoured – eaten – his lamb and him! How do we resist Satan? Eph. 6:13-17 tells us how. We stand firm in the faith. We take our position on God’s Word and then use it as a weapon, as we protect ourselves with our shield of faith in our great God. When the enemy attacks us we can feel alone and abandoned, and wonder why we are the ones being attacked. But the truth is that our brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of suffering. In fact, some are experiencing much worse attacks than we are.
A. The good news is that we have a mighty Defender in this fight with the great lion. He is the God of all grace. His grace is sufficient to carry us to victory if we will trust and obey. He is the One who called us to His eternal glory in Christ. And the One who called is faithful to complete or fulfill His calling. Phil. 1:6 He knows about our suffering. He has Himself suffered, and knows how it feels. The suffering is part of His plan for us. We must go through our tests, but they don’t last forever – just for a little while.
B. Though it’s hard to see it, we know that actually our lifetime is only a little while. He is the One who allows the suffering, and He is the One who restores. He will Himself restore us, making us strong, firm and steadfast. Peter experienced that - not just physically, but spiritually. He strengthens us during our suffering and trials, and He restores us after the suffering is over. So we see that He is indeed the God of all grace. He is the One who has called us. We suffer within His will. (4:19) And He will restore us. So to Him be the power forever and ever!
A. Since Peter was a contemporary of Paul, he no doubt knew those who traveled with Paul, especially those who came from Antioch. We don’t know where Peter was when he wrote this letter, but he mentions “Babylon”. Probably he was referring to Rome because Rome was often called Babylon. Peter says that he received help from Silas in writing this letter. Probably this is the Silas who traveled with Paul on his 2nd and 3rd missionary journeys. Since Peter is writing to the Christians in Asia Minor where Paul and Silas traveled, they would know Silas. Silas also knew them and was able to tell Peter things that would help him understand the problems and suffering those Christians were going through.
B. Peter spent his last years in Rome and evidently Silas was also there, and was regarded by Peter as a faithful brother. What was Peter’s stated purpose for writing this letter? He wanted to encourage them and to testify of the true grace of God. It was a time of intense persecution, and the saints needed encouragement and grace in their trials. Peter’s final admonition is like Paul’s in Eph. 6: “Stand fast in it.” He was telling them, “Don’t give in to the pressure and persecution, but stand fast in God’s grace.
C. Peter sends greetings from “She who is in Babylon”. This is no doubt a veiled reference to the church in Rome. Probably Peter was protecting the church during the reign of Nero. But those suffering saints in Rome were chosen together with the suffering saints of Asia Minor to whom he wrote. Paul mentioned that Mark was with him in Rome for awhile, and later he asked Timothy to bring Mark with him when he came to Rome. II Tim. 4:11 Evidently Mark was working with Peter at this time – a little earlier. Peter calls him “my son”. Barnabus’ faithful efforts and his personal sacrifice to help Mark after his failure on the 1st missionary journey had paid off. Mark became a blessing to both Peter and Paul.
Peter ends his letter very softly. He has emphasized suffering, submission and separation. In the hard times in which the early Christians lived, it was important to warn them about the roaring lion and call them to alertness and self-control. But they also needed comfort and encouragement. So Peter closes by telling them to love one another and to demonstrate their love by greeting one another with a kiss. When the rest of the world is against us it is comforting and helpful to know that our brothers and sisters in Christ truly stand with us in the love of family members. Peter closes with a blessing of peace to all who are in Christ. They needed that peace in the midst of their trials just as we do today. John 14:27
Peter and His Letters (9)
Make Your Calling and Election Sure
II Peter 1:1-11
Peter now writes for the second time to the same people to whom he wrote his first letter. In his first letter his major theme was suffering. This time his emphasis is different because the Christians to whom he wrote were in danger of being confused and misled by false teachers. Peter obviously had never forgotten Christ’s commission to him: “Feed My sheep.” He knew he was a shepherd of Christ’s sheep, and he was deeply concerned about the false teachers and evildoers who had come into the church. He wrote to enlighten the believers about the dangers and to encourage them to live godly lives in expectation of Christ’s return.
I. Our Lord Jesus Christ
A. Peter identifies himself as the writer of the letter, using his 2 names: Simon Peter. How does he describe himself? He is not trying to impress them with his high position. He writes first that he is a servant of Christ, and second, that he is an apostle. It is a good lesson for us. We should think of ourselves first as humble servants of the Lord, and only second as pastors, pastors’ wives, missionaries, etc. He writes to those who through the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as he and his companions had received. Whoever they are, they are united with Peter and the others in the same faith – the glorious gospel.
B. Peter blessed them with grace and peace in abundance, but makes it clear that it comes not from him but through the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ our Lord. Peter uses “Jesus our Lord” and “our Lord Jesus Christ” 5 times in this first chapter. Peter knew Jesus as a close friend with whom he walked many miles and ate many meals. He doesn’t diminish His name and His glory. Along with His human name “Jesus”, he uses His God name “Lord”, and His name as the Jewish Messiah, “Christ”. Using the 3 names and titles together, “our Lord Jesus Christ”, spells out clearly who Jesus is. He is Jesus, the Son of Man. He is the Lord who is the Son of God. And He is the Christ, which means the Anointed and Promised One.
II. Everything we need for life and godliness
A. What a blessing to know that His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness. We not only have our material and physical needs provided. We also need to be godly, so He supplies our spiritual needs as well. How does the Lord supply our need to be godly? He does it through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. To know Christ is the answer to our needs and our heart’s desires. He called us by His own glory and His own goodness, and that’s how He also sanctifies us or makes us holy. One of the ways He does this is by the gift of His very great and precious promises. His Word is full of great and precious promises which we only need to claim. He has promised! We only need to apply those promises.
A. It is through what Jesus has done by dying in our place, and through the promises He has made to us that we “can participate in the divine nature.” We don’t become divine – or “little gods” as some teach – but we gain a new nature to become a new man designed to be like Jesus. Rom. 8:29 It is in the death of the old man and the birth of the new man that we have the potential of escaping the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. How true it is that evil desires cause corruption. They’re like flies causing fish to rot. Greed, lust, jealousy, hatred are at the root of the corruption in that we must make every effort to live at peace with others and to be holy and blameless. Heb. 12:14; II Pet. 3:14 We have the potential just as a baby does, but we will not reach that potential without making an effort on our part. It’s as if Jesus leads us to the trail that climbs up to the top of the mountain. He even infuses in us the strength to climb, but we still have to do the climbing! For a baby to grow it requires exercise and good nutrition, so we start our journey with milk, but then add meat. Heb. 5:13-14 What is our first step? We begin in this new life in Christ by being born again by faith. It is the first step up the trail. Only faith in Christ will put us on the right path. Without faith, we will miss all the rest.
B. But we need to continue on up the path by taking the next step – adding goodness. We practice being good instead of being evil or self-centered. When we repent Christ makes us good by forgiving our sins, but we have to live each day in goodness. The third step up the trail to the top is knowledge. Like a child going to school, we need to grow in our knowledge of the Lord and His will for us. How? We must be students of the Word, studying as good workmen and becoming discerning of the difference between what is evil and what is good. II Tim. 2:15 As we grow and move higher up the mountain we begin to experience problems with our lack of obedience. Children have to be taught to obey and control themselves instead of being selfish, rebellious and disobedient. To our knowledge we need to add self-control. Otherwise, our knowledge will not benefit ourselves or others. All of life must be controlled.
C. As we climb higher up the mountain we find that it grows harder. We often get discouraged and want to quit. It’s one thing to start well, and quite another to carry on and not quit. We have to learn to keep going, no matter what happens. This will require the next step of perseverance. If we keep going we will come to the next high step called godliness. But maybe it’s too high. We think we can never be godly. It’s too far up the mountain to be like God. But there is One at our right hand who will help us. Psa. 16:8 Remember that He has given us everything we need for life and godliness. (v. 3) Maybe we will feel that we have already reached the top of the mountain when we become godly. We’re not there yet! We can be turned in on ourselves instead or out toward others.
D. So to our godliness we must add brotherly kindness. We must learn to be compassionate, kind and caring toward our brothers and sisters in the Lord. If that sounds easy, remember that it is way up the mountain and not often achieved in our homes and churches where there is more bickering and gossiping than brotherly kindness. Now we are close to the top but we still have to climb another big step. Up at the top is love. This is not emotional love. It is unconditional love like Jesus has for us. He loves us even when we are not acting in ways He would like. He loves us even when we ignore Him and don’t show Him the respect and give Him the time He deserves. Love reaches out to help, bends over backwards, and goes the second mile. I Cor. 13:4-7 This is a hard climb, but it is well worth the effort. It takes daily perseverance and determination as well as repentance for our failures.
A. So we are to make every effort to develop our faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love. It is true that these are fruits of the Spirit, but the Spirit can only produce fruit in our lives as we cooperate with Him. We do this by listening to Him and then obeying what He teaches - in the Word and in our conscience. We are not only to possess these qualities of a mature Christian, but also to possess them in increasing measure. We should not be satisfied with half measures or with being half-hearted about growing in Christ. James 1:4
B. We need to keep practicing these 7 qualities of life that make us more like Jesus. Becoming mature in Christ saves us from being ineffective and unproductive in the knowledge of the Lord. In other words, as we obediently climb and add the various aspects of a deep Christian life, we come to know Christ better and better and become more like Him. Heb. 6:1; Eph. 4:13 If we decide to just sit and rest on the first step – the new birth – we are either blind or nearsighted and can’t see the big picture. We have forgotten what we were saved from and what we were saved to!
B. At our new birth we were rescued from sin, hopelessness, and eternal death. But that’s only half the picture. Why did He save us? It was so that we could be new creatures in Christ, bringing praise and glory to Him and representing Him in this lost world. A baby Christian or stagnant believer has forgotten that he was saved for a purpose – to radiate Christ in this world. We were saved to a new life of holiness and pleasing God and the hope of eternal life with Him whom we now love more than anyone or anything. Anything less than this should cause us to ask ourselves whether we were actually saved!
C. Does the new birth guarantee that we will never fall? No! Peter goes on to say that we should therefore be eager to make our calling and election sure, so that we will never fall! Peter makes his statements strong by using strong words: “make every effort” and “be all the more eager”. In other words, we are to throw everything into our Christian lives, and not just take things for granted. It’s interesting to me that Peter writes that we have to make our calling and election sure. According to the Calvinists they are already sure of their election. Peter says that we have to make our calling and election sure by making every effort to develop the Christian character God wants. We are not saved by our works, but our works prove that we have been saved.
D. He goes on to say that there is the possibility that we could fall. I believe that we could fall if we do not cooperate with God’s plan for us when He called and elected us. This is why adding to our faith and climbing the mountain is so important. What is the final outcome if we are faithful, make every effort, and are eager to become all that God has planned? We will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Here Peter reminds us that Jesus is not only our Savior, but also our Lord. If we accept Him as our Lord now and obey His will and commands, someday He will welcome us as our Lord into His eternal kingdom. What a blessed hope!
Peter was not the only one in the New Testament who wrote about the possibility of falling. In His parable of the sower and the seed, Jesus described those on the rock as the people who receive the Word with joy and believe it for awhile. Later, however, when testing comes, they fall away. Luke 8:13 Paul wrote to the Corinthians, warning them that they might fall. I Cor. 10:12 We studied the scary words of the writer of Hebrews who warned that true Christians can fall away, and if they do, they cannot be brought back to repentance. Heb. 6:4-6 Peter gave a second warning to those who might be led astray by the error of false teachers, and fall from their secure position. II Pet. 3:17 What should be our response to these serious warnings? First of all, we must believe them whether we like to hear them or not. All of God’s Word is to be believed and obeyed if we call ourselves Christians. Secondly, we should not be afraid that we may be lost if we are truly trusting Christ. But thirdly, we cannot be proud and boastful that we are born again and therefore can never fall away. Let’s never forget Lucifer’s boastful words before he, the highest archangel of God, fell from his position and his glory to be forever lost.
Peter and His Letters (10)
True Teachers and False Teachers
II Peter 1:12-2:3
Peter has made it clear that we need to make every effort to grow to maturity in Christ. To our faith with which we were born again in Christ, we must add goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. If we have these qualities of Christ-likeness, in increasing measure, we will be effective and productive in our knowledge of the Lord and in doing His work. Therefore, we need to be more eager to make our calling and election sure, so that we will never fall. Paul wrote a similar thought in Phil. 2:12-13, where he made it plain that it is a cooperative effort. We work out our salvation while God works in us according to His good purpose.
I. The folding up of the tent
A. Peter promises to always remind his readers of these things, even though they already knew them and were firmly established in the truth. We people quickly forget what we are supposed to know. It seems that we need reminders every day “while it is still today”. This is why it is so important to study God’s Word daily even though we have already read it 100 times. Peter promised to refresh their memories as long as he was living in the “tent” of his body. He calls it a tent because it is only a temporary housing for his spirit. The tent will fold up, but the spirit will live on. Peter writes here in a way similar to Paul’s writing in II Tim. 4:6-8. Peter knew that he would soon put his tent aside, because the Lord Jesus Christ had made it clear to him. John 21:18,19 Perhaps He had shown Peter that the time was near. I think that the Lord had prepared both Peter and Paul for their deaths, so what they wrote in II Peter and II Timothy were like their last words to the Christians. That makes these words even more important.
B. Peter wanted them to remember these important truths after his departure. So he was making every effort to refresh their memory of what they had already learned. He wrote this letter for that purpose, and so we are still reminded till today. Why was Peter worried about the Christians falling? He is looking ahead to the primary subject of this letter – false teachers! He reminded them that what he and other apostles had taught them were not “cleverly invented stories”. It is so common today for false teachers to invent clever stories that some critics of Christianity say that the Bible is nothing but these invented stories. Unbelievers sometimes say that our faith is based on nothing but “cleverly invented stories”. We must be wise about discerning the difference between such stories and God’s absolute Truth. What a blessing it is that we hold the very words of God in our hands! The Bible is not like the Koran or the Book of Mormon, which are “cleverly invented stories”.
A. Peter states that the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ was real. How could he prove that? Peter could attest to the facts because he was an eyewitness of His majesty. In a court of law, the most important witnesses are the eyewitnesses who actually saw and heard what happened. Peter not only walked with Jesus for 3 years, heard His teaching and saw His miracles. He actually heard the Voice of God from heaven! Peter, James and John were there on the Mount of Transfiguration when God the Father spoke audibly from heaven. Jesus received glory and honor from God the Father Himself when the Voice came to Him from the Majestic Glory. The greatest honor Jesus could receive on earth was the voice of commendation from the Majestic Glory. How could anyone doubt who Jesus was after hearing God the Father speak?
B. What were the words that Peter heard with his own ears? He heard the voice of the Majesty in heaven say, “This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.” Matt. 17:5 The Father was obviously not talking to His Son, but He was endorsing Him to the 3 disciples who were on the Mount of Transfiguration with Him. He made it clear when He said, “Listen to Him.” Later they would pass on what they had heard just as Peter is doing here. First, the Father identified Jesus as His Son. He was more than just a man. He was God and man. Next, the Father proclaimed His eternal love for His Son. Third, He announced His pleasure and joy in His Son – in who He was, and what He had done and would do. Even though these words were meant for the listening disciples, they must have brought joy to Jesus’ heart also. How I long to hear the Lord say words like that to me some day. May we live each day to please the Lord so that someday He can say He is well pleased with us!
B. Some Christians believe that we don’t need the Old Testament any more and should use only the New Testament. (Illus: In our meeting many years ago in Pohnpei with the missionaries of another mission, I was insulted for giving a devotion from Jeremiah.) Far from discounting the Old Testament as irrelevant, Peter says we must pay close attention to it. The word of the prophets is like a light shining in a dark place. I have certainly found that true in the reading of the Psalms and Isaiah, as well as other Old Testament books. This prophetic light is not a huge light, but it’s like a candle shining to dispel some of our darkness. It’s like our small light of hope that guides us until that glorious day when “the day dawns and the morning star rises in our hearts.” This can refer to Jesus’ first coming and our salvation, or that great dawn when Jesus the Morning Star comes to reign on this earth. Maybe it refers to both.
C. There is more to prophecy than the predictions about Jesus’ first coming, like Micah 5:2 where we learn that the everlasting One would be born in Bethlehem. How can an everlasting Being be born? It can only happen in the Incarnation when God took on human form. The prophets also predicted the Second Coming of Christ. In that same verse in Micah Jesus is said to be the Ruler of Israel. The same is true of Isaiah 9:6-7. Here we see the virgin born Son of God who will reign over David’s kingdom forever. No wonder the Jews of Jesus’ time were confused. They thought He had come to reign, not to suffer and die. When we read those prophecies of Jesus’ coming again and His millennial rule on earth, it’s like a light shining in this dark place called our world. As it gets darker, it is even more important to look to the light for our hope. The day will dawn and the glorious Morning Star whom we love will rise! Oh, wonderful hope and joy!
D. Can we trust these prophecies? Where did this prophecy come from that is our candle in the darkness? Was it simply by the prophet’s imagination or interpretation? Are the prophecies “cleverly invented stories”? No! In fact, if you only consider the 300 prophecies which were fulfilled by Jesus, you will see that it is a mathematical impossibility to invent so many prophecies and then have them fulfilled. Peter wants us to know for sure that the prophecies we find in God’s Word never had their origin in the will of man. In fact, all of scripture did not originate in man’s will or mind. On the contrary, “men spoke for God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. ” Who is the Author of the Bible? God, the Holy Spirit! In fact, that includes this letter that Peter was writing. Why is this so important in our day? False prophets and false teachers are abroad who introduce destructive heresies of their own or the devil’s making. (2:1-2)
IV. False teachers and their destruction
A. After clarifying the origin of both the writings of the apostles and the writings of the prophets, Peter launches into the primary theme of this letter: false teachers and their destructive heresies. Peter’s words of warning are very strong and direct. He uses “destruction’, “judgment” and “perish” a total of 6 times in the next 12 verses. In chapter one Peter has been writing about the origination of scripture. He writes that the apostles and early church leaders who wrote the New Testament were writing from personal knowledge, and often as eyewitnesses of the events of Jesus’ life and the early church. But what about the Old Testament? He has carefully explained that the prophets did not write from their own ideas or under their own interpretation. Prophecy did not originate in the will of man, but rather men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
B. The pivotal word in chapter 2 is “But”. The problem was that not all prophets who spoke in God’s name were true prophets inspired by the Holy Spirit. The true is always contrasted with the false. Satan is eager to counterfeit the things of God in order to confuse and lead astray many people. Some speak from Satan instead of from God, and they are carried along by another spirit that is evil instead of holy. In the past there had also been false prophets among the people, just as there were in Peter’s day and there are in our day. What do we learn from Peter about these false teachers and false prophets? First, they secretly introduce destructive heresies. They are not open and honest, but are underhanded and hide the truth in order to get people to believe their heresy. The heresy, instead of building up the church is destructive. It destroys the faith of the one teaching it and of those listening to him.
C. Secondly, the heresies they introduce deny the sovereign Lord – the very One who bought them with His precious blood! This indicates that they were true believers at first. Now they actually deny the Lord in their teaching and practice. An example of this is the teaching of “Word Faith” teachers that we can demand things from God and order Him to do things for us. This denies His sovereignty. Another example is when preachers “put the Holy Spirit” on someone. This denies the sovereignty of God the Holy Spirit. What is the result of such destructive heresies? Many will follow their shameful ways. How true! In that way they bring the way of truth into disrepute. The true gospel will be lost in the midst of all the false teaching and practices, and unbelievers are disgusted with what they see and hear, and have no desire to know “this kind of Christ”.
D. Another characteristic of these false teachers is that they are greedy. They care more about money than about people. In order to satisfy their greed for money, they have to exploit people with stories they have made up – of healings and miracles and risings from the dead. They tell of hearing God’s voice and seeing Jesus in their rooms. These stories influence gullible people to give them lots of money in hopes of getting healings and miracles for themselves. What drives these tactics? Greed, which the Lord calls idolatry. Col. 3:5 What will be the end of these false teachers? Does God see what they’re doing? Will God just pat them on the back and say, “It’s O.K. You just made a mistake.”? Their condemnation has been hanging over them and their destruction is not sleeping, but will be swift. They will not be able to excuse themselves by reminding God that at some time in the past they were “born again”.
These verses in which Peter explains about the origin of the Bible are very important. Many people think that some men just wrote up what they were thinking and it may not be true or actually from God. The Bible is not a man-made book like all the other books in the world. The Book of Mormon, the Koran, and other religious or cult books are books made by men even though they claim to have been given by angels. Remember that there are both good and evil angels! Only the Bible has been given by God through the enlightening of the Holy Spirit.
Sometimes we may wonder why God allows these false teachers like Benny Hinn and Dr. Moon to continue to deceive people. I believe it is a test for God’s children. Will we be like the Bereans who carefully search the scriptures and so discern what is false, or will we just go along with what sounds good and exciting? Asaph wrote Psalm 73 about this kind of problem. Why was God allowing sinful people to get away with so much? Asaph understood when he went into God’s house that these false people were facing the destruction that Peter mentions here. Psa. 73:16-20 God will judge them in His time and way.
Peter and His Letters (11)
The Lord Knows How to Rescue & to Judge
II Peter 2:4-12
Peter has made it clear that there were false prophets in Old Testament times, there were false teachers in the church in Peter’s time, and we can expect false teachers in the church in our times. But God is not to be trifled with. If they, or we, deny the sovereign Lord who bought us and bring the way of truth into disrepute, they, and we, will have to face the consequences. To prove his point, Peter uses several examples of how God has brought judgment in the past, and how He has delivered His faithful ones.
A. The next section in Peter’s 2nd letter is the “If God..” section. Verses 4-9 are one long sentence – all connected. This chapter is very similar to the letter by Jude. Peter reminds us of what God has done in the past. If He acted in certain ways then, He will do so also in our day. The first “If God…” happened at the beginning of creation, before the creation of the earth and mankind. God’s first creative act was evidently the creation of angels. Then some of the angels, along with Lucifer, rebelled and sinned against God. Isa. 14:12-15 What did God do? He put many of them into gloomy dungeons in the abyss to be held there for judgment. They will not be delivered because they rebelled in the face of the Sovereign Lord. Others roam the earth but will also end up with Satan in the Lake of Fire. Jude 6
B. The second “If God…” has to do with the flood. God did not spare the ancient world, but brought the flood on its ungodly people – a second example of judgment and destruction. But then Peter expands this discussion to add a new dimension with “but”. In the midst of His judgment of sin, God did not destroy the righteous with the wicked. A loving God protected Noah and preserved his life and the lives of his 7 family members. God protected Noah because he was a righteous man. Gen. 6:9 Peter calls Noah “a preacher of righteousness”. This informs us that during the 120 years when he and his sons were building the ark, he was busy preaching righteousness, calling people to turn to God. Nobody believed him, but Noah was faithful to preach anyway. We must faithfully fulfill God’s calling to us whether people pay attention to us or not.
C. The third “If God…” is the story of the condemnation of Sodom and Gomorrah. God could no longer stomach the evil of those people just as He could no longer stand the evil of Noah’s day. He burned them to ashes because of their sexual immorality and perversion, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly who will suffer in eternal hell fire. Jude 7 Unfortunately, people have mostly chosen to ignore this example. But even in burning the cities and everyone in them, God did not forget Lot, the one righteous man. Lot doesn’t seem very righteous to me, but God said he was.
D. I don’t understand why he chose to live in Sodom when he was so distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men. But somehow, though he didn’t seem to help anyone else, at least he managed to stay righteous. I can only imagine the torment that he suffered living among those wicked people. Our world is turning more and more that direction. In spite of Lot’s foolishness, God chose to spare him because in his soul he was righteous, and because Abraham, God’s friend, pled for him. We see how important it is for us to pray for those who are in evil situations. However, unlike Noah, Lot lost his family: his wife to lust and greed (and salt!), his daughters to immorality, and his sons-in-law to ashes. That’s the price he paid for living in Sodom. His righteousness could only protect himself, not his family or others, because he didn’t bring them to the Lord.
A. Peter concludes this “If God…” section by stating two opposites – both true at the same time. God knows how to rescue and He knows how to judge. The God of grace is also the Judge of all. We can be encouraged by the fact that the Lord knows exactly how to rescue godly men from trials. He may rescue them to continue serving Him here on earth, or He may rescue them to heaven. But we can count on the rescue! God is also the Judge, and He holds the ungodly for the terrible Day of Judgment even while punishing them now. The people of Sodom were punished, but their judgment has not come yet. An even worse judgment is coming. It’s like Hitler and other tyrants who killed so many people. They were physically punished by being killed themselves, but their eternal judgment will be far worse. Meanwhile, they are being “held” in Hades. This is made clear in the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16. The rich man died and was in torment in Hades, the holding place for unbelievers until the Day of Judgment.
B. This especially applies to those who follow the corrupt desires of the sinful nature. That’s exactly what Lucifer and the angels did. The people of Noah’s day and of Sodom followed the same evil rebellion. They were living in corruption following the desires of the flesh. Why would God destroy every person on earth except Noah and his family unless they were hopelessly wicked? Gen. 6:5 Besides that, they despised authority. Being bold and arrogant, they despised the authority of God and of His chosen representatives. In Sodom they were not afraid to slander the angels God sent as messengers. How dare they put their corrupt lusts onto the holy, celestial beings sent by God to rescue Lot? Gen. 19:4-5, 9 Those who despise authority and are bold and arrogant are not afraid to stand against God, His angels, and His human messengers. They don’t respect any authority.
A. Peter says that the false teachers are guilty of slander and blasphemy. The dictionary defines slander as: a malicious, false and defamatory statement. It is an attempt to ruin someone’s reputation out of malice and hatred, using false information. Blasphemy is defined as: the crime of assuming to oneself the rights or qualities of God. Let’s see how those definitions fit the history that Peter has quoted. Lucifer blasphemed God by saying that he would be higher than God. He assumed the rights and qualities of God which did not belong to him. We don’t know what the people of Noah’s day said to him and his sons as they built the ark on dry land for 120 years. Since they didn’t repent, we can assume that they slandered Noah and his family and laughed at God’s prediction of a flood. We know how the men of Sodom slandered Lot and the angels.
B. Peter writes that the false teachers in his day were not only following the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despising authority. They were bold and arrogant, and not afraid to slander celestial beings. Jude writes the same thing in Jude 8. Peter may have been referring back to the incident in Sodom when the men of Sodom slandered the holy angels. However, I think it refers as well to people who think they have the power to slander and control Satan and mighty demonic beings. That is taking the place of God. God never gave us the right to slander demons. Who do they think they are? Even Jesus didn’t slander Satan or demons. He overcame them but He didn’t slander them. Even God’s angels, although they are far stronger and more powerful than men, do not bring slanderous accusations against celestial beings in the presence of the Lord.
C. Satan is the great slanderer who brings slanderous accusations against God’s people to the Lord, as seen in the Book of Job. Job 1:9-11 But we have no right or authority to do such things. In fact, it is very dangerous for little men to take this kind of position against celestial beings. Jude adds that even the archangel Michael, probably the greatest of the angels, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against the devil when disputing with him over the body of Moses. What did he do? He simply turned the authority of accusation over to the Lord by saying, “The Lord rebuke you.” Jude 9 These false teachers blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are trying to take the place of God. Blasphemy seems to be their major sin. They are like brute beasts, creatures of instinct, who will be caught and destroyed like those beasts. Jude 10 is almost the same as verse 12 in Peter. They have reverted to animal instincts, and like animals they will be caught in Satan’s trap and destroyed by the very one they supposedly are overcoming.
A. So we have the historical background of this serious subject given to us by Peter, all the way from before the creation of the earth and mankind, up to his day. But what about the false teachers and false prophets of our time? Do they slander? Yes! They put down the work of God in the past, saying that they now have new revelations. They slander the missionaries of the past who brought the gospel around the world. They say that they didn’t bring the people to the spiritual heights of being slain in the Spirit and anointed by them. They are the “new apostles” who now lead the church toward its goal of conquering the world and its governments. When others point out how they have departed from the scriptures and gone a different direction, they slander those who try to help them and even curse them to hell.
B. Are the present day false teachers guilty of blasphemy? Yes! I take the following points from a paper written by Sandy about this subject of blasphemy.
1.) Those who do not hold onto faith and a good conscience are blasphemers. I Tim. 1:19-20 They have gone beyond the scripture into new revelation and heresy, and have allowed their consciences to be seared.
2.) Those who bring slanderous accusations against demonic beings are blasphemers. (v. 12) On the TV and in churches false teachers bring accusations against demons and make fun of Satan. They go to the tops of mountains to “bind” all the demons in a certain area.
3.) Those who claim to be God are blasphemers. John 10:33 Benny Hinn and Kenneth Copeland claim to be “little gods” or “messiahs”. Sun Yung Moon says that he is Jesus Christ returned to the earth.
4.) Those who persecute true Christians are blasphemers. I Tim. 1:13 This is what happens to people who try to correct the false teachers. They are called “devils” and “Satan” and are threatened with lawsuits.
5.) Those who defiantly sin are blasphemers. Num. 15:30 When confronted with their false prophecies, they just say they made a mistake. They raise money from the poor by dishonest means. They never repent of their evil ways.
6.) Those who rule and mock are blasphemers because God’s people are taken away. Isa. 52:5 Because of the heavy shepherding that goes on in the third wave churches, God’s people are taken away to follow heretics.
7.) Those who forsake God are blasphemers. Ezek. 20:27 The Bible is not studied in context by false teachers. Instead, they forsake God and His Word by following their own ideas and using verses to prove their points.
We must train ourselves to be discerning so that we can identify these false teachers whom Peter is describing. It is very serious to follow one who is going down the wrong path, because you will end up with him in the wrong place! Peter’s words about false teachers and false prophets are very strong. He says that they introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them. Those destructive heresies will bring destruction on them. (2:1) Though they seem to be bold and arrogant – sure of themselves – they will perish like brute beasts. (2:12) We don’t want to perish with them, nor do we want our loved ones to go that way, so we must stay on the right path and help others to also see the truth.
Peter and His Letters (12)
Springs Without Water & Mists Driven by a Storm
II Peter 2:13-22
Peter has taught us several things about false teachers and false prophets. They secretly introduce destructive heresies. They even deny the sovereign Lord who bought them. Many follow their shameful ways, which cause a blot on the way of truth. They exploit people because of their greed. They do this by telling stories they have made up, about miracles and healings. They are bold and arrogant, not even afraid to slander celestial beings. Their greatest sins are their slander and their blasphemy. Now Peter continues his expose of false teachers.
A. The indictments of the false teachers are mounting. But first, he pronounces their condemnation. “They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done.” How great that harm or judgment will be we can tell from Peter’s 3 examples: the evil angels, flood on Noah’s world, and Sodom and Gomorrah. This is the serious part about false teachers. They not only lose their way. They cause others to lose their way. They do great harm by infecting the whole body of Christians like gangrene in someone’s foot. If the gangrene is not cut out, it will cause death to the whole body. Their sin is more serious than the sins of worldly drunkards or prostitutes. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Matt. 7:15 They come in among the believers to confuse, harass, and cause destruction. It is a very serious thing when someone purposely turns a child of God away from the truth to lies!
B. These so-called Christians find their pleasure by carousing in broad daylight. They don’t even wait for the cover of darkness. Some of their carousing is done in churches – dancing, crawling around like animals, falling down, lying on the floor, writhing like snakes, barking like dogs and even taking off their clothes. This is the kind of ugly thing that is done in occult rituals to the worship of Satan. The worst part is that they pretend to be followers of Christ and say that they are under the influence of the Holy Spirit! What a shameful thing to do. I don’t know what kinds of things they did in Peter’s day, but you only need to visit certain churches or watch certain TV programs today to see them carousing in churches. In God’s eyes they are “blots” and “blemishes”, that, like acne, spoil the face of true Christianity. This is why Peter wrote earlier (2:2) that they bring the way of truth into disrepute. They cause outsiders to question the truth and validity of the Christian faith – a very serious thing!
C. With all their carousing and reveling it’s no surprise that their eyes are full of adultery. Whether this refers to physical or spiritual adultery, it is equally serious. Their actions arouse lust in others. They never stop sinning. In other words, their way of life is in sinning. It’s their habit. And they seduce the unstable. II Tim. 3:6 They may seduce these weak-willed people sexually or intellectually & emotionally with their ideas and stories. Probably they seduce them in order to trap them in their decadent way of life. Their instability makes them open targets. It also shows the shallow nature of their Christianity. Maybe this is referring to spiritual adultery, similar to what the Lord accused Israel of in the Old Testament. If they are going through all this carousing and outward show, which is obviously not true worship of the Lord, then whom are they worshipping? They have replaced their love and loyalty to the Lord with love for themselves, and maybe even worship of demons. They have become so adulterous that they never stop sinning.
A. Another aspect of their spiritual adultery is their greed. They are not just greedy. They are experts in greed! In verse 3 Peter pointed out that greed is behind their exploitation of others. Peter here makes a startling statement: “an accursed brood!” By writing this, he makes it clear that the whole lot of false teachers are like a brood of chickens that are cursed, or ready to be slaughtered. Some would explain this by saying that these false teachers were never Christians, but it appears that they were. Peter writes that “they have left the straight way and wandered off”. They left the straight and narrow way and are now in the crooked way, described as “the way of Balaam”. What was Balaam’s chief sin that caused him to leave the straight way and wander off? Peter tells us. Balaam “loved the wages of wickedness”. Jude 11 says that the false teachers “rushed for profit into Balaam’s error”. Greed is once again behind their failures. I Tim. 6:9-10
B. Imagine being rebuked and scolded by a donkey! King Balak sent men to get the prophet of God named Balaam to come and curse the Israelites so that he could defeat them. God told Balaam not to go. But he wanted that big reward from Balak so badly that when they came the second time, he went. On the way, the angel of the Lord stood in the path and would have killed him except that the donkey stopped. When Balaam beat the donkey, God gave it a voice. In spite of this double warning, Balaam went forward and tried unsuccessfully to curse God’s people 3 times. The God who made a donkey speak also made Balaam’s words a blessing instead of a curse. Did Balaam back off? No! He was determined to get King Balak’s money somehow, so he advised Balak to have his women seduce the Israelite men and so bring curses on them. Remember that all of this was from a “prophet of God”! By the way, Balaam died with Balak and his people at the hands of God’s people. What a picture of today’s false teachers and prophets!
III. They are heading for blackest darkness
A. Peter goes on to describe the false teachers in more unflattering terms. They are springs without water. They promise much, but deliver nothing. It’s hard to imagine a spring with no water. The very word “spring” indicates water springing up from the ground. Jude describes them as clouds without rain. Jude 12 Like springs and clouds they promise water. And so men look to them for refreshing life-giving water, but no water comes from them. They appear to be godly men but they have nothing godly to offer in their teaching. So today the words “man of God’, “prophet”, and “apostle” seem to indicate those who have the living water, but you cannot be refreshed spiritually by them or their teaching, because it is devoid of truth.
B. Besides that, Peter describes them as “mists driven by a storm”. They seem to be substantial, but mist gives no real moisture, and quickly evaporates. The false teachers seem to be substantial, but actually they are like filmy mists with nothing real in them. And they themselves are driven by the dark storm. I think this refers to Satan and his demons. Jude describes it as being blown along by the wind. This wind is the “wind of teaching” that Paul warns about in Eph. 4:14. Instead of being founded on the Rock Christ Jesus, they are blown about by the words of men’s ideas or the doctrines of demons. What they don’t seem to realize is that they are facing the judgment of blackest darkness. Satan is driving them into the darkness where he lives. He wants others to share in his condemnation. Their condemnation will be more severe than the judgment of others. We find out why in the following verses.
A. The first reason why they will be more severely judged than others is that they speak empty, boastful words. The words are empty but they sound important: “We are all little gods”; “I can anoint you”; “I will put the Holy Spirit on you”. They are big talkers, speaking the prophecies that they say the Lord has given them. They even claim to have seen Him often in their rooms. Secondly, their teachings appeal to the lustful desires of sinful human nature. All men long to be gods. People like to feel superior to others – to have a “special anointing”. The Word Faith people appeal to our greed for new cars, lots of money, etc. They claim that they can “speak things into existence” as if they were the Creator God! In appealing to people’s lustful desires, they entice them to follow them. The really sad thing is that many of those people are just now escaping error as they turn toward the Lord. It is so sad that people longing for a better life and a relationship with God are enticed into greed by the promise of holiness from and unholy, false prophet.
B. What a terrible falsehood this is: They promise them freedom while they themselves are slaves to depravity. How can they help others to be free when they are prisoners? The very ones who offer freedom to others are controlled by their lust for money and power. They have believed the original lie of Satan to Eve, “You will be like God.” Can you become like God by disobeying Him? These false teachers have believed Satan’s lie for themselves and now offer it to others. Why are they called “Slaves of depravity”? Peter explains that a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. Behind these theories and this obsession with lust stands the devil, gloating in his victories. Now Peter gives a severe warning, similar to the warnings in Heb. 6:4-6 & 10:26-31.
C. These verses speak for conditional security. These empty springs were once Christians! They were true Christians who have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. That’s a clear definition of a Christian. The sad fact is that they are again entangled in the world’s corruption. It reminds me of Heb. 12:1. We have to throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. The world is corrupt. Those who become entangled in its corruption may be overcome. It’s almost like sinking into a bog. If no effort is made to pull out of it, the bog will eventually overcome the one in it and drown him. The awful part is that they started out well. But the beginning is not the ending. If they are overcome by their entanglements, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. When they first came to Christ they were part of the world’s corruption and He rescued them. They escaped. Now they have gone back to the world and are worse off than they were before they knew Christ.
V. A dog and a pig
A. The fact of the matter is that it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness at all. Their guilt and their coming judgment would have been less if they had never known the way of righteousness. Why? Because to know and then turn our backs on the sacred command that was passed on to us is to invite terrible judgment. God the Father holds us accountable for what we know. If we have known His Word and followed Jesus His Son, we are accountable for that knowledge and that blessing. To turn our backs on Him is then the ultimate rejection of our Loved One. King Saul is a good example of this. He received God’s command through Samuel, but chose to disobey it. Samuel told him that because he had rejected God’s word to him, God had rejected him! I Sam. 15:22-23 The Lord’s Spirit departed from Saul and an evil spirit tormented him.
B. This can only be described by animal behavior, so Peter quotes Prov. 26:11 to illustrate the condition of those who do that. They are like unreasoning, foolish animals! A dog is stupid enough to return to its vomit and eat it. But what man is that stupid? Who wants to eat vomit? Who wants to turn back to the old garbage of this world that he has been delivered from? A pig that has been washed doesn’t have sense enough to stay clean. So it goes back to wallowing in the mud. What a picture of those who have been cleansed by the blood of Christ, but then return to their “mud”. Don’t they have sense enough to eat only good food and keep their bodies clean? If we don’t die to self, self will lead us right back to all the garbage and filth that we escaped. Rom. 6:6-7
The false teachers who have known Christ and then returned to their vomit and their mud are in serious trouble. Could that happen to us? Yes, it could if we choose to believe them and follow them. How can we protect ourselves from this bog that drowns? The world presses in on us all around. In Rom. 6:11-13 Paul gives us a formula for success to escape the traps of the world.
1.) We choose to count ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Because we are dead we can no longer eat vomit or play in the mud.
2.) We do not allow sin to rule our bodies. We refuse to obey its evil desires.
3.) We do not offer the parts of our bodies as instruments of wickedness. This would include our eyes, our feet, our hands, etc.
4.) We do offer ourselves to God as those who were dead and are now alive only to Him.
5.) We do offer the parts of our bodies as instruments for His use – to do good things instead of bad things.
Peter and His Letters (13)
The Day of the Lord
II Peter 3:1-10
Why is this chapter entitled “The Day of the Lord” in my Bible? Does it refer to only one day? We could say that it refers to only one of the Lord’s days as measured in verse 8: “With the Lord a day is like 1000 years and 1000 years as a day.” This is important in this chapter which refers to the “last days”, Christ’s coming, and the fiery destruction of the heavens and the earth. All of this spreads over some time with Christ’s millennial reign in the middle. Men are very shortsighted and are impatient to see everything take place in a hurry. The Lord is patient, and we need to bear in mind that “the Lord’s patience means salvation.” (v. 15) If not for His patience He would have given up on us and those we pray for long ago.
I. The Word already spoken
A. What was the purpose of Peter’s 2 letters to God’s elect in Asia Minor – Turkey of today? He wrote to stimulate the believers. We can see how his first letter was used and is still used to help and encourage people who are going through suffering. But some would remind us that this second letter is negative – full of warnings and judgment. But that is what many people need to stimulate them to think rightly. Does Peter speak from his own wisdom or with some kind of new “revelation”? His purpose was to remind them of the word already spoken. It was spoken in the past by the holy prophets, and in Peter’s day it was spoken by the Lord, mostly through the apostles who carried on His work, and led people to the Savior.
`B. Here then is our foundation: The Word of God as found in the Old Testament, the Gospels and the Epistles. This is our job – not to look for new “revelations”, but to remind people of what God has already spoken in His Word. Cults like Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormonism claim to have had “new revelations” given to them by their founders. Today when you hear false teachers say, “The Lord said to me..” or something like that, they are claiming to have “new revelations” not found in God’s Word. Now a whole movement has arisen that is led by so-called “Apostles” who depend on so-called “Prophets” to give them the latest revelation from the Lord. God says that if we do not stick to His law and His testimony, we have no light in us. Isa. 8:20
II. The scoffers speak
A. Peter turns next to the endtime scoffers. Scoffers are those who laugh at and ridicule God and His Word as well as those who follow Him. Instead of following God’s holy Word, they follow their own evil desires. They are like the scoffers of Noah’s day and Sodom. They scoffed at righteous men and even angels. They scoffed at God’s prophecy of a coming flood and destruction by fire. They continued in their sins and evil desires in the face of impending disaster. They are doing the same thing today. The impending disaster today is first of all the coming of Christ. Of course, for us that’s an anticipated joy and blessing. But for the scoffers and all those who have not acknowledged Jesus as their Lord it means judgment and disaster. Rev. 1:7 So they are scoffing at God and His Word – promises of blessing and judgment.
B. Some of these scoffers will ask, “Where is this ‘coming’ He promised?” In other words they want to know, “Where is He, this supposed Savior and Creator?” The evolutionists teach that the world has gone on as it is today for millions of years, with evolutionary processes slowly taking place. Supposedly it all started with a “Big Bang” explosion. From there millions of chance mutations took place, finally resulting in the myriad of creatures we see, and even mankind. It is a totally ridiculous theory! Nothing about it has been proven. It is the myth or fantasy that men have created because they wanted to push God out of their lives. They don’t recognize God’s hand in creating all there is, or in sustaining everything every moment, or in someday judging His whole creation.
A. Peter does not excuse these men for their ignorance, but accuses them of deliberately forgetting what they actually know! They claim that it never happened when all the time they have 3 clear evidences. They know from what they see around them that God had to create it. They know in their inner beings that there is a God who made them. And they have the evidence of the scripture. Paul says in Romans 1:18-21 They are “without excuse”. Peter says here that they deliberately forget. All their theories and myths are an attempt to forget what they actually know. Why? Because they are trying to escape the knowledge of God and their accountability to Him. What do they deliberately forget? That long ago only by God’s word “the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water”. Gen. 1:6,9; Psa. 24:1-2; Heb. 11:3 It was by God’s Word, not a Big Bang or an evolutionary process.
B. They not only deliberately forget that it was God’s Word that created all there is. They do the same with the record of the flood. It was by those same waters out of which the earth was formed that the world of that time was “deluged and destroyed”. It was not just the people and animals who were destroyed in the flood. It was the earth itself that was changed. All of the evidences of the flood like the Grand Canyon and fossils of fish on the tops of mountains are supposedly explained by the evolutionists. But their explanations don’t hold up to the facts. Every so-called evidence of a long term evolutionary process over millions of years can be explained by one catastrophic flood as described in Genesis. They choose to “deliberately forget” or are “willingly ignorant” of what doesn’t fit into their theories and instead proves that there is a sovereign God.
C. They choose to follow their evil desires and proudly proclaim their theories as if they were facts. In the schoolbooks the children learn from in our schools, evolution is taught as if it is a fact and creation is ignored as a myth. These men and all who choose not to believe in God are in for a big surprise. It is by the same word of God that the present heavens and earth are reserved – or still here. Even the scoffers are alive because of the sustaining word or power of the God they scoff at. What are the heavens and earth being reserved or kept for? They are “reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.” It is all by His word and His will. He keeps His promises, whether they are promises of salvation or judgment. The God who made has the right to destroy what He made. The only reason that He doesn’t destroy everyone is that some respond to His grace and love Him more than they love themselves and their world. Noah is our example.
A. By His word the earth was formed out of water. By His word the earth was deluged and destroyed by that same water. By His word the present heavens and earth are being kept. And by His word in His time they will be destroyed by fire. Those who think there is no God or that He is not involved in history are badly mistaken. It is His word and His hand that have made history and caused the rise and fall of nations. But as we look back at the scope of history: the creation, the flood, the present world and its future destruction, we have to remember one thing. Though it has taken thousands of years in our time, it has only taken days in God’s time. Psa. 90:4
B. But how is a day like 1000 years? God is able to accomplish in one day what others would think should take thousands of years. The evolutionists teach that the earth was being developed over millions of years, but the Bible says that God did it in 6 days! The Day of Pentecost accomplished more for God’s kingdom than hundreds of years had. But Peter uses this explanation of God’s time to help us know that He is not slow about keeping His promises. So why is God waiting? Heb. 10:37 First, His time is not measured like ours. So when we think it is past time for Christ to come, we need to remember that with the Lord the 6000 years that have passed are like 6 days.
C. Secondly, God is not slow; He is patient! We tend to think of Him as slow from our time perspective. That’s how we understand slowness. He will keep His promise, we can be sure of that! His supposed slowness is only an evidence of His patience. If we were the Judge, we would have long since wiped out mankind and started over. The scoffers don’t understand that the very slowness they despise is because of God’s patience. He is patient with us because of His nature. He is not only a patient God, but a loving God as well. He doesn’t want anyone to perish. His heart’s desire is for everyone to come to repentance, even the scoffers. So He patiently waits for men to repent. Rom. 2:4 Will they? Not everyone will; in fact, most will not. But they can never blame God. He has patiently waited for them, but they proudly went on their way, scoffing and turning their backs on Him! How sad!
A. The day of the Lord will come! Man’s doubt and scoffing cannot hold back the hand of God. Man can only hold back his own soul from eternal blessing. While many men scoff at the idea of Christ’s return, and others deliberately forget, God patiently waits for them to repent. He is not willing that they should perish. If they don’t repent, the day of the Lord will shock them like an electric charge. The scoffers and those with short memories will be suddenly caught up in something they’re not prepared for - like a thief breaking into their house at night. To those of us who believe His Word and know His power, it will be no surprise. No matter what men think, these heavens and this earth are destined for destruction. Matt. 24:35 They are not the solid, permanent things the evolutionists imagine. They have not been here for millions of years.
B. All of this reasoning leads to self-assurance and complacency. And when environmental issues arise, men feel that they are well equipped to “save the planet”. It’s all a myth, a fantasy! God created and God will destroy in His time and way. The heavens will actually disappear with a roar. It’s hard to imagine all the galaxies disappearing with a mighty roar. The elements – which are the basic building blocks of all matter – will be destroyed by fire. The earth and everything in it will be burned up. One wonders if this description is of a nuclear war or if God will make even that look pitiful. However God decides to do it, it will be God’s decision, not man’s! It will be one mighty inferno that reaches far beyond the earth in to the heavens. That will be the real Big Bang!
Peter and His Letters (14)
What Kind of People Should We Be?
II Peter 3:11-18
Just as God interrupted the course of history before with a great flood, and destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah with fire and brimstone, so He will end the history of this present heavens and earth. That final day of the Lord will come as a thief to those who are unprepared. The heavens will disappear with a roar and the earth and everything in it will burn up. When we fully comprehend that all we know around us in the universe will be destroyed in God’s Big Bang, it should give us a different perspective on life and things. It should help us to adjust our thinking and our lifestyle when we see that all that seems important now will be gone.
I. Look forward to the Day of the Lord
A. The universe that we know is transient, not permanent. And we are merely pilgrims passing through this world. The Amplified Bible says, “Since all these things are thus in the process of being dissolved…” They will be dissolved like salt in water until nothing is left of what was. In the light of this alarming destruction of everything material that we know, Peter asks an important question: What kind of people ought you to be?” Should we be entangled in the things of this dying world? How foolish that would be! I Cor. 7:31 Peter answers his own question by writing, “You ought to live holy and godly lives.” Wise people will live for the only permanence there is: God and His kingdom. Psa. 90:12 We ought to live for Christ and for eternity. We ought to remember that our example and our words can make a difference in people’s lives, so that they, too, can wait eagerly - instead of with fear - for the Day of the Lord.
B. Once again Peter emphasizes that that day will bring the destruction, not only of the earth, but of the heavens as well. And the fire will be so hot that the elements will melt in the heat. That’s the really bad news for those who reject Christ and love the world. It’s the really good news for those who love Christ and reject the world. So we look forward by faith to the fulfillment of God’s promise – a new heaven and a new earth. It will be the home of God and of righteousness! Even Isaiah was looking forward to this new creation. Isa. 65:17 Isaiah says that in that wonderful home where there is only righteousness, the former things will not be remembered or come to mind. And this new creation will not be temporary but will endure. Isa. 66:22 John saw this wonderful place! Rev. 21:1-4 He wrote that there God will wipe away every tear and there will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain. Why? Because the old order of things has passed away and everything is new, beautiful and holy.
A. For those who love and belong to the Lord, the end of this present creation doesn’t signal the end of all things. It will, however, be the end of sin and death – something to rejoice over. So we look forward! Who knows what glories are in store? If God could create this beautiful universe in which we now live, just think of what glories He will create in the new one! Are we looking forward to this? Peter assumes that we are. He writes: “So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with Him.”
B. We will be “found” by Christ when He returns to this earth for His millennial reign. How will He find us? Will we be spotless and blameless? Once again Peter urges us to “make every effort” as he did in 1:5. Remember that we learned there that we need to keep climbing the mountain. We need to make every effort to develop the fruits of the Spirit, to stay clean, and to be at peace with God. This means living right every day, being repentant when we sin, and being in close fellowship with the Lord at all times.
A. Sometimes we get impatient and wonder why God doesn’t act. Why doesn’t He rescue the righteous now? In some countries Christians are suffering terrible persecution and death. It may come to us someday. Why doesn’t God step in and judge evil men now? Of course, sometimes God does rescue the righteous and judge evil. But we must remember that God is patient. v. 9 His patience means salvation for some who will yet repent. When we think that God is waiting too long, we just need to remember our friends and loved ones who will be judged in hell if they don’t repent. While we would like God to act now and deliver us from this sinful world into the new heavens and new earth, what would happen to them?
B. Paul wrote about these things, and Peter obviously read Paul’s epistles. Peter mentions that Paul had written about these things in all of his letters. One example is I Thess. 5:1-11. I think that Peter was letting them know that Paul and he were of one mind. He acknowledges that Paul wrote with the wisdom that God gave him. He admitted that Paul’s letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which is true. With the help of the Holy Spirit we can understand even those hard teachings. It was also true that ignorant and unstable people were distorting Paul’s letters. People have been distorting scripture all down through the ages. If you don’t want to face the truth you have to find a way to change it.
C. It’s interesting that Peter included Paul’s letters with the “other scriptures”. It seems that Peter recognized at this early date that Paul’s 13 letters were part of scripture, though just written. Peter was clear that people who tamper with God’s Word do it to their own destruction. Don’t ever fool around with God’s holy Word! It’s God-breathed! II Tim. 3:16-17 False teachers add to and subtract from God’s Word and take verses out of context, thus distorting what God has said. How serious is this? Rev. 22:18-19
A. Once again Peter addresses his readers as “dear friends”. It’s the third time in this chapter. (vs. 8, 14, 17) Peter begins his conclusion to this chapter with “therefore”, connecting it with all he has written about the Day of the Lord and the destruction of this whole universe. He has told us already to “make every effort” to be people of God, growing in Christ, and maturing in the fruits of the Spirit. Since we already know the future and the danger of the present – false teachers – we must be “on our guard”. We must be alert, watchful, informed and discerning guardians of our own faith and the faith of others. The danger is imminent. Like a dead fish, we can be carried away on the tide. Like a negligent boatsman we can be thrown on the reef or carried far from land. We usually are carried away by carelessness and neglect. So we must be awake and alive “making every effort” to stay on the right path.
B. Since this letter is written to Christians, we must ask: What is it that carries Christians away? It is the “error of lawless men”. This is not just some mistake that can be excused. These men teach error – unbiblical things. These are intentional errors taught by those outside of the law of Christ. A lawless person acts according to his own desires and lusts, ignoring what God says. King Saul was rejected by God for doing this. I Sam. 15:22-23 So we can be carried away and we can also fall. If there are stumbling blocks in our way, we can fall over them. What do we fall from? “Our secure position”. We are like people standing on a rock overlooking the Grand Canyon. Our position is secure, but there is still the potential of falling. This is an apt description of conditional security. We are absolutely secure in Christ. But if we are careless, don’t listen to the warnings, don’t follow the signs, and ignore our guide, we can still fall.
C. So what should we do? The alternative is to grow in grace. We have to keep growing in God’s grace, climbing the mountain, going from fruit to fruit. And we must grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The closer we get to Him and the better we know Him, the more secure we are. Phil. 3:10-11 Of course, we stand in His grace, but we can become separated from Him through rebellion, disobedience, or just carelessness. I agree with Peter’s doxology: To Him – and Him alone – be glory both now and forever.
A. Peter was a rough, undisciplined, and fiery person when Jesus found and called him. He learned many of his lessons the hard way. He had to leave behind his pride and self-assurance before God could use him in a great way. The good thing about Peter is that he did learn from his mistakes and sins and he never gave up and stopped following Christ. Peter finally became a great preacher, one of the main leaders in the early church, and a mature teacher of the truths of God. So we benefit from all he learned and taught in his two letters. He stands side by side with Paul and John as valued instruments of the Holy Spirit in the writing of the New Testament.
B. First Peter is an important resource book on what to do when suffering. There are many kinds of suffering. Those to whom Peter wrote, and we, often suffer from physical or emotional problems. The early Christians and many Christians today around the world also suffer from the persecution of men. Peter urged us to remember that we are strangers in this world and can expect these trials. He teaches us that God has a purpose in them. One purpose is to test our faith and prove whether it is genuine or not. I Pet. 1:6-7 Another purpose of our suffering is to separate us from sin, so that we stop living for evil human desires, and instead live for the will of God. I Pet. 4:1-2 Peter wrote a lot about the will of God, even teaching us that it may be His will for us to suffer. I Pet. 4:19 But he gives us a wonderful promise that after we have suffered for awhile, He will make us strong. I Pet. 5:10
C. Second Peter deals primarily with the danger of false teachers. They and their judgment are described in vivid detail. Peter also gives us a clear picture of the end time, including God’s Big Bang in which He will burn up the heavens and the earth. Peter is very honest with us that we are in danger of being carried away or falling from our secure position. II Pet. 3:17 He urges us to make every effort to climb the mountain of maturity in Christ, and to be found by Him at His return spotless and blameless. II Pet. 1:5-7;3:14 In that way we will make our calling and election sure. I think that Peter was a good person to write about this since he personally came so close to being carried away and falling from his secure position.
I think a good way to end this study is to meditate on I Pet. 5:6-9. Peter has a lot to say about submission in his first letter. The best way to endure suffering is to be humble and submissive under God’s mighty hand. God has a purpose for our suffering, so it is important to trust Him in that. Instead of worrying about what may come to us personally or to the universe as a whole, we need to give Him all our fears and worries because He cares for us and can do what no one else can. But we need to be aware that the devil is still a roaring lion, even though sometimes in the sheep’s clothing of false teachers. So we must resist the devil and them. The Holy Spirit through Peter has given us a lot of very important information in these 2 short letters. So let us live holy and godly lives as we look forward to the coming of Jesus and the new heavens and new earth - God’s home of righteousness.