001 - Introduction to 2 Peter [A]
Introduction to 2 Peter
2 Peter Lesson #001
May 2, 2019
“Father, we are grateful that we can be here tonight and that we can come into Your presence trusting in Your Word, and trusting in Your provision for us. We realize that we stand in grace and we are to grow in grace as we have been studying in 1st Peter and now moving into the second epistle of Peter.
“Father, we pray that as we read through this book and as we study it we will use it to challenge us in terms of our own need and the importance of our spiritual growth.
“Father, we pray that tonight as we begin this overview and introduction that it will help us to have a good handle on what this short epistle is all about. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Open your Bibles with me to 2 Peter 1. Tonight we’re going to start off with an introduction to 2 Peter.
This is an epistle that is written, according to the opening verses, by Peter. It follows on 1 Peter. The topics are different. The subjects are different, but the audience is the same. Remember that the focal point of this epistle is to warn believers of the coming of false teachers, but it is also designed to challenge them in the broad sense with their own spiritual growth and reaching spiritual maturity so that they can handle the false teachers. Also, so they can’t be taken in by the deceptive teaching of the false teachers and so they can realize the many blessings that God has for us in spiritual maturity.
This sort of summarizes it but we’re going to begin by looking at the basic topics of what is covered and what is known as New Testament Introduction. New Testament Introduction is a course that every seminary student goes through when they first begin in seminary.
At Dallas [Theological Seminary] it was in combination with Old Testament Introduction. We had a massive textbook about that thick by Donald Guthrie on New Testament Introduction. It’s been revised a couple of times but in these introductory courses what they address is a lot of challenges of what we’re just referring to as historical criticism.
Historical criticism is a twenty-five cent word for the historical concept for just plain old Protestant skepticism and liberalism. It’s a rejection of the idea that God inspired these Books as they claim to be inspired, that He breathed them out according to 2 Timothy 3:16–17 stating that “all Scripture is God-breathed”. It says that all Scripture originates in the mind of God.
It uses a picturesque term that reminds us of the fact that we inhale and we exhale air. The word for that in Scripture is PNEUMA, the same word for spirit. It has to do with the role of God the Holy Spirit of breathing into the writers of Scripture the knowledge and the information that will be part of their writing. Then it is exhaled by them in the writing of the Scriptures.
In the Old Testament this was done under the auspices of the prophet who would oversee what was written. In some instances it might have involved a process over time; for example the compilation of the psalms took place over several hundred years. We have some psalms written by Moses which was before 1400 BC. We have quite a few written by David and by the Levites at the time of David, and that’s about four hundred years after Moses.
Then we have a number of others written between David and the time of the conquest by Babylon. We have others written after the Babylonian conquest in exile. Once the Jews returned to Israel you had the process of pulling these psalms together. That would have been done under the oversight of Ezra, the priest who wrote Ezra and maybe Chronicles.
We don’t know what else Ezra may have been involved in but it was someone who was divinely inspired who pulled these things together and may have even written some things like the last chapter of Deuteronomy. It was not written by Moses who didn’t record his death ahead of time, but that chapter is the recording of Moses’ death. He didn’t write that but someone else did.
We don’t know who it was but probably it was whoever was pulling the Old Testament Canon together, a priest or prophet, would have been inspired by God in doing the final editing work and pulling things together. In New and Old Testament Introduction you have all these questions of authorship and challenges by the critical scholars over whether Moses could have written the Pentateuch, whether Peter could have written 1 or 2 Peter and whether the Gospels were written in the first century. There are questions about authorship, questions about authenticity, and questions about canonicity. In a standard introductory course this is what you go through.
You basically answer the questions on this slide such as who wrote the Book. When was it written? Why was it written? When was it recognized as part of the Canon of the New Testament? When you look at most of the New Testament books, there’s more or less general acceptance. There are some that are challenged, such as a few of Paul’s epistles. Are they really Pauline?
There are some others related to aspects of the Gospels. That’s a whole other mare’s nest of problems, but probably the one Book of the New Testament doubted by the liberal, historical critics is 2 Peter. When I was getting ready to do this I pulled down the New Testament Introduction (NTI) text we had by Donald Guthrie and he had 65 pages just on 2 Peter. Most of it was just dealing with why 2 Peter couldn’t have been written by Peter, couldn’t have been written in the first century, shouldn’t be part of the Canon, and all of these kinds of questions. Then he would give lengthy explanations of the critics’ positions and then equally lengthy explanations as to why the critics were wrong.
That becomes a major part of this kind of discussion asking if Peter really wrote this. Of course, we would ask why you would question it since we take the Bible at face value. There are a lot of questions that are brought into focus.
What we know is that in the opening of 2 Peter this is attributed to the authorship of Peter. One of the other issues, one of the reasons it gets questioned is that when you get into the second and the third centuries there’s various pseudopygrapha (a new word for some people). You have the Canon and then you have the Apocrypha, which is only part of the Old Testament. There are twelve or thirteen Apocryphal books, depending on how they’re broken down, that were accepted by part of the church but never accepted by the Jews as part of the Old Testament. These were debated a lot. Protestants never accepted the Apocrypha, but Roman Catholics accepted it.
Then you have another set of books called the Pseudopygrapha. If you know anything about language you can break it down, “pseudo” meaning false and “grapha” meaning writings, so these were false writings. They were writings attributed to people like Peter and James and a few others, but they weren’t really written by them at all. It seems like people wanted to attach Peter’s name to a lot of these because Peter was supposedly the foundation of the church.
Because of the rise of pseudopygraphical books in the late second and into the third and fourth centuries, a lot of people questioned 2 Peter. The reality is that 2 Peter was written at the end of Peter’s life. It wasn’t well known, so it was among a group of New Testament epistles that were disputed.
Now just because they’re disputed doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be in the Canon. Some of them were disputed because they were written to individuals, so they weren’t passed around among the churches. They were less well-known. 1 and 2 Timothy, Philemon, James, Jude, 2 Peter, and 2 and 3 John were all among Books that were disputed and they were among the last to be accepted into the Canon of Scripture.
There’s a difference between disputed Books and those that were rejected. The disputed Books—they were a bit more cautious. The early church fathers were not in a hurry to accept books to put them in the Canon. They were very, very careful. They needed apostolic authenticity. The content needed to not contradict anything else stated in Scripture.
This is why even at the time of the Protestant Reformation Martin Luther had problems with the canonicity of James, because he thought James contradicted the statements that Paul made in Romans and Galatians about justification by faith alone. He had his own problems.
He also doubted Revelation, by the way, because it seemed to come with a curse at the end that anyone who alters the Word or changes anything is going to come under the judgment of God. He thought that was a little harsh so he didn’t want to mess with that. That made him doubt whether Revelation ought to be part of the Canon.
Those are the kinds of things you study as you go through New Testament Introduction. 2 Peter starts off in a manner very similar to 1 Peter, except you have Peter identify himself as Simon Peter instead of just Peter. Simon is his Hebrew name, Simeon, and this further authenticates this is Peter for who would necessarily make that up. Often Peter is just referred to as Peter or even his Aramaic name which was Cephas. There’s no “c” that is pronounced like an “s” so it’s a hard “k” there in Greek. It’s KEPHAS.
Peter, to have put Simon here, actually seems to be in the favor of Peter’s authorship and not against Peter’s authorship. This is how it begins. This when you get to 2 Peter 3:1 Peter says, “Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle…” He’s indicating that he’s written them an epistle already.
Then he says, “In both of them I stir up your pure minds by way of a reminder.” This indicates in a second verse that this is the same author as we have in the first Epistle.
This is one of the first things leveled against 2 Peter. It’s interesting that early church fathers rarely if ever mention the epistle in the second century, which raises some questions with people over why it isn’t talked about. What you’ll find is that you’ll come along and they’ll find certain phrases in the fathers that echo thoughts in 2 Peter. Many of them are a stretch to say they got it from Peter.
For example, in the third chapter he talks about a day with God is as a thousand years and a thousand years is but a day. That’s also stated in Psalm 90. There are some early church fathers who quote that, but they could also have gotten that from Psalm 90 and not from Peter.
That raises some questions. The answer is that basically 2 Peter wasn’t that well known. It hadn’t been copied and passed around the churches as some epistles had, especially some of the Pauline epistles like Romans and Ephesians and some of the others. There are these various illusions and similarity in writing such as 1 and 2 Clement and some of the other church fathers.
Probably the one thing that authenticates it the most is Jude. If you read through Jude and you read 2 Peter then you will see a huge similarity, especially 2 Peter 2 and things that are said in Jude. It is clear that even though the critical scholars will come with an assumption that God could not really inspire things because we don’t have supernatural things, an anti-supernatural bias. They assume at the gitgo that the Bible can’t be an objective revelation of God to men and through men. It is just a book about men and their encounters with God or their religious experiences or whatever.
They start with the assumption that Peter copied Jude. Therefore, Peter couldn’t have written it because Peter died a long time before Jude was written. See, it’s a circular argument. Most pagan thought is circular. You can date the fossils because of the strata they’re in and then you can date the strata because of the fossils that are in it. That’s the circular argument underlying the life forms in the strata and evolution. It’s just circular. They’re assuming that the Bible just can’t be true. It can’t be what it claims to be from the very beginning.
If you do a comparison between 2 Peter and Jude there are at least 15 or 16 verses that are almost identical between the two, but Peter is predicting the coming of false teachers and Jude is talking about the present reality of how to deal with these false teachers that are now on the scene.
It makes sense that Jude is after 2 Peter and he is using 2 Peter as part of his source materials. That, of course, validates the fact that 2 Peter is inspired by God and has been written much earlier than Jude. It would be an epistle that is validated by Jude in his writings.
This all has to do with the external arguments on 2 Peter in terms of how it’s quoted, how it’s referred to and talked about by other writers. The first thing they talk about is that it’s not well-known among the church fathers, not mentioned by any second century church fathers. The second thing they focus on is the difference between subjects in 1 and 2 Peter.
That seems to weigh heavily with a lot of people, but if you write at one time in your life about one subject and then ten or fifteen years later you write on a different subject to people, your writing will not necessarily be the same because of the different subject matter and the different circumstances. You’re in a different position.
This is, as it were, Peter’s last letter. He knows it’s not long before he’s going die. He even references different events in his time with the Lord in the epistle that would be expected from someone who had spent three years with the Lord.
There are a number of ways to address and answer these particular things. For example, there are certain similarities in the salutation. It talks about Peter as an apostle of Jesus Christ. In 1 Peter 1:1 it talks about Peter being an apostle of Jesus Christ.
Then there are some additional things that are said. In both 1 and 2 Peter, there’s the greeting of “grace and peace” be multiplied to you and that is stated identically in the two epistles. There are also some other things that are brought up and in explaining the similarities. There are various words and terms that are common in both epistles. Both use the word EPIGNOSIS for knowledge. 1 Peter only mentions it twice whereas 2 Peter mentions it several times.
Excuse me, I got that backwards. Knowledge in 2 Peter is EPIGNOSIS and GNOSIS, as well as OIDA. All of those three different words are translated as knowledge in English, so you have to be careful not to think that every time you see the word knowledge, it’s the same Greek word.
EPIGNOSIS isn’t used at all in 1 Peter but GNOSIS is used in 1 Peter and OIDA is used one time in 1 Peter. Those are the only two times knowledge is referred to, but in 2 Peter EPIGNOSIS is used four times. GNOSIS is used three times in 2 Peter and OIDA is used three times in 2 Peter. Knowledge is much more central to the theme of 2 Peter.
When he concludes he says, “Grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Knowledge is much more central to his theme. We remember that in 1 Peter the theme was to encourage and strengthen the believers because they were going to face a future time of persecution.
There are other terms that are used. The term of love for the brethren, PHILADELPHIA, which is used in 1 Peter 1:22 and in 2 Peter 1:7. There are the terms for spot and blemish. It’s negative, without spot and blemish in 1 Peter 1:19 related to the Lamb of God who is without spot and blemish.
Also in 2 Peter 2:13 and in 2 Peter 3:14 you have the words spot or blame or blemish. You also have the word virtue used in 1 Peter 2:9 and used in 2 Peter 1:3. In fact, 1 and 2 Peter have 153 words in common, which is a little bit less than you have in 1 and 2 Timothy, where you have 161 words used in common.
The fact there’s a certain commonality in vocabulary also relates to the same authorship or supports that. Also both epistles support the historicity of Noah and the worldwide Flood. Both talk about the coming of Christ, the PAROUSIA and then you have a number of quotations and allusions referring to the Old Testament, recognizing the authority of the Old Testament, all of which is important.
That’s the third point that there are distinctive words that are similar. That also supports the same author.
External arguments are the fourth point. There’s just the assumption that Peter borrowed from Jude, which I talked about earlier, but if Jude borrows from Peter it makes more sense which I talk about in my series on Jude.
Jude talks about the false teachers in the present sense, which means he’s talking about the present reality that has come to pass after Peter’s warning in 2 Peter.
All of these dissimilarities can be explained away by different circumstances, different time, and different frame of mind of Peter.
If you compare Peter’s vocabulary in 2 Peter with his vocabulary in his sermons in Acts, they’re very similar. All of this substantiates that Peter is the author.
What happens is that when you look at some of the differences, the style differences, you see the level of Greek in 1 Peter is higher than the level of Greek in 2 Peter. So people say that’s because he used Silas or Sylvanus as his amanuensis. That’s what I was taught. That’s what a lot of people have been taught.
There’s been some good work done on that recently, which I talked about last time, that this language that someone writes through someone else is the language, the terminology, that’s used of sending a message—that’s the idiom—so that doesn’t really work in explaining why there are some of these stylistic differences. The stylistic differences can be caused by other factors, so therefore it’s not indicative of having been written by someone else.
In terms of the history we have a quote here from Eusebius. Eusebius is an important leader in the church. He’s the bishop in the early fourth century. He’s one of the delegates to the Council of Nicaea. He wrote the first history of the church at that time, so that’s an important resource to go to and find out from his perspective the history of Christianity in the first three centuries.
He writes, “As to the writings of Peter, one of his Epistles, called the First, is acknowledged as genuine. But that which is called the Second, we have not indeed understood to be embodied with the Sacred Books; yet as it appeared useful to many, it was studiously read with the other sacred Scriptures.”
While he rejected the canonicity of 2 Peter, he wasn’t the only one. But there were many others who accepted it, but it’s disputed.
A little later he says, “Among the disputed books, although they are well known and approved by many, is reported that called the epistle of James and Jude, also the Second Epistle of Peter and the Second and Third Epistles of John.” See at this time they’re still trying to put the Canon together, what is actually accepted.
This was based on several factors. One is apostolic authorship or association with an apostle. Second, is it used regularly in the church? It’s a recognition of the fact that these Books that we have were picked by a council and imposed on the church.
The councils recognized what Books had been accepted as authoritative and which books were only accepted as helpful. The twenty-seven Books that we have in the New Testament were all finally accepted universally across the board as being authoritative. Therefore, they were included in the New Testament Canon.
None of the books, like you hear about the Gospel of Thomas and some of these others, never even reached the status of disputed. They were never accepted. There were a few books from the first century that were questioned a little bit that then fell out of use because it was obvious they were different from the twenty-seven that we have in the New Testament Canon.
Later Eusebius says, “Among the disputed books although they are well-known and approved by many, is reported that called the Epistle of James and Jude, also the Second Epistle of Peter, and the Second and Third Epistles of John.”
By the early fourth century, prior to the Council of Nicaea, these books were still questioned a little bit, and weren’t quite fully there. You remember Athanasius, the key defender of orthodoxy against Arius at the Council of Nicaea and a little later then AD 325, in the AD 340s or 350s he wrote an Easter epistle where he lists the twenty-seven books of the New Testament.
That’s generally the date and the event where people realize that by this time the church has finalized and determined what the authoritative books are. By the mid-second century you have a fragment called the Muratorian fragment that lists the accepted books at this time. They leave out a number of these books. It’s not a complete list of the New Testament. It’s dated around AD 165, but it lists most of the Books of the New Testament, but it doesn’t list anything that’s not in our New Testament.
That’s important because there’s always someone coming along and saying, “See they’re still debating it and they made the decision to exclude these books.” There’s no evidence that the books they talk about as being excluded were ever seriously considered by anyone to be part of the Canon.
The disputed books were books like Hebrews—we don’t know who wrote it—the books of Philemon and Jude and 2 and 3 John which were written to individuals so they weren’t really passed around a lot and weren’t well known.
I think we can be completely sure that Peter wrote 2 Peter and that it should be part of the Canon. One of the reasons I go through this, which is not true for some of you, but there will be those who are listening to this who will go to college somewhere. Like me, they may take some religious course where they are told Peter didn’t write 2 Peter. They need to have access to information to know how to answer this.
This is important. I took a course, I think my junior year in college, taught by the guy who ran the Baptist Student Union. It was on the Pauline Epistles and I could tell just by the language he was using as he was explaining Scripture and different things that he didn’t have a solid view of the inerrancy and inspiration of Scripture.
I had to write a term paper on the major doctrines of Paul. I chose inspiration and inerrancy. Those were the days were professors were objective. Even if you didn’t agree with them, if you presented a well-researched opposite view and you expressed it well, then they wouldn’t grade you down just because you disagreed with them.
Today if you go to a lot of colleges, universities, or even high school, if you disagree with the professor, they’ll fail you. My mother used to tell me, “Just regurgitate the garbage they tell you so you get the grade. Don’t try to convince them that you’re right and they’re wrong.” I did listen to that.
When did Peter write this? This is another interesting thing about Peter that is important to understand is that Peter near the end of 2 Peter says something about the writings of Paul that is always an encouragement to anyone who’s trying to understand the writings of Paul. He writes in 2 Peter 3:16, “As also with all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, speaking of things which are hard to understand.”
Peter thought that Paul wrote things that were hard to understand so you can say, “Okay, that’s a little hard for me to understand.” He writes after Paul has written a number of his epistles. He writes before he dies so we can date his death pretty clearly to about AD 66 or AD 67 under the Neronic persecution. So it’s before Jude wrote. Most people date 2 Peter to around AD 67.
We know Peter died in Rome. He was going to be crucified. He did not want to be crucified like his Lord. He didn’t think he was worthy of that, so they crucified him upside down.
It’s clear he knew his death was approaching. In 2 Peter 1:14, he said, “Knowing that shortly I must put off my tent just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me.”
This means we’re able to pretty well cite this. I would think that in contrast to his earlier epistle being written from literal, historical Babylon, he wrote 2 Peter from Rome, just before he was martyred.
So that’s the date. We’ve looked at who wrote 2 Peter and when did he write 2 Peter. Now we’ll consider why he wrote 2 Peter. This is kind of interesting because people come up with some different ideas as to why Peter wrote.
For example, in 2 Peter 3 he writes, “Now I write to you this second epistle to stir up your pure minds by way of reminder that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets and the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior.”
Several times he uses the word reminder and to remind them of something so there are some who think he wrote this as a reminder. He uses the word knowledge many times, so there are some who say it’s all about encouraging people to know the Scripture and to know the truth.
He talks about faithful living so there’s some who emphasize that as his main idea. Others say it’s to establish them in the faith. I think all of those are part of his purpose. They’re sub-purposes, but he is writing primarily to warn them, to encourage them to grow strong in the truth, to know the truth, and to be spiritually mature so they can handle the false teaching.
He doesn’t want them to get sucked into it or be deceived. That’s an apologetic emphasis. That’s important to teach people the truth and to teach it well so they can understand what the truth is. They also have to understand there’s false teaching out there and what some of the basic problems are in the false teaching. That’s what he does as well.
That covers the purpose. We’ll get a little more clarity when I do our summary and flyover of the Epistle. I may start that today but I don’t know how far I’ll get into that.
Canonicity in the early church was disputed and 2 Peter was one of the last books to be recognized as inspired. Both 2 Peter and Jude were in that last group, but they were accepted. By the middle of the fourth century they were well accepted and no one disputed them from that point on. The only issues in canonicity later on were whether or not to include other books, like the Apocrypha, which was part of the Old Testament. There were never any New Testament books that had any level of acceptance later on, despite what we see in some of the books coming out like the Gnostic Gospels and the other books that have novels and such that have been written about this.
This is so important because it goes to the issue of the authority of Scripture. When we look around us at the assaults that are coming against us in our culture, it all comes down to authority. Over and over again we are being assaulted on all kinds of issues that have been part of historic Christianity. No longer are they accepted by the majority of people in our culture.
In fact there’s a situation recently that occurred at Taylor University in Indiana. I went to seminary with a couple of men who had graduated from Taylor, their undergraduate work. It’s considered a fairly solid, historically middle-of-the-road evangelical liberal arts university. They invited Vice President Mike Pence to speak at the commencement this May and a large number in the student body—I think, 3,000 or so—said that this violated Christianity.
They said Mike Pence couldn’t possibly be a Christian because he’s a homophobe and a racist and a nationalist and all these other views. They staged a big demonstration but fortunately the president of Taylor said, “Forget it, he’s coming.” He stood his ground.
When we have Christian kids at a Christian university protesting against a solid believer like Vice President Pence … Vice President Pence is not combative. He’s not going out there and making controversial statements about homosexuality. He’s just taking the historic Christian position about homosexuality as a sin. He’s not marking it out as some sort of special sin or a sin that will cause you to lose your salvation or anything like that.
The very fact that a segment of our culture knows he believes that makes them just livid. They’re so angry they can’t think straight. They’re cross-eyed with anger. We have a whole culture like this. They never, ever forget. It doesn’t matter what you have ever said about homosexuality or the importance of a nation or patriotism or any of these things being challenged today, people who disagree with you know you believe that so they will target you because they can’t stand to have someone alive who disagrees with them and takes this other position.
It is a key part of spiritual warfare. I held a position in my first church that really angered about five people in leadership and they used the next two years to slander me and to badmouth me and to spread all kind of bad rumors. It all stemmed from the fact that I did not hold to their views.
I did not believe that women should teach men the Bible, even in Sunday School. I went to that church and there were three older women who taught in three classes for seniors. I told them when I went that they’d done that for thirty years and I wasn’t going to kick anyone out. That’s not going to be an issue.
The very fact that they knew I had thought that wasn’t biblical so inflamed them that they made it their mission to get rid of me. That eventually caused me to be fired and the church split. Never forget just because you haven’t said anything specifically and you’re not engaged in a battle that those who know you hold a biblical view are going to hate you for it and they’re going to do whatever they can to destroy you simply because you think they are sinning and you think they’re wrong. The arrogance of unbelief is beyond description.
Peter is warning them what’s going to come with these false teachers. In terms of all these canonicity issues the Epistle was finally recognized by many people. Even at the time Eusebius wrote as he states and by the middle of the fourth century it was recognized by people like Jerome and Athanasius and later by Augustine and Ambrose and was then accepted in the Canon list at Laodicea by AD 372 and also the Council of Carthage in AD 397.
Peter wrote to prepare believers against the coming of false teachers. Let’s start getting an overview of what Peter is writing about in 2 Peter. The main thing we ought to recognize is that Peter is not writing about Gnosticism. There are some people who have said that in the past because that which his opponents, the false teachers, taught was similar to Gnosticism.
We know from history that Gnosticism as a developed system really doesn’t come into effect until the second century. People who say Peter is writing against Gnosticism also say John, in 1 John, is writing against Gnosticism. They’re not writing against Gnosticism, but gnostic ideas didn’t come around in the second century. These ideas had been around for a number of years. Some of them were developed out of Neo-Platonism. Any form of Platonism and then later Neo-Platonism denied the importance of the material and made this dichotomy between the material and the immaterial.
So that anything that is material is sin, they said, and anything that is immaterial is not tainted by sin so Jesus really didn’t die physically on the Cross. It only appeared He died on the Cross. That’s called Docetism from the Greek word DOKEO meaning appearance or it seems like He died on the Cross. Those ideas were around in the first century, but they just weren’t systemized into the Gnostic system until later in the second century.
These ideas all existed somewhat earlier in the first century and they were present in the Greek culture since so many unbelievers had been influenced by these ideas. Just because they have ideas doesn’t mean they come from an organized system.
You can go back into the earlier twentieth century and you can find a lot of people who held to ideas that were later called post modernism. You can go back earlier and you can always find people who go back to the serpent in the Garden of Eden who denied the existence of absolute truth. That’s a benchmark teaching of post modernism. It didn’t become systemized until you get into the early twentieth century and that’s when it’s recognized.
Peter comes along and he’s warning them about these different ideas that are taking place, beginning to show up in the culture and are leading believers away. So, when we look at 2 Peter, we realize he had several things he wanted to emphasize with his audience. He wanted to encourage them to be spiritually mature. If you look at 2 Peter 1:12–13, he says to them “For this reason I would not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth.”
Now isn’t that interesting? You might believe Peter believed in the importance of repetition as a pedagogical truth. You know these things but I need to remind you of these things, he says.
I had a conversation with someone yesterday and he said it’s so interesting about people he’s heard about—and I’ve heard about them, too—that believe they have learned all of the doctrines of the Bible. They have their doctrinal notebooks and they think they know all of the doctrines of the Bible.
I said, “Yeah, I always just laugh at that.” I grew up getting a better doctrinal, theological education than most people and most of you, and I then went to Dallas Seminary for a masters and a doctoral degree and I studied every single day. I read all the time and the more I learn and the more I read about the doctrines of the Bible, the less I think I know. We just barely have a thimble full. If you compare your knowledge of doctrines to a thimble full of water and an ocean, that’s our comprehension of the doctrines in the Scripture.
I do think that as we grow and mature, the motivation shifts. When we’re young and we’re hungry and we want answers to all our questions about life and we have all the important decisions of life in front of us and we’re hungry to get those questions answered. What I’ve observed is that when people get into their mid to late thirties and they’ve been under Bible teaching for ten or fifteen or even twenty years, they think they’ve got their questions answered and they don’t make the transition to the next level.
The next level is that you move through spiritual adolescence. You’re here not to hear anything new because there’s not much new that I can come up with you haven’t heard before, but you need to be reminded day in and day out that you better trust the Lord in every situation and problem you have. You better be reading your Bible every day. You better be praying. You better be developing your skills in using the faith-rest drill. You better be memorizing Scripture.
You better be loving your brother as yourself and as Jesus loved you. All of these things we just constantly need to be reminded of because the sin nature is constantly trying to obscure this in our soul so we don’t remember it. The people who fall away in their spiritual adolescence are the people who think they’ve arrived. They just go off and live on their own. Before long, they’re not living any kind of a spiritual life. They may know a lot but they’re not applying a lot and they need to be reminded a lot.
That’s what Peter is doing. He is reminding them of living the spiritual life and pursuing spiritual growth. He uses the word “remind” in verse 12, again in verse 13, and in verse 15. He also focuses on the character qualities that should be developed in your life.
It isn’t just about knowing Scripture. It’s about the character that the Holy Spirit produces in your life. This is what he talks about starting in 2 Peter 1:5, “For also for this very reason giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue.” Notice he piles these up. Faith develops virtue. To virtue you add knowledge. Notice knowledge isn’t the first thing. I don’t think he’s giving them a list in the sense that this develops into this and then develops into that.
We know that before you get very far you have to have some knowledge of Scripture to develop any level of character virtue. He’s just talking about that you need to add all of these things. Knowledge to self-control. Self-control to perseverance. Godliness, which is a term for spirituality and spiritual growth. To godliness brotherly kindness and to kindness brotherly love.
You don’t take these and make them a stair step in the sense you go to the first step and then the second step and then the third, because spiritual growth is a dynamic where all of these are being developed together in each of our lives. He’s emphasizing the importance of spiritual growth and spiritual maturity.
As he is approaching death he talks about that. He also talks about the importance of the Word and he talks about the importance of Christ. Part of what’s going on here is that when he gets to the third chapter he’s going to talk about eschatology and the coming of the Kingdom.
He addresses this as a side issue in 2 Peter 1:16–20 when he talks about the Transfiguration. He and John and James were on the mountain during the Transfiguration when Elijah and Moses showed up and they saw Jesus in all of His divine glory, but then the Kingdom didn’t come.
He’s teaching them that the Kingdom will come but in the meantime they need to pursue spiritual maturity and spiritual growth. Above all, he wants them to not be deceived by the false teachers no matter what comes, so he talks a lot about that in the second chapter.
Then he talks about a couple of instances of false teaching in 2 Peter 3. This is what this is all about. It has a heavy emphasis on “knowing”, a heavy emphasis on knowledge, which tells us that each of these verses emphasizes a little different aspect. We need to know the Word. That doesn’t mean just showing up three times a week and listening to me on the Internet or listening to other teachers here and there.
It means internalizing the Word, not just the concepts, but internalizing the Word, memorizing Scripture so that you have that to hold on to.
What I always remember are the stories I read about Vietnam POWs. When they were in the “Hanoi Hilton” and other prisons they developed codes. These were men who had grown up in churches and grown up in Sunday School and they could just remember bits and pieces of verses.
They developed codes and they would put together promises. One guy would remember this verse or this clause, somebody else would add to it, and this is what sustained those men in that horrible captivity in the Vietnam War. If they learned the Word and they memorized the Word …
I don’t remember the name but it was Jerry something. He was a long time prisoner in the Hanoi Hilton and when he got back, he went to Dallas Seminary and graduated the year before I started, but then went back into the Navy as a chaplain and had a great career there. His life was turned around by the fact he was a POW in Vietnam where he was challenged to get with the Word and use those promises every day in order to survive.
This is what Peter focuses on right at the beginning, the sufficiency of what God has given us. In 2 Peter 1:3, “As His divine power is given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises.”
We need to be memorizing the Word and internalizing it. It’s through knowledge. Knowledge isn’t the end game. It’s the means by which this is accomplished.
Next time what we’ll do is I’ll come back and we’ll do a flyover of 2 Peter to see all the things we need to study and that we’re going to learn as we go through this epistle in order to prepare ourselves for what’s going to come.
We’re like that first generation of believers. There’s going to be a lot of opposition against us in the next ten, fifteen, twenty years, and most of us are not going to escape. All of the warning signs are on the horizon. It doesn’t look good at all. There are so many people in positions of power today that hate Christianity. There are academics. There are teachers. There are people who are in power on school boards and city councils. Maybe not as much in Texas, but they’re here and it’s much, much worse in many other places.
It’s not getting any better. If you look back over the last fifty years, the years of most of lives, ask yourselves which direction has it gone? Has it ever gotten better? Is it getting worse every year? There have been a few years where it kind of leveled out but then it goes down again. It’s not going to get any better. That’s not good news.
That’s not an EUANGELION. The good news is that God is greater than anything that’s going to happen to us and He’s going to sustain us. He’s given us the way to do it and that’s in His Word. That’s why you have that wonderful verse in 2 Peter 1:3 that God has given us everything pertaining to life and godliness. It’s important that we internalize that through the knowledge of His power and the promises that He’s given us.
“Father, thank You for Your Word. Thank You for the true encouragement it is that challenges us to do that which will bring about spiritual maturity. Help us to redefine our priorities, to sharpen our focus on Your Word and the truth of Your Word, learning what it says, internalizing the words of Scripture, internalizing the verses of Scripture, the promises of Scripture, and further understanding and clarifying the great teachings, the doctrine that is in the Scripture.
“We pray that we would be responsive to that challenge. In Christ’s name. Amen.”