Introduction to 2nd Peter
Peter actually tells us that this is his second letter and we have to assume that it is likely to the same audience. The main subjects are different this time. Peter knows that he doesn’t have much time left and he is trying to prepare his readers for his eventual death.
One of the things that he wants them to be aware of is false teachers. Sometimes we take it for granted, but there really are people out there who aren’t as pure and well-intentioned as we would like to believe. There are people in the church and or who claim to be Christians who are in it for themselves. Sure they may have been attracted to Christianity at first, but as soon as they got a taste of authority and began to twist things, sometimes in extremely immoral ways.
A year or so ago I read several articles about Jim Jones and the Jones Town Massacre. I think the most shocking thing about the cult is how manipulative and cunning Jim Jones was. He fooled well-known politicians not to mention thousands of other naïve people. Many of those people thought he was teaching Christianity at first. Amazingly, even when they found out that he was nothing close to Christian, many people stayed. False teachers often are extremely charismatic.
We don’t know exactly who the false teachers are that Peter is referring to. It appears they are teaching something that is a precursor to Gnosticism. What we do know is that he sees them as dangerous. Peter’s letter is helpful because it could very well raise our level of discernment given the confusing culture that we live in.
Day 1: 2 Peter 1:1-11
Take a Moment to Read 2 Peter 1:1-11
Introductions are Important
Peter introduces himself in a slightly different way that he did at the beginning of his 1st letter, which we call 1 Peter. In 1 Peter he simply says, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ.” In this 2nd letter, he writes, “Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ.”
For some reason, Peter chooses to use his Hebrew and Greek names in the introduction. Simon was his birth name and Peter is the name, which means “rock”, given to him by Jesus (John 1:42, Matthew 16:18). Peter wants his readers to know very specifically who he is.
Peter’s introduction is both authoritative and humble. It is authoritative because it is clearly coming from Simon Peter, the leader of the disciples, and an eyewitness to the life of Christ. It is humble because Peter clearly identifies himself as a servant of Jesus Christ.
The Pursuit of Godliness
The first half of chapter 1 is a charge by Peter to pursue Godliness and good living. So much of modern day Christianity seems to be weak. There is a sense in which most Christians have given up. When reading the moral demands of scripture, one might think, “I can’t be that good,” or “that will be true when I am in heaven, but for now I have to be content with being forgiven.” There is a sense in which we have given up before even starting. G.K. Chesterton wrote, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”
Christianity is both easy and difficult. It is easy because one enters the Christian life by faith and grace because of the work of Jesus on the cross. It is difficult because we become participants in a new ethic and a new way of living. This new life is so different from a life without Christ that there is resistance internally and externally. Whereas prior to Christ, we either didn’t care or didn’t know that certain things were wrong, now we do care and do know. We are new creations, but that old person sometimes puts up a fight in us. Now not only is there an internal battle with sin, but there is a world that is aligned with the brokenness of the fall.
Peter is encouraging. Peter reminds us that we have the power of God on our side. God has made himself knowable and available (v. 3). We have what we need for life and godliness. We also have his promises which help us to flee from the corruption of the world.
One has to wonder which promises Peter is talking about here. I can’t help these are the promises are connected to the promise Jesus made to the disciples to send his Spirit to them. They would not be alone. They would have the Holy Spirit as a Counselor, guide, and teacher (John 14:16-17; 26). The Holy Spirit would help them to discern right from wrong (John 16:7-12) because he is the Spirit of truth. Peter is not saying that we become divine. He is only saying that because of the Presence of the Holy Spirit we are indwelt by Him (1 Peter 1:4).
These promises are the reason why we should “make every effort” to add good deeds to our faith (v.5). The characteristics of goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, kindness, and love are all “added” to faith as qualities that we are to increase in. Without them, we will be ineffective and unproductive (v.8). Even worse, without them we are like blind people, unable to make our way forward in the Christian life. As we grow and mature the likelihood of failure disappears. In fact, I have to believe that great effort produces great strength and maturity, which in turn prepares us for the day when we will be with Jesus in heaven.
- Jesus did not leave us alone. He gave us the Holy Spirit. What does it look like when the Holy Spirit guides us in truth, convicts us of sin, and comes alongside of us as our helper? Why are the promises of Jesus through the Holy Spirit important?
- What are the temptations that hold you back from greater growth and maturity?
- What kind of effort are you putting into the good things God calls you to? What characteristics can you embody today? How?
What would you say to God based on your reading today? Take some time to talk to God in prayer.
Consider writing down a key verse or verses from today on an index card or small piece of paper and carry it with you today. Look at it as often as you can as a reminder of what we learned today.
Possible Verses: 1 Peter 1:3; 1 Peter 1:5-7; 1 Peter 1:10