Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Reading Through The Second Letter of Peter

Letters WrightI am continuing through the general epistles in this year’s devotional read through of the New Testament, in the Second Letter of Peter, accompanied by The Early Christian Letters For Everyone by N.T. Wright. 2 Peter was written to pass on the apostolic doctrine to the next generation. Peter reassures his readers that the gospel (Jesus' teachings and actions) rests on accurate eye-witness testimony and its truth is the only way to become like God and share in his coming kingdom. I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

He begins with the assurance that the gospel of Jesus has supplied believers with every resource they need to live the Christian life, but each believer is responsible to apply these resources diligently. One must work hard to apply the resources Christ has provided to be an effective, productive Christian. When you apply yourself to use God's gracious resources, He makes you grow, helps you avoid sin and gives eternal reward. A key part of that hard work involved diligent study, obedience and teaching of God's Word because it is the only sure source for knowing and serving Jesus Christ. Peter assures his readers that the apostolic testimony is the sure, eyewitness record of the person and actions of Jesus and reveals God's direction for life. The proper response is to pay close attention to the Word, submit to it and let it change you into the image of Christ and share in the Divine nature as the Holy Spirit enables. 

Whatever we do by way of obedience and allegiance to God and the gospel, it all takes place within the grace of God, by means of the promise of God, through the power of God, and leading to the kingdom of God. That’s a great place to start. But it’s not a good place to stop, because, as you will have noticed, the passage has plenty more besides. Central to it all is the idea that, by God’s grace and power in our lives, we are to learn the discipline of Christian moral development. 103, 2 Peter 1.1-11

Peter holds firm to two things: the ancient scriptures, and the newly revealed son of God. Until we see him, we don’t understand where they were going. Until we understand them, we don’t see the point of who he was and what he did. We need the scriptures and the son, prophecy made sure. And we need to hold on to both until the morning star shines in our hearts, and then, through us, shines out into the world. 108, 2 Peter 1.12-21

In chapter 2 the focus changes to a warning against false teachers. Christians must be prepared to identify false teachers so we can avoid the danger they present and warn others. Scripture (drawing on 2nd temple Jewish interpretations of Noah's flood and the story of the destruction of Sodom) shows that God is certain to properly judge the wicked and deliver the righteous. Thus, believers must make sure they are on the right side. All Christians should be able to recognize false teachers and expose their false teachings so that one can avoid their judgment. False teachers can be recognized by a departure from central doctrines of the faith and by advocating "freedom" from the "restraints" of biblical morality and indulging of selfish desires. One should also be very wary of any Christian teachers that use the gospel to live a lavish lifestyle. 

When teachers emerge who remove the normal restraint that Christian faith, like Judaism, had imposed on human desires, we should beware. 111-112, 2 Peter 2.1-10

We ought to read this list, not with a self-righteous pride (‘Oh, yes, look at those wicked people! Not at all like us!’), but with appropriate sorrow and fear. These tendencies are present in all of us; the point of self-control is to keep them back, to crucify wrong desires and grow right ones in their place. 115, 2 Peter 2.10-22

The letter closes by urging believers to keep in mind that the prophesied coming of the LORD to judge will happen, despite those who question it and its long delay, so they will be ready for it by living righteously now. Because judgment is coming, believers must live for God now, focused on His Word and on the eternal; not on the temporary things of life. The way to be ready is to work hard now to grow to be like Christ and to do the work he has called his people to do. Peter sums up the letter by urging his audience to work hard to be holy, to respond to God's grace, to understand scripture, to guard the truth, and to grow into Jesus. 

The patience we practise in day-to-day relations with one another must be translated up to the cosmic scale. God will indeed bring upon the whole world ‘the day of the Lord’, the day when all will be judged, all will be revealed. But he will do that in his own time. 121, 2 Peter 3.1-10

There is such a thing as sustained and lasting growth in Christian character, faith and life. It is your privilege and birthright, as a follower of Jesus, that you should ‘grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and saviour Jesus the Messiah’. 124, 2 Peter 3.11-18

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