Introduction to 2 Peter
Topic: Expository Passage: 2 Peter 1:1
I am excited to get started with a new series through 2 Peter. Selfishly, I’m looking forward to only having to master a few verses a week instead of 2-4 chapters like I had to do with Job. Job was great, but it was a lot of work. So, I’m looking forward to getting back in the epistles.
That’s not just because we will be moving slower; it’s primarily because the epistles represent the most mature expression of Christian theology and practice. 2 Peter is no exception. It’s a short book of only 61 verses. This week I timed myself reading it out loud, and I read the whole book at a comfortable pace in less than 10 minutes.
But within those 61 verses there is a wealth of gospel truth, practical counsel for living the Christian life, and vital help for resisting heresy and the pressure of a hostile culture. All of it is incredibly timely and relevant. Even though 2 Peter is over 1900 years old, you will be amazed at how relevant it is to life in Apple Valley in 2020.
So, I hope you will engage your heart and mind in this study. Like I always do when we begin an epistle, I’d encourage you to read 2 Peter 5xs this week so that you get a broad understanding of the book. Again, it will take less than 10 minutes/day, and it will really help you appreciate the broad message of the book.
And then take some time each week to meditate on the text for Sunday, because the more familiar you are with the passage going into the sermon, the more you will gain from the sermon. And finally, let’s pray that God will use 2 Peter in our individual hearts and in our church to bring us a step closer to the image of the Savior.
Today, I’d like to give a broad perspective on the story and message of 2 Peter. The handout in your bulletin summarizes much of what we’ll discuss. I hope you’ll hold onto it and refer back to it, because context is so important for understanding Scripture. I’d like to use the first verse as a springboard to our discussion (Read). This verse begins by introducing us to the book’s author.
I. Author: Peter
Next to Jesus, Peter is probably the most fascinating personality in the NT. He was bold and confident, and he constantly battled “Foot and Mouth Disease.” He was always putting his foot in his mouth. His worst failure was when he denied Christ, just hours before his crucifixion.
But Christ saw Peter’s potential and invested heavily in him. As a result, Acts 1–12 describes how Peter became a powerful voice for the gospel in the early years of the church. Unfortunately, we don’t know many details about Peter’s work after that. All we really know for sure is that Peter eventually ministered in Rome, where he helped Mark write the Gospel of Mark, wrote 1, 2 Peter and was ultimately executed by Nero.
In 1:1, he introduces himself as Simon Peter, and he makes a couple other interesting personal references in the book. In 1:14, Peter says that he expects to be killed very soon in keeping with the prophecy Jesus made about Peter’s death in John 21:18–19. And in 1:16–17, Peter gives a little perspective on what it was like to be on the Mt. of Transfiguration.
Despite these personal references, I mentioned a couple of Sunday nights ago that some early church fathers questioned Peter’s authorship, because the grammar and vocabulary of 2 Peter is very different from 1 Peter. I can testify to that difference. Translating 2 Peter is much harder than translating 1 Peter.
However, the ancient church ultimately concluded that Peter did write this letter, and we should follow their lead. The different writing style is noticeable, but it’s hardly a deal breaker. I for one don’t always speak or write the same way. My casual emails and texts read very differently from my seminary papers. I imagine that most of us do similar things, so variation in writing style hardly demands a different author.
Furthermore, it was common practice in Peter’s day to use a secretary to help craft important letters. If Peter used different secretaries to create 1 and 2 Peter, we should expect that there would be differences in style. Therefore, we must accept at face value what the book clearly states—that the Apostle Peter wrote 2 Peter. This is the authentic work of an Apostle who knew Christ and faithfully taught his gospel.
Notice that Peter describes himself as, “a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ.” Peter wants to be clear from the outset that he is under authority himself. Peter was not a rogue cult leader, who was pursuing his purpose. Rather, he was a slave of the Savior he loved.
Again, Peter spent 3 years walking and talking with Jesus. He saw the incredible miracles, he heard his marvelous teaching, and he experienced firsthand, Jesus’ integrity, patience, and compassion. As a result, Peter loved Jesus, and he considered it a great honor to be his servant.
I hope that we never lose sight of the great privilege we enjoy of being servants of Christ. Yes, the road of discipleship and ministry is often very hard, but Jesus bought me with his blood; therefore, he is my Lord, and I am his servant. And he is more than worthy of my love and devotion; therefore, I will do whatever he asks at any cost.
So, Peter begins by highlighting his submission to Christ, and then he follows by highlighting the authority Christ delegated to him as an apostle. Therefore, this letter is not merely human wisdom that we are free to evaluate for ourselves. No, Peter wrote this letter under the authority of Christ and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This is the Word of God.
This is important, because just like us, Peter’s readers were being pressured to get with the times and let go of their fuddy duddy faith. Therefore, Peter will emphasize that no matter how much the world tries to intimidate us, God’s Word is still true, and it is for our good. The best path is always the path of faith and obedience. In sum, the Apostle Peter is the author. Then notice how he describes the…
(Read 1:1b) This is a beautiful, gospel-centric description that demands attention. However, it doesn’t tell us much about the actual readers. When Peter describes the readers as those who, “have obtained like precious faith with us,” it’s a good indication he is speaking to Gentiles and highlighting how they have been brought into the people of God.
As well, v. 4 says they have, “escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” Again, this language is normally used of Gentiles who had abandoned paganism.
Peter tells us a little more in 3:1. Assuming that he is referring to 1 Peter, this would mean that both letters are addressed to the same audience, and 1 Peter 1:1 tells us more specifically who they were (read).
Peter mentions five regions in Asia Minor, or what is modern Turkey. We know that Paul did a lot of ministry in this region, and 3:15–16 say that they were familiar with Paul’s epistles.
It’s possible that Peter also ministered in these areas and knew these churches, but we can’t know for certain. It may be that he simply heard reports about the difficulties they were facing and decided to send them these letters.
Regardless, he gives a power-packed description of the recipients in 1:1. First, he describes the readers as “those who have obtained like precious faith.” I should note that commentators are pretty divided over whether faith refers to THE faith, meaning the content of the gospel or the response of faith to the preaching of the gospel.
Either option doesn’t change the meaning significantly, but I believe Peter is describing their response of faith to the gospel, because there would be no point is saying that we receive an equally precious gospel, when there is only one gospel.
However, some might believe there are differing levels of saving faith and differing levels of grace that God gives to some. But Peter states, that the readers’ faith is of equal value to that of Peter and the other apostles. The Greek word Peter uses, hisótimos, emphasizes equality of dignity and value.
Therefore, right after declaring his authority as an apostle, Peter quickly acknowledges that all believers have received an equally precious faith. There are no 2nd-class citizens in the church or in heaven. When we get saved, we all receive perfect righteousness based on infinite grace. We are all equal at the foot of the cross.
And this is because we can’t even take credit for the faith that we have. Notice that Peter says we “obtained” it by God’s sovereign grace. The Greek verb Peter uses typically spoke of receiving something based on casting lots. Of course, you can’t take credit for something that you receive by chance. Instead, you just give thanks that the lot fell to you.
So, Peter greets his readers by first reflecting on the marvelous and equal faith that God has granted to every Christian according to his sovereign grace. We can’t take any credit for who you are. Instead, we stand amazed that God chose to open our eyes to the beauty of Christ and to shower us with all the blessings of the gospel.
And then Peter adds that all of this is “by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” It’s worth emphasizing that Peter uses a grammatical construction that clearly indicates that God and Savior are both titles for Jesus Christ. Peter affirms the deity of Jesus and the fact that he alone provides salvation.
Specifically, we are saved by the righteousness of Jesus. It’s also worth emphasizing that Peter is not merely stating that Jesus is righteous; rather, he is saying that Jesus credits his righteousness to us, when we are saved.
It’s a familiar truth, but we can’t consider it too often. I am a sinner, who will never meet God’s holy standard. But Christ perfectly obeyed the Law, and then he bore my judgment on the cross. He took my sin, and when I receive Christ, I am placed in his righteousness.
As a result, the Father forever sees me in Christ, and I am secure. Therefore, my fundamental identity is not as Kit Johnson, but as in Christ Jesus. Peter declares that this is our fundamental identity at the outset of the letter.
Maybe there is someone here who has never received this gift. You’ve tried your whole life to earn a relationship with God through your good works. As a result, you are never quite certain where you stand with God or where you will spend eternity.
I hope you will see that you can be forever secure in Christ and in his righteousness if you will believe on him. If God is working on your heart, you can put your faith in Christ right there, where you sit. Don’t leave today without knowing that you stand in the righteousness of Jesus.
So, 1:1 introduces us to both the author and the readers of this letter. This raises the question of why Peter was motivated to write. What is the occasion for the letter?
As you can see on the handout, 2 issues drove Peter to write. First…
Peter’s death is imminent (1:13–15). Verse 14 refers back to a prophecy that Jesus gave to Peter in John 21:18–19. Jesus told Peter that he would eventually be executed for preaching the gospel. Now Peter is confident that his time was coming soon.
The ancient church historian Eusebius, who is considered very reliable, states that Peter was killed during the brutal persecution of the Emperor Nero. Therefore, assuming that Peter’s prediction is accurate, we can assume that wrote 2 Peter shortly before his execution. Since Nero died in AD 68, this means the latest Peter could have written was AD 68. However, he could have executed Peter a couple of years earlier.
Regardless, Peter knew his time was short; therefore, 1:15 states that Peter wanted to leave a record that these Christians could lean on long after Peter’s death. Of course, we are thankful that Peter wrote this letter and that it has been preserved for us so that we also “always have a reminder of these things.” Just like the original recipients, we need constant reminders of the truth of God and the gospel and of how to respond to the world’s hosility. The second issue is…
False teachers threatened the health of the church. Chapter 2, is especially clear that Peter was very concerned about the influence of false teachers. You can see on your handout that Peter tells us 4 characteristics of these teachers.
They arose from within the church (2:1, 20–22). Peter states that the false teachers had professed salvation and had been a part of the church. However, they have left the faith, and they were headed to damnation.
This is pretty typical. The greatest threats to the church are not outlandish teachings by some obviously evil character. Rather, the most deceptive threats to the church usually come from within, from people who mostly look like us and talk like us. Therefore, we aren’t as critical as we should be. So, Peter gives a stern warning in chapter 2. A 2nd characteristic…
They resisted authority (1:16; 2:10–11; 3:1–2, 15–16). Several times throughout the letter, Peter highlights the rebellious, arrogant spirit of the false teachers (2:10–11). These guys were not meek about their views. Rather, they were very outspoken, nasty, and slanderous.
Again, that’s often how it goes. Some guy is very bold and strong, and there is a strange appeal to how he speaks. Sadly, it’s why some preachers today can build a following by using obscenities. People overlook the obvious lack of spiritual fruit and grace, because they like what they hear. Don’t listen to any teacher, who lives a hypocritical life that is inconsistent with the fruit of the Spirit.
They denied the 2nd coming of Christ and his future judgment of the world (1:16; 2:4–9; 3:3–7). Notice what Peter says in 3:3–4. Doesn’t that sound like people today? It’s classic Uniformitarianism, which is gospel among evolutionists and secularists. They say, the world always has been and always will be governed by the same laws.
And where this becomes spiritually destructive is that they assume they don’t need to fear a future judgment. This thinking naturally breeds the 4th characteristic of the false teachers.
They pushed license and sensuality (2:1–3, 10b–19). Peter gets pretty blunt in 2:12–14, 18–19. He’s not beating around the bush, is he? These guys are evil, and they are a serious threat to the church.
We can’t know for certain all that they were doing, but they clearly had no interest in holiness or obedience. Quite the opposite, v. 18 states, “They allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error.” That indicates that they celebrated perversion, and they pushed it on others.
Specifically, Peter says in 2:18 that they pushed it on genuine believers. I’ll say as a pastor that I imagine that made Peter’s blood boil. If you want to tick off a shepherd, try to destroy the sheep.
In sum, Peter clearly has a low view of these guys, and he sees them as a major threat. Therefore, he responded with this letter in which he drives home 4 major themes.
IV. Major Themes
Authority of the Apostolic Revelation (1:12–21; 3:1–2, 15–16): For as short as this epistle is, it makes some of the most important statements in the Bible about inspiration and significance of Scripture.
Peter’s reason for emphasizing the authority of Scripture is to remind his readers that they need to listen to the Bible, not the false teachers. He also wants them to know what to trust, when they can no longer ask an apostle.
And for us, these statements about Scripture provide an important challenge to make sure that we stay anchored to God’s Word at all times and in all circumstances.
Folks, our culture is always coming up with new philosophies and repackaging old ones. It’s always promising a revolutionary path to happiness and blessing. And the media is great at finding things to terrify you. But aren’t you thankful that we have an eternal, inerrant, fully-sufficient Word from God. I’m excited about how the Lord will push us into the Word in the coming weeks.
Knowledge of Christ through the Gospel (1:1–4; 3:18): It is fascinating and very instructive that as the readers faced the execution of their apostle and the threat of false teachers, Peter drives them to the foundation. Stay in the Scriptures, and second, stay anchored to the gospel. We don’t need all the world’s wisdom and strategies, because Christ is all that we need (1:2–4).
We all have burdens and problems, and we often search frantically for all sorts of solutions. They have their place, but let’s not forget that “His divine power has given to us…” I don’t care what is going on in your life. Your greatest need is always to know Christ more and to walk in the power of the gospel. And if you are not saved, no amount of religion or anything else can replace having a personal relationship with Christ through the gospel. I’m excited about how 2 Peter will push us deeper into this foundation.
Certainty of Christ’s Return and Future Judgment (3:3–15): Peter brings this up, primarily because the false teachers denied the second coming. But the 2nd coming is much more than a theological fact to remember; it is deeply practical.
The only way I will ever rightly process the highs and lows of life or the temptations of the world is if I see it all in light of eternity. 2 Peter is going to push us to keep our eyes up, looking for the soon return of our Savior.
Perseverance through Spiritual Growth (1:5–11; 2:4–10; 3:14–18): Notice how the book ends in 3:17–18. Sometimes in the sports world, it’s said, “The best defense is a good offense.” It’s generally not true in sports. Usually defense wins championships. But it is true in the Christian life.
If you want to be ready to resist the world and the cares of the world, then “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” A growing faith is a healthy faith. Whereas, a stagnant faith is a vulnerable faith, and Peter is going to argue that it may not even be a real faith. Therefore, Peter is going to challenge us to persevere in pursuing godliness. As we do, we will experience grace and joy, and we will be secure not matter what’s happening around us.
These four themes are so important. I can’t guarantee what your circumstances will look like this week, but I can guarantee that if you stay anchored in Scripture, pursue the knowledge of God in the gospel, focus on the return of Christ, and persevere toward godliness, then you can be strong and you can have joy. God has a lot to teach us in 2 Peter.