THE SECOND LETTER OF PETER.
Four things about a letter.
1. Who wrote it? Peter.
2. To whom was it written? To believers in general.
3. What was the reason for His writing the letter? The first letter had been written to encourage believers who were encountering trials and difficulties. The second letter was written at a later date, when errors were creeping in. New believers bring to the Church their pagan ideas. This letter was written to warn the believers about false teachers and their corrupt and corrupting doctrines. In particular Peter was writing against the teaching of the Gnostics. Peter mentions darkness and the lamp of truth. It is helpful for all believers at all times to hold to the truth like a lamp on the narrow path to life. It is essential to test whatever the speaker says against the Scriptures and to be bold to challenge any false teaching. The whole history of the Church is a tale of error and division. Paul warns of doctrines of demons. It is one of the enemy’s cleverest lines of attack – to twist the teaching ever so slightly to lead a man into error and confusion. One of the consequences of false teaching is to encourage immorality or un-holiness. It appeals to the fallen nature of man and tolerates less demanding standards of moral behaviour. The narrow path to life calls for holy living. It is hard and conflicts with a man’s fallen nature. It is hard work to be good. It is the responsibility of believers as servants of the Lord to find out what the Lord wants them to do. Success in this life is doing the will of God and that means that each believer has to find out first what the will of the Lord is for his life. Peter himself was used by the enemy to try to deflect Jesus in His purpose of going to Jerusalem. Mat ch 16 v 22-23. Peter was given a task by the Lord Jesus. John ch 21 v 15. “Feed my sheep. Do you love me more than these?”
v 1. What kind of faith is Peter talking about? Faith is a personal relationship with its object. For believers it is a relationship with the Lord Jesus. The religious man may know about God. The true believer knows God personally. In the parable of the talents in Mat ch 25, Jesus concluded: “You never knew me.” Mat ch 7 v 21-13. “Lord, we did this in your name. Depart from me I never knew you.”
v 3. God gives the power to live a righteous life. Mat ch 22 v 29. “You do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.”
v 5-7. Peter lists the steps in the process of working out salvation. There is no quick answer. Believe in Jesus – add goodness – then knowledge by studying the Scriptures – then self-control – then the ability to say “No” to the fallen self-nature – then endurance – hang on in there when the going is tough – then patience – it takes time to let God work out His purposes. Be patient.
v 6. Part of the process is dying to self – this is a painful process. God needs people who will serve Him.
v 10. God does not want any to fall away but He gives a man free choice in the matter. The wise leader will ensure that these matters are brought up from time to time to avoid fall out.
v 17. It is helpful to remember the high points in life – miracles – healing – a special word from the Lord – a blessing – special scriptures. Peter remembers the Mount of Transfiguration. He had his own disappointments but recalled the good times and got back onto the narrow path.
v 19. Peter describes the words of the prophets like a lamp shining in a dark place on the narrow path when the situation is dark and the way ahead is not clear.
CHAPTERS 2 and 3.
Peter begins the main purpose of his letter – false prophets and the importance of true teaching. Maybe teaching is not a popular subject. God wants to reveal Himself to a man so that the man may have a relationship with Him. To do this He has chosen to teach a man about Himself. Faith in Jesus has, as one of its ingredients, knowledge. It is vital that, if a man is to put his trust in Jesus, he has to know about Him – who He is – what He has done – what He is doing right now – and what He will do in the future. There was of course no break in the original letter.
v 4. There is no way back for the fallen angels. They are called demons. There is also no way back for the people of Noah’s day. How badly does a man want to be righteous?
v 10. God hates proud men. People scoff at the glories of the unseen World.
v 12. False teachers. Many teachers in the Church make fun of the idea of demons. It is ignorance for a man to mock what he does not understand. Peter advises believers to keep away from false teachers.
v 13. There is a notion of judgement according to the degree of suffering, which the false prophets have caused. The greater the sin, the greater will be the suffering in Hell. They will join the demons in the lake of fire.
v 15. False teachers have left the straight path. It is a narrow path. Test everything against the Scriptures.
v 19. Whatever is a false god enslaves a person. It might be food, entertainment, possessions or family. Anything, which takes first place in a man’s life to the exclusion of God, is an idol – even his family.
However, when believers go back into sinful ways, the Scriptures teach that there may come a time when they cannot be called again to repentance.
There were plenty false teachers in Peter’s day.
There were the Gnostics, who added to the Bible and taught that a person was saved by secret knowledge. Paul refers to that in Colossians. It was more of a philosophy than a religion, springing from pride. The Gnostics put their faith in themselves and their ability to understand all things. They added to the message of the Gospel.
The Marcionists taught that celibacy was essential for a man to have a knowledge of God. They took away from the message of the Gospel.
The Montanists added that salvation was by works.
The Docetists. They denied the divinity of Jesus and said that He was truly human but that the Spirit came upon Jesus at His baptism and left at the crucifixion.
Arianism taught that Jesus was only like God but not co-eternal and not divine.
The Nicoliatans are referred to in Revelation ch 2 v 6. They taught that it was all right to go to worship with pagans, provided the pagans agreed to come to worship Jesus with them. One rotten apple in a barrel will in time ruin all the good apples. But if one good apple is put in a barrel of rotten apples, the good one will not make the rotten ones good. It will itself become rotten. Compromise is dangerous.
There were plenty of others who taught different aspects of the truth.
What are the major teachings today, which lead a man to have a false conception of God?
1. God is finished with the Jews. They rejected the Messiah and so He rejected them. This is known as Replacement Theology.
2. Ecumenism. They teach that there are many roads to God.
3. New Age teaching is the ancient lie from Satan. “You shall be as gods.”
4. Reincarnation. A man can have a second chance in life and perhaps next time he will become a better person. There is no urgency to be holy right now. That undermines the statement and teaching of Jesus that it is appointed for a man to die once and then the judgement. There is urgency throughout Scripture. Today is the day of salvation. “Do it today,” says God. “Leave it until tomorrow,” says Satan.
4. The Secret Rapture. It works against long term planning in life. It is true that a man may die at any moment and enter eternity but he cannot live on that basis all the time. It is correct to welcome the trials in life because they are a learning process. If a man is taught that he will not have to face the tribulation, then there is no need to plan to face it. Then he will not be ready, when it comes and he will be swept aside.
Peter returns to the theme of his letter – the Second Coming of Jesus. When this matter is raised, scoffers say: “We have heard this all before. Things are no different to what they have always been.” Are they just the same? There are facts, which are new to civilisation today and which have not been present in pervious centuries. Peter had an opportunity of discussing the end of the Earth face to face with Jesus. He is sure that it will not be a flood but will come about as a result of fire. Did Jesus tell him that? God is not slow to act but is giving man time to sort out the mess on Earth. He does not want any man to perish but wants all men to repent.
How will the Earth end? It will be a cataclysmic event, transcending all events in space hitherto. Peter says that it will come like a thief in the night but Paul reminds believers that they should have a good idea what to expect. Jesus gave a timetable of events preceding the end of the World. Mat ch 24 v 36. These will herald in a time of tribulation, such as the World has never known. In Noah’s days the people were warned for a long time – 120 years but scoffed at the idea and the Word of God. As a result they were not ready and were swept away. God expects His children to pay attention to the teaching of the Scriptures and to be ready. The time of tribulation could arise in various ways. A major earthquake affecting Tokyo could cause a crash of World stock markets. Global warming could bring about a rise in sea levels affecting most of the major cities in the World. A nuclear device set off in the atmosphere could wipe out electrical systems throughout America or Europe. The enemy would love to achieve such a thing. But God is in control.
Ch 3 v 16. Peter gives a word of wisdom. There are some things in Scripture, which are hard to understand. 2 Sam ch 1 v 16. David told the Amalekite who killed Saul: “You have brought this on yourself. You have confessed to killing the Lord’s anointed.” God has not told man everything. However he has told man all he needs to know about salvation and how to be like Jesus. Let the World debate the mysteries with their theories and ideas. It is a mistake to be drawn into debate when there is no clear answer. The return of Jesus is the greatest certainty in the World. That is the central issue, which faces mankind.
Peter’s central message is: “Be on guard against false teachers and continue to grow in grace and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus.” This is a fitting testimony to the big man. He lived life to the full. Jesus asked a lot of him, as He does of each believer. Peter made his mistakes and fell from time to time. He finished his life by leaving mankind part of the Scriptures. His witness is an encouragement to all believers.