Second Peter

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?”

CHAPTER 1.
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.

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First Peter

The First Letter of Peter.

1. Who wrote it?
2. To whom was it written?
3. What was the situation of the recipients of the letter?
4. What did the writer hope to achieve by the letter?
The promises in this letter by Peter are only for believers. They do not apply to all men. Jesus certainly did not believe that all would be saved. He spoke more about Hell than anyone else in the Bible. He did not believe that Judas would be saved. Universalism assumes that the promises in the letters are for everyone. A non-believer can approach a believer and ask: “Tell me, how could I receive eternal life also?” That is the purpose of the letter being made public. That is why believers should live their lives as a letter to mankind – in public. Believers are a witness in public.

Peter wrote it in Rome, which he calls Babylon, probably in the early 60s. In ch 5 v 1 Peter says that he was there at the cross and saw Jesus dying there. What an impact on his life! Peter wrote to believers who lived in the Roman provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia. They were all in the northern part of Asia Minor. The readers were undergoing a time of trials and persecution and further trials would follow – the usual trials which believers experience in a pagan and hostile society – loneliness – friends leaving them out – family trying to make them go somewhere else when it is time for worship and Bible study – illness. Many of the believers were Gentile believers and not Jewish, judging by reference to their former way of life. The theme of the letter is how to cope with difficulties and suffering. Peter was writing to encourage them to hold fast to the true way of living and not to give up because of the hostility and difficulties.

CHAPTER 1. Do not be anxious about anything. The same God who said that He is in control of the World. When He is in control, there is nothing to fear. Jesus never experienced fear. Perfect love cats out fear. Believers are members of the family of God, because God took the initiative and adopted them. This was well known in Roman law, when a Roman man would adopt an adult – as against a child in today’s culture. In the World many admit they have no hope of a better World. But God! God can give them hope. Hope in the Bible is not wishful thinking but certainty.
v 4. The same Father who adopted believers has given His children the gift of eternal life. Nothing in the World can compare with the gift of eternal life. Even the poorest is still immeasurably rich in Christ. No one can put a price on eternal life. Jesus asked: “What profits a man to inherit the whole Earth and lose his soul?” A man can take only his integrity to Heaven.
v 5. “God in His mighty power will make sure that you get there. How will I get there?” Jesus promised that where He went His followers would go also. They have no alternative but to trust Him. The same power, which raised Jesus from the dead, will look after them. Get the difficulties into perspective. Believers are guaranteed joy for eternity, though times are difficult in this life.
v 7. Welcome trials and difficulties. Really? Yes! They test faith in God and build character. No one ever grows in character when the going is easy. If difficulties lead to faith, it helps a man to please God. Faith needs a crisis to walk on. No one welcomes a crisis but at the end of the day, if it leads to faith, it is better. Actually a man needs trials, just as a boat needs the water. Although the water resists the movement of the boat, the same water is used by the propeller to move the boat forward. If there was no water – as in a dry dock – the boat could not move forward. Likewise, if a man does not encounter difficulties and trials, he will never grow as a human being. It is in resisting the Devil that a man overcomes him and grows up. God could have destroyed the Devil right at the outset, when he rebelled. It is almost possible to hear God saying: “I think I could use this situation to my advantage. I will leave Satan. I will give him certain power to test my children and I will use him to enable them to grow.” Peter says that the Devil prowls around like a roaring lion. He is not a roaring lion. He only pretends that he is. Resist him and he will flee away. In resisting the temptations, believers will grow as children of God. Therefore welcome trials and difficulties.
v 10. “Work out your salvation.” Those who are alive after the resurrection of Jesus are in a privileged position. The prophets did not fully understand what they were writing about. How privileged are people to be alive today when so many prophecies have been fulfilled or are being fulfilled in this day. A man today can read and enjoy the prophecy of Daniel.
v 11-12. The Old Testament people experienced the overpowering of the Holy Spirit but believers experience the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said: “Abraham saw my day and rejoiced.” But he did not really fully understand it all. Like the prophets all a man can do is to accept what he does understand and trust God for the rest. Believers today are in a more privileged position than the Disciples. Jesus is accessible to all believers 24 hours a day. He neither slumbers nor sleeps. Believers are able to appreciate salvation. The angels do not experience salvation. They have never been saved.
v 13. “Be like your Father.” Believers do not need to keep on sinning.
v 14. In light of these facts, obey the Lord. Do not fall back into the old ways. What does God really want of a man? To be like Jesus. To be holy. Holiness is what God called each man to. “You must be holy because I am holy,” says the Lord. Everything will be brought to judgement. Believers will be judged for everything they do in the body. Their eternal future will be determined by what they do while they are alive in this World. In His judgement God will be absolutely fair. He will also judge believers personally.
v 18. God bought salvation with the blood of Jesus. From the very beginning of time it was the plan of God the Father to send Jesus to be the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the World. Focus on the majesty and purpose of God. There are immense plans in hand for the salvation of the World. Powers and principalities are looking on to see how serious believers are about their salvation.
Of course life is difficult. It was for Jesus. Grow up! Anything worthwhile is difficult.
v 21. If God loved a man while he was His enemy, surely believers can do good to those who are making life difficult for them? “You never so much touch the ocean of God’s love, when you love your enemies.”
v 23. The new spiritual life was not because a man was born of natural parents but because the Holy Spirit came upon him. Some things are worth doing if a man is to live for 70 years. Other things are worthwhile if a man is going to live forever. Funerals are sad events. They should not be, if a man believes the Word of God. Death is the moment when a believer steps out of time into the very presence of God. Those who remain will miss the person, but God has taken the believer away to be with Him forever. That is a moment for real joy. Scripture says so. In every circumstance, rejoice.

CHAPTER 2. There is a time for God to chastise a man, to challenge a man and to encourage a man. This letter was written to encourage men.
v 1. Do not just pretend to be good. Peter says: “Stop talking about others behind their backs.” Put an end to gossip! It is a major sin. Start thinking of good things to say for a change. The people about whom believers are gossiping about might just be their brothers in Christ one day.
v 2. Are believers growing strong in the Lord? If not, why not? Are they satisfied with what they have received? There is a natural spiritual hunger to know God better.
v 5. God is relying on believers. They have become living building stones. Peter is using a figure of speech to make a spiritual point. A builder does not want bricks or stones, which will crumble under pressure. Peter uses the same metaphor to explain that those, who are trying to get to Heaven without Jesus, keep stumbling over His name. The truth of 1 Tim ch 3 v 5 can be seen – it is a form of religion, without power. It is very sincere – even devout, but there is no power.
v 9. But believers should not be like that. “You were once nothing, but now you have been adopted into the very family of God, sealed by the Holy Spirit.” A mark can be rubbed but a seal cannot be broken. The justification of a believer – being put right with God is absolute. It is God who does it and He has promised that He will never leave His children or forsake them. That is His decision and His promise.
v 11. When Jesus was born on planet Earth, it was as if He had landed behind enemy lines and set about recruiting others to join Him in the fight against the Devil. It is like a resistance movement.
Keep away from the evil pleasures of the World. There is no need to live a life in seclusion in a monastery. A ship is no good, if it is not in the water. The thing to avoid is having water in the ship. Peter is talking about Worldliness. The World is mankind organised in community without reference to God. Avoid the World. It does not mean not eating with the people in the World or working beside them. It may mean to avoid watching the films they are watching or being bound with them in a joint venture.
v 12. A believer should watch how he behaves. The people of the World are watching to see if he lives as he talks. He may be the only Bible they will ever read. That was what distinguished Jesus from every other religious leader. He practiced what He preached. Obey the laws passed by the Government. Peter said in Acts ch 5 v 29. “We must obey God rather than men.” Even when there may be no human being watching, remember Ephesians ch 3 v 10. The powers of Heaven can see what a believer is doing in honour of God.
v 15. A believer should be careful not to give the people around him any ground for criticism of his behaviour. God’s power is shown in self-denial, concern for the disadvantaged and doing good to the enemies. A believer should live as if God is watching everything he does and in the knowledge that he must give account at the end of his life for every careless word spoken. That gives a cutting edge to every day living. Like a soldier on guard, a believer must not drop his guard or the enemy is in there on the attack.
v 18. A believer is not a slave, but he may be an employee. He should respect his boss and give a full day’s work for a full day’s pay. Jesus used the illustration of the extra mile. It does not really cost a believer.
v 19. A believer should praise the Lord, if he is punished for doing right! Praise the Lord? Perhaps there is a little cheating going on and by standing out it will lose the firm some business. He may be punished for it by losing wages. By cutting the corners he could do the job in less time and make more money. Is a policy in the best interests of the customers or is it sold because of the commission? What profits a man to gain the whole World and lose his soul? It is all being recorded in the Books in Heaven. Only live fish swim upstream. It is easier to swim downstream with the World. Salt brings out the full flavour and keeps society from going rotten.
v 21. Such suffering is all part of the work God has given a believer to do. What would Jesus have done in this situation? Then do likewise. Believers can be finished with sin. It is not easy but with the power of the Holy Spirit it is possible. A man chooses to sin. He does not have to sin.

Peter finishes with a word of encouragement. Believers are like sheep – prone to wander. There is a promise that if they return to the Shepherd, He will guard their souls and keep them from attack. It may be hard, especially during times of trial or difficulty, but the alternative is that believers forfeit the protection of Jesus.

CHAPTER 4.
Holiness is a serious business and involves a fight to the death. It was hard for Jesus. Should it be any easier for believers?
v 5. When friends laugh at a believer remember that one day they will face Jesus as their judge.
v 10. Use the abilities God has given. Responsibility is a man’s response to his ability.
v 8. Love covers up many faults. When people care for each other they do not focus on the faults.
v 17. If believers will be judged, what terrible punishment awaits the ungodly? Hell is frightening.

CHAPTER 5.
Peter’s presence at the crucifixion must have made a deep impression on him. Humility should be the mark of a believer.
v 7. It is a sin to worry. It denies that the Lord is able to deal with the problem.
v 8. Satan is only like a roaring lion but has no teeth. Stand firm when he attacks. A believer should recognise that many others are facing far worse than they are. The letter was written to encourage believers. The reference to Babylon is Rome. Babylon stood for everything opposed to God’s ways. Many of those to whom the letter was read would soon hear the sound of the feet of soldiers marching towards their home.