A word from the pastor…
My childhood pastor had a warm and caring personality. When you were in his presence you wanted to hear every word because you felt like the words were coming straight from the Holy Spirit. Well, the letters of Peter are in a similar vein. He gives steady encouragement by calling believers to endure in righteous conduct. Yet, the book is almost innocent in character. Peter wrote from such humility and wisdom. It is one of the easiest books of the New Testament to read (maybe because it is from a fisherman), and it’s very practical.
For example, look at the beginning of the II Peter. Peter gives some specific steps to growing in the faith (1:5-9), “Add to your faith goodness.” In other words, your faith should not be merely intellectual, but it must also be ready to be obedient. It’s like James said, “Faith without works is dead.” So, the way to strengthen your faith is to add goodness. Then, “add to your goodness, knowledge.” In Timothy, Paul called us to persevere in doctrine (I Timothy 4:16) and we are likewise challenged here in II Peter. Nothing is as stabilizing and motivating as a growing grasp of the mind of God.
However, simple knowledge may make one proud of the information (I Corinthians 8:1-3), and would discontinue the transforming process. So Peter says, “add to knowledge, self-control, perseverance and godliness.” These elements discipline over the long haul and make sure that it’s not just a good effort of the will, but instead God-centered and honoring Christ in our attitude. Before the list began, it was made clear we are called to “make every effort” to pursue these seven steps because, “God has given us everything we need for life” and so it is to His honor.
Whoops, I left out the last two: “and to brotherly kindness, add love.” If the first five focus on my relationship with Christ specifically, then the last two show how it affects my relationship with others. It would not be a good thing to have all these godly characteristics and then to be self righteous about it. If we became very rigid in our views, or unforgiving like the religious Pharisees of Jesus’ time, that wouldn’t be very good either. Instead, we are to mirror the Master himself and grow in kindness and love for others. Overall this is developing a Christ-like character, which we are called to do. Romans 8:29 says; “For those who God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his son.”
Tips for Reading - (Application tip # 4)
Note: This section is help for Bible Reading in general. It has been building throughout the year under the topics of Observation (what the Scripture says), Interpretation (what it means) and Application (what it means to your life). Feel free to look back over past weeks to get the whole picture.
Because we are called to live a godly life as believers, our next question is very applicable to living that kind of life. The next question in the area of application is this, “Is there a command to obey?” The Bible is filled with clear-cut commands that we are supposed to live out. Last week’s reading in James had 54 commands within five Chapters alone. We come to a list of commands at the beginning of Peter’s books this week. It starts with, “Prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled, set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” And the passage concludes with, “Be holy, because I am holy (I Peter 1:13-16).” These four verses could keep you busy for the rest of your life, but it could be easy to miss if you aren’t asking the application question at the beginning.
One godly saint was asked how to determine the will of God, which of course we would all love to know. She said, “Ninety-five percent of the will of God is revealed in the command of Scripture. If you spend your time attending to those, you won’t have much trouble working out the other five percent.” Well said.
Notes from David’s Journal
The key to understanding and appreciating I & II Peter is to know the context in which the two letters were written. They are not written to a specific church, but more generally to churches throughout the Roman Empire. Extreme persecution has broken out. Many Christians are being persecuted because they refuse to say that Caesar is Lord, but only Jesus is Lord. Therefore, Peter writes these two letters to encourage persecuted Christians who are remaining faithful to Christ amidst the extreme persecution.
Understanding this context will allow you to see why some of Peter's verses would comfort Christians then. In I Peter 2:9, he reminds them that they are a special, holy, set apart priesthood (thus the Biblical doctrine of the priesthood of all believers). Also, in I Peter 5 he writes about casting all our cares upon God because He cares for us, and compares Satan to a roaring lion prowling around, seeking to devour and destroy whomever. Now that you know the context of Christian persecution, these passages seem to make more sense.
II Peter reminds us that all the world will one day be burned. As the world was once destroyed by a universal flood, with God using Noah as His redemptive instrument, it will never be done that way again. Indeed, when the Second Coming occurs, everything in this world will be burned by fire. Is this a nuclear holocaust? A meteor? No one really knows. But it puts into perspective all our materialism, doesn't it? We all should put a tag on everything we own that reads, "One day it will burn." We should all store up for ourselves eternal treasures, that which will last forever, that which will never burn.
I praise God America has never experienced the kind of persecution the early church underwent. Two final thoughts though: first, much of our contemporary Christian world still is! That's why Christians undergoing suffering today love I & II Peter. Second, persecution isn't necessarily bad for the church. Indeed, it burns off the dross of quasi-committed people and allows those who really believe to shine their lights into the world's darkness more effectively. Maybe a little persecution for the American Church wouldn't be too bad!