Lesson Three – Following Peter’s Train of Thought in His Second Letter

Following Peter’s Train of Thought in His Second Letter

Introduction

The aim of this lesson is to follow Peter’s structure of the body of his second letter.  He used the standard form for writing letters in the first century in the Roman Empire.  Peter’s introduction of himself, the identification of the recipients, the grace and peace statement and his prayer were discussed in Lesson Two.  The hypothesis of the writer of this series of lessons is that Peter wrote I Peter and the first chapter of II Peter to prepare the church for the infiltration of false teachers and agnostic scoffers in the world.  Please read II Peter, chapters two and three.  We will follow his thoughts through the body of the letter with this hypothesis in mind.

Lesson

II Pet. 1:3, 4.  The thought in this block of scripture may have been the spiritual level on which Peter wanted the recipients to be thinking after reading his first letter.  Satan’s forces would be invading the churches after he died.  Peter wrote to prepare the members of the church, individually, to escape the danger of evil people who would claim to be Christians.  These people plus the members’ tendency to lust weighed heavy on Peter’s heart (Jas. 1:13-15).  They could escape; but only if they would “participate in the divine nature” of Deity.  This was his way of saying what Paul said: “Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”  Rom. 13:14.

He began his first letter by refreshing the recipients’ minds about their “new birth into a living hope.”  I Pet. 1:3.  The “living hope” includes a way for Christians to have satisfaction for our higher needs beyond the grave.  Peter knew the church members needed to know who they were and how their innate needs for “praise, glory and honor” would be satisfied when Jesus returned (I Pet. 1:7; 2:9, 10).  This living hope would motivate them, and present day Christians, to become sharers of divine nature.  Christians with a divine nature would know God (John 17:3).  Jesus will know them on Judgment Day (Matt. 7:21-23).  Christians who have the divine nature of God as an integrating goal have a “living hope” to “receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”  II Pet. 1:11.  In fact, we hope to inherit God’s kingdom and eternal life.

1:5-7.  “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith … .”  Their faith was the starting point for their salvation, so this is where Peter started to “stimulate them to wholesome thinking.”  II Pet. 3:1.  We will need to check the status of our faith in relation to all Peter proclaimed in his first letter plus the foregoing to appreciate what he said to them.  Faith is not our goal.  Faith is our belief that both trusts and dedicates our service to God.  We have faith in His promises as well as His power to do what he promised (Rom. 4:19-21).  Our goal is to have and participate in “divine nature.”  This is the essence of being in the family of God (Heb. 2:11).

Our faith is this; “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness.”  II Pet. 1:3.  This has been made known to us through our “knowledge of Him.”  He called us by His own glory and goodness.  Through this call we received and accepted, “great and precious promises.”  This is our faith.  In the first letter Peter introduced a Christian’s inheritance as the ultimate promise of these precious promises (I Pet. 1:4).  Christians’ inheritance is our “door of faith” that transcends our physical death.  It serves us as the goal of “the salvation of our souls.”  I Pet. 1:9.  The hope of our inheritance of eternal life in the kingdom of God integrates all of our capacities to serve our spirits to attain this goal.  The capacities God has provided for our spirits are our minds, hearts, consciences and bodies.  When they function in harmony for our souls’ salvation we will have the fulfillment of our hope.  Our hope is for the satisfaction of our higher needs of our spirits (Matt. 6:25; Rom. 8:23-25).

Peter encouraged the recipients to add to their “spiritual faith view of life” the following healthy attributes.  Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words is the source for the definition of the Greek words translated into English in the NIV Bible.

  • Divine –  theios, an adjective (from theos, God).  Used here, “of the power of God.”  Theion is used as a noun for “the Godhead” in Acts 17:29.
  • Life – zoe, not psuche.  See John 10:10, 11.  “I have come that you might have life (zoe).”  V10.  “The good shepherd lays down His life (psuche).”  V. 11.  Jesus laid down His physical life so that believers can have spiritual life.
  • Godliness –   eusebeia, two words eu, well, sebomai, to be devout.  Christians are aware of God’s presence and we do what is pleasing to Him.  See II Pet. I:3, 6.
  • Full knowledge – epignosis, full discernment, acknowledgement.
  • Glory – doxa, (from dokeo – to seem).  It primarily signifies an opinion, estimate, thus the honor resulting from a good opinion.  Glory may be received when a person achieves a goal and is accepted by others in this achievement.  By observing young children we see this happen for them.  Their need for glory is an innate need, as well as their need to achieve something.  People also have a need for social acceptance; therefore, when parents and others applaud a child in his or her achievement, it satisfies their need for social acceptance and their need for glory.
  • Goodness, NIV Virtue, KJVarête, manliness (valor), excellence, intrinsic eminence, moral goodness.  See II Pet. 1:3, 5.
  • Self-control, NIV, temperance, KJV – egkrateia, control of self continually.
  • Perseverance, hupomone, patient continuance (waiting).
  • Brotherly kindness, philadelphia, fraternal affection.  A responsive love as in fellowship.
  • Love, agape.  The quality of love that does not require an external response.  See Rom. 5:5. 

1:8, 9.  This is the topic James explained in Jas. 1:22-25; 2:14-19.  Peter has pointed out the connection between what a person does and his or her faith.  Our faith is manifested in our effectiveness and productivity (Jas. 2:18).  Christians’ effective and productive deeds please God.  These deeds will be discussed on Judgment Day (I Pet. 4:17; Rom. 2:6-11; II Cor. 5:10; Heb. 6:7, 8).

1:10, 11.  “Calling (klesis) and election (ekloge).”  God calls people from Satan’s kingdom “by His own glory and goodness.”  II Pet. 1:3.  God chooses those who have faith that produces repentance to wash, sanctify and justify (I Cor. 6:11).  He has “picked out Christians” from people in the world.  He chooses those who decide to have faith in His glory as an adequate fulfillment of their need for glory.  His moral goodness is glorious.  He will choose them to share in His glory and virtue.  Christians are the “elect of God” because we have faith in God’s glory and goodness.  If we continue to add to our faith the attributes in verses 5-7, we have the promise of a rich welcome “into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” II Pet. 1:11.  Christians were transferred to God’s kingdom “in Christ,” where Jesus has been given the rule.  This happened in our new birth; however, we have not yet inherited the eternalness of this kingdom.

1:12-15. Peter appears to have finished the discourse he started in the first letter.  His aim was to prepare the recipients for “whatever the devil might throw at them in their future life on earth.”  He added an emotional spark to his exhortation by announcing his own “putting aside the tent of this body.”  He announced his physical death in a “matter of fact” way.  Note how the phrase “I will always remind you of these things” relates to chapter three, verses one and two.  This was the main purpose for the letters.  He was not writing to address problems they may have had at the time of his writing.  It was to prepare them for their future challenges from evil teachers and atheistic people.

1:16-18.  This “eye witness story” may have been inserted to add weight to Peter’s exhortation and warning.  See Luke 9:28-36.

1:19-21.  The word of the prophets had been fulfilled in the lifetime of Peter.  Jesus had suffered and the glories had followed (I Pet. 1:11).  The recipients would also suffer “for a little while” before their full glory would follow (II Cor. 1:3-7).  The prophets and Jesus were dedicated to the will of God, not their own, “as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

We are now ready to hear Peter foretell what he was inspired to write by the Holy Spirit:  Satan, the antagonist, would thrust greedy false teachers upon the church.  Evidently it had not happened to the recipients of his letters but they were coming.  The devil had already devoured some recipients of Jude’s letter.  God’s people have now patiently endured nearly two centuries of what Peter prophesied in the last two chapters.

2:1-3.  False teachers, story tellers and greedy people were on their way.  God had already planned their condemnation.

2:4-12.  God is not the author of “once in grace always in grace.”  Some Christians may go to hell.  Peter and Jude offered the same proof; sinful angels, the people who died in the flood and Sodom and Gomorrah.  Peter’s point:  People and even angels who were privileged to have fellowship with God lost His protection and fellowship when they lost faith in His will for them.  “This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desires of the sinful nature and despise authority.”  II Pet. 2:10.

2:13-16.  Even though these sinners love the wages of wickedness, like Balaam, they still want to feast with the church.  We can understand why greedy people desire to convince the church they should give them money, but why do atheists feel a need to blaspheme Christians?

2:17-19.  Even though they may promise “freedom” they themselves are “slaves of depravity – for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.”  Jesus had taught Peter and the others this truth about the power of sin (John 8:34).

2:20-22.  The ugliest scenario on earth: A Christian who becomes “again entangled in it (the corruption of the world) and overcome, they are worse off in the end than they were in the beginning.”

3:1, 2. Peter declared why he wrote the two letters.  Note his use of the greeting, “beloved” for the third time.  He used it two more times in closing.  It is the same greeting he used when he began to exhort the church about living before the pagans as the elect (I Pet. 2:11).  He had then led the readers through several different situations in which they needed to be prepared to submit according to God’s will (I Pet. 2:13-4:11).  Peter used this loving friendly greeting to begin his dissertation on suffering as Christians (I Pet. 4:12).  He may have used “beloved” to say to the recipients that this thing is not going to be easy; however, it will be good for you if you submit.  Glory will follow.

3:3-13.  Eschatology:  This is the subject Peter introduced early in his first letter.  Eschatos means last, the farthest.  It is about the end of the world, or the last things; things such as the second coming of Jesus, resurrection, Judgment Day and the new age.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus is revealed.  I Pet. 1:6, 7

Peter included three entities in the foregoing thought:  Legitimate suffering, the human innate need for praise, glory and honor and the apokalupsis (the future revealing of Jesus).  They are key factors in a Christian’s life.  There are many other entities Peter factored into his letters of equal importance; however, these must be taught in the presentation of the gospel for “fallen man.”  Human suffering and the need for Jesus Christ became necessary after Adam and Eve broke covenant.  The innate needs for praise, glory and honor were created in Adam and Eve before their fall.  Because they fell; “God has bound all men over to disobedience so that He may have mercy on them all.”  Rom. 11:32.  Jesus came to help us have satisfaction for our inherent needs (Matt. 6:33).  Jesus will come again to satisfy faithful Christians’ hope of our higher needs, glory, honor and peace (Rom. 2:10).

Agnostics will surely appear but so will Jesus.  They will make their analysis based on human rationale; however, God works with a different set of tools unknown in human wisdom.

3:14-16.  Christians “are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness;” therefore, we “make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with Him.”  The patience of the Lord provided time throughout the ages for the salvation of mankind.  We are now in the last days.  Jesus has not come yet, but He will: “That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.”  II Pet. 3:12.  This is the finish of Peter’s summary thoughts in the body of his last letter to the “elect” before he died.

3:17, 18.  The close.  Item six of the form. 

Questions for Discussion

1.  What will be the value of having “divine nature” when we meet Jesus on Judgment Day?

2.  How does having “divine glory” as a description of who Christians are “give us everything we need for life and godliness?”

3.  Peter started with Christians’ faith and carried us through a series of growth experiences in II Pet. 1:5-7.  According Peter; how was the faith of a participant of this experience revealed in his or her behavior?  Identify the “safety net” Peter assured them about their “present and future walk as Jesus walked.”  I John 2:6.  Where would their walk with Jesus lead them?  Why might Peter’s first letter and through 1:11 of his second letter have been his concluding effort to prepare the recipients for what he would present in chapters two and three?

4.  How might the personal historical information Peter revealed in II Pet. 1:12-21 function to support his purpose for both letters?

5.  What did Peter think motivated the false teachers?

6.  How do atheists come to their conclusion about the end story of mankind?

7.  Describe the eschatological scene Peter described for faithful Christians?  (Escha is the Greek word for last.)

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