Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Sermon Workshop: 2 Peter 3: 8 - 10

Have you ever noticed that time seems to be relative? A minute can seem fast or slow depending on whether you're on a rollercoaster or in a dentist's chair. When waiting is involved, time seems to go very slowly. Just think of the time spent waiting for the wife (or husband) to get ready for a night out, or that age-old question: 'Are we there yet?'

As we look at these verses, their context is the scoffers' question in 3:4 'Where is the promise of his coming?' Peter has already dealt with the false assertion that life has always carried on as it always has - as he points to the judgement in the flood (3:5-6). Here, Peter answers the scoffers through reference to 'the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Saviour through your apostles' (3:2). His words remind his readers that Jesus is coming, the timing of which displays God's character and brings comfort to the believer.

1. The Lord's timing is not slow, but displays his patience (8-9)

The scoffers reckoned the Lord to be slow according to their timescale - and this within 40 years of the resurrection, but Peter points us to the promise and perspective of the Lord's timescale. He quotes Psalm 90:4, the Psalm of Moses, where a thousand years with the Lord are like a day. God's perspective is different to ours - he is outside of time and sees the whole of time from the start to the end.

Some may think that the Lord is slow, but he is rather being patient - the time delay allows for repentance, as we find in the 'Today, if you hear his voice in Psalm 95 / Hebrews 4. We see God's patience for repentance in the way he treats Adam and Eve - the sin was not punished immediately - instead there is space for grace to bring repentance.

The Lord's timing is perfect, for all to reach repentance. But what does this mean? Is Peter a universalist? Will absolutely everyone be saved? It can't be what he means - let's remember to read the letter as a whole, a text within a context. 3:7 speaks of the day of judgement and destruction of the ungodly - therefore some will be destroyed - this isn't an empty promise as some of my college lecturers would have argued. Also, 1:10 speaks of making your calling and election sure - so Peter must here be speaking of 'all' who will be saved, God's elect, chosen people.

So if you do not know God, if you have not repented, then there is the offer for repentance now. Today is the day of salvation, now is the acceptable time. God's patience is for your salvation. For believers, this is also a call to evangelism, taking God at his word and offering this opportunity to repent. Truly, it is a life or death situation.

2. The Lord's return is certain, but will be unexpected (10)

Peter is now quoting Jesus: the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The return of Jesus is absolutely certain - it is the Lord's promise, but when he comes, it will still be a surprise, unexpected.

Like a full time whistle being blown, the scenery of the heavens and the heavenly bodies being burned up, and the earth and its works exposed. Just recently, I was involved in a Ready Steady Cook event, and when the time was up, we had to present our work to be judged. In the same way, the judgement is certain at the end.

Just yesterday, I was exploring a graveyard, and came across a grave with this inscription: 'This grave never to be opened.' But this is not what Peter is saying here. The Lord will return, everything will be exposed, the grave will be opened, and Jane Archer of Downpatrick will stand before the Lord, either for vindication or condemnation.

The Lord's promise and the judgement leads to vindication for the believers, because having believed the promises and been found righteous (1:1), they will receive the abundant welcome (1:11). It also leads to comfort for the believers, because the wicked and the false teachers will be fully and finally exposed for who they are and what they did.

The fullest application of the passage comes in verse 11 - the appeal to live lives of holiness and godliness in the light of the destruction of all material things. Yet even within our three verses, there are some specific ways we can apply this passage:

1. Do we truly believe the Lord's promised return? This especially since we are so much further down the track than Peter and his contemporaries.

2. Are we ready for the Day of the Lord?

3. Thank God for his patience in bringing us to salvation.

This mini-talk / sermon outline was presented at the NIMA Preaching Conference workshop on 2 Peter on Wednesday 27th January 2010. The feedback was generally positive, although according to Trev Johnston I need to 'roar' more in the appropriate places to convey the text and the sense of what it means.

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