Thursday, March 06, 2014

Bible Briefs: 2 Peter

Series Introduction: Bible Briefs are a short introduction and summary of the overview of a book of the Bible, with a view to helping people take up their Bible and knowing what it's about.

Have you ever wondered what it was like when the first generation of Christians began to die out? The first disciples had walked and talked with the Lord Jesus. But they were beginning to die, mostly by martyrdom. The next generation hadn’t met Jesus during the days of his life on earth; they depended on the apostles’ teaching. So what do you do when the apostles are dying?

It’s this very circumstance that prompts Peter’s second letter. He knows that his own death is imminent (1:14), so he writes to the Christians who will come after him. What can they depend on? What should they hold on to? Peter’s resounding and repeated answer is to hold on to God’s word as the means to growth in the ‘grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.’ (3:18)

God has granted us ‘his precious and very great promises’ (1:4) which assure us of sins forgiven, our entrance into the eternal kingdom, and spur us on in the path of sanctification - adding to our faith virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection and love. (1:5-7).

Peter is making sure that these promises are recorded and remembered after he has put off his body (presumably through Mark’s Gospel), because Peter was an eye-witness and an ear-witness of the events of the Transfiguration: ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’ (1:17) Yet we have something more sure - the prophetic word, spoken by men carried along by the Spirit (1:19-21).

Just as in the Old Testament there were false prophets alongside the true, so the ongoing life of the church will have false teachers exploiting and corrupting. But don’t worry - Peter reminds his readers of how in the Old Testament God was able to rescue his people while punishing the unrighteous - Noah and Lot as prime examples. (2:4-10)

Holding to God’s word (by remembering the predictions of the prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Saviour 3:2) through the apostles will help us answer the scoffers who ask what has happened to the promised return of Jesus. (3:4) God made the world by a word, the same word that now reserves the heavens and earth for judgement and destruction. But we shouldn’t be fooled into thinking that God is slow to fulfill his promise - that supposed slowness is actually patience, in giving opportunity for repentance, but the day of the Lord will come, suddenly, unexpectedly.

Even as the earth is destroyed by fire, we have the promise of new heavens and new earth - where righteousness dwells. Holding on to this promise spurs us on to be ready for the new world - just as Paul in writing the scriptures has urged us.

From start to finish and beyond, God’s precious and very great promises give us everything we need for life and godliness - forgiveness, hope, clarity, witness to the person and work of Jesus, safety in the midst of false teaching, and the certainty of our eternal future with Christ. It’s all in God’s word, written for us, so keep reading, and keep going. and growing.

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