November 29, 2015.
Daily Reading: II Peter 1-3.
Background: This letter is attributed to Peter as the second letter that he writes to the churches spread throughout Asia Minor (see background to I Peter), though many scholars contest Petrine authorship and would rather place it in the pseudepigrapha. The date, along with the authorship, has been debated, ranging anywhere from AD 60-160, with many scholars placing the letter in the first quarter of the second century. Perhaps what is most well known from II Peter are termed Christian virtues that appear in the first chapter. The epistle combats false teachers of the day who cleverly devise myths typically dealing with the delayed second coming of Christ. The author defends this delay with the Lord’s willingness that more people should come to the truth and be saved.
Concepts and Connections.
1. Confirming your calling: The author opens his letter with a charge to his audience to make their calling and election sure, which came from the Lord Jesus Christ, so that they would become partakers of the divine nature. A practical path is laid out to carry out this confirmation, often referred to as the Christian virtues. It should be noted that the quality of diligence is stressed before and after the list of virtues, in a way becoming a virtue on its own. These virtues are set out as a path to holiness, not merits to earn salvation, but practices to implement to become more like Christ. Each virtue is added first before the next is supplemented on top of the virtue, indicating that it is wise to master one before moving on to the next. Many pages have been dedicated to each of these virtues, and the space here would not adequately do justice to the expositions that have been given each. However, further study and application of each of these virtues in succession would work to align a Christian’s walk to that of Christ, and if ever there were a succinct, practical guide to striving towards holiness, this would be a very good starting place. It will take diligence, but the author assures that if these qualities are put in place, you will never stumble.
2. The prophetic word: After the Christian virtues, the author states the purpose for writing this epistle, that his audience may know these virtues and be established in the truth that they have. He says that he is soon to die, yet is making every effort to preserve his words so that they can look to them after he is gone. He reminds them that the apostles did not follow cleverly devised myths when they were preaching Christ, but rather were eyewitnesses of His majesty. He reminds them of the voice that spoke from heaven at the transfiguration, establishing Jesus as the Son of God (see Matthew 17:5, Mark 9:7 and Luke 9:35). He seems to be preparing the foundation to combat the false teachers in the next chapter by establishing his authority along with the authority and surety of Christ. He says that no prophecy of scripture is produced by man, nor is it subject to anyone’s own interpretation. Rather, it was given and defined by the Holy Spirit. This is the set up that leads into the next chapter.
False teachers: Drawing on Jewish history, the author here compares the false teachers in his time to the false prophets that were amongst the children of Israel. From the beginning of this chapter, false teachers are condemned and spoken of very harshly, as they bring in destructive heresies and lead many astray. Calling on the examples of angles being cast down, the flood (see Genesis 6-8) and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (see Genesis 18-19), he assures his audience that the Lord knows how to preserve the righteous and punish the wicked, and the punishment was certainly coming for the false teachers. He indicates that the motives of these false teachers were greed and indulgence, despising authority. He shows their pride and arrogance, as they are willing to blaspheme those of whom angels would not even pronounce a blasphemous judgment. He continues on to heavily accuse the false teachers, ascribing evil intentions and qualities to them, liking them to Balaam of Beor, who wanted to make money from false prophecy (see Numbers 22-24). He indicates that they have lost their way, and their end is actually worse than their beginning, for it would have been better for them to never have known the way of righteousness than to know and then turn back. Note that this indicates that they were followers of Christ at one time (and probably still believed they were now), but had fallen away. The author quotes Proverbs 26:11 to drive home his point about their foolishness.
The day of the Lord: After first establishing the evil and condemnation of the false teachers, the author then goes on here to state the rebuttal to their teaching, which apparently had to do with the delay of the second coming of Christ. Many early Christians believed that Christ was coming back very soon, within their lifetime, and as time progressed questions grew. It seems that some capitalized on these questions and introduced their own interpretations and myths on scripture. But the author here reminds the people that it had been foretold that there would be scoffers in the last days that ask “where is the promise of His coming?” He also makes it known that the heaves and earth are being reserved for fire until the day of judgment would come to pronounce destruction on the ungodly. Then he explains the delay in the second coming of Christ by attributing it to the Lord’s willingness that none should perish, but all should come to repentance. It was the Lord’s patience and long-suffering that is behind the delay, that the gospel might go to more people. Aside from this, the Lord does not count time as we do, but one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is but a day to Him. We do not know the time of the second coming of Christ, as it will come as a thief in the night (see Matthew 24:43). But we should be ready and waiting for Him, waiting in righteousness to receive the new heavens and the new earth. In closing, the author implores his audience to be diligent to be found without spot or blemish and at peace. He addresses some of the hard words spoked by Paul, saying some twist his words along with the rest of the scriptures (it should be noted that the author puts Paul’s words on the level of scripture by this statement), to their own destruction. This danger is still present today as the scriptures have been twisted to back up so many platforms that are completely un-Christlike. The author writes these words that they might stand form and not waver under false teaching. May we ever grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Deuteronomy 10-12.
Glory to our King.