Peter’s Second Letter

Discovery for Teachers

Peter’s Second Letter

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK

SOURCE FOR QUESTIONS
2 Peter 1:1 through 3:18

KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

BACKGROUND

Whereas the epistle of 1 Peter defined the true grace of God as the ability for Christians to stand in the face of intense suffering and persecution, 2 Peter addressed the distinction between true and false teachers. The words of 1 Peter were designed to encourage and strengthen the brethren. The words of 2 Peter were designed to help them stand in the face of the false teachers who had emerged. In 2 Peter 3:1-2, we find the purpose of the epistle: “This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: that ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour.”

These early believers had been converted as the result of true teaching, and they understood the words of the Lord Jesus and the prophets. With this letter, Peter encouraged them to hold to those truths. At the same time, he reminded them to be alert to false teachers, including “false prophets . . . who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction” (2 Peter 2:1).

The style of the letter is that of a “testament” or farewell discourse. Peter’s impending death, which he alluded to in verse 14 of chapter 1, set the backdrop for such a testament to be written. This form of address was well known in Old Testament and early Christian writing traditions. It gave opportunity for a great leader to summarize his teachings, instruct his followers, and make warnings concerning the future. These words often carried special weight because of their nearness to the final passing of the leader.

It appears that with the passing of the first generation of disciples, questions began to arise concerning the Lord’s promised return. Peter’s letter responded to these questions, mounting a defense of the apostolic expectation of coming judgment and final salvation. The letter also used the imminent return of the Lord as motivation for righteous living until that day.

In this epistle, Peter confronted false teachers and heresies with the Gospel message in terms which were applicable to the Hellenistic (Greek) culture. He refuted skepticism over end-time issues and condemned the lowering of moral standards, including purity and holiness. Examples of judgment from Old Testament writers were used to remind Christians of the faithfulness of God both to deliver the godly and to judge the wicked. Peter outlined the requirements of godly living, grounding those requirements in the abundant salvation offered by Christ, and the inspiration of the Scriptures.

SUGGESTED RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS

  1. Peter opened his letter with a greeting to those who had obtained “like precious faith with us.” Why is faith precious? Why do you think Peter used the word “like” (or “alike”) to describe the faith they had?

    Discussion should bring up several reasons why faith is a very precious commodity. Without it, we cannot please God. We walk by faith; we live by faith. It is how we receive from God. By faith we know that the worlds were framed.

    In focusing on the word “like,” your students should understand that the faith spoken of here was not faith in general, but was literally a faith of the same kind that Peter had obtained. It was important that the believers’ faith was the same as the faith obtained by the Apostle, since the theme of 2 Peter would be a warning against heresy, false teaching, and counterfeit “faith” which denied the return of Jesus and the need for godly pure living until that time. For the same reasons, it is important today that our faith be anchored in the truths taught by Jesus Christ and His Apostles.

  2. In 2 Peter 1:3-4, it is clear that God has given us all that we need for life and godliness by His power through Christ. He mentioned “exceeding great and precious promises,” which are given so that we can be partakers of the divine nature, escaping the world’s corruption. It is out of this sufficiency that we are called to diligently supplement or nourish our lives in Christ by adding certain godly qualities. List and describe the attributes Peter mentioned that Christians should diligently seek in their spiritual lives. 2 Peter 1:5-7

    Virtue = moral excellence and goodness, spiritual fortitude. We exhibit virtue when we do what is right.

    Knowledge = the learning of information with accompanying wisdom for application. In this text, the focus is on knowledge of the Word of God, and the necessity of applying that knowledge in our daily lives.

    Temperance = self-control. The world might define temperance as being moderate in one’s sinful practices, such as smoking or drinking. A Christian would put it this way: Do not do anything that is sinful; and things that are not sinful should not be engaged in excessively.

    Patience = endurance, steadfastness, perseverance. Patience includes endurance during trials, and longsuffering toward those about us who are difficult to get along with. You might ask your class for examples of when patience is necessary. Some may mention short-term issues, such as a traffic jam or poor service in a restaurant. In the Bible, patience generally deals with trials of a longterm scale, such as spiritual persecution or lingering physical afflictions. Patience in such cases is exemplified by calm, uncomplaining endurance.

    Godliness = a manner of life that reflects our relationship with God; an outward manifestation of His nature within us.

    Brotherly kindness = brotherly love (from the Greek word philo indicating deep friendship and commitment). This is the love and caring of fellow Christians toward one another. The Bible instructs us to bear one another’s burdens and to be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving of one another.

    Charity = love (from the Greek word agape indicating selfless, sacrificial love). Charity is unselfish Christian love for others, which extends far beyond the confines of the local body of believers to include those who seem unlovable or farthest from God.

  3. Peter did not indicate that the attributes listed in question two were optional. If we do not seek to possess them, how will this affect our walk with God? (2 Peter 1:8-10) What will be the result if we do?

    Verses 8-10 indicate that failure to seek and obtain these attributes brings a sort of spiritual blindness or shortsightedness, which leads to an unfruitful life. Neglect will stunt one’s spiritual development. Students should understand that this admonition does not imply that we can earn, deserve, or work our way into the kingdom, but adding these attributes will foster growth and strength in our Christian walk, helping us to remain faithful to God’s plan for our lives.

    If we do seek these attributes, we will be fruitful in the knowledge of the Lord, and we will gain strength to keep us from falling. Any one of those traits is a bonus, but increasing in all of them is a tremendous spiritual benefit.

  4. Peter, James, and John heard the voice of God at the transfiguration of Christ. Peter alluded to this experience in 2 Peter 1:16-18 and, in the concluding verses of the chapter, indicated that God’s written Word is as reliable and verifiable as the spoken words heard on the mountain. Why is this true? 2 Peter 1:20-21

    Like the words heard on the mountain, Scripture is also from God. Peter declared that the Word of God was not inspired by human will or action, but by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a part of the Divine Trinity and fully God, just as God the Father is part of the Divine Trinity. When the Holy Spirit moved upon the hearts of holy men who followed God, the authority of God was present in their words. For that reason, believers of Peter’s day and ours can trust in the truthfulness and authority of the Bible, and consequently have a responsibility to heed that authority.
  5. In chapter 2, Peter predicted that false teachers would imperil the church by coming in “privily,” or under pretense, disguising their motives. What types of false doctrinal teachings can we observe in religious society today? How can we guard ourselves from being influenced by them?

    Your students may bring up such teachings as eternal security, the allowance for divorce and remarriage, a failure to preach the necessity of sanctification as a second, definite work of grace, humanism, etc. Insidious infiltration could occur under the guise of political correctness, ecumenicalism, a disparaging of tradition, or an effort to be non-judgmental. Today, true Christianity often is assailed by accusations of intolerance or bigotry. While it is never appropriate to be vindictive or harsh in our treatment of others, we must not minimize the seriousness of false doctrine or the judgment that will fall upon those who teach or embrace it.

    Discussion of the second question should center on the importance of continuing to teach, experience, and live the doctrines that we have received from godly men and women of old — doctrines based on the teachings of the Apostles.

  6. Make a list of some of the word pictures Peter painted in chapter 2 of those who teach falsely or embrace false teachings. Why do you think he chose to use some unpleasant illustrations?

    The list of examples used by Peter could include:

    •    Natural brute beasts (verse 12)

    •    Spots and blemishes (verse 13)

    •    Adulterous eyes, always sinning, greedy cursed children (verse 14)

    •    Dry wells, storm clouds (verse 17)

    •    Dog returned to vomit (verse 22 quoting Proverbs 26:11)

    •    Pig wallowing in mire (verse 22)He also described false teachers as:

    •    Having lascivious (“pernicious”) ways (verse 2)

    •    Making merchandise of others, or engaging in exploitation (verse 3)

    •    Being presumptuous, self-willed, not afraid to speak against angelic hosts (verse 10)

    •    Promising liberty but being servants of corruption themselves (verse 19)

    No doubt Peter used the most descriptive language available to urgently warn believers regarding those who teach false doctrine. He stressed the danger by drawing vivid pictures of the nature of their acts, and also of the sure judgment that will follow embracing such teaching.

  7. Why was Peter so concerned that believers stir up their pure minds by way of remembrance? 2 Peter 3:1-2

    Peter admonished them to remember the historical account because he was afraid they would forget. As the first generation of believers began to die, some false teachers started to question the bodily return of Jesus bringing final judgment upon the earth. These questions led to a lowering of the moral, godly lifestyles that had been carefully lived in anticipation of the soon return of the Lord. Peter reminded believers of the words of the prophets and Apostles concerning the last days. He also warned them to beware of “willful ignorance,” as had been the error of those at the time of Noah.
  8. In 2 Peter 3:10-14, what actions did Peter call for from believers?

    Peter called the believers to holy conduct, which reflects God’s nature and purpose for humanity. He also encouraged them to look for the return of the Lord, when righteousness will be the order of the new creation kingdom. Finally, he charged believers to have diligence in living pure, godly lives as they waited for Jesus’ return.

    Verses 15-16 may refer to how false teachers had twisted some of the Apostle Paul’s letters concerning Christian liberty, equating ungodly living with liberty. Peter acknowledged the difficulty of some of Paul’s words but assured them of the unity of Paul’s teachings with the coming of the Lord and with godly living.

  9. We are instructed to “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). Note several ways this spiritual growth can be encouraged in our lives.

    We must continue to live in the grace that God gave through Christ. It is this grace that teaches us how to live godly lives in this present world. We also must continually pursue a more intimate relationship with God through Christ until we meet Him face to face. Time spent in prayer and study of God’s Word will help us grow. Gathering with other believers for worship and encouragement will help as well. Searching for ways to serve others in Christ’s stead will also provide a fertile field for Christian growth.

    You may wish to conclude your session by noting that these final words of Peter point us to two foundational truths necessary to make our calling and election sure. The first of these is that it is by grace we are saved. Jesus gave His life freely so that our sins can be forgiven. Without the grace of God, all of humanity would be eternally lost. However, because of His grace, all who will come to repentance are offered new life in Christ.

    The second foundational truth is that God desires an intimate and personal relationship with humanity. This was the plan from the Garden of Eden until today. God wants us to know Him and has sent Jesus to make this relationship possible. What a privilege is ours!

CONCLUSION

If there were ever a time when individual believers and the Church as a whole needed to rehearse and heed the warnings of 2 Peter, it is today! Peter asked, “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God?” (2 Peter 3:11-12). This is certainly an appropriate question for today’s generation!