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)
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.
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!