Jim, Hey bro, I am really struggling with 2 Peter. I started studying it, and get a sense or “feeling” as I read 2 Peter that I fall into the category as a false teacher. I quiver with fear as I read it, especially chapter 2. I find myself weighing my performance to what Peter says and I fall short. But then I go back to the first four verses of chapter 1 and realize that I am in Christ and it is not based on my performance. I begin to get confused as to how 2 Peter is reconciled with Paul’s teachings as I begin reading Chapter 2 and by the end of chapter 3 – I walk away thinking that Peter is telling us that it is based on my behavior and performance to some extent – only to go back to the first 4 verses and realize that Peter is not saying that. Thus, I am missing it????
I don’t get it… Why such condemnation? Why did Peter write this letter in such a way? I have so many questions that my brain is hurting. And then on top of that I find myself under that mentality of trying to find what is right and what is wrong – performance, Instead of resting in Christ.
If you have any insight that you can share with me concerning this letter, please pass it on because I know that it is just my lack of understanding – that is causing this unrest. I currently don’t see how it fits into the Gospel of grace. I am missing it??? Peter
Okeedokee then, Peter, on to 2 Peter!!!
Keep in mind that Peter was a very different man than Paul, but this doesn’t mean that he was in conflict, especially considering his comment at the end of the letter:
and regard the patience of our Lord to be salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. 2 Peter 3:15-16
So, obviously, Peter seemed to have this awareness of the grace Paul wrote of fully in his mind while he wrote his own letter. Now, the fact is that Paul had written some things we find rather inappropriate to his own message of grace, and many have almost written them off as legalistic. Peter just seems to go so far off course that we can’t sweep his comments under the rug as easily. I think we try to compare his writings to Paul’s and since there are less of them we figure it’s easier to simply ignore most of his stuff. That’s my opinion on it anyhow. :) To tell you the truth, I love Peter’s writings!!
Let me tell you the sense I get of Peter’s letter. He wrote this because of his many run-ins with false teachers. His own experience had reached the point of being swayed by their “unprincipled” teachings. That was what happened to him in Antioch when Paul publicly scolded him and then wrote of it in his letter to the Galatians. Peter, in turn, was warning others of the nature of the deceptions of such false teachers.
No, you are not a false teacher, my friend. You’re too stinkin’ honest and transparent to be mistaken for that. :) I have no doubt that those Peter referred to in chapter 2 are those without Christ, but are full of “godly” sounding words. Ah yes, but what do we do first with the better part of chapter 1 then, huh?
Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 2 Peter 1:1-4
As you have already pointed out, the first 4 verses are drenched in the reality of God’s grace toward us in Christ. As a matter of fact, properly understood, they would sound nothing but heretical to the religious mind. I mean, consider his bold statement “partakers of the divine nature”. Consider the magnitude of this claim!! This is nothing but “blasphemous” to the natural, religious mind. This is the raw reality of being fully connected with God Himself through Christ. This is the basis for all his statements that follow. Consider this in verse 5.
in your faith SUPPLY …2 Peter 1:5
What faith? Why the same kind of faith received by the apostles. It was given to us “by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ”. Now, look at the word “supply”. What does it entail? It is connected to the faith that was given to us, and therefore connected to the fact that we are partakers of God’s nature. Where does the “supply” come from? God, through Christ as the vine. Peter is describing the living connection we have IN the life of God where the fruit of His Spirit is produced. Also notice how this “fruit” is all interwoven and interconnected. He speaks of the fruit of God’s life as real substance, and this is important in understanding the “lack” of such.
There is no doubt that religion has made us think upon these qualities as performance-based, but we must see this fruit of God’s supply not in relative terms, but in the absolute sense. By that I mean, outside the life of God there is only the APPEARANCE of having these things in a person’s life. But it is this appearance that snags us so easily.
For example, “moral excellence” is not a standard of morality. One is something that comes from the life of God, the other is merely a “belief” or a “stance” taken - which is nothing less than self-righteousness. Peter refers to an actual substance that cannot be denied. The reason we find ourselves falling so short in this area is simply because the religious mindset yanks our chain and plays our awakened conscience against us so that we beat ourselves up over our “lack”. But “lack” doesn’t refer to a degree as we’ve been taught, but in the simple fact that the substance is MISSING, as in, NOT THERE. No, that doesn’t describe one who has been joined together with God, but one who has not been joined. Notice also, the word “quality” is in italics, which means it was added to “help” the translation. Well, maybe at one time a “quality” would have been seen as part of God’s life, but religion has changed it into such a relative concept that we see nothing of God in it.
Take a look at those last two “qualities”: brotherly kindness and love. My brother, if there were a couple of things I would describe you as it would be these two things. No, I don’t say this to try to swell your head in any way, because we both know where this comes from. As a matter of fact, these realities are flourishing on the Shovel Shack. I think we often try too hard to shatter the old religious illusions of “goodness” that we overlook the obvious that happens among us. Hey, just our simple honesty blows the religious performance-based illusions out of the water. I think many of our problems with these things occur because we still think that the empty life of humanity has a degree of this miraculous life. And this is what Peter describes in chapter 2.
We have a difficult time with this because of a few comments like:
his purification from his former sins 2 Peter 1:9
even denying the Master who bought them 2 Peter 2:1
But this fits in perfectly with the nature of Peter’s argument. The major clue is found in the phrases, “false teachers” and “false prophets”. What would a “false teacher” be doing? Teaching falsely. This means that he (or she) is opening his mouth and making claims. What claims? About his “purification from his former sins”, and about the “Master” who “bought him”. If Peter wrote like we did I guarantee you he would be putting quotes around certain phrases, but that’s not how they wrote things at that time. Heck, reading and writing was not very common among the common man. But consider how Peter’s words would have come across to those he wrote to. They would have heard him describing these false teachers to a “T”. If we would take Peter’s words in the manner he wrote them we would find ourselves a little less gullible toward those who make a big religious verbal show about being “saved”.
Peter wasn’t trying to cause suspicion to grow among those born of God so that everybody would be checking everybody’s doctrine out. No. Peter based everything he wrote upon a substantial reality: the life of God. The bottom line is that God’s work is not in vain, for it produces HIS desire. His work may be overlooked and misjudged by the natural mind, but it is real nonetheless, and those born of the Spirit know it on the inside. Those who don’t have the life of God but are in the “ministry” only have the power of their own words. These words are carefully designed to make it appear that life is found in the words they speak, yet the “lack” of life can only have one outcome: an entrapment of their own making.
There are another couple statements found in verses 20 & 21 by which we often assume these “false teachers” were believers.
For if after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment delivered to them. 2 Peter 2:20-21
But except for these few statements, the men Peter described were totally lacking the life of God. Once again, consider Peter’s statements in view of the “professions” claimed by the false teachers. What needs to be considered is whether Peter was claiming they had actually “escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” or if these were some of the trademarks claims of the false teachers themselves that Peter was exposing in their true light. Isn’t this the same kind of religious BS we hear preached all the time in the present day? Peter’s point was for the believers to not be carried away by the WORDS of these men, but to simply consider the life factor so that they could see things for what they really were.
Well, more for another time. It’s late. Besides, you will no doubt have some questions and/or comments. :)