Second Peter

Human Will Versus God’s Will

For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:21

The temptation to make God in our image is great. It is, arguably, the most extreme form of arrogance aside from blatant atheism. Yet we are all so easily tempted by it. A few days ago I mention the prosperity gospel. Those of us with property want to justify our greed so we manipulate Scripture to “bless” our avarice.

Similarly, we construct a god who justifies our values and worldview. It is convenient but spiritually bankrupt.

Peter makes a clear statement that the Word of God comes from God Himself. Implicit in Peter’s picture is the triune God. Father, Son (Word) and Spirit are active in presenting God’s will and plan to humanity. Peter also stresses that its origin is miles away from our broken hearts.

So an approach to God that is humble and faith-filled will be blessed as God speaks directly to the needy heart through His Word and Spirit.

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We Did Not Follow Cleverly Invented Stories

“For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 2 Peter 1:16

Lord’s Prayer at the Sagrada Familia

When Peter starts his second letter which is aimed at false teachers, he clearly makes Christ the anchor of his authority. Peter speaks from the foundation of knowing Christ and and the Old Testament. This is his measuring stick for truth and sound knowledge.

It amazes me how often Christians are distracted and misled by “invented stories”. In the last generation we have had the “prosperity gospel”, gold dust descending on believers, the virgin Mary appearing in toast, trees and a whole host of other places, as well as many many more unsound and unhealthy ideas.

But there are more subtle “invented stories”, such as, the middle class materialistic lifestyle is a Christian life style, right wing politics is Christian politics, it is ok to pilage the environment and, once again, there are many many more perversions. We have been conned by celebrities, populist preachers and glib advertisers, as well as our own desires.

Peter’s solution is still the best: Measure all thing we hear and see against Christ and Scripture. The question is, “what is God’s intention?” and not “what is my desire”? Our desires will, time and again, lead us astray.

I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but chapter 2 alerts us to the destruction that false and misleading teaching produces. Our aim, in contrast, is to seek God’s will and promote His purposes. In our “Me Centred” generation the calling of the Christian and the Church is to point to Christ. That simple focus will prevent most of the “cleverly invented stories” arising.

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Confirm Your Calling

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble,  and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1: 10-11

For those of us who are happily married, we confirm our marriage often by saying, “I love you,” to our spouse. We support this with acts and words of support and kindness. But do we confirm our calling in Christ and His Kingdom? Is our life a hymn of thanksgiving to Christ for the love He has shown us? Does our life confirm this with willing acts of devotional obedience – serving in, and promoting His Kingdom?

Peter reminds us that a life lived this way prevents us from stumbling (over sinful acts) and confirms our place in the kingdom/family of God. Now isn’t that a great reason for making “every effort”?

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The Ladder of Faith

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness;  and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.  2 peter 1:5-7

The Christian life is not some inert situation. Faith, as Peter reflects, is a doorway to a whole new way of existing, no, more than existing, truly living. In this passage, which has echoes of Paul’s “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal 5:22-23) we see that we have a responsibility in this new life to build our spiritual muscles. By God’s “divine power’ there are steps we can take to me more Christlike and productive in the kingdom.

The first after faith is

  • goodness or excellence: this describes the expectation that the character of Christ now grows in the person of faith,
  • then the next is knowledge or wisdom, the ability to distinguish good from bad – especially important at the time of writing as false teachers were having an impact. This is an importance that is not diminished today.
  • The third is self control. This is the ability to have authority over our sinful nature. Some believed if they were saved they could do anything they liked. Peter stresses that the child of God reflects a control over their actions rather than abandonment to their desires.
  • That in turn enables endurance – the mature Christian is resolute and determined to maintain this new life,
  •  and exude a godliness – a way of living that shows reverence to God and a right attitude to those around him –
  • mutual affection or brotherly love. As John writes, how can a person love God and hate his brother (1 John 4:20)? The two are inseparably linked.
  • These all culminate in the fulfilment of the law – love. Our lives are to be witnesses to Christ’s agape – sacrificial – love. This is the love for the lives and souls of people around us that empowers the mission of the church.

Above are three short verses we can all spend a life time in practising and the more we do, the more we will see Christ.

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Peter’s Second Letter and the Church Today

Today I want to begin an occasional series on Peter’s second letter. In my personal studies I have spent a lot of time looking at the church in Acts and Second Peter seems a natural development of that. At the time the letter was written the church had been in existence for over 30 years and issues were beginning to arise. In 1 Peter we read about persecution in and in 2 Peter the serious issue of false teachers arises – specifically false teachers from within the church.

However, let me start with a story. A friend was telling me about an issue within a church: should the pastor marry a believer with an unbeliever? The arguments have been flying thick and fast. Some say that 2 Cor 6:14 which warns against believers being yoked to unbelievers summarises what God’s intention is. Others suggest that if the two people love each other the church should be loving and gracious and see the marriage as a possibility for evangelism and outreach.

I’ll be up front. Without going into detail (which I could do very easily) I believe the Bible in the OT and NT reminds us that marriage is an institution (from a Christian’s perspective) which God has instituted and needs to be done in a way that honours His Word. In other words, believers should not marry an unbeliever. (I can sense many hackles rising). Maybe I’ll expand on this on another occasion.

One of the reasons why we need to be careful with this issue is that the reasons that people give for agreeing to these marriages (such as the need to be loving and gracious) can also be applied to same sex marriages. So if we agree to the first we will also need agree to the second.

My point is that when we begin to unpack the Word of God we also need to be aware of what that means in practice. Many good intentions e.g. we need to be “loving and gracious” can have consequences. False teaching can arise because we have good intentions but have failed to understand the full impact of the Word of God.

In the first 10 verses of 2 Peter 1 the word “knowledge” is mentioned: knowledge of God (vs 2), knowledge (vs5) and knowledge of Jesus (vs8). The healthy Christian life is underpinned by an understanding of God and His will. To stand firm against false teaching we need to know what God intends.

Will this stop arguments? Not at all. But at least our common reference point will be God’s Word in all its fullness and not human opinion and variable feelings. In Peter’s words. we will be “established in the truth” (vs 12).

Lord willing. I will have an opportunity to unpack this further in the future.

So on to Peter.

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