Overview of 2 Peter
and Study of 2 Peter 1-3
December 22nd

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Overview of the 2nd Letter from Peter

Peter’s purpose in this second letter is to counter the actions of a group of men who were working against the principles of the early church. These men were spinning the Scripture to benefit themselves and justify their immoral actions. They advocated the idea that it was acceptable to sin because you could be forgiven.

This letter is not as well-known or as well-studied as the first letter of Peter, but like all books in the Bible is worthy of study. This one provides a good use case for addressing modern men and women who may attempt to twist Scripture for their own purposes.

References used for the analysis of this book include the following:

  • Barclay, William, The Letters of James and Peter, The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1960
  • Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version , Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, MI; 1993
  • Life Application Study Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, M; 1991 (with commentary from an inter-denominational team of experts)
  • Men's Devotional Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI; 1993 (with daily devotionals from Godly men)
  • The New American Bible, Sponsored by the Bishop's Committee of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Catholic Bible Publishers, Wichita, KS, 1970
  • Peterson, Eugene, The Message, The Bible in Contemporary Language, NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO, 80920, 2005
  • “Sermon Library,” Noroton Presbyterian Church, Darien, CT www.norotonchurch.org/sermons/min_sermons.html

2 Peter 1-3 (Ladder of Virtue)

Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

But do not forget one thing, my dear friends! There is no difference in the Lord's sight between one day and a thousand years; to him the two are the same.

2 Peter 3:8 (GNB)

Summary of Chapters

The first of the three chapters in 2 Peter begins with a general greeting to a wide audience of Christians and gives them the formula for being effective and productive for Christ:

    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. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    - 2 Peter 1:5-8 (NIV)

Peter then reminds his audience that the presence of Jesus was real. He recounts for them his own personal experience of hearing the voice of God declare that Jesus is his Son, as recorded in the three synoptic Gospels (Matt. 17:5; Mark 9:7; and Luke 9:35). Moreover, he notes that the arrival of Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of prophecies from God and that the other prophecies will eventually be fulfilled as well.

Chapter 2 is dedicated to the description of false teachers – this is the main point that Peter is leading up to in this letter. These false teachers issued prophecies that are not from God but were fabricated for purposes of greed or lust. Peter affirms that these people will pay a price, just as the people of Noah’s day did and the people of Sodom and Gomorrah did, as recorded in Genesis. He also references Balaam son of Bezer, who was rebuked by a donkey (see Numbers 22-24).

In the final chapter, Peter encourages his audience to be steadfast and obedient in waiting for the Lord to return. People will scoff and try to discourage you, Peter, says, but he says be prepared because that day will come like a “thief in the night” when you least expect it, and be patient - for the day will come in the Lord’s own timing:

    Don’t overlook the obvious here, friends. With God, one day is as good as a thousand years, a thousand years as a day. God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn’t want anyone lost. He’s giving everyone space and time to change.

    - 2 Peter 3:8-9 (MSG)

In his final statement, Peter reminds the people to be spotless and he endorses the letters of his colleague Paul, who “wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him (2 Peter 3:15 - NIV).” Finally, he advises them to grow in the “grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:17 - NIV),” and then gives all the glory to God.

Reflection and Application

If any of us have been looking for the formula for being an effective Christian, we can find it here in 2 Peter, chapter 1, verses 5-8:

    Faith + Goodness (also translated as Virtue or Courage) + Knowledge + Self-Control + Perseverance + Godliness (or Piety) + Mutual Affection + Love.

Some commentators have called these verses the Ladder of Virtues. Faith is the foundation of our virtues, if we believe the word of God then we tap into a strength that is greater than ours and we have something we can build on. If we add courage then we have the courage to live out our faith. If we add knowledge of things on earth and heaven then we have a better understanding of what our faith calls us to do. If we have self-control and perseverance then we will remain steady even when the storms of life surround us. When we have piety, we seek to serve God and our fellow man.

The original Greek word for the next virtue is philadelphia, a phrase that has many connotations for people of our era, but means brotherly love – hence the city of Philadelphia is known as the city of Brotherly Love (despite legends of some unbrotherly acts such as booing Santa Claus at a football game). If we have philadelphia then we have a sincere desire for caring and relating for one another. Finally, there is love, which goes even further then our fellow man but represents an appreciation for all of God’s creation. Peter says that if we possess these in increasing measure then we will not be ineffective.

Have the scoffers gone away or have they increased in relative numbers? They are all around us, trying to discourage us. When a Christian speaks up, the scoffers come out to poke fun and ridicule and the world laughs at the foolish Christians who chose to publicly proclaim their thanks to our Lord and Savior. But God will have the last laugh. A thousand days of scoffing is just like one for him.

Towards the end of chapter 3, Peter reinforces the truth that the day of judgment will come at a time of God's choosing, when no one expects it. But he emphasizes that this will be a day of joy for the believers:

    Since everything here today might well be gone tomorrow, do you see how essential it is to live a holy life? Daily expect the Day of God, eager for its arrival. The galaxies will burn up and the elements melt down that day—but we’ll hardly notice. We’ll be looking the other way, ready for the promised new heavens and the promised new earth, all landscaped with righteousness.

    - 2 Peter 3:11-13 (MSG)

This joyous perspective is captured in a song performed by the Christian Music group Phillips, Craig and Dean. You can hear it and see the lyrics by clicking the YouTube object below:

"When the Stars Burn Down", performed by Philips, Craig, and Dean

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What is the friendliest place that you have ever visited or lived?
    2. How do we keep moving ourselves up the ladder of virtue?
    3. How do we avoid slipping down the ladder?

    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we know you have infinite knowledge and we have finite ability to understand. Help us to move up the ladder of virtues towards greater knowledge of you.

    Prayer Concern

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: 1 John (Components of God's Love)

    Comments and Questions
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