2 Peter overview

Greetings,

This is an overview of 2 Peter.  I almost skipped this overview since we just did the overview of 1 Peter.  But this book has a much different focus.  While 1 Peter focused on external dangers and hardships (the suffering from the persecution for being Christians), 2 Peter focuses on internal dangers of false teachers.    Christianity has fought a two front war from its earliest days: From those who would persecute it from the outside and those who would distort its teachings from the inside.   

Who wrote it: Peter, one of the twelve Apostles who followed Jesus during his earthly ministry.  Peter was brash and outspoken.  He denied Jesus three times the night before the crucifixion of Jesus (just as Jesus predicted he would) but was restored to fellowship later and became a key leader of the early church.   Also see the 1 Peter overview

When written: Roughly A.D. 67, about 3 years after 1 Peter was written.  Peter was killed for his faith shortly after this was written. 

Why was it written: Jesus warned against false teachers, and much of the New Testament carries similar warnings and corrects false teachings.  Also see Doctrine Counts.

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1 Peter 5

Greetings,

1 Peter 5 To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.  

I think there are a total of five crowns referred to in the New Testament that believers can receive.  Our salvation is 100% dependent on what Jesus did for us, but the Bible does teach that there will be different rewards in Heaven.  I’m not sure exactly how that plays out, but the concept is undeniable.  Of course, the least-rewarded position in Heaven will be awesome beyond description and infinitely better than the least-miserable position in Hell, but if God teaches that there are rewards in Heaven then it must be true. 

Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older.  All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

The line “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” is from Proverbs 3:34 and is quoted in James 4:6 and here in 1 Peter.  God only has to say something once for it to be 100% true, but it is interesting to note when a theme is repeated.  Note that we don’t start out humble. 

We need to clothe ourselves with humility and humble ourselves.  I don’t think this is a one-time activity.  Pride is sin at the root of most other sins, so we need to constantly work to humble ourselves.  God will lift us up when He is ready and we’ll be glad we had humbled ourselves.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

The previous passage is an excellent one to memorize.  Think of the comfort it gives to know that you can “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”  Jesus taught many times in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and other places that we should not worry.  That is hard to do.  But God tells us to give him our anxieties. 

Also note that the devil, Satan, is always looking for people to devour.  We resist him by standing firm in our faith.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

With the help of Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother, I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it. She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark. Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

Note that Peter acknowledges that there will be suffering for their faith but that God will make them better for it.  God allows challenges in our lives to make us grow and to become more like Jesus. 

Please share any comments or questions you have.  Next up: The second letter from Peter in the Bible, 2 Peter.

1 Peter 4

Greetings!  Peter denied Jesus three times before the crucifixion.  Yet after the resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit (see the beginning of the book of Acts) he and the other disciples were transformed into fearless witnesses for Jesus.  This is one of the many evidences of the resurrection, by the way. 

When he wrote about persecution it was a topic he was familiar with.  Peter was eventually killed for his faith (tradition holds that he asked to be crucified upside down because he didn’t think he was worthy to die the way his Savior did). 

1 Peter 4 Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.

Do you look authentically different from the world?  We should obviously pray for relief for persecuted Christians and that the Gospel would be easier to spread.  It is bad when authentic Christians fail in public (and private) ways, because that hurts the witness of the church.  Yet when living in the freedom of the U.S. it is easier to be a false Christian because there is no risk of persecution.  Then those false Christians hurt the witness even more.  We should strive to live as authentically as we can so the world will see what a difference Christ makes.  When people take the Bible seriously and live it out then everything around them gets better – families, friends, the workplace, etc.

The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

We are all given some talents at birth and we can develop those further.  We are also given spiritual gifts at our conversion.  This isn’t a time for false humility.  Be sure to take your talents and gifts and use them for his Kingdom. 

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”  So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

Peter acknowledges that Christians may suffer for their faith, but that we should persevere until the end.  It will be worth it.  Sometimes the good news of Jesus Christ is shared without mentioning the costs.  While no one will ultimately regret truly following Jesus, being a Christian can bring serious challenges into our lives.   It is encouraging to be reminded that this suffering is only for a time and that viewing it from an eternal perspective it is actually a blessing. 

Reflect on what stood out to you in this reading and share your comments and questions if you like.  Next up: 1 Peter 5

1 Peter 3

Greetings!  Peter addresses husband / wife relationships in this chapter, among other things, so it is important to put things in proper context.  Women were basically considered to be property in that culture.  When Paul said in Galatians 3:28 that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus,” it was a radical statement.  Some people think Peter and Paul were chauvinists, but they – along with Jesus and others – were actually more like feminists (in the good sense of the word).  They pointed out that women have equal intrinsic worth to men, though men and women are different (duh) and have different roles. 

1 Peter 3 Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.

I heard a preacher point out once that nagging will not change men (and may make them worse) but treating them with respect and living out your life in an authentic Christian fashion may win them over.  It worked for us.  My wife was a committed Christian when we married.  I had great Christian parents and had gone to church my whole life (except college) but let’s just say I wasn’t paying very close attention.  We started going to church, and even though I faked it for a few years the Word broke through and I became an authentic believer.  If my wife had pushed and nagged it would have been detrimental to my spiritual growth. 

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.  

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.

Husbands, did you catch that?  Not treating our wives properly can hinder our prayers.  I realize that at first glance some women are concerned with husband/wife passages, because some people have abused the scriptures over the years.  But if you also focus on what the Bible says to men you’ll find a remarkable balance and a great formula for joyful marriages. 

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.”

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

The previous paragraph is a popular passage used when talking about evangelism and is a good one to memorize.  First, we need to put Christ first as Lord of our lives.  Then, we need to be prepared to tell people about Jesus and the hope that He gives us.  We don’t have to push the message on people in an obnoxious way.  We should do it gently and respectfully, but we should be ready to share it and we should look for opportunities to share it.  Again, note that if we live authentic Christian lives we’ll look different to the world. 

For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

Please feel free to share your comments and questions.  Next up: 1 Peter 4

1 Peter 2

Greetings!  Once again, the Bible is pretty clear on what the Christian life should look like.  Does Peter, via inspiration from the Holy Spirit, say to get rid of some malice and some deceit and some slander?  No.  He says we should rid ourselves of all those things.  It is easy?  No.  But we don’t have to do it on our own.  He tells us the solution: Crave pure spiritual milk so we can grow in our salvation.  As Jesus said, “Man does not live by bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” 

1 Peter 2 Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

That reminds me of Psalm 34:8 – Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”

Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,” and, “A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

The “aliens and strangers” theme is continued from chapter 1.  Our eternal home will be on a re-created earth.  This “world” – the way it is now – is not our home.  As Peter notes, our sinful, worldly desires war with our souls.  He notes that by living like authentic Christians we will be a witness to others.

The following is one of the passages pointing out that God lets governments have responsibility for managing countries.  Of course, we must follow God’s law when man’s law is in disagreement with it.   

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.

In the next passage, the Bible Knowledge Commentary notes that “The Greek word for slaves here is not douloi, the common term for slaves but oiketai, which refers to household or domestic servants.”  Slaves and servants made up a huge percentage of the population in the Roman world.  It is not the type of slavery we had in the United States, so the passage should never be used as a justification for taking slaves. 

Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

The last paragraph sums up well what Jesus did for us: He took our punishment in our place and by doing so He healed us.  Believers were like sheep without a shepherd, but now we are reconciled with God. 

Please feel free to post any comments or questions.  Next up: 1 Peter 3.

1 Peter 1

Greetings!  Let’s start 1 Peter:

1 Peter 1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.

In typical “Peter style,” he dives right into his message.  The concept of predestination can be a hotly debated topic.  Orthodox Christianity asserts that God is omniscient (all-knowing) and that He knows what we will do.  The debate starts when trying to determine whether we have free will to choose to accept Christ or if God chose us ahead of time and specifically drew us to Jesus via an irresistible grace (My apologies to either side of the debate if I didn’t characterize that just right.  No harm intended). 

Personally, I like hearing from both sides, as each makes some good arguments and each has some very serious, intelligent thinkers.  I just listened to some sermons on predestination by John MacArthur. I really like his preaching, and he makes a good case for predestination. But when he finally got to the “Here’s why it matters” part, I thought it fell a little flat.  

When I think about what I do in life – seeking the Holy Spirit’s help in loving others, sharing the Gospel, giving, etc. – I can and should be doing the exact same things regardless of whether the Calvinist or Arminian view is true.   I don’t think it is a salvation issue.  I do acknowledge that my human failings may keep from seeing the proper view here, but I’m not letting that slow my Christian walk down. The Zoo Station blog just had a post that summed up nicely how I approach this topic.   

Now, back to Peter . . . check out the promises here:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Peter is writing to people who were suffering for their faith.  Those of us reading this blog probably don’t suffer too greatly for our faith, at least not in terms of having our blood shed over it.  But we might someday, and even if we don’t we should pray for and seek to help those around the world who are persecuted.  The Voice of the Martyrs and Persecution.org are two good ministries in this area.

Note how Peter points out the goal of our faith: The “salvation or your souls.”

Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.

Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

Note the emphasis on preparing and using our minds.  Christianity is sometimes unfairly characterized as a “blind faith,” but from a Biblical worldview it is nothing of the sort.  We are commanded many times to love God with our minds, to test everything, to reason and to renew our minds. 

Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.

Peter refers to Christians as strangers here, and he builds on this theme later.  Our citizenship is in Heaven, not on earth, and we should live that way.  He also emphasizes the theme of redemption.  The way of life of the world is empty, but we are redeemed (bought back with a price) by Jesus’ work on our behalf. 

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you.

Please share your thoughts and questions.  We’ll pick up 1 Peter 2 next. 

1 Peter overview

Greetings!

This reading is an overview of 1 Peter.  1 Peter has five chapters and 2 Peter has three chapters.  I thought we would do them consecutively.

Who wrote this and when was it written?  Peter, an Apostle of Jesus, wrote it around 62-64 AD.  He denied Jesus three times on the night before Jesus was crucified but after the resurrection Peter was a dynamic force in the early church.  He boldly preached to the same Jewish leaders a couple months after Jesus’ resurrection (see the beginning chapters of Acts for more). 

To whom was it written?  All Christians, and specifically those suffering from persecution.

Why was it written?  To encourage all Christians to persevere in their faith, to remind them of their eternal home in Heaven and to encourage them to live holy lives.  

People often think of Paul as the main writer of controversial topics in the Bible, but you’ll find that Peter covers some of these as well, namely the roles of men and women and issues like predestination

The next reading is 1 Peter 1.