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We begin a new series this morning into Peter’s second letter. Why does Peter feel a need to write again and who is he writing to? What is going on? Is this a letter for today? In this study we will answer those questions and more as we search God’s incredible riches together.
2 Pet. 1:1 says, “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.”
First things first. Let’s review what we know about the man. Peter was originally named Simon and he was the son of Jonah according to Jo. 1:42. He had a brother named Andrew. He was married, but Scripture does not mention her name. Jesus healed his mother-in-law of a high fever as recorded in Luke 4:39. He was a fisherman that made that life changing decision to follow Christ while entertaining Jesus on his boat in the Sea of Galilee. In Acts 4:13, the elders in Jerusalem called Peter, “uneducated and untrained.” Peter was part of the inner circle of Jesus and is always listed first in Scripture when talking about Peter, James, and John. He is generally considered the leader of the apostles and typically is the first to speak. When he had questions, he asked. In Matt. 15:15 Peter admitted his ignorance at Jesus’ teaching; in Luke 5:8 he confessed his sinfulness. Peter was with James and John at the transfiguration and also heard the voice of God on what he called the holy mount in this letter. Peter didn’t quite understand the resurrection that Jesus taught. We see Peter’s faith waver as he walks on the water. We see his frailty in the garden when he fell asleep after Jesus asked him to watch and pray. Everyone recalls that Peter denied Jesus three times. It was Peter that cut the ear off of Malchus that Jesus subsequently re-attached. When told of the empty tomb, Peter ran and looked, but failed to understand its significance. Seeing Jesus on the shore after His resurrection, Peter dives into the water and swims to shore. Too often we focus on the negative aspects of Peter, but Peter was a great man for God; a great man of God.
It was Peter that was recognized as the leader of the disciples. He was an apostle of Christ, a messenger of Christ. It was Peter who first recognized Jesus as Messiah in Matt. 16. It was Peter that preached at Pentecost quoting Old Testament scriptures in Joel and Psalms that resulted in over 3000 Jews being saved. At the gate Beautiful, it was Peter who saw the lame man begging for money and said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene – walk.” (Acts 3:6) It was Peter that first preached to the Gentiles and understood that God does not show partiality. (Acts 10:34) When the Pharisees wanted to make the Gentiles keep the Law by being circumcised, it was Peter that stood up and reminded them they were saved by grace and asked them, “Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?” (Acts 15:10) It was Peter that raised Dorcas from the dead. (Acts 9:40) Peter was a great man for God.
Can you trust Peter’s second letter? That’s a great question. There are many skeptics say that this letter was not written by Peter. In fact there is more doubt this letter is authentic than any other book in the N. T. Scholars say Peter draws too much from Greek culture. A Galilean fisherman would not be so closely acquainted with Greek culture. There are 57 words used in this letter that aren’t used anywhere else in the N.T. 32 of those words do not appear in the Greek translation of the O.T. known as the Septuagint. Some argue the writing style is totally different from 1 Peter. So how can you know that this letter is authentic? We always let Scripture interpret Scripture. I think as we progress, you’ll come to the same conclusion I did. This letter was written by the Apostle Peter as he was led by the Holy Spirit of God just as Paul told Timothy in 2 Tim. 3:16. As we progress through this letter, I think you’ll see overwhelming evidence that Peter is the human author and this letter is the Word of God.
Peter greets his readers by saying, “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.” (2 Pet. 1:1) Notice that Peter identifies himself right at the beginning. Most of our English translations say Simon Peter, but the original says Symeon, pronounced sim-ee-own´. Peter did not use the normal Greek term for his name, but a Semitic term – one that would be used in a Palestinian or Arab type setting. A setting such as Israel. Symeon was not used in the second century dating this letter in the first century probably around 60-65 A.D. Peter describes himself as, “A bond servant and apostle of Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet. 1:1) This is really interesting because the bond servant comes from the word that means slave. He willingly placed himself under the authority of Jesus Christ. He had no authority in himself, it came from Christ. The word also conveys the idea of honor. Peter was pleased; it humbled him to be a slave for Christ. Too often we lament and complain about what we perceive we cannot do because we are Christians and we ignore the tremendous honor that comes with being called a child of God; with being a slave for Christ. If you think being a slave is bad, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Samuel, David, Paul, James and Jude are each described in the same way. I think that’s a pretty good group of people to be associated with. What we know about slavery in America is not what Peter is talking about. By the strictest definition, a slave is someone that is owned by another without rights to be used in whatever way the owner sees fit. The difference in being a slave for Christ is the Owner has plans for you to prosper, not to harm you. Jo. 12:26 says, “If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.” Imagine, the God that created all the stars, and planets, and animals: the God that created us chooses to use us to grow the Kingdom, to use us to further His plans, to use us to show the love of Jesus: chooses us as part of the plan – if – we’ll simply follow Him.
Not only is Peter a slave, he is an, “Apostle of Jesus Christ.” In some contexts, apostle simply means messenger – that word occurs over 80 times in the N. T. Peter uses it more technically than simply being a messenger. He was called and appointed by Jesus according to Matt. 10 and Mark 3. As we’ll see later in this letter, Peter has all the authority necessary to write as if it were God Himself holding the pencil. He writes, “To those who have received a faith the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” The recipients aren’t listed geographically as they are in his first letter, but there is a bond. They, “received a faith.” Received gives us the idea of a gift that must be accepted before it becomes yours. A faith that is, “The same kind as ours” is better translated equal standing leading us to the conclusion that his recipients were likely Gentiles. This would have been somewhat problematic given the special bond between God and His chosen people. Referring to the Gentiles, Paul wrote, “remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Eph. 2:12-13) How about Acts 10:34, “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality.” This echoes the same thing Paul said, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” (Gal. 3:28-29) How is this faith received? “By the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Don’t underestimate the significance of this verse. Some say this righteousness is based on the fairness of God. Nonsense. The gift of God is based on His grace, not some measure of fairness. The righteousness is based on Christ’s sufficiency. He is God and Savior – the same person.
So there we have it. Peter provides a brief introduction before he gets the crux of the letter. This is an extraordinarily important letter as we will see as we search God’s Word for ourselves.