Saturday, May 27, 2023

Greater Love

Bobservations' Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

As we open Peter’s 2nd letter and embark on studying his final Epistle, we find a few things that Peter and Paul have in common besides their faith and love for Jesus and for His Church. While Paul was dispatched from Jerusalem to take the Gospel to the Gentiles, Peter’s mission was to continue spreading the Gospel to the Jews (Acts 15, circa 50 C.E. [A.D.]). At the First Council of Jerusalem, the Apostle James declared that Gentiles should also be saved, as the testimony of the scriptures supported it. Being not only an Apostle, but half-brother to the Lord Jesus, James’ opinion carried much weight in Jerusalem’s fledgling Church. Galatians records Paul going to the Council and finding that James, Peter, and John “seemed to be the Pillars” of the Church (Gal. 2:9); not a single “Pope,” but a committee of three of Jesus’ closest Apostles were leading the Church into the future.

But between the two letters of 2 Peter, and 2 Timothy for Paul, the authors have in common an awareness of their soon martyrdom (2 Timothy 4:6 and 2 Peter 1:14). This did not deter them from writing or preaching Jesus however, it motivated them all the more! Both writers foresee the Apostacy of the Church. Both lay the responsibility for the Apostacy at the feet of false teachers. Both acknowledge that the false teachers emanate from within the Church! And both Paul and Peter see it happening during troublesome times on Earth, perilous times for the sacred, inspired Word of God and people of true faith.

Other Epistles provide even more troubling details: Christ’s personhood is heavily doubted by false teachers (1 John 4:1-5), and in the Epistle of Jude, yet another half-brother to Jesus foresees the Apostacy fully evidenced in all phases of the Church.

But in all these Epistles, no prophecy of the End-Times changes the faith of any Apostle. God and His promises remain the strength and hope for Believers everywhere. All but John died as martyrs because of their faith in Jesus. And John was exiled to a penal colony to live out his days alone. They all suffered for their faith.

Forward to 90 C.E. – John writes his 3 Epistles, and about 96 C.E., Revelation!
“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show His servants things which must shortly come to pass; and He sent and signified by His angel unto His servant John.” ~ Revelation 1:1

Sunday Morning Audio Message:
2 Peter 1:1-21 - "Greater Love"


As we begin Peter's last epistle, Peter describes himself as both a servant and an apostle.  His letter is directed to the same churches that he wrote to in his first epistle, to those believers that have obained "like precious faith... through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ."   Peter is not addressing Christian Jews, but also the many new Gentile converst that had come into these churches. 

What is that "like precious faith?"  Peter specifies this faith, the wonderful gift of faith that is given to us by God.   God gives us the wonderful capacity to believe and to trust Him.  To be clear, this precious faith is beyond the human capacity, "For by grace are you saved through” – what – “faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.”

When we think of the word "precious," we think of something that is costly, like jewels.  This precious gift was given at the cost of Jesus, the precious Son of God, whereby we obtain salvation.  We have been justified in the sight of God, and forgiven from all sins because of Christ's atonement, and by the Spirit who raised Him from the dead.  What a precious gift, this gift of faith.

So, Peter is directing this letter to fellow believers. Instead, Peter begins by addressing an issue which remains a focus of the church even today: whether or not believers will be productive and effective servants of God through our knowledge of Him. 

The word "knowledge" (Greek gnosis or epignosis) occurs seven times in 2 Peter, all with reference to Christ.  It means acknowledging Him, full discernment, and recognition. 

The purpose of our salvation is that we should become like Christ.  Christian growth depends on the knowledge of God and our Lord Jesus Christ.  It is the kind of knowledge that is translated into action.  Our salvation is real.  It is life changing.  It is living out one's life in response to acknowledging Him. 

Peter starts by saying that no Christian—no one who knows God through faith in Jesus is missing anything.  He has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness.  God gives us all that we need to lead the godly lives we are called to through His Word.  By His grace, having been freed from the corruption of this world, we are made partakers in His nature and purpose. In other words, we are fully equipped to live godly lives. 

Peter goes on, "and besides this... " giving all diligence.  This is important.  Diligence here means make it your business, with all haste and care, and earnestness.  Giving all diligence to add to our faith a very specific set of Christlike characteristics:  virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and agape love.    It appears that without making all diligence there is no growth in holiness.  

Note:  Take the time to do a word study on this word, "diligence."  Scripture reveals that diligence is required by God in seeking him, obeying Him, hearkening to Him, striving after perfection, cultivating Christian graces, keeping the soul, keeping the heart, following every good work, guarding against defilement, making our calling sure, self-examination, just to name a few.

If we have these Christlike qualities and continue to abound (or grow) in them, we are leading the life God calls us to. Specifically, we are being effective and productive in the knowledge of Jesus we have been given.

If we fall short in these qualities, we still remain God's children through faith in Christ. Our eternal salvation is not bought, or kept, by our own efforts. However, failing to take on these traits means wasting the knowledge of Jesus. We become ineffective and unproductive servants. In fact, this makes us so nearsighted that we can seem like unbelievers who are, in fact, spiritually blind. Worse, when we fail to live up to the life we are called to, we can become forgetful. Specifically, we forget that we have already been cleansed of the sins which may now occupy us again. We have forgotten who we are in Christ.

Peter urges us to demonstrate the reality of our place in God's family. We do this by eagerly exercising these qualities in our lives as we look forward to the day when Jesus will warmly welcome us into His kingdom. As Peter writes, he knows his readers are already aware of things, but he intends to keep reminding them. He will keep stirring them up, so that they will continue connecting what they know in Christ with how they live. He is preparing them to keep going after his death, which will come soon.

Peter reminds the reader, as well, that he was told by Jesus Himself that he would die. And yet, Jesus also allowed Peter to see the transfiguration: the moment when Jesus was revealed in His glory and the Father's voice declared Jesus as Son. According to Peter, his personal, eyewitness testimony to that event confirms all of the prophecies about the Messiah, including His return as judge and king.

God wants His beloved children to enjoy the assurance of their salvation. In fact, Peter writes this marvelous section in order that believers may experience the assurance that God desires for them. Given the fact that the enemy, the devil, is the accuser of the brethren, and always wants to hit us with blows of doubt to make us doubt our salvation, God, on the other hand, wants to affirm our spiritual condition and our assurance.

Knowing that his time was short, and the church faced immediate danger, Peter called upon the readers to refresh their memories and stimulate their thinking so that they would remember his teaching after he was gone (2 Peter 1:15). Remember God's Word, and all that you have been taught. Peter desired that believers would grow strong in their faith to withstand the devil, withstand false teachers, and to stand in the day of adversity. Our testimony is only as strong as our knowledge of Jesus Christ, not just a head knowledge, but by applying these truths, and living them out as a witness of Christ.

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