2 Peter Content
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Themes in 2 Peter include false teachers and the return of the Lord.
IV. 2 Peter (part 2)
LESSON BEGINS HERE
1. Chapter 1
a. Christological statement (1:1)
b. Doxology to Christ (3:18)
c. Scripture (1:20-21)
2. Chapter 2
a. 2:20-22 (cf. Hebrews 10:26)
b. Denouncing Christ
3. Chapter 3
a. The delay of the parousia
b. Hastening the return of the Lord?
Course: New Testament Survey - Acts to Revelation
Lecture: 2 Peter - Content
The opening verse is a very important Christological verse, “Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Does this refer to our God and also his Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, so that we’re referring to both God and to Jesus Christ, or are we referring to one person, who is both God and Savior, that is, Jesus Christ? We’ve talked about the same kind of grammatical situation in the Pauline letters. Here, you have one article “the” for both God and Savior, and that, in the normal way of understanding Greek grammar, refers to the same person; in other words, the “righteousness of [the one] our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” We’re referring therefore to Jesus here as God. It’s a very explicit reference to Jesus as God here.
In 1:11, you have the same grammatical construction, where you have, “So there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” We have one article, and there’s no question at all here that we’re referring to one person, who is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And in 3:18, we have, “… in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” where again we have one article, meaning “the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ”. So we have these three examples of one article that has two titles associated. In the 3:18 and 1:11 it’s very clear that we’re referring to the same person – the one that is Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. No one argues other than that, as to those two verses. It would seem, therefore, that the only way you could understand 1:1 is the same way: “the one, who is God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
In 1:2, we have “May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of [and now we have 2 articles] THE God and THE Lord Jesus [our Lord].” So we have in 1:2, two articles that distinguish God at that point from the Lord Jesus, so it looks like it’s an intentional difference here to talk about he who is God, and the other person about whom we want to talk, he who is the Lord Jesus. In 1:1 we don’t have that; we have one article combining the two, so it looks to me like a very strong case that Jesus is being defined here explicitly with the title of God. And “God and Savior” as a combination term to describe someone is very common in the ancient world. It’s very common to pair up the two words, “the God and Savior” with an individual (maybe the Emperor or someone like that) in the ancient world. So you have this very strong teaching here about the deity of Christ.
And when we get to 3:18, we have a doxology given to Jesus, “To him [the only thing that this pronoun can refer to is the preceding ‘our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ’] be the glory both now and to the day of eternity.” There’s only one other place where you have a doxology given to Jesus, and that’s in Revelation 1:4-6,
“Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever.”
Again, this is a doxology, and it has to refer to Jesus, because in a doxology it refers to God and Father, separate and distinct from Jesus. Except for those two incidents, all the doxologies in the New Testament are to God. God is the object of the doxology in all of these examples: Romans 16:27, 2 Timothy 4:18, 1 Timothy 1:17, 1 Timothy 6:16, Philippians 4:20, Ephesians 3:21, Galatians 1:5, Jude 25, 1 Peter 4:11. There are two instances in which you have doxologies both to God and to Jesus, and they’re in Revelation 5:13 and Revelation 7:10, where you have both Jesus and God in “… to Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb”. But doxologies are given to God. So if there are two now that are directed to Jesus, what does that imply, Christologically? I don’t know how you get around the issue that in some ways, the writer of the Book of 2 Peter attributes deity to Jesus. I’ve mentioned several times that when you start putting these things together, and you try to treat the biblical material as not contradictory, but as teaching a unified doctrine, how do you put together that God is one (as we saw in James that even the demons believe), and then you have here references to Jesus’s deity? How do you maintain the deity of Jesus and not have a pantheon, so that you really have three gods – God who is the Father, God who is the Son, and God who is the Spirit? These three have a committee role together, but the early church couldn’t do that because of the one-ness of God, and they’ve come up with what we call the Doctrine of the Trinity. As I said before, if you can work it out better and stay true to the biblical material, I’m eager to hear it. Over the centuries, though, this doctrine seems to have been the best way of dealing with that. Again, 2 Peter has very strong doctrinal teaching of the deity of Jesus.
In 1:20-21, we have reference to Scripture, “You must understand this, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation.” This is the RSV translation, but another phrases this to say, “… no prophecy of Scripture derives from the prophets’ own interpretation.” NIV emphasizes more clearly that what is at issue here, is not that a prophecy of Scripture is up to us as individuals to interpret (that would be the New American Standard Bible), but rather that no prophecy of Scripture came simply by the prophet’s own ingenuity, or something like that. And I think the translation that points out that it does not come from the impulse of the individual is emphasized because in the next verse, I think it emphasizes that concept, “For no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” I would argue that it’s better to interpret it, “No prophecy of Scripture derives from the prophets’ own interpretation.” Here, it’s dealt with as something that’s in the past. But the new RSV, in its seeking inclusive language, translates v. 21, “No prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” That translation I’d have problems with, because I don’t know of any Old Testament book of prophecy that alludes to having been written by a woman. And here’s an instance where historically, the Old Testament prophets were men. I’m not saying there were not prophetesses, but he’s talking about Scriptures, and here I think the word “men” would be more appropriate, because I think it corresponds to Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, etc., all being men in that respect.
In 2:20-22, we’re reminded of last week’s emphasis in Hebrews,
“For if after they escape the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. What the true proverb says has happened to them: ‘The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.’”
This is a harsh statement, to say the least. But in some ways, like the writer of Hebrews, he’s saying that if you once came and made this commitment, and turned your back to the gospel, it seems impossible to be restored. I don’t know if it means falling away from the faith, but denouncing the faith and turning away from it. That may be something different, and I think that’s what’s meant here. They’ve gone further than just falling into sin of some sort, as in the example of the alcoholic who was converted and went on a binge again. I don’t think it means that kind of thing, but more like a situation where you’re asked to denounce Jesus or die, and you turn your back on Jesus. The question is, if a person truly repented after that, would they be saved? Yes, if there was true repentance. Another question is, when you make that commitment, can you get back to that place of repenting, etc.? And it brings in the whole issue of the elect in Calvinism, etc. But I think if you’re a Calvinist, you preach from these verses so that you make sure, like Hebrews says, that there is no heart of unbelief present in you. And such preaching becomes then an aid to assist in the persevering of the saints. You can’t simply say, “I don’t believe this; I’m a Calvinist.” If you’re going to do that, you’re going to have to give up Calvinism. But if you fit it into a Calvinist system, this would be a means of aiding the elect from not falling away by preaching this warning.
When we get to 3:8-10, we have a problem which begins in v. 4, which leads some to suggest that the time is later than Peter (3:3-4), “First of all you must understand this, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” And the writer is telling us not to be ignorant (v. 8), “that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” The argument of Peter for the delay of the parousia is the mercy of God allowing time for people to repent.
In v. 11, ff. he talks about that day, and he makes a statement, “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of the Lord.” Other translations read “waiting for”, or “looking forward to”, etc. The word can be translated two different ways, “hastening the day”, or “earnestly desiring” (like the NIV has). I think the more common approach is to understand it as hastening the day of the Lord, and the problem with that of course is: how do you do that? In the early church the issue was debated. For instance, the rabbis thought they could hasten the day of the Messiah’s coming if they repented and showed true repentance and love towards one another. And one of the early church fathers, St. Clement, said that if Christians would achieve sexual purity, which was apparently a problem in his day), that would bring about the Lord’s return. And you have people saying that if each of the unreached people groups were to be reached, that would bring the return. I have no problem with unreached people groups, but if we’re talking about something written back in the first century, that sociological concept is stretching things a bit for their time. But if we reach every people group so they’ve heard the gospel, this would hasten the Lord’s return, and the answer is that I haven’t the faintest idea of (if it means hastening), how that would come about. It’s frustrating if it means that. On the other hand, of it means “earnestly desiring”, then we have once again the longing for, or looking forward to, ‘maranatha’, “Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus”. So the delay of the parousia was a problem for the early church, and it’s been a problem for the Christian church ever since.
I still remember being a young minister, when someone from my congregation came up to me and said that they realized in reading their Scripture that the Lord’s return is very, very close. And I read a verse that said (Romans 13:11), “Salvation is nearer to us now that when we first believed,” and so I think the Lord’s return is real close. And I hope I was more gracious than I might have been, but I said that it was even closer today than it was when Paul wrote that, indicating that this verse was written 1900 years ago, and I wanted him to realize that. So that same hope that they had, we should have, and we’re at least 1900 years closer to the Lord’s return, but that doesn’t mean that we should panic over it.