Lecture 28: 1 & 2 Peter; Jude
Lecture: 1 & 2 Peter; Jude
For the first half of class, we’re going to look at 1 Peter. Then, we’ll look at 2 Peter and Jude in the second half.
Authorship and Date
By way of introduction, regarding the authorship of 1 Peter, there’s very little question that Peter of “Peter, James and John” is the Peter who wrote this. Because Peter was martyred during Nero’s persecution in 67-68 AD, that puts an end to the possible dates, but most people feel that he wrote this in the 60’s, probably while he was in Rome. It is interesting though, there is a comment in 5:12 that he’s writing by way of Silvanus. It probably is the case that Silvanus was the amanuensis, the secretary who recorded, and secretaries in those days were given quite a bit of leeway in terms of saying things better and cleaning up the Greek. The only real question about Peter’s authorship is that the Greek in 1 Peter is beautiful Greek; how could a Galilean fisherman write such nice Greek? But those people in those days were all bi-lingual; it was no big deal as it is to us. They all would have spoken, in Peter’s case, Aramaic and Greek, and probably Silvanus just cleaned it up and made it a little bit better. There actually is no question about its Canonicity either; 1 Peter was accepted into the Canon instantly so no questions.
In terms of the themes of 1 Peter, there’s one that just dominates over all the others and that is the encouragement to persevere in the midst of suffering. 1 Peter was written to a people who were suffering because they were Christians, and it was meant to encourage them and to get them to hang in there, to persevere to the very end. In 1 Pet. 5:12, Peter writes, “I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this,” in other words, what he just finished talking about, “that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.” He’s saying, what I’m telling you about suffering even though it’s a little hard to swallow at places, this is true and you are called to stand firm in it.
It’s mostly about suffering, but within that general theme, there are two emphases and I would encourage you just to read through 1 Peter looking for, because they come up over and over again; I’ll point out some of them. One of the emphases is to continue to be faithful in the midst of present suffering, and the other is to really keep an eye on the future. In other words, what Peter wants these people to do is to deal with the present and to not to ignore the present. Marx was wrong on many fronts, but one of the fronts on which Marx was wrong is when he claimed that Christianity had no concern about the present. You can’t read the Bible and believe Marx. There is a strong emphasis on how you and I live, our responsibilities in the present, but we live in the present with a look to the future and what lies ahead for us, specifically Christ’s return and living in Heaven.
Salutation (1 Pet. 1:1-2)
At the very beginning of 1 Peter, Peter lays out the issues for us and then he just starts commentating on them, so if you get a grip of the first half of 1 Peter 1, you’ve pretty much got a grip on what he’s going to be talking about throughout the letter. Probably the most important word is in 1:1," Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who are elect," and if you have a translation other than the ESV, they are going to use translations like, “those who reside as aliens,” which is New American Standard; the NIV and King James talks about us “being strangers”; the NLT talks about “who are living as foreigners.” The Greek word behind the English word exiles is a technical term for resident aliens, non-Jews who are living in Palestine permanently. What he’s saying is that you are not permanent; you do not belong here; this is not your home; you are a resident alien, or as Paul tells the Philippians that our citizenship is in Heaven. This isn’t home, somewhere else is. That’s the key phrase for all of 1 Peter.
Basic Idea Summarized (1 Pet. 1:3-9)
The basic idea that Peter wants to get across is in 1:3-9, let me just read the first part of it, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” and the idea is he has caused us to be born again also “4to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in Heaven for you, 5who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” We are exiles because God has caused us to be born again, he had regenerated us and he’s given us three promises here.
The first is that we have a living hope, and what’s the biblical definition of hope? What’s the two-word phrase I use a lot for hope? Confident assurance, confident anticipation. When the Bible talks about our hope it’s not like, I hope this works out, but our hope is something that’s in the future, but it’s absolutely sure, there’s no question at all that we’re going to get it. Peter says that we are “born again to a living hope”; we have the confident anticipation, it’s alive, it’s sure; that’s why we know we’re going to receive it. Notice the future orientation, we’ve been born again, that’s present, but to a living hope, a hope by definition is future, right? At the very beginning of his letter he’s saying, start looking forward. The counter to 1 Peter is the human tendency to look down at your feet and not see anything beyond it right. To think that this is all there is, that there’s me, myself and I and there’s now and not a whole lot else is common in American Christianity. What Peter is doing is pushing all the time to get your head up, to look out you’re not the center of the universe, but not to look just at the present, but live your life looking to the future, look to the future it’s a mindset, it’s a radically different orientation than what most people have. He starts in the very beginning we’re born again and we have a living hope, that’s something in the future, we’re confident that we’re going to receive it, we have full assurance.
The second thing we’re born into is an inheritance. Certainly this is going to be a comfort to people who are being persecuted for their faith. Peter says you’re born again to an inheritance, but this inheritance is different; it’s in Heaven; again notice the future orientation. It’s “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading”; it’s in Heaven. We’re moving to our inheritance; we don’t have it now, but we’re going to get it then.
The third thing that we’re born to is the fact that we’re guarded, that Peter knows that we have to live out our life here and now. He’s not a Marxist, he doesn’t think that Christianity is only about the future, he understands that we have to live out our lives here and now. Peter is going to give us some pretty strong commands: you shall be holy as your father in Heaven is holy. I mean he’s going to say some pretty strong things about how you and I are to live out our lives, but he’s making it clear right up front that as we live out our lives, looking to the future, we are being guarded by the very power of God to enable us to do exactly what Peter calls us to do. Those three things together I think they are part and parcel of what’s going on in Peter. We’re new beings, we’re exiles, this place isn’t home we have to live out our lives and we’re going live out in holiness and obedience, but we’re going to do so always looking forward to our real home and our real inheritance and our real treasures.
Fact of Suffering (1 Pet. 1:6-7)
In verses 6 and 7 then, now that he has established that a theological basis, he’s going to get to what the real point is in writing and that is the fact of suffering. He says, "In this," in other words, in all that we have as being regenerate beings, "In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ," at his second coming. Peter introduces the point that he wants to get to, and that is the fact of suffering.
There are two basic things he wants to tell us about suffering, and again remember, some of this is suffering because we’re sinners in a sinful world and bad things happen to sinful people. Do you think a book with that title would sell much? Bad things happen to good people, or since there is no such thing as a good person, bad things happen to sinful people. Would you buy that? Just wondering—I won’t write it. Remember there are two kinds of suffering right? I’m a sinful person living in a sinful world and things happen to people who don’t “deserve” it right? Moms lose children—nobody deserves that right? But there’s also suffering because we are Christians, and there is persecution for our faith. Sometimes Peter distinguishes those two and sometimes he doesn’t. I think part of the reason is that whatever be the reason for why we’re hurting, whether it’s because we live in a fallen world or because we’re living as Christians we can still learn the same kinds of lessons, regardless of the source of the pain. Sometimes he distinguishes, sometimes he doesn’t.
Perspective: Suffering is Only for a “Little While”
Here’s what he wants to say about suffering, two things: First of all, it’s only for a little while. He’s going to say get perspective on things. Remember we’re not living with our heads down, we’re living as people looking forward to the hope that lies before us and home to where our real inheritance is. If we’re suffering here and now, it’s just for a little while. Part of Peter’s answer to the problem of suffering is get it in eternal perspective. He’s going to say the same thing in 5:10, “After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” If we’re living as Christians with our heads up to our future hope, then we can understand that yes, we will suffer, we don’t want to diminish the significance of especially someone else’s pain and suffering, but it’s only for a little while in the perspective of eternity. That’s the one thing Peter wants to say about suffering.
Remember What Suffering Accomplishes
The second thing he wants to say is look at what it is accomplishing. He is very intent on helping us understand that it is in the midst of pain that we learn certain lessons better than at other times, right? How many of us learn deep profound theological truths when everything is going great? It doesn’t happen a whole lot, does it? Peter wants to point out, without belittling the pain, that’s it’s in the midst of pain that there are a lot of things happening and going on.
He lays out some of them for us. This is what God is accomplishing in the face of suffering: (1) It’s going to result in God’s praising you at Jesus’s coming. Now I’m taking an interpretive position, but you’ll notice at the end of verse 7, that we’re being grieved by various trials, our faith is genuine—we know it’s genuine because it’s being tested and we’re being proved faithful. Then he says this proven faith may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. One of the exegetical questions is, whose praise? Whose glory? whose honor? It’s either God pronouncing praise on us, well done good and faithful servant, or it’s us when we see him pronouncing glory and honor on him when he comes. They are actually all tied together. Peter later on is going to say that everything that we do is to the praise and glory and honor of God. The commentaries that I checked were pretty comfortable at saying that what Peter is saying is, remember, look at what’s going to happen, look at the reward that there’s going to be at the end that when you stand before Jesus he is going to praise you, well done good and faithful servant, at which point of course all praise will turn back to him where it fully belongs. One of the things that’s being accomplished is this knowing that we’re going to be praised by God.
Let me look at some of the other verses; look at 3:14, “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’s sake,” this is persecution for your faith, “you will be blessed.” Now I know some of us may say, pass, I have enough blessings in my life already—why don’t you go share the blessing with someone else, but in the midst trials we are blessed—we are blessed by God, we are blessed by his presence, we’re blessed by his grace, we’re blessed by an unbelievable calmness in the face of storm. There are many ways in which we are blessed in the midst of very difficult times. If you’ve been through difficult times you know what I’m talking about. Look at 4:13, he says don’t be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you, as if something strange were happening this is normal for a Christian, "But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed." You and I have been given the privilege of sharing in the sufferings of Jesus Christ. You tell that to a youth group and they’re just going to shake their heads and not have any idea what you’re talking about. I don’t know how many of us ourselves would really understand that. I think it is in Acts 4 where the believers are brought to the Sanhedrin and they were told not to preach in Jesus’s name, so they went out and prayed for boldness and they rejoiced that they were counted worthy to share in suffering for Jesus Christ. In the mist of our suffering and pain as Christians there is a joy knowing that we were called to this and that by participating in it we are participating with Christ. We are with him and we are with him in his sufferings. That’s a maturing process, that’s a growing thing; it’s a good thing even if it’s something that hurts.
In 4:16, and I’m not going to cover all of them you can find them if you want, "Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name." In other words, one of the things that’s happening in the midst of suffering and hurt and pain is that we’re given a chance to glorify God. How would you glorify God in the midst of suffering? It’s how you respond to the suffering, isn’t it? As you lean into the suffering as we talked about last week, as you embrace it, as you deal with it, as you remain steadfast and true to your faith, as you praise God out of your mouth in the midst of suffering, all these things are an opportunity for you and me to glorify God in the midst of sufferings. There are many other places that we could go, Romans 5, the first several verses are one of the strongest where it talks about that we rejoice in our suffering because the suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and eventually character produces hope. Again Paul is saying the same thing that in the midst of suffering, God is at work with your character, with your Christian commitment and is fine-tuning you and is growing you and that’s a good thing.
The most important passage of those is Romans 8:28-29, we are very familiar with this verse and as I like to say please do not ever quote Romans 8:28 without at the same time quoting 8:29 because you’re quoting out of context. “We know that for those who love God,” in other words, this is the promise that is only made to Christians, this is not a promise made to non-Christians, “for those who love God all things work together for good,” don’t get the idea that’s there something automatic about this “work together for good”; it’s explicit in the Greek, it’s almost impossible to bring it into the English. It’s an active thing God is at work in the midst of all the circumstances of our lives and it is he who is making it work together for good. There’s just no way to bring it out in translation. What Paul is saying is no matter how bad something gets you need to understand that for those who love God, that in everything going on, he is at work for your good. Whether you and I see it or not and whether you and I like it or not, he is at work for good. The reason you have to read 8:29 is that 29 defines good, “…for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son (29)”; that’s Paul’s definition of good and that’s God’s definition of good. God’s definition of good is not the cessation of pain, as much as we would like pain to go away that’s not God’s good for us is it? It just isn’t. Sometimes he makes the pain go away, sometimes he makes the hurt go away, but that’s not his good. His good is so that you and I look like Jesus Christ.
As Paul tells the Corinthians, we are being changed from one degree of glory to the next and that’s what God wants us to do. He’s at work in the midst of pain and suffering, changing us from one degree of glory to another, until ultimately we will look like his Son, Jesus Christ. So when you and I face suffering, there are the two answers. It’s only going to last a little while, perhaps just my lifetime, but in the grand scheme of existence it’s not even a blip on the radar screen. Just a little while, and, God is in the midst of the pain working with us in ways that he doesn’t when everything is good so that you and I can more and more be conformed to the image of his Son. Again, I don’t expect you to jump up and do a cheer here and say, “Oh yeah, hit me again God”, but that’s the message of Scripture. I think that for most of us, we understand this and we’ve gone through difficult times, during the process of going through difficult times, despite the hurt we go this is a good thing because God is at work in me. It’s just hard to say in the midst of it, but it’s a good thing to say in the midst of it.
Present Faithfulness and Future Orientation Combined
Let me just show you a couple of passages that are powerful in 1 Peter because what he does in these passages is he combines the call for present faithfulness with a future orientation. He blends these two ideas together beautifully. One is in 1 Peter 1:8-9, “Though you have not seen him, you love him.” That’s a real pat on the back by the way, it really is amazing isn’t it, that you and I love God, we’ve never seen him, but we love him. “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory (8),” see there’s the present, that’s how you and I are to live in the present. “…obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls (9).” That’s future, that’s the final drop of the gavel at judgment pronouncing us saved. We live in the present looking forward to the finalization of our salvation at the final judgment.
Another one is in 1:13-15, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded,” okay that’s how you and I behave in the present, “Set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” See, we live out our lives now looking forward to God’s goodness that will be given to undeserved sinners, grace right, look forward to the grace that we are going to receive at final judgment (13). “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance (14), but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct (15).” Peter likes this going back and forth, back and forth between our present obligation to live out our lives, but always with a future orientation.
Just one more. 1 Peter 2:11-12, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12Keep your conduct among the Gentiles” (he means non-Christians) “honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” The day when he returns is his day of visitation, and I think the assumption is that they will see the witness of a Christian with his good deeds and will likewise become Christians so that they will glorify God on the day when he returns. I don’t know why non-Christians would be glorifying God, they will probably be crying out for the rocks to fall on them, but again you see this same thing where he says, here’s present conduct, how you conduct yourself in a difficult situation with people who are against you, so that at the end when final judgment comes they will glorify God because of your conduct now. Present faithfulness, future orientation.
Motivations For Godly Living
There’s one other thing I wanted to point out in 1 Peter, it’s a great book, it’s worth reading and re-reading, but Peter is concerned not only to tell us what we should do, but he’s also concerned to motivate us. It’s a very interesting exercise to read through 1 Peter and identify every way in which he tries to motivate you to Godly living. It’s amazing how many ways Peter finds to push a little. Let me just give you some of them and these are just some of them. First, he says we’re supposed to be like God, 1:13-16, but specifically verse 15, but “As he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,” in other words, we are to imitate Christ. We are to be like God in a sense that he is a holy God and so we are to be holy as well. One way to motivate us is to say you need to be like Jesus. In verse 17 you have a second motivation and that’s the good old fashion motivation of fear, that’s a good motivation isn’t it, “If you call on him as Father” in other words, if you address God as Father, recognize that he “judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile,” in other words, there’s a little healthy dose of Hellfire and brimstone here, that if we’re going to address God as Father, we understand that that Father is also judge, and he’s going to judge us impartially based on our deeds. A little bit of fear is a good motivator to Godly living right?
A third motivator, just keep going in verse 18, is “…knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold (18), but with the precious blood of Christ (19).” Think of the cost of redemption, think of what your sins and mine cost Jesus—it cost him the death of his Son, that should be a motivator to us to live out our faith, to live out in holiness. Another motivator is the promised blessing to those who are obedient; we’ve already looked at 3:8-9, where he talks about being a witness to the world. 1 Peter 2:11-12 we looked at. You’re supposed to be a good witness to the world, people are supposed to see your life and your conduct and in the end praise God when he returns. The sixth motivation is that, it’s Gods will, this is what God wants us to do, 4:2, “so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh” the rest of our human life “no longer for human passions, but for the will of God.” God’s will his desire to you and me is that we live lives of holiness.
Seventh, and I’ll end with this one, but there’s a lot more in this book, if you go back to 1:1-2, let me read this again, "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia," and then he says, but they are elect "2according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ"; you and I were chosen in order to be obedient. Our actions should be consistent with our character. God has made us saints, this has been his plan all along, the plan all along was that you and I be obedient that we are to be obedient children. So, our actions should be consistent with what God has called us to be. Those are seven motivations, mostly from chapter 1 and a few other verses, but I would encourage you to read through 1 Peter and look at all the ways in which he is trying to encourage you and me in order to live out our lives. It’s a fascinating thing to do.
Other Themes in 1 Peter
Priesthood of Believers
There are just a couple of other themes that I have to mention because they are simply so powerful in 1 Peter. First is the fact that we are a priesthood. I don’t know Luther well enough to know if this was one of his favorite chapters; I have a hard time believing it wasn’t. In 1 Peter 2 starting at verse 4, Peter starts to develop a metaphor. He says, “come to him,” to Jesus and Jesus is “a living stone rejected by men, but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house,” and the idea is of a temple, that you and I are the bricks and mortar of the temple of God, that we “are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood.” Peter is playing fast and loose with his metaphors, some of you may like that and understand it more than others, but at the beginning of the verse we are the temple and then in the metaphor we become the priests who serve in the temple, so there’s a shift in metaphor. We are “a holy priesthood,” offering “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” He quotes a passage and then picking up in verse 9, he says, "But you are a chosen race," remember where he’s speaking, he’s speaking to modern day Turkey. There may have been plenty of Jews there, but this is a predominantly Gentile area. He says to them, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession,” this is all Old Testament language and here’s why we became a royal priesthood so “that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” This is one of my favorite verses.
This is the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. Most of you are probably familiar with this, but in Roman Catholic theology you and I cannot go into the presence of God, not even to ask for forgiveness. There has to be an intermediary; there has to be a priest. So we confess to the priest and the priest grants God’s forgiveness. In Peter, that whole thing is just completely and totally disbanded because we are the priest, meaning we can go directly into the very presence of God and talk to him, confess our sins to him, ask for help, and be encouraged by him. This is the doctrine of the priesthood; we don’t need to go through someone, but we go directly into his presence. If you have family who are Roman Catholic this is a tremendously important verse that you should share with them and talk about it and ask them what they think about it.
Explain your Faith
The other verse in 1 Peter that gets quoted a lot is in 3:15, he’s talking about a context of being persecuted for your faith and he writes, “…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you”; that’s a great verse. It’s the one that we quote a lot for why you’re here; I mean why are you at the Biblical Training Institute? Because you want to be able to explain the hope that is in you to people who ask and they are going to ask.
In chapter 4 he talks about how you know you don’t do the things that you used to do and they’re surprised, your non-Christian friends are surprised that you don’t join them in the same flood of debauchery. You’ve become a Christian and your life is going to change, God is going to change it. Then you are going to be in conflict with your old friends and they’re going to say, “You don’t cuss and swear all the time any more, you spend time with your wife, what happened to you?” We have to be ready to make a defense to give an explanation for the hope, the new hope that we have that the old non-Christians friends don’t. We all know this to be the case, but 3:15 is a great memory verse to quote along these lines.
Let’s move on to 2 Peter. I only have a couple of things that I want to say about 2 Peter, because I want to get to Jude for most of the rest of the time. In terms of introductory comments about 2 Peter, 2 Peter is considerably different than 1 Peter and if you get commentaries and read them you’re going to find that some people love to argue that Peter could not have written both 1 and 2 Peter. The main problem is the Greek in 2 Peter is totally unlike the Greek in 1 Peter and it’s hard to believe the same man wrote both. The answer is very simple—Peter said he used a secretary in 1 Peter to write and hence clean up his Greek. Probably what we have in 2 Peter is Peter’s own Greek. He’s a Galilean fisherman and it comes out. Don’t be surprised if you see people saying that Peter didn’t write 2 Peter, it’s an argument based on the nature of the Greek, but there are many good reasons to believe that Peter wrote both, starting with the fact that he says he does and we believe the Bible. There are many other reasons as well.
The Relationship Between 2 Peter and Jude
The purpose of 2 Peter and Jude is not a pleasant one. 1 Peter is full of great ideas—it deals with suffering, but it’s encouragement. In 2 Peter and Jude, their sole purpose is to castigate the false teachers. They are out to lay into some very bad people. This is Hellfire and brimstone stuff, this is negative, but it’s part of the Bible and it’s a necessary part of the Bible. It’s very strongly worded, actually both 2 Peter and Jude are very strongly worded letters. They are very negative, very judgmental, very condemning because that is what sin deserves.
You will also see in the commentaries, I’ll just mention this in passing, that there’s a lot of connection between 2 Peter and Jude. In fact, 2 Peter 2 to the first part of chapter 3 is very similar to the Book of Jude. In fact, if you were a teacher and you received 2 Peter and Jude as two different term papers you would have to flunk both of them because they know what the other person is writing. There are a lot of similarities that go on. Again the discussion is very long and complicated and for our purposes, it’s not overly relevant. By the way that’s why commentaries will talk about 2 Peter and Jude in the same book. It’s common to have a commentary on 1 Peter and another commentary on 2 Peter and Jude, because 2 Peter and Jude are so similar.
In Doug Moo’s commentary on 2 Peter, here’s how he lays out what he thinks is going on behind the scenes. He says, “Peter, having written a letter castigating false teachers in a specific community shared its contents with Jude. Jude then borrowed freely those portions of 2 Peter that were relevant to a similar false teaching that he was dealing with in his community.” The idea is that Peter wrote 2 Peter and Jude goes, “That’s good stuff and most of it’s relevant to my problems, can I borrow this?” Peter says sure. He copied what he wanted and wrote the Book of Jude. It’s a very straight forward and easy-to-believe situation. There were no copyrights back then, there was no problem with this borrowing, and we’ve already seen this. Where have we seen wholesale borrowing of other people’s writings? The Synoptic Gospels. I think it’s 61 verses of Mark that are in Matthew and Luke. It was a different culture, different time, so different things were allowed; so that’s probably what happens. Peter wrote 2 Peter and Jude took the pieces of it he wanted and addressed it to his own situation.
Important Verses in 2 Peter
I’m going to spend what time we have left going through Jude, but there are a couple of verses you have to know exist in 2 Peter because these are crucial verses theologically. The first is 2 Peter 1:20-21, “No prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” This is probably the second most important passage in the Bible on the doctrine of inspiration. The false teachers that Peter is addressing were claiming other sources of authority and Peter is saying, no, the source of authority is Scripture, we didn’t make it up, but it was spoken from God. It was written by people who were carried along by the Holy Spirit that the Holy Spirit superintended, he oversaw the writing of Scripture. That’s a tremendously important verse and you need to know that it’s there.
Another verse that’s connected with the doctrine of Scripture is in chapter 3 and that’s in verse 16. In 2 Peter 3, part way through verse 16 Peter writes, "There are some things in them," talking about Paul’s writings, "that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures." When Peter is talking about Paul’s writings, he refers to the other Scriptures, the other Scriptures are the Old Testament plus anything that was written down by Apostles. The point is by the middle of AD 60 Peter viewed Paul’s writings as Scripture. That’s a very important verse. They understood that the same authority that lay behind the Old Testament lay behind Paul and therefore the same authority. So by the middle of the 60s AD, people were viewing Paul’s writings as Scripture, the same as the Old Testament.
The other verse that I want to mention in passing is 2 Pet. 3:8. What was happening was that the false teachers were claiming that Jesus wasn’t going to return again. They were saying well he hasn’t come yet. “Nothing’s different, everything’s still the same as it always was, I guess he’s not coming back again.” Then in that context Peter says, “8But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness,” meaning the false teachers, but “is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” In terms of time and God the point is that God is delaying the destruction of this world because he wants people to repent and to believe in him and what is a 1,000 years to us is just one day to him. There is another good verse along that topic later.
Let’s move on to Jude. It’s a good exercise to read Jude and then read 2 Peter. You’ll see all the overlap. Here are a couple of introductory comments on Jude. Jude, we believe, was Jesus’s brother and James’s brother. Some people refer to them as half brothers, but I cannot stand that phrase. This is the James that wrote James and who was the head of the Jerusalem church in Acts 15. It’s interesting that in light of that, look how Jude starts, “1Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James,” he was Jesus’s brother, but he was first and foremost his big brother’s servant. There are some interesting dynamics there aren’t there, but that’s who we believe that he is. The writing of Jude is generally dated somewhere near the time of 2 Peter, obviously, to the late 60s.
Historical Situation (Jude 3-4)
Let’s look at Jude. He goes through the greeting; Jude only has one chapter so you can say Jude 1:3-4 or you just say Jude 3 and 4. Different people differ on that. In 3-4, Jude lays out the historical situation, “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation (3),” in other words, Jude wanted to write a positive letter. He wanted to write something about the salvation that he and his audience enjoyed together. He says, I really wanted “to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ (4).” Okay, this is the historical situation, Jude wanted to write a positive letter, I wish he had, but he says, I found that it’s necessary to ask you to contend, and the word contend is a very strong word—it means fight, it means takes the gloves off, bare knuckles, deep into submission fight. He’s calling for unbelievably aggressive fighting of the part of the church. He wants them to fight for the faith.
Now the word faith is used two different ways in Scripture. One, it’s that we have faith in Jesus, but the word faith can also be used to describe the creed. Those set of beliefs, those set of core beliefs that define who we are as Christians. That’s how he’s using it here, that we are to fight for the core doctrines and the core beliefs that we hold as Christians. Now the trick is always knowing what those core beliefs are. It’s not about the method of baptism, for example. You go through the history of the church and you won’t believe the silly fighting there is over baptism. Do you go forwards, backwards, when do you say Father, Son and Holy Spirit—I mean it’s amazing. The method is not a core doctrine. That is something the church should be ashamed of that we fought about. But there are certain core doctrines and Jude is saying that we have to fight for them.
Now what’s nice is that he gives us two of those core doctrines. There are two core doctrines that you and I must be willing to fight for. In his condemnation in verse 4 of the false teachers he says first of all these false teachers “pervert the grace of our God into sensuality.” This is the doctrine of Sanctification and what is apparently going on is these false teachers are saying, “God is a God of grace, of forgiveness we can do whatever we want, we can even fall into rampant sensuality, immoral living. Because Jude says they “pervert the grace of our God into sensuality.” Probably what’s going on is they are saying well God is a God of grace, he’s going to forgive us so we need to go out and live the filthiest immoral lives we possible can because God’s going to forgive us anyway so it doesn’t matter. You have a core doctrine of sanctification that holiness does matter and you can’t fall into a life of sensuality and have everything okay. Is that clear? This is important because we have to know what to fight about. Do you want to know why I’ve been such a pain in the neck all year among other reasons, on the whole issue of event salvation and the necessity of disciples being obedient? This is why. I mean this for me is one of the most important verses. We are to fight for the faith when people say that holiness doesn’t matter. When you can fall into a life of sensuality and God’s grace will cover it and it really doesn’t matter. Jude says that’s a perversion and you should take off the gloves and fight. Sanctification and the call of sanctification is a core theological teaching that you and I have to fight for.
The second core theological doctrine is the second half of verse 4, these false teachers “deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” Now I wish he had been more explicit, I’m not sure exactly what that means. I don’t know what they were doing to deny him—I don’t know if they were denying his deity, I don’t know if they were denying his humanity. I don’t know if they were professing one thing and denying it by their deeds. There are many ways in which this could have worked out, but in a very general sense this is called Christology. It’s the question of who is Jesus. So I think in a very general sense it’s safe to say that you and I are going to the mat to fight for the faith when the issue of sanctification is raised and when the question of who is Jesus is not answered properly. Is it okay that people come by your house and say that Jesus is a created being? Is it okay out of Christian love to not say anything? You can’t do that because Jude says that when Christology is being attacked, when the question of who is Jesus is being attacked, you have to take off your gloves and fight. We have at least two indications of what we fight about. When people say that holiness doesn’t matter and when people’s understanding of Jesus who is is deficient and defective.
“Once for All Delivered to The Saints”
The other thing that just occurred to me, in the verse “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints,” is something I should have brought up when we talked about Canonicity. Jude by the mid-60s, says that the faith, the core set of doctrines, has been delivered. There’s nothing new coming. We like to ask the question, well if we found another letter of Paul’s would we accept it into the Bible? It’s fun to think through some of that stuff, but by the time of Jude, the basic teaching of who is Jesus and what it is to be a disciple of Jesus is set. Therefore, nothing new can be believed that contradicts what was being taught by AD 65. You’ll see books all the time that say, come and see the books that the church hid, we found them and we’re going to give them to you so you can see what was really being taught. You’ve seen the book? They come out every 20 years; it’s the New Testament and Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, we’ve had it for years there’s nothing surprising; there’s just somebody that likes to make money so they say, “No one has ever seen these books before and here they are.”
The point is they contradict what was being taught by AD 65. The faith is delivered by AD 65; the core doctrines of what it is to be a Christian are already set. Anything that contradicts that is wrong. You can’t say the Canon is closed, you can’t say that by this point that you can’t put any more books in the Bible because most likely the Gospel of John wasn’t written until the late 80s or 90s, so the early church accepted books into the Canon as authoritative after Jude, but only when they agreed with what was being taught at that time. That was a parenthesis, but I had to say that. The faith that was once for all delivered to the saints, the creed is once for all, it’s been delivered to us, this is it, it’s once for all delivered.
“Certain People Have Snuck in”
He continues with “certain people have snuck in”; I love Jude’s way of saying this; he doesn’t think much of these false teachers, they’re sneaks, they snuck in, they came in when no one was looking. He says two things about false teachers that are pretty important. One is in verse 12 and we missed this in the translation and I’m not sure why because there’s no question about it, but the ESV reads, “These” (false teachers) “are blemishes on your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, looking after themselves (23)”; the word is actually shepherding themselves. The idea is that if you are a shepherd, you’re shepherding sheep and these false teachers are shepherding themselves. But who are the shepherds in the early church? The leaders, the elders. I don’t know if the word is used of anyone else, but I don’t think it is. This is a hint that these people who snuck in to the church became leaders in the church. In other words, you have the same situation in Jude’s church that you have in the Pastorals that people that come in to the church became leaders in the church and started teaching false doctrine. The same thing is going on here, they snuck in, they were supposed to shepherd the sheep, but rather they were shepherding themselves because they were wicked.
The other thing that he says about the false teachers is in verse 19, he says, "It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit." Now if you’re devoid of the Spirit, are you a Christian? No, you can’t be; see Romans 8. The situation in Jude’s church is people snuck in, they moved into positions of leadership, they weren’t even Christians and they were perverting the truth of the Gospel. Do you know any churches like that? I hope not. Jude is so strong in his language; I wouldn’t suggest going into a church that is struggling a little and use the language of Jude. It’s too strong, but if the leaders aren’t Christians and if they’re perverting the Gospel or core theological beliefs, that’s when this language is appropriate.
Description, Condemnation, and Solution to False Teachers (Jude 5-25)
In the middle part of Jude (5-16), he describes and then condemns the sneaks, the false teachers, and the point of all the illustrations he’s giving is no matter how you start your walk in Christ, if you turn away you’re going to be punished. You have to be faithful, you have to persevere; the false teachers haven’t persevered and they are wrong. You then get down in verse 17 to the end we get to the solution. How do you deal with a church that is this deep in sin in its teaching and its leadership? Jude tells us to do three things.
Don’t be Surprised (Jude 17-19)
First, when dealing with these problems in a church, don’t be surprised. Verses 17, 18 and 19 are Jude saying, don’t you remember the prophecies? Don’t you remember that we were told that in the last days, scoffers would come, they would be ungodly, they would cause divisions, and they wouldn’t have the Spirit? He’s saying you shouldn’t have been surprised when these false teachers arose from your midst. There’s plenty of prophecy in the New Testament about the coming of these kinds of people. It’s a strong warning that no matter where our church is, that whatever stage it is in, that you can never assume that it’s going to stay that way, saying “we’re doing great, we don’t have to be careful, we don’t have to watch, we don’t have to hold to our standards”—you just can’t do that. We can’t afford to be surprised because they’re always waiting, wanting to sneak in and take over and destroy churches. Jude says don’t be surprised—be ready.
Devote Yourself to Your Own Spiritual Growth (Jude 20-21)
Second of all, in verses 20-21, I think what Jude is saying is that the way that you deal with these kinds of problems is to devote yourself to your own spiritual growth. It’s really easy when problems arise to sit there and point the finger and blame and all that stuff, but Jude’s solution is you need to be concerned about your own spiritual growth. You need to be growing as a Christian. You need to be moving into maturing so you can handle these kinds of problems. “But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit (20), keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life (21).” These verses are somewhat interpretive, but I think you build yourself up by learning and you build yourself up in your faith by living it out. You all are building yourself up in your most holy faith in other words, you’re here to learn and then to go out to use it to put it into practice and grow. I think that’s what Jude means when he says, build yourselves up, you learn it and you live it.
He says “praying in the Holy Spirit,” in other words, be prompted by the Spirit, be encouraged by the Spirit, be guided by the Spirit, be empowered by the Spirit. Make sure your prayers are infused with God’s Spirit. “Keep yourselves in the love of God (21)”; that’s an interesting concept isn’t it. Wait a minute Jude, Romans 8 says nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, right? Right. I think what Jude is saying is that God loves you, but we have a role to play. When it comes to sanctification, we must present our bodies as a living sacrifice. He’s not going to do it for us, he will give us the desire to do it, he will enable us to do it, he will call us to do it, but ultimately you and I must present our bodies as living sacrifices, like in Romans 12:1. I think we keep ourselves in the love of God by being obedient. Jesus said, if you love me, you will keep my commandments. Those are some of the ways in which Jude wants to encourage us that you deal with problems in the church by looking at yourself and growing up in yourself.
Fight for The Faith (Jude 22-23)
The third thing that he says about how you deal with problems is to fight for the faith. That language is from 1:3 that we are to fight for the faith. These verses are a little difficult, you have to do some interpretation: “Have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.” You have to do some interpretation to figure out what these verses mean, because, who are these others? This was the commentaries’ best guess and I think it’s a very good guess. I think he’s addressing three groups of people in the church.
The first group of people are those who are simply doubting their faith. They’ve been hearing the false teachers, they’re starting to worry and wonder a bit and to those he says, you pursue them, but you pursue them with mercy. You treat them in a merciful way right. I think the second group of people are those who are almost being swayed, not completely yet, but are almost swayed by the heresy. To these people you are to save them, snatching them out of the fire. In other words, you’re still supposed to pursue them, but you’re supposed to be a lot more aggressive. In other words, there’s a point where you start hearing people say, “I believe this” and you know it’s not right. You don’t want to scream “No! That, that’s simply a heresy.” I mean that’s generally not the way to do it. You encourage them and you treat them with mercy and gentleness, but if somebody is moving towards heresy and they’re right on the brink of Hell, then we don’t ignore them. We continue to pursue them and very aggressively. You snatch them from the fire.
I think the third group that Jude is referring to are the false teachers themselves. Jude, how are you going to relate to the false teachers? You are going to show mercy, which probably means prayers of mercy that you continue to pray to God that he will show mercy to them and save them since they are not Christians. Show mercy, but here’s how you relate to heretics or non-Christians. You do it with “with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.” I think by fear he’s saying fear of being influenced by them. When you rub shoulders with people, it rubs off right? You rub off on them and they rub off on you. I think Jude is saying, continue to pursue the false teachers by prayer, by calling out for God’s mercy on them, if nothing else, but be really careful. Be fearful of the effect that close contact can have. You must hate “even the garment stained by the flesh.” The interpretation here is gross, but it’s what cements the idea that we’re dealing here with a non-Christian. The garment is the piece of clothing that’s closest to the body, and stained is our nice American euphemism for human excrement, I’ll let you figure that one out. Here’s what the commentator writes, “Jude pictures the sinful teaching and practices of the false teachers as underclothes fouled by feces.”
Does Jude hate sin? Does Jude hate deceptive and wrong teaching that’s at the core of the Gospel. Should we likewise also hate false teaching? That’s part of the message of Jude and in this pluralistic cultural in which we live and in which we’re supposed to be tolerant of everyone, even those that are wrong (of course in this culture no one’s wrong except Christians who are always wrong, but that’s something else), Jude is a shining light that says there is something that you’re supposed to fight, fight at all costs. They are denying Christ, and they are misrepresenting the role of sanctification in people’s lives. You and I in that situation are to roll up our sleeves and fight. We can never lose our hatred and disgust of false teaching; we can never do that.
Doxology (Jude 24-25)
The question then is how can we do this, how can we do this as individuals, how can we do it as a church, it’s just too hard. The answer in Jude is, you’re right, it’s too hard. This is nothing that you and I can do on our own and that’s why he closes in this gorgeous doxology. Notice how the doxology flows; he’s called us to a very difficult task of fighting the heretics and then he says, “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling (24)”; where does the power for all this come from? It comes from God; it comes from Christ and that he is the one who provides the power so that when you and I live out our lives we do so without stumbling. It is he who will “present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy” on the day of Judgment “to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen (25).” Jude is a powerful book, it’s not full of nice pleasant ideas, but it does show how we are to approach serious false teaching—not how we baptize, but serious false teaching—the things that go against the core beliefs that the church has always held too.