the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
Contending for the Faith Contending for the Faith
- 2 Peter
CONTENDING FOR THE FAITH
A Commentary On
THE BOOK OF SECOND PETER
By JOE L. NORTON
Publisher Charles Allen Bailey
Executive Editor - Joe L. Norton, Ph.D.
Associate Editor - Steven R. Bowen
Copyright © 1993
Contending for the Faith Publications
4216 Abigale Drive, Yukon, OK 73099
All Rights Reserved
All scripture quotations,
unless otherwise indicated, are taken from
The King James Version, KJV
Long ago, people had needs that were, in reality, no different from the needs of people of today or of any other generation.
They needed hope--they needed to have the reassurance that they could live the Christian life and that they could make it to heaven. They needed something firm to hold on to.
Realizing that need and knowing the problems these people were beginning to deal with--especially the problem of false teachers in the churches--the Apostle Peter penned the words of encouragement and strength found in his second epistle. He had already written the first epistle to them at a time when they needed it the most--a time when troubles and persecutions were beginning. He told them to hold on firmly to Jesus Christ regardless of the troubles they were enduring at that time or of other more severe difficulties they would have to face in the future. And he assured them that times would get tougher for them, and evidently that is what happened.
Now he writes to these same Christians to encourage them to withstand all of the difficulties and discouragement brought on by false teachers. His continuing message is to hold on to Jesus Christ, the only hope in a world of problems and despair. The apostle writes, "...give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall" (2 Peter 1:10). This resounding message is to be strong in the Lord and to continue in their good fight of faith. He specifically assures them that with the promises of the Lord in their hearts and with their continuing growth toward Christian maturity, they could make it.
Time of Writing
Even though the exact time and place of the writing of the second epistle are unknown, it is written to the same group of people as the first. Peter says, "This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance" (2 Peter 3:1). The first epistle, addressed to people living in Asia Minor, was written as they were beginning to have trials. Those trials had grown worse as Peter had warned; and Christians still needed to remain faithful to the Lord, realizing that the Lord could return at any time and they needed to be prepared for His return (see 2 Peter 3).
In earlier days, many questioned the authenticity of this epistle, but it came to be accepted by most scholars by the fourth century. The main question centered around whether the Apostle Peter was the author. Albert Barnes in his Barnes’ Notes quotes Jerome, saying, "Peter wrote two epistles, called Catholic; the second of which is denied by many to be his, because of the difference of style from the former" (Barnes 1437). Eusebius points out that this question does not mean that it was not believed but only that it was questioned.
Eusebius, in the chapter of his ecclesiastical history where he speaks of the New Testament in general, reckons it among the antilegomena, or those books which were not universally admitted to be genuine; literally "those which were spoken against,"...This does not imply that even he, however, disbelieved its genuineness, but merely that it was numbered among those about which there had not been always entire certainty (Barnes 1437).
By the fourth century, it was generally accepted by almost all scholars except the Syrians.
...it seems to have been quoted by several of the fathers in the second century, and in the third the great Origen went so far as to write a commentary on it. It was finally received by all the churches except the Syrian, in whose translations of the New Testament it was not embraced (Johnson, Vol. II 370).
Such scrutiny by early scholars only helps to strengthen our faith in the validity of the word of God. No other book, except the word of God, could have undergone such testing and survive.
Themes of Epistle
Peter’s message to the people in Asia Minor centers around the themes of (1) making their calling and election sure by growing in the attributes characteristic of a Christian, (2) the absolute reliability of the word of God based on his personal experiences with Jesus, (3) the need to fight against false prophets in the churches, and (4) the assurance of the second coming of Jesus Christ.
As he begins, the Apostle Peter addresses those of "like precious faith," clearly establishing that he is addressing those who have obeyed the gospel and have begun the Christian journey. Assuring his readers of the reliability of the "great and precious promises" of God, he tells them how to partake of those promises: by growing in those attributes that have become known as the Christian graces: virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brother kindness, and charity. With the addition of these qualities to their faith in the Lord Jesus, they would be strong enough to withstand any kinds of problems Satan might place in front of them. They would be spiritually strengthened so that they could deal with problems brought on by false teachers or with other problems that could be a strain on their faithfulness.
With certainty Peter validates the word of God as the only standard they are to follow. He knows the word of God is true, he says, because he was among the "eyewitnesses of his majesty" (2:16). Peter had been present at many of the Lord’s experiences during His ministry, he had been with the Lord on the Mount of Transfiguration, and he had witnessed the fulfillment of many of the prophecies of the Old Testament. He knew personally that the word of God was true. Peter never wants them to forget the importance of relying solely on the word of God, and he feels the need to write it to them again since he is now growing old.
Only this kind of faith and knowledge of God can give them the assistance they need as they fight the wicked and depraved false prophets who are to plague the church and try to lead the faithful astray. Peter warns that these false prophets will reach the point that they will go to any extreme to deceive the elect. But, he says, the day of reckoning is coming: there is a day when the Lord will return to the earth "...as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat..." (3:10).
In his closing, Peter assures his readers that there is a new heaven and new earth to look forward to. And these are prepared for those who believe the promises of God and who allow that belief to keep them with the Lord, rather than to give in to the wicked one. His final encouragement is for them to continue growing "in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (3:18).
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