Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Overview of 2 Peter

Sim Boon Yong gave an overview of 2 Peter at tonight's ARPC Adult Meeting with loads of encouragement to keep meeting up over God's words.

For the benefit of those who were stuck at work/had more pressing appointments/didn't manage to awake from your afternoon siesta/couldn't be arsed to attend, here's a summary of the proceedings:

Last Words
Boon Yong started off by asking what we thought our last words would be before we passed away. We figured our last words would be a reflection of the clumsy curiosity with which we'd lived our lives, like "Oops!", "Uh-oh…", "Hey! What's this..." or "So what happens when you mix this…" or some unedifying cuss word. That wasn't quite what Boon Yong had in mind. He was hoping for a slightly less accidental, more contemplative and considered deathbed speech.

Peter's last words (or as last written words as far as we know) are recorded in 2 Peter (1:15). (Ok, so he wasn't really just about to pop his clogs since he managed to write 3 chapters.)

Peter is concerned for the people/believers he will leave behind when he passes on. He is concerned that they will persevere in their faith in the future.

Peter
Peter was a very privileged man. He was one of the Apostles. He lived and travelled with Jesus, and was one of the few disciples who saw Jesus' transfiguration. He was also the one that pointed out that Jesus was the Christ. Peter was also quick-tempered and spoke faster than he thought. Unfortunately, after Jesus was arrested, Peter was also the one who denied Jesus three times when asked if he knew Jesus. After Jesus' death and resurrection, Jesus restored and reinstated Peter commanded Peter to take care of his people, his sheep (John 21:15-19).

Peter's 3 Concerns for the Aforementioned Sheep

In his letter, Peter lists 3 main concerns:
  • that the believers grow in godliness;
  • that the believers guard against false teachers and false prophets; and
  • that the believers are able to defend themselves against scoffers.
First Concern: Growing in Godliness
Peter is fully aware who the readers of the letter are: they are believers who have been saved because of Jesus' righteousness and they will therefore participate in the divine nature (1:1-4). So, they are to make their calling and election sure (1:10).

God's sovereignty in saving them (1:1; 1:3) does not mean that they have no responsibility to take any action to live a godly life (1:5-9). The Bible holds the two things in tension: God is sovereign in salvation and we are also responsible for living a life pleasing to God.

There is only one type of believer: one under construction. We hate it when things are under construction: there is dust and noise and it disturbs us. Similarly, we hate to undergo transformation to be more and more like Christ, but it is this very transformation that we must undergo and we will continue to undergo it until we are made perfect when Christ comes again. Not only are we to continue to undergo this transformation, we must possess godly qualities in increasing measure (1:7).

Therefore, meeting together as Christians whether in a large group like the Adult Meeting, or going for service, or going to DG (small group bible studies) are non-negotiables. We must use every opportunity to build each other up, to live a life pleasing to God, to undergo transformation, and in increasing measure.

Second Concern: Guarding Against False Teachers and False Prophets
Set against the faithful teaching and faithful living of Peter, are the false teachings and false living of the false teachers. We see in chapter 2 that they are destructive and have a detrimental effect on the believers; Peter care for his sheep and feed them, but the false teachers were self-centred and boastful. They were greedy and exploited the sheep.

It is only those that know the truth who can discern what lies are.

Therefore, fellowship with other believers over God's Word is non-negotiable. Where else can we be led to grapple with God's words in the Bible and be familiar with them?

Note that despite the presence of false teachers, God is not impotent. He is able to keep those who are his safe and condemn and judge the false teachers (2:4-9).

Notice also that the false teachers are people who follow their own evil desires. So even as we gather as a fellowship group, we must pray for the leaders that they will not be like Balaam, a prophet of God who followed his own evil desires.

Third Concern: Defending Against Scoffers
Scoffers are foolish people who do not believe in God and his words (3:3). They can be our relatives, colleagues and friends. They despise our beliefs and ridicule us for them. They can undermine our faith, and we can start to doubt that God exists and even lose sight of him.

Therefore, if we are on our own, it is easy for us to doubt that God exists or that his words are real. Going to a gathering of Christians is non-negotiable. We must meet to encourage each other, and continue to spur each other on. We must keep reminding each other of God's coming judgement. God's graciousness in staying his judgement is so that we can live godly lives and also encourage and pray for our non-believing family members and friends for as long as God has still given them time to repent.

A gathering of Christians has famously been likened to a pile of wood burning. If you take one stick away from the fire, it will soon die out. We must come together so we can encourage and spur each other on to be on fire for God.

Our Response
We must take to heart all the lessons to be learnt from 2 Peter, so that:
  • we will not be ineffective and unproductive (1:8);
  • we will be able to discern untruths that would lead us to destruction;
  • and we can withstand the attacks of scoffers who will try to pull us and entice us away from the truth.
Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. (3:17-18)
A whirlwind tour no doubt. We'll have a great time studying this in more detail in DG in the coming weeks!

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