God’s Word for You
2 Peter 1:1 A faith as precious as ours
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Sunday, June 5, 2022
The most important thing to remember about 2 Peter is that the Apostle is warning about wicked men who scoff about the second coming of Christ. Paul had warned about the same thing:
- “Savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30)
- “Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction” (2 Thessalonians 2:3)
- “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:1-2)
- “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days… Unholy (men) will come. Have nothing to do with them. These men oppose the truth—men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected” (2 Timothy 3:1,2,5,8)
The date of this Epistle is uncertain. Some scholars today think that, like Jude, 2 Peter’s date floats around and cannot be nailed down, and that it might even have been written prior to 1 Peter. Their reasoning is that the audience of 2 Peter is not stated, and the reference in Chapter 3 to this being “the second letter I write to you” (2 Peter 3:1) doesn’t mean that 1 Peter was first. Like Paul’s missing letter to the Laodiceans and some of the missing correspondence with the Corinthians, Peter may have written more than just two letters. It was the usual habit of the ancient church to arrange books of the Bible by size, although once in a while this has proved to be correct chronologically as well as by length, as with 1-2 Corinthians, 1-2 Thessalonians, and 1-2 Timothy. But who knows in what order John wrote his three letters, or in what order Solomon wrote his poetic books? Nevertheless, the opinion of the church has almost always been that 1 Peter was written first.
2 Peter’s place in the Biblical canon was once questioned by some members of the church, but Professor George Stoeckhardt of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis said in his 1880s class lectures: “The Second Epistle of Peter belongs in the Antilegomena [“Books Spoken Against”]. It is hard to say why it should have been classed with these. Now, if this letter was not written by St. Peter, it was not written by a Christian at all, but by a base forger, who in the opening words falsely claims to be Simon Peter. Yet we find this letter frequently quoted in the oldest manuscripts… We therefore receive this epistle as what it purports to be, namely, a writing of the Apostle Peter. And we also note that this epistle appeared later than what is known as the First Epistle of St. Peter.”
The letter’s theme is Beware False Teachers!
I, Introduction (1:1-2)
II, Grow in Christian Virtues (1:3-11)
III, Peter’s Life is Coming to a Close (1:12-21)
IV, Warning against False Teachers (2:1-22)
V, Christ will Return (3:1-16)
VI, Conclusion (3:17-18)
1 Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours: (NIV)
Here as throughout the rest of the Scriptures we are taught clearly and without any doubt that righteousness comes from Christ, not from within us. This righteousness from Christ comes before faith because it is alien to us, coming from outside. And the righteousness we receive is not from anyone apart from God. Paul describes this with a sharp knife when he cuts through the false doctrine of salvation by works when he says: “If righteousness could be gained through the law, then Christ died for nothing!” (Galatians 2:21). No matter how you try to define “law” that Paul uses (although it is clear from the letter that he means the whole law and not just part of it) you will be left with the conclusion that we cannot do enough or be perfect enough to merit anything at all. And Peter and Paul agree. We are not rescued on account of anyone’s righteousness or merits apart from Christ. We receive nothing from Paul’s merits, and nothing from Peter’s merits, but only from Christ and from Christ alone.
Peter trusts that his readers already know all of this, but he doesn’t identify them for us. It’s natural to take them as the same Minor Asian Christians who received 1 Peter, the churches of Pontus in the north, Galatia in the center, Cappadocia in the east, and Asia and Bithynia in the west. But could it be someone else? Perhaps. There are enough matters for our interpretation and understanding in the letter for us to worry about such a matter than can’t truly be resolved. Let’s consider what the Apostle has to say, because he doesn’t just say it to those Christians, long since received into eternal glory, but to us who await that glory even now. Peter wants to warn against false teachers, and therefore we need to sit up, pay attention, and listen carefully. For there are many false teachers prowling around and roaring and shooting their mouths off today. We must be ready for them.
Let us begin by acknowledging, as Peter does, that Jesus Christ is our God and our Savior. Peter’s Greek is not vague here. He preaches the divinity of Christ with this very first verse, and we are glad he says it, for we believe it with all our hearts. There was a time when no one could be found in our villages and towns who would have opposed this, but today the doubts of the French philosophers and the British and German psycho-analysts have infected millions, so that there are fools and doubters wherever you go. And our work is doubled on account of the many Christians who are being taught that they need to add to what Christ has done.
But do not despair. The doctrine of Christ, the basic doctrinal teaching of the Bible, is the Holy Spirit’s gift to the Church through the Holy Scriptures. Consider its origin: No one knows or has ever known the doctrine of Christ by nature, that is, by their own research, meditation, insight, genius, or consideration. The religions that consider Christ apart from the Scriptures reject him as nothing more than a good man (the Buddhists) or a prophet of some kind (the Muslims), or on a similar level with Moses the lawgiver (the Jews), or as an example worthy to be followed (the Freemasons, the Mormons, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses). But the doctrine of Christ, that is, the teaching about who Christ is and what he has done for us, has been divinely revealed in the Word: “The preaching about Christ is a mystery that has been hidden for long ages past” (Romans 16:25). “This was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:17).
“Christ is the center of all prophetic and apostolic Scripture, the foundation of the church, the treasury of our hope, the fountain of salvation and grace. Is it from him that we are called Christians, and from him come down all things necessary for our salvation. John begins his writing with Christ: ‘In the beginning was the Word’ (John 1:1) and he ends it with him as well: ‘The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you’ (Revelation 22:21). All of Scripture is nothing else than a continuous witness of Christ. ‘Here I am. I have come—it is written about me in the scroll’ (Psalm 40:7).” Or as one theologian said: “The Bible is to be read in such a way as if it was written entirely with the blood of Christ.”
The clearest and most prominent effect of the doctrine of Jesus Christ is our salvation, which towers above all other considerations like a single mountain soaring above a deep valley. Its usefulness?
- The knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of our sins (Luke 1:77).
- Righteousness: “By his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many” (Isaiah 53:11).
- True godly wisdom, which is faith and the application of faith: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength” (Jeremiah 9:23).
- And also eternal life: “Now this is eternal life: That they may know you, Father, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3).
This is our possession. We have the result of everything Christ accomplished here in his ministry, suffering, Passion, death and resurrection, and we have the full knowledge of it. No one else in the world, in all history has this, a faith as precious as ours.
Pastor Timothy Smith