THURSDAY, DECEMBER 21
SCRIPTURE: 2 Peter 1
As is the case with 1 Peter, this letter was not written to a specific church. But it was written to a specific people. It was written to the believers of the diaspora – the believers that had been dispersed from Jerusalem and were now living in a variety of places.
The key concept of this letter is “know”. It, or some form of it, appears at least thirteen times in this short letter. This concept is not primarily about an intellectual knowledge although that is included. It is primarily about a personal experience that leads to a personal participation in the truth of the Gospel.
The second chapter is about false teachers/prophets and fake believers. But Peter is going to tell us about the genuine before he addresses the fake. That is a pretty good strategy. The more familiar we are with the genuine, the better able we are to recognize the fake.
Did you notice the way that Peter described himself as he opened this letter? It wasn’t that he was an apostle although that is mentioned second. It wasn’t that he had walked personally with Jesus although he had. It wasn’t that he had been used to perform great miracles although he had. It wasn’t even that he had been used to start the New Testament Church although he had.
His first description of himself in this letter is that he is a servant. As I looked at that, it became like a lightning bolt into my spirit. Peter, one of the great characters of the New Testament, described himself as a servant. I wonder, given the opportunity, how we would identify ourselves. I wonder if I would be so humble as to say that first and foremost I am a servant.
As Peter goes on in his introduction, he makes another staggering statement. He says that the faith (e.g. the salvation) that his readers had was of equal standing with his. I think sometimes we put the apostles on unnecessary pedestals. On one hand, they played incredible and unique roles in the early church. On the other hand, their faith relationship with Jesus is identical to ours. Our salvation is the same as theirs. The reason this true is everyone’s salvation is based in and on the righteousness of Jesus.
Peter goes on to encourage us to remember that our salvation necessarily changes how we live on this earth. Our faith in Jesus changes our attitudes and actions. In verse 5, he unapologetically says here are some things that you need to add in your life as a Christ follower. Here are some things that you need to make sure you represent. And then he goes on to list seven characteristics of a genuine Christian life.
The first one is virtue or goodness which speaks to moral excellence. The second one is knowledge and speaks to the ability to handle life successfully. The third one is self-control which means the ability to not do things that shouldn’t be done. The fourth one is steadfastness or perseverance which enables us to handle the pressures and problems of life. The fifth one is godliness which actually refers to worshipping well or knowing what is really important in life and keeping it in first place. The sixth one is brotherly affection or brotherly kindness which should define our relationship with other Christ followers. The seventh one is love or agape which speaks to a willingness to sacrifice greatly for the benefit of others.
Curiously enough, when you look at this section in the original language it is as though these things are built on each other. In other words, the Christian life is a life in progress. It is a life that God is working on but it is also a life that we need to be working on. And these are seven things we need to add to our lives.