As we have with all of the New Testament letters, we need to begin by looking at the structure of the writing. Peter declares that he is the author of this letter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ. The letter is written “to those who have obtained a faith of equal privilege with ours through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Peter’s first letter was written to the “pilgrims of the dispersion.” Peter’s second letter has a broader audience, written to all Christians. In verse 2 Peter gives his salutation to these Christians: “May grace and peace be multiplied to you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” Peter then neglects to offer a section of thanksgiving. I believe this indicates the author has a pressing need to get on with the point of the letter and feels compelled to omit the cordial parts of the letter. This is also seen in the fact that Peter also omits a closing and omits a greeting at the end of the letter. Verse 3 sets the theme of the letter:
“For His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” Quite simply, God has provided everything we need for life and godliness. Life and godliness comes through the knowledge of God. Peter is going to write about what the Christians need to know for life and godliness.
Know Your Salvation (1:4-11)
God has given us all we need so that we can share in His divine nature. Notice that Peter does not say that we are sharing in his divine being, but that we are becoming like God. We are escaping the corruption of the world by not acting like the world. But our faith and our salvation is just the start of our sharing with God. Therefore, we are to make every effort to add goodness, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, brotherly affection, and love to our faith. Peter is emphasizing how these characteristics must be part of our character. “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:8). Peter says we must have these qualities and we must be growing in these qualities. Otherwise, we will be found useless and unfruitful. Further, Peter calls the person who lacks these things “blind,” “shortsighted,” and “forgetful.” Do not forget the cleansing from sins that Christ did for us. Do not be blind to the fact that God has given you a great salvation. Do not be blind to the fact that more is required for salvation than just faith. Goodness, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, brotherly affection, and love must be ours and increasing to keep our calling and election sure (1:10).
Know Your Scriptures (1:12-21)
Second, Peter reminds Christians about the nature and method of the scriptures. But before he talks about the transmission of the scriptures, Peter brings a personal note about his own life and circumstances in verses 12-15. In verse 14 Peter says that he will “lay aside his tent,” referring to his belief that he would be dying soon. So this letter is to bring some important teachings to the minds of Christians before he dies.
Peter reminds the Christians that they did not make up these stories about Jesus. These were not “cleverly contrived myths” (HCSB) or “cleverly invented stories” (NIV). Rather, Peter and the apostles were “eyewitnesses of His majesty.” They saw the glory of Jesus. They heard the voice of the Lord while on the mountain declaring Jesus to be the Lord’s beloved Son. Eyewitness testimony is one of the most important pieces of evidence in a court of law. The apostles declare themselves to be eyewitness of the life and glory of Jesus.
Peter also reminds the readers that what Jesus did and what the apostles were doing was the fulfillment of the words of prophets spoken hundreds of years earlier. Pay attention to the words of the prophets because you will see that the prophets spoke about all of the events that took place in the days of Jesus and the apostles.
Peter finally reminds the audience that they did not come up with the words of the scriptures by their own will. “No prophecy ever came by the will of man.” Not only did the apostles and prophets not come up with these words on their own, they did not even write down their own words. “You should know this: no prophecy of Scripture comes from one’s own interpretation.” The apostles were not told what to write and did not, then, put these things into their own words. Many times brethren define inspiration as God speaking to the apostles and prophets and the apostles and prophets then put what God said into their own words. Peter outright denies this. Peter says they did not write their interpretation of God’s words. Nor did they on their own come up with the words to say. “Instead, men spoke from God, as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (vs. 21). They wrote down God’s words. They did not write down their own words. They did not write down their own interpretation of God’s words. They were carried along by the Holy Spirit, writing down God’s very words. Christians were to know these things.
Know Your Adversaries (2:1-22)
The third thing that Peter wants to instruct Christians about is what they are battling against. There were false prophets then and there are false teachers now. The words that Peter speaks against false teachers not only apply to the days when Peter lived, but sounds like false teachers in our culture today. Notice verse 3 especially: “In their greed they will exploit you with deceptive words.” As you know, we have all sorts of people using the Bible to exploit people to gain greater wealth. I think this would be appropriate to say of nearly every major television evangelist. When evangelists declare on national television that Jesus would have had his own leer jet to justify why they have millions of dollars, then we see “evangelists,” in their greed, exploiting people. Peter says that they will receive a harsh judgment.
The whole chapter is spent talking about the nature of false teachers and their coming condemnation. Peter tries to show how these false teachers are trying to exploit the people for their own personal and financial gain. God condemns these people and they will be judged. “The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, especially those who follow the polluting desires of the flesh and despise authority” (2:9-10). Their condemnation is certain and anyone who misuses God and his teachings for personal gain should be given the harshest of penalties.
Know Your Prophecy (3:1-18)
The final section of Peter’s letter is to remind the Christians about the words previously spoken by the prophets. Peter says that there will be scoffers questioning the promises of the Lord’s coming. People are going to believe that there will not be a judgment because the world continues to go on day after day. But, Peter says, the scoffers willfully forget history. They forget about the global flood that destroyed the world in the days of Noah. The world at that time perished because of the wickedness that extended across the globe. In verse 7 Peter makes the application: “But by the same word the present heavens and earth are held in store for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.” The world was destroyed by water in the days of Noah. The world will be destroyed by fire when the Lord returns in judgment.
So what is taking so long for the Lord to come in judgment? “The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance” (3:9). Thousands of years have passed in the effort to save as many people from the destruction of hell as possible. But, just as in the days of Noah, a day will come when judgment will be brought against the world. Peter goes on to describe this judgment of fire in verse 10.
All of this has been said to remind the Christians about their salvation and their need to grow in their faith and character. “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, it is clear what sort of people you should be in holy conduct and godliness as you wait for and earnestly desire the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be on fire and be dissolved, and the elements will melt with the heat” (3:11-12). We await the new order when Christ returns as we live with the Lord in heaven.
Peter wraps up his letter with some final thoughts:
- Make every effort to be found in peace without spot or blemish before Him. This command goes back to the beginning of the letter that we must make every effort to add to our faith goodness, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. We must make every effort to grow in each area.
- Regard the patience of our Lord as an opportunity for salvation. God’s longsuffering is a good thing as he waits, hoping for everyone to accept his grace and not perish.
- Avoid those who twist the scriptures to their own destruction. There are false teachers who use the Bible for their own personal gain. Do not follow them. Do not listen to them. Their destruction is sure when the judgment of the Lord comes. Do not be led away by their error. I would also say that we should not look out into the religious, see the multitude of false teachers and think that worshipping God is useless. We must strive to do what God says and be a light to the world that we are not like the denominations and other religions. We want to them to see that we are not about promoting ourselves, but about serving God.