Posts Tagged 'Peter and Jude'

Peter and Jude, Part 6

That this very short letter was not lost in the early years of the Church is a miracle. It’s a good thing the Holy Spirit miraculously preserved it for us because it deals with a problem that has persisted in the Church of Jesus Christ since it’s inception: false teachers.

These 25 verses were written by James’ brother, Jude.

From: Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ, and a brother of James. To: Christians everywhere-beloved of God and chosen by him. (Jude vs 1 | TLB)

This is the same James who was the well-known leader of the Jerusalem Church. While we know a lot about James and his ministry, we know nothing about his brother Jude except for a question he may have asked in the Upper Room:

Judas (not Judas Iscariot, but his other disciple with that name) said to him, “Sir, why are you going to reveal yourself only to us disciples and not to the world at large?”. (John 14:22 | TLB)

Scholars aren’t 100% certain that Judas the apostle is the Jude who wrote this short letter, but it’s entirely possible. Regardless, Jude was an itinerant preacher who addressed his letter to “Christians everywhere,” likely referring to congregations in which he had preached and taught the Word.

Jude’s letter is strikingly similar to Peter’s second letter, which is why they are frequently studied together.

As to why he wrote the letter, verse 3 gives us the impression that Jude was a little conflicted as to the reason he put pen to paper:

Dearly loved friends, I had been planning to write you some thoughts about the salvation God has given us, but now I find I must write of something else instead, urging you to stoutly defend the truth that God gave once for all to his people to keep without change through the years. (Jude vs 3 | TLB)

So he started out wanting to write about doctrine, but now Jude has decided to write about the urgency of defending sound doctrine. Jude may have been an itinerant preacher, but he is still considered a pastor of sorts and the primary job of the pastor is to feed his people the Word of God, on the Lord’s Day and at other times. Paul in his second letter to a young pastor named Timothy said as much:

preach the Word of God urgently at all times, whenever you get the chance, in season and out, when it is convenient and when it is not. Correct and rebuke your people when they need it, encourage them to do right, and all the time be feeding them patiently with God’s Word. (2 Timothy 4:2 | TLB)

In these 25 verses, we see Jude doing exactly what any pastor should be doing if members under his care are being harassed and threatened by, in this case, false teachers and false teaching. It seems as though some false teachers had sneaked into some of the churches Jude was familiar with and were causing trouble:

I say this because some godless teachers have wormed their way in among you, saying that after we become Christians we can do just as we like without fear of God’s punishment. The fate of such people was written long ago, for they have turned against our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude vs 4 | TLB)

Contending for the faith

Jude verse 3 is a call to arms and verse 4 gives the reason. Jude’s readers needed to get ready to do spiritual (and perhaps physical) battle against those sneaky false teachers. False teachers are always sneaky; they never come right out in the open with their false doctrines. For the ignorant or unaware, false teaching can be almost indistinguishable from the truth. False teaching may take many forms, and here it’s pretty simple: The false teachers were saying that a change in behavior wasn’t necessary; that a Christian could go on sinning, assured that God would forgive them. This was a case of turning the grace of God into a license to sin. It was an attractive heresy, to be sure, but no matter how good it sounded it was contrary to the doctrine of the Bible.

This brand of heresy was a branch of Gnosticism, which is still alive and well in the church today. It taught that the human body was essentially evil, and therefore it didn’t matter what a person did with his appetites, desires, and passions. For the Christian,, if God’s grace is great enough to cancel, cleanse, and cover all sin, why be concerned about sin, since grace is greater than any sin. It’s a crazy teaching, but you can see how some Christians would be tempted to use it to justify their sins.

The opposite of Gnosticism would have been the teaching of asceticism, a teaching very popular during Bible days.. This teaching, also very attractive to Christians today, taught that a believer needed to abstain from all worldly pleasures, whether condemned in the Bible or not. This teaching may be found in some of the “holiness”-type churches, which stress behavior and dress as a way to attain holiness, something definitely not taught in Scripture.

These false teachers may have been, at one time, genuine believers. The Living Bible seems to indicate that, saying they “turned against” Christ. That may have been the case, and if so, then their fate which Jude referred to may have been this:

Then he began to pour out his denunciations against the cities where he had done most of his miracles, because they hadn’t turned to God. Truly, Sodom will be better off at the Judgment Day than you.” (Matthew 11:20, 24 | TLB)

Defending the faith or contending for the faith is something Christians have been engaged in since the earliest days of the Church. O.S. Williams once wrote:

We must never cease to earnestly contend for the faith…And how? By loving the faith. By learning the faith. By living the faith.

Debating a non-believer or false teacher may or may not do any good, depending on how skilled a debater you may be. But living the faith boldly every day likely influences more onlookers than any debate ever could.

Characteristics of false teachers

Yet these false teachers carelessly go right on living their evil, immoral lives, degrading their bodies and laughing at those in authority over them, even scoffing at the Glorious Ones. (Jude vs 8 | TLB)

The false teachers “degrade their bodies.” Sin always ends in death, both spiritual and physical. Non-believers, and especially false teachers, live in such a way as to always meet the demands of their bodies. So they over-eat, get drunk, do drugs, and engage in all manner of risky behavior. Living to only please yourself almost always results in harm to the body. That’s a stark contrast to the Biblical teaching that our bodies are precious and are temples of the Holy Spirit!

Further, they “laugh at those in authority.” There is some question as to who these “authorities” are. Calvin thought Jude was referring to the civil authorities. Others think he had church leaders in mind. The former is likely the case, given the over all purpose of the letter. Worse than laughing at church leaders, these false teachers went to far as to “scoff at the glorious ones.” They made fun of angels and even the notion of the supernatural.

Even though this attitude marks a false teacher, there are those in the church today who are pleased to call themselves Christians, yet stubbornly refuse to live under the lordship of Jesus Christ nor under the godly discipline of the Church, preferring to live as they please.

But these men mock and curse at anything they do not understand, and like animals, they do whatever they feel like, thereby ruining their souls. (Jude vs 10 | TLB)

These men “mock and curse at anything they do not understand.” It’s a trait of the sinful person to speak loudest about which they don’t understand or know about the least.

And they behave “like animals.” They were irrational and without even knowing it, they were killing their souls.

Woe upon them! For they follow the example of Cain who killed his brother; and like Balaam, they will do anything for money; and like Korah, they have disobeyed God and will die under his curse. When these men join you at the love feasts of the church, they are evil smears among you, laughing and carrying on, gorging and stuffing themselves without a thought for others. They are like clouds blowing over dry land without giving rain, promising much, but producing nothing. They are like fruit trees without any fruit at picking time. They are not only dead, but doubly dead, for they have been pulled out, roots and all, to be burned. (Jude vs 11, 12 | TLB)

These false teachers were following in the footsteps of Cain, the first murderer. Balaam was a false prophet-for-hire, who would say whatever he was paid to say. And Korah rebelled against Moses, who was put in a position of authority by God Himself.

They were obsessed with eating and laughing and carrying on. They had no shame at all. They were selfish. Verse 12 gives you a pretty good idea of how these false teachers lived and worked.

The coming judgment

Jude was sure that these false prophets fulfilled an ancient prophecy and quoted from the earliest known prophetic voice on judgment – Enoch’s – and then from something Jesus said.

Enoch, who lived seven generations after Adam, knew about these men and said this about them: “See, the Lord is coming with millions of his holy ones. He will bring the people of the world before him in judgment, to receive just punishment and to prove the terrible things they have done in rebellion against God, revealing all they have said against him.”. (Jude vs 14, 15 | TLB)

You can scour the bible, but you won’t find this prophecy anywhere. Of course, you will find Enoch, a fairly well-known Old Testament fellow whose claim to fame is that he may not have actually died but simply “walked with the Lord.” The prophecy Jude quotes is from the apocryphal book of Enoch, which his Jewish readers would have been very familiar with.

Without getting into the high grass of why Jude quoted from the apocrypha – that’s a discussion for another day – what is notable is that his words stressed the utter, complete depravity of the ungodly. And since these sentences are included in our Scriptures, they are authoritative and may be taken as a word from the Lord. The false teachers and the ungodly will stand before the Lord in judgment and they will be punished on account of the “terrible things they have done in rebellion against God.” They may seem to be getting away with it now, but the wicked they’ve done and said against God will be revealed for all the universe to see and they will pay the price for their ungodliness.

Even though Jude applies Enoch’s words to the false teachers of his day, the sentiment is highly relevant to our time. There is a lot scoffing at God and mocking of His Word going on today. The church is largely silent on the issue; the hell-fire and brimstone sermon has gone way out of fashion. As Leonard Ravenhill quipped:

The tide is completely turned from “sinners in the hands of an angry God” to “God in the hands of angry sinners.

Response of faithful believers

But you, dear friends, must build up your lives ever more strongly upon the foundation of our holy faith, learning to pray in the power and strength of the Holy Spirit. Stay always within the boundaries where God’s love can reach and bless you. Wait patiently for the eternal life that our Lord Jesus Christ in his mercy is going to give you. Try to help those who argue against you. Be merciful to those who doubt. Save some by snatching them as from the very flames of hell itself. And as for others, help them to find the Lord by being kind to them, but be careful that you yourselves aren’t pulled along into their sins. Hate every trace of their sin while being merciful to them as sinners. (Jude vs 20 – 23 | TLB)

In response to the threat of the false teachers, the first thing believer should do is to “build up [their] lives.” When faced with false teachers, make sure you’re strong in the faith. Further, “pray in the power and strength of the Holy Spirit.” Jude isn’t the first New Testament writer to give this kind of advice. The New Testament is replete with admonitions to build and pray. Christians should be builders and prayers. Why should we be praying in the Spirit? False teachers may be mortal human beings, but Paul reminds us that our struggle is not against people.

For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against persons without bodies-the evil rulers of the unseen world, those mighty satanic beings and great evil princes of darkness who rule this world; and against huge numbers of wicked spirits in the spirit world. (Ephesians 6:12 | TLB)

True believers are to “stay (keep) within the boundaries of God’s love.” That’s a Greek word that’s very urgent. In spite of what he says later on about God keeping us, Jude’s little letter is all about the fight – the good fight of faith. God does His part, and we must do our part. Believers are kept within the bounds of God’s love by practicing three disciplines: building up our lives, praying in the Spirit, and waiting patiently for eternal life. Essentially, believers are to depend upon God at every turn in their fight against apostasy.

God keeps us, and we must keep ourselves. Or, as Jesus said, “Remain in me, and I in you.”

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Peter and Jude, Part 5

For some reason, the doctrine of our Lord’s Second Coming has always produced division in His Church. And it’s not just a recent thing, either. Even back in the days of the apostles, this precious doctrine was mocked, laughed at, and doubted.

They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” (2 Peter 3:4 | NIV84)

For his part, Peter had absolutely no doubt that Jesus would keep His word and come back. Why would the apostle doubt it? With his very own eyes, Peter saw Jesus’ transfiguration on the mount and had experienced a slight foretaste of the future glory.

The people to whom Peter wrote this second letter were having their doubts; they were succumbing to false teaching and that resulted in a disbelief in the Second Coming. No Christian can afford to disregard or doubt this doctrine for to do so is to bring into question the veracity of the words of Jesus Himself! Not only that, belief in the Second Coming results in holy living, and that’s not unimportant.

Up to this point, chapter 3 in 2 Peter, Peter had been dealing with the libertines – these immoral and disreputable false teachers – and their victims. Of them, Peter concluded,

For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. (2 Peter 2:18, 19 | NIV84)

Some of their “empty, boastful words” dealt with the Second Coming. They didn’t believe it and they mocked those who did. With a new chapter comes a new line of thought. Peter wants his readers to think and think hard about the words spoken by the prophets and the apostles.

Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles. (2 Peter 3:1, 2 | NIV84)

As one scholar wisely noted,

No state of grace this side of heaven exempts men from the need of repeated reminders of the truths of the Christian message, and all of this becomes the more urgent in the light of Christ’s imminent return to earth.

It’s not that the readers of this letter were morally depraved, but they were in danger of losing the purity of doctrine they had once held so tightly to. They were having niggling doubts about the Second Coming and as a result, they were just beginning to take on the characteristics of their nasty false teachers.

It’s so easy for believers of any generation to get distracted from the truth. It’s one thing to get distracted, though, but very often a mindless distraction can turn into the wedge that separates us from the truth of God’s Word. J.C. Ryle’s words on this are a powerful reminder of how wispy thin our grasp on the truth may be:

Amidst the flood of dangerous reading, I plead for my Master’s book; I call upon you not to forget the book of the soul. Do not let newspapers, novels, and romances be read, while the prophets and apostles are despised. Do not let the exciting and sensual swallow up your attention, while the edifying and sanctifying can find no place in your mind.

The day will come

First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” (2 Peter 3:3, 4 | NIV84)

That phrase, “first of all,” means what Peter is about to say is of vital importance. What was so important for his readers to know? Simply that in “the last days, scoffers would come.” Obviously, Peter believed he was living in the last days, so we today may be confident that we are most definitely living in the last of the last days! And in these last days, people who lead self-indulgent lives will come to doubt the coming of the Lord. They will deny the coming of the Lord because to them, it will have become a ridiculous notion.

It is true that there have always been doubters and scoffers. There were those who mocked and made fun of Noah, and of Lot in Sodom, and even of Jesus Himself. Some people may doubt honestly, like Thomas, but the honest doubter is not who Peter has in mind here. The people Peter wrote about were not merely doubters, but men who had now come to violently oppose the doctrine of the Second Coming. These false teachers repudiated the promise of His coming because, they argued, things never change. They taught that God created everything, but that He never intervenes in the course of human history. Their God is a cold, impersonal one. Surely that line of thinking characterizes 21st century man; God is not real to him therefore he feels no obligation to live righteously. Even in the Church of Jesus Christ there are those who never give a moment’s thought to the Lord’s return.

But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. (2 Peter 3:5 – 7 | NIV84)

Peter’s handling of the false teachers was nothing less than brilliant. The scoffers insisted that God never intervenes; that things have always been the same, yet that isn’t true! Creation itself was a divine intervention and a disruption in history. Not only that, the same God who spoke about the Second Coming, also spoke the world into existence and He can speak it out existence. God’s Word starts, sustains, and stops all life. These false teachers were playing with the worst kind of fire; in the end this fire of God’s truth would consume them.

Verse 7 is not a prophecy so much as a promise: There will come a day when this world as we have come to know it, will be renovated by fire and the wicked judged. Indeed, things cannot and will not continue as they have been. The apostle John wrote about this very thing in Revelation 20:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. (revelation 20:1 | NIV84)

When we read what Peter wrote, those sobering words lead us to two inescapable conclusions: God is absolutely in control of this world, from beginning to end. Regardless of some people may teach or believe, God is control. And second, we Christians need to trust God and His Word.

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:8, 9 | NIV84)

Not only is God 100% in control, but He is always on time. The scoffers would have believers think that God has either abandoned them or is taking a nap or just doesn’t keep His promises, but God is not bound by man’s version of time. God exists way, way, way outside of any concept of time and space man’s puny brain can conceive. No, God is not dragging His feet when it comes to keeping His promises. God is not late, He’s never early, but always on time. God’s timing is never determined by outside circumstances or other people. He is always in control and His only motivation is love. God loved the world so much He gave the world His only Son. And it is because of His love for the world that Jesus has not come back yet. Ravi Zacharias wrote,

Time is the brush of God, as He paints His masterpiece on the heart of humanity.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. (2 Peter 3:10 | NIV84)

Scoffers and doubters and false teachers may come, most people may ignore the Word of God concerning the Second Coming, but as Peter put it, “the day of the Lord WILL come,” end of discussion. Our Lord said essentially the same thing:

So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. (Matthew 24:44 | NIV84)

The Day of the Lord may begin in secret, but it will end with stunning earth-changes that Peter mentioned in verse 7. This planet of ours that we consider so permanent and dependable will not endure as it is today. It will change as God does His thing.

Live as if it can happen any day

The great Adrian Rogers once said this:

We ought to be living as if Jesus died yesterday, rose this morning, and is coming back this afternoon.

He’s right. The suddenness of our Lord’s return is a great motivating factor in living right. This was a favorite teaching of Peter:

Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. (2 Peter 3:11, 12 | NIV84)

This is Peter’s practical application for the heady doctrine of the Second Coming. All Christian doctrine should influence how we live because there must be a connection between what we believe and how we live. For the Christians of Peter’s day, the kind of global destruction Peter described would have seemed impossible. But in our day, it is not only possible but probable. Peter says it is not only probable, but an abslute certainty. It’s all part of God’s plan for man and the world. Given that, we should be ready and prepared for it can happen any time. Part of being ready for Jesus Christ’s return is living lives marked by righteousness and holiness.

Closely connected to how we should live is the worldview we adopt. Christians should be “looking forward to” the Second Coming. And, while God has His own timetable, apparently Christians can hasten or speed up the day by fulfilling some necessary conditions for it to take place. Some of those conditions could be these:

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14 | NIV84)

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. (Acts 3:19, 20 | NIV84)

The doctrine of the Second Coming was never intended to be divisive. It should unite all believers in a common belief that encourages them keep the faith, keep trusting God, and keep living right. Matthew Henry said it best:

God will work when He pleases, how He pleases, and by what means He pleases. He is not bound to keep our time, but He will perform His word, honor our faith, and reward them that diligently seek Him.

Peter and Jude, Part 4

Within the spectrum of orthodox Christianity there exists a tension between the idea of “works” and “grace.” So before we got too much further in this study, let’s make it clear from the beginning: There are no works involved in salvation. Nobody earns their salvation. Nobody’s good works touches God’s heart enough for Him to save their soul. Salvation is entirely a work of grace, initiated by God and appropriated by one’s faith in His Son’s work on the Cross.

In terms of maintaining or keeping your salvation, works are useless. Here’s how Jude put it in his brief letter:

To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. (Jude, vs 24, 25 | NIV84)

It’s God who keeps us saved, not our good works. Of course, that doesn’t mean once we are saved we can just go ahead and live any way we want to. That would be ridiculous. Paul ran into a bunch of Christians who thought just that way, and here’s what he thought of that preposterous notion:

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? (Romans 6:1 | NIV84)

Those are good questions. Should we just sin, knowing that God in His grace will forgive us, anyway? As Paul would later say, “No way!” That’s a paraphrase, of course, but it captures how he felt. It is God who keeps us saved, not our good works, but we have a responsibility to live out our faith in the world and that necessarily involves doing good works. Peter addressed this tension in his second letter:

Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:10, 11 | NIV84)

The “these things” are – guess what – works! According to Peter, we make our “calling and election,” or our salvation “sure!” And if we do these good works, we will “never fall!” Is Peter teaching something different than Jude and Paul? It sounds like it, but he really isn’t. Let’s take a closer look at this and you’ll see that there really is no tension between the “works” crowd and the “grace” bunch.

Interesting characteristics of 2 Peter

Peter’s second letter is a little different from his first. One of the really interesting features of this letter is the number of time he uses certain words.

• There are 10 references to right, righteousness, and righteous;
• There are 17 references to knowledge and understanding;
• There are 16 references to Jesus Christ;
• There are 5 calls to remember.

What this shows us is what was foremost on Peter’s mind. Christians need to be righteous and live righteously. We can do this using the knowledge we gain from learning the right doctrines in Scripture, and paying attention to the example of Jesus Christ. When we remember what we’ve been taught and what the Lord has saved us from, we should want to live righteous lives in spite of the sin all around us. Perhaps the best verse that summarizes the overall teaching of this short letter is this one:

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 Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 3:17, 18 | NIV84)

Sufficient for Life and Godliness

This letter was written near the end of Peter’s life. Some scholars feel like Peter wrote it as a kind of farewell message to buck up Christians; to encourage them to stay the course of faith and not be lured away by a new wave of false teaching.

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: Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. (2 Peter 1:2, 3 | NIV84)

He’s writing to primarily Gentile believers who had received the same faith he and Jewish believers received; their new faith was just “as precious as ours.” This represents a bit of change for Peter. His first letter was addressed to suffering Jewish Christians who needed to be encouraged while in the midst of trials and tribulations. Here, his readers were Gentiles who may not have been suffering the same kind of persecution, but may have been tempted to give up on their faith and go back to the kind lives they have before.

“Grace and peace” are key components of salvation, neither of which may be obtained or experienced apart from a relationship with Jesus Christ. Peter wished both “grace” and “peace” be multiplied in the lives of his readers. That makes sense; those are wonderful blessings from God, and who wouldn’t want friends to have more of a good thing? But Peter adds a surprising word: knowledge; and it’s very significant. The Gentiles to whom Peter wrote this letter were being tricked into believing destructive false teachings from those who claimed to have a true knowledge of God and Christ, but who lived very immoral lives. “Knowledge” was probably one of their buzz words; they claimed to have a supernatural knowledge nobody else had. Peter, for his part, wasn’t afraid to talk about what TRUE knowledge of God brings into one’s life: grace and peace. We receive both of those blessings at our conversion, but they grow and multiply the more we read Scripture and seek to understand it. The Christian life is all about growth, not standing still, and growth is completely dependent on knowing more and more about God and Christ. And as the believer acquires more and more of that kind of knowledge, grace and peace will flow like crazy into his life.

Promises Plus Work

As Christians, we get so much from God. It really is astounding when you stop and give some thought to all that you received when you confessed Christ as Savior. We have tremendous blessings and promises from God for both this life now and our lives into the future. But wet-blanket-Peter slaps us upside the head with a big dose of reality.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith… (2 Peter 1:5a | NIV84)

The phrase, “for this very reason,” points us back to verse 3:

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:3 | NIV84)

God has given us everything necessary to live the Christian life, so we have no excuse to sit back and be lazy. God’s amazing grace – the grace we sing about all the time – demands that we exert an effort to “do our part” to add to what God so graciously provided for free. In other words, because of everything God did for us, we need to do more. As one Bible scholar has noted,

The Christian life is like the use of power steering on a car. The engine provides the power for the steering, but the driver must actually turn the wheel.

He’s spot on. God has given us all the power needed to steer our lives, but first we must turn the wheel. In a very real  sense, each Christian determines not only the quality of his life, but also the course of it.

Just what are the things believers should add to their faith? There are seven in all that Peter mentions. There are more, but we’ll stick with his list. They’re all found verses 5 to 7:

add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. (2 Peter 1:5b – 7 | NIV84)

Virtue (or goodness) vs. 5

To faith, believers must add virtue, or moral excellence. As we have noted, the Christian life begins with faith and is carried on with faith – without faith nobody can please God. But to our faith we must add “virtue” or “goodness.” What good is it to possess all this faith yet be a miserable, cantankerous, morally challenged, cranky old cuss nobody can get along with? Christians should strive to be, simply put, decent, kind people who care.

Knowledge, vs. 5

But at the same time, faith is not blind or esoteric in nature. To faith, we must add some knowledge; that is, knowledge of God. The foundational idea underpinning Peter’s philosophy is that we will be living in obedience to God and His will, and therefore, we need knowledge of that, which is essentially knowledge of God Himself, as revealed in His Word. This kind of knowledge has nothing to do things we may learn in school or other places, and is not worldly in origin:

As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. (1 Peter 1:14 | NIV84)

Self-control, vs. 6

Faith and knowledge are both key, vital parts of our lives, but those in and of themselves are not near enough. We need to know how to use what we’ve learned; there must be a common sense connection between knowledge and conduct. James, in his letter tackled this issue by saying:

Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins. (James 4:17 | NIV84

Knowing and doing are two different things that must come together, which they do when we practice self-control. The Greek word is funny looking and funnier sounding, egkrateia, and has something to do with temperance. It’s one of the fruit of the Spirit, meaning this kind of self-control is not native to human beings; it must be put there by a work of the Holy Spirit as we allow Him to do that. “Self-control” is an adequate translation that puts across the idea that believers must not yield to their base, sinful desires. But “self-control” doesn’t go quite far enough. Perhaps “God-control” would be a little better, because it is only when we assign control of our temperament to God that we can be truly self-controlled.

Godliness, vs. 6

The Greek word here means “devout.” It’s something that nobody can manufacture; you are either devout or you aren’t. You can’t pretend to be Godly; Godliness is a virtue that comes from God Himself; He gives it to you. This is also a fruit of the Spirit, and the more we allow God to possess of us, the more like Him we will become. Godliness is simply taking on God’s attributes.

Perseverance, vs. 6

Of all the character traits believers should exhibit, I think this is the most admirable. James did, too. Here’s what he wrote about the subject:

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12 | NIV84)

The word means “to stick to it.” Essentially, a believer needs to be able to “hang on” and not give up no matter what. This, of course, takes determination and single-minded devotion to the task at hand, even if that task is simply maintaining one’s faith during difficult periods in life.

Brotherly love, vs. 7

This is a special kind of love. It’s a genuine love for the people of God. It’s not a love a believer has for those outside of the family God, though you should love them, too, as God does. But brotherly love is a love shared only with brothers and sisters in Christ.

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:10 | NIV84)

That’s the idea Peter is getting at, and it’s a unique feature of the church that people outside seem to be most attracted to. Love, honor, and respect are in short supply in the world, and when the lost see them manifested within the a local church, it’s something they want.

Love, vs. 7

The love that exists between members of the Body of Christ comes from the Greek word philadelphia. But there is another kind of love that we need to add to philadelphia, and that’s agape love. It’s a much deeper love – it’s the God-love that is unconditional and unearned. It is the highest form of love and ought to mark the Christian lifestyle.

The results

Peter tells us that when these virtues are working in our life, four results will immediately follow:

For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:8-11 | NIV84)

In case you don’t see them, the four results are:

• Increased fruitfulness.
• A proper perspective – the ability to see afar off.
• An assured perseverance. In other words, these virtues won’t keep you saved, but they will enable you “keep the faith.”
• A guaranteed welcome into heaven.

Peter is nothing of not practical. He knows that if we do not add to our faith, we will become idle, and as we read in Chaucer’s Tale of Melibee:

Idleness is the root of mischief.

Even our Lord understood the importance of keeping busy with the good work:

Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49 | NIV84)

Peter and Jude, Part 3

How can you tell if somebody is a “follower of Jesus Christ?” Is it because they and other people call them a “Christian?” Is it because they go to church? Is it because they wear a cross? How can you tell? Peter tells us:

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. (1 Peter 2:21 | NIV84)

That’s it. A “follower of Jesus Christ” is one who follows in Christ’s steps; He learns from Christ’s example and then lives accordingly. By necessity that means following Christ will change a person’s life. For some, the changes will be drastic, and for others not so much, but every follower of Christ lives a changed life.

That’s the basis of this quick study. Let’s take a look at what kind of changes take place in a person’s life when they make the decision to become a follower of Jesus Christ.

Living blamelessly

Throughout 1 Peter 2, Peter wrote about the practical implications of one’s salvation, demonstrating that a believer’s new relationship with Christ would impact his existing relationships with the government, his employer, and his family. Being a Christian should make a person a better citizen, a better employee, and a better family member. In chapter three, Peter continues this line of thought by giving similar exhortations of a more general type. In all, Peter writes about five things a Christian should have going on in their lives.

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. (1 Peter 3:8 | NIV84)

First, in verse 8, there’s this:

live in harmony with one another…

Christians are to “live in harmony with one another.” That sounds so easy, but it’s not. Sometimes it’s hard to get along with certain people. Disagreements easily arise when two people talk together for just a few minutes. What does Peter have in mind here? Simply put, the character of a believer is determined and revealed by the things that are foremost in his mind. As far as Jesus was concerned, His followers should be united in a common goal and common interests. That doesn’t mean that Christians should always agree with each other on every single issue in life. But it does mean that as followers of Jesus Christ, our minds should be controlled by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. Paul had a similar thought when he wrote to the Philippians:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus… (Philippians 2:5 | NIV84)

All believers should hold the same attitudes about things as did Jesus. Other translations refer to this as “having the mind of Christ.” His mind – His attitudes – serve as examples for us to follow. Essentially, that means that we need to adopt a Biblical worldview; a worldview that frequently, though not always, runs contrary to a secular worldview. In order to accomplish this, believers need to know the Word of God and need to follow Christ’s example.

Second, believers are to be sympathetic, also in verse 8. This means that Christians should have an active compassion for each other. In fact, the Greek word really means “suffering together.” That means Christians ought not to be selfish. What affects one believer should affect all believers.

Third, still in verse 8, Christians should love as brothers. It’s not that we form a brotherhood when we confess Christ, it’s that we become members of one big family: The family of God. Think about how you get along with your mom and dad, or your siblings. Surely you don’t see eye-to-eye on everything. Surely you have your disagreements. But in the end, you would probably give your life if it meant saving a member of your family. That’s the idea Peter is trying to get across using the phrase, “love as brothers.”

Fourth, believers need to be compassionate. The Greek word carries with it the idea of being “kindhearted,” to be “sensitive to the needs” of other believers. Christians should never be afraid to show genuine affection to each other.

Fifth, followers of Jesus should be humble. This kind of humility has to do with being humble in spirit – it’s the same kind of humility that characterized Jesus. Humility is a big thing in the Bible, where it paints a humble person as one who sees himself as weak or dependent upon God, one who is a finite being whose existence depends on the God he serves.

Those simple characteristics should be obvious in every believer’s life. Next, Peter tells his readers how to manifest them.

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. (1 Peter 3:9 | NIV84)

That, of course, is exactly opposite to our natural response: We strike when stuck. But because our lives have been changed, we won’t do that. To retaliate is not the Biblical answer. Jesus taught:

But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (Matthew 5:44 | NIV84)

When Peter wrote that we should “bless” those who hurt us, the Greek word he used suggests that we speak well of those speaking evil of us. In other words, we treat them opposite to the way they treat us.

He then quotes from Psalm 34, which gives the believer certain guidelines to follow if he wants to live a life full of meaning and purpose.

Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Peter 3:10 – 12 | NIV84)

In all, there are three things a believer must do. First, he must keep his tongue from evil and lips from deceitful speech. If you want to live a good life and love the life you’re living, never say words calculated to hurt another; never say anything tainted with falsehood. If you do, in the end you will regret it.

Second, believers must turn from evil and do good. There’s more going on in those six words than meets the eye. Doing evil takes planning; most of the time we don’t accidentally do wrong. Therefore, if you want to live a worthwhile life, instead of planning ways to sin, plan ways to do good things.

Last, we must seek peace and pursue it. This doesn’t mean Christians are to be passively sitting around letting fascists steamroll over them. What it does mean is this: We will live disciplined lives; we won’t say things that tear people down; we don’t repay evil with evil; we don’t run around insulting people we don’t like. Instead, we will be peacemakers; we will find peaceful solutions to arguments or disagreements.

Peter uses the rest of Psalm 34 as a reason to live this way. First, God is well aware of everything going on in our lives. Everything. Because of that, He is attentive to our prayers and ready to help us. But second, God is steadfastly against all who do evil. He will deal with evildoers in His own way and it won’t be pleasant. That’s reason enough to abstain from retaliating in kind!

Suffering is no problem

Then Peter askes a rhetorical question:

Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? (1 Peter 3:13 | NIV84)

The cynic in me cries out, “Anybody!” And I’d be right. Plenty of do-gooders have been harmed or killed over the centuries since Peter wrote verse 13. Look at all the missionaries who became martyrs! But it’s verse 14 that’s important:

But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” (1 Peter 3:14 | NIV84)

It’s important but paradoxical. If you are suffering because of your faith, you should consider yourself “blessed?” Really? Peter is not suggesting you should be thrilled with the prospect of losing your job because of your faith or with being lied about because somebody wants to cause your problems on account of your faith. The idea here is “privilege.” Jesus suffered because of who He was and what He believed, so if the same thing is happening to you, you’re doing something right. Something Paul wrote to the Romans makes this idea of suffering a bit more palatable:

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18 | NIV84)

Then there’s this bit over in 2 Thessalonians 1 –

Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. (2 Thessalonians 1:4 – 7a | NIV84)

The unpleasantness a Christian goes through because he is a Christian prepares him for what lies ahead. God, as any good parent would do, allows His children to pass through difficult times to teach them discipline; to toughen them up. Neither Peter nor Paul has in mind suffering because of misdeeds, but suffering for living right.

Keep in mind that Peter wrote to suffering Christians. Suffering for doing wrong is easy to wrap our minds around, but not so suffering for doing good! It’s a challenge to accept the very notion. It’s funny that this Biblical teaching on suffering has been in the Bible for 2000 years yet even the most seasoned saint seems surprised by it to the point that they try to avoid this kind of suffering!

It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. (1 Peter 3:17 | NIV84)

It may well be that suffering for doing good is God’s will. Doing good, by the way, is rarely an easy thing to do under the best of circumstances. When suffering touches our lives, God uses it for good:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, a who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 | NIV84)

That kind of insight is usually only seen in hindsight. That’s why it’s helpful to know the Bible. Joseph, in hindsight, realized the truthfulness of what Peter and Paul taught. Here was a young man who had risen to the heights of Egyptian politics and was used by God to rescue his entire family from drought and starvation. But all that was possible only because of what his nasty brothers did to him.

You meant it for evil against me, but God meant it for good. (Genesis 50:20 | NIV84)

This is God’s amazing grace in action. When we choose to serve Christ and devote our lives to living for God with Christ as our example, the Lord promises to use everything for our benefit.


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