Pastor Skip Heitzig: We are on the coast of the Sea of Galilee in the synagogue at Capernaum. It was in and around this fishing village that so many of the gospel stories took place. This is where Jesus centered His ministry and this is also the home town of Peter the Apostle. Peter and his family made their living by fishing on the Sea of Galilee and it was from these shores that Jesus called Peter to become a fisher of men. Our agenda for "The Bible From 30,000 Feet" now approaches the book of First Peter.
Peter Benson: Now let's buckle in, we have a full flight ahead, as we survey the books of First and Second Peter in our journey over "The Bible From 30,000 Feet."
Pastor Skip Heitzig: I think Peter has got in the bad wrap. I think he has got in the bad wrap from the world and from Christians. From the world, because most unbelievers know Peter, all they know of him is that he is supposedly the guy in all the jokes, when you are dying, he is the guy at the gate of heaven with the clipboard and you got to answer his questions. So that's all myth. But then I think Christians have given him a bad wrap as well. Because people say, oh yeah, Peter is a guy with a big mouth. He is so impulsive and he made all these mistakes as if we are a whole lot better than he is. I think if anything we can relate to Peter, perhaps more than the other disciples, he was very honest, very human, very loyal and very tender hearted toward the Lord.
Now he was a fisherman. We know that he was born in the little town called Bethsaida. Bethsaida is just a few miles to the east of Capernaum. Today it just ruins. But back then it was a fishing village, right at the mouth of where the Jordan River empties into the Sea of Galilee. That's where he was born, that's where he was raised, and later on he and his family move to Capernaum, and there in Capernaum he has a fishing business. He was a fisherman and Jesus turned him into a fisher of men. That's what he was called to do when Jesus took him on His team.
The father of Peter was a guy named Jonas or Jonah, also called John, and his full name is actually spoken by our Lord Jesus in Matthew chapter 16, when He calls him, Shimon Bar-Yonah. Now you may not have ever, I have never read that. You did, it's when He said, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, or Simon, son of Jonah: flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father "Who is in heaven." So his name was Simon or Shimon Bar-Yonah, Simon, the son of Jonah, or Jonas.
Jesus renames him, giving him the name Petros, Peter in Greek, Petros, a small stone or in Aramaic, Cephas. So he became known as "Rocky", he was the first "Rocky", and yet he was an unstable character. He really wasn't solid rock, and he wasn't the rock that the church was built on, it was built on none than the other the solid rock, the Lord Jesus Christ. But Peter was seen as a leader among the twelve. How do we know this? Because in very one of the lists of the twelve in the gospels, Peter is always named first and there is more written about Peter in the four gospels than any other individual, except the Lord Jesus Christ. So he was prominent, and he was the chief spokesperson, preacher of the gospel in the early church book of Acts from say, chapter 1 to chapter 12, Peter is highlighted as the spokesperson, because he was the apostle to the circumcision, or to the Jewish people just as Paul was to the uncircumcised, or to the Gentile.
Now we know that Peter was strong willed. We know that Peter was impulsive. We know all those stories, like, on the Mount of Transfiguration where Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus, and Peter says, hey, let's build three tabernacles here, and God the Father has to basically say, would you be quite please. Here is My only Son, listen to Him. So we know that he like to just speak and react to situations, he was impulsive, he was strong willed. We know another famous story when he was in the Garden of Gethsemane, and he pulled out a sword to defend Jesus as if he like really needed it, and Peter being a very poor swordsman, and trying to cut off his head, the soldiers head missed and got his ear. He was a good fisherman, wouldn't go with the sword. Some people shouldn't carry weapons, Peter was one of them.
Now it was Jesus that predicated Peter's failure and recovery. In fact, Jesus said to him in Luke chapter 22. "Simon, Satan has asked for you by name, that he could sift you as wheat," but I have prayed for you, and [when you are recovered, or] when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brothers." And I think First Peter and Second Peter, is Peter doing exactly that. He's returned to Christ, he's ardently following Him, trusting Him, and now writing to strengthen the believer's faith who are suffering. And that is the backdrop by the way; the backdrop of the First Peter is, he was writing to a group of Christians who were suffering for their faith. First Peter was probably written in AD 64, can't be sure, but probably just before, or just after the great fire of Rome in AD 64. I will explain more in just a bit. But the backdrop was suffering, and the Christians who were already a bit unpopular would soon face an all out major persecution that would last 200 years of their history.
So with that backdrop Peter writes, and what is the theme of this book? It's simply this, the plan of God, because you see, these believers were wondering; what's the plan here? What is God's plan for our lives in the midst of this kind of suffering that we are experiencing? What does God want? What is His plan? So Peter writes generally, remember this is one of the General Epistles, James, First Peter, Second Peter. We mentioned last week that whole grouping of General Epistles, First John, Second John, Third John, Jude.
Peter is writing to these suffering believers to tell them what God's plan is and what it includes? So here's the division of the book, I have outlined it, five major divisions.
The plan of God includes security. God wants them to know that they are secure in their salvation, number 1. Number 2, God's plan includes submission. Submission to world authorities. Submission to each other in the home and at work. Number 3, God's plan includes surrender. Surrendering to God's will in the midst of the hardships of life. Number 4, God's plan includes their suffering. And I am going to elaborate a little bit on that tonight, because a lot of believers think that couldn't be God's plan for my life. I mean, I remember the four Spiritual Laws. God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.
Well, I believe in four Spiritual Laws, but there are also a few spiritual flaws, and one of the flaws is that you are exempt from suffering, and God has a wonderful plan for your life, but that wonderful plan may include some suffering. In fact, the early church was birthed in such suffering. And number 5, God's plan for you includes service. So we are going to look at that as an outline. Let's take the first one. God's plan include security, that's chapter 1, verses 1 through 12. And again, this is 30,000 feet, so we are moving rapidly, we are not reading every verse, we are not going into depth, or surveying the landscape.
Verse 1, "Peter an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the Pilgrims of the Dispersion in n Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. If you want to translate that into modern times, it's the whole nation of Turkey, he just described; it's Ancient Asia Minor. Just a side note; we discover in chapter 5, verse 13 that Peter says he is writing this letter from Babylon, and there's sort of split ideas as to what this means. Some believe it's the literally Babylon in modern day Iraq, history doesn't seem to support that. Tradition says the last ten years of Peter's life was spent in Rome.
So it leads to another conclusion that he was using an alias for the City of Rome calling Rome by the term Babylon, which has all sorts of interesting implications that we could maybe get to in the book of Revelation. However, it was a common practice when there was danger for early Christian writers to not identify the places where believers were, because that would endanger them. So we would make sense that he would use the term Babylon as an alias for the City of Rome, due to the persecution that was there.
Okay, Verse 2, "Elect [he calls it], elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit for, obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you, and peace, be multiplied." Now look at the word 'elect' it's the Greek word eklektos, selected ones, chosen ones. You have been called and chosen by God, and Paul already said we covered it before the foundation of the earth, specially chosen by God.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead."
Now doesn't that language remind you of John, chapter 3, where Jesus told Nicodemus, "unless a man is born again," and Peter now uses the term begotten again, same idea, born again, born from above, a spiritual birth. When I was a brand new believer, I mean, days old, may be 2 weeks old, I had never heard the term born again. I mean, I am brand new, I heard the gospel, but I never knew the term born again, until one of my friends came up to me to witness to me not knowing that had received Christ two weeks before. And he says, hey, Heitzig! Have you been born again? And I said, stop right there.
Where did you get that term? He goes, what are you talking about? I said, 'the term born again'. You just used that term, you said, have I been born again? And I said that is the perfect description of what happened to me two weeks ago. You see I was trying to figure out a way to describe this overwhelming feeling that I had, and experience that I had with the Lord, and when he said the words born again, I had never heard that before. And I asked him, where did you hear that? He said, Jesus said that in John chapter 3, "unless a man is born again," and I thought, you couldn't come up with a better description of what happens at salvation than the new birth. A whole brand new start. Everything in my life seemed new and fresh.
And Peter picks up on that, saying, you have been begotten again to a living hope. Verse 4, "To an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that fades not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time." So Peter wants us to know that their salvation is so secure, because they have been chosen by God and God announced it before they were even around. They were born of God, begotten of God, and kept by God.
Remember what the gospel of John says concerning this? "Who were born not of the will of man, nor of the will of flesh, but of God." Spiritual birth being spiritually kept. Now I believe God wants you who are saved, born again, begotten again, to live with a sense of security in your salvation. Not waking up everyday going, "Am I saved today, I know I was yesterday. Maybe, I'm not as saved today as I'm yesterday." And that's nonsense. I think it's possible for people to be going to heaven. They are on the way to heaven, they are just not enjoying the ride. They are like standby passengers in the airport. They wonder, I hope I am going to get on this plane, but there is no guarantee that I will, but I want to make it, I want to go to that destination, but I am not quite so sure.
There is a professor down at Dallas Theological Seminary, his name was Roy Zuck, and he was witnessing to a fella in Amsterdam. He writes about this. He asked the man if he had received Jesus Christ. And the man, the Dutchman said, "I don't know if I am among the elect?" Oh, when do you plan to find out, the professor asked him? He said, "Well, I won't know until I die." The Professor said, "Don't you think that's a little too late?" And the man said this, listen up; "If I die and find out that I am not among the elect, I'll do my best to glorify God in hell." Now talk about being a standby passenger. Peter wants us to know, you don't have to live that way. You can know that you are on the way to heaven, and your salvation is secure. We'll discover that in First John chapter 5, "These things I write unto you that you may know that you have eternal life."
Verse 6, "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials." Now Peter is addressing the very situation these Christians are facing. "That the genuineness of your faith being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ." I mentioned at the beginning that this letter was probably written either just before some people think during or immediately after July of 64 AD, when a very famous incident took place in the City of Rome, the great fire of Rome.
Now Christians were unpopular, but there wasn't the kind of persecution that they would be experiencing. It's because in Rome Christians were seen as a subset of Judaism. And Judaism was under the list of what were called, permitted religions. It was okay to practice this in Rome, and if you were a Christian, you were still part of that subset of Judaism, until the fire broke out in Rome. Now when a fire broke out in Rome, most of the people believed it was Caesar Nero that started the fire. That was, that's what most people believed. Many of the public buildings were burnt down, and they said it's because Caesar Nero had this insatiable desire to build. He was building lots of buildings. He wanted to have more buildings in his honor, so he had to destroy the ones that he though weren't really up to speed, and he was burning them down to rebuild new ones.
So he had to divert the blame on to someone, and he chose the Christians. He blamed them, and as soon as he blamed the Christians for starting the fire, a persecution that would last for 200 years swept though the entire Roman Empire. Now there were three basic reasons why Nero and the Romans began to express their hatred towards Christians. Number one, the Lord's Supper. Because they were taking the Lord Supper and saying these are emblems of the Body and the Blood of Christ, the Romans accused them of cannibalism. They really confused the meaning, and so they said, these people are like eating somebody's flesh and blood. So they were accused of cannibalism.
Reason number two, Christians said the Romans were upsetting the status of the family. Wives were coming to Jesus Christ and unbelieving husbands, Roman husbands weren't too excited about that. Slaves and masters were becoming believers, and looking at each other as equal. This was also upsetting the equilibrium of the Roman state. So because of those two reasons, and there was a third reason, because and get this, and think it will fit in. Christians preached that eventually the world as we know it, would be burned with fire. And that's true. That Peter will say that in Second Peter chapter 3.
"Everything we know will melt with fervent heat." And so it was very convenient for Caesar to say, it's these Christians who in their wish fulfillment started this fire to say it's the end of the world. But Peter wanted these suffering believers to know that they were chosen by God, foreordained by God, elect by God, and secure in their faith. That the salvation they enjoyed was the exact salvation predicted by the prophets, which he says in verse 11 and 12 of chapter 1.
Let me take you to the second part of the book. God's plan includes surrender, surrender, and that's chapter 1 verse 13 to chapter 2 verse 10. We are to surrender to God's plan, purpose, and will, no matter what we face. And how do we do that? We do it by reverence for God. And we do it number two, by compliance to God's Word, and that's what Peter writes about, reverence for God, and compliance to God's Word.
Verse 13, "Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, [or be ready for action, be prepared in your thinking], be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance." Go down to verse 17, "And if you call on the Father without partiality who judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear, [or in reverence, or in respect]."
In other words, if you are a Christian and you know that God will one day evaluate your life, live now in such a way as to honor Him, fear Him, reverence Him, and that said, you are living in fear, not in morbid fear, but in reverential fear. Fifty times in the Bible, excuse me, over 50 times the phrase, "Fear of the Lord", appears in Scripture. Anytime something appears, 50 times, we would say, it's important for the Scripture to mention that concept, that many times. "In the fear of the Lord" the Bible says, "is the beginning of wisdom." It's the uppermost part of knowledge, and what is the "Fear of the Lord"? It's a reverential awe that produces humble submission to a loving God, that's how I define it, using the scripture. A reverential awe that produces humble submission to a loving God. And so we surrender to God. Part of God's plan is that we surrender by reverence, by fear of the Lord, and by compliance to God's word.
Verse 24, and quoting Isaiah chapter 40, "All flesh is grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls away. But the word of our God endures forever. Now this is the word by which the gospel was preached to you."
Chapter 2 verse 1, same thought is continued, "Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, all hypocrisy, envy, and evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious."
In Verse 8, if you would scoot down there, he begins by quoting Isaiah chapter 8 and then notice his conclusion, "They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed. But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light."
So surrender begins with an attitude of "Fear of the Lord", reverential awe. It begins with an attitude, but it continues with an action. It's not just an attitude of reverence to God, but it's the action of compliance to God's Word.
And that's why the emphasis is the word, the word, the word, desire the word that you could grow by the word, they were disobedient to the word. In other words, we all need God's Word for us to grow. Now for that to happen, there has to be a hunger for it, a passion for it. Your spiritual growth is directly proportional to your spiritual hunger. If you are hungry for the word, you get into it a lot, and you grow a lot. If you are not hungry for the word, you don't read it much, you don't get into it much, it's a once a week hobby so to speak, or once a month, and so you don't grow. Your spiritual growth and mine is directly proportional to our hunger for His word, His truth. That's how we grow.
Remember what Jesus said in the Beatitudes, "Blessed are those", or oh, how happy are those, who hunger and thirst for righteousness." Living rightly, righteous living, righteous practice, not just being right with God, but now living in righteous ways before God, hunger and thirst. Notice Jesus did not say, blessed are those who occasionally snack after righteousness. Blessed are those who every now and then nibble at righteousness, but hunger and thirst, after righteousness. Question, how is your spiritual passion? How hungry are you for His righteousness, His truth applied in your life?
Do you remember, or have you read the book, 'The Screwtape Letters' by C. S. Lewis? In some high schools it's required reading, it wasn't in mine. And C. S. Lewis as a believer, when he wrote it, wrote it from the vantage point of being the Devil, or a senior tempter teaching his nephew, Wormwood, who was just learning the ropes as a demon, how to tempt people. He says that the goal is not wickedness, the goal is indifference. And a part of the book it reads thus: 'Keep the prospect' that is the patient that is the human that he is tempting, 'comfortable at all cost. If he should become concerned about anything of importance encourage him to think about his lunch plans.' and then he said, 'I the devil, will always see to it that there are bad people, your job my dear Wormwood, is to provide me with people who do not care.'
You see, apathy is the enemy of spirituality. They just don't care, I am just not hungry, I just don't care, apathy. I just wonder what would happen, if every Sunday, after that portion of text we all covered on Saturday night, our determination would be, I am going to go home, and this week my goal will be to put into practice these principles as part of my daily, weekly life. If that were our goal, we would see rapid, massive transforming city effecting spiritual growth; hunger after God's Word.
Third, Peter would say, God's plan includes submission. Submission, now Peter and Paul would agree. I almost said, Peter, Paul and Mary would agree, but that was a long time ago. Peter and Paul would agree that it's important that as believers we are to submit to the government, even ungodly government, but up to a point.
Notice what he says, chapter 2, beginning in verse 12, "Having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works, which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether to the king of supreme, or to governors, as those who are sent by Him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men."
Christians were viewed suspiciously by the Roman Empire for a few different reasons, not only the false charges that I mentioned a little bit ago, but simply because they didn't go along with the agenda of Rome, they didn't worship the Roman Emperor, they didn't put that pinch of incense once a year to show their allegiance to the Roman Caesar. They also met in private meetings like we do in the church, fellowshipping together over God's truth, and all of that was viewed very suspiciously. And so one of the central issues, important to both Paul and Peter, is that Christians ought to be great citizens. Because Paul says we have a dual citizenship. He wrote to the Philippians, those who were in Christ Jesus, in Philippi, but then he also said, your citizenship is in heaven.
So we live with a dual citizenship. We are citizens of our city, our state, our country, our government, but also we are citizens of heaven. And we are to honor both. To honor God, we have to honor the governments, and we have to be responsible citizens. And that's the central issue and theme here. We should be good citizens without compromising our faith. Question: Is there a time when a believer's obligation to the state, to the government is to be negated? And the answer is yes.
If my obedience to the government means my disobedience to God, then who am I to obey? God. I must obey Peter said, God rather than men. Peter tells us in the book of Acts.
Here are a couple of examples, actually I had so many examples listed, I don't have enough time to go through them, but here are two notable, one from the Old, one from the New Testament. There was a governmental law that required the midwives back in the days of Pharaoh to kill all of the male Hebrew children. It was a law. It was passed. The Pharaoh made that, fleshed out in the law. But the Bible says in Exodus chapter 1 verse 17, "But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded, but saved the male children alive."
To be obedient to the government would mean to be disobedient to God. So because they feared the Lord more than they feared man, they chose to disobey Pharaoh and obey God. Then there is the New Testament, Acts chapter 4, the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem passed a law that you can't preach Christianity, Jesus Christ, in Jerusalem any longer. But Peter and John," Acts chapter 4 "Answered and said to them: "Whether it's right in the sight of God to listen to you more than God, you judge." For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard."
So yes, we are to be model citizens, great citizens, obeying the laws of the land until those laws tell us to disobey God's laws, then we disobey man's laws, and we obey God's laws. So God's plan includes submission in the world, and in the home, and since we covered this in Paul's writings, I will just show you where it's at. In verse 18, it's addressed to servants and their masters. Chapter 3 verse 1, and the following verses to verse 6 is, wives with their husbands. Chapter 3 verse 7, he addresses husbands, and all are to demonstrate a submissive love.
Now I will take you to the fourth section of First Peter, and that is "God's plan includes suffering." And the example that Peter will use is Jesus Himself. If Jesus Christ Himself was not exempt from suffering, then why do we think we ought to be? Verse 17, by the way that's chapter 3 verse 8, all the way to chapter 4 verse 19, and that's that fourth section, but I would take you to chapter 3 verse 17. "For it is better if in the will of God to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust that He might bring us to God."
Go over to chapter 4 verse 12, "Beloved, do not think it's strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you, but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings. That when his glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy."
According to the New Testament authors, when you go through persecution, and I mean for being a Christian, for righteousness sake, and please know there is a difference. Jesus said, blessed are those who were persecuted for righteousness sake, not for weirdness sake, not for obnoxiousness sake. You know there are some people that are just obnoxious human beings, and they are redeemed people, but they want to revert back to their obnoxious behavior as Christians, and get in your face and make people mad on purpose, and then walk away going, "I was persecuted for righteousness sake." No, you are persecuted for being weird.
But if you are a model citizen, and you obey the government, and you love your wife, and are obedient to your husband, and slaves and masters, all that he was talking about, you can be persecuted for righteousness sake. And when you and I are persecuted for righteousness sake, know this, at that point you are becoming a partner with Christ.
It's what Paul called the 'Fellowship of His Sufferings'. Remember that little phrase in Philippians, when Paul said, "That I might know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His suffering being made conformable even unto His death."
So when we are being persecuted because we love God and we love Jesus Christ, we are doing all the right things. You are a partner with Christ, and you enter into one of the deepest types of fellowship possible with God, the fellowship of the sufferings.
"If you are reproached," verse 14, "for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. Therefore, let those who suffer according to the will of God." There are some people, they don't believe that's even possible, that if you're suffering, you can't be in the will of God. Notice that Peter uses this phrase, "If you are suffering according to the will of God, commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful creator."
Now what did Jesus predict would happen to His disciples? Well, He said in Luke 21, "You will be betrayed by parents, brothers, relatives, friends. Some of you will be thrown into prison, and you will be hated by all, for My name's sake." You can take that promise to the bank, I find that's not underlined in a whole lot of Bibles, as one of the great promises of God to lean to. But it's a promise. He said, if you follow Me, My disciples know that this is going to happen, and boy, it did happen.
You just think of those 200 years of church history. The kind of persecution that happened from 64 AD onward, horrible things, Christians thrown to the lions. Caesar Nero, before his death, putting Christians on poles, covering them with pitch, lighting it on fire as living torches to light up his gardens at night. The skins of wild animals being placed over live believers, them sewn into the skins of believers, and having dogs and wolves eat them alive until they die. Molten lead being poured on them, eyes gouged out, body parts cut off and flayed before the believers were killed. Horrible, horrible things, because they love the Lord.
So I guess that just sort of leads me to a question. I don't want to get too heavy with it. But, what do we expect when we give our lives to Jesus Christ? I will tell you that's a good question. It's a very important question, because if you went into the prayer room, and asked people right after they have prayed the prayer of salvation, "Now what you do expect?" They might say, "Well, I expect everything ought to fall into place. I expect me to become healthy and wealthy and happy, and white picket fence, and happily ever after. I expect that, because I have given my life to God." You have given your life to God in a world that doesn't love God. So yes, you are God's child. You are going to heaven. All the blessings and necessities of heaven are at your disposal, but also, but also you are entering into a battleground.
You might say, you are getting a huge bull's-eye painted right on you. If you think of it from just the strategic spiritual warfare point of view, I will ask you this. When you gave your life to Jesus Christ, did you expect hell to give you a standing ovation? Do you think the devil will take that lying down? Oh really! You have defected now. You have left my camp, huh! Oh, let me see what I can dish out. And the early believers that Peter was writing to were right in the midst of that kind of stuff. Maybe they didn't have those expectations, but Peter wants them to know, part of the plan is suffering in the will of God for the right reasons, and he elaborates on that.
And then finally God's plan includes service, that's chapter 5. He speaks to elders, he speaks to those who are younger, he speaks to all the church. To the elders in verse 2, "Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers."
Verse 5, "Likewise you younger people submit yourselves to your elders, [and the various groups are listed]." Verse 13, "She who is in Babylon, elect together with you, greets you, and so does Mark, my son."
Now it is believed that John Mark, the one he is writing about, was the spiritual son of Peter. That Peter led John Mark to Jesus Christ. Now we know that John Mark was on one of Paul's missionary journeys, and he flaked out and he went back home, and eventually they got reconciled. But according to tradition, it was Peter who helped Mark write the gospel of Mark. Mark penned it, Mark wrote it, but he got his information from the eyewitness account of Peter, that's what almost all traditions of writing of that gospel indicate. So there was a close relationship between the two.
So First Peter, the theme of it, "Christians can expect danger from the outside," that is persecution, which leads us to Second Peter. If First Peter's theme is Christians can expect danger from the outside, then the theme of Second Peter, is Christians can expect danger from the inside via deception. Not persecution this time, deception, false prophets and false teachers.
Second Peter was probably written in AD 68, shortly before Peter's death, and shortly before Caesar Nero's death, he died in AD 68. Tradition says that Peter died in the last persecution of Caesar Nero. There are three chapters, we will just highlight them, and then we will close. Chapter 1, the theme is faithful progress in the truth, faithful progress in the truth. You need to constantly be adding to your faith that is moving forward in your faith, because chapter 2, there are false prophets against the truth. Make faithful progress in the truth, because chapter 2, there are false prophets against the truth, and chapter 3, future predictions of the truth.
"As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, [that's God's part, all that you need, all of the power that you need is available to you] by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." So God has given you all of the power and all of the promises, that's His part.
Verse 5; "But also for this very reason, [now watch our part] giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; to knowledge add self-control; to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness." By the way, giving all diligence, you could translate it giving maximum effort.
Now I hope you do see that we are not talking about salvation by works, when we say maximum effort. You are saved completely by God's grace through your faith.
Now that you are saved to cooperate with all of the promises and all of the power God has given you and I to escape the world, and the corruption by lust, we have to give our maximum effort. We need to cooperate by exerting effort, being disciplined, being diligent. That's our part.
Verse 6, "To knowledge self-control, perseverance godliness." Verse 7, "To godliness brotherly kindness, to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."
You see the word in verse 8 barren, it means ineffective or useless. Literary it means unemployed, unemployed, or a better translation, it doesn't work. Barren, it doesn't work.
If you and I cooperate with God's power and God's promises by being diligent and applying our maximum effort by not letting our faith stay stagnant, but we go from knowledge, to virtue, to self-control, to perseverance, to love, we will keep adding and moving and growing, we will never ever be able to say Christianity doesn't work. It didn't work for me. If you ever had somebody say that, "Well, it didn't work for me man, I tried it, I prayed the prayer, and I tried it. It didn't work." No it's not that it didn't work, you didn't work. You didn't give all diligence and apply maximum effort to cooperate by applying the power and the promises. And if these things are in you and abound, you will never have to say, it doesn't work for me. That's what the idea of barren or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Verse 12, "For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth." See what Peter is saying. I know you already know this, and I know I have already said this, but I am going to say it again, because I don't want you to forget it. One of the marks of a good teacher, is constant repetition. Let me say that again.
Now, what Peter goes on to say and I will sum it up. Peter says, look, I was there at the baptism of Jesus when I heard the voice come from Heaven. I was there on the Mount of Transfiguration when I saw this glorious event. I saw this with eyewitness eyes, with my own eyes, and eyewitness account. But Peter would say, I have something even more reliable than first hand subjective experience, and that is the objective truth of the scriptures.
What he says in Verse 19, "The prophetic word confirmed [or a more sure word of prophecy]." This is what Peter is saying. More reliable than what I saw and what I heard is the inherent unchanging objective truth of the scripture, the promises that have been made and were fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
Chapter 2; after making faithful progress in the truth, he wants you to know about false prophets against the truth. Verse 1, "But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness, they will exploit you, with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber."
Okay, the first few decades of church history, the big deception, the big heresy was known as the Judaizers, legalism. You have to keep the Law of Moses in order to be saved. You have got to go through circumcision and keep all of the meticulous ceremonial laws. That was known as Judaism, legalism.
Now as Christianity went on, according to Lawrence Richards about the mid sixties, which when this was written toward the end, around the mid-sixties a whole new type of false teacher emerged, who began to treat Christianity like a philosophy, sort of a self help religion. It will help you find meaning and purpose, and you know it's like Christianity light. It will give you meaning and purpose in life. It will solve personal problems, and nothing more, it was treated as simply a good wholesome philosophy. And that whole feel good philosophy was permeating the early Christians in the mid-sixties. And here's what's amazing to me, and I think you'll agree. It sure doesn't take long for Christianity to become sidetracked, and sidelined, and perverted.
I mean, this is 68 AD, and Peter, one of the first apostles of the Lord, is writing against false teachers as Paul did. And isn't it amazing that almost every New Testament book includes and predicts and shows the fulfillment of false teachers in the midst of true believers? It's sobering, it ought to sober us up. Jesus warned, "Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep's clothing." And Jesus asked in Luke Chapter 18, "When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?"
Second Thessalonians chapter 2 verse 3, it says, concerning the return of Jesus. "That day will not come until the falling away [apostasy] comes first."
First Timothy chapter 1 verse 19, "Concerning the faith, many have suffered shipwreck."
Frist John chapter 2 verse 19, "They went out from us, but they were not of us, for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us."
Revelation chapters 2 and 3, Jesus says to those Seven Churches: "Yet I have something against you, you have left your first love." Or you follow the doctrine of Balaam or whatever, they quickly turned to untruth, falsehood, false teaching.
So, I guess all of that to say, whenever cults arise and heresy arises and church split over false doctrinal issues, it really shouldn't surprise us. If I read my Bible correctly, the church is ground zero in the spiritual battle.
Since the Bible says it's the pillar in the ground of all the truth, if it is indeed that, and it is that, then Saturn would certainly want to attack that all the time. So we have to be on our guard against that. So beginning in verse 4 of chapter 2. Peter's point is, God will certainly judge them, because if He judged the angels who fell, then He certainly will judge people who fall into falsehood and teach false doctrine.
Leads us to chapter 3 where we close, and this is the future predictions of the truth. "Beloved, verse 1, I now write to you the second epistle, (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder) that you may be mindful of the words that were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Savior: knowing this first, that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lust, and saying, where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation."
There is a biblical definition right there of uniformitarianism. All things continue as they were from the beginning of creation. "For this they willingly forget, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, [that is they suddenly came into being by His word], and the earth standing out of the water, and in the water, by which the world that then existed, perished [so it didn't continue, there was a catastrophe that destroyed it] being flooded with water."
Go down on verse 10, "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, the elements will melt with fervent heat, both the earth and the works that are in it, will be burned up." Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness?"
Well, let's answer the question. If everything in the material world is going to be destroyed, what kind of people should we be? Certainly not too materialistic. It's all going to burn, it's all going to burn, God's going to do it. God destroyed the world once with the flood, promised He'll never do that again. Not destroy the world, but not destroy with the flood. He is going to destroy it again, but this time with fire that is coming. But that teaching of uniformitarianism, I remember my first day, I have told this before, in my college integrated zoology class, when the first question out of the professor's mouth is, who here is a Christian? Of course, that would have nothing at all to do with this class, right?
I raised my hand. I raised it up high, because I thought I will be joined with others, and I saw a few people kind of do this, and kind of do that. I was singled out, and he went on to tout uniformitarianism, that is the steady state theory. The things that have continued from the beginning. That history maintains an uninterrupted flow of steady events, long evolution. Peter would say wrong. He was a catastrophist. He believed in the catastrophe of the flood, and he believes in the future will be another punctuated catastrophe, i.e., the burning up of the elements.
That's what he says in verse 5 and 6, they have forgotten or denied that God once judged the world with a flood. Go to the Grand Canyon and look at the strata of fast settling sediment in layers. And go to the places on earth where you have the skeletal remains of large fish and mammals that are displaced, and they are placed vertically in horizontal strata. Strata that represent various aeons of time, and ask how in the world did that thing get suddenly pushed into all of these different layered strata over time? What did that? Or go to the top of high mountains where you can find seashells. You go how did they get here?
Peter said, they have forgotten, even though there is evidence that the world was once destroyed by a flood. Of course, don't you think when Noah built the ark, that he got mocked. He built it inland, like in Iraq. So here he is. It's like if you started a yacht factory in Rio Rancho. We think you are out of your mind. One of you would say, yeah, but I know something you don't know, that was Noah's line. I know something you don't know. I am going to tell you what it is. God is going to send a flood. Oh really? Yeah, it's going to cover the full earth. Alright. Until it just kept raining one day, and the next, and the next, and the next, and the next, and the next, and the next, and the next, and the next, and covered the earth.
Verse 15, let's go down there and then we'll close, "and consider the long suffering of our Lord is salvation. As also our beloved brother Paul." I am drawing this to your attention, because this to me is very significant. And here you have Peter cross referencing and endorsing the writings of Paul, and I want you to notice what Peter considered the letters and writings of Paul to be. This is significant. "Because also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written you. As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of things in which are some things hard to understand. [I would say, Amen! Paul was the easiest guy to follow], which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, [now watch this] as they do also the rest of Scripture." That's what he is telling. He is placing Paul's writings in the same category as the rest, or the other parts of Scripture.
Peter is equating Paul's writings with scriptures, so here is how to answer the question. Well, when did people start thinking that the writings of Paul were Scriptures, or it happened hundreds of years later? No, it didn't. It happened this early on, where Peter, the guy who is one of the leaders with Jesus in that whole following, considered the writings of Paul to be Scripture, and said there are people who twist his writings like they do the rest of Scripture.
Well, that concludes your study in First and Second Peter. What happened to Peter? Tradition says that Peter was crucified. Actually according to the tradition, Peter was in Rome with his wife Mrs. Peter, and Mrs. Peter was crucified first. Peter had to watch it. He was forced to watch as they pinned his wife to a cross, and she was there in agony, and Peter kept encouraging her according to tradition, saying, remember the Lord, remember the Lord, remember the Lord, and she died.
And then they said, it's your turn, and Peter said, he requested that he be crucified upside down, not right side up, because he said, I am not worthy to die in the same manner as my Lord, and they obliged him. And according to tradition in Rome, probably around 68 AD, Peter was crucified upside down. Peter died as an old man. You know what, Peter knew that he will live to be an old man, and wouldn't die as a young man. Even though he was put in prison, in Acts chapter 12, and he was going to be killed, remember that story? I am convinced Peter knew and that reason he could sleep well that night, and remember the angel had to wake him up; he was in a dead sleep.
Okay, so if you knew that we are going to kill you tomorrow, I don't know if I would sleep well that night. He was like snoring. The angel had to go, 'Peter, wake up. I am here trying to spring you out of jail.' Why was he sleeping so soundly? Because Peter knew he wasn't going to die, he was going to wait to be an old man. How do I know that? Well, John chapter 21, Jesus has risen from the dead, meets the disciples on the Sea of Galilee. Peter do you love me? Remember the story? Yes Lord I love you, feed my sheep, tend my sheep, feed my lambs.
Now listen what he says. This is John chapter 21 verse 18, "Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you, and carry you where you do not wish. This he spoke signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he said to him, "Follow Me.""
So Jesus told him, when you are old they are going to do that to you. When you were young, you did this, when you are old, so he thought, I got years to go, then it happened, he died as an old man. And now he is in heaven enjoying that reward incorruptible, undefiled that does not fade away, and his words still encourage to us to this day.
Let's pray, our heavenly Father, we have seen in rapid succession two books, penned by one of the greats. One of the very closest associates with the Lord Jesus Christ. One who looked into His eyes, and heard His words, and was comforted by His love. The great apostle Peter, and Lord his words do speak to us. And we understand the gravity of these writings, that there is danger from the outside, but perhaps the worst danger is from the inside, and those who spread falsehood, and those who tolerate them. Lord, I pray that we be able to walk that very important fine line of standing up for truth, and abiding in truth, and yet having a generous loving heart toward brothers and sisters, and even those in error to correct them, and lovingly put them on the right path. Help us to be ambassadors of Your truth by having a spiritual hunger, wanted to be nurtured by the milk of the word as new born baby is crying out for it, and craving for it, and growing thereby. And as we grow, helping others to grow. In Jesus name. Amen!