Final Words from a Friend 2: St. Peter

Last time we spoke of the final words from St. Paul to Timothy, his beloved son in the faith. Today we will speak of Peter’s final words. Instead of addressing them to one beloved convert who would follow in his footsteps as a pastor, Peter, assigned by Jesus to lead the flock, addressed them to the entire church.
These are among Peter’s last words. As you turn to 2 Peter, think about Peter. Like Paul, he’s in Rome, under arrest, and about to be executed. Like Paul, he knows this. Now, unlike Paul, who went willingly to his arrest and then execution, Peter went about things a different way before writing this letter. There is a very old legend about Peter before his arrest and execution. Peter had been preaching in Rome for some time and the authorities now had wind of him. Hearing from a fellow Christian that they were looking for him, Peter agreed to run. He was against it at first, but the entire congregation insisted he flee from Rome. On the road away from Rome, Peter has a vision of Jesus, carrying his cross. Peter asks, “Domine, quo vadis?” That is, “Where are you going, Lord?”
Jesus replies, “To Rome, to be crucified again.”
Simultaneously chastened and encouraged, Peter says, “Lord, I will return and follow you.” And with those words said, the vision of Jesus ascended to Heaven, and Peter understood that Christ had just told him his time was coming to an end and how he would die. Renewed in his faith, Peter returns to Rome with joy, counting it gain that Christ saw him worthy of suffering. There, prepared for his death, he wrote Second Peter before being crucified upside down.

2 Peter 1:3-15 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. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8 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. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. 10 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, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 12 ¶ So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. 13 I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, 14 because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.
2 Peter 2:1-8 ¶ But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them– bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping. 4 ¶ For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment; 5 if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; 6 if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7 and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men 8 (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)–
2 Peter 3:14-18 ¶ So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 15 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. 17 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. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.
The tale of Peter’s final vision of Jesus does not appear in the New Testament, but I have no reason to doubt it. It first appears in a document from the early second century. From Acts, we know that Peter was a man given a gift of visions at least once, “rise, Peter, kill and eat.” He makes decisions quickly but backtracks once shown wrong. The way Peter acts in the story just told is also very much in line with how Peter acts in the Gospels and Acts. There is a subtlety to the story that made up tales lack. In fact, made-up legends about Peter have him almost superhuman in his faith and actions.
In each of the three chapters, Peter takes the time to focus on things very important to the Christian faith.
Point 1: Live in Holiness
2 Peter 1:3-15 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. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8 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. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. 10 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, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 12 ¶ So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. 13 I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, 14 because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.
Peter is writing to Christians, and in his final letter sees the need to encourage them in their faith. Let me just say that Peter obviously does not believe in once-saved-always-saved. He says they have the same faith he has, they have received the promises, they are elect and called, and they have been cleansed from their sin. These are not question marks in his mind, oh, no. They are truly saved men and women. Peter’s instructions are to keep them saved. He actually worries they can turn aside from their salvation and leave the inheritance.
So, like any good father does for his children, he teaches them how to keep in the faith. This is not a call to salvation. It is to the saved. Working from the fruit of the Spirit, Peter lays out instructions. Start with faith, then add goodness, then knowledge, then self-control, on and on. Having these at work in your life shows that you are growing in Christ. If you are growing in Christ, then you can’t be falling away. The more you grow in these, the more productive you will be.
Peter says that if you do not have them, you have forgotten your cleansing. Notice he doesn’t say you were never cleansed, he says you have forgotten. Peter has way too many references to these people being Christians for it to be a hypothetical. Peter is very sure of their salvation. He even calls them brothers. For a Jew to say that to someone who is not blood kin means “we are fellow members of the covenant community.” Peter says they are in the same covenant he is! Moreover, Peter says they need to be eager to make their calling and election secure. They aren’t secure just in the fact they are saved. They need to make themselves secure to remain saved.
And he goes on in the parts of the book we aren’t examining. At the end of the second chapter, he says they have escaped the enticements of this world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. If they fall again, their last state is worse than the first. It would have been better for them to not have known the way of righteousness and turn away from the commandment. These are saved people, Christians!
Here’s a question. Is it these fruit—for they are the fruit of the Spirit—that have done the cleansing? No. These come about as a response to Christ. As James says, these are the works by which we show our faith.
Consider this. In these last weeks, we’ve seen in the final words of both Paul and Peter that they are very concerned about their converts remaining saved. For these two, the answer to “can one lose salvation?” is a sure yes. These are the final words they are writing, they know their martyrdom is coming. They aren’t going to waste time. If you were in that situation, would God inspire you to write about situations that can’t be or would you be compelled to write about things that really would make a difference?
Let’s also consider the argument made by those who embrace eternal security that Peter and Paul are not omniscient and can be wrong about the state of their flocks’ souls. Ok, let’s consider that. Granted, Peter and Paul are not omniscient and can be wrong. Would the Holy Spirit inspire them to write of it in holy Scripture and then move pastors across the Christian world to preach from them and finally to move the early Christians to recognize the books as holy writ, profitable for teaching, preaching, correcting, and rebuking?
No. He wouldn’t spend that much time on something that can’t happen.
Both Peter and Paul knew their time was coming. Peter says explicitly in this passage that Christ has revealed he will soon put aside this earthly tent. He then says he wants to ensure they remember these things when he is gone. You don’t try to ensure people remember things that are just hypothetical. Peter is truly concerned they will lose their salvation.
Point 2: Know Judgment Comes to False Teachers
2 Peter 2:1-8 ¶ But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them– bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping. 4 ¶ For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment; 5 if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; 6 if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7 and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men 8 (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)–
False teachers have been with us from the beginning. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing. They don’t come to care for the flock. They may look like it, but instead they come to fleece the flock. It’s an old story; believers have had to discern first false prophets, then false teachers. We still have both. I said last time, a lie can run around the world while the truth is still getting it’s boots on.
False teachers lead people astray. That’s in their job description. These are not minor false teachings. These are destructive heresies that bring ruin on the teacher and those who follow. Moreover, they bring dishonor to the Church. If you ask people alive in the ‘80s what nationally-known preachers they remember, odds are they name Billy Graham, Jim Baker, and Jimmy Swaggart. Two of those three men were false teachers!
Now, they didn’t start that way. They began in tune with God but turned away from him and to money. As Peter warned, greed took them down. I imagine that Billy Graham had many opportunities to turn away from God but stayed strong. Those ministers who do the most work for God get hit the strongest by the Devil.
But praise God that even for those who turn away and follow money, they are given a chance to repent. God does not want any to perish, but gave His only begotten Son. Yet, just because God does not want them to perish does not mean they will not. Every one of us has a free will. We can choose which way to go. The warning for false teachers is clear—if they do not repent, they will go to destruction. Surely, if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, he will not spare us who turn away.
Sodom and Gomorrah and the Flood in Noah’s day are two other examples of God’s judgment. Those who fall into sin need to get out of it before judgment happens. In each of Peter’s examples, God spares those who hold to Him. The angels that did not sin, Noah’s family, and Lot. These are warnings to us that God does not take sin lightly. We want to be merciful, but we forget that God is just and his justice will not sleep forever.
It is a shame that so many prefer to have their ears tickled by an easy lie instead of listening to a hard truth. Hard truths are hard to swallow. It isn’t easy to realize you have been tricked and deluded. When the Holy Spirit whispers in our ear that we’re in the wrong, the old man of pride wells up. We’re smarter than that, we think. But, remember that false teachers have made a career out of tricking people. They’re con artists of the worst kind. They don’t just steal your money, they steal your future blessing and can even steal your soul.
As I said, God gives everyone a chance to repent; He is not willing they should perish.
Over the 2,000 years of the church, there have been false teachers that split it. But praise God, He always keeps a share of faithful to combat it.
Point 3: Be Blameless and Careful
2 Peter 3:14-18 ¶ So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 15 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. 17 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. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.
Peter ends his final words by circling back to the beginning. He’s making sure we see the importance of what he has just said. He’s spoken of holy living. He’s warned of false teachers and the judgment that awaits them. He ties them together by reminding us that holy living and study of the Scripture will keep us from error.
God isn’t slack on his judgment because He sleeps. He is patient because He is giving people more time to be saved. Think back to the time you were saved. How would you feel if God had returned in judgment an hour before you accepted Him as Lord? This is the same situation millions are still in. God’s justice will come when He is ready.
In the meantime, we are to live holy lives, studying Scripture, and not being carried away by error. The only way to prevent being carried away by error is to study Scripture. Now, it’s true, parts of it are hard to understand, but we need people who study the Bible and pray through it because there are so many false teachers out there. CS Lewis once said that good philosophers were needed simply to combat bad philosophers.
Not everything Paul writes is easy for us to understand even after much study. Hebrews is even harder to understand, but God gave Scripture to reveal His truths to us. He wants us to study it.
These false teachers will distort the Scripture. The easiest way to convince people of a lie is to start with the truth and twist it. I remember reading a book where Satan was a character, and he said, “I lie, but not always. My goal is to get you to turn away from God. If I can do that with 90 percent of the truth and 10 percent of a lie, that’s what I’ll do.”
If we do not grow in grace and truth, we will not be kept safe from false teachers. I cannot tell you how shocked I am sometimes dealing with church people who should know the Bible better than they do. Biblical literacy seems to be ebbing, and, worse, people are reveling in that ignorance. Imagine being proud of the fact that you misquote Scripture! That is a false teacher, right there.
Karl Marx, one of the Devil’s generals, once said, “Take away a people’s roots, and they can easily be moved.” Never before have so many called themselves Christian and know little more of Scripture than “judge not.” They don’t even know the rest of the verse nor that five verses later, Jesus gives examples of how to judge. Was our Lord and Savior contradicting Himself or are they misunderstanding?
When we forget where we came from, we lose sight of where we are going. Without roots in Jesus, we will fall. Peter tells us how to fight that. Stay rooted in Scripture, firmly built up in Him. Paul says it this way, “having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude” (Colossians 2:7).
Conclusion
In these final words, Peter has been clear and concise. He doesn’t take the time to wander off. He knows that he needs to be short and to the point. He was never one to mince words, always being direct and forthright, even when it led him to sin. Often in need of correction, as all of us are, but better able to admit when he was wrong than many of us are.
Peter’s final letter reminds us of three things in our Christian walk, three things that he felt important enough to put into his final words. 1) Live in holiness and, in so doing, show the fruit of the spirit, 2) Know that judgment comes to false teachers, and 3) be blameless in Christ.
How are you doing in those instructions? Are you living a life of holiness and blamelessness in Christ? Are you showing the fruit of the Spirit? Are you avoiding false teachers?

About frankluke

Professionally: pastor, programmer, writer. Personally: husband, father.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christianity, New Testament, sermon, The Last Crusade and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Final Words from a Friend 2: St. Peter

  1. Pingback: Final Words from a Friend 2: St. Peter - SuperversiveSF

  2. Pingback: Final Words from a Friend 2: Second Peter – Postcards from the Age of Reason

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