A talk from 2 Peter 1:1-4
Are you ready for what lies ahead? How are we going to cope? There are practical worries. Will we run out of toilet rolls and bread? Will we continue to be paid if there is no work? Will we be physically safe from the virus. Then there are emotional worries. How will we cope if we lose a loved one? How will we cope with the isolation. The further twist on that is “how will we cope with so many in the house.” Some of you after a few days of home schooling will have new found admiration for your kids’ teachers. Hopefully that will continue into September.
I decided to open up 2 Peter because this is a letter for believers about to enter a period of uncertainty and crisis. Written by the apostle Peter, it is most likely a follow up to his letter to the Gentile churches in Turkey. It seems to be close to the end of his life, so we can date it to around about 67-68AD. Things were becoming increasingly hostile. The Jews had been hostile to Christianity from the start but trouble is brewing and within a few years of this letter, the city of Jerusalem was destroyed. Such earth shattering events seemed apocalyptic suggesting that the end times were upon them. The Romans were also becoming hostile to Christians that would eventually lead to widespread persecution.
So, how does Peter prepare the church of his day for uncertain and dangerous days ahead.
The answer is very simple – but very vital. They would find what they needed rooted in the Gospel itself.
- You have a shared faith -rest in it and enjoy it (1:1)
Peter introduces himself as one of the apostles. There is no surprise in that. In fact, he was one of the leading members of the twelve and had been the spokesman at Pentecost. Apostles were eye witnesses and their job was to pass on the truths that they had seen and heard from Jesus in his life and particularly at his death and resurrection. So, we are hearing things from someone who was right there with Jesus. This should encourage us.
However, he also calls himself a “slave” – not just a servant, but the lowest of the low in the economic pecking order. Now, some people want to talk a lot about being slaves of God, however the New Testament primarily identifies us as adopted sons. But you find the apostles describing themselves as slaves or servants. Why
- It places them in the line of people who heard from and spoke from God. The patriarchs of the Old Testament were also God’s servants.
- It shows humility. Peter is not interested in power and privilege.
- It states ownership. Peter belongs utterly and completely to Christ without divided loyalty.
And this takes us to the main point here. Peter writes to people who share the same faith. Some versions refer to it as “precious.” The primary idea here is of “equal standing.” You have equal standing with Peter in terms of faith.
- This means that Jews do not have special privileges over Gentiles. There is one faith and no place for racial discrimination.
- This means that they do not need to worry about Peter’s coming departure from this life. They had equal standing, the same access to God that he had and so they did not need to be anxious when he moved on.
So Peter died but God’s people still had his word and still had the Holy Spirt. They still had salvation. This is received by the righteousness of God the Father and Jesus the Son. Note that it is possible to translate this as one phrase, Jesus our God and Saviour but the dominant is that it refers to Father and Son. However, Jesus is clearly acknowledge as Lord, equal divine with the Father. Faith links to righteousness. We are justified, just as if we had always kept God’s law perfectly. God is just and righteous in his actions towards us. Salvation itself is an act of his goodness, his righteous and we are saved through his righteousness because he gives his own righteousness to us.
How are we going to face the months ahead. Well first of all we cannot do it without God’s presence, without the Gospel.
- God gives us grace and peace – grow in them (1:2)
Literally, Peter expresses the wish that grace and peace will be multiplied to them. Grace, the greeting commonly used by Greeks is joined by the Jewish idea of peace, just as Paul does. Grace is the means, peace the result. God gives us grace, this is quite simply a free, undeserved gift and as a result we have peace with God.
We need peace if we are to face the months ahead. Have you been anxious? Have you been losing sleep? It is understandable. How can we face worrying times ahead. Well, it is as we know Christ. This is why we talk about grace past, present and future.
- Past: We know we are saved. These circumstances are not punishment and cannot rob us of the security, identity and hope we have.
- Present: We have the testimony of Christ’s presence with us now and the peace he has given us through the Holy Spirit.
- Future: We look forward and know that Christ is returning. He is our reward and we look forward seeing him.
And we are meant to grow in these things as we will see next time. So, the very events we are going through will help that happen. We will learn patience and endurance, we will learn more about love. We will learn to trust Christ more and more.
- God gives us everything we need – Be prepared (1:3-4)
God gives us everything we need. Did you get that? Everything. Note that the reference to his divine power could be both to God the Father and to the Son so that they are equally and fully God. Specifically. We have all we need to live godly lives. We have been seeing that God does not just want us to survive Coronavirus. God wants us to live holy or godly lives in the midst of it.
How will we do this? Well because of his glory and greatness, his majesty and power. He is the good and sovereign God. His glory and majesty are the means by which he is able to save us and call us. Jesus draws us into his presence through his beauty and his love. His glory, his majesty, his wonderful goodness means that he makes promises to us.
- The promise that we are forgiven
- The promise that he will never leave us or forsake us.
- The promise that we have the Holy Spirit
- The promise that Christ will return.
This means we are thoroughly equipped (the same idea we find in Ephesians 2:8-10). Over the past few days we have found it impossible to buy eggs. We have been lacking in things we need. Apparently, this is because parents have been buying baking ingredients, they want to be fully equipped to look after their children.
Even if you are not hoarding, I’m sure that you will have been planning and buying to make sure you can get through to the next Asda run. You’ll have been getting prescriptions if you are ill. You will have been making sure you could live safely in your home. Medics at the moment are concerned that they wont have the safety equipment they need.
If we want to be prepared for the physical risks in this crisis, how much more should we prepare for the spiritual. Are you ready to face the danger ahead? Peter says that we are because God has taken us away from our sinful desires and enabled us to participate in his nature.
What does that mean? Well it means that we were made in his image, to reflect his glory but sin brought death and we fell short. Christ came to restore humanity to its true nature in Christ. This again is about past present and future
- Past, we have made new -receiving justification by faith.
- Present, we are being made new – sanctified through the work of the Holy Spirit
- Future, we will be made new – “We will be like him because we will see him face to face.”
I hope you are encouraged by these words. I believe that before we can answer the practical questions about what is asked of us that we begin by seeing what has already been given to us. Start by enjoying God and resting in him.