• The BaptistWay lesson for Nov. 17 focuses on 2 Peter 1:1-12.
The situation (2 Peter 1:1-2)
What we know with certainty about the specific situation 2 Peter addresses can be as vague as the letter’s introduction. No identifying people or place is mentioned as its recipient. The only name given is “those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours.” Whoever it is, the general tone of the epistle is addressing some concrete local situation where pastoral needs are present.
It has been suggested this epistle was written shortly before Peter’s martyrdom. This could explain its brief, to-the-point nature. Given its stylistic differences, others have said it was written under a pseudo-name. Whatever the case, it makes known from the outset that all it has to say is directed toward those who have come to faith in Christ.
Over and above anything else, faith is what enables us to heed Christian instruction. A friend and fellow minister told me he grew up in an “unchurched” family that lived in a “churched” town. He went to all the area youth events and had been in and out of a few churches with friends, but nothing ever stuck. One day, he decided to read the Bible. After making it through some of the Gospels, he decided he was going to try and believe what he read. He remembered one of the local churches in town kept a prayer room open, so he went there late at night and poured his heart out to God with no one around. That was the beginning of a faith that has sustained him as a vocational minister.
God’s power (vv. 3-4)
Growing up, my favorite cartoon was He-Man. It was about a shy, soft-spoken guy named Adam who possessed a magic sword that turned him into a superhero to fight evil forces. One scene from the cartoon has been etched in my memory. It involves him holding up the sword following the magical transformation and yelling: “I have the power!” This scene was powerful because it strongly contrasted the character’s alter ego.
The power we have through faith in Christ also contrasts our alternative state. It provides us “everything we need for a godly life” (v. 3). This statement is important, because the author will go on to exhort the readers to add some specific virtues to their faith. This does not mean faith plus something else pleases God. Rather, faith enables us to please God through adding godly qualities to our life that reflect his image. Through the power of faith, we are able to “participate in the divine nature” (v. 4).
From head to heart (vv. 5-9)
This participation consists of goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection and love (vv. 5-7). These characteristics sound very much like the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). They are what genuine faith leads to, and they “keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 8).
You’ve heard the old saying about someone’s faith moving from their head to their heart. This is a picture of what “heart faith” looks like. A small group in our church is going through Kyle Idleman’s study titled Not a Fan. In one of the more poignant scenes, a wealthy businessman makes a heart-wrenching decision to sell his 15,000-square-foot home. The decision is forced on him when he decides to quit stealing clients and make money unethically. With less income, his family is forced to suffer the consequences. As he and his wife take one last look at their old home from inside the moving truck, he makes a sobering statement: “This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.”
A continual reminder (vv. 10-12)
But this is the kind of thing that “confirm(s) your calling and election” (v. 10). The notion of confirming one’s calling and election is a prominent feature of the Pauline epistles. To do this is to offer proof of one’s profession of faith. The ethical tension contained in this command illustrates how 2 Peter blends sovereignty and moral agency, divine grace and human cooperation, even when emphasis is given to one side of the equation.
The promise for those who do this is they “will never stumble” (v. 10). In this context, the word “stumble” is not synonymous with “sin.” An older translation uses the word “fall,” which more clearly communicates the idea of perseverance and enduring until the end, even in the face of stumbling. Perhaps this lesson about living out faith from the heart seems old and repetitive to you. This was the case with the audience of 2 Peter. Yet the author says, “I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have” (v. 12).
Some things are worth the reminder. When my wife taught second grade, she kept an old 16th century prayer taped to the top of her computer monitor so she would see it every day: “God be in my head, and in my understanding; God be in mine eyes, and in my looking; God be in my mouth, and in my speaking; God be in my heart, and in my thinking; God be at mine end, and at my departing.”
In what way do you need to be reminded to live out your faith?