If you were dying but had the opportunity of writing a final letter to friends, what would you say? That’s a heavy question, but it helps us understand 2 Peter.
Knowing his remaining time was short, Peter wrote this letter, probably from Rome, as he neared the time of his martyrdom.
Had you been Peter, what would you have written? Perhaps you’d want to give a reminder of your core beliefs, then you might leave instructions about a critical issue, finally you’d focus on the joy of Christ’s return.
That’s exactly what Peter did in the three chapters of his letter.
In chapter 1, he affirmed that God has given us all things pertaining to life and godliness, and we must diligently grow in these virtues.
In chapter 2, he warned us against false teachers who speak with great swelling words of emptiness.
He concluded with chapter 3 devoted to the Lord’s return, when heavens will pass away with a great noise and the elements will melt with fervent heat.
In light of this what sort of people ought to be? We should be people who are known, Peter said, by our holy conduct and godliness, as we look for and hasten the coming of our Lord.
While awaiting our Lord’s return, we must stand on His great and precious promises, which provide all we need for life and godliness.
“Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall” (2 Pet 1:10).
“Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless” (2 Pet 3:14).
If someone had the capacity to retain everything he read, of remembering every fact and date, of summoning to mind every particle of learning; if he could tell you the answer to every question on every exam and provide every statistic known to man, he still would have nothing valuable to say without one othercomponent, experience.
That’s why we read 1 Peter with such interest. Simon Peter was one of our Lord’s original followers and he experienced every dimension of discipleship, both good and bad.
He’d been on the mountaintop with Christ,
Had walked to Him on the water,
Had fled from Him at the cross, and
Had served Him in the early Church.
In 1 Peter, the old fisherman drew from a lifetime of experience to tell us how to conduct ourselves as pilgrims and strangers in the world.
Peter hit several themes in his letter, including:
The power of grace,
The importance of submission and
Separation, and the role of tribulation in life.
Much of his letter is written with suffering in mind, teaching us how to respond when grieved by various trials. We’re to commit ourselves to God, to follow in the footsteps of Christ, and to give others an answer for the hope within us.
Peter’s letter is a reminder for Christian pilgrims to look at their passports occasionally so we’ll remember we’re citizens of another kingdom, purchased by the blood of Jesus, and headed toward an inheritance that can never fade away.
Suffering is an opportunity to walk in our Lord’s steps and live as pilgrims in a pagan world.
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:
But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also withexceeding joy” (1 Pet 4:12-13).
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Pet 3:15).
Most of us know the value of a wise pastor to whom we can go for advice and counsel, someone whose biblical messages give us daily nourishment and practical guidance, who cares for us and speaks wisdom to our circumstances.
Capernaum was a fishing village where Jesus lived as an adult. It was established during the time of the Hasmoneans, located on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee.
It had a population of about 1,500. Archaeological excavations have revealed two ancient synagogues built one over the other. A house turned into a church by the Byzantines is said to be the home of Saint Peter.
The village was inhabited continuously from the 2nd century B.C.E. to the 11th century C.E., when it was abandoned sometime before the Crusader conquest. This includes the re-establishment of the village during the Early Islamic period soon after the 749 earthquake.
Well, all of us have a pastor like that whenever we read the book of James.
As the half-brother of the Lord Jesus, James was a respected leader in the early
Church; and he became the head of the church in Jerusalem.
In that role he wrote these five chapters to fellow Jewish Christians outside Jerusalem, to those scattered abroad.
James spoke to them as though he were their pastor, giving commands, warnings,
wisdom, and instruction.
As we study this epistle, we become equal recipients of its message. In some ways, the book of James resembles Proverbs. It’s pithy, practical, and full of everyday wisdom, and its advice we need.
“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy” (Jas 3:17).
True faith, he wrote, is wise and translates into daily action.
If you need a regular dose of wisdom from a beloved pastor, read the book of James and listen to his instructions about dealing with trials, caring for widows and orphans, taming your tongue, and managing your money.
The more we know of this little letter, the more the wisdom of our ways and the integrity of our walk will increase.
The wisdom from above, God’s wisdom, teaches us how to deal with trials, care for the needy, control our temper and tongues, and glorify God by the integrity of our daily lives.
“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (Jas 1:22).
“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (Jas 1:27).
The president of a Christian university was famous for telling discouraged students: “It’s always too soon to quit.” Those words ring true for all of us, because life is difficult and we sometimes want to give up.
Hebrews was written to tell us to persevere, to keep going, to focus on our great high priest, and to run with patience the race before us.
According to background given in chapter 10, Hebrews was addressed to some Jewish Christians facing renewed challenges.
Though they had confessed Christ as Savior and been faithful in the past, they now faced a new wave of persecution. Some were in danger of reverting to Judaism.
The writer of Hebrews, whoever he was, exhorted them to remain strong in Him who is greater than anything or anyone in the Old Testament.
Jesus is truly our great High Priest, who instituted a new and better covenant and who ever lives to make intercession for His people.
Words like better, more, great, and greater appear about forty-five times in this book, making Hebrews a book of superlatives about Jesus, who is superior to all the angels, prophets, writers, systems and sacrifices of Old Testament days.
While most of us don’t have a heritage steeped in Levitical tradition, we all face discouragement. Hebrews tells us to hold firm to our faith, keeping our eyes on our
Great High Priest, and to persevere, never giving up. With Christ on our side, it’s always too soon to quit.
We must never yield to discouragement, for our Great High Priest is supreme over-all and sufficient for all.
“Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.” (Heb 4:14).