Sunday, July 9, 2023

Posted on Jul 07 2023

2nd Peter = Remembering and Warning

Bible Background: We have noted that 2nd Peter is probably the ‘latest’ book in the New Testament, and likely written in the name of Peter, rather than by Peter himself. The author is interested in reinforcing faithful teaching and living, and reacts strongly against ‘false teachers/prophets’.

Digging Deeper: 1. In chapter 1:16-18, the writer defends his witness and authority. Referring to the Transfiguration of Jesus, he insists: “We were there! You can’t make this stuff up! We were eyewitnesses!” (Peter, James, and John were there on the mountain, with Jesus.) What he’s remembering most is not what they saw, but what they heard: the voice from heaven declaring Jesus as God’s beloved Son.

2. One of the teachings this writer is defending, concerns the 2nd coming of Christ. Since the first Christians had expected the risen, reigning Christ to return in glory in their lifetimes, many began to doubt and scoff at the ‘delay’ in Christ’s return. Our writer is still advising believers to “be ready!” The Parousia is the fancy term for Christ’s 2nd coming.

3. There is also pushback on who can claim to speak for God, as a prophet? The author argues that no true prophet is ‘speaking for themselves’, and only those inspired by the Holy Spirit accurately speak God’s Word.

4. Warnings about false teachers and the end times were common in Jewish/Christian circles in that era. Jesus had warned about such things several times! This writer is doubling-down, accusing opponents of really bad motives, morals, and behavior (and goes overboard on demonizing them, in verses we are not reading today!) This is always a challenge for Christians (as well as other religions): Who has the right set of beliefs? Who has the proper authority? Who is in a place to judge? In countering opposing ideas and teachings, must we destroy opponents? Or must we learn to live with them? This same issue arises in the realm of politics and religion today! Jesus had some things to say about this-but never did he give instruction to wipe them out!

5. The writer (who is able to pick and choose from a wide variety of scripture), mentions the odd, old story of Balaam and his talking donkey (Numbers 22). Balaam was a prophet-for-hire, raging against the Israelites, until God literally straightened him out, with the help of his donkey!

What do we ‘take away’ from a rather difficult letter like this? Can we acknowledge that 2nd Peter gets some things right, and maybe gets other things wrong? In Lutheran teachings, we rely on the whole Bible, yet rely on the 4 gospels most heavily. We stick to the Creeds of the Church. We have the Lutheran Confessions which help guide our understanding of scripture and the important place of both Law and Gospel. We also recognize “adiaphora”, a Greek word meaning: “indifferent”. It’s a reminder that some things are not essential to our faith, and not worth disagreeing over!