May 3, 2018
2 Peter 3:1-3 (NLT)
1 This is my second letter to you, dear friends, and in both of them I have tried to stimulate your wholesome thinking and refresh your memory. 2 I want you to remember what the holy prophets said long ago and what our Lord and Savior commanded through your apostles. 3 Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires.
Is anyone else a little tired of Peter’s ranting about false teachers and the consequences? What person wants five straight days of this kind of devotional? What kind of pastor would preach this stuff in a sermon series for two or three straight weeks? Just give us the positive, encouraging stuff, right? Can I get an “amen”?
As a Daily Text writer and a preacher, I confess that this has been one of the hardest texts to work through when it comes to encouraging hearers in their faith. Chapter one was all about grace and growth and being God’s beloved. Then chapter two drug us down with false teachers and broken sexuality and warnings.
Maybe Peter also got the sense that his words were beginning to weigh heavy, because after all the dogs and vomit yesterday, he makes a sudden stop and opens chapter three with “I have tried to stimulate your wholesome thinking and refresh your memory.” (v. 1)
But did you notice what I did there? I said he “opens chapter three.” The only problem is, Peter never title this “Chapter Three.” Remember that these were actually letters, not books. When the New Testament was written, there were no chapters and verses. Those were added much later by a monk to help with referencing. This can be problematic for us because we like to take chunks out and focus on those while ignoring other parts, as if the writers were just listing teaching points and anecdotes.
But this was a letter, just like you and I write letters and emails with a beginning and an end and all the stuff in the middle connected. Peter’s letter would have been read aloud as one complete sermon to the congregation.
We’re the ones who dismantle and dissect it in our preaching. The original audience would have had to endure the whole thing. And I can imagine, two-thirds of the way through the reader saying, “Can I get an amen?” and hearing crickets. So like any good sermon or message, we’ve heard the good, then we’ve heard the bad, and now let’s bring it all together: “I want you to remember what the holy prophets said long ago and what our Lord and Savior commanded through your apostles.” (v.2)
Remember, the prophets said a lot of rough stuff that wouldn’t fly in many of today’s churches. But theirs is exactly the type of warning we need, because being false doesn’t just happen; it isn’t sudden and it isn’t always so obvious. Remember, the prophets were just as much about, “Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem. Tell her that her sad days are gone…” (Isaiah 40:1-2), as they were, “See how Jerusalem, once so faithful, has become a prostitute… I will pour out my fury on you.” (Isaiah 1:21 & 24).
And Jesus was just as much about comforting the woman caught in adultery as he was calling religious leaders fools and snakes. He was just as much about sowing seeds as he was cutting off branches.
Why is all this important? Because it means we can’t separate anything Peter said in the first two chapters from his reminder that he’s reminding us, and from where he’s going next. We can’t sift out chapter two and only focus on chapter one. Because believe it or not, these three chapters taken as one sermon is for our discipleship, encouragement, and growth in the Lord Jesus Christ. This letter is in the New Testament, along with all the others, for a reason. Taken together they’re called “the good news.” Let’s remember that going forward.
Can I get an “amen”?
To be continued…
Heavenly Father, I’ve prayed it before and I need to pray it again: Let all of your Word have all of its way with me. In Jesus name. Amen.
How does this idea of Peter’s letter being all one sermon, not a bunch of separated ideas, help you in plowing through all this tough stuff? What is the Holy Spirit possibility for you in this today?