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NT Survey 111 Seminar 18 2 Peter

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Andrew Hodge                                                                                                  8th October 2007

New Testament Survey NTES 111

Seminar 18

1 & 2 Epistles of Peter

Part 2 - 2 Peter

1 & 2 Peter

Irving L. Jensen Jensen’s Survey of the New Testament 1981, Moody Press, Chicago Ch 22

Libronix DLS

Guthrie, Donald  New Testament Introduction  Apollos, Leicester, England 4th Ed  1990 Ch 22

Amplify 2 Peter as the Epistle to the ancient church, authorship, purpose, destination and date:

            In this second letter Peter adds “servant” as well as “apostle” to the titles he used to identify himself in 1 Peter 1:1.  The same logic for Petrine writing as for 1 Peter is employed for this letter - the claims Peter makes for himself are either true or a lie.  If a lie, then all Christians down through the ages (including those who accepted this letter into the canon) have been deceived, and God has not fulfilled His promise to preserve His word.

            Jensen (pp 453-4) lists internal evidences to support Peter:

  1. Simon Peter is mentioned by name (1:1)
  2. The writer is identified as an apostle (1:1)
  3. The writer refers to an earlier letter written by him (3:1.  There is no doubt that 1 Peter was written by Peter)
  4. The writer is a close friend of Paul and had read many if not all of his letters (3:15-16)
  5. Autobiographical references to the writer refer to Peter - the mount of transfiguration (1:16-18) and Christ’s foretelling of Peter’s death (1:13-15).

Guthrie uses a lot of space (pp 811-42) examining the issues for and against Petrine writership, but at the beginning of his discourse he states: “it should be fully recognized 1a that we have no choice but to regard 2 Peter as either genuine or as a later work deliberately composed in his name. In other words, if its genuineness is found to be untenable, the only alternative is to regard it as spurious, in the sense of being a forgery”2a,[1] which for Guthrie is a very positive statement.

The use of the English “servant” as a translation of the Greek doulos is to do the Greek a disservice.  A ‘servant’ can change his master; a doulos or bond-slave cannot.  A master may do completely as he wishes with his doulos, including having the power over life and death.  Peter is acknowledging that he was duty-bound to obey his Master no matter what the cost; his Lord’s command is effectively his only law.  It is in the sense of being a slave that Peter can also elevate himself to the position of the Lord’s appointed apostle without a hint of self-aggrandisement.

Because of inclusion in the canon and more so because of the broad nature of the addressees (“to them that have obtained like precious faith with us” 1:1) this letter is taken to apply to all churches - at least to those in this Age of Grace.  In this context and with regard to its specific applicability to the ‘ancient’ church, Jensen (p 453) notes that 2 Peter was only accepted into the canon as late as the end of the fourth century.  It is not quoted by any of the “Church Fathers” until Origen (250 AD).  

The possible reason for this is the letter’s relative brevity (being overlooked or lost).Guthrie’s contribution (after examining the available external evidence) is “that there is no evidence from any part of the early church that this epistle was ever rejected as spurious, in spite of the hesitancy which existed over its reception.”[2]

It is clear from 2 Peter 3:1 that Peter wrote this second letter to the same readership that he had intended the first to go to, and 2 Peter 1:16 implies that Peter had actually ministered personally to them (note the different view expressed in Part 1).  The problems of apostasy and false teaching that Peter warns his readership of are specific and presupposes that Peter not only knew about these circumstances but also had a specific group of readers in mind.  Nevertheless the greeting includes all believers, not just those in a particular geographical area.

With regard to date Jensen (p 454) merely states that “this letter was written from Rome around 67 AD, when his death was imminent”.  As noted in Part 1, this date coincides with intense persecution by Nero and is about the same time as Paul’s martyrdom.  Peter may have been impelled to write this letter - instead of again speaking to them in person - not just because he was aware of his impending death (1:14) but also because he wished to warn his readers of the perils that were about to - or already had - begun to spoil them (Guthrie: “But since the future tense is mainly used, it must further be supposed that this epistle is intended to have a preventative effect. The author wishes to strengthen these Christians in faith and practice so that they will be in a position to resist the ungodliness of these threatening false teachers.”[3])  The Libronix verb rivers for 2 Peter, especially Ch 2, are illustrative of this.

As Jensen also notes (p 454) 1 Peter was written to address persecution of the Church from without, and 2 Peter dangers from within ie apostasy and false teaching.



Classify the unity, place of writing, literary form and sources of 2 Peter:

            The issue as to whether Peter’s presence in Rome can be proved is unresolved.  2 Peter itself does not give any indication as to place of writing. 

            As with 1 Peter Jensen does not address the issue of whether this second letter is the work of a single writer.  Guthrie’s contribution (pp 845-7) is to explore whether some of 2 Peter comes from Jude or whether the letter was tacked together from several different sources - the usual means by which ‘textual criticism’ seems to be used to denigrate the inspired Word.  He comments: “since the various hypotheses differ widely in detail, it is reasonable to suppose that they proceed more from the imagination of their originators than from the demands of the facts.”[4] And this from Guthrie.


Discuss false teachers in 2 Peter:

            The false teachers represented a threat because of:

  • Their “cunningly devised fables”  1:16
  • Their “private interpretations”  1:20
  • Their ”bringing in of damnable heresies”  2:1
  • Their ways being “pernicious” or ‘licentious’ resulting in severe harm to the Gospel and deliberate (financial?) exploitation of the readers  2:2-3, as well as alluring those who were “clean escaped” back into evil ways  2:18
  • They are insubordinate to proper authority  2:10
  • They are not ashamed to perpetrate their evil in broad daylight  2:13
  • Their “wresting ”of scripture  3:16
  • They have inaccurate doctrine “For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water:”  3:5
  • 3:5 also accuses the false teachers of failing to give God His due as Creator
  • They deny the reality of Christ’s second coming in judgment  (3:3ff) based on (our very modern but obviously not new) rationalism and uniformitarianism
  • Their judgment and damnation are certain  2:4-10, 17-22

There are apparently a number of parallels between 2 Peter and Jude in terms of exposing false teaching and doctrines.  See references for parallels with 1 Corinthians below.

            Guthrie usefully notes: “This is the kind of threat that one would expect to occur as soon as Christianity challenged its pagan environment. Indeed it was found in the Corinthian church in Paul’s day and in the Asiatic churches reflected in Revelation 2–3. There are in fact many points of contact between the false teachers in 2 Peter, the libertines of Corinth and the Nicolaitans of Asia.”3a,[5]

            Guthrie also notes that the false teaching and false prophesying warned against in 2 Peter is “of a general antinomian tendency” (p 850).  This is a heresy that purports to separate a Christian from obedience to the OT moral law on the basis of freedom in God’s grace.  This is incorrect for although a Christian has freedom from sin, he is not free to sin as he wishes; after salvation a Christian finally has the freedom to do right, not the freedom to do anything.

            2 Peter not only exposes false teachers and teachings but also instructs Christians what they should be doing to combat these “ugly threats” (Jensen p 454).


Compare and contrast the two Epistles of Peter:

            Jensen provides a simple table (p 454) comparing the two letters, to which might be added that there is little in the way of OT or NT quotes in 2 Peter compared to those in 1 Peter.

            Guthrie’s contribution is to point out grammatical and literary differences and: “In addition to these differences in vocabulary and style, Chase 4a brings out four other differences-the use of the Old Testament; the reminiscences of the Lord’s teaching; the use of Paul’s epistles; and doctrinal differences.” [6]  Guthrie refers back to his previous discussions (pp 805-853) which give reasons for the differences - inappropriate to amplify this here.


Characterise Peter’s teachings about “True knowledge” 2 Peter 1:1-21:

Intimate knowledge of God is the antidote to false teaching and heresy.  Jensen (p 457): The man who knows God

1.      Is blessed for this knowledge  1:1-2

2.      Acts on this knowledge  1:3-11

3.      Should not forget what he knows  1:12-15

Guthrie (p 855) adds the following observations:

  1. escape from the corruption of this world is achieved by having the real knowledge of God’s divine nature  1:3-4
  2. the way to acquire this knowledge is to be diligent in adding to our basic faith an escalating series of virtues culminating in love  1:5-11  and which results in “an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” v 11.  These verses demonstrate both our responsibility in obedient action and also the response of God in His blessings.  The distinctions between who does what and who is responsible for what are not so clear.  Discuss
  3. Peter wants to remind his readers of these things before he dies
  4. Christianity is contrasted with myth, for Peter has had first-hand experience of God’s glory  1:16-18
  5. On this eyewitness basis Peter urges his readers to pay attention to the “more sure” prophetic Word because it is inspired by the Holy Spirit  1:19-21  and not based on anyone’s experience



Assess the teachings on “False knowledge” 2 Peter 2:1-22:

            Jensen (p 457):

1.      General statement  2:1-3  “There will be false teachers”  ie amongst all and any body of Christians

2.      Law of Recompense  2:4-10a  the unrighteous reap judgment just as surely as the righteous reap reward

3.      Description of the Unrighteous  2:10b-16 

4.      Destiny of the Unrighteous  2:17-22

Guthrie (p 856):

  1. the judgments of God in the past are used to underline the certainty of future judgment - the fallen angels, the antediluvian world, Sodom and Gomorrah - but in mentioning Lot, Peter reminds his readers of God’s co-existent mercy and love  2:4-10
  2. 2:11-12 describes ungodly people and Guthrie states “It would have been better for them not to have known the truth at all.”[7]  Is this the same sentiment as Hebrews 6:4-6?



Quantify the “Present challenge” 2 Peter 3:1-18:

            In my view, contrary to both Jensen and Guthrie, it is still difficult to understand the enormity of what God will do to His creation at the end, in spite of the present existence of atomic weapons.

            Jensen (p 457):

  1. The Holy Spirit through Peter points out the supernatural events that God has already produced - the creation, the flood, and just as certainly, the dissolution by fire which is to come
  2. The scoffers are using the logic that “all things continue as they were from the beginning” ie in their own world view, that is the only approach that can be accepted.  As mentioned above, today’s rationalism and uniformitarianism of the “last days”  3:3

Guthrie (p 856):

  1. Peter’s readers are reminded to take note that future prophecy comes with the authority not only of the OT prophets and the NT apostles, but that of the Lord Himself  3:1-2
  2. The apparent delay in the fulfillment of future prophecy is an expression of God’s mercy to allow everyone to come to repentance ie salvation, rather than any slackness or indifference on His part  3:3-10
  3. Peter finishes with a “How should we then live?”  3:11-18   In view of the approaching judgment Christians should exhibit holiness, Godliness and expectancy in hope of experiencing the full righteousness of God’s new heaven and new earth.  The saved are to be diligent in pursuing peace, purity and blamelessness, the full potential of which has been supplied to us in the Cross  3:15.



1a Cf. E. F. Scott, The Literature of the New Testament (1932), p. 227.

2a Not all scholars, however, agree that these are the only alternatives. J. W. C. Wand regards the epistle as pseudepigraphic, but declines to call it ‘a deliberate and unabashed forgery’ (op. cit., p. 144), and many modern scholars would share his reluctance. See further comments on p. 838.

[1]Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, Series taken from jacket., 4th rev. ed., The master reference collection, 812 (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996, c1990).

[2]Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, Series taken from jacket., 4th rev. ed., The master reference collection, 811 (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996, c1990).

[3]ibid 844

[4]Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, Series taken from jacket., 4th rev. ed., The master reference collection, 846 (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996, c1990).

3a E. M. B. Green (2 Peter Reconsidered, p. 26) gives the following suggestive parallels with the Corinthian situation:

2 Pet. 2:19; 1 Cor. 6:12–13. 2 Pet. 2:1; 1 Cor. 11:18 ff.
2 Pet. 2:1; 1 Cor. 6:18–20. 2 Pet. 3:4; 1 Cor. 15:12.
2 Pet. 2:10; 1 Cor. 8. 2 Pet. 3:3; 1 Cor. 15:32.
2 Pet. 2:13; 1 Cor. 11:21.  

Some of these similarities are closer than others, but there is sufficient proximity to claim that the tendencies seen at Corinth would very rapidly develop into the errors found in the 2 Peter teachers. (Cf. also W. M. Ramsay’s comparison of 2 Pet. 2:1 ff. with 1 Cor. 10; Exp. VI, iii (1901), pp. 106 ff.)

[5]Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, Series taken from jacket., 4th rev. ed., The master reference collection, 849 (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996, c1990).

4a Op. cit., pp. 812–813.

[6]Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, Series taken from jacket., 4th rev. ed., The master reference collection, 851 (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996, c1990).

[7]Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, Series taken from jacket., 4th rev. ed., The master reference collection, 856 (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996, c1990).

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