2 Peter 3:1-2 “A Pastor’s Purpose”

This is now the second letter I write to you beloved, in which I am awakening your sincere mind in remembrance to remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of your apostles from the Lord and Savior.



As he repeats his intentions (vv. 1-2), Peter betrays his pastoral perspective. A shepherd wants what is best for the sheep and will take the extra time to ensure that the sheep are taken care of.



Pastoral Persistence (v. 1a)


This is now the second letter I write to you beloved


Peter’s use of “beloved” (ἀγαπητοί) is noteworthy. In the span of the next 18 verses (the remainder of chapter 3), he will use this term no less than 4 times in total (vv. 1, 8, 14, 17), each marking a subsection of his concluding argument. But more than a macro-syntactical marker, this term helps to establish Peter’s attitude toward his audience. These people mean something to him. They are fellow believers whom he loves. This becomes more evident by the fact that this is not the first, but the second time Peter has written these churches.


Much debate revolves around what Peter could possibly mean by “the second time” (δευτέραν ὑμῖν γράφω) he has written. The obvious answer is that Peter here refers to the letter that we call “1 Peter” evades many commentators. The evidence for the natural and most obvious reading will be addressed in a short while. For now we will lay aside far-fetched, farcical, and fanciful notions that either assume (1) the current author is a 2nd century forger attempting to establish credit, (2) Peter here refers to Jude, or (3) the reference is to some mysterious lost letter. Rather than doubting the words of Scripture at every turn, the point we should get here is that Peter persisted with these people. He did not write them a single time and then step back to watch them flounder. He knew they required additional instruction. It is because they are beloved that he takes up the pen this second time to write them. The shepherd persists in feeding the sheep.[1]


Pastoral Protection (v. 1b)


In which I am awakening your sincere mind in remembrance


By returning to the language of 1:12-13, Peter presents the contents of both his first and second letter. It is at this point that many argue against the reference pointing to 1 Peter since 1 Peter says nothing at all regarding false teachers.[2] How could this be the second letter addressed to that specific problem if the “first” letter never addressed that problem? This position fails to read the text without inserting personal ideas. Peter never says that this is the second letter sent to warn against false teachers. He states that this is the second letter sent to stir up your minds by way of reminder. Peter here refers to the mind (διάνοια) in the sense of one’s ability to reason or think. His purpose in the current letter is to rose, awaken, shake from lethargy the audience’s faculties of thinking. The verbal idea is repeated from 1:13 (διεγείρω – to awaken, arouse, stir up). But by mentioning the object to be stirred up, Peter points us back to 1 Peter 1:13. It was there that Peter told the saints of Asia Minor to gird their minds (διανοίας) for action. The commands for moral living in Peter’s first letter are (1) attempts to stir up the readers’ minds and (2) are based on eschatological assumptions (1 Pet. 1:3-5).[3] Peter’s first letter may not deal at length with false teachers, but it does rouse the readers from spiritual lethargy by reminding them of the eschatological hope already taught to them.


It is almost as if the warning of false teachers interrupted Peter’s line of reasoning. The goal of this letter is not to rant against heretics, but to rouse the people by way of reminding them. Peter targets the minds of his readers, which he states are sincere (εἰλικρινής) minds, pure and unmixed minds. Unlike the minds of false teachers, the minds of these readers are accepting of the truth. The best antidote against false teaching is to remind people of the truth.[4]


There is a whole theology built into the Old Testament of remembering. The book of Deuteronomy stands as the greatest example of exposition until Jesus preaches the Sermon on the Mount. In this inspired magnus opus, Moses uses the verb “remember” (זכר) 15 times, and its cognate noun “memory” twice. The negative side of remembering is to “forget” (שׁכח), an action that is prohibited by Moses in Deuteronomy some 14 times. In a nutshell, Israel is commanded in Deuteronomy over 30 times to not forget and to remember two basic things: (1) what they have seen Yhwh do (4:9; 6:12; 8:14; 9:7; 31:21; 32:18) and (2) the covenant Yhwh made with them (4:23, 31; 8:11, 19; 24:19; 25:19; 26:13). To remember is to obey what is commanded and to pass down what is instructed. To never forget is to take steps to ensure that the commands are obeyed, and the instruction is passed on. Peter states that his letters perform much of the same function. He desires good things for the sheep under his care and so he points them back to the truth time and again. He reminds them of their hope so that they know how to live (1 Peter) and he reminds them of the dangers to come so that they will remain faithful (2 Peter).


Pastoral Precision (v. 2)


If we haven’t figured out that Peter has returned to the argument he began in 1:12-21, now is a good time to come around. Peter placed the weight of his argument on the apostolic teaching (1:16-18) and the ministry of the Old Testament prophets (1:19-21). The order is here reversed to form a mirrored image of the previous argument. Peter is picking up where he left off. Of the many things he could have reminded his readers of, two specific sources stand out: the prophets and the apostles.


The introductory infinitive μνησθῆναι (to remember) presents Peter’s purpose in writing this second letter.[5] It is Peter’s objective and goal to remind his audience of the prophets and the apostles. The “prophets” in view are the same prophets from 1:19 and thus are the Old Testament prophets whose ministries and messages are recorded in holy Scripture. This interpretation is confirmed by the fact that these prophets spoke beforehand (προειρημένων), that is to say, before the present time. The apostles in question are those specifically picked by Christ to be sent out with His message (i.e., the twelve plus Paul). More than simple missionaries, these are the men chosen to establish the church of Jesus Christ. They are “your” apostles (τῶν ἀποστόλων ὑμῶν) not because they came from these churches but because they came to them. These are the men who were the agents of the commandment given by the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.[6] Peter points to the historical prophets of Israel and the recent apostles of Christ, but did he have a specific message in mind?


Some commentators suggest that Peter refers to prophecies regarding the end of the world and judgment,[7] others the coming of Messiah,[8] while still others look back to chapter 2 and suggest prophecies that speak against false teachers who deny future judgment (Is. 5:18-20; Jer. 5:12-24; Ezek. 12:22; Amos 9:10; Zeph. 1:12; Mal. 2:17).[9] In a way, all of these are true.


If we look forward to v. 3, we note that Christ’s second coming is questioned by “mockers.” In response to their mocking, Peter uses the well-used phrase “the day of the Lord” in v. 10. In other words, the day of the Lord incorporates Christ’s second coming and is thus the target of remembrance. Peter writes to remind the saints of Asia Minor of what the prophets and the apostles taught concerning the day of the Lord.


Remembering the Old Testament Prophets (v. 2a)


To remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets


The development of themes throughout Scripture assumes that we know when certain men wrote and to whom they wrote. It is not enough to simply search out Bibles for the phrase “the day of the Lord” because the information will likely appear out of chronological order. We will therefore not be able to see the progression of this theme throughout history. A summary of the prophets’ teaching on the day of the Lord is shown below.


9th cent. BC

Obadiah

· DoTL is near and will be a global event (v. 15)

· Some will escape negative aspects on Zion (v. 17)

· Israel will be a tool of judgment upon her enemies (v. 18)

· As a result of DoTL, Israel will be gathered in her land, restored to former glory, and Yhwh’s kingdom will begin (vv. 19-21)


Joel

· DoTL is near and will be a global event (1:15; 2:1; 3:14)

· No one shall come out of the DoTL unscathed (2:11)

· Cosmic signs will precede the DoTL (2:31)


8th cent. BC

Amos

· Israel will not escape the judgment aspect of the DoTL (5:18-20)


Isaiah

· DoTL is near and will be a global event that will bring destruction from Yhwh (13:6-9)


7th cent. BC

Zephaniah

· DoTL is near, coming quickly, and will be a global event that will bring destruction from Yhwh and Jerusalem will be a target (1:7-18)


6th cent. BC

Ezekiel

· The DoTL will purge Israel of false prophets (13:1-16)


5th cent. BC

Malachi

· The DoTL will produce the death of the wicked (4:1)

· The righteous will be used to tread down the wicked (4:2-3)

· Elijah will return to procure Israel’s repentance (4:5-6)


From this brief list we can make the following observations. First, the day of the Lord is presented as an event that is “near” and coming quickly. We can surmise that this means that the day will catch people unaware (regardless of warning) and that the time for measuring a subjective thing like nearness is measured by God and not man. The day of the Lord is specifically said to be near for over 200 years (Obad. 1:15; Joel 1:15; Is. 5:18; Zeph. 1:7). Second, the day of the Lord is an event that brings judgment. That judgment will be global in extent and will include the actual nation of Israel as well as Israel’s enemies. Third, it seems that Israel will be at least a partial tool in doling out this judgment upon her enemies. Fourth, as a result of the day of the Lord, the nation of Israel will be purged of her false teachers. We can assume that at least part of the judgment is specifically directed against those who teach falsely. Fifth and finally, we see the day of the Lord as the event in which Yhwh establishes His kingdom. In other words, there is no reason to search for a kingdom before this day.


The Old Testament set a very specific expectation on this coming day. The only question that remains is whether or not the New Testament apostles maintained the same trajectory.


Remembering the New Testament Apostles (v. 2b)


And the commandment of your apostles from the Lord and Savior.


As the phrasing indicates, the apostles were agents sent by the Lord and Savior. Their words were not their words, but the words of Jesus Christ. There are several places we might venture to understand the teaching of the apostles regarding the day of the Lord, but first, let us examine the words of the Lord as recorded by one of His apostles.


The context of Matthew 7:19-23 is in reference to what the prophets call “the day of the Lord.” Jesus simply refers to it as “that day” (v. 22) and expects His audience (100% Jewish and well versed in their Old Testament) to understand the day of which He speaks. This day is in the context of God’s kingdom (v. 21) and judgment (v. 19) and separation of false teachers (v. 23). In other words, Jesus, as recorded by His apostle Matthew, anticipates all of the things recorded by the prophets regarding the future day of the Lord.


In addition to this we should also consult Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. In 1 Thess. 5:1-3 Paul affirms that the day of the Lord will appear suddenly and will arise in contradiction to various teachings. He then goes on in vv. 4-11 to encourage his believing audience that they have nothing to fear regarding this day and exhorts them to encourage one another in these things.


By the time we get to 2 Peter 3:10 we know that this day certainly includes the return of Messiah, King Jesus, to earth in order to rule and reign. This is what the apostles preached because this is what the prophets proclaimed. Peter is not instructing his readers for the first time. They already know these things to be true because this is basic Christianity. He only writes to remind them, though certainly for a second time, because that’s what shepherds do.


Conclusion


There are two simple thoughts we should dwell on as we consider these verses. The first is the depth of knowledge that the average Christian of the 1st century had in comparison to our own day. Peter’s comments regarding the day of the Lord are in the context of a reminder. In other words, his readers already knew all that the Old Testament had to say on the matter. They had already been instructed and need only a reminder. Do we know our Old Testament well enough to only be reminded?


Secondly, Peter is happy to remind his readers regardless of the dangers. There is a sense of patience in Peter’s approach. While he maintains the seriousness of the situation, he never gets frustrated that he has to write a second time. He will remind his readers of the truth as long as the Lord provides the time to do so. The shepherd is patient with the sheep. May we provide the same strong reminders in patience to each other until the Chief Shepherd returns.


Soli Deo Gloria!

[1] D. Edmond Hiebert, Second Peter and Jude: An Expositional Commentary (Greensville, South Carolina: BJU Press, 1989), p. 138. [2] R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of The Epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1966), p. 336. [3] Thomas Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, vol. 37, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2003), p. 368-9. [4] Hiebert, p. 138. [5] Archibald Robertson, The General Epistles and The Revelation of John, vol. VI, VI vols., Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1933), p. 172. [6] Hiebert, p. 140. [7] Schreiner, p. 370. [8] Hiebert, p. 139. [9] Peter Davids, The Letters of 2 Peter and Jude, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Nottingham, England: Apollos, 2006), p. 260.




26 views