In the history of the early church the place of some books of the New Testament has been disputed. The place of e.g. Hebrews and Revelation was often debated as the NT gradually took shape. Our confidence is in the supervising providence of God, ensuring that only the ‘God-breathed’ books were accepted. No book was more strenuously debated than 2 Peter, partly because its style is so different from 1 Peter. We need have no doubt, however, that it is by the apostle Peter, written around AD66, shortly before his martyrdom. We begin with 2 Peter 1:1-2 Introducing 2 Peter.
1. The writer identified
The letter begins with a simple statement ‘Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle’. He identifies himself as one of the original group of disciples. Note:
Authority: he is an apostle, chosen and commissioned by Christ, with the Lord from the start of his public ministry (John 1:40), one of the inner group of disciples, present at the transfiguration (Mark 9:2) and a witness to the resurrection (Luke 24). He occupied a prominent position among the disciples and was one of the first to suffer imprisonment for his faith.
Humility: he says first that he is a ‘servant’ – supremely of Christ but also of the church. He serves as a ‘fellow elder’ (1 Peter 5:1), not claiming a privileged position, exercising leadership for the glory of God and the benefit of the church. Peter is a testimony to the grace of God transforming an impetuous and sometimes weak man, moulding him into the ‘rock’. He was an ordinary man saved and changed by the Lord.
2. The recipients described
The description is spiritual: ‘To those who…have received a faith as precious as ours’ – united with Peter in the same saving faith in Christ. The faith is to be ‘received’ – from the Lord himself (Ephesians 2:8). Faith is receiving and resting upon Christ for salvation, trusting in him (Acts 16:31). It is based on ‘the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ’ – a powerful testimony to his deity, which is essential if he is to save us from sin. ‘Righteousness’ (or ‘justice’) ensures that all believers are equal in spiritual standing before God. Jew and Gentile believers share the same saving faith as that of Peter, an eyewitness of the life, death and resurrection of the Lord.
3. The greeting conveyed
It is a profound greeting in the form of a prayer: ‘Grace and peace be your in abundance’.
Grace: the entire Christian life must be lived by grace (2 Timothy 2:1). Without the grace conveyed by the Holy Spirit, there will be no growth or progress.
Peace: a balanced, rounded life in fellowship with the Lord. This can be enjoyed even in trials, known only to those walking with the Lord (Philippians 4:7).
Note ‘through the knowledge…’ – the vital place for a godly use of the mind to get to know God better. It is never to be divorced from obedience and love, butt thinking through the application of our faith is vital to glorifying God and growing in grace.