A Beautiful Relationship - 2 Peter 1:1-2 (Sermon)
Hi, I am pastor Rob. I am glad that we can be outside again. Here is a question for you. What movie is this line from, “Louis, I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship.” That is a line from the 1942 academy award-winning movie Casablanca starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman. I could imitate Bogart way before I ever watched the movie. It is a classic. I still remember falling asleep watching it. The reason I bring this up is that it conveys a beautiful relationship. Today, in the Scriptures, we see something of the same, the start of a letter to friends and acquaintances and the apostle Peter's last words. It is a sequel to a previous letter.
WHERE WE WERE
Last week, we talked about Peter’s ending of his first letter calling his readers to stand in God's grace and greet one another. The theme of this letter was, “Our sure hope in Christ enables us to live in a way that displays God’s glory in all circumstances.” We saw this theme expressed in many verses. Specifically, in chapter 4, verse 19, it communicates succinctly, “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” We are to trust God in the good times and bad. This morning, we will explore 2 Peter reading the first two verses of chapter 1. I will be using the English Standard Version of the Bible. If you have your Bibles, let me encourage you to follow along. We are reading from 2 Peter chapter 1, starting at verse 1.
“Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” (2 Peter 1:1–2).
Let’s pray. God, thank you for your word. Please help us as we unpack these verses. We need your help in Jesus’ name AMEN.
Let’s explore the authorship, date of writing, the reason for the letter, the letter's structure, and the audience. Let’s see what God was saying to us.
Who was he? Who was Simeon? You may remember hearing Simon, but have you ever heard Peter called Simeon? The name is not foreign to the Bible. Father Abraham had a son named Isaac. Isaac had two sons named Jacob and Esau. Jacob had twelve sons, one named Simeon. You may recall a prophet by the name Simeon. He met Mary at the temple when Jesus was just a boy. There were others in the Bible, but this Simeon refers to Peter. People in the Bible often had multiple names. Last week we looked at Silas, which was another name for Silvanus. (Some ancient manuscripts spell Simeon as Simon in verse 1 here; however, enough don’t that cause us to think it was more likely Simeon. See this site for the details http://bible.ovu.edu/terry/tc/lay272pt.htm). One other time in the Bible, we find Peter called Simeon is in Acts. Turn to Acts chapter 15, starting at verse 6.
The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. [They were looking at the matter of including Gentiles into the church] And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will. And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brothers, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name.” (Acts 15:6–14)
James, the church leader in Jerusalem, referred to Peter as Simeon in a matter that relates to what we read today.
HOW DID PETER BECOME PETER?
So, if Simeon was his name, why call him Peter? The name Peter came from Jesus. The apostle John tells us in the first chapter of his book. In chapter 1, starting at verse 40,
One of the two who heard John [the Baptist] speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter). (John 1:40–42)
The name Peter stuck. Cephas was the Greek pronunciation of the Aramaic word for rock and Petros or Peter for the Greek pronunciation of rock. Peter, Cephas, Simon, and Simeon were the same. He was a pillar in the church as it expanded from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth from Jew to Gentile alike.
WHO WAS HE? A SERVANT.
What else do we know about him? Let’s go back to 2 Peter, chapter 1. He was a servant.
“Simeon Peter, a servant.”
He was a servant. He left his fishing net to serve Jesus for three years of ministry. He heard Jesus’s teaching. He saw Jesus’s miracles. He was with Jesus all the time. Once, he miraculously walked on water to meet Jesus until his faith faltered, and he sank. He went with Jesus to a mountaintop where Jesus appeared in glory with the dead prophets, Moses and Elijah. Peter prayed with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane hours before his trial and death. He was not perfect; he fell asleep when Jesus asked him to stay awake. He was impulsive, overly-confident, and denied knowing Jesus three times on the day he died. However, Jesus forgave him for all of his sins and called him to keep following and serve his people. Peter humbly repented and trusted in Christ as his Master and Savior. He accepted the call to follow as a servant or, in Greek, as a slave.
Who was Peter? He was Simeon Peter, the slave of Christ, but also an apostle. The word apostle means “sent one” or “messenger” in Greek. He was certainly that. However, he was more than a mouthpiece. Along with the other eleven disciples and Paul, he had a unique role being a witness to what they saw and heard directly from Jesus.
TIME OF WRITING
When did Peter write his second letter? Turn to chapter 3, verse 1. It states,
“This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved” (2 Peter 3:1).
Last week, I mentioned that conservative scholars think his first letter was written between AD 62 and 63. Peter was crucified for his faith between AD 65 and 67. Hence, the second letter must have been written after the first and before his death.
WHY DID HE WRITE?
Why did he write? If we keep reading in chapter 3, we read why.
This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. (2 Peter 3:1–3)
So, Peter’s point was to remind the reader of God’s past actions and know something of what was happening and going to happen. The topic of knowing is key to 2 Peter. Chapter 1, verses 12 through 15, talks about it.
Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things. (2 Peter 1:12–15)
Peter’s purpose was to stir up the church to remember God. This is reflective of our verses this morning. Look at verse 2.
“May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” (2 Peter 1:2).
We pastors got together to summarize the book. We came up with this sentence, “God’s promises empower godly living in a world of ungodliness and false teaching.” Peter wrote to remind his readers of this. Let me say that again, “God’s promises empower godly living in a world of ungodliness and false teaching.”
Peter spent the first two verses of his letter doing the typical introduction. Verse 3 through 15, he reminds the reader that God’s promises empower Godly living. Verses 16 through chapter 2, verse 3 compare and contrast true and trustworthy knowledge versus false teaching. Verses 3 through the end of chapter 2 remind the reader of God’s rescue of the faithful and his judgment on the ungodly. Finally, in chapter 3 talks about living while looking forward to Jesus’ return. So we have about four sections, and we are going to take it slow.
If you wanted to memorize one verse that would capture the book's entire message, I would have you remember the last verse, Chapter 3, verse 18. What does it say?
“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18).
Peter wants us to grow in the grace and knowledge of God. Do you want to grow in this way? This book is for you.
Whom DID HE WRITE TO? THE CHURCH
It was also for a specific group of people. Go back to chapter 1, verse 1, to hear about them. The text tells us,
“To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours.”
Peter wrote to a people of faith, the church. In his first letter, he wrote to the church in what we now know as Turkey. We can presume the readers were the same because that is what Peter said in chapter 3, verse 1.
Interestingly, Peter wrote to is that these people of faith had an equal standing with Peter and the people he represented. The Gentile readers might have been struck by how they have identical or similar status as the Jew. Religion, family background, geography, ethnicity was a huge deal in the ancient world. So this concept of equality is radical. For us, in our melting pot, I think equality with a saint, like Peter, is revolutionary. He was like the Kobe Bryant of basketball, or you name your sport’s hero. He was a legend. This equality echoes what the apostle Paul’s taught. He wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). That means your faith results in a standing to God like John Piper, Tony Evans, Elizabeth Elliot, Pricilla Shirer, Joni Erickson Tada, Billy Graham, and Amy Carmichael. We can add Martin Luther, St. Augustine, and the apostles! Isn’t that mind-blowing. Your gender, age, ethnicity, or spiritual track record doesn’t change your status before God. Do you view your faith like that?
HOW IS THAT?
Or do you think that it is an arrogant presumption to class ourselves with the greats? That raises the question, how do we get this equality? Peter answered that question if we keep reading. Look at the verses again,
“To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by [That word by signifies means] the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
The church had an equal faith based on the righteousness of Christ, not their own. This is true today. Our hope is not in our ability to live monkish lives, to give away a certain percentage of income, or get a perfect attendance record at church. Our hope is in Christ alone. Where is your hope?
Possibly you have a different center of righteousness. Shall we? Let’s talk about righteousness. We live in a good enough society. We think of ourselves as pretty good. Garrison Keilor used to have a program about a fake town in Northern Minnesota called Lake Wobegon. He said all the women were strong in that town, and the men were good looking and the children above average. How can every child be above average? That was the joke. They can’t. You can’t measure everyone and say they are all the same simultaneously better. I think sometimes we think of ourselves with comparative righteousness, and grade us above average. We haven’t murdered anyone. How does God measure character?
I know not everyone has a positive self-image. I didn’t, growing up. But for those who do, it is crucial to understand righteousness as the Bible defines it. This term is not a comparison between people’s goodness. That is not what God measures when he talks about righteousness. It is a rightness before the holy perfect One. The apostle Paul wrote, “No one is righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10). Yet, Peter was writing to a church with faith in the righteousness of Jesus. How can Jesus be righteous if no one is? Because Jesus was the exception. He was perfect. Hebrews says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). He was our great high priest. He lived a perfect life and died a sinner’s death to give us his righteousness by faith. Our only hope before God is based on what Jesus did 2000 years ago. That is why Peter said people were on the same playing field as him and the Jews. God was and is the Savior of everyone who trusts in him.
What is also notable is not only that Jesus was perfect; Peter called him “God.” We know Jesus was and is the Savior, but few texts more clearly point to the divinity of the Messiah. His deity is imperative. If we deny that Jesus was and is God, we are doing violence to the Bible. We deny 2 Peter 1:1. At the same time, we lose Jesus’ ability to substitute himself for all people: men and women who put their faith in him. Jesus' death is not a person for a person substitute. He covers all who put their trust in him. If he were only a man and not God, he would naturally only be a substitute for one. However, being God, he can take on the punishment of all who put their faith in him. That was part of the beautiful reality he testified to in Acts. He was and is fully God and man.
Peter went on in his letter with a blessing. Look at verse 2.
“May grace and peace be multiplied to you.”
We want God’s grace and peace. Don’t we?
GROWING IN KNOWLEDGE
As we wrap this introduction up, let me challenge you in two ways. How do we get this grace and peace? Read on.
“May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”
This grace and peace are established in knowing God. My first challenge to you is to read through 2 Peter this week and notice how frequently Peter used words like knowledge, remember, and remind. If you want to have grace and peace, it begins with knowing God. We live in a world not too different than Peter’s. Christianity is under attack from those who would water down the gospel's message and make it about something else. We live in a world where sensuality and violence are entertainment. The world appeals to our appetites to steal and rob us of our time and money. The world distracts us with controversies and matters that take our attention off our souls. We need 2 Peter friends to help guard us and direct us to know God. We need this book. I need this book. You need this book. Let me encourage you to press into it. Seek to know God and read this book this week.
PRAYERS FOR MULTIPLICATION
Secondly, I would like to challenge you to imitate Peter’s prayer. If you want grace and peace in the lives of those around you, pray not just that circumstances change. Pray that God would help our children and grandchildren, our spouses and leaders, neighbors, and co-workers to have grace and peace multiplied by knowing God our Father and Jesus our Lord. What would happen if all we prayed that way this week? What conversations might unfold, and prayers might be answered?
Perhaps, you feel like you are new to knowing God or don’t know him. You can start a beautiful friendship with God by turning from your sin, rebellion, and neglect. Instead, he calls you to trust in his ability to take your punishment on the cross. Then join us and seek to know God better . All our ministries, men’s and women’s ministries, youth and small group ministries are geared up to help us towards that end. May this be the start or restart this week of a beautiful relationship.
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