Monday, July 7, 2008

II Peter 1:1-Peter’s Audience-Unity in Christ Jesus

Most families have things in common. For instance, my father and I look quite a bit alike. In fact, my mother said when they brought me to her after they had cleaned me up she thought they had shrunk my dad. My siblings and I watched some of the same TV shows growing up-Looney tunes, Scooby Doo, and the Cosby Show to name a few. My son and daughter both enjoy playing outside as does my wife. They are patient with me when I tag along with them even though being outside isn’t really my favorite place to be. My wife and her brothers all enjoyed math when they were kids. As Christians, we are all members of one family but we are considerably more diverse. We come from different backgrounds and cultures sometimes even though we’re from the same country or area of the country. We have different preferences and ways of doing things. However, we have one thing in common-our faith in Jesus Christ. That faith is unifying and draws us together as a family of believers. As Peter wrote this epistle, probably to the same group he addressed his first epistle to, he stresses this unity in faith as these believers face the threat of false teaching.

First of all, Peter indentifies his audience of fellow believers as being unified in humility. He writes in the second half of verse 1 that these individuals, to whom he wrote, as well as himself, had “received a faith”. A person does not, according to the Bible, come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ by figuring out for themselves that they are lost and going to hell. They don’t use their human brain to contemplate how sinful their life is and their need for a savior. As Paul writes in Romans 3:11-12 “There is none who seeks for God, all have turned aside, together they have become useless, there is none who does good, there is not even one.” Jesus also said in John 6:44 that “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him”. We do not seek salvation or work to achieve salvation. Rather, we receive it. The Greek word “lagchano” (2975) is translated “received” in this verse. However, it really means to “receive by lot” (Luke 1:9 and John 19:24 translate the same word using “lots”). This does not imply that our salvation was random but rather that we didn’t have control over it. When teams from the NBA who did not make the playoffs participate in the Draft Lottery to determine the order of their picks, they have no control over which team is going to be chosen. The year before the Celtics won the NBA Championship they had the statistically greatest chance to have the first draft pick. Of course, they didn’t because it didn’t work out that way. They had no way to control the outcome. By no means does this suggest that our salvation comes as the result of some cosmic lottery in eternity past. The analogy is that in the same way as something like the NBA lottery is out of the control of the participants, God’s choice in salvation is equally out of the hands of the elect. This does not negate the responsibility of man to repent and believe in order to be saved. It does, however, give all of us a reason to be humble. We did not choose God, but rather He chose us.

Secondly, Peter says they are unified in their faith. He writes that his audience has ”received a faith of the same kind”. The believers in Jesus Christ may be diverse in their spiritual gifts, backgrounds, social standing, or education, but all believers have “a faith of the same kind (Gr “istomos”-2472). According to Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament, this word does not usually mean alike in value or amount but rather being alike in honor or worth. In other words, while the people to whom Peter wrote were not gifted in the same way he was as an apostle and did not have the privilege of receiving direct revelation of scripture from the Lord, they had a faith that was just as precious and which made them as spiritually worthy as Peter or any other apostle.

Finally, the were also unified in the source of their faith. Peter writes that they received this faith by “the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ”. Knowing that they had no righteousness or goodness in themselves, they were unable to come to God because of their sin and God’s holiness. However, when they received this faith, they received a right standing before God. As the book of Genesis 15:6 says, Abraham was declared righteous by God because of his faith. This righteousness, which we did not have and could not produce, comes from Jesus Christ who not only is our “Savior” but as Peter notes in this verse, He is also our “theos” (2316) which is translated God.

We can praise God for the unity we have as followers of Jesus and stand unified against false teachers as a family of believers.

Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible Copyright 1960, 1962, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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