Friday, January 30, 2009

II Peter 1:12 The Heart of a Pastor

Peter is, without a doubt, one of my favorite people in the Bible. I mean, the man reminds me of me so much it’s scary. Like me, he had a “foot shaped” mouth. It got shaped that way from always sticking his foot in it. Oh, he had moments of brilliance. For instance, in John 6:68-69, we read that “Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God." However, later in that gospel, we read Peter saying that Jesus is not going to give him a foot washing unless He gives him a bath. He was too scared to admit to a servant girl that he was a disciple of Christ but then stands in the crowd at Pentecost and preaches boldly the truth that Jesus was not only the Messiah but also was God. As Peter lived and ministered to believers, he developed a tender heart for sheep. Jesus had called him to be a shepherd (John 21:15-17) and here, in verses 12-15 Peter displays his shepherd’s heart on his sleeve for all to see.
First of all, we should notice that Peter’s state of mind regarding these dear Christians as he writes to them. We read in verse 12 “Therefore, I will always be ready”. Peter admonished them to press on toward holiness in their lives in verse 11, and here is saying that he is ready to help them in that endeavor. This readiness is a perpetual state for Peter just as it would be for any shepherd. You see, a pastor develops a love for those in his care and is always on the lookout for danger just as a shepherd is constantly alert when tending his sheep. I firmly believe these almost paternal feelings are part of the spiritual gifting of a man who is called to be a pastor. Peter therefore declares that he stands ready as an ever vigilant watchman for those under his care. The word translated “ready” is the Greek word “mello” (3195) and it means to be sure or certain to do something. Peter is saying instead of laying down on the job and neglecting his duties to these believers he will be sure to always take his responsibility to them seriously. I should note that the King James and New King James Versions use a Greek text which says “I will not be negligent” (Greek amello-272). This is not the reading in the oldest manuscripts. Frankly, I wouldn’t freak out about this particular variant—it ends up meaning the same thing. If anyone wanted to argue this reading, they have more time on their hands than I do.

Second of all, observe his perception of these believers. He says that they “already know them”. By “them” Peter is probably referring to the treasure trove of spiritual truth that he has already expounded upon in the previous verses. He knew these Christians had been taught and that they had been taught true, sure doctrine. In fact, he uses a word for “know” (eido-1492) which, according to the author at Precepts-Austin, suggests fullness of knowledge rather than progress of knowledge or knowledge gained through experience. In other words, while these believers still needed to grow in the knowledge of Jesus to become more like Him, they had knowledge that had led them to saving faith and sound doctrine.

Further, he says they have been “established” (sterizo-4741) in that truth. The Greek word used here is the same one that Jesus used in Luke 22:32 when He told Peter that after Peter had been restored to “strengthen your brethren”. Therefore, the word seems to carry the idea of steadying something or setting it right-settling it. Peter is saying not only does his audience possess a head knowledge of the truth but that knowledge is also heart knowledge and they have a firm foundation because this truth, he says, “is present with you”. They have the knowledge and it has given them a bedrock of truth upon which to build their life.

Why then, would Peter feel the need to be sure to remind them? Because, as we will see in chapter 2, false teachers were on the move. While they can’t deceive a true believer, they can hamper the ministry of the church and lead weaker believers into sin that harms their testimony. Peter knew the danger they posed and because of his love for these sheep he wrote to encourage them and remind them of the truth they had been taught. Let us remind ourselves with careful study of God’s word of those same truths. By doing so, we will be more effective ministers for our Lord, Jesus Christ.

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