7 Reasons to Preach through 2 Peter

Article
11.30.2020

Growing in grace. That’s what 2 Peter is all about.

Our 10-part series in this short book was surprisingly powerful. Its three chapters are packed with pastoral gold that ought to be learned and shared. What follows are seven reasons you should consider preaching through 2 Peter as well.

1. Dying words are especially powerful.

Following Jesus had led Peter to a dark, hellish prison—awaiting an execution that would send him to heaven. Jesus foretold Peter’s end (Jn. 21:18), and Peter knew his days were numbered (2 Pt. 1:13–14). Deuteronomy, 2 Timothy, and 2 Peter are arguably the only Bible books written by men preparing to die.

The letter’s weighty backdrop permeated our sermons with an urgency and focus that approaching death affords. Peter’s final words challenged our church to grow in grace so that we could join him in glory.

2. You’ll delight in grace.

Grace bookends Peter’s letter. He begins with a prayer about grace (1:2) and concludes with an exhortation to grow in grace (3:18). Peter was, of course, no stranger to grace. He had been called by grace (Jn. 15:16), had believed by grace (Mt. 16:15–18), and had been restored by grace following this three-fold denial (Lk. 22:54–62; Jn. 21:15-19).

As we received Peter’s words, we knew he had sinned much, yet had been forgiven much. Being ministered to by a vessel of grace provoked fresh delight in God’s grace for us. We were reminded that if God can forgive, mature, and use Peter after his denial, then he might do the same for us.

3. You’ll be pushed toward diligence.

Peter summons his readers to grow in spiritual maturity. He exhorts them to “make every effort” (1:5) and “be . . . diligent” to grow in faith and confidence in Christ (1:10, 3:14).

This emphasis was especially helpful for our church because our tradition tends to shy away from exhortations about effort. We often associate “diligence” with works-based salvation. But that’s not 2 Peter’s focus. Following Jesus by faith is evidenced by grace-fueled effort (Phil. 2:12–13). Peter reminded us of the necessity to “supplement our faith” so we can be effective in our ministries, fruitful in our lives, and confident in our standing with Christ (1:3–11). If you’re looking for a book to spur people on in spiritual diligence, 2 Peter might be your book.

4. You’ll devote yourselves to the Scriptures.

Peter wants the church to trust the Scriptures. He assures us that we don’t need an experience like he had on the mount of transfiguration to know revelation from God (1:16–19). Rather, we can be certain that Scripture is inspired, trustworthy, and true (1:20–21, 3:15–16).

If you’re looking for an opportunity to increase your church’s confidence in the Bible, 2 Peter will serve you well. But make sure to follow Peter’s example of showing why trusting the Bible is essential. God’s “precious and very great promises” in the Scriptures are the means by which we partake of him and escape from sin (1:3–4). Peter helped us hope in the God who makes promises, keeps promises, and preserves promises. We can lean on him as we grow in his grace.

5. You’ll develop discernment about false teachers.

Not all churches are safe. Not all preachers are honest. Not all sermons are true. Jesus warned about wolves (Mt. 7:15) and one-third of Peter’s epistle does the same. False teachers threaten the church in every age, including ours. We dedicated two sermons to developing discernment about the character and destiny of false teachers (2 Pt. 2:1–22).

I chose to follow the Scriptural pattern of name-dropping false teachers in these sermons.[1] In the Old Testament, Jannes and Jambres (Exod. 7:11; 2 Tim. 3:7) and Baalam are exposed as deceivers (Num. 22–23, 31:16; 2 Peter 2:15; Jude 11; Rev. 2:14). In the New Testament Jesus publicly reproved the Pharisees, Sadducees, and false teachers that threatened the seven churches of Revelation (Matt. 5:20, 16:6; Rev. 2–3). Paul publicly named Hymenaeus (1 Tim. 1:20; 2 Tim. 2:17), Alexander (1 Tim. 1:20), Philetus (2 Tim. 2:17), and the formerly faithful Demas (Col. 4:14; Philemon 24; 2 Timothy 4:10). The Apostle John also mentions Diotrephes (3 John 9). Since there is a biblical model of outing false teachers by name, I chose to follow it.

Some of you are probably a little too eager to put people on blast. I’m susceptible to that temptation as well. Before I named names, I discussed the following questions with a few of my fellow pastors:

  • Is it helpful for our church if I expose this person?
  • Am I sure they are a false teacher?
  • What am I hoping to gain from this?
  • Can I speak with them personally first?
  • Do my fellow pastors agree I should do this?

My motive for naming false prophets was love for our church. Satan seduces Jesus’s bride through false teachers, and I want out flock to be on guard (2 Cor. 11:1-3). It also provided a pattern of how thoughtfully engage with what they are seeing, hearing, and reading.

My method for name dropping was to provide a model of clarity and charity.

  1. I gave examples for clarity. When I call out someone’s false teaching, I rarely do it without sharing a direct quote as an example of their error. This proves I’m not making false claims, but even more, it helps us to evaluate their statements by Scripture as an in-person illustration of practicing discernment.
  2. I attempted to model charity. When I publicly expose someone’s error, I do so in a way that assumes they or a loved one is in the room. This assists me in sharing my argument carefully and compassionately. I don’t want people to dismiss me because I’m attacking the person I’m contradicting. I encourage you to guard yourself against mocking or using people as props to make a point. Our goal is to make the gospel clear, not make ourselves look good at others’ expense.[2]

Above all, make sure that when you tear down false gospels that you highlight the true gospel. Help people see the gospel’s beauty by showing the emptiness of error.[3]

6. You’ll remember: deliverance and destruction are fast approaching.

Peter leaves no one in doubt about the future (2 Pt. 2:3–3:10). For unbelievers, destruction is certain. For believers, deliverance is coming.

God has proven countless times in the past that he does not overlook evil, Peter promises that God will not overlook it in the future. Peaching 2 Peter provides powerful opportunities to help unbelievers rightly understand God’s patience toward them. As Peter says, God is slow to judge because he is patient toward them, and that patience should provoke repentance (2 Pt. 3:9; cf. Rom. 2:4; Ezek. 18). Use this point to plead with unbelievers to believe the gospel before it is too late!

Just as God is faithful to bring destruction on rebels, he will bring deliverance to the righteous. Believers face countless trials that tempt them to stop following Jesus. This book assures them that “the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials” (2 Pt. 2:9). With Jesus’s return prominent in this letter, you can assure your flock that “the Lord knows” every trial they face. He knows our seemingly unbearable sicknesses, persecutions, pains, and disappointments. And yet, just as God sent an angel to pull Lot from the judgment of Sodom and preserved Noah through the flood, then He will rescue us as well. God’s people need this assurance, and Peter gives it in abundance.

7. You’ll also remember: your distinction from the world must be clear.

Few things are more important than the sweet and sobering reminder that Jesus is coming soon. Peter’s second epistle impresses upon us the weight of coming glory in a way that forces us to respond. We must be diligent and distinct from the world’s sinful ways (2 Pt. 3:11–18).

Preaching this book affords you opportunity to teach that every day must be lived in light of that Final Day. The certainty of the promised day should produce purity in our present day. Everything matters. Everything we think, do, and say in this day ought be done with an eye toward that final day. We are to “wait for” and “hasten” the coming of the Lord Jesus. Pastor, there is no better way to serve the souls under your watch than to help them expectantly await the arrival of our beloved Savior. This perspective packs eternal meaning into every present moment. It presses us toward purity and away from perversion.

In 2 Peter, the return of Jesus propels us to grow in grace. It deepens our delight in God’s truth and helps us discern the danger of abounding imposters. It assures us that rebels will not always prosper but that the righteous will be rewarded with the presence of Christ.

So preach the book and set your church’s heart on the grace that is soon to be revealed.

COMMENTARIES

My preparation for 2 Peter included works I almost always reference including, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible and The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Dallas Theological Seminary). I also consulted:

  • Jude and 2 Peter by Gene L. Green (Baker Exegetical Commentary) – If you only use one commentary, this one is probably the best. It’s accessible to pastors and average members alike. It lacks pastoral applications, but it’s solid on all the basic things you want from a commentary.
  • 1, 2 Peter, Jude by Thomas Schreiner (New American Commentary) – Schreiner is basically Yoda for me, so anytime I see his name on a commentary, I use it—and I’m never disappointed. He’s spot on exegetically and the brother pastors you through his writing in a way that will help you pastor others faithfully. He also has a more recent work in the Christian Standard Commentary series, but I haven’t used it yet.

Richard Bauckam’s commentary on 2 Peter is often considered the “go-to” work on the book. There’s good reason for this as he handles the text exceptionally well, but he rejects Petrine authorship which leads me to leave him off my list of favorites.

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FOOTNOTES:

[1] Not everyone in attendance was thankful I did this. Some felt it was unloving to publicly categorize people as false teachers. This afforded an opportunity for further discipleship for those who were willing to listen.

[2] I have not always been a good model of this. I have publicly mocked and impersonated people in a way that turned listeners sympathetic to the false teachers away from what I was saying. Don’t lose listener’s ears unnecessarily. Let the truth do the offending.

[3] For further study on how to develop discernment about false teaching check out this article by Colin Smith.

By:
Garrett Kell

Garrett Kell is the lead pastor of Del Ray Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia. You can find him on Twitter at @pastorjgkell.

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