Cunningly-devised fables. Deceptive words. Filthy conduct. Chains of darkness. Unstable souls. Swelling words of emptiness. Slaves of corruption. Pollution of the world. Dogs returning to their vomit. Melting elements. A burning earth.
The imagery portrayed in the short three chapters of Peter’s second epistle could be mistaken easily for verbiage advertising a 21st century horror film. The words pack a proverbial punch, the rhetoric ratcheting up the tension with each divinely-selected description of a fallen world in desperate need of a Savior.
The Holy Spirit, through the author Peter, takes a politically-incorrect and unabashedly-direct style in His address to “those who have obtained like precious faith.” Peter reminds them of what they presumably already know, noting the responsibility he feels to leave them “stirred” and marching continually forward in their Christian walk with several pieces of wisdom ever before them. The goal, as he outlines it for his audience in chapter one, is for their thriving — not merely surviving, and certainly not flailing — through their earthly walk with Christ until the time they depart to meet the Lord in heaven.
Peter gives practical instruction — simple enough to understand, though as every Christian would likely attest, more difficult to apply, thanks to the innate weakness of one’s own flesh.
“But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:5-8)
The reader should be encouraged, also, that although the post-salvation-pre-paradise Christian life is plagued with ups and downs, wins and losses, God has supplied his children with “all things that pertain to life and godliness.” (2 Peter 1:3)
Peter adds another note of reassurance toward the end of chapter one as he highlights the trustworthy, prophetic Word of God, (2 Peter 1:19-20) and indeed another in chapter two when he reminds them that the “Lord is not slack concerning his promises…” (2 Peter 2:9). The Lord’s faithfulness to fulfilling his promises ought to comfort those saved by His grace and walking circumspectly. That same faithfulness, however, ought to in the same moment produce trepidation in those rejecting God and living in rebellion toward Him and His standards.
The remainder of the book departs from any verbiage of comfort and instead takes a clear and pointed tone in its warnings to not love the world and to beware of destructive doctrine and false prophets. Verses 12 through 14 of chapter two offer a sampling indicative of the rest of the warnings throughout the book: “But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption, and will receive the wages of unrighteousness, as those who count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime. They are spots and blemishes, carousing in their own deceptions while they feast with you, having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, enticing unstable souls. They have a heart trained in covetous practices, and are accursed children.”
Clearly, Second Peter presents a no-holds-barred approach, and the text-driven preacher must follow that approach with his sermon structure and content.
Peter concludes by pointing his audience’s attention again to the fact that the Lord will come again, at a time unknown and unsuspected, and in light of that, believers ought to make every effort to live continually in a way that honors the Lord, being found in him, “by Him in peace, without spot and blameless.” (2 Peter 3:14)
“Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:11-13)
As vividly as he describes the ills of a world spiraling toward destruction, Peter also employs distinct language to reference the brilliance of God and the eternal home He desires to share with each divinely-created person. As much as he is willing to deal plainly and honestly with the evils of the world, he writes equitably describing with equal clarity the joy and beauty of the hope of heaven.
Precious faith. Divine power. Exceedingly great and precious promises. Everlasting Kingdom. Eyewitnesses of His majesty. Prophetic word. Grace. Glory. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
May those preaching through the book of Second Peter be found faithfully proclaiming this most-important Word of God.