Introduction, Why Peter Wrote I & II Peter

Why Peter Wrote I & II Peter 

Why were these letters written?  This is the first question disciples of Jesus Christ ask about each letter in the Bible.  We ask this and other questions so we can read them according to the principles of biblical interpretation.  This exegetical approach protects us from forcing our presuppositions on the scriptures.

The Apostle Peter said he wrote both letters to move the “elect” to think.  Of course, all Christians think, but it may not always be on the level Peter wanted the recipients to engage their minds.  His letters were addressed to each individual member of the churches to stimulate them, and us, to “wholesome thinking.”  Peter told us exactly why he wrote his letters.  We need to listen carefully:

Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you.  I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking.  I want you to recall words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.  II Pet. 3:1, 2.  NIV

Word definition:

  • Stimulate, or “stirring up” has been translated from the Greek word diegeiro.  It means “to move to and fro,” or as we read on the labels of some bottles of medicine, “shake before using.”  Thus, in this case, it means each member of the church should re-examine what they had been taught about the messages of the holy prophets and the Lord Jesus.  Other translations read; “stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance.” KJV.  The NASB reads, “stirring up your sincere mind.”  This thought is first introduced in I Peter 1:13.
  • Pure, or wholesome, is from the Greek work eilikrines.  It means “an unmixed substance.”  In other words, the recipients were being asked by Peter not to be influenced in their examination of their present reality “in Christ” by the wisdom of men.  They had been taught the wisdom of God by the apostles of Jesus Christ; therefore, they had information about their spiritual reality.  They knew the truth about the kingdom of God and their role in His kingdom (II Pet. 1:12).  Peter’s purpose for writing was to encourage them to think and meditate on and “in what they had been firmly established.”  He encouraged them to think about living as “chosen people” in the context of their present and future “world scenario.”
  • Minds, or thinking, has been translated from dianoia and it means “a thinking through.”  Therefore, Peter is writing to encourage the recipients, and all Christians who “have received a faith as precious as ours,” to meditate upon the commandments of Jesus Christ taught to them by Peter and other apostles.
  • Other translations of the phrase in II Pet. 3:2 read;  “And of us the apostles of the Lord and Savior.” KJV.  “Holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles.” NASB.

The content of both letters was understood by Christians who had been taught to connect the “holy prophets” in the Old Testament with the commandments of the Lord and Savior.  The church Jesus is building for God was not a new idea.  Jesus Christ was chosen before the foundation of the world for Christians’ glory as children of God (I Cor. 2: 6-10; I Pet. 1:20, 21; 2:9, 10).  As Jesus Christ was completing His mission on earth, He said everything had been and was being fulfilled “that is written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”   Luke 24:44.  The prophets had “predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.”  I Pet. 1:11.  The recipients of Peter’s letters had received letters from the Apostle Paul; therefore, they had been members of the church for some period of time (II Pet. 3:15).  The church membership included both Jews and Gentiles – who were no longer identified as Jews and Gentiles.  They were all Peter’s dear friends “in Christ,” even though some were previously Gentiles (I Pet. 4:12; II Pet. 3:1, 17).  The prophets had been told by God of a time when “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  Gal. 3:28.   See Rom. 9:25, 26.

Elders were overseeing the churches by the time Peter wrote.  The members had not seen Jesus but they had been taught and were grounded in truth (I Pet. 1:8, 12, 25; 2:25; 3:15; 4:10, 13; II Pet. 1:12; 3:14).  The point we want to keep in mind as we study Peter’s letters is that he was writing to mature churches.  His second letter was written after Jesus told him he would soon put aside “the tent of this body.”  II Pet 1:13.    Although, they, like all Christians, were still being fitted into God’s “holy temple in the Lord,” he did not write to teach them new doctrines or to correct a specific problem (I Pet. 2:1-3; Eph. 2:19-22).  He was preparing them for future challenges (II Pet. 2:1-3:16).

Both letters were written to stir up each individual Christian’s power to think about the commandments of their Lord in the context of the last days of the physical world.  The last days of time began on the first Day of Pentecost after Jesus returned to heaven (Acts 2:1-4, 17, 18).  The new churches were immediately challenged by some non-believing Jews, particularly the Pharisees, as well as the Sadducees who had control of the high priest’s office (Acts 4:5-7; 8:1-3).  Before the demise of the apostles, false teachers and agnostics brought new challenges to the churches.  Peter wrote to strengthen the churches in preparation for this new onslaught.  He prophesied: “Scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires.”  II Pet. 3:3.  He warned about the business people who “In their greed, these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up.”  II Pet. 2:3.  This had already happened in the churches Jude addressed.

Jude reminded the church, “But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold.  They said to you, ‘In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.’”  Jude 17, 18.  He then announced the result.  “These men will divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.”  Jude 19.  The churches Jude addressed had a problem they did not know they had.  Their problem was one of the most serious types.  It happened because they had failed to do “wholesome thinking” about what they had been taught and what was happening in their fellowship.  At the time Peter wrote his second letter business people, who posed as religious leaders, were common (II Pet. 1:13-15; 2:1-3).  Others were, perhaps, atheistic philosophers with a desire to have followers.

We will need to read both letters with Peter’s declaration of purpose in mind.  We might have had other thoughts about his reason for writing the first letter if he had not specifically said, “I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking.”  II Pet. 3:1.  This is a specific historical statement.  It cannot be ignored.  The question we must ask about the first letter and the first chapter of the second epistle is this: “How did this information function to stimulate the recipients to wholesome thinking?”  Peter wanted them to “recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior.’”  II Pet 3:2.  The intent of Peter’s exhortation was to prepare them for the false teachers, greedy exploiters, those who follow corrupt desires, authority despisers and agnostic scoffers who would soon attack God’s elect.  Please read II Peter chapters two and three.

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