Sabbath School Lesson for May 20-26, 2017
Peter begins his second letter with an encouragement for them to be the kind of Christians they know Jesus would want them to be. Following His plan, they can enjoy the assurance of salvation and the rewards of righteous living. In other words, they will be fit citizens for God’s kingdom. His kingdom will be in their hearts to enjoy now, and in heaven to enjoy later.
Some may hear Peter’s call to fruitful living as an undue emphasis on the outward appearance of Christianity and even the rewards that await us. It may even cause us to have the idea that we may attain this righteousness through our own strength and determination. And that our only motivation should be to get to heaven.
But this is not Peter’s intent. Constantly throughout the letter, he uplifts Christ and our freedom to choose to be faithful to the very end. He even mentions his own end-of-life experience, and his trust in his own resurrection at the time of Jesus’ Second Coming.
Peter just wants us to be ready for that Second Coming. All we can do really is to be who we are, which are sons and daughters of the King of the Universe. Therefore, let’s conduct ourselves as such and watch our spiritual natures grow and become more like Him each day…one day at a time. Peter gives us a picture of what that virtuous life looks like.
Scripture Gem: “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.” 2 Peter 1:5-7 NIV
In the blogging world, lists seem to be very popular. People don’t have time for a lot of discourse. They just want to get to the bullet points and be done with it. Peter’s catalog of virtues in these verses then should really get our attention today.
But, some will read them and feel they woefully fall short, and others will read them and see goals that are totally within our reach. Peter wants us to take note of them purely for the purpose of enticing us to become the most profound, profitable reflection of Jesus we can become.
When the love of God begins to take hold of our hearts, we partake of His divine nature, allowing these attributes to grow themselves and make us who we truly want to be…which is like Jesus.
Sunday: A Precious Faith
The first virtue Peter mentioned in his list is faith. And his introduction, just prior to the list, includes these words:
“To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:…as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue…that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature…” 2 Peter 1-4 NKJV
Having read this introduction, it’s obvious that any tendency to manifest divine traits through our own efforts is not what Peter had in mind. Even though he uses the words “make every effort” or “giving all diligence” at the beginning of his list.
Peter mentioned in his introduction…
- the righteousness of God (not our own righteousness)
- His divine power to give us ALL things (evidently even our faith is nurtured by the Holy Spirit)
- through knowing Him who called us (a mutual relationship with God is involved)
- we partake of the divine nature (apparently not something we have available in our sinful state)
How sweet that Peter calls it a precious faith. Perhaps one of the things that makes it precious is the fact that he also calls it “LIKE precious faith”. This means that we share it with one another. As God intended, our fellowship with one another is sweetened by our shared faith in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
When we see all that is on Peter’s list of virtues, we can appreciate just how precious this faith is, as well. Faith, even that of a mustard seed (Luke 17:6), is capable of producing a fully-mature Christian. This is why Peter wants to impress upon his readers the importance of guarding their faith.
Discussion Questions: Read 2 Peter 1:1-4. What words and concepts from these verses point to the importance of relying on God for everything?
Read Ephesians 2:8 and Hebrews 11:6. Is faith a gift? Why is faith needed–what does it do?
Read Matthew 17:18-21. What makes our faith “precious”? How much faith is too little?
Monday: Love, the Goal of Christian Virtue
Other catalogs of traits or virtues were written by the apostles, as well as other ancient world philosophers. The word virtue comes from the Latin word for strength. The lists by Paul and Peter feature love very prominently, as a distinct characteristic to embrace. Paul informs us…
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love [mentioned first], joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” Galatians 5:22, 23 NKJV
“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God [mentioned last] has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5:3-5 NKJV
Yes, love is the fuel that feeds our character and gives us strength, producing the final product that God has always intended for His created beings. Its importance is so passionately prescribed to us by the apostles that John even announces that “God is love” (1 John 4:8).
None of the valuable virtues Peter describes would be worth striving for without God’s love giving us the strength to acquire it. Love is the final goal, and it is also something that must be manifested all through our Christian walk. Like faith, it may start out small; but like faith, it will grow as we practice it day by day.
Discussion Questions: Read 2 Peter 1:5-7. How much “diligence” or “effort” of our own are we to use to acquire these virtues? Does there seem to be a progressive element in Peter’s list and how is that helpful?
Read Romans 5:3-5 and Galatians 5:22-23. What differences, if any, do you see with these lists and Peter’s? What part does “love” have in our Christian character?
Read Galatians 3:11 and 1 Corinthians 13:13. Even though faith (at the beginning of Peter’s list) and love (at the end of it) feature prominently, why is love seen as the greatest gift by Paul?
Tuesday: Be Who You Are
Modern organizations and institutions find it almost imperative to develop what have become known as a “mission statement”, “vision”, and “goals and objectives”, as they plan the growth of their enterprises.
This, in essence, is what Peter does as he grapples with the task of developing God’s new church in the early decades after Christ’s resurrection. His epistles contain the mission, goals, and vision that every Christian should take to heart upon joining God’s body of believers.
He tells us to be who we are, and then goes on to describe what that ideal Christian should look like. He doesn’t fail to equip us with the means with which to achieve our goals either. Peter’s vision of what God’s church and those in it should become is profoundly instrumental in promoting God’s cause, right down to our own day.
Following Peter’s list, we are told that not manifesting these virtues will make us unfruitful, shortsighted, stumbling Christians. It is therefore essential that each of us make our calling and election sure, in order to enter the everlasting kingdom of our Lord Jesus.
Discussion Questions: Read 2 Peter 1:8-11 and Revelation 3:16-18. How does lacking in these virtues make us shortsighted and even blind, a perfect example of a lukewarm, Laodicean church? What is the remedy prescribed in Revelation for this condition?
Read Romans 6:11-14. How does Paul’s remedy for the Laodicean condition compare with Peter’s? How do we not let sin reign, or have dominion, in our lives? Does this mean we will never sin?
Read 2 Peter 1:10 and 1 John 2:5, 6. How can we have the assurance of salvation that these verses are talking about? And what will that accomplish for us, and for God?
Wednesday: Shedding the Tent
In the midst of Peter’s counsel, he emotionally brings them a reminder of his impending death. It is believed that he wrote these epistles from Rome, the place of his martyrdom, which occurred some time between A.D. 64 and 66.
His use of the word tabernacle or tent, both temporary dwellings, to refer to his body, was an understood comparison. Even Job observed that we dwell in “houses of clay”, with our foundation being dust (Job 4:19).
Although Peter doesn’t go into much detail about what happens when he dies, beyond following Jesus’ example of being resurrected, we find many references to death in the New Testament as a temporary sleep. Instead of an immortal soul, it seems that our bodies at death enter a state of sleep, until that grand resurrection of the righteous dead that happens at the Second Coming of Christ.
Peter, tender shepherd that he is, attempts to prepare his fellow believers for this event, just as Christ did prior to his crucifixion. He wants his readers to remember his counsel, even after his death. He writes, “Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease.” 2 Peter 1:15 NKJV
Discussion Questions: Read 2 Peter 1:12-15. What might Peter have meant as “present truth” during his lifetime? How did the Lord Jesus “put off His tent? How long did He rest, or sleep, before His resurrection on Sunday morning, the first day of the week?
Read 1 Corinthians 15:20, 50-55 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. According to these verses, when do we inherit our immortality?
Read John 11:11-14 and Revelation 22:12. How did Jesus refer to the death of His friend Lazarus? Did He call Lazarus from heaven, or from his grave? When will all the righteous receive their reward, according to Revelation?
Thursday: Faith in the Face of Death
How reassuring that Peter was able to face death so nobly. His main concern was for the brothers and sisters he was leaving behind. His selfless attitude, knowing as he did about his impending martyrdom (“…just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me” 2 Peter 1:14), indicate how much Peter’s faith had grown over the years.
Being established in present truth (the belief in God as our Creator and Savior, who has promised to come again, resurrect our old bodies, and give us new, immortal ones) was the faith that sustained Peter throughout his horrific final days in Rome.
He desires his epistles to be reminders of this faith that would last beyond his short life on earth. To do any less would be negligence on his part.
“For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease.“ 2 Peter 1:12-15 NKJV
We see how this particular letter of Peter has become his last will and testament…his last message to the flock that Jesus entrusted to his care. We too can share his lack of fear when it comes to our own demise. Faith replaces fear. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, will be with us though we “walk through the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4) We have Jesus’ example to be sure, but we also have Peter and the other disciples’, who have shown us a better way to face death.
Discussion Questions: Read 2 Peter 1:12. Why would Peter feel negligent in these reminders, if they were already established in present truth?
Read 2 Peter 1:13, 14 and John 20:17. Does Peter suggest that as he puts off his tent, his soul will survive as a separate entity? Did Jesus Himself ascend directly to heaven upon death?
Read 2 Peter 1:15 and 2 Timothy 4:6-8. What day did Paul look forward to, when he would receive his crown of righteousness?
Peter very distinctly outlines what it takes for success in the Christian life, cautioning his readers to make sure they are connected to the Vine. This will guarantee that the fruit of the Spirit will produce all that will make them able to endure any and all trials they would face.
These virtues, or strengths, include faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection, and finally love. Peter lists them in such a way that we see their progressive nature, adding one to another til the final goal of love is achieved.
Being who we are, sons and daughters of the King, as the title suggests, will ensure our growth and entrance into the Kingdom of God.
Embracing the Message
“Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble.” 2 Peter 1:10 NKJV
How do we understand this verse? By itself, it may encourage a works-oriented religion, leaving God out of the picture. A “pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps” kind of experience. But the previous introduction, and indeed all through Peter’s writings, we are given another picture of full, undying trust and dependence upon God for every blessing.
Does this mean we sit back and do nothing? Surely, when Peter uses the words “giving all diligence” in verse 5, where he lists all the virtues we should strive for, he means all the effort or diligence it is in the power of humans to have. Essentially then, all we can really do on our own is to choose to follow God’s will, wherever that may lead us, and follow through with His instructions.
While making our call and election sure, as Peter instructs, consider also Ellen White’s statement:
“Those who accept Christ, and in their first confidence say, I am saved, are in danger of trusting to themselves. They lose sight of their own weakness and their constant need of divine strength. They are unprepared for Satan’s devices, and under temptation many, like Peter, fall into the very depths of sin. We are admonished, ‘Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.’ 1 Corinthians 10:12. Our only safety is in constant distrust of self, and dependence on Christ.” ~Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 155
Many have also misunderstood these words and are afraid to make their call and election sure. We indeed may be under the impression that we are never to say we are saved. But consider who she is referring to–“those who accept Christ, and in their first confidence”. Even though we could conceivably find ourselves trusting to self at any point in our life, it seems she is most worried about those who first come into the faith, those who haven’t fortified themselves fully from Satan’s attacks.
We also find in 1 John 5:13 this reassurance:
“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” NKJV
If someone were to ask you this week if you were saved, how would you respond? Prepare in your heart what your answer would be. Is your call and election sure?
Next Week: Prophecy and Scripture, Lesson 10
To read the Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly or see more resources for its study, go to https://www.absg.adventist.org/
All Outlook blogposts by Teresa Thompson, are at http://outlookmag.org/author/teresathompson/