Peter’s Second Epistle
W Davies, Leeds
Peter's Humility yet Authority. " Simon Peter, a bondslave and an apostle of Jesus Christ." In this way he introduces himself to his readers. This brief statement reveals the humility and authority of one whose character and occupation had been changed by the Lord. He takes no titles from men, nor wears any honours. He needs none. He makes no claim to be head over the Church on earth, nor any assertion of superiority over the other apostles. There is nothing of the imperious ecclesiastic, or of the haughty prelate. He is, as he says in his 1st epistle, a fellow-elder (R.V.)—not the Arch-elder.
Equality yet diversity in believers. To those sojourners of the dispersion (for this epistle was written to the same believers as the first, see chap. 3. 1) he ascribes equality with all saints in the blessing of faith and acceptance before God. They may be far away from the original home of the early Church, and may have been converted many years after that epoch-making day of Pentecost. Notwithstanding they are not one whit less blessed than those who were sharers in the mighty Pentecostal blessing.
There are no greater or lesser degrees of justification before Cod. In Christ all preferences disappear. All the resources of God in Him are equally available to all, though all may not fully enjoy them.
" Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ " (Eph. 1. I, K.V.). " That ye may be strong to apprehend with all saints what is the breadth and length and depth and height, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge " (Eph. 3. 18, 19). " A like precious faith with us," says Peter. " Ye are all one in Christ Jesus," says Paul.
Diversities of gifts there are, as is emphasized in 1 Cor. 12, but, even so " In one Spirit were we all baptized into one body—and were all made to drink of one Spirit."
The twin truths of the equality of all believers in Christ, all alike children of God through faith in Christ Jesus, all called saints, all equally justified before God on the same grounds, and on the other hand, the diversity of gift and exercise of spiritual functions in the assembly and towards the world, have been subverted in Christendom by those who claim special sanctity above other professing Christians, forming themselves into a spiritual caste and becoming " professional " saints. All this tends to promote pride, and an attitude of superiority over others.
But. Peter, in his first epistle, reminds all the believers I hat they are an elect race, a chosen people, a holy and royal priesthood, and this applies to all saints without discrimination. He knows of no inner circle of Christians, alone having the right to these things. " This divine power hath given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness." There are no special favourites—this is for all.
There is another danger to be avoided, namely ignoring altogether the distinctions that God has made in gifts and administration in the Church of Cod. Although all have equally received the Spirit of God, there arc variety and diversity in the operation of His power. " Having then gifts differing " (Romans 12. 5).
All alike have equal access to God, but all arc not Apostles, Prophets, Teachers or Evangelists. Whilst, both male and female, all are one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3. 28), each has a different place and a different work in the assembly. There is one body but many members. Gal. 3. 28 is often misapplied, and made to mean that sisters as well as brethren have liberty to preach, leach or exercise the oversight of the people of God. The passage, however, is not dealing with the assembly, but with acceptance in the sight of God, with relationship to Him through faith ; it must be distinguished from 1 Cor. 12 and Romans 12. 3-8. All believers are equal, but each is different. It is essential, therefore, that both truths should be held but not confused.
The equality of blessing of which Peter speaks is in keeping with the character of God. It is " through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ " (eh. 1. 1). There is no bias in Him. He is perfectly just. It had once been hard for Peter to grasp that " God is no respecter of persons," that God had given them (i.e. the Gentiles who believe) the Holy Spirit even as He had done to Peter and the believing Jews. It had, however, become Peter's firm conviction and had transformed his entire outlook. " Grace and peace be multiplied unto you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord " (ch. 1. 2).
Unity and Equality in Godhead. The names of God and Jesus are linked together in perfect equality and unity. In 1 Peter 1. 2 we have the Father, the Spirit and Jesus Christ, all pursuing one purpose towards us. There is unity and equality within the Godhead ; at the same time there is diversity of operation and activity. This thought is constant throughout the Scriptures—the oneness of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Father does not love us more than the Son, nor does the Son love us more than the Holy Spirit. Different degrees of love, grace and righteousness are impossible in the triune God. There is no rivalry in the Godhead. Romans 5 demonstrates the perfect oneness of love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Paul, Peter, John, J tide and James all concur in this glorious truth.
Testimony of God and the Scriptures. Towards the end of chapter 1 of this epistle, Peter writes of two different testimonies of God, yet each of equal authority. The voice of God the Father speaking directly from heaven, and the prophetic word in the Scriptures are equally one. Each is the authentic testimony of God, for the God who spake from heaven audibly is the same as He who Spake through the prophets, whose writings have come down to us as holy Scripture. We, who have never audibly heard the voice of God are, however, at no disadvantage. We have the testimony of the prophets, who spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. The method is different, but the voice and message are the same and of equal authority.
Peter's attitude to Paul. In the last chapter Peter refers to the Apostle Paul in terms of affection and esteem (chap. 3. 15). " Our beloved brother, Paul"—a testimony to the unity and harmony which existed in the apostolic body. In spite of all the theories of men, and the attempt to construct rival factions in the church and in the circle of the apostles, it is vain to place Paul in opposition to Peter. Peter's second letter, written shortly before his death, is proof that harmony existed between them. The rebuke once administered by Paul to Peter had not destroyed the mutual generous recognition of each other's place in the Church of God. There was no bitterness in either, but rather true Christian brotherly love. Ere Peter passes away he confirms the truth and place which Paul and all his epistles occupied in the early Church, and in his own thought. He is one in thought with Paul.
They believe the same truth, and are united in this. There were differences in their characters and temperaments, but there was no difference in the validity of their writings. Each gave what God had revealed, though each had a distinctive line. The writings of Paul, known and read by the believers in Peter's last days, were, as Peter affirms, equally Scripture with the rest of the canon— they have the same authority, inspiration and truth, and were in harmony with the whole. There are no degrees of inspiration—all Scripture is God-breathed—but there is diversity of revelation. Matter and quantity may vary and have different phases. There was progress in revelation, but all Scripture is alike equally inspired. This needs to be distinguished.
Final exhortation. Peter exhorts them " to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and for ever " (ch. 3. 18). The final words that come from his pen urge the believers to a balanced spiritual growth : grace and knowledge equally forming part of the Christian life, not as abstract truths, but as seen in, and flowing from, the wondrous Person who is equally Lord and Saviour.